Exploring the uncharted territory of the gay videogame experience. Here, I explore the female/LGBT presence in videogame culture, media and industry.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Review: Peril at End House

I got a new desktop recently and have been making my way through the free game trials. (New 360 games are a bit out of my budget right now) Most of them were pretty much standard fare: Bejewelled, Jewel Quest, Fate, etc. Then I came across one that caught my interest; Peril at End House.

I got really excited at first because it's based on an Agatha Christie novel of the same name, and I'm a huge fan of her work.

I started up a new game and clicked through the opening cutscene. The comick book style layout was charming and spared me from suffering through a butchered French accent (this being a Poirot story). After the last graphic, I let out a very surprised/angry/disappointed "Goddamnit!" as I was confronted with actual gameplay:

Find a bunch of bullshit that's mixed in with a bunch of other bullshit.

It was a fucking seek-and-find game.

There has been a string of murders. I should be dusting for prints, looking for murder weapons and interviewing suspects. Not finding half-eaten pastries and playing cards in what looks like a disorganized yard sale.

I realize that Christie's books take place in the 1930s and 40s, so I wouldn't be able to do any fancy CSI style detective work, but that's not the point.

Very rarely were clues pertaining to the crime included in the list of random things I was supposed to find. Even then, there was absolutely no detective work involved. Just click the item and get a pop-up box that tells you everything you need to know about the object; who it belongs to, what it was doing int the room where you found it, etc.

There were only two instances where I actually felt like a detective, and they were way too far apart.

The first time, I had to figure out the combination to the victim's safe. It was a kind of cryptograph (where letters stand in for others. ex. A = S, B = T and so on), which I'm not very good at. But it made me think. I actually felt like I was Hercule Poirot.

The second time, I had picked up a box of half eaten candies. I had to pick them apart to find traces of drugs or poison. Turns out, they were laced with lethal amounts of cocaine.

That is what I should have been doing the whole time.

Why do I have to find butterflies and sea shells? Shouldn't I be searching for clues to secret drug habits, ulterior motives, covered up scandals and such?

Seriously. If I wanted to just look for random stuff, I'd go out and buy an I Spy book. At least that would have the nostalgia factor to keep me interested.

Why is there so much shit in the different areas? I can understand the Floral Shop Stage having a lot of stuff, but why do the rooms in the house look the way they do? Are the victims hoarders?

Am I conducting an investigation or staging an intervention? Like, "Look at all this shit. No wonder someone killed her."

Some of the shit is just impossible to find. Im-fucking-possible. In the Back Garden Stage, I had to find six croquet balls. Seemed simple enough. I found all but the red one, and I had run out of hints. I looked and loked, but time ran out before I found it.

By the way, when time runs out, you don't get to do just that room over again. No. You have to start that whole leg of the investigation all over again. Each section is about six or seven rooms. So if you're on the last room, you're fucked.

So, I started again, saving my hints because I remembered where most of the stuff was. When I got back to where I was before time ran out, I again found everything but the red croquet ball. So I used a hint.

You know where it was?

In a pile of fucking RED APPLES that were half off the screen. It blended in perfectly.

How the fuck was I supposed to see that?

Aside from impossible to find objects, it gets pretty monotonous pretty damn quick. Especially if you're like me and are really observant so you find things quickly.

The seek-and-find game play is broken up by various mini games. There is the safe cracking and poison detetion I mentioned before, but there are also matching games (match the suspect to the motive, etc.), but I didn't pay any attention to the text boxes or cut scenes. So I didn't know what went with what. But that didn't matter, because if you got three mismatches in a row, the game gave you a hint. And by hint, I mean it just flat out told you who went with what motive. And no penalties for letting it tell you either.

There is also a game where you have to piece together a ripped up newspaper article and a ripped up will. Another game makes you fill in words in a letter given to you by a contact. I didn't understand the point of that. If it contains important information, just fucking tell me, don't waste my time.

So you find all the important clues (all three of them...seriously), solve the crime (Spoiler: She fakes her death and kills her best friend because she was jealous of the woman's marriage), and end the game.

In conclusion, if you've got an hour or so to kill, this game is perfect for that. But if you're looking for a serious mystery-thriller game, or just want a game that's entertaining, I wouldn't recommend it.

Overall, I give it a 45/100. There were very few redeeming elements, and it mostly just wasted my time. If you want a good seek-and-find detective game, buy one of those CSI: games. If you're not entertained, at least you'll learn some cool science-y things.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I'm Surprised They Haven't Made... Part 2

A Twilight Game.

Now, before I go on, I want to make it absolutely clear that I am most certainly NOT a Twilight fan. I've read the books, and seen the first film; I just can't get past how god awful the writing is.

But I digress...

Whether or not you like the series, you have to admit it's very surprising that with all of its (baffling) success, there hasn't been a game tie-in.

But what would you do?

The first thing that comes to mind is a Castlevania knock-off; an action-adventure RPG where you collect different items, weapons and armor in preparation for the final showdown with the Volturi...

Except that never happens in the books.

Perhaps a gothic mystery-noire would fare better. Players take on the persona of Bella Swan; normal teen turned amateur dectective. She must gather clues and evience to prove that Edward is a vampire. She must also study the ancient magicks needed to defeat him and his family, ending their bloody reign of terror over Forks.

...but that doesn't happen either.

Survival Horror/Tower Defense
Bella has stumbled upon the secred world of vampires and werewolves, becoming entangled in their millenia-old blood-feud. Each side wants to kidnap her and use her as a bargaining chip after she befriends Edward and Jacob. She wants nothing to do with it. Student by day, supernatural warrior by night, she defends her father and her home from an onslaught of undead and lycanthropes (a la Nazi Zombie mode in CoD).

*sigh* That's still not it.

No, you know what it would be?

The Sims...or a 10 hour long Quick Time Event.

As a simulation, tweens and desperate housewives everywhere would discard the packaged "Bella" model in favor of a customized, virtual equivalent of themselves. Each playing out whatever sad little fantasy she has built up in her mind. The QTE would be even more pathetic, on every level:

Press X to bite lip

Hold A to play with hair

Click LS and RS to be devoid of all emotion

Push power button on console and do something meaningful with your life

Like with the Lady Gaga game, it all comes down to marketing and reputation. Makers of casual games or ipod games might get in on it (some sort of episodic release, maybe), but I serioulsy doubt any hardcore/mainstream developer or publisher would make a bid on that particular IP. It would destroy their credibility. Every discussion of each subsequent release by that company would follow thusly:

Gamer 1: Have you heard anything about First-Person Space Shooter 2000? I want to know if I should buy it or rent it first.

Gamer 2: You don't want that game.

G1: Why not?

G2: It's by the same company that did that Twilight game.

G1: Oh, never mind then.

The company would probably go under after that; all the while, employees would make dramatic "We're Sorry" speeches as they clean out their desks and prepare themselves for a life of unemployment. Because no other company would want to be associated in any way, shape or form with The Game That Shan't Be Named. This would put even more strain on an already beleagured world economy.

Moral of story: A Twilight game would probably cause the next Great Depression.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I'm Surprised They Haven't Made... Part 1

A Lady Gaga themed game.

Lots of bands have gotten the Guitar Hero or Rockband treatment (AC/DC, Metallica, The Beatles, Van Halen, and *shudder* Green Day). Michael Jackson was worthy of his own Dance Central clone. Hell, even Journey had their own arcade cabinet. I think they're the only ones on this list that don't have a rhythm/dance game.

Love her or hate her, she's here to stay. So, with all her popularity, why hasn't Lady Gaga gotten in on this? (Ignoring the plummeting sales numbers for music games, of course.)

Now, we have to take a look at the kinds of music games she could authorize.

1) Rhythm (a la Guitar Hero)
Well, this just wouldn't do at all since there are very few, if any, actual instruments being played in her songs. There were a few bits on her first album, The Fame, that had guitars, and Speechless from The Fame Monster is piano centric. But let's face it, she's a dance/techno artist; it's all synth and drum machine. This would be a very boring game to play with friends, let alone by yourself. Think about it, you'd have to have at least 2 or 3 keyboard peripherals. On top of that, her songs are kind of boring when you break them down like that. Sure, when you wanna just blast it and dance the night away, they're great. But on a technical level, they're nothing special. Looping synth riffs, idioticly simplistic percussion sections, and easy-to-match mid-range vocals. After the first few songs on the set list, the novelty would wear off, and you and your friends would find yourselves growing more and more lethargic. Not to mention angry that you spent $60 to sing along with her when you can do the same thing for free with an ipod and a long subway ride.

2) Dance (a la DDR or Dance Central)
If Nintendo hadn't beaten her to the punch. She could have had a lovely little play on words...Just Dance, indeed.

With that being said, this is probably the best bet for success, however marginal, when it comes down to making a game based on the eccentric Lady Gaga. But even with this style of game, there's still a huge problem.

The choreography.

Regardless of how I feel about her personal/off-stage antics, the woman is a damn fine artist. Her vocal range, flexibility and sustainablity is something that is rarely seen in the age of AutoTune; I often compare her to Karen Carpenter, though Gaga isn't nearly as good a vocalist...she's just the closest comparison. Vocals aside, one can tell she has never been trained in dance....at all.

You'd think that with all that money she spent on that fancy fine arts college she went to, she'd have at least learned the basics of dance. But I guess when you major in Batshit Crazy, you don't have much time to devote to dance.

Most of her choreography is thinly veiled sex-with-as-few-clothes-on-as-possible. And when she isn't dry humping anything she can get her hands on, she doesn't really dance; she just fidgets around alot. As with the rhythm game, you and your friends would quickly grow tired of the premise. Not to mention terribly uncomfortable when you realize you're playing Interactive Strip Aerobics.

And imagine the outcry when parents discover their daughters (or sons as the case may be) gyrating and stripping in turns. Because we all know that the majority of parents, especially in the U.S., don't give two shits about what their kids are doing until they catch them doing something they don't like.

To quote AVGN: There would be lawsuits up the ass.

So, I guess what it all comes down to is marketing. I suppose Lady Gaga would think herself much too avante guard to involve herself with a pop art like videogames. And no developer or publisher I know of would be willing to associate themselves with such a publicly/politically volatile artists.

Sure, Michael Jackson was an alleged child molester...but at least he could dance.

Plus, a meat-suit peripheral would be really tough to make appealing to the consumer.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Finding my Voice

So, I've been doing a lot of thinking over the past few weeks, and I've come to a major decision. After I post the second half of Cpt. Dare's entry in my blog, I'm going to stop doing such in-depth character analyses. It's just too much work right now with my class load. And, quite frankly, it feels like too much work; it's not fun anymore. Plus, I feel like most of the time, I'm talking over people's heads. I wanted to make Game Theory accessable to people outside academic circles, to spark discussion on the topic of women in videogames within the gaming community at large, but I don't think I've accomplished that at all.

I think I just need a break from this topic for awhile. I had forgotten how much of a massive undertaking it was to have to construct a new theoretical perspective. And I think I need to find a new way to approach it in my blogs. I've been reading over them, and they just sound entirely too sterile. I was aiming for a kind of sarcastic, cynical humor, but I feel they just sound haughty, pretentious and quasi-elitist.

I'm still going to blog; no need to worry about that. I'm just going to try several different things instead. I'm thinking about getting into the review market, and just commenting on different things going on in the industry.

To cut the self-depreicating blog short, I've come to the conclusion that academic accessability is not the key to blogging success. I'm going to try something else.


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