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Threads of Time vs. Pepsi Ranger
Threads of Time
Alexander
Download: 435 KB
V.S.
Pepsi Ranger
Review # 9 for Pepsi Ranger
Them's Fightin' Words
    From what I gather about Threads of Time, this is the story of a young guy named Vance who is called back to rejoin his team of adventurers after a tragic accident claimed the life of his even younger sister. Even though the overall plot is still unknown (I think), the demo follows the hero and his adventurer cohorts into the depths of a haunted mansion to discover a secret of some sort.

It would be difficult to mention what is good about the story this early in development, but it starts with a decent build of characterization. The player finds out about the dead sister in the intro, and takes control of the hero after he decides to visit the grave. From there, the back story of the team of adventurers is subtly revealed and gives the player a hook into the exploration of the mansion. Inside the mansion, the player discovers a secret or two from the ghost of the archaeologist who once owned the mansion, but doesn't really have the opportunity to use the knowledge. The author does enough with the mansion to provide a decent range of exploration, but because it feels so unfinished at this point, there isn't enough satisfaction to make it worth the trip right now. If anything, the small puzzles are a neat addition, but a future update would hopefully make them better.

The biggest strength of the game is the graphics. The author has a very good sense of design when it comes to the look of a game, from perfectly sculpted vases and other round objects, to the effective lighting on the floor from the windows. Even the mansion, which is mostly empty at this point, still has a few maptiles that offers artistic talent. One of the cooler tricks of the game, which also has an effective use of graphics, is the player's ability to not only push chairs, but rotate them too. Even though it serves zero purpose at this point, it's interesting to at least have the interactivity. The forest battle backgrounds, as well as the hero graphics of Vance and Nataly and the minor enemies, are also nicely done. The only real graphic disappointment in this game is the near emptiness of the mansion, and the default desert battle background for the just as empty mansion battles. It's good to say that the graphics don't need to get any better in the two or three places that feel finished.

Of course, with the good often comes the bad, and there are some bads to mention. As most writers and creators know, graphics don't make a game into anything other than eye candy, and the O.H.R.RPG.C.E. graphic technology is a generation behind eye candy. The heart of any good game seems to be weak in Threads of Time, and that's the ability to immerse the player into the character and his world. This isn't saying that the potential isn't there, but only that there isn't enough polish to the text, door links, and wall maps to keep the player on the right kind of footing. As the game started, I really thought the poetry of the intro and the hook of the back story would be the stepping ground of a really interesting game, but the fact that doors led to the wrong places, that walls could be walked through at certain points, letting the player traverse black space, and that the blatant use of character exposition in the dialogue was more than excessive, turned the interest factor into a cry for a polished update. Now, the missing wall maps can be tolerable if the player has the gumption to stay within the graphic perimeter, and the door linkage problem is not so horrible since the player can still figure out which doors lead where and just block out the annoying technicality that back doors aren't supposed to lead to the front yard. But, the dialogue is utterly dull. The player must sit through character interaction that is not only forced, but tells of history and relationships that are better shown. For example, the hero wakes up from a dream about his sister falling victim to some unknown creature, claiming that it was just a dre am...but it wasn't just a dream...it really happened...his sister really died from this horrible...and so on. This sidetrack can be improved with a more natural dialogue process between characters, but doing this would mean having to scrap most of the existing dialogue (or at least the dialogue between Vance and Nataly), and trying again.

There was also a slight problem with the music. Even though the sound of crickets at the mansion is impressive, there is only so many games that should use the Time Circuits track from Chrono Trigger as background music. Frankly, the track is overused way too much (I should know because I almost used it myself), and needs to be left for the game it was made for. Obviously, it's still a good track and a forest is a good place to hear it, but if too many games use it, it'll eventually get tiresome (not likely, but it could), and that would be bad.

Overall, the game could go somewhere, but it's gonna take time to get it there. The most important thing that must be done first is to polish the technical problems, and then try to readjust dialogue if possible. I will say that the author has a good sense of poetry, since the three examples he uses (in the intro, at the gravesite, and from the girl singing in her backyard by the stream) are melodic to a degree, but like the graphics, they're not enough to carry the game at this point. But, even if nothing is fixed, there's still a chance that the story will be good, since the plot as it stands holds some interest.
Final Scores
Graphics: 9/10.0
For a game that has quite a few problems, graphics aren't one of them. The author has a lot of talent in this area, and if the attention to detail keeps up, this game could be an OHR graphic masterpiece.
Storyline: 6/10.0
Even though there isn't enough of the story to give an effective rating right now, the game still deserves a decent score for setting up some interesting plot hooks.
Gameplay: 3/10.0
There are too many flaws to claim gameplay as its strength. Also, the first set of random battles are way too hard if the player doesn't find the weak spot in the "can't enter this area" type dialogue tag that keeps the hero from entering the door that leads to Nataly's house, who brings some unknown, no walkabout-animationed ally to the team when she joins Vance.
Music: 5.5/10.0
Not that I care about ripped music, but hearing the same ripped song from game to game annoys me after awhile. The music still fits the mood for the most part, especially the crickets, so it's not too bad.
Overall Grade: D+
Final Thoughts
    Even though this game has good potential, it's too unfinished (even as a demo) to call it a classic. Maybe an update will tell a different tale.  



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