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Readers share Denny’s tales and Kentucky Route Zero theories

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

That’s Just, Like, Your Opinion

We kicked off this week with an On The Level essay by Kyle Fowle examining what Kentucky Route Zero—especially the series’ third act—draws from the state of modern American debt. And as we’ve seen time and time again, whenever we write about this heady series, commenters turn out to offer their own intriguing interpretations. Here’s one from siduri:

Kentucky Route Zero isn’t just a metaphor for the financial crisis. The debts that Conway can never pay are spiritual. It’s heavily hinted that his is a journey through the afterlife, that he died on that highway crash in the game’s beginning, and that the surreal, dreamlike nature of his journey has to do with his connection with other “lost souls” seeking their path. Conway (as you learn during the game) was an alcoholic and carries some heavy burdens of guilt. The whiskey distillery is basically Hell, and at the end of the third act Conway has one day of freedom before he’ll be bound there forever.

And Max had another:

My interpretation went off in a third direction, based on XANADU, the mysterious supercomputer. It seemed like the cave portion of  Act III was suggesting that none of the game’s characters, from Conway on down, are actually “real” in the game world. Rather, they’re aspects of a computerized simulation. And the computer, abandoned and being slowly overtaken by mold/rot/rust, is starting to produce absurd situations, which accounts for the weird and “magical” elements of Kentucky Route Zero.

That Cursed Monkey Island

Much nostalgia was felt in the comments of a Great Job, Internet! article about USGamer’s big interview with a few LucasArts pioneers. Conversation turned to Lucas’ classic Monkey Island games. Girard had some things to say about the third game in the series, The Curse Of Monkey Island:

For me, the art style was competently executed but completely inappropriate to the franchise and a step down from Purcell’s fantastic art direction of the first two games. It felt like some DeviantArtist’s cartoony take on the characters. It’s pretty well done (which is more than can be said for the execrable remakes) but a totally poor fit for the series.

And the rhyming version of the insult sword-fighting was basically just the team recycling a stellar puzzle design from the first game and adding a gimmick that both sounded hokey and dumbed down the puzzle. (You no longer had to be clever enough to match insults to rejoinders conceptually. Yust pick the ones that sounded the same.) I honestly preferred Escape From Monkey Island, the fourth game in the series, but maybe that’s because I came into it with low expectations after Curse, whereas I came into Cure with very high expectations after Monkey Island 2.

Curse feels a bit too beholden to the first game, from the narrative structure to the recurring puzzles, to Guybrush’s character design inexplicably reverting to original Guybrush for some reason. It all kind of emphasizes the “fan game” feel of the thing. Rather than follow the trajectory the series was going, it opted to wallow in the too familiar, only “innovating” in ways that were unsuccessful and kind of tone deaf (the art style, the pointless rhyming, inexplicably making Guybrush have a “hilarious” non-sequitir phobia of porcelain.)

Murray was pretty cool, though.

Outside Looking In

Earlier this week I delivered a big first-time viewers guide to this weekend’s Evolution Championship Series, the year’s biggest fighting-game tournament. I was hoping it would get some people to check out the festivities and give them a bit of an idea of what they might see with each of the eight games being played. caspiancomic gave some valuable insights from an novice’s perspective upon checking out some of the included videos:

Speaking purely as an observer, then, rather than a player, based on the sampling provided, I’d say Street Fighter is the best option for audiences—especially audience members like myself who have little or no familiarity with the intricacies of play. I watched a few of the embedded videos above, and was amazed by how quickly I was sucked into the drama of the Street Fighter matches between characters and players I was totally unfamiliar with. Especially when that one guy starting squirting oil all over himself, and the commentators kept insisting that this made him the scariest guy in the universe. Watching two competitors go through the little dance of sizing each other up, competing for space on the battleground, testing each others’ strengths, reaches, response times, seeing reversals and blocks, watching a character lay suppressive fireballs while planning a melee smackdown, it was all really thrilling even without knowing specifics like frame data and whatever.

Compared to that, the Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 footage was totally unintelligible. I could never tell who was winning or how, and there was so much information on screen that it was impossible to tell who was using which attacks and when any given character was in danger. Sometimes the crowd would go completely lollipops over what looked like ordinary attacks landing, and sometimes characters would make clones of themselves and send missiles and fireballs flying in three different directions and the crowd would all collectively check their phones. I just never had any sense of what was important or how to gauge who was doing what. I’m sure it’s a perfectly compelling competitive game, but it makes a crap spectator sport for the uninitiated.

A Grand Slam

Atari and Denny’s recently entered into some sort of unholy marketing deal that saw the release of Denny’s branded versions of classic Atari games like Asteroids and Centipede for smartphones. This led to some great Denny’s—and similar greasy chain restaurant—stories (who doesn’t have one?) being shared in the comments. This one from scrappybilly is pretty sad:

When I turned 21, I was working the night shift. I was at work the moment I turned 21, and my coworkers invited me out for drinks once work was done. I hated them, and here’s one reason why: There were plenty of bars around the office, but they took me to a fucking Denny’s that happened to have a bar in it. Their logic was that—I don’t know, they could eat pancakes or something. I don’t even know what the fuck.

And this one from OldeFortran77 would have scared me away from Friendly’s for good—had I not decided never to eat in one again many years ago:

My college friends and I were walking down the street one night in Boston when we saw a group of similar college kids in front of a Friendly’s (not a standalone building, but a storefront in a larger building). They would kick the front wall and laugh like maniacs. They called us over. We were suspicious, but there were enough of us that we felt we could deal with them, if necessary. We get there, look in the front window, and they kicked the wall. A WAVE of mice ran from one side of the restaurant to the other. Kick the wall; wave of mice, time after time.

Beautiful! That does it for this week, folks. As John mentioned in What Are You Playing This Weekend?, we’re taking a bit of a break next week, but there should be a couple of fun things going up. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you then.