The Snake Becomes The Key

Retro Gaming Humour

Nightbreed – Might breed: confusion, pain, smashed keyboards

Words: Chris Keeley

Straight off the bat, Nightbreed does little to instil you with confidence that it’s going to be an enjoyable gaming experience. The bewildering plot, which was difficult enough to fathom when spread out over an entire film, is garbled at you in a matter of seconds before you start. Like the opening of Star Wars the prologue scrolls upward before you, only here it tracks at the speed of light. Despite this, it seems to take light years to read. Unless you’re an autistic savant, at this point I’d advise slamming your spacebar with authority. Failure to do so may result in your brain actually paining to decipher its convoluted, scatterfuck plot…and your body spontaneously combusting.

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After Rainbow, Zippy went off the rails

For those of us who haven’t succeeded in tapping that rarely used part of the brain, the ‘intricaplot cortex’, the story centres on Boone, a fugitive who you control and must lead deep into the Midian, an underground labyrinth which is home to the Nightbreed, an ancient and mystical race. This cramped, confusing, fiery hell seems a strange place to live for a bunch of immortal, shape-changers with powers beyond belief, but hey, at least the rent must be pretty good.

So anyway, Boone must venture into this hellhole/deathtrap/affordable monster living space in an attempt to protect the Nightbreed from a neo-Nazi gang, seek redemption for murders he believes he has committed, save his girlfriend from the real killer, battle berserkers, avoid getting shot, flame-throwered or crushed by boulders, duck gigantic eyes, return The One Ring etc etc etc. Perhaps most galling of all for him is the fact that he must achieve all this while riding an invisible space-hopper, or at least that’s what it looks like. The main character graphics portray a man so bow-legged that it looks like you could drive a car under his balls.

If you thought that following the storyline was a challenge, try pigeon-holing the gameplay – perhaps the World’s first avoid-em-up/insanity-simulation. Nightbreed plays like filling a wardrobe with claustrophobic wasps, necking acid and then trying to negotiate your way out of the wardrobe without screaming. Impossible, pointless and painful. Having your brain ravaged by the platoon of panicky picnic-ruiners would probably be the more enjoyable option.

The game begins in the Necropolis, the city of the dead and the gateway to the Midian. Unexplained floor flames flit around our hero’s feet, randomly deciding whether to inflict pain or not, while machine-gun toting Nazis drop from the sky showing little concern for logic or Boone’s lack of weaponry and t-shirt armour. Avoiding the fires and beating-up the free-falling Fuhrer fanciers is a painful process. Boone is generally about as easy to control as a drunken bear; he possesses a less-than-paper-bag-worrying punch and a move which looks like he’s trying to show his enemies the colour of his shoes – I later discovered that this is actually a kick.

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Oh go on, it’s only waffffer thiiin

Once inside the Midian, hordes and hordes of monsters try and thank you for your attempts to save their race. No, not ‘thank’, what’s the word I’m looking for? Oh yes, ‘KILL’, that’s it. Hordes and hordes of monsters try and kill you for your attempts to save their race. Assuming you manage to avoid these ingrates, their underground lair also wants to have a go at you. Crumbling rocks fall seemingly at random but usually when you’re trying to gauge feedback from a Nightbreed on whether your black loafers would look better beneath a pair of dark grey corduroys. All in all, Boone must be wondering if it’s all worthwhile and if he wouldn’t be better off just letting his girlfriend be killed, take the blame for numerous unsolved murders and let an ancient civilisation die.

On the plus side, Nightbreed’s graphics aren’t too bad, there are quite an array of enemies all with different attacks and the game manages to stay relatively true to the film. One thing I don’t recall from the cinematic adaptation however is Boone’s duck sidekick who lurks just out of sight and quacks whenever his master jumps or lands a punch or kick on an enemy. Thankfully there are few other sound effects because judging by the ones that do befoul your speakers they were produced with the explicit intention to annoy. There is no music apart from the opening sequence but again this is a blessing in disguise. The computerised cacophony that greets you could easily be used as shock therapy for music addicts or as an alarm clock for the hearing impaired.

It would be way too easy to compare the nightmarish scenario on which the game is based to the experience of actually playing it, so I’ll spare you that lazy simile and just end with a succinct: “this game sucks ass.”

May 25, 2007 Posted by | Chris Keeley, Lame, Movie Tie-Ins, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Friday the 13th: If you go down to the woods today, make sure you turn down the volume.

Words:Stuart Hunt

We take a quick trip to Camp Crystal Lake, disturb the infamous hockey loving weak swimmer, and then try and organise a Parish Council meeting.

When I was younger I distinctively remember only playing this game with the lights on, the volume rammed down and at least one other person being within screaming distance. To say this game scared the bejesus out of me is no slight exaggeration.

Domark’s trouser destroying retelling of the Friday the 13th story basically plays out like a game of, wink, wink you’re dead, but deployed with strange subliminal scare tactics. The game’s surreal use of the chirpy tune, the teddy bears’ picnic, suddenly shattered by a digitised, high pitched scream and an image of a horrific, pixel-loaded, mangulated, machete introduced face, was enough to turn even gang land bosses into blubbering pant peeing wrecks.

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Another poor showing for service this Sunday

In the game, you took charge of one of the camp’s ten co-ordinators and ran around a bright looking Crystal Lake trying to determine which one of your friends Jason was deviously doppelganging. Occasionally (if you were really unfortunate) the aforementioned sadomasochistic screenshot would flash up, coupled with a horrific heart-hurting scream, that would shoot you up out of your seat and shatter every nerve in your body.

To save your friends, you had to find the ornamental cross, deposit it in the church and then run around the campsite telling everyone to head inside for an emergency meeting. Once inside, over sweet tea and malted milks, the doomed sprites brainstormed ideas on how best to stop the black pyjama killer. Stupid suggestions such as ‘bake him a cake’ or ‘buy him a pet’ get bandied around the church hall and there is always one cocky counselor that tries to move the discussion towards the lack of facilities around the campsite; one archery board.

Anyway, everytime I played the game the meeting always closed with the same answer:
Wield one of the many yellow weapons scattered around the campsite and put a stop to the pale-faced prowler before he reaches the church, kills everyone and you’re left the arduous task of running a whole campsite alone. Jerkfaces.

February 14, 2007 Posted by | Movie Tie-Ins, Stuart Hunt | 9 Comments

Howard’s egg-scrutiating adventure

Words:Stuart Hunt

Howard the Duck – The wise cracking, earth saving, big headed egg-poo-er, had his own line of fragrances, fine wines, and a computer game… I know amazing huh? Dont get too egg-cited, it’s crap!

I was a big fan of the Howard the Duck movie as kid and I didn’t even realise a game based on the film was ever created. I didn’t see any adverts, any reviews in magazines – a clear warning nowadays that such a game should be avoided like prison showers. My memory of it and its Amstrad counterpart, is shall we say, a little diluted now. I un-fondly remember it being mentally hard going. The controls were frustrating, the levels, or I should say, the first and only level (I saw at least) was amazingly taxing. So, at 25, I figured I could return to the game with 10 years of gaming experience under my belt. Having toppled the Covenant in two Halo adventures and finished Ghost Recon on the John Rambo difficulty setting, how hard could it be to jump over 3 inches of sand?

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The map’s on the other side you idiot!

I load up the game and begin my adventure in a tropical rainforest – a scene that I don’t actually remember seeing in the film, but never mind. The first task is to communicate with the duck, and by that, I mean get him to actually move his feathery ass. The controls in this game are dire, Howard waddles around the level like he’s layed a large egg in his pants and to make matters worse you’re given a pointless sped up 30 minutes (why not just give us a real 5 minutes?) in which to complete the first level. I guarantee, 18 of those will be spent trying to jump over of a piece of sand the exact distance of Howard’s longest possible jump (to the exact pixel). It requires a long run up on a piece of ground an inch in screen size. When, or probably, if, you manage this nefarious task, you will be awarded the most useless power up in computer game history – a jet pack with the power of a bike transformer.

You can’t take it out on poor Howard though, the duck clearly has amnesia, because when he’s trying to figure out how best to get back across the sand he just spent half his natural life trying to jump over, he forgets the jet pack he just found 30 seconds ago. Jerk.
I will say, please don’t attempt to make the return trip back across the sand by jumping, you’ll never do it as you’re given even less ground to pick up speed on. Such a feat will require you to control a running Howard around a corner – this is not an option – such an act is like trying to teach a guitar how to swim.

Touching the Void
Around the time you picked up the jet pack, a strange vampire midget character appeared, which looked a lot like the counting count from the Muppets. He may have stood out because perhaps like everything else in this game (except Howard) he doesn’t actually appear in the film – but he is your ticket out of there. To escape requires Howard to commit hari-quaki, so run into the count, watch Howard perform his ri-duck-ulous spinning floating move, signalling he’s dead or in the process of it, and cunningly you will start back at the beginning, still equipped with the jet-pack. What an ingenious puzzle, made all the more obvious when you realise Howard doesn’t actually have any lives – he’s imortal… of course! I was kicking myself when I realised.

Now you have to cross the treacherous death sptitting river – luckily we have a jet pack, right? Now, I’ve never attempted to cross a raging river, with strong currents trying to drag my bones down into a deep, dark watery grave. However, I can honestly imagine that actually doing it in real life, would probably be easier then trying to do it in this game. The crappy controls and the feeble nature of the jet pack, which seems to lose power after 5 seconds, make it almost as frustrating as trying to jump over sand. Almost.

So if you make it over the river, you’ll notice a pile of seeds sitting invitingly on the floor, which I will wager, you’ll assume is energy for the duck – it’s not, but it would make perfect sense to think this. Moving closer to the yellow traingle will cause one of those mini count’s to sneakily jump out and here is where the supposed ‘action’ in the game is introduced.

Now, Howard can talk, he can dress himself, he can even operate a f**ing jet-pack, but one thing he can’t do is fight for shit. Trying to get him to kick is like trying to talk a goldfish out of its bowl. Every time you attack, Howard has to jump in the air a few times first, almost as if he’s psyching himself up first. Fighting is a frustrating experience and as there’s no energy bar so the outcome of a fight seems to rest on the roll of an invisible dice.

If you manage to kill the count, you’ll probably feel like congratulating yourself, but keep the champagne on ice because another one emerges from the seeds quickly soon after. Yes that’s right, this game inhibits those annoying infinite baddy generators – seeds! (for some reason). If you are able to make your way safely past the stupid seeds, you’ll notice another stretch of sand, which looks suspiciously further then Howard’s current long jump record – a distance you will have witnessed him attempt so much, it will be burned into your retinas.

And so after a few hundred failed record attempts your time will run out, leaving you with two options: Replay the whole demoralising process again or take your aggression out on Duck Hunt.

January 18, 2007 Posted by | Movie Tie-Ins, Stuart Hunt | Leave a comment