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Planetoid Pengiuins vs. Pepsi Ranger
Planetoid Pengiuins
Download: 591 KB
Pepsi Ranger
Review # 21 for Pepsi Ranger
Them's Fightin' Words
    The citizens of Penguinia, a planet possessed of penguins, lived peacefully for years and years and many more years, without the worry of evil poking its ugly little head into existence. This made them happy to say the least. But, because the potential for evil was never really absent from the world, the talking penguins decided it would be best to create a defense force to protect the interests of all penguinkind. Thus the Planetoid Penguins were formed.

But this does not mean that all was well. Oh no, not at all. For the beast of all penguins was born, and boy was he ugly. We're talking fangs and talons here ugly. This freak of penguin nature became an outcast for his ugliness. Actually, he became an outcast because of his itchy trigger finger, which he used to decimate a city he was in charge of protecting, but that's all back story hoopla, so his past doesn't really matter.

What matters now is that the group he took charge of, called the Hoots, decided to cause some trouble for the world of Penguinia. What's worse is that one of the Hoots came down and ripped off a jar of pickles from Bill, the hero. And that made Bill upset. Therefore, in an effort to protest his displeasure, he walked next door to the Planetoid Penguins headquarters to find out what the deal was. That is, after he supplied a dude in the outhouse with some stomach medicine. After all, a jar of pickles is a second priority to those who are sick on the Port-O-Let.

The actual game takes off from the moment Bill becomes a victim of pickle theft, sending him on a wild ride to thwart Polar's (the ugly penguin with a megalomania complex) vicious schemes to conquer the world, or destroy it, or whatever he feels like doing at the moment. This means traveling to the farthest reaches of his neighborhood, finding his way into the depths of a squid's lair, and ultimately rising up to a space station high above the planet, where the Planetoid Penguins train for battle, so that he and his companions can kick some serious booty, and save the world from Polar's weak-fisted tyranny.

And that's only the beginning of this disjointed adventure (and the end so far).

So, what's special about this game then? Well, first of all I appreciate the fact that the author was kind enough to put in a back story and some character information as a pack-in file (called readorelse.txt). It essentially gives the player some necessary information so that he or she won't have to get lost in trying to figure out what the point of the game is. It's also a neat way to set up the future of the game's development, in case the player salivates at the thought of things to come. Not that I think anyone will care one bit either way once they finish the demo, but it's a nice thing to consider anyway. So, that's a bonus in my opinion, even though most people probably won't read it.

Another strong point this game has is its sense of humor. Although I don't think it works that well all the time, I still think the metaphysical jokes (like explaining how hard it was for Klobber to resist giving the salesrobin of Rob's Malarkey the name Rob because he's, well...a robin) adds to the offbeat, hardly serious tone of the game. Again, this doesn't necessarily make the game a comedy masterpiece (like the Last Blitz managed to become), but it does at least place the game in the funny-enough-to-chuckle genre. And this is probably what not only attracted me to play the game, but also kept me interested in it for at least a few minutes. I also agree that the character emotions (both verbal and non-verbal) were displayed well, and added to the tone of the game.

And unlike many games that get posted for review, this one also has a third good quality, which raises the challenge bar a couple notches. Now, I will say that the challenges this game provides are not exceptionally well designed, so my opinions about this area are rem arkably mixed, but for the decent side I'll say that the inclusion of challenges makes the game more interesting. What I mean by this is that the game sidesteps the straight-through balls-out technique of adventuring, where the hero will leave his town and journey across several continents to expose and dispose of evil, while spelunking through caves and hiking over mountains and fighting bats along the way. I mean, the story is still linear, so it's not like stumbling across a bunch of side quests. But the nature of this particular adventure sends Bill on little missions, like avoiding getting caught by police officers and searchlights while trying to escape from prison, to name an example. Again, these missions are not particularly designed well, but having them in the story helps shape the character to some degree, and it shakes up the player's expectations a little too. So, it's not a bad thing to have.

The points where I do find some suffering in this program are primarily in its important places, such as the graphics, gameplay, and story to name a few culprits. And believe it or not, this game has some severe problems plaguing it. As always, I like to start with the story, so let's go there first.

To simplify what could take hours to explain, I'll state the story troubles with one word: continuity. That's right, there are holes and holes of story to fall through in this game, which can potentially drown the player in confusion or disbelief. We'll start with continuity flaw number one. Bill is an ordinary talking penguin. There is not a single thing special about him, other than the fact that he once wanted to join the Planetoid Penguins team, and kick evil in the butt ten times over. Maybe that's a big deal to Bill, and perhaps to his mom, but the rest of the world couldn't care less. After all, he's not a hero. He's just some bird who gets mental when someone snatches his stuff. Granted, ripping off a jar of pickles may be a big deal to him, and certainly something worth picking a fight over. But, using that as the motivation to help him enter into the Planetoid Penguin universe (with virtually instant admission into the group for being a neighbor or something), just doesn't hold enough water in my opinion. And that's only the beginning.

Problem number two comes right out of Polar's character, and this whole madness of him trying to steal some disk so that he can use it to suck up the world's continents. To summarize the point, Polar, a penguin with talons, can't fight worth crap. Even though he can successfully kidnap two of the three existing members of the Planetoid Penguins, he still can't knock out Spike, the leader, or Bill for that matter. And remember that Bill is a nobody. So, let's recap this problem. Polar can't hurt the Planetoid Penguins. Yet he still managed to kidnap them. And Spike sends Bill, the inexperienced newbie of the group, to find the disk that Polar that Polar can use it to vacuum the world away. Now, either Spike has some serious issues to work out, or this story line is screaming, "holes" as loud as the ear can stand. Frankly, my ears are hurting.

There are plenty of smaller continuity and sense-making flaws that riddle this game's existence, but I think nothing compares to the mind-boggling purpose behind fighting the squid behind a hippie bird named Larpa's house. Essentially, Bill must first recruit a seafaring individual named Skipper, who helps whup the butt cheeks of evil with a fishing rod. Not so bad, but where does the story take them? Well, there is this need to take a boat out to another continent, so that they can stop Polar from exacting his schemes on penguinity. Of course, to use the boat, they must first find it in some haunted hotel. No big deal yet. The journey to uncover the boat's location includes a brief trek through haunted hallways, stepping through the passages that wait behind bookshelv es, all the while listening to the theme song from "Ghostbusters." It's all in good fun. But once they get the boat, they must head back to Larpa's place. And that's when it gets weird. To jump right to the point, Bill and Skipper hitch a ride on the boat, just to get stopped by a squid. They fight the squid, but then it pulls them down to its lair, where they do absolutely nothing but resurface onto Larpa's dock. The boat ride is now over, and nothing has been accomplished. Disappointments all around, baby.

So, they go up into space instead, where new missions await.

I could keep going with the story flaws, but I think I said enough. So, I'll talk about gameplay. And bear in mind that gameplay is a term that's loosely used.

I will begin by saying that a majority of the maps are small, and that part is good in my opinion. I like it when games employ this method, since it makes things move along faster. However, the size of a map does not determine its quality by any degree. The fact is that the maps themselves have a lot of problems, from unclear designs, to poorly used wallmaps. Now, I will say that the lack of clarity in map design is limited for the most part, since I found the pyramids to be the only true problem area for this section of criticism, while the other maps made some reasonable sense. After all, I had to check the custom file over and over to make sure I could still progress through the pyramids (and the game) once the directions were no longer helpful. But, the thing with the wallmaps got ridiculous. I'll leave it at that. If anything saves the gameplay factor at all, it would have to be the creativity of the "missions," which are somewhat thought provoking, even though they're no brain teasers. But even that element suffers when considering the fact that choices and other tags never reset once they're turned on. This severely limits the value of playtime for the player. If it wasn't for the fact that the game will remove objects that the player doesn't have, because it doesn't bother to check if one's available, so that he or she can progress to the next puzzle, then this version would be nearly impossible to finish. So, it's a no-go on gameplay, folks.

And lastly we come to the graphics. The graphics are more or less a hybrid of the ripped and the bad. Even though I will agree that hero and enemy battle graphics look interesting (in a cartoony kind of way), everything else just sort of tanks into place. For example, indoor dungeon paths don't have walls. They're just tiles making up a path. It's nice that they at least have wallmaps to hold the player in-bounds, but it's not very attractive. I also think the intricate style of the pyramid walls is too far of a cry from the rest of the game's low-quality graphics, and therefore stands out in my mind as completely ripped. Add to the fact that the pyramids have the worst wallmaps in the game, and I'll be willing to say that all the aesthetic qualities of this area are not only contrived, but also seriously laughable. If the puzzles had clearer objectives, then I might look beyond the out-of-place style it possesses. But, once that Indiana Jones music kicks in...someone hand me some Prosaic.

Oh well, that's about all I can say about this. It's not like I hated it or anything, since it started out to my liking. The problem was that it got progressively dull, and never really let up. My recommendations for this game (besides questioning whether or not you really want to play it), is for the author to first improve the basic gameplay elements, and then subtly work into a string of continuity, so that even a story about superhero penguins can make some sense. From there, I'd just suggest beefing up what's already present so that the quality can improve. All in all I think this game could've gone somewhere if it hadn't gotten lost in the first five minutes.
Final Scores
Graphics: 3.5/10.0
There's such a mixed bag to work with that it's hard to decide what makes this game's graphics a plus or a minus. But, because the only nicely drawn pictures in this game are battle graphics and ripped graphics, I think it's safe to say that there isn't a whole lot to offer here. I mean, realistically they're pretty bad. Even certain walkabouts move around without picking up their feet. It's just all awkward and painful. Cry hard over this one.
Storyline: 2.5/10.0
I think the story could've been interesting if there weren't so many structural flaws destroying the content. However, I will say that the characters are catchy, even though I don't buy Polar as a threatening individual just yet. But everyone else has personalities that work for me, so I'm not complaining too loudly about that. Unfortunately, the plotline makes very little sense, and to me the story fails because of it. Granted, I'm the kind of guy who believes character needs to come first, but I'll also say that plot shouldn't be neglected as a result. This game just does not integrate the two very well. Some of the jokes are amusing at least. Too bad the spelling and grammar aren't always in top form. No brownie points from me on this one. Sorry.
Gameplay: 2/10.0
Once again, the idea of claiming the existence of gameplay here is pushing the envelope pretty far. I think the intentions of the map design are well deserved of some admirable credit, but the fact that they don't work very well diminishes most of that. Also, the irritating factor that certain walls can be walked through, while certain floors cannot, makes the score for this category drop to an embarrassing low. The only reason why I might consider keeping the score somewhat reasonable is because the battles are balanced decently enough. But then again, that's only after Bill picks up his TP Bazooka, so forget that too.
Music: 6/10.0
I don't know. I actually like the music in this game. A lot of it is pop culture stuff, since I know the theme song to Ploom Island is unmistakingly Kokomo by the Beach Boys, but to me that's okay. For those who hate ripped music, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss this soundtrack yet, since I can't imagine original music for this game would be any better. So, lay off the scoldings of "don't rip music, man!" because it still works. Besides, there's just something eerie about the pyramid boss' music. It's pretty groovy. Okay, it's not all awesome, but still it's decent.
Overall Grade: D
Final Thoughts
    When everything boils down to substance, this game seems to be lacking the rich ingredients. I think I could best compare it to McDonald's. Essentially, it's got enough to satisfy the hunger, but it ain't all that great. Oh well, at least it's cheap. So, play it if you want to laugh (with the game, and at it), but you won't be missing a whole lot if you let it go for now. The decision is yours, and yours alone. Make it or break it. Sing it or wing it. Okay, this just made me stupid. Sorry.  

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