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Nathan's Quick Game Reviews
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
Location: My Girlfriend

PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2020 1:51 pm    Post subject: Nathan's Quick Game Reviews Reply with quote

Since approval of actual reviews seems to be indefinitely suspended, and most games don't deserve a thorough description anyway, I'll dedicate this journal to a brief, highly opinionated overview of various games on Castle Paradox's gamelist (in chronological order).

"Write reviews for every game that didn't have one in chronological order" was something I was planning on starting in...2004? A year before I joined? Yeah, not happening now.

Hidden Legends
The legends are so hidden that they're impossible to download.

Magisteral part 3 and part 2
A game that does an even better job at hiding - this gamelist entry doesn't even have a screenshot. For some reason part 3 is older than part 2 and if part 1 is even an entry on the site, it's not adjacent to these two.

Triple Triad
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=138
You know, I hated FF8's guts and thought Triple Triad was the worst part of it, so I'll give an OHR fangame of it a quick try.

Okay, it seems pretty competently programmed. It's really clunky, of course, because it's a 2003 plotscripting-based minigame.

VDMS- Sound
I remember this utility being essential to playing OHR games and hearing the music from late 2006 (earlier for those of you who adopted Windows XP before I did) to about 2008 was it? It converted BAMs into really weak, tinny audio that sounded way worse than actual legacy hardware, but was still usually a step or several up from literal silence.

I'm still salty about my friend who swore up and down that A) I would not lose any of my files if he installed Windows XP on the PC that had several in-progress games being made on it and B) it would be fully backwards-compatible with all my existing software.

Magnus
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=136
The first real game on the site, and it's an infamously bad one. This was the quintessential, iconic "terrible newbie game" for a long time running, and its files are outright corrupt/broken and don't even work in the oldest versions of the engine.

Aerolythe: Legend of the Three Mages
Yet another screenshot of a game that will never be released for us to try out and see how horrible it was.

914
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=131
A brief and extremely unfunny joke game. Just a couple of one-screen maps and a few textboxes of no importance.

Stoneset Saga
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=125
I'll play this game and insert a review into this post later.

EDIT: Okay, so the game's filename is RPG.RPG. Does not bode well - the game's title isn't even one that initializes to RPG it can't even be called clever for that. Title screen music is the title music from Legend of Zelda, story starts out as random rambling about saving a BELOVED PEASANT VILLAGE from the TOP HAT GANG and maybe working in a CASINO. I get a sword out of a treasure chest and it gives no attack power bonus, plus it's in all lowercase for some reason. All the while, music from Lemmings is playing.

Main character has a sword and a shield on his sprite, his equally sword-inclined friend has no such luck. The house next door uses Tetris music and has a treasure chest that gives no treasure, but changes the background song to some random surfer song. Another house plays DIFFERENT Lemmings music. Another house plays yet another Lemmings song. I recruit a warrior with an "lsword" instead of a "Long (Sword Icon)" and a mage with no spells (meaning since this is an old OHR game, she doesn't even have a spell list).

I get a fifth party member, whom I can't swap in because there's only the ORDER menu and not the TEAM menu anyway...then when I get to the edge of the town, a guard tells us there's nothing we can do about our quests anyway, so we all go home and the TOP HAT GANG conquers the world with no opposition and then a meteor crashes into the planet and kills everyone anyway.

Okay, I was definitely not expecting this. It's actually a fairly clever joke game that does an excellent job disguising itself as a serious newbie game. I'll give this one a 2/5.

Radar Rat Race RPG
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=122
Despite the cuteness of its player character and the quality of its pixel art, this is just a tech demo of ways to make doors more frustrating in OHR games. Basically, you've just got one big maze of samey-looking corridors, but you can't just walk into the doors to move to the next segment, no; you need to walk to the space next to the door and check it, this has the lock verify your identity and unlock, then you walk to the door like a normal OHR game. Basically, making the game more frustrating to play for the sake of immersion.

There's supposed to be a maze run, but the game never got there. You're being constantly berated by your superiors for not going to the maze (because it doesn't exist in the demo) and the base from which you're supposed to get there is itself a huge, cumbersome maze that's not easy or intuitive to navigate.

It's a remake of some mediocre Apple ][ or Amiga game or something. Look up "Radar Rat Race" on YouTube for a much better cat and mouse experience.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"


Last edited by Ronin Catholic on Sun Sep 20, 2020 1:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2020 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Destiny's Cruelty
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=120
The game has no title music. That's a "promising" start. I think this is the first time I've played a game by Blazes Battles (was it ever discovered if the similar username of BattleBlaze was a coincidence or just the same person wanting a change of identity? IDK).

First textbox throws a made-up calendar at me. This either means the author loves a lot of attention to detail and worldbuilding or is trying to fake it. Still no music.

Huh, there's a plot point that there's a prophecy about a destined hero having a specific birthday. The first character (I presume my main character at least early on) points out that he's not the only person with that birthday so he's already having doubts that he'll be the hero in the end.

The out of battle sprites are weird, like they look like they're trying to go for more realistic proportions but all the people are bowlegged with really wide shoulders. In battle sprites don't fare so well...remember back in the early days of the OHR when artists didn't understand shading? Basically, each part of a character has a main color and is airbrushed with random pixels of nearby shades; "you have 15 colors so you'd better use all of them" - meanwhile clear, readable flat-colored art was called "lazy" because it wasn't airbrushed into garbage and didn't have pillow shading all over it (this is what makes people incorrectly remember Ends of the Earth, Fantasy Under a Blue Moon, and Final Fantasy H as having "good" graphics, but I'll burn down those villages when I get to them). Good times.

Holy Sir Knute has two attacks: One that causes about 700 damage to one enemy and may hit twice and one that causes about 1500 damage to all enemies at once. No drawback to the second; not delayed, no MP or HP cost, it's just a special attack that's better than his regular attack. I understand this is the "taste of power" chapter, but that's still pointless. Against the boss it's even more ridiculous: My main attack is doing about 100 damage and the spread attack is doing about 3,000. Why not just make the Crescent Blade be Sir Knute's only attack option?

Hahaha, Sir Knute used a desperate forbidden technique on the boss he'd just easily defeated instead of finishing him off normally...this caused him to turn into an "immortal" slime that then proceeds to start demonically possessing the hero.

And then the game ends. That wasn't as bad as I was expecting from the screenshots, but it does remind me a lot of that early oughties pretentious feel.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2020 10:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Magnus 9: Golem
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=119
I vaguely remember playing this back in like 2004 and hating it. Let's see how it's held up.

No music on the title screen. That's always a bad sign.

It starts with a girl named Rinny (whose hat and jacket are the same shades of brown as her jacket...the walls of her house...and the floor. Come on! The OHR's old default palette gives you like 60~ browns and you only use like three of them?) finding an unconscious Ryan and dragging him to her house.

The names Rinny (which sounds made up) and Lyla seem a bit too close to the name Ryan for my liking. Maybe the author is going for a theme naming thing, like if you had a cast named Brent, Brenda, Brandon, and Clint or something...but it doesn't do your original characters a lot of good to intentionally name them so similarly to the main character you took from another game. I'm not saying this is something that can't work, but I am saying it gives me bad vibes off the bat and I've only seen three names in the game so far.

Rinny takes off the brown jacket and hat that make her blend in with the scenery. Now she's just wearing an orange shirt and blue overalls; these and her bright blonde hair actually look alright, but why ever design her with the bulky, cumbersome hat and jacket that make her into a splotch on the same-colored wooden floor if you're just going to change her to a better looking design three minutes in anyway? Nothing would be lost if she was always wearing the better outfit and stepped out of the bedroom to make dinner instead of to change her clothes.

Land named Rikochet. I'm going to assume this is an intentional spelling variant meant to evoke the word ricochet. Ryan is introduced to the concept of a "doll mage". Basically it's a gimmicky magic system that turns this into a mons game (all "heroes" are different golems you animate, but because they're small dolls they all use Ryan's walkabout and disable caterpillar party). I get the feeling the person who made this had another game idea entirely in the works and slapped the name Ryan and the Magnus label onto it hastily for the sake of the Magnus contest.

Ryan has no memory of his parents...strange, he doesn't have full RPG protagonist amnesia, he remembers the names of his party members from the original Magnus. What a pointless touch, just have him say he never remembers his parents controlling golems/dolls with magic because it's just not something they regularly do where he's from.

My inventory has items to tell me the stat weakness/resistance/absorb of Ryan and his first doll, the Forest Nymph. This is pointless, even in 2002 the status screen already did that! Why not fill these textboxes with flavor text, movepool descriptions, equipment allowances, or heck even just badly MSPainted 320x200 pictures of the characters? It's just the same information as the status screen only harder to access and depicted in a less intuitive way.

Also a book that will recount the story of Magnus 1. Since that game was incomprehensible and unplayable, maybe I'll read it.

Screenshots of the original Magnus betray the fact that the hero of this game looks nothing like the original Ryan beyond being a male humanoid. Different skin color, different hair color, completely different outfit design and color scheme. Further supporting my belief that this was not really designed initially as a Magnus game, but rather another game hastily slapped with a Magnus title for brand recognition. Also, Ryan's hair and skin blend into the floors just like Rinny's hat and jacket.

The screenshot of the character Magnus 9 keeps referring to as Quio is called Ouio onscreen; this might've been a typo in the original game, but it also just highlights what an inconsistent mess this is. For no apparent reason, reading this book adds a third member to my team named "Memory Bran".

Dinner seemingly consists of honey, chicken, and salt but nothing else. What a strange meal. Chicken and salt without the honey would taste better.

Ryan runs into a shopkeeper but has no money. In-character he refuses to even listen to what goods the shopkeeper has for sale because he has no money. This also bodes ill of upcoming gameplay.

Out of nowhere, Ryan is teleported to a place with orange grass. Genric evil church and generic evil empire seem to have two representatives arguing with each other. It's super hard to focus; so far the gameplay is nonexistent and the storytelling is nothing but frustrating.

Oh man are these in-battle sprites terrible! Granted, the out of battle ones are too (basically, every object is randomly spraypainted with multiple nearby shades of a single color when a flat color or some consistent concept of shading could either have worked; pretty mediocre early 2000s OHR sprite work). All the characters' poses/animation are terribad.

Enemies give no experience, but do drop money and items. Items including seemingly the only source of being able to teach monsters spells, with no indication of which monsters can learn what aside from experimentation. Ryan walks around during a cutscene that lacks the courtesy of turning off random battles while it plays out, interrupting itself multiple times; ten to fifteen minutes of no action followed by having action randomly interrupt the gameplay.

Rinny returns to her worse outfit for some reason.

No inn or healing items that I can find, Ryan is near death and none of my monsters know healing spells...plus all the sprites are terrible and inconsistent. Best-looking things in the game so far are the tree and grass maptiles, worst are definitely the heroes' in-battle graphics.

There are elements called "Short, Medium, and Long" - presumably range values on different weapon attacks. Heroes and enemies both seem to have completely arbitrary weakness/resistance to them, no clear logic as to why one character is highly resistant to Long weapon attacks or why another is weak to Short attacks. All this means is that some of my characters' attacks will be doing 3 damage and others doing 100 damage to certain enemies for no clear reason. If it worked on some clear, intuitive logic it could make a decent tactical option.

Next is an aggravating boss fight. My inability to heal any of my characters even at the numerous save points combined with the high offensive power and crapshoot nature of enemy AI meant all my best characters were dead or at super low health before the boss, leaving me with only Rinny (who resists the boss's attacks and attacks with its weakness), Cursed Child (an imp that attacks with its weakness but is weak to its attacks) and the Forest Nymph (whose attacks heal the boss!) at even half health. I think Rinny might pull out a solo victory, but that's not very satisfying. She should've just been the main character, Ryan is useless and pointless for anything other than a shoddy excuse to call this a Magnus game.

Okay, now AFTER the first boss and grueling, cruel dungeon forest the shop opens up but there's still no inn. I need to manually use life potions to revive my party members AND healing potions that only recover about 25% of their HP to heal them.

Rinny and Ryan go to the beach, putting on completely different outfits for the occasion. The sand is exactly the same color as Rinny's hair. "Oooh! Look at all the plotscripting I do and my many walkabouts!" Yeah, your dozens of walkabouts per character that all look terrible and your pointless time-wasting plotscripts for your terrible story.

This game isn't even the funny kind of bad the original Magnus can sort of be described as, it's just plain bad. It's an ugly, miserable experience.

If the game at least used the default OHR soundtrack it'd at least have potentially sounded nice but instead it's got nothing but emotion-sapping silence.

I was not expecting this game of all things to make me angry, but one relieving thing is it reminds me that even when I hate new OHR games, I hate them for different reasons.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
Location: My Girlfriend

PostPosted: Sat Sep 05, 2020 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So today I'm starting on the WORLDS series, from 1999. I vaguely recall playing some of these, but I might be mistaking them for something else.

For some reason, the four games are listed in reverse chronological order within the gamelist. This conveniently puts them all in a row on page 109 (for now, until we get a few more games).

Churning out four games in a single year is a pretty big feat. Are they long enough to justify there being more than one of them?

Worlds 1
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=115
The starting character "AS" looks a lot like the heroes of some of my early games; yellow skin, blue square eyes, brown flat top haircut. He's in more modern/futuristic clothes and his head and eyes are smaller than I usually drew back then, but it is a somewhat familiar artstyle to me.

His starting weapon is a paintball gun, which he uses to shoot scorpions in a desert. The desert is one huge square of a single sand tile repeating with two circles of dead trees (one near your starting spot and another in the same quarter of the map). This is a painfully bad map design.

AS's shirt says SK IP or SH IP on it in two rows, but since his second attack frame is just mirroring his first, it changes to suddenly say ZH QI for one frame when he's shooting stuff.

Since the only battle option is to shoot a single enemy and every fight has two enemies in it, even if I gained enough attack power from leveling up to kill them in one hit, every fight would still take 2 turns. No healing item, no spells, just shooting scorpions with paintballs. Using F7 on random encounters from here on out.

Second map is a black void, a much smaller map. It has two identical crystals that both serve as inns, which is more forethought than I'm used to in these old OHR games. There's an NPC dressed in white and another portal here. He's a doctor who issues me a 12 gage shotgun, which only has +3 attack compared to the paintball gun; his instructions are to talk to another old man on the next map who will issue me another gun.

Third map is a forest with lakes in it, followed by some random old dude's house, followed by a barn with the actual old man I was told to look for. He informs me the "TS Gun" has been stolen by a demon named Hue, so I need to go fight the demon.

And...the old man gave me the TS Gun that was allegedly stolen by a demon. A plainer-looking but much stronger soldier named JAC joins my party, armed with something called a "squrpon"; "Scorpion?" "Squirtgun?" it's described as a paintball gun and him using that is 20% stronger than AS using the TS Gun.

Next is another forest. No monsters have attacked me once since I left the desert. From the forest to the city...

And when I enter the city, the first NPC I talk to is a random street punk who slaps the trained soldier AS to death (he attacks like 10-20 times per turn for about 15% of AS's max HP) and then needs to spend several turns slowly wearing down JAC (JAC only takes about 6 HP of damage per slap and has a much higher max HP).

This game is trash in both gameplay and writing.

Worlds 2
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=116
This game actually has an intro. That's a start, not just starting out in a desert shooting scorpions with paintballs.

JAC and AS seem to already be teamed up at the start, chased by some sort of dinosaur. There's a drawing of the dinosaur eating someone, and JAC tells the player you run from battle with the ESC key because there's no chance of beating this dino in combat right now. A little bit of caring about the player...and think how many OHR games never bother to tell you how to escape from fights!

On a better footing already, Worlds 2.

I head to a town. The inn has huge signs that say "INN" on it but the writing is white and so is the main wall of the building, the letters touching right at the edges of their tiles, so it looks more like they've just got some random exposed wood panels. Inside the inn a man wearing the same shade of blue as the carpet runs the business.

Despite this being a modern world, the weapon shop only sells swords and a "turtle vest". The swords don't change your stats but the vest is +10 DEF, so I'm buying two vests and ignoring the swords. AS and JAC can just punch monsters until I find a weapon that actually does something.

The item shop's sign has the same problem as the inn's. How could you look at these tiles after placing them on the map and not realize you need to revise something? Shrinking the letters a little (edges of letters just one pixel away from the edge of the box on all sides..or on two of the sides...), changing the letters to a different color (lighter shade of brown instead of white forexample), changing the walls to a different color (light gray or pale blue instead of white)...SOMETHING.

I walk to another town and am immediately given a third party member, a man named Frank. Frank has the same HP and Attack as the other two, but all his other stats are double. So while AS and JAC are equal now, it's still the case that the more recently added party member is flat out more powerful. Frank has a sword named "FC kiser".

A third town consists of nothing but a single house with a locked doorway (?), a church with a priest who says nothing important and then vanishes, and two free spell-teaching items left on the ground.

Getting into some random fights, apparently if you don't buy swords for the characters their attacks default to Potion. So don't bother buying potions, just let one hero give infinite free heals to the others! I'm going to buy a sword for JAC and leave AS as the healer. Oh sorry, a "S sowrd", not even the worst typo in this game. Le sigh.

The Deadly Gas spell I taught to AS costs 0 MP, so if I'm willing to dig into the menu he can spread kill enemies as well as having a free heal. I kill a GARD and move on.

AS steps onto a platform and gets shot by a laser during a cutscene. He ends up in a black void and declares himself dead; JAC and Frank are nowhere to be seen. Normally this would be a time to quit, but the map shows a big white spiral in the upper left corner; it takes like three minutes of walking to get there through the black void of no landmarks. Just when it seemed this game was improving itself from the last one...I use the wall cheat to skip the winding spiral tunnel of boredom.

I enter a one-screen map of mostly all-white tiles with a man in white who has a gray beard and hair and a long red cape. His name is "KING GOGO". King GOGO sends AS back to Earth "in exchange for someone named Rom". This is pretty incomprehensible. Does this mean I'm coming back from the dead on a mission to kill someone? I think so, but it's really terribly worded and presented.

After that, I hit a dead end with high enemy encounters and I've had two party members stripped from me and no guidance on where to go or what to do. This game started better than the first one (not by much) and flushed itself down the toilet real quick. Another easy 0/5; let's see if this series improves in any way in its second half?

Worlds 3
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=117
Apparently the first two games were both 1999 and the third game is 2001.

Diemnsions, dimensions, hideous custom font, poorly laid out paragraphs...graphics are very slightly improved; As and Jac no longer have faces and are still palette swaps of the same sprite, but that sprite has more effort put into it now. As and Jac now no longer have all-caps names (not sure why they did in the first place, I was assuming these were acronyms). Now their stats are actually somewhat different (Jac is clearly better overall).

Once again, As and Jac are modern-day military men but with swords as their main weapons. Whatever happened to the gunplay from the first game? The game hands you a free spell teaching item...the spell it teaches causes 2 damage to enemies in the area while standard attacks are doing 20. Not a good look.

The first boss's introductory text has one of the heroes say "what he sed" and the villain say "i kill u". So despite the more serious looking sprite work, the writing has degraded even further from the first two games. Boss himself takes about 50% more damage from the useless spell than a normal attack, so I guess it kinda serves a purpose.

More "sowrds". I almost feel like it was intentional, but there's no reason for it to be so. Item shop includes "Coolaid" which will "refreshin", "Twizter" which will "revive the dead...muhahaha!", and "MountDew" which "Refills your Mental Energy". Is Twizter supposed to be Twizzler? Why the evil laugh in its item description? Is Coolaid Kool Aid? Just read the packages in your cupboard, kid, it's not that hard to spell check junk food.

All the tiles are bubble/pillow shaded now, using basically the entire row of a given color per object. Back in the day people thought that was how you did good sprite art: Shade with as many shades of a color as possible. Some of us have learned better.

So far, the only random enemies are snakes. Forest Pythons and Tall Snakes in the forest, the same plus Black Snakes on the beach.

I explore, find a second town with a shop that has in stock exactly two full sets of armor (so As and Jac can each have a piece of armor on every slot and new swords better than the first town...only about ten spaces on the overworld away from the first town. Glad I didn't buy any there!). There's two identical NPCs in this town; one complains that I'm interrupting his RANDOM WANDERING, the other clicks off the plot advancement tag I need to enter the obvious cave on the overworld.

In the cave I find...one more type of snake. The characters complain about the existence of snakes. A red snake named Blinder has an eye-hurting conversation with the heroes and then attacks them; he's colored red and weak to attacks that are colored red (making Jac, who has infinite use of his Red Spear and Red Rain spells, much more useful than As once again). Blinder declares himself to be from Dimension 29, then the game ends.

Another game that gets an easy 0/5.

Worlds 4
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=118
This game is just worse than all the others. The art is worse than 1 and 2, much less the improvements made in 3! Once again, like the second game, the hero has a non-weapon item as his default weapon (was this done correctly on accident in Worlds 1 and 3?).

You have a character named Dak instead of Jac or As. He wears a gray trenchcoat and flails a pair of silly gorilla arms around as he walks. He looks very short and very fat, with bright green bowl-cut hair (rather than a green military helmet like the heroes sported in the last game).

Dak's friend James is sick in bed with a case of flashing eyes, Dak goes to the neighboring town consisting of a graveyard and a single empty building, meets a clone of his sprite with a terrible palette, they talk to each other, and when he gets back home Dak finds his friend James has been murdered. I think As shows up from the previous game and kills the murderer, then both disappear; Dak takes the murder sword and all the blood stains go along with it. The sword never goes into his inventory and there's literally nothing else to do or interact with.

0/5.


This series started bad and despite keeping my expectations low, it kept finding new ways to annoy and disappoint.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"


Last edited by Ronin Catholic on Sun Sep 20, 2020 2:04 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
Location: My Girlfriend

PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Soulfire
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=114
In this game, made by a man named Adam, you play a knight named Adam. Adam's sprite is drawn pretty well for the most part. His sword and shield switch from right-handed use to left-handed if he walks to the right or up, but props for actually drawing him with weapons and armor. There is one big shortcoming to his sprites though, both in and out of battle: The gaps in his helmet which should be black are instead transparent. Apparently Adam didn't play his game enough to figure this out and fix it, because it exists prominently in all sprites other than his north-facing walkabout.

The maptiles all seem pretty competent too. Sure, every tree has the exact same apples and knothole, but they can clearly be recognized as trees. The white picket fences and stone sidewalks actually look so nice I'd almost be tempted to think they were ripped if they didn't blend so well with everything else. The road tiles are only strictly vertical or horizontal though, leading to weird jank that can even be seen on the example screenshot (which was taken with Adam standing on the dark pavement to cover up the huge holes in his face). A single tile for all the roads without the gradient edges would have looked significantly nicer.

In-battle, Adam's sprites look solidly designed and well-animated aside from the again reiterated invisible pixels where he should have black or dark gray. The monsters are lazily drawn blobs of gradient and Pac-Man mouths; considering how good a lot of the graphics are, I'm just assuming Adam was tired at the time and decided not to put effort into these particular graphics like he did most of the others.

Gameplay-wise, the game is almost a non-entity. A basic random encounter will drain 75% of your health in one turn and take several turns to beat (so cheat and hit F7 to win). Adam's default attack is called "Soulfire" but seems to be a generic sword slash. He has MP, but no spell lists and thus no use for MP.

If you talk to a sign from any direction other than below, its graphic will disappear. The NPCs weren't set to "do not face player" and the sprites were not given graphics in their frames other than facing down.

When characters talk, there is no indication of who is talking. I check one NPC and someone says to the other "You are a weak sapling, I am a mighty oak. Join me in the defeat of evil" roughly, but I can't tell if the guy in casual wear is the one insulting Adam or vice-versa. The new man is named Brock and has slightly stronger stats than Adam, and a spell list named "Fire" which at least initially has no spells in it.

Doors are centered between two tiles for some reason, rather than being on singular tiles, so you'll always be only walking into the left half or right half of a door. Grass is impassible; I guess Adam takes "do not step on the grass" signs even more seriously than Megaman does.

There is a kindly old widow with dementia who keeps forgetting I've already talked to her and giving me the 50 gold and potion quest reward every time we speak. However, the potion is undrinkable anyway.

Every house is full of treasure chests that cannot be opened and don't even have snarky text about how you're not allowed to rob people.

There's a man with charcoal gray skin and bright red hair who takes 300 gold away from me without any choice, and gives me a car useable only on the town's map. It will always reset itself to the car dealership's lot if you exit the map, so at least it's always in the same place. For some reason, while riding the car the USE key opens the menu and the MENU key dismounts. I think Adam was just playing around with vehicle settings and seeing how they work, but really it's so annoying that a speed of 10 on the map isn't worth lugging this thing around.

There's a magus (singular) who proclaims himself to be a magi (plural) and says he has something I could use for 50 gold, but doesn't actually offer to sell it to me. Without any choice box, he simply sneaks another useless potion into my inventory and takes away 50 gold I can't spend on anything besides the inn anyway.

Several NPCs try to send me on a quest to some caves, but there doesn't seem to be a way to reach them without the debugging keys. In them, a purple human proclaims himself to be a human, then refers to himself as Terrorsaur and attacks me. This uses the overworld battle backdrop, and not even a grayscale version. Brock gains four levels and learns no fire spells for his Fire spell list.

I clear the path to the well and the friendly NPC battles me (the battle ends instantly and he says "Just kidding"). I find the exit of the cave and it turns out it was hidden in the grass on the main map; some of the grass nearby is walkable and some isn't. So much for that.

Basically: This game is absolute trash, but clearly some minimal effort (literally all the effort) went into the main hero's sprites and some of the maptiles.

Paladus
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=112
Easy review. The zip file includes a renamed copy of GAME.EXE but no RPG file, so it's literally impossible to play. The screenshot isn't very enticing either; no wonder I never downloaded it in the past 17 years.

I do appreciate the hero in the screenshot having an attack labeled AXE, though.
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'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
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Ronin Catholic
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 12:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pandora Effect
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=111
The game's accompanying text file includes a long-winded backstory of the game and detailed descriptions the two player characters (age, exact height in feet and inches, exact weight in pounds).

When I booted up the game and watched the initial cutscene, I wanted to say "The graphics seem mediocre, but passable." Then we cut to the main hero and his hair is very lopsided and heavily shaded...but his different frames are made by mirroring each other, making him look super goofy and killing any immersion I could've gotten in the paint-by-numbers scifi story. Everyone's forehead is strangely high up on their sprite, too, giving very little room for skull/upper hair and hats. They're otherwise proportioned like your typical chibi walkabouts, just with Lantern Jaws of Justice and neanderthal foreheads.

The author's readme says that he composed all but two songs, one by Led Zeppelin. I don't know if I'm enough of a music fan to recognize that one when it shows up but the music I'm hearing so far is mediocre and tinny.

Marcus is a loose canon space cop who doesn't play by the space rules and space backsasses his space superiors. He can also make a cigarette spontaneously appear twenty feet away from himself and then disappear in an instant after sex. He's assigned a partner by the space police department, a psychic woman he already knows. His own space police psychic power is that his mind can't be read, but since she's not socially oblivious she can tell what he's thinking anyway like any other person would.

In-battle sprites are slightly worse than mediocre. First random combat kills Anna before I can heal her and leaves Marcus at half health. Alien planet is just endless huge, featureless green fields and gray rock walls (not technically featureless, but there's very little in the way of landmarks or interesting wall shapes).

Second fight kills Marcus right away. No NPCs or treasure and the plot wasn't gripping. I'm giving this game another 0/5, which I expect may be the majority of OHR games of this era.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
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'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"
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Ronin Catholic
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2020 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orb
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=110
Something about a 6 year old and a life goddess named Elif. The medium-blue text on black background, really thin and italicized font is hard to read.

Draz and, seemingly, everyone in his world is a Black Mage from Final Fantasy, but recolored badly. Flesh-tone faces instead of black shadows...ick, what horrendous creatures! They almost remind me of Lemmings.

All the other graphics are probably ripped. Parts of characters randomly disappear or change size from one frame to another. Some fences are walk-through and others aren't. Mom says "red bunnies" are save points but pink bunnies apparently do nothing.

A lot of other games here have visually irritated me by using translucent/dithered textboxes. This one instead uses no boxes, just the text appearing over the sprites and tiles. It takes active work to make your presentation this bad.

Draz's default weapon is a wand, but his attack is "Punch". Debug keys are disabled so if I find an impassible point or a hopeless fight I can't do anything about it.

Enemies include green frogs (which look to be original and fairly cute) and blue hedgehogs (obviously ripped and not ripped well). I'm torn on the bunny walkabouts; they're only two frames but they're a lot cuter than anything else in the game, and look fairly competently sprited. Where were they stolen from?

There's no inn and save points don't heal. I get to the second town and have to buy healing items (called "snik", claim to recover 20 HP but heal more like 12) and a bomb. I had no real chance to grind - after two fights with punching normal frogs I was at too low HP to fight anything else.

Instead of invisible NPCs triggering a plotscript, it's a wall of pink bunnies. I fight a dragon, who is one from the original Dragon Warrior but without an outline so his invisible pixels are light gray sidewalk colors.

Going back into the first area to grind...turns out bombs aren't good for crowd control as they only hit one enemy. Hedgehogs are called "hedgedogs" and frogs are called "froglets."

At level 2, Draz finally learns a spell (Ember). It causes about 1.2x or 1.3x as much as his weapon attack, so I'll take it. At level 2 he learns CryoBlast, which costs 2 MP instead of Ember's 5...why THAT wasn't learned sooner I don't know, it's even in spell slot 0 while Ember is in slot 1! Neither enemy seems weak or resistant to either of them and their damage properties seem to be the same.

The item shop has limited stock on all its items. I buy it out.

There's a minigame in the snowy area of trying to not touch bunnies. Since touch NPCs in the OHR check the spaces around them in all directions, it's basically undoable. Wild wolves called "RenRen" exist in the area and are weak to fire, somewhat justifying its higher MP cost. I don't know what game RenRen is ripped from, but it's adorable.

And that's where it ends; the map of the snowy area leads nowhere. There's a second shop in the town which sells a staff that raises most of your stats by 1 and makes you absorb Ice (which is what 2/3 of RenRen's attacks are). So Hedgedog remains the most threatening monster in the encounter table, and Red Dragon is easily taken out with bombs.

I'm not going to throw myself at a touchy bunny obstacle course for hours to try to get the mysterious prize. It's probably some money or a second copy of the staff I just bought.

Metamorphosis
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=109
There's a wizard named Basil (pretty normal and moderately cool name) and an imp named Tarragon (sounds very high fantasy, but is also a name for a spice so I'm seeing a theme here). Also a witch named Ginger...definitely a theme.

Ah, I've heard this music before in other OHR games. According to the readme file the music is from Secret of Mana. So apparently I either hate Secret of Mana music or I hate .BAM compressed versions of Secret of Mana music.

Game seems to be using a primitive form of pixel movement and Walktall. Must've been a pain to program.

Ick, characters and objects multi-activate if you go up to them and check them. You need to manually walk away before advancing textboxes, including choiceboxes flickering as you run before you make your selection.

Collision boxes on objects are terrible and doors are poorly telegraphed. I have an "attack" button but it looks to be a literally zero range slap...

Buildings in the town (and their doors) seem to be designed with the idea of normal RPG character proportions in mind, not monsters who are two walkabouts standing on each other's shoulders in a trench coat. Tarragon's head is well-sprited but everything else about him could've easily been compressed into the height of a single walkabout - his legs don't need to be 15 pixels tall out of a total of 40.

All the tiles are drawn well enough so far, except the grass on the tiles with light gray rocks.

Enemies take three sissy slaps to kill. Your HP only displays when you're being hurt, which you have no real way to mitigate. Walking into the final room, Tarragon gets horizontally bisected and both halves of him move around with like ten pixels of space between them for seemingly no reason.

Considering the filename has "528" in it I'm presuming it was made for a contest on a time crunch, but really there's no substance here as usual. A commendable effort, though.

Joke
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=107
An old joke game, but not in the usual joke game sense. Graphics were completely normal for an OHR game of the time. If the game wasn't named "Joke" there'd be no indication that it was anything other than a by the numbers not very good OHR game.
_________________
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'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
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Ronin Catholic
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Joined: 23 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Vengence
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=106
The game was apparently originally made in 1999 and then released in 2003. This considerably tempers my experiences; hopefully it exceeds them.

The main character, a squat barrel-chested man named Samuel, was sheriff of a small town. He was married and had a son; his wife and son were murdered and he was convicted of killing them. The plot kicks off with the presumably innocent Samuel digging his way out of prison.

Fellow escapees include Alexe (a strong guy), Joshua (a fast guy), and Rastam (a wizard) so relievingly it looks like I'll have a full party from the get go. I must wonder how many will be murdered by the plot?

Samuel and Alexe have decent animations that make for a pretty good victory dance. The other characters? Not so much. First few battles were easy because Rastam's spells cost little MP and easily do 3x damage to anyone else's attacks; it's good to have competently designed black magic in an old OHR game!

Oh, and the boss of the prison is named Javere, probably a reference to Javert from Le Miserables.

During the boss fight, Rastam dies because there are no real defensive options and the boss hits multiple times per turn. Everyone but him levels up. After this, Rastam and Joshua leave the party voluntarily.

I went to explore the town and actually had an interaction with the widow and newly fatherless child of one of the prison guards the characters killed during their escape. This is actually an interesting and not often explored dimension of games like this! The two heroes in the party even argue about whether it'd be better to tell them daddy's never coming home even if it blows their cover or to just leave.

Some of the maptiles look to be ripped from early versions of Wandering Hamster and some look to be original. Or maybe just a lot more work was put into carpet and cobblestone paths than into grass and trees. Considering a lot of games back then were actually edited from WANDER.RPG, I could see some stuff being left in just out of legacy.

The sprite art of the random encounter rats is actually pretty good. Weirdest part is that they're outlined in a bright shade of brown, rather than the outlines being darker brown. I've seen one other game do this (Tales of the New World) and it looks a little awkward, but I don't mind.

This game seems to be a surprising hidden gem. I'm going to actually make a save file and keep playing for a while.

Despite three of my four heroes (and both I still have after escaping prison!) having literally no combat options aside from drinking potions and basic attacks, the combat manages to be fun.

Mob dealings, unionization, corrupt judges and sociopathic wizards...this game is surprisingly deep. I give it a glowing recommendation out of five.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
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'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
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Ronin Catholic
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Memoria
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=105
This game's a mixed bag for me and always has been.

The title screen proclaims it to be "The Classic Adventure MEMORIA", a pretty lofty title. And while it's old, I'd hesitate to call it classic now, much less so back when it was new. Title screen text is needlessly blurry.

The main character is named Leonard Shaw, and the first chapter opens with him as a child. As a kid he has a pretty iconic look with a green toy sword and a hat that looks vaguely like a green Koopa shell (I always figured it was a turtle shell helmet when I was younger, but recently started to rethink that maybe it's a stocking cap or something).

This is a game that has its text strings humorously warped by engine updates:
Experience = Paralysis
For Next = Elemental
Level = Pumped

This game is an excellent use of "fake plotscripting" which IMO is vastly easier to do than real plotscripting. During several scenes your hero is actually standing underneath an overhead tile and a touch NPC with your hero's walkabout is set to "chase you" or one of the turning styles. Thus the character "moves" and then stops upon reaching a certain destination, triggering textboxes and possibly door usage. It's rather ingenious at times.

There are other little touches like NPCs set to "wander" whose four directions are actually all facing the same way, but different poses/expressions; these, then, are walled in to simulate characters having conversations with each other.

This game was the first place I ever heard the Chrono Trigger market theme, and probably several other songs as well. Hearing classic game music for the first time in an old OHR game's compressed BAM versions of possibly-inaccurate VGMusic MIDI covers usually does nothing but sour me to the actual original chiptune if I ever hear it. (I likewise still hate the Mushroom Kingdom town theme in Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars to this day because well...it was already mediocre but a badly botched rip of it absolutely hurt my ears when I played an obscure title called SMASHing Adventure and I can't separate my emotional memory of it).

Leonard is sent to the market by his father to pick up a rare and magical sword and given a generous allowance to do with as he pleases. 100 gold coins would be a small fortune if this wasn't the JRPG genre, where a gold piece is roughly based on a 1980s yen. Why more games don't use a silver or copper standard I'll never understand.

Another big presentation problem: Lots of character dialog is crunched together into shared textboxes without even line breaks, plus the transparent box settings that I loathe to look at so much (they're worse the more airbrushed/intricately pixeled the tiles and sprites they're covering are).

One thing I don't like in a lot of OHR RPGs is when a character asks you to visit his house but there's no real indication of where it is. Yes, in-character it makes sense for his best friend to know which of the dozen white buildings with a red roof is his best friend's house, but players other than the author really need some signposting for this.

There's a box-pushing minigame that nets you three treasure chests (a toy shield, a water gun, and a candy bar). You can also buy more of these prizes with money. There's also a guy who lets you fight disembodied heads of Slippy Toad (that look more like clams) in standard OHR battles, netting yourself experience points and money (then an item that teaches a battle technique). A good assortment of minigames for the total lack of plotscripting available.

For some reason, right after Leonard picks up the expensive sword for his father, the local bullies show up to mug and possibly murder him. Here you're given a false choice:
- Fight them off normally with your own weapons and skill (the "right" choice)
- Fight them off using the high quality sword (it's too heavy for you, so you're using a different sprite to show this and can't land even one attack. This copy of your hero definition lacks the special technique you probably learned from killing Slippy Toad six times. Its only spell/technique uses Level MP of a slot higher than you have access to)

Death is likely if you choose correctly and guaranteed if you think fending off attempted murderers with a proper quality weapon is the right thing to do.

...except of course that Remove Hero was used incorrectly instead of Swap Hero in the textbox conditionals, so thanks to the fancy cutscene shenanigans you wind up not having (or being able to equip) your shield and also having lost your "Super Slic" technique before you can even try it out.

In the unlikely event that you survive childhood, Leonard grows up, his hometown gets burned down, his adult form looks a lot less cool or iconic than in childhood (he wears body armor that consists of a single steel barrel and some oversized pauldrons and doesn't wear a helmet at all resembling a turtle shell...just his generic spiky brown hair).

The game does a lot of nice things in terms of presentation, but really falters at every step of gameplay. It's an impressive tech demo for early OHR, but it's not a fun game to play.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"


Last edited by Ronin Catholic on Sun Sep 20, 2020 2:26 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Ronin Catholic
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2020 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dimensions I
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=103

Out of place Mega Man music on the title screen. Game is from 2002. Low expectations, but I've been surprised recently.

Game starts with the main character's obnoxious friend robbing the local store, then hiding in the woods. Scumbag drags his friend into it and they both complain how the only girl their age follows them around.

"Oh, I had to shoplift candy from the convenience store because I'm poor and can't afford food!" You absolute trashbag, if you're going to use that excuse at least rob vegetables and meat instead of literal luxuries. Or maybe go get a job; with all the work you put into being a parasite it might actually be easier to get wealth through honest work.

Only like eight textboxes in and I already hate one of the main characters. A couple reviews ago I was legitimately interested in weighing the value of wrongfully imprisoned characters killing lawful guards on their way out of prison, not sure if I should root for the man who admitted that as a dock foreman he used to take bribes from the crime lords and only stopped that when faulty equipment they were responsible for killed some of his men. Now I'm complaining that a thief character in an RPG steals during the story; framing and presentation can do a lot.

The game disables caterpillar party for some reason and also uses a script to always bring the main character Austin to the lead. His asymmetrical hair is actually accounted for correctly in his walkabout. His long blonde locks and blue jacket remind me a lot of Kyle from Timestream Saga, but I'm sure that's a case of shared inspiration rather than direct derivation given the release dates.

The grass, dirt, sand, and palm trees are all pretty good looking, but the palm tree trunks made needless use of like five gradient shades of brown when they only really needed two, and there's of course also pointless gradient shading in the water's edges. I'm glad even mediocre newbie games nowadays look better than this.

Battle music is also from Mega Man for no clear reason.

The characters have things other than an attack set as their top command in battles, but not in an interesting way, in an "I can assign !Steal or !ATK +10 to the main characters' weapons and make the Attack command be a random-effects spell list instead, thus making holding down the spacebar on pointless battles a guaranteed death for no reason!" way. Trying to show off uniqueness for the sake of uniqueness even if it makes the game worse, or was there going to be a "Swordcerer" like system of the characters later getting weapons that effectively change their class?

No clue, after fighting some dogs and snakes, Austin and Flogen got eaten by a bee and good riddance.

Imperium
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=102
I've played other games by Chenzi and the sprites in the screenshot look worse than the others so I've got very low expectations here. Will I get a serviceable early game in spite of its presentation shortcomings?

The game starts with a pair of palette swap merchants talking about how "they found the body" (ominous!) and then one of them gets grabbed from behind by a blurry, quick-moving figure. It cuts to "days later" where someone is sitting at a campfire with skulls and some miscellaneous guts strewn about. He talks in the stereotypical barbarian manner (referring to himself in the third person and skipping certain words in a sentence).

"Marconis" is the character's name. I can't say I'm a fan of his fashion, but he does have the excellent taste of his primary weapon being a labrys. His poses are more novel than the usual standing and swinging of most OHR characters and he holds his weapon out in all his frames, but the swing animation itself he uses looks awkward and weird.

I lost to the first boss in three turns. I don't feel like grinding for hours to get my max HP higher so I can actually stand a chance. Boss music is really familiar but I can't place it beyond "Oh, that ripped boss music so many old OHR games used!"
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"


Last edited by Ronin Catholic on Sun Sep 20, 2020 2:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wingedmene
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=101
This is a long one so I know it's the only one I'll be covering this play session, no matter how far I bother to get. I'll preface this with saying that it's one of the first OHR games I played ("serious" or otherwise) and I've always hated it.

It's long and un-fun in its current state and I'm glad we never got the other 75% of it.

The intro starts with going over a world of "energy beings" whose world was dying, so they sent out their three youngest members of their species to seek out a new world. But they would never return (?) and it's not clear if their goal was to find an inhabitable world and report back, but it's said when they're first sent out that everyone knew it was a one-way mission.

The textboxes advance on their own, often too quickly to give even a quick reader like myself time to actually read them. The font is custom and also ugly (usually redundant but it is possible to have a good looking OHR font other than the default; most games with custom fonts just change things for the sake of making them different and pay no mind to visual clarity at all).

The three energy beings have different names, but they're basically Din, Nayru, and Farore from Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (what I think of that change to Zelda's lore is another can of angry worms). Also they have the power to create an entire world, which they do, but in doing so the only one who remembers the way home uses up the energy that contained that exact information in the process (such is the weakness of having your MP and memory-storing cells be one and the same). But if the three youngest members of the energy being race can create worlds, why didn't the adults of their group just make a new world themselves and save the trouble of sending their children out on this voyage? And if everyone knew from the start that this was a one-way journey, why does it even matter that they forgot the way home? How is it that only one of them knew the way home when all three traveled together?

So basically an incompetent race of gods don't realize they can create a world, toss their babies into space, babies do create a world but have no contact with their progenitors to tell them "Hey we've got a new world here". All information I don't actually need as a player and is hard to absorb due to a bad font and automatic textbox advancement in the cutscenes.

We then cut to Wingedmene. Wingedmene has a big pair of bird wings and a lion tail, because he's half griffin. This is cool and distinct looking, but he's also half vampire and the game needs to very specifically call attention to calling him a "DAYWALK VAMPIRE" because vampirism has been associated with a fatal aversion to sunlight ever since the movie Nosferatu hit theaters. Him being a vampire has no bearing on his appearance, personality, or powers; his father could have been a normal human or elf nobleman instead of a vampire and changed literally nothing aside from making the main character a less complicated sort of Heinz Hybrid. This criticism is a double edged sword, I understand, since a lot of my characters are also a mix of four or a dozen or a hundred seemingly disparate elements, but here the combination not only doesn't add anything, it actually subtracts a little.

So maybe I'd have liked Wingedman more if he was just a griffin-man and not a griffin-vampire-but-not-really-a-vampire. Wingedmene's starting weapon is called the "Banta Sword", and it hits all enemies at once for high damage. He won't be keeping it long; colliding mid-flight with an ugly leopard-spotted woman he drops his sword through the clouds and onto the land below. The sword was ugly anyway; it was basically a spanking belt with shark teeth sticking out of it and a sword hilt.

And now after like fifteen minutes of having no control aside from telling Wingedmene to slay an entire battlefield of monsters at once, I finally get to move around, check my equipment, and so forth. The game is full of a bizarre conlang on the menus but seemingly not the main dialog;
Items -> Ita
Equip -> Escip
Level -> Libella
Experience -> Experiri
For Next -> Faran
Exit -> Exire
Fire -> Fior
Small -> Smoel
Gold -> Geolu
Wooden -> Witu
Cap -> Caeppe
Healing -> Haelan
The credits list a "translation" with these perhaps being intentional "oversights" for effect? Or the game originally being in some other, real language I'm not familiar at all with where most words happen to be 80% similar to English as though they were edited from the defaults only enough to look wrong/exotic while still being readable? It's all close enough to "slightly mutated English" that it's what I'm going to assume from here on out.

The town is full of narrow passages and a maze-like design. I eventually find the designated white mage girl of the game, Rell. Rell is subject ot a curse which makes her south-facing walkabout sprite look like a dude with his Johnson out and her side-facing and battle sprites show the even more hideous truth, she's got like some sort of backwards-facing flesh-colored dinosaur torso from her waist down; said body lays (hopefully unfertilized) eggs at such a high pressure and frequency that they serve a projectile weapon, like an even more disgusting version of Yoshi or Birdo. (Or that's the idea; they're actually animated popping out of her BREASTS, not her ovipositor.)

Wingedmene decides he's had enough of his presumably girlfriend and definitely at least friend being depressed because she's been placed under an ugly curse, so he decides he wants to go and fight the person who cursed her. Rell insists that she wants to accompany him to the fight and he voices concerns about her safety; she actively interprets this desire to protect her as a lack of loving her "for being ugly" (I wish I could say this behavior was unrealistic; certainly as an idealistic 16 year old I used to think it was and hate both characters, but this scene is warming me up to Wingedmene a little).

For unclear reasons, Wingedmene arbitrarily conceals from Rell that he's lost his fancy magic sword. I always hated this as A) I can see from a mile away the conflict it might set up for later and B) it's a pointless lie because he's what, embarrassed to admit in front of a girl that he dropped it? Another thing I wish I could say was unrealistic behavior rather than being realistic but frustrating.

Getting from one side of town to another on foot involves walking through Rell's house, up her stairs, across a walkway, down some stairs in someone else's house...what a mess, this town needs more bridges.

Eww...Rell's dead pose looks like an oozing willy instead of just a limp one. I do know why I never caught on to this as a teenager but I really can't guess as to how accidental this is. Did nobody else notice? Was this visual appearance intentional to drive home how disgusting the curse is? I can't imagine both Komera AND Rinku didn't catch on to how bad this looks.

Rell suffers from the problem a lot of OHR mages do: She's extremely easy to kill and there's no meaningful way for the tankier party members to divert attacks from her to themselves. She has about a third as much HP as Wingedmene and even with a Ribbon item that only changes random enemies from "auto-kill by looking at you funny" to "bring you down by 80% of your max health and maybe attack again right away".

OF COURSE the inn is buried all the way in the most remote corner of the poorly laid out maze town. There's also lots of buildings that are nothing but a pointless dead end with decorative beds, pots, and unopenable treasure chests and bookshelves that don't even offer flavor text. From here on out I'm using debugging keys to walk through walls. How is it that joke games I made like A Newbie's Quest got the idea that inns should be easily accessible right but this "big, serious" RPG makes you basically solve a dungeon in order to get from the place where the random battles are to where you heal?

The random enemies right now are imps, gray imps, and creepy red monstrosities with wide gaping mouths. Sound familiar? Yeah, the game basically just tosses the FF1 bestiary at you, though the Creep is at least drawn pretty well.

Some shops have humanoid shopkeepers running them, others have quadrupedal bunnies with three ears. Why's Rell worried about the aesthetics of having a creepy backwards dinosaur dingle for a butt? This society seems pretty accepting of a lot of different body configurations.

After a few levels, Wingedmene learns his first spell: Rufus. This spell targets a single enemy at random because Komera and Rinku wanted to get visually fancy and made it show him charging up with fire energy on himself before throwing it. So if you're fighting multiple enemies but some of them resist or absorb fire? Don't waste time with your magic, you can't aim a spell the way you can aim a knife - but at the same time, you also can't use it for crowd control because it's single target. Honestly this spell should've just been spread, even if its damage was lower. That or make the attack consist of three parts: Selecting the target, then the buildup animation, then attacking the target.

Rell has tons of MP and a cheap healing spell, but her attack power is about 1/5 of Wingedmene's and her accuracy is about half (so he misses about once in 16 times or so while she misses more than half the time). A cripplingly overspecialized white mage.

Next, Rell learns a spell she can use to heal enemies instead of allies. It's probably meant as an anti-undead attack, which means she might have very limited offensive capabilities against a single type of foe. Nothing about the name "Sramu" really implies it (the name Haelan for her healing spell was obvious enough, and "Rufus" is a word meaning "red", which is a color often associated with flames and high temperatures in general and the R and F sounds kinda feel appropriate for a fwoosh of of fire or flame) and this game was made at least half a decade before spell descriptions were added. Or would they be called Spoelle Dasucraptini?

Even though I spent like 20 minutes grinding money to get all the best armors in the town, they do crap all. +3 or +4 DEF in a game where you're running near 100 HP by level 3 and enemies have attack power enough to bring you down in three or four hits regardless...

Also Rinku was so proud of a script this game had behind the scenes to rubber band its difficulty, making itself harder if you don't die against bosses or whatever. RPGs are not a genre for rubber banding like a racing game, they're one of rewarding planning, preparation, and solid tactical thinking; buying or skipping upgrades is the first, grinding for money experience and supplies is the second, and actually controlling what your characters do with their in-battle turns is the last of these. Every element of this you strip away from the core of the RPG makes it less and less an example of its genre, and if you mess with something like taking away targeting controls or the like you'd better have a reason for it that justifies it.

So while my opinions of the game have shifted just a tiny bit from this recent playing of it, it's still overall a strong negative. I hate Wingedmene as a character just slightly less because of his willingness to first try to live with his girlfriend being cursed before resorting to violence and then to confront the villain (whose name is full of apostrophes for some reason) because he loves her.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"


Last edited by Ronin Catholic on Sun Sep 20, 2020 2:46 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
Location: My Girlfriend

PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2020 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tilde and the Mask of Raspberry!
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=100
Merry Christmas! I briefly remember playing this over a decade ago and don't remember my exact feelings. Personally I don't like when stories needlessly cast Saint Nicholas as the antagonist; much better is having jolly old Father Christmas dispense tough love from time to time (slapping heretics with the back of his hand, putting lumps of coal in kids' damp socks so they need to spend some of their time on Christmas day cleaning them out instead of playing with new toys or eating delicious nuts). Just because he's a good guy doesn't mean he has to be all niceness and smiles; in fact, I'd never trust someone who never gets angry.

It's an interesting choice to show a screenshot of the attack editor instead of gameplay or the title screen as most do. This was back when CUSTOM didn't support F12 screenshots, so the devs had to actively hit PRINTSCREEN, exit the editor, open a graphics program, and paste from the clipboard. That's a lot of work so Rinku and Harlock must've been really eager to show off these three attack sprites in particular.

My general experiences are that Rinku usually makes games I don't like and Harlock generally makes games I do like, so trying this out I have mixed expectations and feelings already. Nice version of Jingle Bells on the title screen, but that's a Thanksgiving song, not Christmas.

I open the game and start in the DEBUGGING ROOM, full of staircases and blueprints. So this wasn't really meant as a game so much as a tech demo at the time? DEBUGGING ROOM continues the music from the title screen.

The custom font's letters are at least readable in all caps, but the numbers are ugly and difficult to parse. All the standard text strings seem to be customized. The maptiles seem to all be nicely drawn and clearly readable.

Ooof, walking around in the "debugging room" can trigger random battles, including what are presumably mid and late game fights that instantly kill Tilde. He faces towards the screen for reasons I don't find immediately obvious - pretty sure Rinku and Harlock would both know enough about the OHR and about Final Fantasy to have him face left unless this was a very specific artistic choice.

Battle mechanics are...not good. Like And& (which I'll get to later) your lone hero will fight against multiple foes, but which one you attack is determined by roulette; it's not standard choice and it doesn't consistently aim for the closest/first target available (which to be fair weren't really options back then). This was also the problem I had with Wingedmene's fire spell yesterday: low power and lack of control. Only here it's your main (effectively only) ability.

Restarting and walking into the first staircase, I see some nice animations of elves working on toys and decorations in Santa's Workshop.

The elves have various palettes and all seem to share Tilde's sprites for the most part. I've been handed the least distinct-looking Christmas elf to the point that I had trouble finding where I was onscreen. I can spot at least four elves wearing the exact same color combination with only a minor hair color difference (or in one case, a welding mask) to tell them apart, meanwhile there are two elves with a green-focused color scheme, one in purple, and one in black. If the idea is that they're all dressed in uniform, why are there so many unique-looking color variants in the NPCs, with the main player character aggressively plain?

The elf named Eleven (presumably a manager) slaps Tilde after repeatedly referring to him as "ilf" which in context seems to mean novice and/or young. During the backdrop showing the slap, the two are wearing brown instead of red.

This version of Santa has clearly been drinking Marxist flavor-aid instead of actually caring about the true Christmas Spirit. His idea of the "true spirit of Christmas" is for a single able-bodied person to pull a sleigh carrying such dead weight as a witch (who is whipping him), and that while it's selfish for the able-bodied person not to actively support all the "unable" (some of whom just look thuggish and lazy rather than actually unfit) or to want to make or keep any fruits of his labor for himself it's somehow not selfish in his eyes to sit around leeching off the hard work of others and actively trying to make them miserable. What a horrendous character, exactly what we need in a villain but why would this villain be Santa Claus? There's not a single form of socialism compatible with Christian values, and in fact it's the culling of traditional Christians that are usually the first target in a big leftist takeover of a country.

Oh wow, this is a dark elven society...you're tested on remembering the favorite fruit, color, and type of chocolate candy for every other elf in the workshop (Tilde remarks that he doesn't even know his own favorites). What a dystopian nightmare of fake, surface-level charity and empathy - this is actually even better satire now than it was twenty years ago. But again I have to wonder, aside from this game being made for a Christmas contest why is any of this being associated with Santa Claus and Christmas stuff?

Also, spider pit execution. Because why theme it around Christmas or the North Pole at all when you can draw giant spiders instead?

The titular Mask of Raspberry! makes Tilde invisible and brightens up the palette. There's seemingly some scripting going on that's supposed to change your sprite between states but it's not working as intended on newer versions of the engine; I do remember this mechanic and how it makes the already tedious fights even worse if it's on.

Tilde has a battle command called "Rally" that boosts his Attack and Speed. However there's a significant chance that instead of swinging his hammer on a given turn he'll just...not? His default attack is (hammer icon)75% and a 25% chance of simply doing nothing sounds about right. So not only do you have no target control, you just have a flat out one in four chance of doing nothing instead. Lovely.

Tilde starts with no armor or hat, so he loots those off the recently executed Cilde. There were a lot of opportunities during those 20ish minutes of intro cutscenes to add a hat and uniform to the inventory and force equip them (though seriously, we need "base armor" already).

...several steps later, Tilde's outfit colors change from red and green to green and dark gray. Also he learns to summon Ampersand from an item, which acts as a spread attack at the cost of level MP.

Fights against 3-4 the same spider sprite with three palettes are getting obnoxious. Switching to F7 mode.

And just a couple minutes later I find a staircase upward that leads to me being locked in a single space with no way back downstairs and nothing to interact with. I need to hit F11 to walk through walls and trigger the next part of the story.

Some vague evil business type guy called Mr. Strand is talking with Santa about how the elves are making too many "Nice" toys and not enough "Naughty" toys. These are elves, not bad dragons, Mr. Strand- oh, you mean toys that are secretly weapons, like acid-squirting water pistols and jackhammers in the box. Okay then.

And there's a worldwide famine.

Santa's list is on something called a "DVVD drive" which was on a "DWD drive" before then and a "DVD drive" before that. DVDs themselves were relatively new when this game was made and wouldn't fully replace VHS tapes for almost half a decade, so having two replacement formats for them when we haven't really had a proper replacement for them yet is kinda silly. Since there's mention of a "New Canada" as one of the starving nations, I guess this game takes place in the future.

Stepping outside I'm immediately met with "robot snowmen" who rapidly kill me. Not going to bother reloading this time.

Overall verdict: The game is an interesting tech demo with some bits of clever satire, and some of the pixel art (the elves, the floor and wall tiles) is really good but some of it (the snowmen, Santa) is pretty bad and the gameplay is worse.

Autumn Dream
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=97
This is a game I'm fairly familiar with. It's legitimately trying to be a normal, serious RPG and is hindered more by its author having an idea of when a character should get a line (timing) but not having any ideas for what they should say (content). So you've got a weird juxtaposition between fairly serious and dramatic moments with competent (if basic) plotscripting, but the characters just giggle between ellipses instead of actually saying something.

The game is Autumn Dream: Legend of the Golden Sword but I always remember the Autumn Dream itself being more of an orange bronze color...weird.

The game opens with a generic dude with spiky brown hair, a green shirt, and blue pants on the edge of a cliff. He is slowly approached by two side-stepping dudes in black jumpsuits with red scarves sidling towards him.

After easily dispatching the goons, the villain gives him an ultimatum to hand over the sword or die. When throwing the sword off the cliff, instead of saying something defiant or just standing silent and letting his actions speak louder than his words, he says "He, he, he." A minor presentation quibble, but dozens or hundreds of them over the course of a product can add up.

Also, the sword's blade is more like a spoon or shovel in shape - it flares out, but the flaring is both really wide and really smooth. This is a shape you'd expect from a club, not a blade; I understand the kind of fantasy sword it's trying to resemble, but it doesn't look that good.

LOL, the game makes a single harmonica toot as the music stinger for this good guy (the actual main hero's father) to be killed. Way to undercut your drama with misplaced comedy!

The hero is named Keero. Keero because it rhymes with "hero". He is the same sprite as his father, but with a blue jacket to match his pants and a white shirt.

This game was one of the earliest competent examples I'm aware of for using the heroes' walkabouts as their battle sprites. Because weapon handles weren't customizable yet, characters bounce way to the right of their sprite box for frame A of the attack and all the way to the other side for frame B (it was either that or grow Mr. Fantastic arms). I can always remember the titular Autumn Dream but the characters themselves don't really leave much of an impression.

Keero is trained by his sword fighting master, an elderly man named Lew. They live in a forest that is competently tiled; things all fit nicely onto a grid, which contrary to the popular wisdom in this community's artists until around 2009 is not an inherently bad thing because it makes it a lot clearer what is a wall and what is a floor; "de-grid" things and people will instinctively wonder why they're using tile movement instead of pixel movement.

Ooof, spoke a little too soon. The table in Keero's house has a weirdly inconsistent wallmap - you can stand over the upper right corner, upper left corner is overhead, lower left corner is overhead, lower right corner isn't overhead...you can walk through the bottom two tiles left and right but can't walk through the upper half from the side. So the forest is tiled pretty well (upper halves of the big dead trees should've been overhead instead of walls but that's about it), the inside of the house isn't.

Master Lew teaches Keero about experience, leveling up, learning new techniques, and the fact that techniques are stronger than basic attacks in a sufficiently organic way to also teach players about these mechanics. It's awkward and stilted in-universe and it seems weird that taking a certain number of swings at an old man teaches you to make a cross-shaped sword swing and an old man would know exactly how many times you need to do this when you're 17 years old and have been training for years, but it's an acceptable break from reality.

The Autumn Dream is made out of dragon's blood and has the power to raise the dead. I always remember that raising the dead part - it's one of the cooler and more unique magic weapons in OHR history, all told.

Keero's mom has blue hair. I kinda have to wonder why he doesn't - that'd have been pretty generic JRPG stuff but it'd make it a lot clearer that he's not an exact carbon copy of his father (inheriting his dad's spiky hairstyle and his mom's exotic hair color to add up to a default hero appearance).

There's a boss fight with a ninja named Flick. Here's where a gameplay shortcoming comes up: The Cross technique is simply 3-4x as strong as a basic sword swing with no downside beyond a non-zero MP cost, and you've got plenty of MP and won't run out of it during a single fight. This adds up to mean there's no reason not to use it every time...which in turn means there's no reason for it to be in a menu instead of just replacing your original attack. This is why a lot of old OHR games where the heroes have literally no option aside from "Attack" and "Item" can still wind up fun just with attack power going up via new weapons or level up - it's mechanically the same as learning more and more powerful attacks, but more convenient to the player not to have a menu full of obsolete options. Higher MP costs, elemental effects, different accuracy or delay settings, and different damage settings/attack and defense stat calculations can all play a role in making "special techniques" something other than literally just a normal attack that might not even be stronger.

Even though you win the fight (Game Over if you lose the fight) the plot demands you die anyway. This is absolutely crapterrible - don't give the player any control of the battle if victory still means losing! Don't require victory for the plot to advance only to make loss the direction the plot goes; this only makes it clearer that you wanted to make an anime or a fanfic instead of an actual game. You could have Flick sucker punch Keero without any chance at a fight, or make Flick strong enough to win in one turn at the only available in-game level instead of making him die after about ten turns of wailing on him with a high damage attack only to pull victory out of his gashole and have the events scripted to keep going on after the player loses the battle - this is something even Final Fantasy 2 on Famicom got right.

Keero's ghost winds up in some fat guy's house. The fat guy is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and has the ability to talk to ghosts; the author doesn't care about the fat guy so he never gets fleshed out. He wields a frying pan in battle and has no combat options (not even something like a food/cooking themed White Mage spell list or some powers related to his ability to sense ghosts, again because the author doesn't really care about this sidekick).

I've played enough of this to refresh my memory of this game. I will mention one more touch I liked: You're supposed to keep the fact that you have the Autumn Dream a secret so that the main bad guy won't take it from you once you get it, so if you equip it while you're in a town various NPCs in the town will attack you to try to take it from you.

The shading on Master Lew's bald head changes between his two left/right walking frames. Would've been an easy three pixels to catch and fix...

And in closing: Never try to make me take the dramatic death of a character seriously in a game with resurrection magic easily available via items and/or spells without explaining why certain types of death are irrevocable. Aeris's death in FF7 will never be a good, dramatic, or well-written moment so long as it's tied to the game mechanics of FF7 and its Life spells and Phoenix Down items. Likewise none of the deaths in Final Fantasy 4 (most of the which just get revoked anyway).
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
Location: My Girlfriend

PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2020 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ARFENHOUSE 3
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=94
Ah yes, formerly the premiere OHRRPGCE comedy game. I'll always have a soft spot for this game; its "good" graphics don't hold up at all, but the intentionally bad ones like Balogna Man, Housemaster himself, the faces of characters that serve as their walkabouts, and the single-color maptiles actually all still hold up as showing (even if unintentionally) good pixel art practices.

Whatever game Misteroo was originally going to make (with Joe as the antagonist) it wouldn't have been remembered very well; it'd have been an unremarkable flash in the pan like the Neo Krysta series or Fantasy Under a Blue Moon if people even bothered to download it at all. This series is only good at the things it tries to be bad at ("Billy's" pixel art and writing) and mediocre at the things it tries to be good at (Joe's sprites and dialog, the SPAYS CHIP's tileset) with the humor being extremely hit or miss. The game is also sometimes too hard for its own good - that is, the joke is that the gameplay is bad, but the joke on a battle by battle level usually lingers too long.

The game begins with a funny parody of the first Legend of Zelda's opening crawl. Housemaster and Pikachu/Piakchu/Pikahcu out in a grassy field being pursued by a giant can of Pringles. Housemaster's appearance is iconic, and Pikahcu is actually kinda cute (his tail looks more like an actual mouse's than a Pikachu's). This is the game that establishes Housemaster as having a slice of white bread for a head; in the first two games his appearance was implied to be that of a poorly drawn human (his sprite isn't any different from before).

Housemaster and Pikahcu both use electricity; Housemaster's electric spell is weaker than his physical attack and so far as I'm aware no enemy actually has a weakness to electricity as an element. Pikahcu's default attack is Housemaster's electric spell and his special attack is a spread 100 damage of electricity divided among all the enemies, and being the only reliable spread attack in the game continues to prove useful throughout the game just for dealing with large numbers of enemies; Pikahcu is a glass cannon however and doesn't have his max HP increase by the same hundreds as the rest of the cast.

Next we're introduced to Joseph, the "straight man" and designated butt of other characters' jokes/ire. In the animated series where there's voice acting him playing off the other characters can be really funny, but in the game it's trite and a little grating. He's a "better" sprite than the others only in the sense that he's humanoid instead of just being a face outside of battle and he has more colors (two shades of blue on his jacket you need to squint to tell apart, multiple shades of gray for his shirt and hair, multiple shades of green for his camoflage pants). His in-battle poses are all still stiff; in fact, the base poses of Housemaster and Pikachu are both more dynamic and visually interesting because flat colors and high saturation are not at all the same thing as bad pixel art or weak silhouettes. He shows the contrast between Misteroo's "shitpost" pixel art (simplistic but basically competent) and his "serious" pixel art from the time (just plain mediocre, and would have been lost in the sea of similar mediocre OHR games like the Dimensions series I've already covered in my reviews). It's been about 20 years of course, so I'm sure if he still made anything it'd be leagues better by now.

Joe underlines another problem with this game's presentation: The writing. Housemaster and friends are depicted as talking in all caps with occasional number replacements for letters, intentional misspellings, overabundance of exclamation points (and sometimes 1s mixed in to showcase laziness with the shift key). However, the "good" dialog isn't really much better - the fact that there's intentionally-bad writing only makes the unintentionally-bad writing in the "good" boxes more glaring. In his very first textbox of the game Joe/Joseph is called "Joeseph" before his colon.

JOESEPH: "Hell no-- you guys are on your own, this time. I don't want to put up with your... words."

Notice that not only is his name misspelled (and not in another character's dialog) but also there's that actively detrimental comma. This is the first "good" dialog of the game. I'm not going to go over and highlight every single mistake like this through the rest of the game but even if it was the only case, it'd still be a pretty bad one.

Joe refuses to join Housemaster and Pikahcu on their journey, so they ask Evil Kitty (the final boss of the first two Arfenhouse games) to join. This game is always pushed as the starting point for the series to the point that the first two games aren't even included as "bonus content" in this one's ZIP folder or anything, but the context that Evil Kitty is the villain of the previous games and so her joining at the drop of a hat doesn't even have fake suspense/meaning like it normally would. Granted, lots of "serious" amateur OHR games have had the problem of expecting you to be aware of things outside the game's context, in-jokes between the author and his personal friends or other stories he's made but never published anywhere, that sort of thing. All you need to know is that Kitty is a photograph of a real cat, highly contrasting against the bright pixel art of Housemaster and Pikahcu and for the time being she's an antagonist working alongside the heroes because she doesn't want her planet destroyed by the Ocmet comet.

Evil Kitty is vastly more powerful than the other two, fitting for her final boss status. Twice as much HP, higher attack power, and a more diverse movepool (BAT!!! doing about 200 damage to Housemaster's 30 and Pikahcu's 100 and CYUR being able to heal infinitely as it costs no MP).

Next we run into Team Rocket, my favorite encounter in the game. They want to steal Housemaster's Pikahcu entirely because Team Rocket in the anime want to steal Ash's Pikachu and in the Watsonian sense this game is supposed to be made by a 7 year old (which doesn't make much sense/has disturbing implications later). It's not the last Pokemon reference in the game, but it's got pretty good comedic timing; I love how the Team Rocket motto is truncated with two partially complete lines running into each other as if the entire thing had been transcribed into three textboxes but the one in the middle was accidentally skipped over, going straight to the end as soon as it begins.
PREPAIR FOR TRUBBEL!!!
AND MAYK IT DUBBLE!!!
2 PROTECT THE WERLD FROM SPEED OV LITE!!!
SURRENDER NOW OR PREPARE 2 FITE!

After we beat Team Rocket, it's all downhill from here. We cut to the inside of a space ship where there's a Commander taking orders from DOG (one of Evil Kitty's minions from Arfenhouse 2) - dialog indicates that the dog was somehow put in charge to help destroy the planet and is somehow still in charge even after they find the world to be inhabited. How and why would this retarded dog (slightly redundant) be placed in a position of authority over the mission's actual commander? Not really elaborated on. Also all the tiles here have that problem I've seen in so many other OHR games of the era: Just slather things in the entire gradient, that's a substitute for giving them interesting shapes alright. There's also a bunch of generic, interchangeable soldiers who are all basically just a slightly worse version of Joe.

Wow, despite the game having a literal housecat in it, the "REALISTIC" HUMAN MILITARY COMMANDER is the biggest pussy around.
DOG: GET THE EHL OFF MY SHIP
COMMANDER: It's our ship.
DOG: ITS MYNE! I KILL U
COMMANDER: Everyone get off the ship. That's an order, I guess.

Freaking really? I'm supposed to buy this loser as a credible leader of any sort? The comedy fails here because it doesn't depict a rational human being interacting with a world of crazy, it decided ahead of time that it wanted to make jokes showcasing Dog as a bad leader and worked backwards to get there against all logic. If he was in any way in charge, he'd not have let the dog even have semblance of authority for the sake of "helping" him direct a comet to destroy an uninhabited world (which is already an illogical and poorly established motive).

Boarding the ship, Evil Kitty proclaims it "LOOX LIEK SHIT!!!" and I actually rather agree. The joke is supposed to be that she's used to the "bad" art of the rest of the Arfenhouse world so "good" RPG art assets look ugly by her standards, but actually as I've been saying for a while, the "bad" pixel art (character heads, monsters, Housemaster and Pikahcu) actually still hold up but the "good" graphics were only ever mediocre. They're just gradients for the sake of using lots of palette colors and walls sometimes bleed into floors because there's only 18 grays on the default OHR palette so when you put a wall using the lightest 12 next to a floor using the darkest 12 in a predictable pattern it doesn't necessarily look the clearest.

I honestly can't tell if the "guards" (who don't resemble the green soldiers from the cutscene, but match the color scheme of the singular Commander) have flat red hair or round red helmets, again because the "good" art is only mediocre. They are once again just gradiented to heck and back; no real mind to their poses, visual clarity, or even lighting. The blue of their wrist bands is the same as the blue of the floor in the battle backdrop, and several shades of gray are also shared between their guns/uniforms and the floor. This kind of practice is what put me off from learning to shade at all for so many years: People would cite trash like this as "good" art while disparaging anything with flat colors regardless of the SHAPE of the objects, the most important part to convey.

The spaceship guards are also a needless difficulty spike. They do 30-40 damage and come in groups of 3-5. Sure, the regular HEEL item and CYUR spell work on the dead and are unlimited in supply, but the former only does a decent amount of healing if used by Pikahcu rather than someone else and he's the most fragile character. Basically, it's easy to get wiped out for no reason. Since there's zero enemy VARIETY in here (just endless waves of a single guy standing in a single pose with a raised arm and shooting his gun at me) it's less interesting than the outside world, where I was fighting Squiggle, Balonee Man, and Mah Freen Amy (all of which are better drawn, too).

The generic green soldiers have either blue helmets or blue hair and it's the same shade(s) of blue as the checkered floor, and their armored pauldrons also match the floor which makes it look like their arms are disembodied Rayman style limbs floating at their sides. A checkered floor is not impressive just because you used 12 shades each of blue and gray and it's at a 45 degree angle from the grid.

Because Housemaster and friends are stupid, they forget their target is a comet and fly the ship to the moon instead. The commander points this out but being the weenie he is, allows them to waste time and resources flying to the moon instead of the comet because he's an absolute pushover who has no business being in any sort of military or paramilitary.

Summary of the rest of the game without replaying it:
- On the moon there's a giant pair of boobs done in pixel art. The in-universe author character is supposed to be 7, not 12.
- Housemaster and Evil Kitty have premarital sex. Again, this is a game allegedly made by a 7 year old boy.
- The moon has a cave with a series of pointless bosses; one is an action figure whose action button was put on his butt, so this makes him a homosexual action figure.
- Housemaster's mother died in some tragic but unreadable incident possibly involving a zoo panda. His father is an evil toaster.
- One of the bosses on the moon is a fat black woman named Jehova. I don't understand how any of this is supposed to be funny except maybe as a dig at the trite and always-bad-really-even-when-it-was-new JRPG trope of fighting a final boss who evokes Judeo-Christian angelic/Godly imagery for no reason beyond the Japanese devs not understanding (or understanding and hating) organized religion.
- Housemaster has to travel through the Lost Woods to collect the Housemaster Sword in a sequence that's actually a fairly funny reference to Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
- Richard Nixon, referred to as "The Giant of My Butt" shows up. What 7 year old-in-2002 Billy could have against Richard Nixon who hadn't been relevant in several decades I can't even guess. I think the teenage-to-young-adult Misteroo just wanted to call Richard Nixon a butt and there's no deeper connection than that.
- Housemaster and friends go to Billy's Castle to fight the ELIOT FOUR, four unrelated photos of people. SNAIK MAN is the only funny one because he's a reference to something relevant to 80s and 90s gamer nerd culture: Snake Man from Mega Man 3. Not a good, clever, or deep reference, just a photo of a man handling a snake referred to with the name of a Mega Man boss who is a robot designed to look like a man in a snake costume.
- Housemaster kicks the 7 year old Billy into the Groin Kick Dimension, saving the day. Billy is supposedly the author of this game (which to be fair, lots of OHR devs like me and Red Maverick Zero have cast ourselves as the main villains of our own games from time to time; I think this "parody" version predates those though?)
- All the major characters of the game get married at the end. Some of the pairings are gay, and Jessie and James of Team Rocket are treated as a single person and "married" to a third. This was audacious in the early 2000s...how much the culture has shifted that now people will take umbrage at me saying I disapprove because it's quite frankly disgusting to equate anything two people of the same gender can do in the bedroom with the potentially person-generating bonding of a man and a woman.

My ultimate words on Arfenhouse: Amount of time and effort put into something doesn't need to at all relate to quality of the finished product; the gradient shaded and badly posed "good" graphics are uglier than the "bad" doodles using the top 16 colors of the master palette and flat single-color maptiles. Long, drawn-out comedy games tend to lose the punch of their humor after an act or two and should strive to generally be over faster than this one was or else to be legitimately fun, solidly designed games with a comedic overlay.

And all that said, I'm still not ashamed that I wrote Arfenhouse fanfiction at the age of 19.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
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'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
Location: My Girlfriend

PostPosted: Sun Sep 13, 2020 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Training Engine
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=92
A really quick one that's insanely easy to review. It's a single tiny room with a playable character and some non-threatening random battles. Since the designer's description says it's to help newbies figure out the engine, that means this is an early example of a WELCOME.RPG like Vikings of Midgard and TutOHRial.

For a WELCOME.RPG made in a single hour it's not too bad I guess.

To Kill a Mockingbird
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=91
Oh hey, it's that book all you public school kids were forced to read for homework, but I was able to avoid. I have no familiarity with this story aside from the name so I have no idea what to expect here, and despite it having been on the gamelist basically forever I didn't see it for the first time until a few weeks ago.

Title screen has like...a ball of yarn and a stopwatch in a tree's knothole? Is this symbolism? Foreshadowing? No title screen music. The Monheart Games logo flashes a little too fast. Cat mascot is kinda cute but it was hard to read in 0.4 seconds.

Oh, so not only is it a game based on a novel, it's specifically based on part of the fifth chapter. That's certainly not going to get confusing!

The game keeps panning over a town made of mediocre but not at all bad maptiles depicting some sort of rural town. People are babbling incoherently about Baptists. No dialog is being attributed to character names.

Now about twenty textboxes into a conversation we're getting character attributions to the quotes? Dialog seems pretty inane.
MISS MAUDIE: "...Thank you, ma'am. Thing is, foot-washers think women are a sin by definition. They take the bible literally, you know."

What the freak is this meaningless dribble? Those are two completely unrelated subjects; nothing about 'taking the Bible literally' leads to believing 'women are a sin by definition' though the former can sometimes be taken to an extreme and the latter can easily be twisted out of extremely selective re-interpretations of select passages. Taking the Bible absolutely blunt-faced literally in absolutely all cases can lead to some awkward things like believing the Earth has four literal (rather than figurative) corners and the sky is a dome/tent fabric spread out in a very literal way (rather than the spreading of a tent being a metaphor). I happen to take more of the Bible literally than is typical for a Roman Catholic but, autismo supremo though I may be, I can still recognize metaphor, allegory, and poetic speech when necessary (the Genesis account of creation is literal, the Psalms, Proverbs, Book of Wisdom, and Book of Revelations are full of the latter).

I can't rate this adaptation on faithfulness to the original work, and I can't know from this context if this is an example of something the characters believe falsely but realistically (Deep South tended to be full of sanctimonious people trying to enforce a very specific brand of outward religiosity on others for a few centuries, after all, regardless of how well it matched Scripture) but the author knows better.

I can't imagine any good reason to have chosen to adapt the back half of the fifth chapter of a book into a sequence of OHRRPGCE textboxes and slow camera pans. I can, however, still call out bad theology for what it is. Was this just someone trying to get fancy with his book report for school, or did the game maker man think this dialog was particularly riveting and wanted to share it with those of us lucky enough not to have been forced to read it in school?

I also don't get why there's no music to this, not even a simple pleasant ambiance like Green or Westport or The Four Seasons. "Miss Maudie" flickers a bit when she's supposed to be laughing. So maybe this is just supposed to be showing off the RPG making person's plotscripting prowess? That's probably going to be a theme with "games" I don't like going forward: All flash and no substance. Only here the dialog isn't even original; I'm just watching a middle aged woman have a long string of textboxes with a young child as the camera pans around to show off the tiles?

Hitting Alt, instead of bringing up the menu, pops up a simple two-option choice. "Are you quitting?"
"Yes, it sucks."
"No, I'll continue."

So my answer is C ("All the above!"), it sucks but I'm continuing for a bit anyway.

The neighborhood kids conspire to get the lonely old shut-in who is rumored to eat a diet of housecats to come out of his house. YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN! Pissed off!

In short, I wish literally anything in this game was as good as the in-game sidewalk and grass.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"
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Ronin Catholic
Deadliest of Fairies




Joined: 23 Jul 2007
Posts: 501
Location: My Girlfriend

PostPosted: Mon Sep 14, 2020 5:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Time Flies
http://www.castleparadox.com/gamelist-display.php?game=89
Oh boy, another game I liked! How does it hold up after all these years?

This game has a custom font, but for once it's actually decent looking. All the edges of the letters are made slightly pointier and the numbers are big and bold, but all is clearly readable so I don't think it's a bad custom font like most others to use one so far.

We start with a shadowy evil emperor giving orders to his six minions: SOLDIER IN RED, SOLDIER IN BLUE, and four guys in black/dark gray uniforms. The walkabouts are drawn clearly and effectively; the only real criticism I'd give of the out of battle graphics is that everyone's feet have rounded off outlines; either not putting outline pixels on the undersides of the feet or putting one or two pixels at the corners would both have looked much better.

We next cut to a teenager named Zack, wearing a red baseball cap, blue jacket, and bluejeans. Zack is a sword-wielder with magical fire powers (he has the spells Flame and FlmWall at the outset). His weapon of choice is pretty basic for an RPG protagonist, but when we get to the game's time travel aspect things will get a bit confusing. It's Zack's birthday so we're going to travel around his doomed hometown and get birthday presents from his parents and neighbors.

Zack begins fully equipped with some denim and leather equipment, thanks to some use of a script to add these to him before the player first gets control. Always appreciated.

From his parents, Zack recieves 100 Deks (the currency) and a compass. The compass is given as a gift because his desire is to go out and see the world, so they're also giving him permission to leave. I like when a protagonist actually has the call to adventure instead of being thrust into the game's fun against his wishes.

From the neighbors, Zack gets a bottle of root beer, 50 Deks, and 5 Deks. He's a little snotty about the last of these but tries not to say it to the face of the person who gave him some money for literally nothing and could as easily have just given him nothing. Also, there's a candy store that gives him one free sample but charges 5-6000 Deks for things like taffy or licorice...impossible purchases at this point of the game and definitely not worth it. RPG economies are always broken, it seems; cheap, commonplace candies worth thousands of currency and high-quality steel weaponry and armor worth fives to dozens.

The potion shop (which sells root beer and cola but nothing else) proclaims itself to be offering a birthday discount to Zack. Can of cola: 10 Deks. Chocolate bar: 8000 Deks. Okay, I think the candy salesman is just plain a scammer, trying to sell small lumps of cheap sugar for as much as a car. There's also no option to buy the very cotton candy he's specifically given as a "free sample" - what's the point of giving a free sample of the one type of ware you aren't selling?

Root beer can be drank between fights but candy can only be eaten in battle apparently? If anything it should be the other way around: Drinks working in and out of battle but food working out of battle only.

Zack's friend Kento gives him 20 Deks and joins the party. He also has a quest: Somebody's cat wandered off into the monster-infested woods near town. Kento begins with a morningstar flail (incorrectly named/described as "a sturdy mace") and a broad sword equipped as his body armor, boosting his Attack (looking over the script files, it looks like he's supposed to have cotton clothing of some sort, not a sword; something must've been programmed wrong and never updated). Were I to change him to the clothes instead of the sword, his attack would drop from 15 to 8, his DEF would rise to 3, and his already-fast Speed of 21 would rise to 26. I think the higher offenses are worth more here.

Kento's mom keeps saying "Kento is upstairs in his room" even after he joins the party.

The overworld is labeled "8oo AD" but Zack is dressed in contemporary clothing, living in a town with a hydroelectric power supply and working electricity, modern plumbing and furniture, and a thriving soft drink industry and maybe a luxury candy industry as well. Why not have this be like 1980 AD or 199X AD or 1969 AD? At first I thought maybe this was a shallow Chrono Trigger reference, but that game's timeline uses relatively sane time progression by comparison. Things will get worse when Time in fact Flies later on.

30 minutes of play and I've barely stepped onto the overworld. Good gravy do a lot of these games drag in the beginning...

In the forest, we fight bat-winged spear-wielding rabbits called "Leefas" and vaguely spidery-looking arthropods called "gubs" ("grub"? "bug" spelled backwards?). This isn't the only game where I've seen rabbits referred to as "leafers" but I've never seen this term OUTSIDE the context of OHRRPGCE terms. Is it obscure slang from Southern states I can't find via Googling? A reference to some game or anime I'm not familiar with? An OHRRPGCE community inside joke from 2003 that I can't find any reference to on the forums? It's hard to tell. Zack is drawn with a sword actually on his hero sprite, but Kento isn't drawn holding a slack flail during his idle poses. Why the inconsistency?

Enemy encounters are triggered from touch NPCs on the field and use a script instead of a textbox. The screen flashes red a couple times, ten you're fighting the enemies. I've honestly never been a huge fan of this style over plain old random encounters, but I understand why it's done when it is and appreciate it not being done badly here.

The forest map has EMPTY treasure chests. This is the first dungeon of the game and already I'm finding woefully incomplete things; I bet if the Leefa/Gub battles were triggered as random encounters the NPC for the treasure chest would've been defined and placed down.

Both Zack and Kento are killing all the random enemies in one hit despite Kento's having easily twice as much attack power, so I'm just removing his equipment altogether. I already know he's a temporary party member, and the clear amount of less effort put into his sprite would hint at this anyway even if this wasn't like my fourth or fifth playthrough. Planned encounter enemies near the START of the forest were coming in formations of 3 and those near the boss are coming in groups of 2 instead. Dungeons are supposed to get harder as they get deeper, not easier. You're placing these encounters by hand, think these things through (another thing about random battles: It's easier to design them when you don't need to be as artful about it, leaving some things up to the computer's random selection)

The walkabout for the neighbor's cat has a one pixel anus drawn on it. Not judging, just pointing and giggling; it seems an unnecessary detail given the artstyle. The first boss is a "Mama Mantis", which gives birth to a Gub any time it's hit with a fire attack (from which it takes 40ish damage). Zack has enough MP without leveling up even once during this dungeon to cast Flame exactly until it dies, then cast FlmWall once and kill all four babies spawned by these hits and exactly one MP leftover afterward.

Zack goes to bed and wakes up later to hear sounds of fighting. The guy who trained Zack and Kento has shown up to light their hometown on fire and recruit them into his army (simultaneously). Why does he find it necessary to set Zack's house on fire BEFORE asking him to join the army? Even for a Dark Lord Emperor your motives and methods don't make sense, Kiamo. Kento's turned to the dark side and gleefully attempts to kill his "best friend" with no resistance or hesitation; can't say Zack has exactly shown himself to be the best character so far either, given how he turned his nose up at 5 bucks as a birthday present earlier.

Oh, the game throws a Hopeless Boss Fight at me and expects me to win anyway? Well, if I win I get decalred the loser and THEN time travel kicks off; should've just made the battle an auto-lose or not happen in gameplay.

Anyway, not replaying the boring forest.

Next part of the game is that Zack winds up traveling backward in time somehow to the year 400 AD. 400 years ago his society instead of using modern day technology for most things while using broadswords and morningstars as serious battlefield weapons had MEDIEVAL overall technology and modern pistols as weaponry. Zack joins forces with a king named Timothy, whose castle was built only a few years ago. After saving the kingdom, he offers Zack a choice of three treasure chests but doesn't tell him what's in them (so it's loosely based on the Wandering Hamster Hasim rewards only without telling the player what they'll get; you just open one of the three treasure chests completely blind). Timothy's weapon of choice is a pistol.

If you wanted the time scale to make sense and preserve the 400 year difference, you should've made Zack from the 1900s and Timothy from the 1500s and swapped their weapon preferences. Not a lot of main OHRRPGCE heroes use guns, after all. Is every time period schizophrenic in this game? How many were there going to be?

I don't know, the game just meanders a little bit, Timothy and Zack join up with a blacksmith girl who also makes potions and is a master of throwing darts. They fight the Kraken together and there's a "Bromide" of the girl, whatever that's supposed to mean; using it out of battle displays a larger picture of the character. Only contexts I know the word "Bromide" for are:
Theobromide Cacao, the scientific name for chocolate
"Bromide" of this character in this game
"Bromides" of furry porn in Fenrir's early games

I'm going to assume the latter two are referencing some mediocre JRPG or another.
_________________
"I didn't start the flame war;
I don't know what you thought here
'Twas that way when I got here"

"I didn't start the flame war;
I can't understand a word you're saying
nor the game you're playing~"


Last edited by Ronin Catholic on Sun Sep 20, 2020 3:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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