Game Feature

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Oddworld- Abe’s Exoddus

Oddworld- Abe's Exoddus

Odd by name, odd by mothereffin’ nature.

‘Fart power! Abe can even possess his own farts and blow stuff up,’ quoth the back of the Abe’s Exoddus box. ‘No other game has it… no other game wants it!’ Just so you know what you’re getting into here. Strap yourself in, gentlemen. It’s going to be a bumpy ride; into a bizarro world where you can pilot your own explosive farts.

First, a little background fact-tacular. Oddworld is the name of the planet on which the game is set, its own little universe in another dimension. It’s a vast world under threat by the bastardry of big-business (if there were intergalactic rivers to divert from intergalactic African villages for an intergalactic soft drink factory, these assholes would be on that like a shot), and populated by the weirdest space-weirds you’ll find this side of that bar in Tatooine.

Two such species are the Glukkons and Mudokons, and the assholery of the first to the second leads to the events of Abe’s Exoddus. So let’s take a look.

Abe is a Mudokon, and the player character of this crazy-ass platformer. His people have been enslaved the Glukkons (a second time, following on from Abe’s Odysee), shanghaied into producing the soft drink SoulStorm in an Oddworld factory. The drink, we’re told, is made from ‘Mudokon sweat and tears.’ So, what have we learned so far? These guys are dicks. Naturally, Abe has mixed, mostly rage-based feelings about the whole situation, and sets out to infiltrate the complex and rescue these groovy green dudes.

So, to sum up: part Metal Gear Solid, part Lemmings. If you’re not sold by that, you never will be.

Oddworld- Abe's Exoddus

Abe’s Exoddus doesn’t dick around with the usual platformer tropes. It’s not big on snow levels, lava levels, jungle levels or any of that BS. Who has time for that? What we have here is a whole lot of industrial gray and beige. Grimy mechanical doohickeys, angry guards with angrier machine guns, that sort of thing. It’s a dark world, as you can tell from the plot.

In a fight, our buddy Abe would be as much use as a one-legged kitten in a coma. Any hit from the enemies is an insta-death sort of deal, so he has to be a little sneakier than that. Which is fine, because you’re able to possess foes as well as your own ass-gas. By doing so, you can attack other enemies, set their own guard dogs on them or make them kill themselves. Natch, though, the player character is left vulnerable while doing so, so you’ll have to take care with it.

This puzzly platformer can be a real challenge, with an emotion mechanic to deal with as well. The Mudokons you meet can be depressed, ill, hopped up on SoulStorm, angry or blind, and each will need to be dealt with differently if you want to save them. GameSpeak is another feature, which allows Abe to talk to them and console the depressed or tell the angry ones to, y’know, stop that crazy shit (angries tend to slap the hell out of any Mudokons in the vicinity). With this, possessed enemies can also give orders to their minions.

All of this makes for a unique experience unlike just about anything else. Abe’s Exoddus hit the PS1 in 1998, and is still highly recommended for genre fans looking for a deep, challenging and thought-provoking ride. You don’t get that from Mario, that’s for damn sure.

The Weekly WTF: The Madness of ‘Takeshi’s Challenge’

Takeshi's Challenge 1

The world of the gametastic is now bigger than ever. Since the Wii and tablets and all these newfangled doohickeys arrived on the scene, everyone’s playing. Grandma may have needed diapers since she had that episode, but she can flail away furiously at Wii Tennis with the best of them. Children a year or two old can also get their game on, inadvertently racking up bills for thousands of dollars in app stores on Ma and Pa’s iPad.

However all-inclusive video games have become, though, there’ll always be those who bitch about them. You’ll usually find them in the tabloids, insisting that Grand Theft Auto is breeding a generation of drug-dealing psychopathic kleptomaniac arsonist pimps. With herpes.

But sometimes, this kind of prejudice takes a crazy goose-step too far. One guy hates gamers so much that he created the most evil game of all time to torture us with. Gentlemen, meet Takeshi’s Challenge.
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Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Silent Hill

Silent Hill 1

Spare undercrackers at the ready, gentlemen. Silent Hill is coming at you.

The late nineties was a great time for the survival horror genre. It was, y’know, the time it began to damn well exist, with the advent of Resident Evil. Sure, purists consider the decrepit likes of Alone in the Dark as the true birth of the genre, but screw it. That was 1992. I’ve already typed late nineties, and I’m going to keep that original sentence intact like the stubborn bastard I am.

Besides, there’s no doubt that Capcom’s classic popularised the genre, and the idea itself. It’s the defining game, the face of survival horror. And as far as runners up go, many of us in the gametastic world would go for Silent Hill.

This was Konami/Team Silent’s first foray into the genre, hitting the PlayStation in 1999. It was a whole new kind of horror game. It was the artsy, Guillermo Del Torro-flavored lingering creeptastic to Resident Evil’s straight-up shuffling zombies and in-your-face chewing of… your face. Psychological horror over cheap entrail-leaky slasher. Let’s take a look.

This whole business begins with Harry Mason, a regular guy taking his daughter Cheryl to the town of Silent Hill on vacation. As their car approaches the place, they encounter a mysterious girl (demonic, natch), causing them to lose control and crash. Mason awakes in a hospital in Silent Hill to find his daughter gone, all kinds of creepy-ass characters talking about darkness enveloping everything, and goddamn monsters everywhere.

All in all, it’s a bad time, and reminds us why we shouldn’t just go for the cheapest vacation deals we can find on the Internet. It’s like Hostel, but even shittier.

Silent Hill 2

The key here is atmosphere. Of course, the Spencer Mansion has a foreboding spirit of its own, but this is something else. The unnatural snowfall and fog over the town is creepy enough to make all the hairs on your scrote stand on end. Handily, it also helps to hide the piss-poor limitations of nineties 3D.

The whole ‘survival’ thing comes in with the main character himself. Our ol’ buddy Harry isn’t a special ops commando armed to the ass. He’s a regular Joe, vulnerable, low on stamina and scavenging for equipment to make it past the monsters. This was the mistake that recent Resident Evils made, making us such unstoppable badasses that they felt more like TPS ghastly-ass mutant shooting galleries. But these monsters, you don’t want to eff with.

Silent Hill was a success, I’d say, because it effectively melded the old and the new. There was no HUD to distract from the atmosphere, leaving you to do a lot of menu-wangling to check your health, inventory, maps and such. In that, and the general key-findin’, bizarre-puzzle-solvin’ action, it’s so very Evil. But the nightmarish and supernatural quality of it all set this one apart. Zombies are all well and good, but Silent Hill has brought us a decade and a half of mystery, symbolism and all-round WTF.

What does Pyramid Head truly represent? Let’s not get started on that one.

The Weekly WTF: How ‘Surf Champ’ Invented the Most Craptastic Sport of All Time

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Nope, that guy’s playing a different game. But don’t worry, this one will make you look like even more of a dick.

Piss-poor plastic peripherals will always have their place in video games. In the Wii era, Nintendo brought us all kinds of horrible, horrible controllers. The Mario Kart wheel thing. The Wii Fit Balance board. Those half-assed tennis racquet/golf club attachments that had absolutely no effect on the game at all. They were all bollocks, and none of them even had the decency to be biodegradeable. The environment will be blighted by this crap for years to come.

We haven’t forgotten about the Virtual Boy either, Nintendo. What the hell was up with that?

But screw it, this is just the sort of thing that happens when you innovate for the sake of innovation. It’s all bound to get a little whack. But Surf Champ’s weeny little keyboard-mounted surfboard controller? There is no excuse for that. At all. Ever.

Surf Champ, for those of us who aren’t decrepit old dudes, hit the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum way back in 1984. Even if you were around back then, you’re unlikely to have ever heard of it. This one’s obscure as hell. Even on the Internet, it’s a sight as rare as the Loch Ness Monster. Or unicorns. Or a celebrity lady who can resist snapping photos of her ladyparts on her cellphone, then proceeding to bitch about it when some intrepit hacker shares them with the world.

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See this, R.O.B? Something worse than you does exist.

Still, sabotagetimes knows their stuff. They know that this craptastic surfing game used ‘a haddock sized plastic surfboard which you slapped on top of your keyboard and used your finger to control, as if they were the stubby legs of a surfer.’ And if that sounds freaking horrendous to use, it’s because I’m assured that it was.

After all, there’s a reason PC games mostly conform to the good ol’ fashioned mouse, arrows and WASD approach. Primarily because it actually damn well works, and isn’t as counter-intuitive as getting pregnant by thrusting your wang in a bacon slicer. But screw it, Surf Champ has no time for that sort of logic. It’s finger-surfboard or nothing ‘round here, buddy boy.

But then the developers took a step further, into true crazy-ass territory. ‘They believed the game was so realistic that it would be used by professional surfers for indoor competitions during the off-season,’ the report continues. This resulted in the creation of the World Computer Surfing Championship, intended as an annual event. Unsurprisingly, somebody quickly noticed that, hey, this is a pretty mothereffin’ stupid idea, right here, and it happened just once in 1985.

Surf Champ was, by all accounts, a terrible ballache. But it sucked in style, so that’s… something.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: TimeSplitters 2

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Ah, TimeSplitters. You’re a special breed of crazy-ass, and we love you for it.

If you’re well-versed in the gametastic, you’ll know that FPS games mean effing business. Much like MMOs and MOBAs (and maybe a couple other nerdly acronyms), the communities are legendary for not suffering fools lightly. Woe betide a player who slips up. They’ll be met by a torrent of poorly-spelt and grammatically questionable abuse like they’ve never seen.

This is serious freaking business, right here. This game? It’s not a game. Except it is, we’ve just forgotten that amid all the killstreaks and K/Ds and whatnot.

Still, sometimes, an FPS will surprise us. It’ll still be competitive and track stats and such, but it’ll also bring us a lot of silly shit. Which is something this po-faced genre could really use. And for me, no shooter has done this quite like TimeSplitters 2.

The first game was a PS2 launch title, back in 2000. It was Free Radical’s toontastic, time travelling take on shooters. Heavily influenced by contemporary greats such as Perfect Dark and GoldenEye it may have been, but with several tons of its own quirky spirit layered on top. Playable snowmen and monkeys and joke guns abound.

Two years later, the second release arrived. This little doozy took that foundation and ran with it. Let’s take a look.

TimeSplitters 2, is set in the year 2401. Humanity is up to their asses in a war with the TimeSplitters, an alien race who are using time travel to alter the history of the world (and, y’know, destroy the planet in the process). Studly bald space marine Sergeant Cortez doesn’t approve of this sort of thing, and follows them through the ages to stop them.

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As Cortez, your objective is to cruise though ten levels, defeat the boss and regain the time crystal they each hold. It’s a Quantum Leap-y adventure of befuddling proportions, casting you as a Wild West bounty hunter in one stage and a prohibition era Chicago gangster the next.

This sort of thing is often great for a title’s campaign mode. Back in the day, the FPS was fairly samey in this regard. You’d usually wander through identikit corridors, shooting angry dudes and/or angry creatures, wondering where the eff the keycard is for that door you passed a half hour ago. But we have no time for any of that BS around here.

Rescuing boobtastic maidens in their undercrackers from a creepy old pervert in Medieval Notre Dame? Getting your spy on in Siberia, in a dam suspiciously similar to the one in GoldenEye? Using some fancy-ass Metal Gear tech to stalk a hacker through the streets of futuristic Tokyo? These are varied level objectives, right here. The story is completely freakin’ nutty, but there’s an internal logic and brilliance to it under the surface. Like your average Doctor Who episode.

So, a pretty damn great single player. This was a rarity for shooters at the time, and even today a lot of these bastards can’t get that right. But beyond that, TimeSplitters 2 was content-amundo. Over a hundred ridiculous characters to unlock (monkeys, dinosaurs, a six foot gingerbread man, ‘robots’ in cardboard outfits, weird mutant duck-man, several kinds of zombie, you name it), and a big ol’ crop of challenges to try. It’s all endlessly high-scoreable.

True, multiplayer wasn’t online, what with this being the early 2000s. But back then, local multiplayer was a thing that existed outside of Nintendo’s weird tablet consoles. And there’s no doubt that TimeSplitters 2 was some of the best local multiplayer I’ve ever played. As crazy-ass as it was, it was still a solid and well-designed shooter at heart. This made for the best of both worlds, and ensured the game’s success.

There hasn’t be a series release since 2005‘s TimeSplitters: Future Perfect, but there’s a damn good reason why gamers worldwide still hold out hope.

The Weekly WTF: ‘Icarus Proudbottom and the Curse of the Chocolate Fountain’

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Hey, wasn’t that the name of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie?

Nope, it’s much more disturbing than that. This one reminds me of all those euphemisms we’re taught as children. All that when a man and a lady love each other very much business. Our parents didn’t tell us that it’s often when a man and a lady get effing drunk and horny on the bathroom floor of some sleazy nightclub. Because that’s something we should find out for ourselves.

Similarly, by ‘chocolate fountain,’ we actually mean a constant and explosive (rocket-powered, actually) case of diarrhea, which is propelling our hero through the clouds. Because that’s just the sort of thing we deal with here in the realm of the WTF.

Yep, this is a sidescrolling shooter hit by a gypsy curse. The cartoony, imaginary sort of gypsy; proprietors of carnival fortune telling booths the world over. These guys, as we know, are all bastards, cursing it up curse-tacularly cursily at the slightest provocation. But I’ve never seen them stoop this low.

While other entries in the genre go for the old-fashioned ‘piloting a weeny spaceship’ approach, Icarus Proudbottom and the Curse of the Chocolate Fountain has no time for that. They’ve got something better: a guy with the shits.

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Yup, that’s the first boss: a dude with his wang out, peeing at you. He also has a floating crocodile thing.

This may be a half-assed little freeware flash game (weighing in at a mighty 15MB), but it has ambition. Our cursed buddy Icarus flies all around the world, borne on a powerful wave of his own crap. If you imagine it as the flames that used to ‘power’ the badass cars our preteen selves used to draw, it makes kinda sorta sense.

So, we’ve got a landscape to cruise past and a main character. The final element every sidescrolling shooter needs? Enemies. With the weirdery thus far, you’ll expect something bizarre. Something like… wanging formations of ducks and Nazis in the face with a holy sword, while your diarrhea streams behind you like a trail of pure glorious brown victory.

You won’t be disappointed on that score.

Will Icarus ever break his curse? Where the hell did it come from anyway? Why do his clothes fall off when he’s hit? Why is this a freaking thing at all? None of these questions will ever be answered. Well, the first might, and the third is probably a retro-tastic nod to Ghosts and Goblins. But other than that, who the hell knows.

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

Wipeout 2

What with, y’know, being a Nintendo game and all, Sony never had F-Zero. This futuretastic racer from 1990 was a sad loss for the followers of PlayStation, awesome as it was. But they needn’t have feared.

While PS1 missed out on the game and its homoerotic hero Captain Falcon (man, that’s a tight jumpsuit), it did get Wipeout. A launch title for the system, it brought high-velocity gravity defying badassery into 3D. And it did it in style. Let’s take a look.

Wipeout is set in the year 2052, as distant as the last Ice Age when it was released in 1995. We were just learning to handle the Internet and Star Trek Voyager back then; the world was a befuddling place. How the hell could our feeble minds accept the F3600 anti-gravity racing league?

Well, accept it, buddy boy, because you’re competing. In Wipeout, you choose a craft to pilot in the contests and race these other futuristic effers, while The Chemical Brothers and Leftfield (whoever the hell they are) get their techno on in the background. Exciting times indeed.

As with F-Zero, said races are goddamn fast. They’re set in fancy-ass locales with names like Karbonis, Terramax and Altima VII, one of which is apparently in Japan somehow. The tracks are all rather sexy (in a gonad-dissolvingly-ugly-but-great-for-the-time-early-3D sort of way), and they’re a pleasure to barrel through at several hundred mph.

Wipeout

Wipeout’s soundtrack is also noteworthy. Did I mention the freaking Chemical Brothers? Sure, that wasn’t much of a name to drop in the mid-nineties, but let’s not get too snarky about that. It’s all suitably high-octane and techno, and you couldn’t ask for more than that. This is another part of the package that added to the all-round high production values of the game.

Presentation aside, there’s one aspect of Wipeout that I find most memorable. It adds a kart racer-ish element to proceedings with power-ups. And these ones are pretty freaking sadistic, right here. You’ve got the usual forcefields to protect you from rivals’ attacks and such, but there are also missiles that can destroy them competely.

My first experience with the series was Wipeout 3, and I think I shat myself a little the first time I hit a racer with the plasma bolt and their ship was destroyed; my ranking changing from 12th place out of 12 to 11th place out of 11. What the hell kind of racing tournament is this? It’s not Saw, you sadistic bastards. Saw on Wheels, I like to call it. They’re not wheels, per se, but… oh, screw it. On to the conclusion.

Wipeout
was big, brash and fast. Definitely a real spectacle in the early PlayStation years. There was a little niggling about difficulty and the controls, but otherwise it was very well received.