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Joke vs. Pepsi Ranger
Joke
Chaos Nyte
Download: 315 KB
V.S.
Pepsi Ranger
Review # 6 for Pepsi Ranger
Them's Fightin' Words
    Here's a question to think about. What would happen if Rip Van Winkle had a girlfriend? Would he say something like, "Hey, honey, I'll come over later and take you dancing. Let me just take a quick nap first." Or would he possibly say something like, "Sorry darling, but I'm kinda tired. We'll go to the drive-in tomorrow." Or would his best line be, "Wow the fields smell fresh tonight. Oh well, it's getting late, baby. I gotta get some sleep. Put out the fire if you leave."

Chances are that if you ever thought about that, then you obviously have far too much time on your hands. But, that's essentially where this game begins. Only we're not dealing with Rip Van Winkle. We're dealing with a guy named Steve.

Now, before I continue with this review. I think it's important to know that I only played the first five seconds of the game. Granted, I read the note that Steve's girlfriend Tracy left behind, stating that she wanted to be with a guy named Rob, and that she took fifty dollars from his wallet. And I was very pleased with this game up to that point. But then my shoelaces came untied, and I decided I'd rather tie them than finish this game. So, I didn't get past the whole wallet travesty. But, I loved what I played, so this game goes highly recommended.

Okay, that's just a "joke." I don't really wear shoes while I play computer games. And I don't tie my toes together, so my excuses are illegitimate. The fact is that I played this game as far as it would let me, and frankly I enjoyed it. But, I'm not ready to claim my appreciation for it just yet because there is still some story information to mention.

Now, the whole reference to Rip Van Winkle deals with a comment that a Viking named Gork makes about Steve being asleep for nineteen years. According to the story, the girlfriend ultimately becomes more than a girlfriend. She becomes a princess of the land. And that's probably great for her, but stinks for Steve because he can't get close to her without violating certain mandates. And she doesn't want him close because that guy Rob is about to marry her. Tough luck, Steve.

So, what is a guy like Steve supposed to do? Well, kidnap her obviously. But, that doesn't go smoothly since Gork has the bright idea to hit her over the head with his axe hilt. Brutal that may seem, but at least it gets Steve arrested. Actually, that's not so good for Steve either.

Anyway, long story short, Steve breaks free, and kidnaps Tracy again. Excuse me, kidnaps Princess Trisiana again. If the citizens of this crazy world heard me calling her Tracy, ooh, they'd get in my face and snap their fingers like a painter at a Destiny's Child concert. And we can't have that. So, needless to say, more stuff happens, and Steve spirals deeper into an absurd, but musical world.

And that's the way it goes for now. But I will say that another story potentially builds if Steve kicks over a different bush, but nothing really happens with it. All it does is present Steve to a new cast of heroes, and a cavern. Nothing really outstanding. If anything, it detracts from the real story once the other heroes join. I'll just say that if you play this game, don't take the cavern path. Go down the cliff. You'll get a much better story out of it.

Anyway, that's all the story I plan to reveal. Now for the moment you've all been waiting for. Why should you play this game? Ah, good question, my friends. Good question indeed. We'll start with its single greatest strength. That's right, it's got some great humor. After all, if a game's got the word "Joke" as its title, then it better not be an epic drama, right?

But does it do the humor well? Actually, that's something worth analyzing. Let's first look at the character of Steve. He's a sarcastic punk who goes headfirst into conflict, and nit-picks every little detail that comes ab out. Realistically, unless his character is empathetic, meaning that me or anyone else can see ourselves in his shoes, then sarcasm doesn't necessarily work in his favor. Therefore, if it doesn't work for him, then it doesn't work for the game. However, because this game is a total satire of the nature of an RPG, then the sarcastic qualities that emerge from the dialogue are what help this game float. So, yes the sarcasm works. But, it's not always Steve that makes the game humorous. It's the prying hand of the narrator that makes it humorous.

The narrator's role is generally given to drive the story forward, and is often not necessary if the character dialogue is spoken correctly. But, in this game, the narrator's voice not only adds to Steve's fury and cynicism, but it also gives suggestion to unintentional plot twists, just because the hero gets on the narrator's nerves. It reminds me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons where the artist's eraser will make an entrance and start erasing everything around the character, just because the duck complained about something trivial. Frankly, I think that's what makes this game's humor work.

And that's perhaps what I appreciate most in the comedic side of it. Even though I've seen games use this technique before, I think this one uses it exceptionally well. The subtle overtones of Gork's "loud" dialogue also tickled my funny bone (not the one that I bang against chairs and stuff, but my other one). So, needless to say, it does its job. Bear in mind that tickling the funny bone is not quite the same as busting a gut, but it's still done well, so the humor is nothing to complain about.

The game's other strong point comes loosely from its characters. Now when I give appreciation to Steve and the gang, I'm not doing so out of admiration for the way they look, or how they fight. Realistically, there is not a single special thing about their appearances or their attack styles. But, their personalities and roles in the world help them stand out as exceptional. Here's the basic synopsis of our heroes (assuming that we don't know the guys in the cavern hideout exist):

Steve is a man who wakes up in an unfamiliar world and learns to fight with his narrator. Gork is a Viking who screams for his health, but deep down speaks with intelligence and runs a bar. Tracy is a spoiled brat who becomes a princess and agrees to run with Steve and Gork when she finds out...nevermind, you can find out for her. Finally, there's Drake, the kid who went out to find treasure, but came back possessed by a ghost. On the surface these characters may not seem like much, but they do carry nuances about them that make them less than cliché. And that's refreshing, so I'll agree that this is a strong point as well.

But, that's about the extent of it. Now, for the sake of space, I don't want to go into a big deal about graphics or anything because I really don't care about them enough to make a fuss over them. But I will say that suspending outdoor maps in the heart of black tiles (as indoor maps are commonly reserved for) is a weird thing for a game to do. It's not ugly as much as it is distracting, but at least each map has borders, allowing exits to be plainly discerned, so I can't complain too much. It still would've been nice if it looked a little more natural though. Other than that, there's nothing to really say about them. Everything is small, but character animation is decent enough, so again it's acceptable.

However, the one thing that I found to not only be a major distraction, but also completely impairing to the direction of both story and gameplay is the unfixed bugs that infest it. There are so many flaws in hidden NPC placement alone that bits and pieces of the story will unfold before everything is in its proper place. For example, there is a scene when Rob chases Steve and Gork into this field. Now keep i n mind that the field has a lake and a cliff. When they first enter the field, one of them asks the question if they should try hiding up on the cliff. According to the correct way of playing this game, the heroes should ideally go up the cliff, where another hidden NPC will trigger the arrival and mad pursuit of Rob the boyfriend. This in turn will set off another chain of events that put the story in motion, and it all looks fine. However, if the player decides to explore a little first, and the heroes end up going to the lake before they go to the cliff, then another hidden NPC will be found, where all those chain of events will be warped something fierce, and the player advances the story without ever seeing it unfold naturally. And this is only one of several examples.

I think the biggest example of a bug comes right out of the second possible quest, where Steve meets the guys in the cave (one of them being another form of Gork). Essentially, Steve can wander in, pick up some equipment, and build himself a team, but that's it. There is not a single thing to do beyond that cave. So, naturally he must head back to the beginning area and partake of the original quest (to find Tracy). The problem is that now he's carting around a team of people who shouldn't be following him, and they in turn mess up the entire flow of the story to come. For example, when Steve and Gork "kidnap" Tracy the second time (when she actually joins the party), she's nowhere to be found. Sure, her dialogue works just fine, but she's somewhere with Alice and the Calico Cat. This kind of oversight can really ruin a player's experience and needs to be changed. My biggest suggestion to fixing this would be to make two quests independent of each other, where one path must be chosen and the hero never has the option to return to the choosing grounds. It can't fix the minor hidden NPC bugs, but at least it will avoid screwing everything up.

Other bugs that completely take away from the experience include item and magic problems. The major item bug I found was that purple potions don't work outside of battles. This could be disastrous to those who have two points of health left and are preparing to fight a boss (not that battles are difficult in this game). Granted, they work fine enough in battle, even though they're weak. But that's just not enough to satisfy the player. And the spells have some problems of their own. For example, I know a princess can suck the life force out of any man, but that doesn't mean a cure spell should do the same just because it's under the "Princess" spell set. The purpose of cure spells is to increase health, not to confuse the player. So far this game is weak in its gameplay.

Other bugs deal mostly with feelings of incompleteness and the occasional too-piddly-to-care-about problems. Example one of the incomplete side is that a woman in the town of Vallis asks Steve and friends to find her lost son. When they find the kid and return home with him, she continues to ask them to find her son. Now, I'm a firm believer of senility, but not in the context of RPG games. Obviously this part of the game wasn't meant to be dealt with yet, even though it probably should've been. Example two essentially follows the notion that the demo does not have more to it, even though the narrator says that it does. Let me elaborate. After the heroes fight this big red dragon at the foot of a waterfall, the narrator interrupts their victory celebration (or the one they would've had if RPG's weren't so limited in their abilities), by telling them that there's still quite a bit more demo to play. The problem with this is that there isn't more demo to play (at least not that I found). There is a path that suggests that there is more available to the player. But, needless to say, the path doesn't go anywhere. So, either the author forgot to put a door there, or the narrator purposely lied to us . Either way it's a problem to me, and it should be a problem to you. And those are the big ones I can think of. There is also one weird bug that has Steve claiming that, "this is my favorite song," after he touches a secretly hidden NPC. But instead of playing a new song, it turns off the old one. It's actually kind of funny, but I don't think it was meant to be.

But, bugs aside, the only other problem with this game comes in the unfocused story line. Even though the characters are good, and certain elements of the story are nice (like the whole nature of recruiting Tracy into the group), none of it really links together in a coherent way. It's not so much that random things happen for the sake of adventure, but rather that the things that happen don't have a lot of purpose. Now, I got as far as the game would take me, but I still have no clue what the story is about. I can tell you things that happened in the game that might have something to do with the overall plot, but I'd only be speculating their involvement with the true ending. And yes, this is merely a demo that's only supposed to set the story up, but I still think it would be nicer if it actually made some sense to the overall purpose. So far it doesn't do that. Oh well, at least it's humorous.

So, to sum up the good and the bad, I'd say that this game has enough good to outweigh the bad, if only by a little bit. I'm not crazy about the graphics, and the music is barely worth humming (even though it can be catchy if the mood is right), but the style of the game keeps it interesting, so I can still agree that it's fun. Now, we're not talking great fun here, but it's still entertainment, so it does its job. And now it seems I've done mine.
Final Scores
Graphics: 3/10.0
Well, the \"floating\" nature of the outdoor maps adds to the distraction of an otherwise unattractive game, and the widely spread distribution of lack of details helps the unattractiveness become even more unattractive. But, the characters animate well enough to recognize what they're doing, so it's not absolutely terrible. It's certainly not the best though. More effort makes more eye candy.
Storyline: 4/10.0
The humor is definitely a bonus for the storyline, but the lack of story does its part to hurt the score. I won't completely tank it though because I think the small plots are set up nicely, and the characters are among the OHR's cool group. But, a clear overall plotline is most certainly in order. So, until then, the score for story will remain about three points below what I'd probably give it if it went anywhere.
Gameplay: 1.5/10.0
Ugh, please I'm trying to forget about this category. Let's just say that battles are too easy, level-ups are too small, cures are too useless, and the bugs are too many. So until the challenge raises, the statistics grow, the cures cure, and the hive queen dies, I refuse to take the gameplay seriously. No one's getting presents here.
Music: 4.5/10.0
The tunes are okay, but most of them don't fit very well. For example, some of the mountain battle themes are very cool indeed, but they are far too dark and speedy for a casual fight. Tracks like that should've been reserved for the boss's, and well, they weren't. So, I'm not marking down for ripped music. I'm marking down for poorly placed music. The only areas I thought were suitable to the sounds were inside the houses, and that's not quite enough to build a satisfaction around.
Overall Grade: C
Final Thoughts
    There aren't a whole lot of great things to say about this game on an individual scale, but for some reason I still found it fun. I will say that this will not turn heads, and that it will not finish satisfactory. But, for a measely half hour or so, it's entertaining enough to try. Fortunately it's free, and the humor is worthwhile, so it's getting my seal of approval. Actually, I have to design a seal first, but consider it stamped anyway.  



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