Monday, September 17, 2012

Weekly Shlockness with John Mikula

                More like ‘Shweekly Blockness with Plohn Mik-goo-la’! Am I right? Am I right!? Whatever, I don’t have to explain myself to you. What do you even do anyway? I don’t see you writing for a multi-billion dollar blog/Youtube entertainment empire, so don’t even think about criticizing me. You don’t know what it’s like…to be the bad man, behind blue eyes. It’s way harder than being the good guy in front of green eyes. Coming up with witting openers is becoming harder and harder each week, so you’re going to have to tough out a few more bad jokes before inspiration strikes again. ANYWAY I’ve made enough of an ass out of myself for one opening paragraph, let’s get to shlocking.
Whoa! They got David Bowie to do the soundtrack!?
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                I think I only played one thing this week with any sort of seriousness, and was Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath HD. Oddworld is a series of games that take place on this weird, fantasy/alien planet that’s inhabited by goofy yet somehow very real looking creatures. The idea behind Oddworld is that it’s a planet that emulates the problems of our own. All the wild life on Oddworld is being cut down, there’s slavery, there’s several mega-corps running the world, extinction is prominent, all that fun stuff. It’s a very interesting concept and it’s kind of hard to grasp if you don’t have any preexisting knowledge of the series. I recommend watching the opening cinematic of the first game, Abe’s Oddysee. It will give you a good idea of what these games are all about. I’ll post a link here.
Family reunion at the McGee household
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                So Oddworld started on the PS1 with Abe’s Oddysee and it followed this slave dude named Abe as he tries to bring down the meat processing plant that enslaved him and his people. They later made another game for the Xbox entitled Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee in which the player controls Abe and this new guy Munch as they try to take down more industries. Notice a pattern? There was supposed to be five of these games in what was known as the Oddworld quintology. Each game featured a new protagonist teaming up with the protagonists of the previous games and doing something to make the world a better place. Stranger’s Wrath was not one of these games. Stranger’s Wrath was a side story that takes place in a pseudo western part of Oddworld that had nothing to do with the quintology. The gameplay wasn’t even kept the same. While the other games were platformers with some action/puzzle elements, Stranger’s Wrath was a first/third person shooter with stealth elements. It’s quite the transition.
He's not platforming anymore! Get 'em!
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                After Stranger’s Wrath was released the developer for these games, known as Oddworld Inhabitants, went under and stopped making games. However, a couple years ago a new studio gained the rights to the franchise and started working on the franchise again. This studio was Just Add Water, and their first order of business was to rerelease all of the previously made games onto the PC via steam in a package known as ‘the Oddboxx’. Being an ultra-fan of these games, I bought the Oddboxx when it first came out and I played through all of the games. About a year ago Just Add Water created an HD version of Stranger’s Wrath and put it on sale on the PS3 but it wasn’t until a few days ago that the HD version of the game made it to steam. Because I bought the Oddboxx I was able to snag the HD version of Stranger’s Wrath for free, so I’ve been playing that all weekend.

                Ok, that was an extraordinarily long intro; now let’s get into the actual game. Like I said, Stranger’s Wrath is split between first person shooting and third person platforming. What’s nice is that you can switch between these two play styles at will, so when you come to a series of jumps you have to make, go third person; but when there’s a whole bunch of dudes you’ve got to take down, go first person. The plot for the game is that the protagonist (aptly known as Stranger) needs money for an operation, so he takes up bounty hunting as a way to get the 20,000 moolah he needs. This factors into the gameplay fairly significantly. With every enemy in the game you have the option to capture them alive or to kill them and take them dead. At the end of each mission you turn in all of the dudes you’ve captured and you’re awarded a certain amount of money. Live dudes yield more cash than dead ones, so it’s in the player’s best interest to capture dudes alive.
Suck honey bee Bitch!
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                Stranger likes to use a crossbow to fire critters at dudes. Different critters have different uses and effects. There’s the Chippunk which will sh*t talk enemies into coming over to where ever it was fired, and there’s also the Zapfly which, when fully charged, will stun an enemy for a little while. There’s 9 (I think) different ammo types, and they all work differently in their own way. The idea is to use the different ammo types to set up traps so you can capture enemies one at a time; however, I’ve often found that running in a room full of enemies without a real strategy works just as well. I’m not even being funny when I say that either. The AI is not the greatest in the world, so I can usually get away with running in, capturing one dude and running back out until the bad guys stop looking for me. It’s not ideal, but it works.

                Now, I’ve played the normal version of Stranger’s Wrath and the graphics on that version did not age well. Not that the game looked bad, it just looked like an original Xbox game. The HD version is way, way better in the graphics department. This isn’t some half assed up-res of the game; it’s a full blown remake just about. Characters have new models, there’s now dynamic lighting, and the whole game looks on par with low budget 3D games. There are still some flat textures and some wonky animation, but even so the whole remake looks utterly fantastic.
You can see the fear in my eyes as it's being reflected off of his eyes.
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                Well, that’s about all I have to say this week. You should probably go out and play Stranger’s Wrath, it’s pretty good. I also played some more technic pack Minecraft this weekend, but because of some computer problems I lost my old save game, so I’ve just been working my way back up to where I was in a new world. When I have something new to say about that I’ll make a post about it but for right now I’m going to bid y’all a good morrow for this has been your Weekly Shlockness.

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