Bad Dudes Vs. Dragon Ninja: A Retrospective

Every so often, a game comes along that really gets some mainstream publicity, and this public attention can have an impact on our ordinary, non-game related lives. Most commonly, it comes in the form of a game such as Mortal Kombat or Grand Theft Auto III, fueling the debate on violence in the media. But Bad Dudes affected our lives in a much different way. Its plotline (that the president had been kidnapped by ninjas) terrified Americans everywhere, but also made them more aware of the threat posed by ninjas to our democratic society.

“President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas.” If this sounds insane to you, it’s probably because you are too young to remember the late 1980’s, when we were all on a first name basis with the president, and the ninja menace had reached its peak. As a result of the game Bad Dudes, and the hysteria that followed, the nation went on a full-ninja alert, and we learned to never trust the little bastards.

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The story to Bad Dudes is very complicated. As the game begins, Duke Nukem brings you up to speed on current events, and then questions your “badness”.

Despite this, however, the game’s main message — that all we really needed were two bad dudes to protect the president from ninjas — was not heeded until the “US Department of Bad Dudes” was opened in 1996; well after the ninja threat had subsided.

But enough of the history lesson. What you really want to know about is the game. Bad Dudes (vs. Dragonninja) is a realistic simulation of the response to such a tragic event as President Ronnie being kidnapped by the ninjas (it bears repeating). You control a “Bad Dude” who has the ability to jump, kick and punch his way to saving the American way of life. But since the ninjas make fun of his girly punches, he only will punch when nobody is around. Otherwise, he just kicks. (What’s truly amazing is that the ninjas don’t make fun of his fashionable sweatpants/muscle shirt combo.) Like any great martial artist, your Bad Dude can also set himself on fire; which discourages others from fighting you, as they all will think that you are nuts. Or else they just assume that you will end up killing yourself that way.

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Hurry, Bad Dude! Don’t let that ninja get the clock before you do!

Although you are an elite fighting machine, the challenge in front of you is tall. You must fight through an army of glass-jawed ninjas that can only be killed by kicking, punching, knifing, tripping or sneezing on them. In an emergency, you can also jump over the ninja, causing him to keep running on past you until he eventually reaches the ocean and drowns.

There are several different ranks of “the ninjas”. The main ones are blue ninjas, who apparently have a contagious disease and try to kill you by running into you. Grey ninjas will throw tacks on the ground in front of you, and, convinced that nobody could ever possibly overcome such an obstacle, calmly walk away. Then there are the red ninjas, who follow the ancient ninja art of camouflage by wearing the brightest shade of red they can find. The ninja clan trusts these elite red ninjas to carry their most prized assets, such as knives, nunchuks, cans of coke, and um… clocks (is Flavor Flav one of the ninjas?!). Naturally, you should kill these red ninjas first to obtain their (questionably) useful items.

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Just a guy on fire.  No big deal.

The highlight of Bad Dudes is the boss fights. The creators of this game went all out thinking up ideas for bosses and came up with some really original ideas, such as…

* Porting late-80s video game star, Karnov, from his own game

* a Green Ninja

* a guy who looks like Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

* a look-alike for pro wrestler “Hawk” from the Legion of Doom

* a Yellow Ninja

* a Purple Ninja (he’s grape flavored)

* a Pink Ninja

* a Beige Ninja

* an Orange Ninja

If you are skilled enough to defeat any of these evil foes, the Bad Dude will raise his fist in victory and scream something unintelligible, which may be “I’m Bad!”, but could also be “I’m Brad!”, “Hi Dad!”, or “I’m Fat!”. And of course, if you defeat all of the bosses in the game, you rescue President Ronnie (who, if you remember, had been kidnapped by the ninjas). At this point you receive your ultimate reward: President Ronnie eating a hamburger! (I have taken a few liberties in writing this article, but the hamburger thing is 100% true). Then the Bad Dudes tell you not to use drugs and to always wear sweatpants and muscle shirts…then the credits roll. It’s fantastic.

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This is, undoubtedly, one of the most moving endings in video game history. (Thanks to Fatsquatch for the slick animated .gif)

Will this game always be remembered fondly by future generations? It’s hard to say for sure. Games of this style were a dime a dozen back when Bad Dudes came out, but many people preferred it over other beat-em-ups such as Double Dragon or Final Fight because of its amazing storyline (which features President Ronnie being kidnapped by the ninjas) and gritty realism. Without a proper sense of the history surrounding it, it may be hard to truly appreciate that realism, and by extension, the game itself.

Timelord

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Console:  Nintendo Entertainment System

Grade:  F

Publisher:  Milton Bradley

Year:  1990

Genre:  Why mankind will never build a time machine

Milton Bradley is probably best known for their exciting board games, but back in 1990 they decided to try their hand at making NES games. Apparently they were feeling extra ambitious that day, because they didn’t make just any video game, they made Timelord – a game in which their very own company invents time travel and saves the world. Keep in mind that Timelord was one of the first things Milton Bradley made in 50 years that wasn’t sitting on the store shelf next to Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is, to say the least, wildly optimistic to think that making of your first NES game is the next step towards building your board game company into a corporate superpower that will eventually invent time travel. Unless the game in question is as bad as Timelord. Then it’s just completely crazy.

In fact, considering just how terrible Timelord is, it’s probably a good thing that MB hasn’t invented time travel yet. If your first NES game is this piece of garbage, that’s one thing. Suckers like me might waste their money on it, but that’s pretty much the extent of the damage it can do. Messing with the past has more serious consequences. If they were to screw up their first attempt to journey through time goes as badly as they did their first attempt to make an NES game, who knows what might happen.  George Washington could end up losing the Revolutionary War.  To Finland.

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Which do you have a harder time believing? The “MB Time Travel Research Center”, or that they actually call your character “Time Lord”?

In classic NES game style, the game steals the plot from a popular 80s movie (in this case The Terminator) and substitutes in an alien race as the enemies (other NES games sometimes used ninjas or Soviets as the default generic bad guys). The basic story is that it’s the future, Milton Bradley has inexplicably invented time travel, and aliens have attacked the Earth.  Unable to conquer us in the present, they have adopted a strategy of altering the past to make present conditions more favorable to them.  It’s up to you to use MB’s time machine to visit the different periods the aliens went to, figure out what they changed, and fix it.  This is all explained to you in a memo included within the game’s instruction booklet, which is actually addressed to “Timelord”, implying that it is, in fact, your job title.

Of course, the most bizarre thing about this letter is that it even exists.  Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that nobody ever gets memos when they’re supposed to, and even when they do, they don’t pay attention to them anyway.  This isn’t like asking people to put more paper in the printer when it runs out – aliens are trying to conquer the Earth and your company has the only technology that can save us.  That’s probably worth picking up the phone and calling the Timelord about.  Better yet, you might want to just run down to his office (I’m assuming the Timelord would not be stuck in a cubicle) and tell him in person.

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Here we are shooting orbs, which contain the very essence of time travel.

The game begins with you (the Timelord!) making your way through the alien infested MB Time Travel Research Center. You might think that any alien race which had the ability to travel across both time and the galaxy would be so much more advanced that they could just kick our ass now, rather than traveling through time to defeat us in the past. But I guess they spent so much time researching time travel that they didn’t have the resources to develop a decent laser gun. Or any kind of armor. The aliens provide little resistance to you, as you shrug off numerous direct blasts from their ray guns and take them on WITH YOUR BARE HANDS. And a single punch doesn’t just kill them, it sends them flying across the screen, presumably back to their own planet.  The aliens might think their time travel ability is going to give them a big advantage, but they’re going to have to go back pretty far in our planet’s history to find a time when stuff won’t punch them.

In spite of this fact, the Timelord ends up chasing the aliens to Medieval England, the Wild West, a Pirate Ship, and finally to the middle of World War II.  It’s hard to imagine why a race of aliens that seemingly die every time someone so much as sneezes in their direction would try to visit some of the most violent and heavily armed periods in our planet’s history, but it’s not for the Timelord to question their methods.  His job is simply to fix any alterations they may have made to our past.  Of course, they probably got killed by a strong gust of wind before they could change anything, so the majority of the game simply involves punching everything you see in the face for no good reason at all.

There’s more to being a Time Lord than just traveling to the past and fighting knights, cowboys, and pirates, however. In each zone, you also have to collect 5 orbs, which “contain the essence of time travel”. And even though the people in these time periods you go to have never heard of time travel, or would have any other use for the orbs, they’ve still gone to great lengths to hide them from you. Probably because they hate you. People have a tendency to do that when you keep wailing on their faces without any provocation.

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This is the MB Time Travel Research Center. You know, its not bad enough that they left 11 boxes of radioactive something laying around. They had to go and stack them all uneven too. Nice job MB… If you can’t handle simple crates of radioactive waste, maybe playing around with something as delicate as the balance of time isn’t such a great idea.

The puzzle-solving elements to the game could potentially be fun if there was any kind of rhyme or reason to finding the orbs, but there usually isn’t. You know those old NES games where if you would do something crazy that no one would ever think of on their own, it leads to a secret area? Finding the orbs in Timelord is kind of like that. For example, one orb floats really high in the air, but whenever you’re in its vicinity, you have the ability to double-jump – BY PRESSING THE NON-JUMPING BUTTON.  Almost every single orb requires the use of some similar kind of anti-logic, except for the ones you get from beating bosses. Those are just a matter of having a lot of health and jamming on the fire button really fast.

Not only did Timelord kill MB’s desire to make any more video games, it probably scared the company from branching out ever again. When you consider the lofty aspirations that the delusional minds at Milton Bradley had in mind for their company, this makes Timelord an even more colossal failure. 100 years from now, when we still don’t have the ability to navigate through the Chronosphere, you can pin the blame solely on this damn game. Hell, we’ll probably never even get an updated version of Mouse Trap now.

Thanks for nothing, Timelord.

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Look out Timelord! Those flying letter Cs are after you!

Why Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven is Unquestionably the Most Realistic Ninja Game Ever

In the history of video games, ninjas are everywhere – from Bad Dudes to Shinobi to Ninja Gaiden to Final Fantasy. Ninjas are so popular in video games that it’s easy to get confused and think that they are simply fictional characters, created by game designers.  You know, like Mario, Pac-Man and John Madden. However, ninjas were real, and played an important role in the history of medieval Japan, although the real ones barely resemble the characters we are used to seeing in video games. Until now.

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The Devil will occasionally ask you what time it is, but as long as you show him, he’ll leave you alone.

Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven is the third game in the Tenchu series, and like its predecessors, it is a very realistic simulation of what a real ninja was like. Tenchu encourages the player to rely on stealth and sneaking to complete your objectives, instead of constant fighting seen in most other games about ninjas. This means that instead of walking up to the front door of a heavily guarded compound in broad daylight and whipping throwing stars at everyone, you instead wait until nightfall, then climb over the wall, and then sneak in through an open window.  Only then should you whip throwing stars at everyone.

The realism is evident right from the character select screen, as you are given the choice to play as one of three totally authentic ninjas. The first, Rikimaru, is realistically dressed in traditional ninja garb, which covers up everything except for his most recognizable features – a scar around his eye and his hair, which follows the ancient ninja style of looking like it was cut by a drunk amputee using a flowbee while having a seizure. The female ninja, Ayame, wears the traditional tight pants and tank top that all female ninjas wore in their time. In order to keep her identity a secret, she makes no attempt to cover her face, and constantly yells out her own name when confronted. Then she kills everyone who sees her.

There is also a 3rd ninja, called “Guy I Haven’t Unlocked Yet”, who is not playable until you beat the game as both Rikimaru and Ayame. This is to recreate a special, little-known branch of the ninja, who would only go into action if two other ninjas had already done all the missions and defeated the enemy armies first.  They weren’t very useful.

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Note that the enemy ninja goes to great lengths to cover his face and body, whereas Ayame is wearing a tank top, the same belt as Slash from Guns N’ Roses, and no mask.  Also note that Ayame is about to kill the hell out of the enemy ninja.

In order to assist you in completing your missions as stealthily and realistically as possible, there are many items to help you. The time-honored tools of the ancient ninja, such as grenades, mines, sticky bombs, exploding arrows and fireworks, will all make a lot of noise and draw attention to you, which is critical to being sneaky. There are also whiskey flasks that you can drink from to recover your health, throwing stars (which are mandatory for all ninja games) which you can be used to kill dogs or piss off (but not kill) guards from a safe distance, and “strength potions” which even today are still used, no longer by ninjas, but by professional athletes. Less-realistic ninja games rarely offer you the opportunity to go into a mission equipped the same way real ninjas were – with whiskey, steroids, and bottle rockets.

Of course, the best item in the game is the poison rice ball. Guards love to eat rice, and if they see a rice ball, they will go to it without question. The prospect of free rice causes them to forget any other concerns they may have, such as doing their job, the huge cliff they will walk off of in order to get to it, or why there is a big pile of dead guards all around the rice ball. Apparently in medieval Japan, rice grew in a ball shape on trees, and when it turned ripe it would fall from the tree, similar to an apple. So just like you wouldn’t find it unusual to see an apple laying on the ground, the guards in the game understandably find nothing strange about seeing balls of rice laying around outside and eat them. Even if they happen to find them in underground caves, on top of roofs, or inside castles.  Rice can be a very aggressive plant.

You may be asking why the guards are so stupid about the rice balls. It’s because they are stupid about everything. I have to admit that I don’t know much about the profession of being a guard in feudal Japan, but considering how realistic the rest of this game is, I think its safe to say that the guards in this game would also very true to their historical counterparts. Therefore it’s safe to say that only really low-intelligence people were hired as guards. There could be a lot of reasons why. Considering that there are so many evil plots for you to stop, it’s entirely possible that all the people of average intelligence or higher were already evil masterminds, leaving only the dumb people to be their guards. Or maybe the average guard’s diet just contained a lot of mercury.  It’s hard to say.

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Hmmm, yesterday when Bob found that ball of rice on the floor and tried to eat it, a ninja came around the corner and almost killed him.  I’d better eat this one before that happens again.

In addition to the characters and weapons, the designers also went to great lengths to make the missions as realistic as possible. Instead of the tired scenarios that we’ve seen in hundreds of other video games, every level in Tenchu is something that you’ve never seen in any other game – for example, in one mission you have to rescue a kidnapped princess. In another mission, you have to cross a graveyard, but instead of having normal human guards, which wouldn’t make any sense at all, the graveyard is full of fire-breathing zombies, just like real life. I can’t even tell you how many books I’ve read about ninjas that described all the times they had to sneak past zombies, often while laying land mines, shooting off fireworks, and drinking whiskey.

Of course, all this realism would be wasted if the player didn’t play along and try to act like a real ninja. So in order to encourage you to sneak through levels, you can kill any guard in one strike if the guard doesn’t see you. You lose points for being seen, but gain points for every “stealth kill”, so getting a high score requires not being seen and killing from the shadows. If your score is high enough, you will get a new item that will help you be even sneakier, so its a reward you can put to good use.

However, if you are bad at sneaking, don’t worry. You can plow through enemy guards pretty effortlessly, or if you want, just run past them – they probably won’t be able to catch up. After a while they will stop chasing and instead mock your cowardice by saying things like “Yeah! Run away! Run away toward that thing I was supposed to be guarding!” Of course, doing this will get you a low score, but that’s okay since getting a high score only rewards you with items that make it easier to sneak around, which you weren’t really doing anyway.

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The greatest enemy of any true ninja is Alice Cooper.

There’s no denying the realism of the Tenchu series, and Wrath of Heaven is a perfect example.  Whether you’re sneaking up behind a zombie and cutting its throat, drinking whiskey to recover from a tough battle against wooden robots, or shooting off fireworks to distract evil Buddhist monks while you sneak into their temple, you’ll marvel at the historical accuracy of all these activities.  Nothing could be more closer to the real thing.

A Beginner's Guide To Role-Playing Games

Perhaps no genre of game has undergone such a dramatic increase in popularity as the console RPG. Ten years ago, RPGs were very long, single-player games that relied heavily on story and character development (instead of high-speed action) and were only played by a handful of lonely geeks. These days, it’s still pretty much the same, except that thanks to the internet and the highly disproportionate number of lonely geeks who frequent it, RPGs seem a lot more popular now than they were before. Sure, Gran Turismo 4 outsold Suikoden 4 about 10,000 to 1, and GameStop probably sold more copies of GTA: San Andreas at a single store than they did of Star Ocean 3 company wide — but who’s going to have the more active message boards and fansites? Which games are going to inspire the most fan-fiction, remixed soundtracks, and flash animations? Madden might have the best sales numbers in history, but Chrono Trigger just won its 5th straight online poll for “Best game ever”. So suck it, Madden!

Despite this surge in (perceived) popularity, a lot of gamers out there are still pretty clueless about Role Playing Games. So I’ve taken it upon myself to write this helpful article to let you know all the essential, basic information about RPGs. Once you’ve read this, you’ll be all set for the never-ending excitement of choosing “Fight” off of a menu!

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By the way, you’re not an assassin, are you? Because if you are, I probably shouldn’t have told you that.

The Kings in RPGs usually have longish hair, a neat beard, and look a little bit like Jesus. But unlike Jesus, they generally aren’t the greatest military thinkers. When faced with an enemy invasion by an army enhanced by evil magical powers, they don’t bother drafting up a militia or building defensive structures or anything like that. Instead, they prefer to send their least experienced soldier (you), on a “scouting mission”. You know, if you already knew about your enemy’s secret planned invasion and evil magic, maybe scouting isn’t the problem. Just a thought.

Anyway, to give you a better chance of survival, the king will team you up with some allies to form an adventuring party. These allies are different from game to game, but there is generally at least one half-animal half-man who might be a furry or something and can’t really fight OR use magic effectively. His job will be to stand on the front line and take damage, and occasionally use a potion to heal one of your more useful party members. Another character you see in a lot of RPGs is the king’s daughter or niece who, despite being enrolled in magic college for the last 8 years, only knows how to cast Fire 1. I’m sure this goes over real well with the cheapskate kings: “Fire 1? That’s it? Have you been skipping classes again? $200,000 gp a semester and all you can do is cast Fire 1? Is that what I’m paying for? I learned how to do Fire 1 last week off the back of a cereal box. Hell, yesterday the chef undercooked dinner a little and I cast Fire 1 on it because I didn’t feel like getting up and going to the microwave. If you don’t clean up your act, I’m going to start sending you on insane hopeless quests with strangers I just met, young lady.”

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I have pink hair and I can cast Fire 1!

More often than not, the king will send you off into the wilderness completely unarmed. Sure, he’ll have swords hanging on the walls and suits of armor lining the hallways, but he’s not going to share them. Every so often, if you’re very lucky, he might be so generous as to give you a rusty sword for all the members of your party to share. “This is for the 3 of you to share,” he’ll say as he gives it to you, just to make it perfectly clear that it’s all you’re getting. He won’t even make one of his many fully armed castle guards go along with you. It’s not like the guards are doing anything they couldn’t be taken away from — they just pace the castle aimlessly, and if you go near them they say helpful things like “The king is just ahead! Go right in!” without bothering to check to see if you’re, say, a terrorist or enemy assassin or anything. They’ll even stand by idly while you loot through the castle’s treasure chests in plain sight. If the king really wanted to help you out, he should order his guards to give you all their weapons — it’s not like they’re ever going to use them for anything.

Sometimes the king is generous enough to give you enough money to buy one healing potion. This is already a bad idea, but what makes it worse is that the king will be wearing more jewels than Liberace, and the castle will be filled with solid gold candleholders, oriental rugs, and marble fountains that are 3 stories high, so it’s not like the kingdom is strapped for cash or anything. Sometimes I wonder if these “quests to save the world” aren’t really just efforts to boost the economy… you know, get some adventurers out there wandering the countryside and killing wild animals to find money to spend on weapons, armor and hotels. Otherwise, those wild dogs and green slimes will just hoard their money forever without spending it, and you can’t create economic growth like that.

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A lone voice of reason…

You get some crazy-ass items in RPGs. I once was able to equip my Knight with a diamond helmet, diamond armor, a diamond shield and a diamond sword. He must of looked like some kind of insane combat-ready pimp in that getup. My favorite all-time item in RPGs though is the bandanna, which appears in many different games. You generally get it early in the game before you can afford to buy a helmet for your character. The bandanna raises your defensive rating a little, often about half as much as the cheapest helmet would, which if you really think about, doesn’t make any damn sense at all.

I mean, how exactly does a bandanna raise your defensive rating even a little? Are there enemies who attack by spraying sweat on your forehead and hoping it drips into your eyes? I’m just trying to imagine a scene in an RPG similar to the one in “Fellowship of the Ring” where they first discover Frodo’s mythril armor:

(Goblin stabs Main Character in the forehead with a sword. Main Character falls to the ground, slain. Goblin is killed by various party members who then rush over to aid Main Character.)

King’s Niece Who Can Cast Fire 1: Oh my God! Main Character! Are you alright?

(Main character doesn’t respond. Knight in All-Diamond Equipment and Character With a Useless Special Ability shake their heads solemnly and look sad. Suddenly, Main Character coughs and opens his eyes.)

KiADE: He… he’s alive! That attack should have taken the top of his head clean off!

KNWCCF1: It’s a miracle!

CWaUSA: (pointing to Main Character’s bandanna) It’s not a miracle, it’s his bandanna! The bandanna stopped the sword from cutting him.

KiADE: I’m beginning to think that there’s more to this Main Character than meets the eye…

Screw not panicking the people… You don’t seriously expect to fight off an invasion with 5 inexperienced warriors, do you?

Well, I got a little ahead of myself there, as I didn’t tell you that every RPG has at least one character with a useless special ability. In most RPGs, some if not all of the characters will have a special command you can choose in a fight, which is unique to that character. Some of these abilities are useful, but we always end up with a few beauties like these:

* An “Aim” attack that does less damage or takes longer to use than the standard “Fight” command, but is supposed to be more accurate. It will always miss.

* An attack that hits the same enemy four times, but each hit does 1/4th the damage of a normal attack.

* A “Protect” command that will allow one character to act as a human shield and get hit by all the attacks intended for other characters, thus protecting them. The character who has this ability will invariably be the one character you’d least want to sacrifice.

* A status ailment command that will cause your enemies to be poisoned, fall asleep, or be paralyzed. It will only work on enemies that you could kill in one hit.

* A “Control” ability that will allow you to take control of an enemy character and use it against the other enemies. By the time you actually get this command to work, your other party members will have killed all the other monsters, and as soon as you gain control of the creature, one of your allies will attack it, breaking the spell anyway.

* A “Berserk” ability that will give the character super-strength, but won’t allow you to give him commands for the duration of the battle. He will then use this opportunity to unleash his new super-strength on the other members of your party.

* A “Lore” or “Blue Magic” command which allows you to learn any special attack that a monster does to you. The attacks you learn, despite being utterly devastating to your party when monsters do them, will do far less damage in your hands and generally be less effective than the “fight” command.

That isn’t to say that all special abilities are useless. Thief characters will have the option to “steal”, which allows them to pilfer things from your enemies, right in the middle of a fight. You can get rare weapons and armor this way, as well as ordinary items that you need to keep in high supply. I don’t know why, but apparently wolves always carry tents with them everywhere they go. There is also a weird code of ethics among thieves in RPGs: it’s ok to steal items from an enemy in the middle of a fight, but not his money; and it’s ok to steal money from the body of an enemy you kill, but not his items, unless they’re really crappy items.

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Townspeople in RPGs are similar to Canadians — they’re all really friendly,

but they never have anything interesting to say.

Townspeople in RPGS are always so friendly. You can barge right into somebody’s house, and instead of throwing you out or shooting you, they’ll start talking about how this town is the easternmost town on the world map. Nobody seems to care if you take stuff out of their house, though they do go through the trouble of putting it in treasure chests, which they have scattered throughout their living room and kitchen. I think they just do it to trick you into thinking that because it’s in a treasure chest, it’s good stuff worth stealing. Just once, I want to walk off with a townsperson’s kitchen table and cooking caldron just to prove that I’m not falling for their “bandanna in the treasure chest routine” again.

While you’re in town looting people’s houses, it’s important to rest up at the INN. If an RPG gives me a lot of party members, and lets me change them whenever I want, I like to set it up so that I have one guy and the rest of the party is women before I check into the hotel to rest. I figure that’ll give them something to talk about. I can imagine the conversations around town next day:

Innkeeper: That adventurer came to the hotel last night with three women. They all shared a single room! Must have been quite a night for him, huh?

Townsperson: Welcome to Plainsnia! It’s the easternmost town on the world map!

Innkeeper: God, I hate this town!

A lot of people get a chuckle thinking about how the main boss in an RPG rarely does anything except sit in his lair and wait for you to come kill him. Actually, I can’t say I blame him though, because the final bosses tend to live in dungeons loaded with the most dangerous monsters in the world. Sure Sepiroth might have been a real badass, but I’m sure he got sick of killing 10 gigantic spiders whenever he had to go buy groceries. Not to mention that every monster you kill trying to get in and out of your evil lair is one less monster than can attack the good guys when they come to get you. You think the final dungeon of Final Fantasy 3 was hard? Imagine how much harder it was before Kefka went out to mail a letter and ended up having to kill all the Gigadeamons on the way back to his TV room.

Well, that about covers the basics. Hopefully, this information will help you enter the exciting world of fantasy and micromanagement. And if you’re ever in a tough spot and feel overwhelmed, just remember: ALWAYS choose “fight”.

A Boy and His Blob

A Boy and His Blob is a game about a boy, named “Boy”, and his pet blob that can turn into different things based on what kind of jellybeans you feed it.  For example, feeding the Blob an apple jellybean causes it to turn into a jack, and giving it a coconut jellybean turns him into a coconut.  It’s a puzzle game of sorts – you use the different forms of Blob to overcome various obstacles that you will encounter.  For example, you can turn him into a ladder to climb onto things, or turn him into a trampoline to bounce up high enough to kill yourself.  Or you can turn him into a coconut, pick him up, and throw him off a cliff.  Then you won’t have to share your jellybeans anymore.

As interesting as the premise may be, A Boy and His Blob is atrocious, almost to the point of being confrontational.  The Boy dies as soon as he is touched by an enemy or has a long fall, yet runs around like he’s on ice, sliding and skidding his way to all kinds of frustrating deaths.  To make matters worse, the Blob can into several different things that, when not used properly, will kill the boy.  It’s like having a homicidal manic for your best friend.  To top things off, the music in A Boy and His Blob sounds like it was composed by forcing a cat to walk across a synthesizer.

Terrible gameplay aside, it’s not hard to see how a game like this gets a cult following.  It is certainly unusual, and in a hobby that sees 100 copycats for every new idea, there are a lot of people who automatically associate “different” with “good”.  This also makes it easier to accuse people of not understanding the game when they point out the fact that it sucks.  “No, no, the game is great,” they will say “you just don’t understand it.  You have to feed the jellybeans to the blob.  Did you try that?”  Well, let’s see – there’s only two buttons in the game, one calls the blob over to you and the other throws jellybeans into his gaping maw so, yeah, I did think of that.  Your game still blows.

Upon starting a game of A Boy and His Blob, the first thing you will notice is that entire town that the boy lives in consists of his house, a subway station, a manhole, and a Health Food store that sells jellybeans but will only open its doors to people who have 22 pirate treasures.

I want you to stop for a second and read that sentence again, because it really takes two readings for the insanity to sink in.

Placing a subway station being placed in a town that only has one resident may seem kind of unlikely, but it’s important to the plot.  Once you are in the station, you can give your blob a punch jellybean, and he will turn into a hole (which blatantly defies physics) that you can fall through. Nine times out of ten, you’ll go through the hole and start falling through some caves that look suspiciously like levels from Pitfall 2. I say “suspiciously” because David Crane designed both games.  I’m not saying he recycled the levels, but considering that I’m one of only three people ever played Pitfall 2, I will say that almost nobody would have noticed if he had.

Anyways, after falling past several screens of caves, the boy will eventually hit the ground and die.  This is what the majority of A Boy and His Blob’s gameplay consists of – sitting by helplessly and watching the boy fall to his death.

However, once in a great while, you will only fall a short distance and actually survive. Then you’ll be in the caves, where you get to blindly fall through more holes and hope for the best.  Sometimes you’ll land safely and get to plant another hole, and sometimes you’ll fall very far and make the blob very sad.  Since you can’t see what’s below you, it’s all a matter of luck. The whole thing is kind of like a slot machine where if when you win all you get is to play again for free, and if you lose the casino employees get to throw you off the roof.

Assuming you subject yourself to this torture long enough to collect all the treasures scattered around the caves, you can enter the Health Foods store and buy some new kinds of jellybeans.  After that, you can give the blob a root beer jellybean so he’ll turn into a rocket, which you can ride to his homeland, Blobolonia. Actually, you get the root beer jellybean right at the beginning of the game, so you can go there any time you want.  However, if you don’t go to Health Food store first, you won’t have some of the essential items that you will need in Blobolonia.  Without them, you will die before you can get very far. This shows just how poorly the game is designed – the root beer jellybeans could have been one of the new items you get at the store. That way, you’d have to collect all the treasures BEFORE you can even go there, which would prevent a whole bunch of frustration and unnecessary deaths.  But hey, what do I know?  David Crane is a game design genius; I’m just some guy who writes for a website.

There is another reason that it might have been wise to prevent anyone from being able to go to Blobolonia right away, and that is because it marks the point at which the programmers gave up trying and started drinking heavily. The caves under the subway may have been an unenjoyable ordeal of falling through holes and hoping there wasn’t a huge pit under them, but at least the puzzle solving was logical.  In Blobolonia, you basically just feed your blob at random and hope for the best. For example, there are bouncing marshmallows that pound you to death when you run under them.  You might think the umbrella would shield you from this assault, but no – the correct thing to do is to turn the blob into a coconut and throw him past the marshmallows. Why? Because the people who made this game hate you, that’s why.  Oh, and don’t forget, the Boy loses a life every time an enemy touches him, so after a few failed experiments, it’s game over and back to the caves with you.  There are no continues.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?