Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Prince of Pandia

First of all - Prince of Pandia? Maybe "Queen" would be a more appropriate title. This is the most effeminate looking prince I've ever seen - and I've watched Bollywood. But hey, it's cool; there aren't enough gay characters in computer games, anyway, so it's nice to see someone make an effort. Plus, I've always preferred my homosexuals like Ohio prefers its rivers - flaming.

Anyway, Prince of Pandia is a platform/puzzle game that sees you guide the Prince through each level rescuing his half-naked, toned, personal "soldiers" who have all been taken prisoner by... someone for... some reason. That particular plot point wasn't made very clear in the instructions. Let me just-

Oh. My. God.

No way! Please tell me I am not looking at that! Someone tell me a decade of staring at computer screens for hours on end has finally ruined my sight altogether! I assumed that the programmer's first language wasn't English, but how in the Sam Hell do you make a mistake like that? If that is how the creator of this game imagines female genitalia, no wonder the Prince looks like he got lost on the way to the pride parade!

I laughed my ass off when I saw that for the first time. Unfortunately, it was the last thing I found funny about Prince of Pandia.

The Prince needs to free all of his soldiers, but he can only do that through the use of "the magical power." I guess the Prince was never a boy scout or considered something a little less complicated than magical powers like, I don't know, a knife?

The Prince requires crystals for the magical power to work, so your first job is to find one of the gemstones.

Once you acquire a gem, the Prince will begin to float and burn, so it's then time to go find some soldiers to rescue.

Here's the Prince freeing one of his men. I don't know, it looks to me like the Prince is leaning over and giving his boy there a hand job, and the force of the soldier's orgasm causes the rock to disintegrate. But then, that's just me. Still, as far as magical powers go, that'd be pretty original, right?

Unfortunately, when the Prince doesn't have the magical powers, he's as threatening as a two year old with a Nerf gun. If the ogre-like bad guys get their hands on the Prince, they lock him in a cage and transport him down to the dungeons, where I'm sure they do all sorts of things that he doesn't enjoy in the slightest (ahem.) It's important that you clear a path to the next gem before the last one's power is totally diminished, but there's no on screen indicator to tell you how much time you have.

This is a real pain, because there are only so many gems on each level, so as the game progresses there's an ever greater chance that you'll find yourself short and will have to restart. This wouldn't be so bad if it didn't cost a life every time you did so, and if you lose all of your lives you have to start all the way from the beginning.

Some levels seem designed to make you fail. Take the image above, for instance: the prince needs to get past that volcano... vagina, but there's an ogre standing right next to it. Since I don't have any power, either one can cost me a life. So maybe I could try jumping over them?

Nope, that didn't work. And now I'm another life down, so I need to finish this level and hopefully pick up an extra life later on.

Unfortunately, because you can't take two steps on this level without walking into a friggin' volcano, I lose all the magic and gems, and I had only one guy left to free. I have no choice but to restart, but I'm already on two lives and I know I'm going to get caught in that same place by the ogre again. The result?

Bingo. And now I have to start all over again.

Well, to hell with that. I'm going to leave the super camp Prince, his trussed up toy boys and his foul-mouthed instructions right where they are. I'm going to spend my time with another gay computer game character, like Duke Nukem (oh, you know he is.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Escape from the Oval Office

OK, I'm going to do this as quickly as possible, because I just spent a good thirty or forty minutes of my life playing Escape from the Oval Office, and I just want to get the review over and done with, so I never have to look at this game ever again.

I felt that I should just go with the crowd and review something political. And even though the USA now has a new, competent President, that doesn't mean we can't still laugh at the old, incompetent one. The only problem is that Escape from the Oval Office laughs at all those who dare to give it a chance.

I'll admit to never being a big fan of escape games, but I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, just as long as puzzles are logical and the solutions aren't hidden under a pile of confusing mess. Escape from the Oval Office has neither of these qualities.

So you're stuck in the Oval Office and you need to find a way to unlock the door. There's a key on this desk, but let's face it, nothing's ever that easy. We look to the computer, and we need a password to log in, which is helpfully stuck to the monitor with a Post-It note. It's starting to look like George W Bush himself programmed this game, until you see that there is no "W" key on your keyboard!


OK, let's go find the "W" key, since it's so important that we get on this computer. Travelling around the room isn't too difficult, but it just feels clunky, and the interface can be very unresponsive. Combining items is the most tedious chore; first you click on an item to examine it, then you click and drag the second item to use it on the first. It should come as no surprise that about fifteen minutes in I started to get a headache, and the light yellow walls didn't help.

I should also note that, aside from a crappy drum loop on the title screen, there is no music, and there are few sound effects. So if you like looking at badly drawn pictures of the Oval Office in complete silence, this game is for you.

Anyway, you notice a very obvious secret compartment, but you'll need a screwdriver to open it. So you go to the next view...

...And lo and behold, there is a screwdriver. There are only two types of puzzle in this game - the moronically easy or the stupendously difficult. The mouse gives you no indication of what can be interacted with and what can't, so all you can do is click over the entire screen and hope you come across something you can use.

Occasionally you'll come across something genuinely terrifying, like this fifty foot tall Dick Cheney.

Or this image, which is supposed to be sombre and sobering. Yes, we get it, the guy was an asshole. Now can you please tell me what to do next? Please, give me some clue! What do you want from me!?

Eventually you find the "W" in the bathroom (once you unlock the bathroom with a key found under one of the cushions on the couch - and that took way longer than was necessary.) But George doesn't want to put his hand in toilet water, so you have to take a valve handle that you found in the curtains for some reason, click behind the toilet, turn the valve to drain the water, and then retrieve the button.

Two things. First, wouldn't a plastic button flow away with the water? And secondly, how the hell was I suppose to know I could click behind the toilet? I'm not given any indication that I can do that! I'm not given any help whatsoever at any point in this game! The instructions are about as useful as flip flops in the friggin' Arctic! The only way I could advance was through trial and error or reading other people's hints.

I finally get on the computer and I think to myself, "Thank God, it's almost over." In my travels around the room I came across a drawer with a combination lock on it. I assumed that the combination would be on the computer. I could then use it to open the drawer, find the key to the Oval Office, and make good my escape. How wrong I was! Instead there was nothing but this picture of a wing. Why was there a picture of a wing?

Because I had been searching for the wrong items. How foolish of me to think that you look for a key to open a locked door! I found this on the floor, completely by accident. The object of the game is not to locate the key, but to locate the various parts of the eagle that will then give you the key.

What is the point of that? Why are you giving me one more puzzle on top of all the other puzzles? I found your "W", I found your Wiimote (playing the Wii apparently gives you... something) - what more can I give!? But no - out of nowhere, this bombshell is dropped.

Escape from the Oval Office is complete and utter garbage... but I don't hate it. Why? Because, while reading the comments for it on the Addicting Games website, I couldn't help but notice that many of those who didn't like it also possessed neoconservative values. And since there's nothing I enjoy more than annoying neoconservatives, let me just write that Escape from the Oval Office is a game everyone should play!

And it's OK to be gay!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Butt-Ski Lift

What is wrong with you people?

I don't like to complain (lie) but this is really getting out of hand. Just when I think the internet can't throw any more stupid games at me, another one comes screaming ass first towards me, pummelling me with the audacity of its ridiculousness. Before I can write any more about Butt-Ski Lift I have to don my Grammar Nazi hat and trenchcoat and ask why exactly is that hyphen between the words "Butt" and "Ski"? I could understand ski-lift, but butt-ski? What does that mean? Am I going to strap a snowboard to each cheek and slip down the slopes, hoping that I don't suffer a nasty heat rash?

I'm going to try to explain the goal of Butt-Ski Lift, but don't get annoyed with me when this paragraph ends and you're still as dumbfounded as you were the very second you first saw the words "butt", "ski" and "lift" together in the same title. Skiing, as all but most of the quadriplegics among us know, is a lot of fun. But riding up the ski lift isn't.

Hold on a second - since when was riding twenty feet above the ground on a rickety park bench, held aloft by a corroded metal cable which has warped due to the extreme cold, not been fun?

But I digress. The only way to make a ski lift ride fun, apparently, is to get your pants stuck in the chair and dangle upside down, revealing your plump, dimpled arse cheeks for all the world to see. I'm not sure how risking frostbite in one of the most sensitive and important areas of my body is supposed to be fun, but I'll go along with it, just for this review.

At least they try not to make it too difficult. All you need to do is tap the Space bar at the right moment to jump, and if your timing is correct, you'll fly through the air with the greatest of ease, wind blowing through your pubic hair. However, mistiming your jump costs you points, so if you feel like you left it too late, you're better off not risking it and just waiting for the next chair.

And huzzah! Here I am, hanging from my ankles, two cheeks to the wind. Once you figure out the right moment to jump, though, there's no more challenge. All you can do at that point is score as often as you can and see what ranking you get at the end.

The first time I saw this, I thought it said "furries" and I said to myself, "God, when I thought this game couldn't get any stranger..." But I quickly realised that the ranking system has a snow theme, with blizzards doing better than flurries, and the Flash version of Mirror's Edge doing better at entertaining me than this game could ever hope to.

Because at the end of the day, all we're doing is repeating the same bum joke over and over again. Hey, naked butts were hilarious when I was ten. But I'm twenty-four now, and I expect far more sophisticated comedy, like a naked butt with a moustache, or something. Or a spaceship shaped like a naked butt. Or maybe-

Sorry, I went off-topic there. So, Butt-Ski Lift - pretty crap, but very short, so at least it won't take up all your time. And hey, at least it isn't a messed-up freak fest like Nuclear Fart Bear, so that's something.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mad Truckers

I trust you all had a good Christmas. Mine was the usual series of nice moment followed by disappointing moment followed by awesome moment followed by shitty moment followed by Mad Truckers. Actually, this is the first year that I had to endure Mad Truckers and, God help me, it will be the last.

This was one of those many moments when I was tricked by the game description into playing something I normally wouldn't touch with a ten foot barge pole. With a name like Mad Truckers I had expected a satisfying romp through the highways and byways of a fictional countryside causing untold damage to private property and leaving a trail of wanton destruction in my wake. Oh, how wrong I was.

The real story is that you've been given a job by a friend of your uncle's that requires you to deliver goods as quickly as possible, snaking through the gentle twists and turns of some endless motorway. You can crash into other vehicles if you really want to, but this isn't the central goal of the game, and you need to hit cars with your trailer if you don't want to absorb any damage. Because, you know, having to drag two tons of twisted steel and rubber behind you wouldn't affect your speed whatsoever.

It's while bumping Minis and avoiding giant potholes that you discover the bad guy is out to get you for stealing his business! Don't be surprised to learn that his name is "the bad guy." I could forgive such a dearth of creativity if the gameplay made up for it. But then, if that was the case, you wouldn't be reading this, would you?

The Bad Guy decides that the only thing to do is to update his fleet with better trucks and build new relationships with fresh customers.

Sorry, I meant to write that he starts dropping land mines on the highway. When these prove ineffective (what with them being bright red and easy to avoid) The Bad Guy resorts to missiles!

That's right - missiles, fired from small cars. I guess we are in a recession - desperate times, and all that. Our hero's response to this is typical. Sure, he could call the cops, but what would that achieve? Better to lower his prices and work even harder!

Of course, it's hard to worry when none of these weapons cause any damage to your vehicle whatsoever. Whoever programmed this game needs to be dragged backwards through a blackthorn bush. The missiles do absolutely nothing - they simply hang there, not moving, not exploding. You can drive straight through them and nothing happens. Unless the missiles hit you the very moment they appear onscreen, they just get stuck wherever they show up and stay there for the duration of the level.

I took this shot just to show you how ridiculous it gets. Who releases a game without first checking that little things like the enemies' weapons actually work?

What begins as an exercise in boredom quickly becomes an exercise in restraint - restraining myself from tracking down the creator of this game and punching a hole through his abdomen. Lots of crap games get made, but by and large you get the feeling that they were started with the best of intentions. I don't think I can say that for Mad Truckers. If even the slightest care was taken, you wouldn't have ridiculous images like the one shown above.

I was destroyed, not by any of the thirty missiles that surrounded my truck, but by a green four-door saloon that just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The bad guys were useless in almost every way, and why we even needed them in the first place was never properly explained. Why not just stick to the central premise of making deliveries as quickly as possible and avoiding other traffic? The game still would have sucked, but at least the incompetence of the programmer wouldn't have been made so obvious. Mad Truckers has been panned by largely everyone who has had the misfortune to play it, and this is one of the few occasions where I have to say the man on the street has got it absolutely right.