191 reviews liked by BeauTartep


Animal Well is absolutely completely utterly - fine! It's good! It's fun! I especially like its visual identity, though I don't love its soundscape too much. The puzzles are creatively designed and the tools you get for exploration were suprising and well utilized. Do I think there's much more here? No, not for me. I read the articles detailing the games' secrets and what I find disappointing that - so far at least - the game's secrets don't really add any lore or backstory or theme to its world, leading to the secrets feeling a little shallow to me. But I'm also not really the person to dig deep in this type of game - if you are, you're probably gonna like Animal Well way more. Maybe it also had the misfortune of releasing alongside Lorelei and the Laser Eyes, which scratches that mystery solving itch waaay better - at least for me. Animal Well still is a cute game though that I will probably mostly remember for its outstanding visual design moreso than anything else.

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me, and I walk alone.

Jokes aside, Lonesome road is probably my favourite FNV DLC, which seems like an unpopular take in contemporary critical discourse surrounding the game; on the internet anyways.

I do GET what others find objectionable about the DLC, I'm not super on board with the characterisation of Chris Avellone's pseudo-rantsona and the cardinal sins the game committs in regards to roleplaying are at best misguided attempts at narrative subversion and at worst break the entire game's foundations in half.

Its one of those things, where, even though I myself had not heard of this discourse I intuitively felt something wrong when I played the game for the first time. "You, the courier came through here before and indirectly caused the devastation of the divide" - Ulysses said calmly

"No I didnt. My character didnt do that at all. My courier was a common drifter before he stole a mojave express courier's identity just in time to be shot by a claymation chandler bing". I was mostly confused. I do think its a mistake to take everything Ulysses at face value, and if you listen to his soliloquoys scattered about the various holotapes you come to realize hes a disturbed, traumatized individual who's maybe not quite meant to be taken as gospel. He reminds me of Measurehead's backstory from DE if you do the fascism sidequest.

That being said, the reason for Lonesome Road being my favourite is the gameplay. Its an amazing gauntlet that puts the player's abilities to the test with the various tunnelers, deathclaws, marked men and the like. Chris Avellone's hatred for the post-postapocalypse shines here, albeit appropriately for a recently nuked area, there are nought but the remnants of those who tried to rebuild the divide but were cut down by radiation. FNV is a bit too easy, but Lonesome Road is a nice mix up in this department. This last playthrough I played using the JSawyer mod and a revolver build, both of which made the game more challenging and I had a blast making it through the titular road.

Its unfortunate how the DLC also implies that the mojave will just get fucked again by tunnelers because again, Chris Avellone hates the post-postapocalypse, but my headcanon is that the indomitable will of the player character overcomes this to make sure the future inhabitants of vegas can put up a fight. I mean, a drugged mailman took care of dozens of them with a few hollow points, it won't be that difficult to mount a defensive line against em

I struggle a bit when thinking about Indika. Because on paper it does a lot of things I really like. Especially the enviroment design and general weirdness of the whole experience really stood out to me. But it also feels a little aimless sometimes, and especially its portrayal of sexual assault is a point where they should most definitely have gone back to the drawing board. If you're interested in Indika at all, I think it's a very good idea to pick it up. And meanwhile, I'll sit here, in my little corner, thinking about why I don't love it the way I thought I would.

second half is dope. dont talk to me

Benedict Fox is one of the prettiest 2.5D side-scrollers I've played to date, and the genre hybrid of Metroidvania and adventure game in a Lovecraftian setting is undeniably intriguing, but even with the various changes made to rebalance the game with the Definitive Edition upgrade, its various constituent elements just don't cohere together very well. In particular, there's just far too little sense of flow or coherence to the world design; despite the more recent addition of (optional) quest markers to the game, I'm still not really sure how you're meant to figure out where to go next without relying on a walkthrough, leading me to drop the game after a few hours with it. As for the story, it plunks you down in the middle of a poorly-defined supernatural mystery with key elements of its backstory and worldbuilding woefully underexplained, in a way that feels less like deliberate mystery or in media res storytelling and more like a crucial cutscene or two was cut out. I admire Plot Twist's ambition, but unfortunately, Benedict Fox falls well short of its potential.

Harold Halibut is a very technically impressive (when its not bugging out or dropping frames) feat, which unfortunately puts its gorgeous claymation style and cinematography in service of an overwritten, overindulgent miserable slog which might have been refreshing were it a fifth of its length instead of the overbearing wank we got instead.

Wank is the operative word here, the game is spiritually similar to jerking off. It takes inspiration from various sources, wes anderson films chief among them, but from what few films I have seen of those, they were much more entertaining and well written. The sheer nothingness of the gameplay even for narrative focused adventure games and amount of dialogue that was 3 lines too long for what it needed to be really fits together when you learn about the game's 10 year development time. This is someone's baby, presumably a labour of love, but thats the thing, sometimes you need to detach yourself emotionally from your work and cut things when they don't actually add anything. The most damning thing of all, after all that, 8 goddamned hours (it felt twice that) I feel nothing. The game is nothing. I am nothing. We're all nothing. And I have 8 fewer hours now before I return to the nothingness of oblivion with little to show for it.

wow what a fun game w a pretty unique aesthetic,, i hope there's not a game breaking bug that makes it impossible to progress after a third of the way in ^__^

The cutscene that plays when using the dynamite on a battle is the single best thing ever implemented in any videogame in all of human history and I’m only mildly exaggerating.

A macabre festival where the dance never ends, a fever dream made out of bones and clay; Hylics manages to perfectly capture the feeling of a nightmare that seems to be completely absurd, yet it manages to craft meaning within the spiral of chaos. Places with random names located in islands that make no sense; mazes and entire worlds inside machines down ladders that somehow connect, and half of the odd weirdos you come across seem to speak in riddles and the other half take the insanity of this realm as another Tuesday, but all share the incredibly exaggerated animations, that range from the smoothest hand and clay movement you could think of in battles to just three frames for each walk cycle, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If Hylics delivers something in spades, it’s definitively a sense of style, of harsh clay figurines and contrasting colors, of poems and jokes, with mountaintops populated by cone-shaped cultists and an afterlife full of fishes and a couch. I could list every single area and enemy in this game and say, ‘’WoAH! That was pretty weird and cool!’’, but I think the fact the game is just that, an avalanche of nonsense and weird shapes—and somehow finds a way to make an actually pretty simple tale and a world that has some sort of meaning and makes sense—is far more impressive than the weird moments themselves.

The harsh and quiet melodies, the special moves you get by watching the TVs, the pals you meet along the way; it’s really hard to talk about individual aspects of Hylics because everything seems intrinsically connected with each other and totally unique at the same time, which ironically makes it so some of the moments that stand out like a sore thumb are those in which it feels like the game doesn’t go nuts enough with its ideas.

The combat system, as crazy as some of the attacks get, is still pretty light; there are some cool things about it, like how it connects to the afterlife, some item interactions, and how the game’s own openness makes meeting allies and gaining abilities completely up to you. But I think that’s where the interest peaks, in how the combat is pretty determined by what you do outside of it, and when it comes to battles themselves, while there are some interesting bosses, it soon became pretty clear others are just damage sponges and that you can become pretty powerful very easily, and that plus how the areas are designed often makes combat seem more like a chore you sometimes do to get past a certain point or gain meat and money, and that otherwise evading conflict is often the faster, less annoying option.

And again, it’s in these battles where some of the more abstract and impressive animations can be found, and if anything, the final area and boss fight will ask of you to have gotten many special secret moves and quite the amount of bucks, so it isn’t completely valueless to engage in combat, but in a game with such a crazy atmosphere and universe, I was hoping for something far more engaging.

I was hoping to see more of the party members, who seem to lose their mouths the moment they join you. I was hoping for some of the puzzles to be more out there. I was hoping for more of its insane style to slip into other areas, like the menus or the secrets… Hylics presents an impossibly creative world, and even if it doesn’t last longer than it needs to and it's full of amazing stuff, it feels as if its full potential has yet to be achieved.

But what was accomplished is unforgettable; despite wishing I got to see more of their personalities, the yellow devil and his three friends singing and playing in a bar in the middle of nowhere and plowing through the forces of the moon before facing the final fiend are some amazing moments that made me laugh despite no words being said. Wade is a menace, but not one that has to be locked up; in fact, it should be let out even more wild. Godspeed, you crazy bastard…

Also, big fan of Somsnosa, it’s always nice to see another hat with horns appreciator…

when someone talks about "messy queer art" they're actually talking about this

Sega had a rough transition to 3D.

It all started with the 32X. This is unlike most stories, which usually start at the beginning. The 32X was, to put it politely, a fucking disgrace. A lot of historical accounts regarding what a nightmare it was to work for Sega start around this time — Scott Bayless claims that former CEO Hayao Nakayama sent the order down from on-high for a project that was ill-defined and mismanaged from the start, comparing the company to the Hindenburg; Tom Kalinske says that he desperately tried to get Sega to kill the console, to use a Silicon Graphics chip that would later be poached by Nintendo, to partner up with Sony to make the PlayStation long before Sony did it by themselves and made a boatload of money — and was rebuked at every turn. A bit later, Peter Moore told Yuji Naka to fuck off and left for Microsoft after the latter accused the former of faking a video of a focus group who said that Sega was old and boring. Of course, these accounts are all clouded by a combination of bias, the Pacific Ocean, and a language barrier; I admit that I find it a bit difficult to believe Kalinske was such a good businessman that Nakayama was “literally slapping subordinates” (in his words) because of how bad Sega of Japan looked compared to the American branch. Still, though, it paints a picture. Sega is broadly described as being a nightmare company to work for starting right around the time the 32X started being developed, and its reputation never once improves in anyone’s retrospective accounts. The games on the 32X could run in primitive 3D, which was neat, but that was about it. The 32X launched, bombed, and was unceremoniously killed within three years.

The Sega Saturn surprise-launched in the west, to the complete and utter dismay of retailers. So incensed were they by what they perceived to be a fuck-you on two fronts — the miserable launch of the 32X leading into the Saturn just six months later combined with the fact that only some of them were selected to stock it — that many of these retailers outright cut ties with Sega. Hell, the Sega CD wasn’t exactly moving units at the time either, so Sega was cannibalizing itself on three different fronts. As much love as I have for the Sega Saturn and its utterly strange architecture, the console really wasn’t setting the west on fire. Japan liked it, largely because it ran arcade games pretty well. But there was one major, horrifying problem.

The Sega Saturn didn’t have a Sonic game.

It was going to. Sonic Xtreme was planned to be the very first mainline 3D Sonic game, which is probably a sentence that was a lot more exciting to hear in 1994 than it is thirty years later. But there were too many fires that needed to be put out behind the scenes at Sega to continue development on Sonic Xtreme, and the console went without the killer app that most people really wanted a Sega console for. Imagine Nintendo going an entire console generation without a mainline Mario platformer, or Sony bankrolling a new game that isn’t a cinematic, third-person, over-the-shoulder shooter. That’s just not what these companies do. It’s all wrong. You can’t drop Sonic the Fighters or Sonic Jam’s “Sonic World” and pretend like those are good enough replacements for what was supposed to be the 3D Sonic game. The Saturn launched, bombed outside of Japan, and was unceremoniously killed in western markets within three years.

With every last ounce of power and goodwill they had within them, Sega released the Dreamcast. This time, it would be different. This time, they would have their mainline 3D Sonic game. This time, they were going to beat their competitors to the newest console generation. This time, people would be ready for it. This time, it would be Sega’s turn to reign.

The Dreamcast launched, bombed, and was unceremoniously killed within four years.

Well, it was a good run. It wasn’t, really, but at least they managed to eventually get that 3D Sonic game out. They were late to the party by about two years — missed deadlines and the cancellation of Sonic Xtreme meant that Super Mario 64 had been out for three whole years before Americans could even buy a Dreamcast — but they at least managed to finish it. After all that time, the world finally had Sonic Adventure. It was worth it, right? After everything, it had to be.

It wasn’t. The game is bad.

Sonic Adventure is ambitious, like Macbeth. It has a lot of ideas for what it wants to be, but it doesn’t quite have the ability nor the aptitude to make it all come together. Sonic Adventure is a platformer, and a pinball game, and a snowboarding game, and Panzer Dragoon, and a kart racer, and Pro Bass Fishing, and a pet simulator. It’s a clear and obvious case of “fuck it, throw it in”. Rather than one good game, Sonic Adventure is about ten different bad games, summed together in the hopes that having enough content will make people look past the fact that none of it is actually on par with games that were coming out years prior. Quantity over quality is the name of the game here, which means that it’s about four hours too long and it made me wish that I was doing something else, instead.

Sonic himself is most emblematic of this lack of focus, both because he gets the most screen time and because his stages tend to be the most widely varied. Set aside the bad pinball minigame, the fiddly snowboarding, the boring rail shooter sections (you get two, because one wouldn't have been enough!); how does the platforming in this platformer feel? The answer, as it turns out, is also bad. Sonic moves fast, and that's good! It takes him a while to get going, and he benefits a lot from going downhill rather than up. It's nice for a 3D Sonic game to at least gesture towards concepts like momentum rather than relying on the instant capital-B Boost mechanics in later entries that let you go from zero to six thousand in the press of a button. This speed comes at a cost, however, and that's the fact that the game itself can't really keep up with him.

I managed to clip directly through the world several times over the course of about the two hours I spent playing as Sonic, and I was never certain exactly what caused it. An area in the snow level sent me directly through a loop-de-loop after I hit a boost pad, so that one was easy enough to figure out; Sonic went too fast for the collision detection to keep up with. More confusing was when I floated on a wind current that was meant to transition me from Mystic Ruins to a different stage, at which point the camera jerked into the wall and Sonic voided out. I still don't know what happened there. Regardless, Sonic is too cool to follow rules, and that includes the fundamental laws of nature about solids not being able to pass through one another. I've looked it up and people say that this is primarily a problem in the DX GameCube port, but this is the version on the original Dreamcast. This is the third revision of the game. How fundamentally broken must the game logic be for two rounds of bug fixes to not catch this? I wasn't even trying to glitch it out. Clipping out of bounds for going too fast in a Sonic game was a known shippable?

Tails is largely considered to be Sonic's junior, which is funny considering the fact that he completely fucking blows Sonic out of the water at his own game. Sonic's whole thing is supposed to be that he's the fastest thing alive, which is a bald-faced lie in a world where Tails exists. Tails gets not only the benefit of being able to fly over most of the levels that Sonic has to platform through, but he also has unique-to-him boost rings that give him a fast, automatic, optimal path towards the goal. Tails can complete a level with a three-minute par in sixty seconds. He completely trivializes a game where the most difficult challenge is not clipping out of bounds when the collision gets confused. Playing as Tails is fun in the way that spawning a jet pack in San Andreas is: the joy is in cheating.

Big was up next, because I wanted to get him out of the way after everything I'd heard about his section in the intervening years since this released. Funny enough, I had a friend growing up who had the GameCube port of this game, and he used to play the fishing minigame all the time for fun. I watched him do it. It looked like a great time. I never really got a chance to try it out, because he was a controller hog, but I never really believed all of the naysayers. My friend liked it well enough, after all. What's the worst-case scenario for something like that? It's a fishing minigame. How hard could they fuck it up?

Well.

It's bad. It's real bad. It's about as bad as people say it is, but not for the reasons that they usually say it is. Apparently there was some big Game Grumps drama blow-up over the fact that Arin Hanson railed on this section and then got flown out as a mock apology by Sega so that they could all make fun of Big the Cat as part of a marketing campaign. If you don't understand that last sentence, that's okay. It's better that you don't. If you're up on your Game Grumps drama, however, people who go on the attack against Hanson claim that his gripes are only because he didn't know to hold down on the control stick to latch Froggy on the hook; had he known it, it wouldn't have been such a problem for him, and he wouldn't have been so harsh. I agree insofar in that he probably would have had an easier time with it, but I seriously doubt that time spent would be better. Shorter, certainly. I suppose that's a form of better, because it means you get to stop playing the fucking fishing minigame earlier than you would otherwise.

The problem is multi-fold. Froggy doesn't get tired the longer he stays on the hook, but Big gets tired from reeling him in. You can get a series of bad rolls (it seems random, from what I can tell) where Big's stamina drains absurdly quickly and Froggy manages to haul ass three meters in the opposite direction before you have a chance to recover even a quarter of your stamina bar. Froggy can just go and go and go, and you can be put in a position where there's no choice but to let him go without any chance of getting him back. If Froggy stays on the line too long, it automatically breaks without warning, which can be especially frustrating when you've almost got him after a lengthy struggle. The reel likes to fucking jam more often than not, which gives Froggy a free couple seconds to make distance. Froggy will refuse to take the hook if there's three meters or less of line remaining, which is really annoying during the ice stage where the hole is tiny and Froggy clings to the walls. It's probably the worst fishing minigame I've ever played, which is impressive, because I wasn't sure that it was possible to make a fishing minigame that was both this rudimentary and this bad. The nicest thing you could say about it is that this is either the first or among the first 3D fishing games to be brought to home consoles, so it's a bit more understandable for it to be complete shit. It carries a deep and terrible burden, like the sin eaters of old, or our Lord Jesus Christ before them. Big the Cat absolves us of original sin by taking it all upon himself. He ought to be canonized.

I regret not saving Big's section for last, because the following three ended up being something of a blur. As the Joker once said in Christopher Nolan's seminal 2008 film The Dark Knight, you should never start with the Big the Cat levels; the victim gets all fuzzy. What's left probably isn't very good even if you play them first, though: Amy's levels are as forgettable as they are slow; Knuckles flies better than Tails and uses this power solely to float around re-re-re-reused stages collecting emeralds; Gamma just holds forward and the shoot button and all of his levels complete themselves. This Rashomon-ass story also starts getting very old around this point, where you're watching what are broadly the same, unskippable cutscenes over and over again with only minor dialog changes between them. It's cute the first time you play as Tails and Dr. Eggman suddenly sounds like an absolute evil menace, and it's fucking annoying the third time Amy convinces someone not to kill Gamma on the deck of the Egg Carrier.

Super Sonic is a broadly boring fourth or fifth traipse through the jungle maze that culminates in the best sequence of the entire game. You finally get an opportunity to go incredibly fast down some straightaways with no immediate danger of clipping through the world. Crush 40's Open Your Heart is playing. Sonic flies along the surface of the water and bashes Chaos on the underside of his brain. It rules. It fucking rules. The second phase kicks off and is the exact same thing with worse music. Rinse, repeat, roll credits. It's a limp end to a bad game. Big the Cat is there, but he mostly just stands off to the side and doesn't have a single line of dialog, which makes me wonder why he's even here. He doesn't do anything. For the whole game, he doesn't do anything. He exists solely so Sega could shoehorn a bad fishing minigame into an already bloated, half-baked title. Fuck Big the Cat. I hope he dies. Sorry. I know it's not his fault.

What I'm ultimately left with is a small handful of decent Sonic stages, vaguely entertaining Tails stages, and a miserable experience everywhere else. Aside from nostalgia reasons — and nostalgia is a factor whose power I cannot and will not attempt to diminish — I cannot possibly understand what people see now or saw then in Sonic Adventure. It's hardly a wonder why the Dreamcast failed when its biggest flagship titles were games like this and Shenmue. Personally speaking, I wouldn't want to give the console any time of day if I was a contemporary buyer and this is what was being marketed to me. The PS2 plays DVDs. What's this have? Bleem? There are some phenomenal Dreamcast games in the back catalog that make it look like a tragedy that the system was killed the way that it was; there are games like Sonic Adventure that make me wonder how Sega even got as far as they did.

Killer soundtrack, though.