A Retro Review
Over in this week’s What Are You Playing This Weekend? thread, Shinigami Apple Merchant continued their excellent weekly review posts with a look at the 1989 Sierra adventure game The Colonel’s Bequest. We’ll drop a quick excerpt here, but do yourself a favor and check out the rest. It’s a great write-up with some delightful screenshots:
The Colonel’s Bequest isn’t about puzzle solving, it’s about survival—the objective of this game, unlike so many other Sierra games, is NOT to mash items together. Sure, it IS an adventure game. And there ARE puzzles in it you can choose to solve. But you progress by seeing scenes play out at set times when a trigger is released. How do you set off triggers? Simply by traversing from scene to scene. And here’s the key— you don’t NEED to see anything to progress. You don’t NEED to understand anything going on around you to progress. Whatever’s happening just happens. It’s up to you to figure out what’s ticking underneath the surface as you move along.
And if you’re like me as a kid playing this for the first time, you won’t know how to eavesdrop on people and spy on their conversations. You won’t be able to effectively grill people on key topics and items you uncover around the estate. You’ll just keep stumbling across body after body after body and the sheer chaos incarnate inherent in that approach. And the game will STILL work as an experience because, The Colonel’s Bequest doesn’t exist for you; it exists alongside you. It doesn’t care if you get what’s going on or not. You decide your own level of knowledge and involvement here. If you can’t figure out what’s going on, all you’ll do at best is survive the weekend.
Earlier this week, I got a chance to go hands on with the new version of 2016’s Doom for the Nintendo Switch. Considering it’s running on what’s basically a tablet, it was a pretty impressive conversion, and it’ll be interesting to see what this might mean for more big-budget games making their way over to Nintendo’s little console. Down in the comments, Wolfman Jew laid out some hopes and dreams for what might come:
I’m happy the conversion seems to be good. I missed Doom the first time around, and it’ll be nice having it on Switch, both for the potential of portability and, if I’m being honest, the crazy novelty of an Id Software title on a Nintendo console again. As much as I loved the indie support Nintendo got on the Wii U (something that seems to be continuing on Switch), I think there’s a real value in having a wider number of third-party games on there—not the big system-pushing games it won’t be able to handle, but games with more modest technical specs.
There’s no way what I’m about to say will realistically happen, but seeing Doom and Wolfenstein II show up during the Direct, seemingly out of nowhere, led to me fantasizing a world where the popularity of the system would encourage developers to make those middle-tier games that have been squeezed out of the pipeline over the past 15 years. One of the problems we’ve talked about before on here is how so much of the model for large publishers is just making the biggest thing possible and hoping it sticks, pushing out more financially (if not creatively) smaller projects. In this fantasy, the inability for the popular new machine to facilitate that instead demands publishers take a new approach, considering new kinds of games without absurd ballooning budgets—and what those games might want to have to be financially or critically successful. The notion of consoles supporting “pick up and play” would turn literal, indirectly encouraging games to have an immediacy and emphasis on play over grandiose cutscenes.
This is just a dream. I doubt it’ll happen. But this is a popular and exciting machine, one that simply can’t allow the same kind of approaches major western developers have had since the last console generation. I want Doom to succeed on Switch because I like mine a great deal and think it’s a good system, but also because I want more developers and publishers to consider it a legitimate option for making games deserving acclaim and respect. It’ll probably be a dumping ground for shovelware to an extent—though if we’re being fair, that’d be an inevitability just given its current popularity—but I would like to see more developers consider its own limitations and look to exploring or pushing boundaries in other areas.
The Touch, The Feel Of Marvel
Also this week, I laid out some thoughts about Capcom’s latest fighting game, Marvel Vs. Capcom: Infinite. While I really love the way it plays and have been able to overlook its many problems because of that fact, Blarrg made a great case for why the game has been such a disappointment, especially when it comes to the audio-visual presentation:
I’ve played the Capcom’s Marvel games since X-Men: Children Of The Atom and while this game is a lot of fun to play, the presentation is a real let-down. I’m not talking about the Story Mode (I always expected that to be ass), I mean the visual flourishes that usually precede and follow matches in Capcom fighters.
I played Arcade Mode last night and after picking my team I’m greeted with the most bare bones presentation imaginable. The game just throws a static image of the other team with a bland “VS” in between them while it loads the match. The “let’s go crazy” energy that made previous MVC games such a blast is nowhere to be found. Compare that to the way fighters leapt off tall buildings in Marvel Super Heroes or the flashy, colorful artwork of X-Men Vs. Street Fighter. Even the music is weirdly subdued.
The after-fight transition isn’t much better. The winning fighter gives the same spoken line followed by two (usually ugly) static images of the winning team with a win quote. Oh and the font looks like someone typed it in a text window in Paint.
The ironic part is that the online play (usually Capcom’s biggest stumbling block) is reportedly great. [Editor’s note: It is really solid.] So we have a Capcom fighter with great netplay and a story mode, but shitty graphics and presentation. It’s like we’ve entered bizarro world. There’s been a lot of perfectly justified complaints about the roster, but graphics and presentation were usually impeccable in Capcom fighters and it saddens me to see they rushed this one so quickly they couldn’t get that right.
That’ll do it for this week, Gameologerinos. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week!