Butt Not Found

When I was about 9-10, my parent’s marriage fell apart. They said they’d “stay together for the child”, but what that really meant was that my maternal parent didn’t want to find somewhere else to live (the house belonged to my nan, who also lived with us). As such, the backroom downstairs was turned into her bedroom. It was almost always closed – like all bedroom doors in the house – and consequently, somewhat of a mystery. About a year later, maternal parent brought home a guy she’d been dating. Shortly thereafter he was living with us, in her room. A further mystery to that area of the house.

Outside of working hours, maternal parent would stay in her room smoking her partner’s wares and he would take over the office she’d converted out of the garage, for her secretarial business (which failed) to play games on her PC.

MP’s partner didn’t really speak to me, I was just an annoyance, but if I kept quiet, I could sit at the back of the room and watch him play these games. If he was out selling at the weekend I could even play them sometimes. These are still games that I have a huge fondness for, games I still try to dig out and play every year or so. Lucasfilm Games’s Night Shift, Interplay’s Lord of the Rings, and from the Bitmap Brothers: Xenon 2, Magic Pockets & GODS. They may not be perfect, I may be pretty bad at them, but they lodged in my heart somehow and I’ve never let them go.

Imagine my surprise then when I went through my Steam list the other day to see that GODS had been remastered for modern systems. 11 year old me gave a little cheer and I immediately threw some money down on this updated version of my favourite action puzzle platform games of all time.

I usually only stream about an hour a week, but this week I ended up playing for two, without even realising. And I’ve been sneaking in some additional time here and there ever since. I was back there, toggling levers in the hope of working out the secret combinations to unlock bonus areas filled with glittering prizes, shrinking in horror at some of the floaty jumping, cheering on the thieves to bring me the treasures I needed.

GODS is the story of a hero who faces the fear of the ancient city, to slay the four great guardians, in order to win a single favour from the Gods. The favour they ask is to join these deities as an equal.

This is a loving recreation of the original version, as played by the remaster’s dev on Atari ST. The player character still walks with a certain weight and purpose, and jumps in this odd floaty manner.

Obviously the first thing to talk about with a remaster is the graphics, so (*Mario voice*) here we go!

Platform and background textures are nicely updated, while keeping the feel and style of the original artwork. There was something about Bitmap Brothers games that always stood out and made it instantly recognisable as one of their creations, so it’s nice to see that style given a shiny new coat of pixels.

The design of the shop is great, and icons are clear and familiar. It all feels very much like the original as upgraded by nostalgic memory. Then we come to the character models and here I do have a few problems. Some of the monsters you fight look very odd indeed, less demonic than they once were, more darkly adorable. The humanoids just look like scaled down assets rather than unique, short and stocky races. They all have the plasticy shine of 90’s era 3D animations, with none of the more modern soft glow of subsurface scattering.

The player character model has quite incredible muscles (especially those thighs) and their build overall is much more bulky. Where the original felt like they were built of strong, lean muscle. Like they were strong but agile. This new hero looks like they live on three square meals a day of 3000 calories of chicken, pasta and steroids. Like He-Man got self-conscious at the gym and decided he wasn’t quite ripped enough. Most egregious of all, they’ve hidden their butt. When using ladders, you used to be able to clearly see those firm buns wiggle. Now, the hero has immobile shorts that give no hint of the buttocks beneath. It’s a travesty I tells ya! A TRAVESTY *screams until the very Gods themselves quake in fear*.

With those gripes out of the way, it’s time to talk about some of the benefits. In the original version I played on PC, if you ran out of lives, you’d have to start a whole level again using a couple of continues (for some reasons it’s multiple worlds per level, rather than the other way around). If you ran out of continues, you could use passwords to get back to the start of a level and you’d be granted a set amount of cash to arm yourself. This often meant that you’d be at a slight disadvantage compared to having gone through from the beginning.

In the remaster, you don’t have continues, which means that you can just keep going with the weapons you’ve earned. You can even quit the game and come back to the beginning of the world you last played. It’s quality of life like this which makes me really happy, as someone who is very bad at this game.

Should you want to start a level like you’d used a continue/password in the original, you can access each one you’ve unlocked from the main menu. Here again, you’ll have a set amount of money to kit yourself out for the run.

Another nice upgrade is having multiple buttons for control. GODS was originally designed for one button joysticks so you could easily find yourself jumping instead of going through a door if you were off centre with your movement. Now there are separate buttons for jump, attack, inventory, and using levers. Additionally, there’s a turn and fire control which is great for the regular sections of the game where enemies will appear and surround you.

Back in the day GODS ran at about 17 fps. This version will run at a solid 60 in modern or classic graphics mode. This can be switched on the fly by hitting F10 or clicking the right stick on a controller.

Music here is a little disappointing. The original intro music, Into The Wonderful was super memorable, with its digised speech, catchy tune and low-res intro scene. The new title music is a legally distinct knock-off and honestly, I’d rather that they’d just accepted they couldn’t get the licence and go for something completely different. It’s the 500-in-1 video game console your uncle mistook for a PS4, to the misery of your cousins by comparison. Additionally sound effects are a little odd now. Getting hit sounds like you’ve suffered a minor inconvenience and not like you’ve just lost a quarter of your health. Not sure where they got/how they made that asset but it doesn’t sound right at all.

For all my usual moaning, I’ve really enjoyed this version, even if I do flick graphics modes on the regular, to avoid some of the less than impressive looking enemies. I’m looking forward to more time playing and would definitely say it’s worth the price (~£17.00) especially as it takes the hassle out of playing it on modern systems and provides those quality of life upgrades.

GODS Remastered is available on PC and XBOne now and is due for release on Switch and PS4 early 2019.

Pros:

  • Easiest way to play on modern systems
  • Improved control scheme
  • Easier to put down and come back to, when you need

Cons:

  • Odd sound effects in remastered mode
  • Character models are plasticy
  • They nerfed the hero’s butt!!!

Overall Score: 6/10

Legendarily Fiendish

Every now and then, a hero comes along. One hero, born to fight the hordes of evil. You probably know the drill by now. Mighty, smitey, probably not bitey human comes to wreck evil’s shit. And you, you are not that hero. You’re Bill. Say hi to Bill. Look at his evil little goatee. Marvel at that despicable widow’s peak. Stare in awe at his angry eyebrows. Yeah, you know he means business. He’s a go-getting type, ready to wipe out humanity like a baws.

The Legend of Evil as a 2D, side scrolling, tower defence game, with a pleasant pixel-art style, and a chiptune soundtrack from Springloaded Games (a fact, I only know because it’s written on the Steam page, not because I found it mentioned anywhere on their website. Still, I suppose making games is more important than rabbiting about them. Perhaps Peter Molyneux could learn a thing or two).

The wiley Bill begins his conquest of the human world with limited powers. Movement is controlled by left stick, there’s a dash on B, you can interact with towers with A, view the whole area with L, and dig with R. Later on, in certain circumstances, you get to use a summon move, with Y.

Your first task is to get a demon tower built by moving next to the glowing rune on the ground and hitting A. This brings up your a menu showing all the available demons you’ve unlocked. At first, you’ll only have access to a very basic melee unit, but as you progress you can unlock all kinds of creatures – the slow and sturdy, rock-like Lapis; the mighty, flying Sky Spear, the kind of like, but legally distinct from a beholder Coral Lights, and many more..

Over time, your towers will generate demons to fight for you. Demons will be opposed by the pitiful human forces. These wielders of sticks and stones will pose you little threat and once there bodies are broken, you can harvest their souls. Souls are the currency needed to upgrade your towers. Have them generate more souls over time, churn out demons more quickly, or create area of effect fields such as healing, slowing enemies, or protecting your horde. With your army made strong, you make progress across the map to destroy the human gate and claim victory, before moving on to the next area.

During play, you may find yourself waiting for souls to generate for your next upgrade, It’s times like this you should be searching for small, lit areas. These can be dug up to reveal coins (used for winning bonus medals in the campaign and permanent upgrades in rogue conquest mode) or yet more of those tasty tasty souls.

Gameplay is fast paced for the most part, and the difficulty curve is steep, bordering on vertical at times. With the first six or so levels of the campaign being simple affairs, to introduce mechanics, you’re suddenly thrust into levels where you’re forced to make decisions about where you will build your first tower within seconds. Choosing incorrectly can lead to very quick death. However, with practice, you can pick up what the level wants from you. Be it a quick start from a particular position, followed by demolishing an old tower and replacing with something stronger and then working on upgrades, or building ranged and melee units to support each other against a more diverse enemy.

Ultimately, I haven’t found the campaign all that fun. It often feels like there is one specific way that the game wants you to play an area, and it’s up to you to figure out exactly what the designers had in mind.

Significantly more enjoyable was the rogue conquest mode. Here you play through eight, randomly generated stages. You use a random generator to create an avatar you’re happy with (I got a little green-haired person in a witch hat, who suits me just perfectly) and head into the world. Initially, you are awarded a low-level demon, who is adapted to the biome you start in, be it forest, cliff, snow, or swamp.

As you play through each level, it’s important to keep an eye out for the glowing dig points, as getting money is vital to unlocking new demons, additional towers, power-up orbs for your troops, and abilities like additional starting souls.

Aside from the shop, you can also visit the forge between battles. Here you can attach orbs to your minions to boost their stats or give them new abilities, such as explode on death, knock-back resistance, or the ability to survive in biomes that they are not naturally adapted to. Want to take your best melee, ground fighter out on the cliffs? Give them the ability to jump, and they’ll be able to navigate safely in these battles.

Rogue conquest mode is a great way to see more of the demon types and upgrades that you’d have to play further through the campaign to get a look at otherwise. It’s a fun and interesting challenge that avoids the steep difficulty curve of the main campaign.

The Steam page makes note that the developer is planning to release more content for the game, including PVP, a map editor, a hundreds of levels long conquest mode, and more. I’ll certainly be interested to see what comes of all that.

Pros:

  • Nice graphics.
  • Pretty soundtrack
  • Very replayable rogue conquest mode

Cons:

  • Steep difficulty curve
  • Not a huge amount of content
  • Those lumberjacks can get in the sea (of fire)

Overall: 6/10

The Legend of Evil is available now on Steam and Switch

A Steaming Pile

In a recent post, Valve announced their grand plan to convert the bleeding, wounded, scabrous beast that is Steam, into a feculent puddle of decaying filth.

The post begins, ‘Recently there’s been a bunch of community discussion around what kind of games we’re allowing onto the Steam Store. As is often the case, the discussion caused us to spend some time examining what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we could be doing it better’. From the looks of things, the discussion took place between a parent who’s given up on parenting and would rather just be hoovering coke and an exhausted teenager.

Parent Valve: Tidy your room, there’s all this active shooter stuff everywhere and even the rats are starting to complain about the quality of trash in here. Good gravy, gay world?! This is despicable, clean it up.

Teen Valve: I don’t wanna. Cleaning up is haaaaaaaaarrrrrd.

PV: Fine, well when you drown in trash and raw sewage, don’t come crying to me.

PV: [heads off to their den to shovel charlie up their slowly collapsing nose]

‘Decision making in this space is particularly challenging’ so why decide, just shrug and watch the fees roll in from any rando with a first edition copy of Klik & Play, willing to put in the bare minimum effort, in the hopes of getting on the service.

Those games perhaps shouldn’t be being sold. Maybe they should be the demos you put together on the road to becoming a better creator, because Steam shouldn’t be your Google Docs, full of early drafts that could do with polish. Steam could, and indeed has been, a great marketplace for vetted games.

In the last few years, I’ve had to accept that bad, unfinished, asset flippy crap will be on there. That I can cope with and will willingly block/ignore them, using the new Steam functions. It’s the hate I can’t be dealing with. It’s the hate that will make me want to demand refunds on all 703 of the games I own on the service. They can undulate out of the Unity asset store, looking like a 1998 Net Yaroze release, leaking slime and pus, shimmy up my new release list, and vomit in my face all they want, because making a bad game is far more noble than putting effort, style and polish into pixelated hate speech.

‘[W]e’ve decided that the right approach is to allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that we decide are illegal, or straight up trolling’. And there it is. Steam saw its house on fire, made a coffee, pulled up a chair, said ‘This is fine’, and just sat there, watching its world burn.

‘[T]he games we allow onto the Store will not be a reflection of Valve’s values’. Oh, come now, that’s not true. They represent money. Money has value, and that value will roll into their coffers. Money they can use for truck-loads more ethically dubious, uncut, relevance powder.

‘We are going to enable you to override our recommendation algorithms and hide games containing the topics you’re not interested in’. Isn’t that a simple solution? Isn’t that the best way? Don’t fancy that game about killing the gays or the essjaydubyas or the school kids? Just flick that off. You won’t have to see it. You can hide in your little bubble (ya snowflake). Let these settings help you make a safe space.

Sure, why bother setting an example. Who cares about having any kind of morals or principles. Those things are for whiney babbies who can’t handle real life, where there are no safe spaces.

Jane, all this sounds like loony lefty cerrrrserrrsrrrrrrrp. That’s because it is. As a member of the trans community, who have been attacked repeatedly and with more bile, by bigots of every flavour, and with increasing frequency in the last few years, it’s become clear that sometimes you just have to say no to hateful bullshit. No platform for you you far-right arsehead. No hosting your talk, you hateful exclusionist, wearing the mask of radical feminism. No show for you, you racist fuck. And so on. And so on.

But that makes you just as much a fascist as them! Short answer, you’re wrong. Long answer, so what. If censorship of this kind means that hatred of people of colour, disabled, neuro-diverse, queer, bi, pan, lesbian, gay, trans, non-binary, aces, aeros, demis, etc aren’t exposed to hate in gaming, art, or in their day-to-day lives, because some rando took their principles from wrong-headed games or hate groups, or miscellaneous bigots, then I’m glad. It really doesn’t hurt to put more love and support into the world, but what we’ve seen each time Valve takes a step back on Steam is blatant homophobia, racism, and edgy dickhead simulators (I’m looking at you Active Shooter and Gay World).

If Valve ran a supermarket, you could take a shit, put it in a sandwich bag and sell it in their store. Don’t like seeing bags of Bristol type 6 human waste on the shelves? You can put these blinkers on. All our cereal has glass in it. Don’t worry kids, it turns the milk bloody when you bite into it. How about some of that early access bacon? The dev paid their money and they assure us that it’s still coming out. The trotters you tried out a few months back showed a lot of potential. Meanwhile, in a forgotten shed somewhere in Dorset, racist, homophobic flies are the only devs left on the stinking, green paste that was Baconator Reckoning Revengence. They’ve added new maggots, a rape scene and streamlined the overall pig, but it’s still a rotting corpse.

In any other market place, the buyers check the quality of the product, see if it’s something they actually want to sell, that doesn’t make their business look like it supports hate groups, and make arrangements to bring it to market. What Valve are proposing at the moment is not a shop, it’s a cesspit. Anyone can dump a load in there, and if people want to dive in to and have a swim around in, they’re welcome. Grab a net, hope for something shiny and enjoyable, try not to drown in the burning piss and diarrhoea milkshake.

If anything, this news has made me more grateful for GOG Connect. I’ve been slowly reclaiming games I own on Steam over at GOG since the service launched. I’m very grateful I won’t have to pay for some of those games again and it makes me much more inclined to make future purchases there than fishing them out of the steaming poo puddle.

itch.io creator, Leaf shared the following on twitter:

See, it’s possible to take a stance against hate and intolerance and still be a successful platform. I hope that all this Steam chaos will make consumers sit up and question whether it’s a storefront that they feel comfortable aligning themselves with, or supporting.

It’s Valve’s business, they can do what they want, they’re free to speak, but if that’s the kind of place it wants to be, I’m not going to spend my money there anymore and I’m not going to listen to them.