Ethical Gamer: La-Mulana

Writing a review for La-Mulana might be every bit as hard as actually playing it.

Games made by fans of the particular genre of video games known as “Castleroids” tend to be exacting, grueling affairs if done poorly; exacting, grueling and COMPELLING affairs if done exceedingly well. La-Mulana, in both its original (freeware) form and its 2012 remake manages to achieve just about the perfect balance of difficulty and depth, even where it leaves me needing frequent breaks. The Japanese indie outfit Nigoro originally created the game to be a PC retro game that apes an MSX game — the MSX being the Japanese Microsoft home PC during the Famicom era. In fact, Konami and Hudson Soft developed heavily for the system before moving on to the true consoles, including such titles as Metal Gear (an MSX exclusive, at the time).

I’m currently playing the 2012 remake of La-Mulana, having only briefly attempted a playthrough of the original game. Its graphics bring to mind a 32-bit game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, only much cuter and more cartoony. Your character, the one-block-high Professor Lemeza Kosugi, is a Japanese-American ninja-slash-archaeologist. The “ninja” part is evident in his choice of sub-weapons like caltrops and shuriken, and the “archaeologist” part is evident chiefly in his Indiana Jones attire and bullwhip main weapon.

And, I suppose, the setting — you’ve travelled to La-Mulana, the “cradle of civilization” and evidently a single ruin that contains references to numerous world cultures including Aztec, Egyptian, Greek, Babylonian and Japanese in a sort of Stargate sort of way. With your bullwhip, laptop and a million shuriken (which you have to buy at a gold apiece), you’ll have to unravel the mysteries of the ruins in order to beat your father and professional rival to the punch.

Content note: I complain about another game by this dev that involves “creepshots” type sexual assault. Highlight where the note is to read it.
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Pause for station identification

I have the Mock The Movie transcripts still to finish — CA7746 is sending me subtitle files galore, and I have yet to upload them because they’re always a bit of a pain to attach within WordPress and link appropriately. (The fact that I have to upload them as .txt instead of .srt is not the least problem.)

After that, as promised, I’ll be doing short reviews of my cornucopia of Steam games, starting with, oh, let’s say Mercenary Kings. And don’t worry, they’ll be reviews from my Evil SJW Perspective.

In the meantime, let me remind you where you are.

Welcome to Lousy Canuck.

I like turtles.

Blogkeeping

Over the next little bit I’m going to be catching up mostly with Mock The Movie transcripts that I’ve been neglecting to post. I’m also fundraising for Geek Girl Con, so expect a livetweeting of both the soundtrack and movie proper of Glitter when we hit $2000, and a livestream of Zelda 2: Adventure of Link once we hit $3000. Last I heard, we were at $1780, but that was around noon on Sunday. Not sure where we’re at now, but I’m hoping at least a hair more — maybe even to the Glitter goal already.

Once I’m caught up on MtM and the GGC AoW, I’ll make you go WTF with a BBQ of all the Steam games in my library. I’ve been hurting for content that won’t be particularly likely to draw people’s unmitigated ire, and I honestly don’t have a lot of resources for serious conflict lately (no, honestly, I don’t). So, I got this bright and probably delusional idea that perhaps since I have bought so many Humble Bundles, and perhaps since I’ve not really talked about many of them outside of maybe a tweet here or there, I could do proper reviews of them. I’m also considering doing long-plays of various video games and recording the results, hopefully with my musings on the problematic bits, or the design parts that need critiquing, intermingled.

As though talking about video games from a social justice perspective is a totally safe and conflict-free vocation. It’s certainly worth a try, though! Maybe it’ll keep me writing, even where every other time I open my big trap I make shit explode for, as far as I can tell, no properly-scoped reason. Maybe video games will be different, he said knowing full well Gamergate exists.

We’ll see how all of that goes!

Exploring the wasteland in a red dress

I’m just finishing a playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas, which I bought when it came on sale as a bundle with all the DLC — none of which I’d played my first time through. In this playthrough, I’m playing a female Courier (I’ve long said that if I always choose playing a woman in the games I get that give me the choice, I might come close to 40% female representation!). I have just completed Dead Money, during which playthrough I obtained Dean Domino’s tuxedo — on him, it’s a three piece with bowtie and albeit dirty, still looks damn dapper after two hundred years of consecutive use by its previous ghoul owner.

I put it on my Courier, and like the formal wear the tuxedo is based on, it becomes a pink dress. It’s still CALLED “Dean’s Tuxedo”, mind. But nothing in this game is more jarring than taking a piece of armour off of someone and having it appear completely different when you try to wear it yourself. Something similar would happen if I was playing a male Courier and I tried to wear Vera’s rose-adorned dress. Suddenly, it’s a red and black tuxedo, looking nothing like the piece of fabric I picked off that skeleton.

Today, I saw rumblings that apparently that sort of clothing metamorphosis will no longer happen in Fallout 4, which should have been a happy improvement in the series. That news was incidental, though, obvious only in a segment of trailer displaying a burly male protagonist playing dress-up for his dog through a series of bad-ass and silly outfits then suddenly the outfit is “red dress with a sledgehammer over one shoulder”. (At 9 seconds in, so you don’t have to wait long.)


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CONvergence 2015: my Skepchickcon schedule

So I am on some panels at CONvergence / Skepchickcon, July 2-5th!

Can you guess the theme of CONvergence this year without looking at their site?

I will also, as always, be helping out at the FtB party room, adjacent as always to the Skepchick party room. There will be snacks, there will be glow in the dark booze for those of age after 8pm, and there will be plenty of good conversations to be had.

Technology Won’t Destroy Us – Thu 5:00pm – Plaza 1
Renate Fiora, PZ Myers, Heina Dadabhoy, Dan Berliner, Jason Thibeault

Paranoid predictions about the technological downfall of mankind abound in media, but technology has also made human lives immeasurably better. We’ll talk about more realistic portrayals of tech, science, and human improvement.

Sci-Fail Returns – Thu 7:00pm – Edina
Christopher Hunter, Rebecca Watson, Jason Thibeault, Raychelle Burks, Ryan Consell (mod)

We’ll review the most egregious examples of Hollywood mangling science over the past year. Watch experts pass from denial, to rage, to sobbing as they are reminded that the budget for each film exceeds the global research budget of their field.

So You Want to Rule Dystopia – Sat 8:30pm – Plaza 1
Jennifer Cross, Jamie Bernstein, Jason Thibeault (mod), Heina Dadabhoy, Steph Montgomery

From 1984 to the Hunger Games, dystopian worlds are defined by their evil governments. We’ll discuss the different flavors of political systems that rule dystopian worlds and advise you on ruling your own dystopia.

Dystopian Video Games – Sun 9:30am
Donavon Indovino Cawley, Michael Black, Dani Price, Michael Carus, Jason Thibeault

Wasteland, Bioshock, Fallout, and more. What makes them fun and interesting?

War never changes, but it gets a bit more saturated

FALLOUT 4. Now in Technicolor! It’s going to take place in Boston, because we don’t have enough New England as yet in the Fallout lore. *snrk*

I am so happy this is not an MMO. That would have been a monumental mistake, I think. And I really hope they don’t fragment the content the way Rocksteady just did with Batman: Arkham Knight and the pre-order bonuses.

For the uninitiated, the Fallout universe is not, actually, about an alt history with the Cold War resulting in the apocalypse, believe it or not. It sure looks that way, though, with its 1950s arrested development. Instead, in this universe, nobody invents the transistor during WW2, and instead we invest all our tech development on the vacuum tube. The Great War happens in 2077, over resources, because humanity never gets away from the larger and more resource-consumptive technologies. For some reason, culture is slowed drastically, and by the time of the Great War, America is roughly in the 1950s, only with a Mr. Handy helper robot in every kitchen. After the apocalypse — when India, China, Russia, North Korea and America all nuke the living fuck out of each other (and everyone else, for funzies) — the only survivors are those who went underground into Vaults. They emerge to a wasteland that is populated by mutants, ghouls, raiders and the very dregs of humanity.

I’m happy with this incarnation of the Wasteland. It is significantly closer to Fallout 1 and 2 in looks than 3 ever was, and at the moment, during my replay of Fallout: New Vegas, the only way I can stand to look at it for any length of time is with the Imaginator plugin that offers different colour palettes. (I am presently using the Trek Vaseline Cam palette, which makes the Mojave look a lot like that planet where Kirk fights the Gorn. You know the one.) So I’m looking forward to scavenging the wastelands with more varied landscapes, and with my dog inevitably named Dogmeat at my side.

The only way they could have made this better — at least in my mind — is to have the generic character at the end be a woman, because it’s *just* a generic character, and there’s nothing holding you to picking that specific dude they showed. Could you imagine the outrage from certain quarters? The only way I could think of to make hateful antifeminists lose their shit more than that, though, would be to force the character creation to only allow you to create women. In either case the resultant rage could power me for centuries.

#GeekGirlCon Battletoads Livestream

At 12 noon sharp, CST, I’ll be launching an epic war to beat Battletoads, beginning to end. Jodi will be pinch-hitting to provide a running death count and add messages to the feed. It should be embedded below, but you can also go directly to my Twitch feed if you’d prefer.

If you’d like to donate, click the enormous button below the feed.

Watch live video from Lousycanuck on www.twitch.tv





In case that doesn’t work, go here instead.

The video game that would REALLY keep you up at night

I’m no stranger to losing sleep over video games, though usually in a positive context, e.g. that the game is fun and I don’t notice the time. But what if I was to tell you the story of a video game that was literally designed to steal your ability to sleep… among other things? Sounds far-fetched, right? Read on, gentle reader.

In 1981, Atari had created an extraordinarily innovative video game called Tempest. This game, originally imagined as a 3-D remaking of Space Invaders, had players pilot a spacecraft on the near end of a “tube” that extended into the distance on a display, using now-primitive but then new and innovative colour vector-based graphics (as opposed to raster-based graphics, the more traditional pixellated, hand-drawn art). Vector graphics weren’t new at the time, having been used for other games like Asteroids, but the addition of colour with Atari’s “Color Quadrascan” shadow mask technology, developed to compete with raster games, was a significant step forward. The game also featured differing playing boards at each level, with different geometric shapes making up the “tube”, rather than the usual incremental difficulty increases on an identical board that video games til then had used to ratchet up the pressure on players as games went on. And it even featured the ability to choose your starting level based on performance in a previous game, so veterans wouldn’t necessarily have to play through the initial levels over again while attempting to cause the game to roll the level or points counts over. This marked the first video game continue option — though a later raster game called Fantasy implemented it in its more traditional form.

This post isn’t really about Tempest, though. I’m really just setting the stage for what the state of the art was in 1981. If you’ll believe the urban legends, the US government, at about that time, teamed up with a German developer named Sinneslöschen (loosely translated: “Sense Erase”) in an attempt to turn the nation’s Pac-Man Fever into something a little more useful for the empire: mind control. They created a video game that kids would become addicted to, would play at every opportunity, until the mind control would kick in and they’d lose the ability to sleep or even lose their memories.
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The Legend of Ben

The Legend of Zelda is a game franchise that is much beloved, has sold millions upon millions of copies franchise-wide, and has sixteen-plus installments spanning the rough time-frame such that people prone to creating ghost stories — teenagers to young adults — have grown up with these games making a large part of their childhood. It’s honestly no surprise that a creepypasta — an internet ghost story — was created out of the game series, and in fact it seems that it was just a matter of time.

The statue of Link created by playing the Elegy of Emptiness. It's not a particularly faithful representation of Link.

The statue of Link created by playing the Elegy of Emptiness. It’s not a particularly faithful representation of Link. To people familiar with this story, this is Ben.

One game in the series, Majora’s Mask, is already incredibly dark and unusual in the series. It is one of the very few that does not take place in the Kingdom of Hyrule (or what would eventually become or once was that kingdom — there’s actually a very involved canonical timeline that connects all the games in the series). It is one of the very few games whose chief antagonist is not Ganondorf or a god, but rather, a recurring character who’s gained access to some specific magic. It is also the only game whose chief motivation is preventing the destruction of the world through the manipulation of time, attempting to forestall a natural disaster that’s about to occur — the moon is falling on Terminus, and the Skull Kid, having stolen the magical artifact called Majora’s Mask, is both the impetus for and in possession of the only way to prevent this disaster. In this game, Link has fallen into a doomed world and needs to prevent this doom; as the Mask Salesman tells him, he’s “met with a terrible fate”.

Today’s ghost story involves someone discovering that a young boy named Ben, a boy who’d once apparently owned a bootleg copy of Majora’s Mask, himself met with a terrible fate: he drowned. But then he went on to haunt this bootleg copy, and subsequently the poor hapless 4chan Paranormal board denizen who found it.
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Ghostcraft; or, how Minecraft can really be used to build anything

The extraordinarily popular building/survival game Minecraft by Mojang has revolutionized the very concept of a sandbox game. With its popularity, with its community, comes all the little things that enhance or corrupt society built by society’s own members — including myths and ghost stories.

Minecraft has been described as “LEGO for big kids”, a gigantic sandbox filled with materials that you can collect, and use to build whatever you’d like — a dirt hovel, a series of traps and defenses, a sprawling mansion, a plain old House, an elaborate train system, even relatively complex circuitry (at relatively macro scale). There are no real rules, only a gigantic overworld filled with procedurally generated trees, forests, oceans, lakes, caves and even abandoned mines and dungeons. There are two other realms you can travel to, and there is in fact a way to “win” the game, if that’s your cup of tea. You can travel to the Nether, the Minecraft equivalent of a lava-filled hell, and you can travel to The End, a strange realm from whence the Endermen enemies spawn, and you can do battle with the Ender Dragon to complete the game.

Most players just build things, though. Given the choice between playing in a sandbox, and doing battle with the neighboring town’s dragon, I can understand why the sandbox is a significantly less stressful objective. And there’s always the collaborative aspect of playing with other players on the same server — you can all work together to build great works of art, or you can compete for resources, destroy one another’s work, and steal what resources the other players have accumulated.

Given that aspect of the game is not for everyone, there’s always the option of playing a game entirely single-player, so nobody can undo all your hard work.

Except… was that another player off in the distance? He looked just like your player skin… only his eyes were entirely white. And when you went back to your home base, your accumulated treasures were missing, and all your torches replaced with redstone torches.

You thought you were alone here? Think again!
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