Game Feature

The Weekly WTF: ‘Polybius’- When Arcade Machines Kill

Polybius

Yep. We’re not just talking about the Pac-Man machine in Dodgy Bob’s Shit-Stained Gameatorium, which was right next to the toilets and had all manner of suspect stains on the joystick. You’d probably have caught cholera or the plague or something just looking at it, true enough, but this is worse. Much worse. This is freaking Polybius, right here.

Now, this is one of those BS urban legends which isn’t remotely true on any Bizarro world. But it’s damn creepy, that’s for sure. Which is all that counts around here.

The whole thing centers around said mythical arcade cabinet. Supposedly, this rare game was made in 1981 by Sinneslöschen (German for ‘Sense Deletion,’ Creepypasta reports), a puzzler/shooter that only saw the light of day in a couple of arcades in Oregon.

From the footage (which is to say ‘footage’) that exists, this one looks like a mash-up of Space Invaders and Asteroids, with a dash or two of pure crazy-ass thrown in. It was inexplicably popular, the story goes, despite reports of all kinds of bad shit happening to those who had played.

All the usual haunted video game tropes befell them: headaches, nausea, seeing scary figures out of the corner of their eyes, even suicide. The report goes on to say that one arcade owner swore that the Polybius arcade cabinet was often visited by mysterious men in black, who were ‘collecting data’ from the game.

The game was, apparently, rammed full of subliminal messages. The meaning and motive of them remains a mystery, but it’s possible that dastardly and bastardly record companies were trying to cultivate Bieber Fever in a new generation a decade before his birth. Whatever the case, it’s believed that Polybius was a government experiment of some kind.

Copies would disappear overnight, and all machines were gone around a month after the game’s release. Much like Cotton Eye Joe, we don’t know where it came from, or where it went. Or what the hell it was doing while it was here. If it ever was. But that’s the fun of the creepy urban legend.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Luigi’s Mansion

Luigi's Mansion

Nintendo, as we know, aren’t the most controversial of game makers. When did you last see Mario go on a Hatred-style homicide spree, wanging innocent bystanders in the scrote with a machete and spraying bullets about the damn place like Arnold Schwarzenegger? Never, that’s when.

Theirs is a cutesy world of garish colors, hills/clouds with smiling faces and the sun shining out of everyone’s asshole. So what the hell would happen if they tried their hands at a horror (kinda sorta ish) game? Luigi’s Mansion, that’s what would happen.

Baby’s First Resident Evil, as I like to call it, hit the GameCube on its launch in 2001. Weirdly, Mario was absent from the console’s launch games, so it was up to his scrawny green brother to sell systems. Let’s take a look at his first starring role.

Now, Luigi is the kind of guy who’d get relegated to menial tasks serving his much more famous brother. In the history of Merry Old England, Kings used to have a courtier named the Groom of the Stool. This dude was, essentially, there to wipe the king’s ass. That’s Mario and Luigi, right there. That’s the dynamic between the two. (Royal Shit-Wiper was actually quite a prestigious position, but that doesn’t help the point I’m trying to make so let’s gloss over it.)

Anywho, tangent over. Luigi gets himself a mansion in unexplained circumstances, through a competition he didn’t actually enter. Intending to meet his brother there, he sets out for the places and finds it much more creeptastic and Spencer Mansion-ish than he expected. He also finds that Mario has effed off somewhere.

Luigi's Mansion 2

With the senior sibling kidnapped by King Boo, leader of the dastardly and bastardly Mushroom Kingdom ghosts, it’s up to Luigi to take care of business. By cruising through the mansion, ghostbusting, and making his way to the king’s lair.

Now, we all know the best way to bust ghosts: with a ridiculous-looking vaccuum cleaner dealie. Which we have, thanks to a conveniently located mad scientist and paranormal researcher living right by the manor. This guy gives Luigi the Poltergust 3000, which you use in tandem with a flashlight to stun and suck in the ghosts that have infested the place.

You cruise about the rooms in surprisingly Resident Evil-ish fashion. There are little puzzles to solve, hidden items to uncover and many, many freaking keys to find. With these, you’ll gradually open up more of the mansion, taking on some rather creepy bosses along the way. There are also some power ups to collect, which will allow the Poltergust to fire elemental attacks (some ghosts have fiery hearts which must be exposed by water before they can be sucked up, for instance).

Luigi’s Mansion may be short and criminally easy, but it had a unique charm all of its own. The various ‘species’ of ghosts and their different animations are nothing short of brilliant. The fat guys discarding spectral banana skins and the punchy ones are my personal favorite. There’s a slapstick comedy to the whole thing too (slipping over said skins, for one), which combines with the horror-in-a-PG-sort-of-way vibe to make something really special.

From the controls to the execution, this one plays like nothing else in the Super Mario stable. An odd little offshoot, which has developed quite the cult following.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Metroid

Metroid

Strap yourselves in, gentlemen. We’ve got both barrels of intergalactic, bounty-huntin,’ holy-hell-she’s-not-actually-a-dude-after-all badassery coming at you this week.

Yup. Years before Lara Croft’s pneumatic norkage showed us what a female protagonist can do, there was Samus. We didn’t know it, granted, because she looked like Generic Space Marine Guy No. 287542, but this was indeed a gaming heroine in the making.

Bounty hunter Samus Aran’s Metroid series has been a little neglected of late, but I can at least give it a little half-assed tribute right here. Behold the first entry, 1986′s Metroid.

This one hit the NES almost thirty years ago, a sci-fi action adventure from Nintendo. It’s the story of the dastardly and bastardly Space Pirates, who want to take over the galaxy by cloning Metroids (bitey alien dudes who suck the life force from anything and everything like the hungry buggers they are) and unleashing them as biological weapons on anyone who opposes them.

This sort of thing is on the uncool side, natch, so the Galactic Federation cruises over to the Pirates’ base to wreck their shit. They fail, obviously, and our last hope is Samus, sent in alone to defeat the threat.

Metroid 2

And so begins a spacetacular adventure of deeply confuse-y proportions. Samus and her legendary arm cannon barrel along from left to right, and from right to left when she’s feeling especially rebellious. The video games of yore couldn’t be assed with hand holding or maps or any of that BS, so a-explorin’ you must go.

The corridors and caverns of the planet Zebes are not a friendly place. You can imagine younger games firing Metroid up in their vintage $20 yard sale NES for the first time, getting instantly lost and crying for grandma. But that’s the deal with this one, and always has been with the series: it’s about atmosphere, journeying about on your lonesome and gradually opening up more of the world.

By collecting upgrades for your Power Suit, of course. A rather fancy-ass missile attachment can blast open doors you couldn’t previously, while the grapple beam lets you wang your way over long distances. The famous morph ball, meanwhile, allows you to roll your ass into a basketball-sized sphere and fit through tiny spaces.

All of these vital Samus-y elements were present and correct from the start. Metroid is one of those stubborn old bastard franchises that has changed little through the years (well, Prime games and Other M aside), other than becoming a bit less of a pain in the ass. But why should it?

Our Space Pirate nemesis Ridley, Mother Brain, the Metroids themselves… so many memories. Most importantly, Metroid will always be the game that introduced the ‘play better, ogle more of Samus’ undercrackers at the end of the game’ idea. You can’t say fairer than that.

The Weekly WTF- The Creepy Ass Not-Zombies of ‘Bloodborne’

WTF- Bloodborne

For much of the current gen console’s existence, we’ve been all, yo, dude, where our exclusives at? Well, those of us who are trying to look cool and a bit edgy and gangster-ish have, anyway. It’s a fair point (fo shizzle), because killer apps have been thin on the ground.

For many, the biggest, most ball-busting release PS4 has yet seen is Bloodborne. From the makers of the dastardly and bastardly Dark Souls and Demon’s Souls, this action RPG is as darkly gothic as it is freaking badass. And so are the what-the-shit-is-that enemies you’ll meet.

For the uninitiated, Bloodborne is set in the ruined city of Yharnam. This doomed place is rumored to be home to a great treasure, which brings travellers (greedy-ass ones, natch) from far and wide. On arriving, they find that Yharnam has been hit by a mysterious bloodborne –see what they did there?– illness, which has transformed the residents into… mutanty not-zombie things.

If there’s one thing the game does really, really freaking well, it’s atmosphere. The creepy, gothic setting and lore gives the whole thing a completely unique appeal. It’s like Edgar Allan Poe, H P Lovecraft and Tim Burton collaborated on a video game. Which should totally effing happen, even if the first two are already dead and it’s becoming ever more difficult to tell that the third isn’t yet.

WTF- Bloodborne 2

It’s horror and the macabre in an ‘arty’ sort of way. Y’know, a huge full moon looming over a pan shot of a ruined castle, with werewolves cruising about, that sort of thing. In keeping with said fantasy-ish theme, there were all kinds of regular directions the enemies could have gone in. Zombies, weeny demons, vampires, that sort of business.

But screw that noise, Bloodborne decided. We’ve seen that shit before, and it sucked then. Instead, let’s wang in a whole monster medley of nightmares.

Do you remember the undead farm dude of MediEvil? With his ghostly, clichéd bumpkin ooh ahs and pitchfork-up-the-ass stabbings? Probably not, but that’s the sort of thing we’re talking here. From the early stages of the game, your hunter is attacked by not-quite-human horror movie rejects; mutated freaks sporting knives, hooks, Freddy Krueger claws, rather dapper Jack the Ripper trenchcoats and top hats… they aren’t anything especially new, as such, but you bet your balls they work well.

Their moans, howls, shrieks and snarls are the perfect backdrop to the dingy, dark domain of Yarnham. And they get worse, much worse. It’s a Castlevania style grab bag of horrors, with some particularly inspired designs among the bosses. At one point, a giant demon hound will crap lava on your face, and there’s really nothing more I can say than that. If that hasn’t sold this, I don’t know what will.

Check out IGN’s introduction to the beasts of Bloodborne below.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Grand Theft Auto 2

Grand Theft Auto 2 a

Rockstar’s crimetastic Grand Theft Auto series is one of gaming’s most controversial. Which, natch, also makes it one of the most popular. What with the shit-your-pants success of the fifth installment, and the ongoing drama of its PC edition, good ol’ GTA is still making headlines.

So this week, our humble retro column is taking a look back at the second game. Scrape the congealing hunks of Elvis impersonator off of your windshield, give the Zaibatsu the middle finger and buckle up for some Grand Theft Auto, 1999 style.

Grand Theft Auto 2 hit the PC and PlayStation that year, and was a huge effing step further for the original’s free-roamy sandbox gameplay. This was during the series’ nuts to a plot era, so the setup is simple: you’re Claude Speed, a lowlife criminal. You’re wanged straight into the downtown area of ‘Anywhere, USA’ and tasked with achieving a certain score. This will let you pass into the next district, the game’s sprawling levels.

How do you earn said points? As wanton destruction-ily as possible, preferably.

Grand Theft Auto 2 b

Sure, you can cruise the streets and rampage freely as you wish. Commandeer a taxi and collect fares in an odd almost-law-abiding sort of minigame, steal an ice cream truck and go on the slowest, most hilarious one-man crime spree you ever saw, the choice is yours. Free roaming is the name of the game, but the actual ‘purpose’ is to complete missions.

These are assigned to you by one of the area’s criminal syndicates when you visit their hideouts. They might have you take out a rival mobster, grab a certain type of car, deliver some drugs, all kinds of shady doings. Completing your objective will earn you that gang’s respect, and so elevate your status in their ranks. It’ll also piss off their rivals, and so ensure you a frosty reception in the others’ area of town.

So far, nothing new to Grand Theft Auto veterans. But the sequel does so much to add to that living, breathing city feel that became essential to the later games. The pedestrians have purposes of their own, places to go. Criminals have shootouts with police and rival gangs, and carjackers and muggers ply their dirty trade on the streets right alongside you.

Whether you’re batting for the Zaibatsu, the Yakuza, the Loonies or the Rednecks (complete with Confederate flag), Grand Theft Auto 2 is a much more interactive and involving experience. Kill frenzies, those Elvis dudes, the fancy garages for equipping mines, rocket launchers and other ACME products to your car… This was the series’ last 2D effort, and it really sent that style out with a bang.

The Weekly WTF: The Pervtastic Homo-Erotic Horse Racing of ‘Japan World Cup 3’

Japan World Cup 3

As we all know, our friends in the Land of the Rising Wang get a bad rap. We look at things like those pervy vending machines full of panties they have on the streets, or porn involving ladyfolk in diapers, and we say, what the shit, Japan?

This kind of stereotypical mudslinging gets us nowhere, natch, because it’s usually all bollocks. I’m from Merry Olde England, and don’t have awful teeth or a fancy-ass top hat and monocle. I think tea sucks, frankly, and would have gladly dumped it into the harbor in Boston right along with you guys.

Anywho, my point is that we can defy this stuff. We can be whoever and whatever the balls we want. Japan doesn’t need to exacerbate their pervtacular reputation with a load of naked dudes dancing about on the back of a giant horse. But hell, that’s what they wanted to bring us, and they’ve damn well done it. These guys will not, shall not and cannot be stopped. Behold Japan World Cup 3.

This one started life as a flash game back in 2011. It’s a very passive experience, seeing you bet on a horse race and watching how it plays out. But once a yeti, the Trojan Horse and said nude dudes hit the track, you know it’s all going to be a little more interesting than it sounds.

Achievement Hunter
brought this little oddity into the public eye some time back, and… it’s all classic WTF of the highest order. The over-excitable announcer? the horse running biped-style and waving its ‘arms’ about like a boxing champion? The yeti humping the Trojan horse? It’s more spectacle than game, and that’s just fine.

The whole thing just defies description, except the one offered by the bemused ‘player’ below: ‘I don’t know what’s going on, but I love it.’ When words won’t do, just watch.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Hitman- Codename 47

Hitman- Codename 47

As we know, Solid Snake is the master of video game stealth. Armed only with a cardboard box, a ‘gentleman’s publication’ or two to distract the guards with and a fairly shit beard, there is no mission this guy can’t accomplish. Sure, he might waste a little time hiding in a locker like a big hairy-faced girl, but them’s the breaks.

Nevertheless, there’s another titan of the genre who just doesn’t get enough recognition. This being, of course, the badass cloned assassin they call Agent 47. Our ol’ baldy barcode buddy has been doing things Snake never dreamed of since 2000. Let’s take a look back at the first in the series.

Hitman: Codename 47 hit the PC back in 2000. It introduces the main man himself, awakening in a Romanian sanatorium after being ruthlessly cloned and experimented on by… some unscrupulous dudes or other. While locked away, he hones the skills needed to become a master assassin; finally surprising nobody by murdering his way to escaping the hospital.

In the outside world, 47 soon becomes a professional hitman, and is contracted to take out four high-profile criminal dudes across the planet. Which is where things get effing serious.

Controls are a little funky, using a kind of FPS-style scheme and a third-person perspective. The Agent’s movements are a little stunted, strafe-y and forward-y, something a little like the famously craptastic tank controls of Resident Evil. So what you don’t want is to be attempting to haul ass away from the scene with seventeen guards in tow, firing buckshot into your asscheeks. Stealth is the name of the game.

Hitman- Codename 47 2

Movement may be a little restrictive, but the open world nature of the levels and freeform approach to them gives you a lot of freedom. As long as your target’s met some kind of deathtastically grisly death, and you haven’t, it doesn’t matter how they meet this end. Screw Minecraft, Hitman is where the real up-to-the-player’s-imagination gameplay is at.

This has always been central to the series. To gain access to your fancy-ass targets, who of course have all the VIP badges/groupies/henchmen they could ever want, you’ll need a crafty approach. From stealing a santa outfit and infiltrating as the big jolly bastard himself to lethal shenanigans with electric fences, everything is possible.

The guntastic approach can also work, if you want to Arnold Schwarzenegger your way through the guards, but it’s dangerous and not cost effective at all. Civilian casualties and such are deducted from your pay on each hit, and it’s this you must use to equip yourself for the next mission.

The open-ended approach gives Hitman much of its replayability, and a heaping helping of crazy death compilations on Youtube. But most importantly, it set up a long running series, it’s a classic of the genre and a revolutionary game that still holds up.