Inside Pulse 12

Playing the Lame Vol. 5

Hail folks, it is I, Mark B, here to regale you once again with a tale of crap from the anals of history. And no, that’s not a typo. I took last week off to work on college stuff, but I doubt you really missed my presence all that much, so I’m not too concerned. I doubt you care about my silly college, but suffice it to say, I’m passing, so rock on, yes?

Also, expect some reviews out of me sometime during the week of both Curious George and Chibi-Robo. Unless I get really drunk and pass out, then no deal, cool?

Anyway, I’ve run out of things to write that I can pretend are witty and/or interesting, so let’s get ready to rock on with the bad gaming, yes?

LINKAGE:

Tom Pandich updated right alongside me, thus necessitating an edit. Poo. He also reviewed The Brown… er, PINK Panther, like he didn’t expect it to be bad. Not like Steve Martin’s made a good movie since Father of the Bride (or LA Story depending on how you feel about re-makes). I will forever love the man, but damn.

Eric S talks TNA. He also made a valid point to me the week prior, in that I had forgotten that the 3DO Corporation had acquired the Might and Magic license some time ago, and had put out plenty of good M&M games over the past few years. Basically: If the game is an M&M game, less than or equal to part 6, it’s a keeper. If it’s a Heroes of Might and Magic game, it’s a keeper. Anything else, wipe thine bung with it. Kay? Kay.

Lucard talks horror games, subgenre good, in Nyogtha. I have nothing to say about Night Trap, save that it was going to eventually appear here until he announced that he liked it. Not that I don’t like it, mind you, but as a game (and by this I mean something which one plays and interacts with), it’s pretty putrid.

Kennedy talks evil puppets and Jumanji in space, only not as bad. And, by the way, the theme song for PtL is “You Suck”, from the band Drill. If you don’t know who they are, call me later and I’ll explain it. And don’t forget your Geritol.

Yep, that’s about it. Sorry, I’ve been busy, no time to read stuff. I’ll be better, I promise.

PLAYING THE LAME, VOLUME 5.

Name of the offending title: Robinson’s Requiem
What system was this forced upon: 3DO (it also exists on PC and Macintosh, but those aren’t the versions we’re playing today. It was also scheduled to be released for the Jaguar, because that system just didn’t have ENOUGH bad games)
Who was responsible for this crap: Readysoft, Silmarils
Date this abomination was foisted upon us: 1996, sometime-ish.

This week’s PtL is brought to you by the wonderful sounds of Lacuna Coil. For those that might have made the observation that I tend to listen to a lot of industrial/goth music when I write, you’re right! But I’m not a goth. I swear.

I didn’t really have a game ready to go until today (Monday, for reference), largely because I had so many current games I wanted to spotlight, but a complete lack of desire to spotlight anything current. However, as it happened, a friend of mine contacted me and informed me that he had just recently re-acquired a gem of every crappy game player’s library: a Panasonic 3DO. Immensely curious as to what he had to offer, I drove out to his house (in a foot of snow, no less) so that I could appease the lot of you ungrateful bastards with gaming badness.

Actually, y’all are pretty grateful, so I’ll strike that.

Anyway, strictly for reference purposes, I must note that there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing more 3DO games popping up in the Hall of Shame, and there’s a reason for that: the 3DO’s game library is, and I’m not making this up, about 70-90% crappy games. Now, there *were* games that didn’t suck for the system, but after one knocks off Night Trap, Sherlock Holmes (screw you, I liked that game), Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, Samurai Shodown, Star Control 2, and Killing Time… oh yeah, and all the porn games… all that’s left starts at “mediocre” and gets worse from there.

Which is where Robinson’s Requiem comes in. First-generation attempts at 3D were more often than not shameful affairs, but consistently found their way to the 3DO simply because developers thought they could make money just by making games 3D. Games like RR, on the other hand, didn’t even do that much; RR simply worked off of pseudo 3D graphics that consisted of your character wandering around through 2D landscapes (ala Betrayal at Krondor… that probably didn’t help, but work with me here). In other words, the developers made the game “look” sort of 3D without actually BEING 3D, and the end results were ugly as sin. RR was obviously meant to be a PC title, and was simply slapped out onto the 3DO in an attempt to make some extra cash off of the venture, which was also a pretty common tactic as far as gaming was concerned at that point. Well, okay, technically it’s a pretty common tactic NOW, but at that time it was more common, if you can believe it.

A quick glance at the developer’s credentials don’t tell us much; researching Silmarils tells us that, according to the Underdogs (which is the only place I could find any info on the company), Silmarils games only found their way to America thanks to Readysoft, who was bought out in 1996. Their games are (supposedly) some of the most intriguing and innovative in existence. I say “supposedly” because they’re also some of the most poorly received games in history. Of the entire list of their games that were published in America, the only one I actively recognized was Transarctica, which I remember as being novel, but thoroughly broken, which is apparently an accurate description of EVERY Silmarils game ever made. This explains why they went out of business.

Readysoft, on the other hand, is known well enough for the console ports of several of what I’m sure are your favorite games… Space Ace… Dragon’s Lair… Braindead 13… those kind of games. The “(minimally) interactive” cartoon movies. Whether you find any joy in a console port of the exploits of Dirk the Daring or not, the point remains that when a company’s sum total body of work is a French adventure game and a bunch of interactive movies, that doesn’t exactly scream “quality publisher” if you ask me. They’re also out of business, because they were bought out some time in 1996.

So yeah, from the get-go, RR was pretty much destined to be bargain bin entertainment. But the novelty here is that, aside from perception and presentation, the end product was just so indescribably bad that only the few fools who parted with their money for this piece of dung can fully comprehend just how bad this game truly is. Well, assuming they’re not still locked away in some sort of insane asylum or something.

A BRIEF LAYOUT OF ROBINSON’S REQUIEM:

Your name is Robinson. Well, okay, your handle is Robinson; I’ve no clue what your actual name is. And by you, I mean the schmuck in this game, and not YOU specifically. Your name might well be Robinson for all I know. Anyway, you are an Alien World Explorer, tasked with doing the inter-stellar Chris Columbus, or if you’d rather, the one-man Star Trek. Anyway, you’re coming up on retirement, ready to sit back and relax, when the Scientific Intelligence organization (the governmental branch that regulates the AWE) finds one more planet for you to explore.

Hands up for those that see where this is going.

So you go to check the planet, only to find out the hard way that the planet has a massively powerful magnetic field. And by the hard way, I mean you crash and burn. You survive, somehow, only to realize that you’re stranded on this desolate… and incredibly bland and ugly… planet, with no hope of escape. Using only your wits, what supplies you can find, and the hideous control scheme, CAN YOU SURVIVE?

Hint: No.

WHY THIS GAME SUCKS:

Rather than get into what makes the game suck, I thought I’d share with you my first (and only) three attempts at playing the game, for those that might attempt to try and play this for themselves. This way, you’ll have a perfect idea of what you’re getting into long before that disc boots up.

TRY # 1: I decided that I must sit through the opening movie, so as to get the full effect of what the game is trying to accomplish. After listening to the same three sounds for about… ten minutes, your ship successfully lands in the AWE headquarters, where you’re briefed on your last mission. Now, all of the actors that appeared in the original product are, obviously, French. So, for the American release, Readysoft hired voice actors to re-record all of the dialogue in English. Not only does this give the game a sort of chop-socky vibe, it also makes you pine for the French voice acting, because the American acting is abysmal. Seriously, the guy who introduced you to your mission made Ben Stein sound like the Micro Machines guy. I thought he was going to fall asleep on me at any moment.

So, after five minutes of narcolepsy-inducing dialogue, you’re sent off to planet Alcibiade (which is apparently French for “bit-map hell”), where your journey begins. One crashed spaceship later, I attempted to meander about the countryside looking for… I don’t know, something. You’ll note that the game environment looks like your character is wandering through the ugliest clipart gallery in existence. EVERY SINGLE THING YOU SEE is bleeding pixels at all times. Now, bear this in mind: Doom, by which I mean the original Doom for the PC, came out in 1993. It was pretty pixilated for the time, especially by today’s standards. Robinson’s Requiem, which, even if we go by the PC release date, debuted one year later, looks WORSE. A LOT worse. It’s like comparing Street Fighter Alpha to Street Fighter 2. THAT BAD. You’ll see in a bit. There’s also no music to speak of; all you get for ambience is the sounds of monsters that no doubt want to kill you off in distance. Fun times.

At this point I’m beginning to think the game is named “Robinson’s Requiem” as an homage to “Robinson Crusoe”, the story of the shipwrecked man who survived with whatever he found on his island home. The thought that this game intends to attempt to aspire to such greatness makes me ill.

This wondrous bout of exploration came to an end when an eagle (or some pixels that vaguely resembled one, anyway) descended from parts unknown and proceeded to cut into my soft and sensitive underbelly whilst I figured out how, exactly, I was supposed to engage in combat.

Okay, here’s a screenshot for ya:

This may appear a bit dark. I’ve no clue exactly why, but I assure you this is the sort of thing you see on more than a few occasions. In any case, note the right side of the image if you will. In the first column there is a little icon that looks like a gun. That is your “combat” icon. Now, to engage in combat, you must hold down the A button, use the D-Pad to move the cursor to the combat icon, then press B. THEN, you had to hold down A again and move the cursor BACK to the bottom bar, where your fist would be, then spam clicking on the fist to attack things.

Attempting to figure all of this out while an eagle is slicing up your shortbread is not a very healthy act. I died. I was then treated to ten seconds of blackness, and the sound of the eagle killing my already dead character, before I was treated to the incredibly ugly death screen, where your character is apparently drowning in cherry Jello. I tried to get a screenshot, but no dice. Sorry.

Undaunted, I loaded back to the title screen and started again.

TRY # 2: I ran in the opposite direction I ran in previously, only to find myself coming upon a man pacing back and forth in the wilderness. Upon approaching him, he informed me (in the worst Aussie accent you can imagine) that the patch of grass upon which he paced was his, dammit, and if you walked upon it again he’d hurt you. Fair enough. Upon wandering further into the wilderness, I met another man, who appeared to recognize me. He spoke to me for a bit (more bad voice acting, yay), then turned into a werewolf and killed me dead.

Ooookay. Frustrated, but nonetheless willing to give it another go, I immediately armed my fist and searched out Outback Bill. Upon finding him, I proceeded to…

CHOOSE YOUR PERSONAL FAVORIOTE JOKE HERE:

HOWARD STERN FANS:
… deliver several heavy Donkey punches…

INDY WRESTLING FANS:
… perfect my delivery of Beef Wellington’s Ass Punch upon his person…

STRAIGHTMAN HUMORISTS:
… punch him in the ass…

FANS OF BUBBA HO-TEP:
… punch him in his ass-hole… (said in the voice of Ossie Davis)

… until he died from it. Upon looting his corpse, I discovered a hunting knife, nifty for killing beasts of all shapes and sizes. Newly armed and dangerous, I searched out Jason Bateman and gafted him in his wolfy face until he too fell before my wrath. Having now conquered the area, I searched around a bit, stole everything I could find, killed that fricking eagle, and proclaimed myself lord of the planet.

Then I turned around to see a splotch of pixley color before being struck down in one blow. Seriously.

The knowledge that I will forever be denied such things as…

… a knockoff AT-ST tramping around against a pixilated sky…

… and some weird combination of Alpha 152 and my aunt Sylvia…

… well, they pain me greatly. Alas, some things must be accepted if we are to grow as people, and I felt this was one of them. Well, that and I was getting tired.

It was at this time that I decided I’d had enough, and gave up on my attempts to take over the planet. Alas, should some other player someday follow in my footsteps, he or she will have a long fought battle ahead of them, but hopefully they will emerge victorious. And should you find my carcass rotting out there in the sun, please take my combat knife and use it for your own ends.

Also, make sure none of the natives have sex with my corpse. I didn’t travel halfway across the universe to become some pixely Katie Vick.

WHY THIS GAME REALLY SUCKS:

Much as I’d like to come up with some sort of amazing revelation as to why this game sucks beyond the above dissertation… well, that’s really about the extent of it. It was a PC game that had no right being ported to the 3DO, let alone existing at all. As interesting of a concept as it was, it was just thoroughly unfunctional and, as a 3DO game, almost completely unplayable. That sums it up about as best as can possibly be done. About the only amusement one could garner from this product would be throwing it across the room and seeing if it will shatter against the wall. Even the most masochistic gamer won’t be able to have any fun here.

WHERE IT COULD HAVE BEEN IMPROVED:

Instead of telling you where this game COULD be improved, I will instead point you in the direction of Lost in Blue (and to a lesser extent, Survival Kids), a game where this formula already HAS been improved. Both are adventure games, both deal with surviving being shipwrecked, both force you to survive in hopes of eventually escaping. The difference is, Lost in Blue, for all of its shortcomings, is a good game that one can play and enjoy, if one can look past the painful elements. Robinson’s Requiem, on the other hand, is an unplayable mess of abominable translation and completely unfunctional control that leaves the player scrambling to wash their eyes out with Clorox.

I could go on further, but really, when a game exists that is everything the highlighted game isn’t, that just makes my job so much easier.

WHERE YOU CAN GET IT:

Ebay only stocks the PC/Macintosh versions, and the odds of finding a 3DO game in EBGames is next to nil. Short of investing in the computer version or scouring the internet or flea markets, I would honestly say that finding this puppy is a lost cause. Look on the bright side… you’ll be more mentally healthy than I am.

You can also find most of Silmarils’ games here. As both Silmarils and Readysoft are out of business, and as no one’s bothered to renew the copyrights on the games, their software is now “abandonware”, and more or less considered free trade, so you needn’t feel bad about checking some of their stuff out (assuming you can run DOS programs). I assure you a crappy time.

CLOSING COMMENTS:

A game that’s widely regarded as being far too masochistically difficult, released onto a system that was dead before it released, with broken controls that all but assured an ultimately unplayable experience. This not only sums up a solid portion of the 3DO lineup, but also pretty much everything that was wrong with RR as a product.

Anyway, join us next week, where I’ll be returning to more current times and discussing a game that I’m fairly certain everyone will be able to hate equally. And remember, until next time, I’m Mark B and you’re not. Ta!

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