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First Impressions: Thimbleweed Park

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It took me exactly one minute and thirty seconds to fall in love with Thimbleweed Park. A hobo laid in the dirt beyond a pixelated gate, and it was obvious he was drunk. Upon speaking to him, a variety of dialog options appeared.

“Are you a victim of the inferior American support system?”

And that’s how I knew I was in the right place.

Terrible Toybox (seriously, that’s the studio name and I love it) created a spiritual successor to Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion that you didn’t even know you wanted. In fact, it’s by Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, creators of Monkey Isle and Maniac Mansion. The point-and-click adventure genre may be only in our distant memories but…oh, who am I kidding? No they’re not. This is 2017. We’re so obsessed with nostalgia these days we aren’t even given the opportunity to miss things. Was this game necessary? No, not at all. Is it good? Absolutely. In fact, I would even say it’s spectacular. But if you hated the point-and-click adventure games from the 90s, you probably won’t want to touch this. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

 

According to the Steam store page for Thimbleweed Park, a joke is guaranteed to happen every two minutes. I don’t doubt it. Every ten seconds I’m cracking up, but to be honest I kinda sorta just laugh at everything so you might not find the jokes as funny as me. For real, I laugh at most things. The game takes place in 1987, which was a pretty good year, I think (I was four, so it was probably the best), and follows a mystery surrounding a corpse found in a river. Pleasant! At first you’ll be taking control of two federal agents sent to Thimbleweed Park to investigate the death, but you’ll be switching off to different characters throughout the story. Be warned, one of those characters is an insult comic clown, so if you’re still scarred from the new It trailer, you might wanna pass.

 

There’s 80s trivia peppered throughout the game. I wish I could permanently forget about Max Headroom but this game forced me to remember him and that scary signal intrusion thing. Thanks, Terrible Toybox, for that nightmare fuel.

 

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I’m only a few hours into the game but so far I’m really diggin’ it. Did I mention the art is gorgeous? It’s so beautiful that Fangamer was a true friend and made some prints of the iconic scenery. Heck yes I am hanging that print up in my living room.

 

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The game is fully voiced. Some of the actors are awesome. Others are middling. I don’t think I’ve encountered anything I would consider ‘bad,’ like they just strolled in off the street to read a script. That happens way too often even with large studios.

 

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The soundtrack is pretty great, but I’m not rushing out to purchase it. The score is atmospheric and provides a decent enough background while you solve puzzles. As for the puzzles themselves…so far, haven’t been stumped. I also set the game to ‘casual’ rather than ‘hard.’ That’s something that I haven’t really encountered before – difficulty settings in an adventure game. You’re given the option to set it however you want in the very beginning and it says something about giving you more puzzles to do if you select the more difficult option. I’ll probably stream hard mode at some point so you can all laugh at me as I fall into a pit of despair weaved out of the strands of my own stupidity.

 

Whatever. Just so long as we don’t have any repeats of The Longest Journey’s duck fiasco, I won’t put my head in between my knees to cry. Promise.

The Longest Journey ducky: This picture legit still triggers me.

The Longest Journey ducky: This picture legit still triggers me.

 

Most reviews are complaining about the over saturation of easter eggs. To these complaints, I say…meh. Yes, there are easter eggs. They are numerous. Some of them are cute and clever (I liked seeing Maniac Mansion characters make cameos, for example), and then some are REALLY on the nose. You’re told upfront by a pair of sisters clad in pigeon garb that you won’t need to save your game often. Nope. You don’t have to. Because unlike Monkey Isle, you can’t die!

 

It’s true. You can’t die. You can explore freely as much as you want and not die. However, that does not mean freedom from consequence. I poked around an alley a little too much with one of my agents and then he was abducted by a monster and thrown into a sewer that became its own puzzle to escape from. It’s like when you get caught in Maniac Mansion by one of the weird family members and tossed into the basement, but nowhere near as dire.

 

Overall, I love the game so far and once I get through casual mode I’ll be hitting it up again on hard mode.

 

At the start of the game, make sure you pop into the menu settings to fix the toilet paper. Otherwise, all the toilet paper rolls are going to be UNDER, instead of OVER, and you don’t need that kind of anxiety and negativity in your life. You’re welcome.

Does this picture give you anxiety? Me too.

Does this picture give you anxiety? Me too.

 

Terrible Toybox

$19.99 ~ Xbox One, GOG.com, Steam, Apple Store

For Windows, Mac, Linux…damn they really put it all over the place. Too bad there’s no Switch version, that would have been cool…

Help, I’m drowning in the pool of my own back log

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This screenshot has nothing to do with the post, except that while I was typing up all the games I’m playing I remembered how Shawn told me Zoombinis was on Steam. Crap, I wanna play this too!

Hi guys. Long time, no write. You may recall me as being the woman who was strangely obsessive about a certain marine arcade game at the boardwalk. Still in love with it, by the way. So, you may be thinking that I probably haven’t been up to much, gaming wise. Actually, this post is a legit SOS because I have so many games that I need to either pick up or finish it’s unreal.

So, let’s see what I’ve got on my docket right now…

Thimbleweed Park – A game in the spirit of the 90s point-and-click adventure titles that Lucas Arts used to put out. I have an impressions piece I’ll be posting about this.

Yooka-Laylee – I’ve been waiting on this for forever. Reviews are…not good. Mostly they’re complaining that it’s very 90s to early 2000s adventure platformers. Way to miss the point, guys. That’s exactly what people wanted and why they kickstarted it to begin with. Anyway, the frame rate issues that people are reporting kinda scare me, but I’m going to remain optimistic.

Persona 5 – Yeah, so this game alone will end up being more than a hundred hours. Which would be perfectly fine…if this was the only game I purchased this year. Anyway, I’m about seven hours in so far and I’m really pleased with it so far. It’s so stylish it hurts and the soundtrack is of course, brilliant. But I have no idea when I’m going to find time to finish it. Maybe in twelve years. Just in time for them to re-release with bonus content or something.

Story of Seasons: A Trio of Towns – I feel so bad for neglecting my farm. Totally going to woo Ford, by the way.

Psycho Pass: Mandatory Happiness – I have the collectors edition of this dang thing, too! It’s really good. It’s just that whenever I lay down to play it in bed on my vita (yes, people still own those…or at least, just me), I end up falling asleep.

Runner2 – I just got this off Limited Run Games and I played it for a solid hour. Strangely soothing for my anxiety.

Flinthook – Hopefully will be nabbing this off Limited Run Games in a couple days. Found out this game exists from Fangamer, when I saw their awesome t-shirts. Ironically that is how I found out about Thimbleweed Park. I think their marketing teams need to step up their game a bit…

Ray Gigant – Another vita title I’ll be nabbing off Limited Run Games if I can manage to remember.

SERIOUSLY WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HELP ME FINISH SOMETHING BECAUSE THEN…

Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Haven’t even TOUCHED IT yet. When will I be able to?! I still have WORK I need to do, guys. And then worst of all…

Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood – Let’s be honest. I’ll be playing this, mainly. Because it’s an MMO, which means it’s a horrible time sink.

I think I might just cancel my pre-order for Fire Emblem: Shadows of Valentia because let’s be REAL. I’m never going to play it. Not at this rate. Nope. Maybe I’ll get around to it in 2024. I don’t need to buy anymore games for another five or six years.

…But I know that once Supergiant’s Pyre comes out I’ll be throwing money at it. Geez, it’s feast or famine with the gaming industry. Last year I didn’t even really play anything other than Final Fantasy XIV because there was nothing interesting to me coming out. Now it’s a torrential downpour of games. What are you all playing? Are you collapsing under the weight of your back log or are you somehow managing?

Marvel Games Retrospective 3: X-Men by Konami

This is the third in my series of reminiscing on Marvel games of the past and present (although almost three years late!), and we’re going to revisit the mighty mutants of Marvel, the Uncanny X-Men, in their first arcade game! [Read Part 1 and Part 2 here]

X-Men was a unique title in that it had three cabinets available for play: there was a two player cabinet, a four player cabinet, and a massive six player, two screen behemoth. While multiple screen arcade games weren’t new, as Darius and The Ninja Warriors had multiple screens, X-Men’s six player count was definitely something that hadn’t quite been tried before and wasn’t quite duplicated afterwards. The game was released in 1992 and was an instant hit in the arcades, a time in which arcades in the US had been revitalized thanks to the success of Street Fighter II.

Wolverine is pretty sure this place is gonna get real crowded real soon.

Panorama!!!

The source of the arcade game was inspired by the 1989 animated pilot titled “Pryde of the X-Men,” wherein Kitty Pryde is introduced to the team in quite a hit-the-ground-running kind of fashion. It featured Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Dazzler, and of course, Wolverine, against the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants led by Magneto, taking the fight all the way to Asteroid M. Now, retrospectively, “Pryde of the X-Men” isn’t very good. There’s a lot wrong with it. And for some bizarre reason, Wolverine is given an Australian accent, which may or may not have foretold the future where Hugh Jackman was to faithfully take the claws for about 17 years. But if you’re a Marvel loving kid waking up in the wee hours of the morning in 1989 to watch the Marvel Action Universe, a syndicated block of cartoons featuring reruns of old Spider-Man (And sometimes His Amazing Friends) episodes and, for some reason, Robocop, seeing that was a very pleasant and very welcome surprise.

A couple years before that whole Adamantium snafu....

Wolverine against Magneto??? That’s crazy talk!!!

The art style in the game is very much influenced by that pilot, although with a slight anime touch, and it looked great as a result. Time has worn that away a little, but it still looks pretty good even if a bit sparse. The screen fills with enemies, explosions, and fire and it still keeps up with all the action. It was a step up from the 1989 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game in every way.

The gameplay is simple. Like TMNT, you fight in a wide plane in all eight directions. You get three buttons: attack, jump, and mutant power. You can combine attack and jump, but the mutant power is a little tricky. You get a limited number of them, which only refill by one at the end of a stage, and on top of that, using one will drain your health by four points. And that’s the kicker: this game is hard, designed to do nothing but suck down your quarters like nobody’s business, and unless you’re bringing a full posse, you are inevitably going to spend a few dollars on this game. Forget about going it alone, too. Shawn and I did beat it in the arcade once, with a random third player, and I’m pretty sure by the end of it we were all tapped out of money. The Japanese version is a little more forgiving, with the insertion of health packs and bonus items, but not by much.

Kitty's going to be fine. It's the Master Mold who should be worried!

The game even features some characters not featured in “Pryde of the X-Men,” like Mystique, the Wendigo, the Master Mold, and Bonebreaker of the Reavers.

Of all the characters, Wolverine was of course the best melee character and Colossus had the best mutant power, so people went to play those two first. Cyclops and Nightcrawler were average, and Storm was fine in a pinch, but why does she have to fight with a staff? Nobody wanted to be Dazzler though. Dazzler was lame, they said. Why play as Dazzler? Well, I’m going to shock everyone here and say that Dazzler is an OK character. Sure, she started out as a rollerskating disco queen, and sure, she was basically thrown away after the 1991 X-Men comic reboot, but there is nothing wrong with Dazzler. In fact, in the game, she even has a neat flip throw that gets her out of some situations and her mutant power is not bad when used efficiently. Would the world have preferred Jean Grey, Rogue, or Psylocke? Sure, but they weren’t in “Pryde of the X-Men.” Dazzler is fine.

Alison Blaire is blowing up the charts, her new single is fire

Dazzler’s power is to turn sound into hard light. She can handle herself.

Another thing that I should mention is the sound. Not just the music, which was really good arcade style music, but the voice samples throughout the game are pretty much legendary. The game starts off with a short narration and then after Charles Xavier asks you to “Go and SAVE the CITY!” we are off! Now, it is highly doubtful that any of the voice talent from the “Pryde of the X-Men” were available for the game in the same way that some of the X-Men animated series cast was used for Capcom’s later X-Men: Children of the Atom arcade game, but the voices are pretty great. One of the more fun things to do in the game is to interrupt the level boss as they make their introductory speech. Memories of “Pyro will—ugh!” and “Nothing moves the—” are pretty fresh in my mind and always fun to replicate. Of course, everyone remembers Magneto’s “Welcome to die!” and it always gives us reason to laugh while we punch him in his face. Or, better yet, use Colossus’ mutant power and get him to yell a very satisfying roar. This game was very loud, and since arcade operators were not shy to turn the volume up on the cabinet, all the explosions and yells drove home how epic this game felt.

"Welcome to die?" How about I welcome my fist to your nose, buddy?!

“Welcome to die?” How about I welcome my fist to your nose, buddy?!

X-Men was released at the height of the battle between the Genesis and the SNES and everyone at the time wondered why it never came to consoles. Turtles In Time made a very nice SNES game, so you could imagine that a little work on Konami’s part might make for a decent translation, right? While that could have been possible, the problem came down to the same situation that has mucked up a lot of Marvel’s properties throughout the years: licensing. The X-Men were already licensed for home consoles by Acclaim through its LJN—yes, the same LJN that produced the execrable Marvel’s X-Men on the NES—and Flying Edge labels, and they had just released a terrible game called Spider-Man and the X-Men In Arcade’s Revenge; the next year would see the really good Genesis X-Men game by Sega, and in 1994, Capcom’s X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse would appear on the SNES, leaving no room for Konami to port their title.

As time went on, people took it as a given that the only way to play Konami’s X-Men was to emulate it through MAME, but in the unlikely year of 2010, it finally reached home consoles via the Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It even saw a release on the iOS and Android! Ported by Backbone Entertainment, the game featured internet multiplayer (only four players though!), the usual graphical options for emulation, and the inclusion of the Japanese version just in case you wanted to experience some of those power-ups they took out of the American version. It was pretty good, but by 2010, gamers who had decided action fighters were long past their sell-by date wrote it off (and many of these same people wax nostalgic about the Simpsons arcade game, also made by Konami, which is something I don’t understand at all). At some point, between Konami’s retreat from the gaming sphere and Marvel’s insane licensing situations, it was delisted from all services, and as of 2017 it leaves MAME, once again, as the only place to play it.

You left Jean Grey for who???

Ten years after this game, these two would hook up.

Is Konami’s X-Men dated? Yes, of course. But is it still fun? Yes, there’s lots of fun you can have with it. Bring some friends together; it’s not actually a terribly long game and you’ll be immensely satisfied once you beat the stuffing out of Magneto. Or better yet, find a young kid who’s just getting into superheroes and have them experience it. They’ll love it.

And stop hating on Dazzler.

Shawn’s Note: Sure enough, it still pleased the nephews back at Christmas. It’s colorful and kinetic enough that even without knowing who the X-Men are they were having fun. At one point they unexpectedly got into a fight over who could put in the most credits though. Explaining arcade games might be the hardest part about playing it with them.

Quick Tallies on the Switch’s Software Lineup

Quick Tallies on the Switch's Software Lineup

Am I trying to justify not buying a Switch or do I just like making spreadsheets? With the news of “This Week’s Switch Releases” going around I decided to copy all the listings from Nintendo.com into Excel and do some quick tabulating. Of the 53 current Switch titles on Nintendo’s official site:


26
games have been released

There are 14 Switch exclusives, half from Nintendo

38 of them are (or will be) available on other platforms

29 titles are old, from 2016 or earlier


Run all those numbers through the Shawn filter and it distills down to five.
 I’ll even throw in the unlisted Spelunker World and Vroom in the Night Sky to make seven games I’m interested in playing on the Switch. Between the lacking library, JoyCon-gate and docksocks I’m having a really hard time overriding my rational, adult brain. I’d love to be enraptured with Zelda like everyone else and posting my own musings about the hardware but until there’s a deal I’ll keep busy with NieR and all my other personal projects.

Capcom Cashes in on My Childhood with The Disney Afternoon Collection

Capcom Cashes in on My Childhood with The Disney Afternoon Collection

It honestly doesn’t even matter what The Disney Afternoon Collection is because, for me, it starts and stops with this artwork right here. The wavy shapes, the day-glo colors, some of my favorite childhood characters and that font on “Collection”. It’s too perfectly 90’s. This is practically a cover of Disney Adventures magazine, another childhood memory I cradle in the warmest cockles of my heart.

The collection itself could never compete with that kind of nostalgia but it’s a good bundle nonetheless. Ducktales 1 and 2, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers 1 and 2, Darkwing Duck and TaleSpin are getting the Mega Man Legacy treatment for $20 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Steam. And it’s out this Saturday the 18th! I don’t have a lot of time to write more so I’ll leave it with the press release text and a few final thoughts:

“All six games are new and improved HD versions of the originals and feature a number of filtering options that replicate a classic retro look and feel. This collection also offers new ways to play with Boss Rush and Time Attack modes for each game. In Boss Rush mode, players battle through challenging boss encounters consecutively, while Time Attack mode encourages time-based gameplay and provides online leaderboards that track the fastest times for each game.

A new “Rewind” feature makes these challenging titles more accessible for newcomers, with the option to rewind time and enjoy a swift recovery from blunders. Additionally, the in-game Disney Museum will provide history buffs with a wealth of content to celebrate the era of the original releases, such as concept art, advertisements, character art, and music – all preserved in their original glory.”

  • Yes, this is being handled by Digital Eclipse and should hold the same esteem for the source material as their previous Mega Man Legacy Collection.
  • Yes, I think Capcom may be running that Ducktales license dangerously close to the ground between this and 2013’s remastered treatment.
  • No, these wouldn’t be my personal six favorite Capcom/Disney titles but I can’t argue with the package and its appeal.
  • Finally, no, I’m probably not ever going to buy this… but I sure am glad it resulted in that artwork up there!