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Shifter vs. Pepsi Ranger
Shifter Come on, Moris.  Pay attention to the girl.  What's wrong with you?
Bagne
Download: 2.01 MB
V.S.
Pepsi Ranger
Play Time: 0 hours and 25 minutes
Review # 8 for Pepsi Ranger Come on, Moris. Pay attention to the girl. What's wrong with you?
Them's Fightin' Words
    One could say that a newborn—an infant child removed from the womb for the first time (and only time I guess), has a major advantage over everyone else in the world for one reason. And that reason is because nothing good or bad or routine or adventurous has happened in his or her life yet. Owning such innocence contains an advantage over the rest of the population because everything in existence, including big cats and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, are new things to explore and experience—something that even the greatest minds and bravest soldiers of the universe could not duplicate. Enter Moris, a red antennae thing with no arms and floppy feet—a new creation inserted into the world of…well whatever world he/she was brought into. He/she (we’ll just call him “he”) is a new creation, like a newborn child, with no memories and no education, but has possession of a strong desire to explore a thousand worlds. And according to the great scientist Gleric, that is exactly what he was created for.

And so Mr. Moris (or Miss perhaps?) opens his eyes to begin a life of journeys and exploration that even the great Magellan could not top. And that’s a good thing considering most of us begin life with whiny cries and wet diapers.
Graphics
    From the very beginning of the game we are introduced to an opening sequence that makes great use of cutscenes and character animation on a graphical level, so much in fact that to write anything critical about it (positive or negative) would do it an injustice. The opening animation of sentient life finding a body is so mesmerizing (which is in part due to the unusual, but in-synced, music that accompanies it) that it almost creeps the player out. There is something remarkably trancelike about it, leaving the player to feel like he or she just entered the twilight zone. And then it stops, and two creatures, a blue frog salamander guy and a yellow-brown version of Strong Mad, stand over the player, staring, as if he or she just emerged from the womb. And that’s just the beginning.

The world itself is very colorful, using many of the bright pastel colors that any darker game would completely avoid. Colors such as pink, purple, and cyan stem from the fields of grass to accompany all the traditional green trees and brown dirt walkways. It almost seems Dr. Seuss-like in appearance. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what inspired the graphics.

Needless to say I think the graphic modeling is appropriate since the game doesn’t exactly take place on Earth. Instead it takes place on some random planet where the inhabitants are occasionally human, but are in many cases deformed freaks of nature. Of course they aren’t referred to as deformed freaks of nature because in their world, they’re just like everybody else, which is normal. But in our world, the average passerby would run away screaming at the sight of these horrifically normal beings.

And thus I’ll have to say that the walkabout graphics were drawn very well, equally as well as the maptiles in my opinion. Each character had some sort of personality in the way he or she moved. Moris’ feet flopped about as he walked, while other characters such as the troll-bunnies seemed to be enjoying their hops. And of course those who were pissed at the world (like the cook for example), moped about as they traversed their territories. Clever animation indeed. And let us not overlook the initial use of sprite animation in the opening sequence when Moris takes a seat. He almost looks three-dimensional in that stance. It seems the author of this game has been practicing his drawing skills a bit.

Battle graphics, although existent in the game file, aren’t actually seen in the game, so I’m not going to comment on them. But I’m sure they would’ve been great in game.



Okay, maybe I’ll make a quick comment. Because the game file is not password protected, I went ahead and sneaked a peek at all the battle graphics that could’ve been used had they been implemented. Let’s just say that White Owl would be proud.

Okay, moving on.
 
Storyline
    The story line isn’t exactly what I would call consistent or complete. Obviously, as I stated in the last section, there is an opening sequence that begins to tell the story of a sentient creature created in an effort to help the world by exploring it, or exploring the world in order to help it. Actually I’m not sure what the purpose is exactly, but I know that exploring has a lot to do with it. So that’s the gist of the story as it’s given in the beginning. Gleric, who is the blue frog salamander guy that created Moris, informs our armless hero to go explore the forest until he can find a city called Loakwidge. This is largely on the account that Moris wants to explore the new world, and Gleric thinks that going through the forest is a good way to test that. What Gleric and Moris don’t count on though is that the forest doesn’t exist yet, and neither does Loakwidge City.

Makes the travel plan a little difficult.

And that’s where the great inconsistency begins. The story starts by explaining life and this and that, giving Moris the impression that he was created in that hideout, just outside the forest that wasn’t there, made to explore a world that could’ve been there, but wasn’t. And all this to protect the world from destruction…which, by the incompleteness of the opening map of Latunvos, seems that it had already been destroyed. So I’m not quite sure what to make of that.

And for story purposes (and gaming purposes for that matter) that’s the end of the demo—when Moris walks outside of the hideout for the first time.

But here’s where things get more confusing. Anyone who opens the game file in CUSTOM will see that there are in fact several more places to go in the game (that are linked to each other with NPCs and everything), but the opening map isn’t connected to any of them. To a casual player, the demo really doesn’t have anything other than the intro. But by creating a linked door from the bottom of the dirt path in Latunvos to a cleft in the trees on the north side of Troll Bunny Farm, the player will be treated to what I think was supposed to be the original opening of the game.

Wait, how is this so? How can I be so sure about that?

Well for starters the Troll Bunny Farm looked a bit like a forest, so I just figured the author forgot to create a door and link it to the dirt path in Latunvos. So I did it for him. Seemed like a good plan. But after playing through it (and having fun with the farm sequences), I realized that the story didn’t seem to line up very well with the opening. After finishing the demo (as much as I could), I went back to read the text boxes to realize that Moris originally woke up in that farm village with no memories whatsoever. And according to the villagers there, he just materialized there out of thin air. And seeing as how the origin story in the closed-off part of the game didn’t match the origin story in the currently accessible part of it, leads me to believe that the author completely changed his mind about the story’s direction and decided to start over from scratch.

This theory is partly backed up by the fact that a.) Latunvos is actually the ninth map in the game, rather than the first, and b.) the third map, which is an indoor map that connects the Troll Bunny Farm to the Highlands, is actually called “DELETE THIS MAP NEXT, PLEASE!!!” So yeah, something tells me that the fun part of the game is now obsolete, or will be in a later update—if this game will in fact be updated, which means the original story line is now defunct in favor of the current incomplete story line.

And if my explanation of the story confused you, then you’ll know my feelings toward the story while I played the game (after linking the doors between Latunvos and the Troll Bunny Far m).

Anyway, for those who care to take the route that I took and explore the world that may soon be forgotten, you’ll discover that Moris’ initial goal in this demo is to find the Shifter of the Highlands named Xalubanna, or as I like to call him, another freaky creature with an even freakier name. But for those who don’t like to mess with other people’s game files, the story is essentially about Moris coming to life and being commissioned to explore a forest that doesn’t exist.

As confusing as the story can be, I have to give some major credit to the author for presenting the text in a unique way. Specifically, he color-codes everybody’s dialogue to match his or her skin color. For example, since Gleric is a cyan (blue) frog salamander thing, his dialogue is written in a cyan (blue) color. Kloddwick, the golden brown Strong Mad looking friend of Gleric (and travel companion to Moris) has brown colored dialogue. Moris the red speaks in red. Purple Xalubanna—purple words. And this goes on with every major character (or potential hero rather) in the game. I also appreciate the fact that the dialogue spoken during cutscenes is partitioned to fit directly in front of the character that spoke it. Very clever indeed. And even the font itself is presented very well. In fact I dare say that this game has one of the most eye-pleasing fonts I’ve seen on the OHR. Good stuff.

And for everyone who knows how I feel about dialogue presentation, let me just say that I was very pleased with the English skills utilized here. Each character had a specific personality in the way he or she spoke, which I found refreshing amidst the sea of pointless and repetitive banter that’s normally found in the games and message boards of this RPG engine. For example, a majority of the citizens of the Troll Bunny Farm spoke with a “farmer’s” dialect, using words such as “Paw” for father, “ye” for you, and so on and so forth.

Here’s an example of the Troll Bunny Farm dialogue, and the reason why I’m pleased with the writing quality of this game:

Girl:
“That there troll bunny looks a lot happier. Thank ye kindly.”

Or how about this?

Grandpaw:
Saaay…you’re a strange lookin’ critter. Red, no arms, antennae…you don’t happen to know the hermit who lives down south, now do ye?

And this is just the farm dialect. Other citizens from other regions have their own distinct way of speaking, which tells me that the creator of this game was actually attempting to craft characters in this game, and not just a pretty roadmap.

All in all I think the only ridiculous thing about the story line (besides the fact that it’s schizophrenic in nature) is that Moris is made to learn and experience things from scratch, and yet he already knows how to speak English. If I were making this game, I would either a.) make it clear to the player that Moris was programmed with the knowledge of how to talk, or b.) I would have Kloddwick the travel buddy do some interpreting for him. Either way would be fine, but as it stands it’s a little too convenient.

And that’s all I have to say about that.
 
Gameplay
    Once again it’s sad to say that this game is released in the condition it’s in because there was a lot of potential going for it prior to the big story conversion. Right now in its current state there is no gameplay. You hit the spacebar to cycle through the opening dialogue (which is interesting because the music stays in-sync with the intro graphics and animation, despite the speed of the reader). Then after five minutes of reading the game, you’re taken outside the hideout where you have the option to walk around in a very small and unfinished place and explore very, very little. And to add to insult, there is nothing to interact with in this whole area. Even Gleric, the ONLY NPC in Latunvos, doesn’t say anything when you try to talk to him. There is absolutely nothing to do but get pissed that there’s nothing to do in this game.

But then something special happens.

If you add the doors that I mentioned earlier in the review (being sure to link them), then you’ll discover a new world that you can explore, and NPCs that you can talk to, and best of all, a scavenger hunt system that actually adds some GAME to the game.

I was surprised.

Even more surprising is that the small “subquests,” which includes finding cabbage to earn a bucket, and locating a lost needle (which Moris ironically enough will find in a haystack), are actually fun.

What? An OHR game that’s fun? Naw, you’re jokin’, right?

It’s true that the subquests within the Troll Bunny Farm are short and contained (you don’t have to leave the farm to fulfill the quests), but there’s several of them to fulfill, and frankly I enjoyed fulfilling them. You have to actually look for the objects that the various townsfolk commission you to find, and once you find them, you have to talk to more people to earn your rewards. And it’s fun because it breaks the linear quality of the story up into non-linear segments, and I appreciate that. To be honest, the Troll Bunny Farm was perhaps one of my favorite OHR locations to explore this year. The characters spoke legibly, with engrossing dialects (and dialogue), and you had a reason to stay there for awhile. It was cool.

And on a side note, the author did a great job with the creativity of the subquests. The thing that I found most interesting about this game was the system of using a troll-bunny to locate a head of cabbage that some kid expected you to find. This big hopping creature doesn’t join your party, but it still hops close by (which gives the effect that you’re “walking” it) and starts making some weird noises (through text of course) when you get close to the cabbage. And it does this any time that you’re within the cabbage’s proximity, but not necessarily when you’re practically stepping on it. Frankly I thought it was a brilliant gimmick.

Unfortunately that’s about the extent of the gameplay. The highlands have a cool cloudlike vehicle that Moris can float around on to reach unreachable islands in the sky, but pretty much none of those islands have anything to do on them, so it’s not really worth the trip right now.

And that’s about it with that.
 
  Battle
    Even in the “unfinished version,” or whatever you want to call the extra maps that actually have things to do in them, there are no battles. The graphics for battles exist in the editor, but the author never implemented them into the game, so there isn’t much I can say about them.

The graphics looked like they would be pretty battles though. And we all know that that’s what we want to see in a battle—prettiness.

But it’s all to no avail right now.
 
  Map Design
    Well the version of the game that can be played without editing is very unfinished, so I would have to say that the map design was really, really poor. The scenes looked great, and the hideout especially had some chicken soup to it (meaning it was good), but outside of the pixel beauty there was absolutely nothing to do in the hideout but to marvel at the scenery. And since the outdoors only had a patch of finished land, the map design here was downright embarrassing.

But for those who explore the hidden lands (again by creating and linking doors to them from the CUSTOM editor), you’ll find that the Troll Bunny Farm, though not quite as attractive as the other maps, is so well designed that you’ll actually have fun exploring it. What’s best is that there’s an actual logic to the design. Most of the houses are clustered together in the north. The barn is located close to the farms. The farms are located near the center of the region, reasonably close to the houses. And there’s a thick patch of woods leading to the south, where a lone cabin hides from everybody else. There is also a well to the southwest, which even though serves no purpose to gameplay, is still cool to see. I also like the fact that the area is encased with trees on all borders, closing off the possibility of running into an empty wall, which a lot of open maps in other games annoyingly contain. For those confused on what this means, imagine taking a character through the map of an open field, walking among the trees and rocks. You keep walking, watching the grass scroll beneath your feet, when all of a sudden the ground stops moving and the hero walks into the edge of the map. Only the field is still open (there are no paths leading to another area, or rocks or shrubs to block the edge). It looks as if the hero can traverse onto a new map from this wide-open space, but he can’t. It’s as if there was an invisible fence blocking him in. He wants to keep going, but he can’t because the game designer who made him got lazy, and it frustrates him. Needless to say I personally hate it when games allow the hero to walk into the edge of an empty space without a door leading to another place, so I’m glad that this author was sensible enough to create borders for this map.

The next area, which is the inside of a house that contains the portal that leads to the Highlands, is largely unfinished, and therefore not very relevant to the high score of map design. In fact, this is the area that’s affectionately known as “DELETE THIS MAP NEXT, PLEASE!!!” so it’s no surprise that it’s buggy and mostly unimportant. The character that stands inside doesn’t talk and the graphics are the least flattering in the game, so I think it’s safe to say that this area in particular carries nothing special.

However, when you walk through the portal in the house, something amazing happens. Moris ends up in a place called the Highlands, which is a very lush cluster of islands that float above the clouds. This area, although remarkably unfinished as well, is very interesting to say the least, with it’s cloud vehicle to float across town with, and its layout, which includes a main cluster of habitable islands connected by rope bridges. Even though there isn’t much to do here but to talk to freaks and explore the scenery, it’s still designed with some clever eye candy, which can be a good thing. But unfortunately, like Latunvos, this area is mostly unfinished with a majority of its caves and houses leading absolutely nowhere. There are only three or four interior locations in this area, and just a handful of NPCs to talk to. So as cool as the Highlands are, there just isn’t much to do there, and that’s a bad thing.

And I think I just repeated my point about the Highlands’ incompleteness three times in the same paragraph, so I should be careful about that in the future.

But in case you missed that point, I’ll say it again:

The Highlands are unfinished, and there isn’t much to do there.

And again:

The Highlands are unfinished, and there isn’t much to do there.

And again:

The Highlands are…um, never mind. You get the idea.
 
  Balance
    Not really sure what’s to balance here. There are no battles, so everything is strictly map driven, and seeing as how the game is dysfunctional in its overall design, I don’t know what I can really say about it. The Troll Bunny Farm is the only area in the game that seems functional enough to balance anything, and the usage of subquests (something like three of them), keeps the desire to stay there for awhile intact.

But I would say that story wise this game is highly unbalanced, being that the author closed off the fun part and never really fully developed the current part. If anything I would even dare say that this game is so messed up in the story department that it needs a psychologist or some Milk of Magnesia to straighten it out.

But something tells me that I was never meant to see the Troll Bunny Farm or any of the playable scenes, so if I were to rate the game based on what’s accessible from the initial download, I would say that there is no gameplay to balance, so make your own opinions on what to comment here.
 
Music
    I mentioned briefly about the cleverness of the intro in regards to music, but I didn’t go into tremendous detail, so I’ll touch more on that now.

The opening music is the embodiment of spontaneous paranoia, with something that sounds like a maddening heartbeat going backwards if that makes sense. And this is cool because the intro shows this pulsing image growing larger and larger as the hero realizes that something is happening with his conscious state of being…that he is in fact forming an existence and becoming a body. And with each subtle change of the pulse and other graphical cues, the music also subtly changes—adding beats and tempos to the already existing theme. So if you can picture an orchestra that adds instruments to each new moment or emotion of a scene as it changes, then you’ll have a good idea about how this game’s intro music plays. It’s the best use of dramatic music available on the OHR in my opinion. Those who can actually hear BAMs will have to listen to this.

The rest of the soundtrack is of Wandering Hamster flare, though not necessarily ripped from the engine. What I mean by this is that the style mimics most of those circus style animalities of the OHR, but as far as I know it doesn’t directly rip from them. It just adopts the flavor and the banjos. It certainly adds to the atmosphere, even though I would’ve rather had something more fantasy oriented playing for the Highlands. The Troll Bunny Farm however has some appropriate Deliverance-style music, so it’s all good there. The soundtrack as a whole gets the thumb up.
 
Enjoyment
    I have a feeling that this is a game that’ll be full of mixed bags of opinions, where one circle of game players will feel as though they’ve wasted their time, while others may think, “Hmm, this was a really cool game.” I’m categorizing myself in the latter category simply because I think each individual unit of the game as separate entities of themselves were a sight to behold and an experience to play, and to me that’s what matters in the short term. Had this been a long game, I’d probably be pissed that nothing came together very well and that the story had no flow. But for the brief length that I have to spend with it, I can better appreciate the smaller microcosms of the levels (preferably the Troll Bunny Farm if I haven’t raved about that map enough), so I think it’s safe to say that I had fun with it.

Despite my positive opinions of this game, I think some players won’t be too interested in editing the door linkage inside the editor, which is suitable since none of us should have to, so those people probably won’t enjoy this game. But the intro is really cool, so that still makes it worth watching. However, considering the size of the download, it may not be worth it to see if that’s all that the player plans to experience.

But for those who will take some time to do a little editing, I think this will be a worthwhile experience to have. I mean it is a short game, so it can’t hurt.
 
Final Blows
    Even in all the praise that I can give the intro and the farm level, the bugs in this game, and the inconsistency to story line leave me disappointed in retrospect. I still had fun playing it, but I would really liked to have seen where it was going in the long run. The element of exploration generally tends to interest me—more so than the apocalyptic plots and damsels in distress of a majority of games, especially when I’m the one doing all the exploration. Creating a strange little creature who knows nothing but the English language and sending him out into the Great Unknown to become anything and to do anything is an attractive premise to me, so I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to actually do any exploring. And let’s not forget the inconsistency of plot. I’m sure I was never intended to see the Farm or the Highlands, but those are the only enjoyable areas in the game at the moment, so experiencing them means uncovering massive holes in the story line. Good thing the dialogue is pretty good, or I would’ve been upset with the outcome.

Also, the time spent playing the game depends on whether or not the closed-off areas are re-opened. The twenty-five minutes that it takes to finish the game only applies to the hidden locations. If you don’t edit the game file to allow passage into the Troll Bunny Farm, then the game will only take five minutes, or however long it takes you to read.

And one last thing to say before I end this review: if you do play the Troll Bunny Farm map, DO NOT talk to the Moris clone next to the barn. Doing so will introduce you to another bug that shows an endless loop of the brain activity scene from the intro that you cannot break out of without quitting the game. This will undoubtedly ruin the experience of the Troll Bunny Farm.

Okay, I’m officially sick of writing the Troll Bunny Farm name.
In his travels, Moris comes across some sound advice given by a pink man...er, woman...er, whatever that thing is.

In his travels, Moris comes across some sound advice given by a pink man...er, woman...er, whatever that thing is.
Final Scores
Graphics: 9/10.0
Excellent graphics paint the canvas of this artsy fartsy Dr. Seuss-inspired fantasy world, filled with wacky creatures and purple trees. It’s too bad the battles haven’t been implemented because the graphics for those look rather remarkable as well. And the cutscenes...perfect.
Storyline: 3/10.0
Okay, this area is greatly lacking simply because the initial story is incomplete, and the areas that make the game fun are terribly inconsistent with the opening, so it’s a big mess. However, the characters are well defined and the dialogue well written, so I won’t tank the score for that. But hopefully if this game is continued, the author will have enough plot and character beyond the intro that the player won’t have to explore the game file for unplayable maps in order to find a story.
Gameplay: 6.5/10.0
Again, like the story, I thought the gameplay had a lot of potential but failed for the most part because of inconsistency between the two plots. On the one hand, a casual player will only see the intro, which means that gameplay is absent. On the other hand, the nosy player will open up the locked maps and discover an amazing place called the Troll Bunny Farm where fun things take place. So…I don’t know, form your own opinion here.
Music: 8.5/10.0
Like graphics, this is the only other area that can’t be screwed up by plot inconsistencies, so it can suffice on its own strength. And frankly it does itself really well. That intro music bothers me, but in a good way. It’s a must hear. The rest of the soundtrack is mostly appropriate as well, even if the Highlands can stand to be a little more exotic than what I might find in a hamster cage.
Enjoyment: 6/10.0
I’m pretty sure some people will end this game saying something like, “This bloody sucks,” but I really enjoyed some of the small details it featured. For some reason the search for cabbage made the experience worth it. But then again I probably need to leave my house once in awhile.
Overall Grade: B-
Final Thoughts
    Even though I’m rating this game much higher than it probably deserves, I think there are way too many hidden gems among the mess of inconsistency to justify overlooking it. I’m dissatisfied with the overall presentation (largely because I don’t want to edit somebody’s game in order to play it), but the graphics, the music, the dialogue, and the gimmicks are far too clever to pass this one over. It’s a hefty download, but great for ideas, so take a chance on Moris Shifter. You might be glad you did…maybe.

Thought of the Day:

Moris, the star, has no arms. Kloddwick, the buddy, has a head that disappears into big shoulders.



Has somebody been watching too much Homestar Runner lately?
 


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