208 Reviews liked by anita

It almost feels criminal to rate this so low because DDR is the OG to bridge the gap between skeptics and gaming. A non-violent arcade game with popular music that promotes physical wellness - and it kicks ass??? It paved an entire genre from an influence/cultural standpoint and gave the american arcade scene that last 'oomph' it needed at a time when consoles and redemption arcades were driving them to obsoletion.
But I would not play DDR 1st mix - the JP version, specifically, - again if I could help it.
1st mix ain't even poorly-aged - divorced from the context of the later releases, it has twice as many tracks as the competing Parappa 1, few of the same timing/UI issues, and a wealth of modes and modifiers to mix things up. Its failures are purely in hindsight, being a weak and mostly meatless track selection in the grander pantheon.
There's only 11 songs here; I dislike the selection overall, but it the picks here feel 'right', From 1st to 8th mix, Konami's licenses are all taken from iDance and Toshiba Emi's Dancemania series, which has a consistent blend of disco, euro and pop. Bemani took great care in selecting tracks and artists that would become the 'face' of DDR and mirror the series' aesthetic. There's smile.dk's iconic Butterfly, pop culture classics That's The Way and Kung-Fu Fighting, and then Little Bitch sitting in the corner, being a little bit too fucked up for the party. I don't like all these songs, and I hardly pick them when playing newer mixes, but I couldn't imagine 1st entry having anything besides these, y'know? They're the good ol' good ol's.
Konami and Naoki Maeda's original songs Paranoia and Trip Machine - which would become the series' 'mascot' songs and get remixed into oblivion, - codify the two core principles to DDR's loop: Stamina and Technique. When you break down DDR to 4 arrows, it's embarrassingly simple, but the challenge comes from handling these inputs through your physical movement. Timing the notes, controlling your force to maintain stability and accuracy, alternating your legs and pivoting your body to reduce 'double-stepping', among many other lite techniques. Once you reach a certain level, the biggest hurdle in DDR is simply a matter of 'can I last long enough to finish this track before passing out?' You can enjoy DDR without the dancepad (that's how my family played it), but removing the physical component undermines the real feeling of being there, becoming the dance machine, and surviving the tempest.
Which leads into my dislikes of 1st Mix: Energy. Its song selection doesn't really match the 'intensity' of physical play. These tracks are corny with a capital C - charming, but lacking the impact or raw adrenaline that gets you going. Their tempos are slow, their rhythms are goofy, and their stepcharts are all too basic. At this point in time, DDR still doesn't know how it wants to be played as a rhythm game. Konami had no expectations for how audiences would 'engage' with DDR; we've all seen groups get on a machine and just jump around with no regard for the arrows. So most stepcharts are written to give the player breathing room for freestyling - and when things get intense, it's for crowd-pleasing moves like drills and spins. There's an entire scene of players from then and now who play DDR just for freestyle - and more power to them. It's just not what I look for in DDR.
The menus and overall game layout are fucked over because of this, too. We've all come to accept the 'put your quarters in and pick your songs' format of later rhythm games, but as of 1998, Konami's still thinking in terms of traditional level sequencing. As such, the game's song library is awkwardly split between a 'Normal' and 'Hard' menu, and not all songs are selectable. It's also their way of hiding the short songlist, since you gotta play multiple times to see everything.
In certain lights this is one of the best-aged first entries to a historically-foundational breakthrough series - but there's not a lot to find here if you're coming from the later mixes. Luckily, it's (mostly) uphill from here.

Pretty good erotic pixel art under a tissue paper-thin veil of gameplay that is outclassed by nearly the entire X68000 library. You walk forward in a straight line, enemies spawn in abundance in front of and behind you, you punch or kick them, repeat until you get to a boss. The grotesque disfigurements of these putty women in the core game belie the print materials and slideshow rewards for beating a stage. Though ostensibly these are lesbian displays of lewdness, they cater to the male gaze with laser precision with both parties taking on stances of submission and presentation towards the camera.
Not that this a-phallic focus is of any surprise. Published under the Technopolis Soft label, a software imprint of Tokuma Shoten's Technopolis magazine, this material reflects the contents of this and other Japanese PC enthusiast magazines of the 80s and 90s. Whether it's Technopolis, POPCOM, LOGiN, these magazines and their ilk catered to an overwhelmingly male readership. Entire sections of these and other magazines were devoted to eroge, gravure photoshoots, and erotic manga. In Guerrière Lyewärd, as in Technopolis itself, lesbian imagery is not on display as a means of some liberation for repressed women loving women in Japan, but a fetishistic object for heterosexual consumption. These women are crazed nymphomaniacs in need of a satiation which never comes.
Pornography aside, this is one of the shallowest eroge I've ever played, both in terms of erotic content and the gameplay itself. I thought maybe it was a type-in game, or a pack-in from a Technopolis appendix. No! It physically released! It cost 6800円! That's around $110USD today! That's like $5 for every 'lewd' image, goddamn!!!

Despite its obtuse nature and rough edges, Lack of Love is a game that I think everyone should try at least once in their life.
Lack of Love is universal minimalist storytelling at its finest. Without any words, it conveys a beautiful story that captures the essence of life through its mechanics and striking imagery.
The world is frustrating, unforgiving and cruel. It never truly makes sense beyond its primitive, biological foundation. Despite it all, we grow and change through learning to understand said world and its inhabitants. Love is the key to this. The compassion we have for one another is what keeps it going. It's what keeps us all going.
The L.O.L. project demonstrates that without love, the world is an artificial paradise devoid of meaning and dignity. It's because of this that the project is a failure, and that the world as we knew it continues to live on.
After all, to live is to love.

possibly the most dreamcast-esque title to end up on the xbox, specifically in that bizarre control scheme. left trigger jump, right trigger shoot, different weapons mapped to the different face buttons (except for A, which goes conspicously unused), tank controls on left stick, inverted constrained camera on right stick, and boosting on the left stick button. there's a little bit of "you'll get used to it," but man is it a completely asinine control scheme that both simultaneously wastes valuable controller space and feels clunky up through the end game. an action TPS without strafing is already difficult enough, and somehow they managed to bungle it even more by tying so many necessary actions to stick buttons (the tank controls are not terrible on their own but still awkward). the mercury crash move required for the final boss (which requires both aiming yourself as a projectile in 3D and clicking both sticks in simultaneously while already in the air) is truly where I snapped on this.
it's a real shame too, because the boost mechanics are genuinely interesting and add some much needed flavor to an otherwise bland experience. while moving vertically expends fuel, boosting in the x-y plane is virtually free for the initial portion, and the game encourages you to spam alternating boosts to charge your special gauge and power up your weapons. the sense of speed you get from drifting across rocks like they're ice or flying across a giant map in seconds is absolutely the crux of this experience as a whole, and it's relatively glitch-free to boot. it's unfortunate that most of the platforming requires expending most of the fuel slowly flying up to reach platforms that seem placed to frustrate players getting used to the odd controls. it also does not help that stopping mid-boost requires snapping back on the analog stick, which often does not register properly resulting in either a full-speed fall or a misaligned hover.
the actual shooting mechanics are relatively downplayed thanks to there being only two guns, infinite ammo, and more than a smidge of auto-aim. most of the actual gameplay instead consists of panning the limited camera around waiting for a target enemy out of range to finally snag on your lock-on since around half of the missions consist only of clearing out all enemies in an area. the other ones generally just involve reaching a destination or defeating a mini-boss, which makes even bothering to fight basic enemies pointless. even with the game's extremely short runtime there's quite a bit of level reuse over the 14 missions, and the first two bosses also get reused multiple times each. thankfully for the most part of the bosses are manageable (outside of the final boss) but given the total lack of circle strafing I would hesitate to call them "fun" per se.
thinly layered on top of all of this is a rather odd story that mixes body horror and steampunk on the surface of an alien planet; at least, this is what I gathered from the optional in-game lore, which is entirely text-only and does not really make its way into the story. the off-screen villain dr. hubble seems legitimately unnerving and disturbed from the documents he leaves behind, but since he's never seen - beyond some bizarre infant creations that would make drakengard blush - I couldn't tell you one way or the other how effective he is as an antagonist. the game stirs up some pawed-at philosophy bits with a sort of mysticism DNA splicing thing, but it's so poorly integrated with the gameplay that to even dissect it seems not worth the trouble. all of the mutated colonists you kill ad nauseum throughout the story are somehow turned back to their normal selves in the end, and I get the feeling that most of the swarms of arachnid-adjacent monsters you take on are just random aliens unmentioned by the game's narrative anyway. and no, even by the end I didn't understand why there was a whale in the gunvalkyrie logo.
if anything this game feels extremely rushed, likely because of the mid-stream development shift to the xbox. it does make me wonder how the dreamcast would have handled the game's expansive level geometry (which I might add has the interesting functionality of having scalable area walls at points, though this is extremely poorly managed by the game's physics engine, which already struggles enough with moving the player up slopes) but then again the dreamcast did not have click-in sticks so I imagine earlier prototypes played significantly differently regardless. at best this game is a brainless shooter with mildly interesting traversal features, and at its worst it frustrates the player or forces them to wade through filler that really does not belong in a game this slight. so many levels on which I considered abandoning the game altogether, although I suppose I'm glad I waited it out.

For the people, it was just another exhilarating day, punching and rocketing through a deformed, deranged B-movie. For a decorated Pangea Software, this was maybe their most passionate, prestigious creation. Brian Greenstone and his frequent co-developers had the notion to refine their previous Macintosh action platformers, Nanosaur and Bugdom, into nostalgia for cheesy, laughable Hollywood science fantasy films. As the 2000s got started, this studio wasn't as pressured to prove the PowerPC Mac's polygonal potential, but Otto Matic still fits in with its other pack-in game brethren. All that's changed is Greenstone's attention to detail and playability, previously more of a secondary concern. This Flash Gordon reel gone wrong doesn't deviate from the collect-a-thon adventure template of its predecessors, yet it delivers on the promises they'd made but couldn't quite realize. Greenstone had finally delivered; the eponymous hero had arrived in both style and substance.
Players boot into a cosmos of theremins, campy orchestration, big-brained extraterrestrials, provincial UFO bait humans awaiting doom, and this dorky but capable android who kind of resembles Rayman. Start a new game and you're greeted with something rather familiar, yet different: simple keyboard-mouse controls, hostages to rescue, plentiful cartoon violence, and a designer's mean streak hiding in plain sight. The delight's in the details, as Otto has an assortment of weapons and power-ups with which to defeat the alien invaders and warp these humans to safety. It's just as likely you'll fall into a puddle and short-circuit, though, or mistime a long distance jump-jet only to fall into an abyss. What I really liked in even the earliest Pangea soft I've tried, Mighty Mike, is this disarming aesthetic tied closely with such dangers. I hesitate to claim this mix of Ed Wood, Forbidden Planet, and '90s mascot platformers will appeal to everyone (some find it disturbing, let alone off-putting), but it's far from forgettable in a sea of similar titles. It helps that the modern open-source port's as usable as others.
The dichotomy between Otto Matic's importance for modern Mac gaming and its selfish genre reverence isn't lost on me. One wouldn't guess this simple 10-stage, single-sitting affair could offer much more than Pangea's other single-player romps. On top of its release as a bundled app, they turned to Aspyr for pressing and publishing a retail version, followed by the standard Windows ports. Accordingly, the evolution of Greenstone's 3D games always ran in tandem with Apple's revival and continuation of their Y2K-era consumer offerings. His yearly releases demanded either using the most recent new desktop or laptop Macs, or some manner of upgrade for anyone wielding an expandable Power Mac. Fans of Nanosaur already couldn't play it on a 2001 model unless they booted into Mac OS 9, for example, while the likes of Billy Western would arrive a year later solely for Mac OS X. The studio's progress from one-man demo team to purveyor of epoch-defining commercial games feels almost fated.
So I think it's fitting how a retro B-movie adventure, celebrating a transformed media legacy, dovetails with Apple letting their classic OS fade gracefully into legacy. OS X Cheetah and Puma were striking new operating systems aimed at a more inclusive, cross-market audience for these computers, as well as new products like the iPod. Otto Matic pairs well here by offering the best overall balance of accessibility, challenge, and longevity in Pangea's catalog—matched only by Cro-Mag Rally from 2000, a network multi-player kart racer that would one day grace the iPhone App Store charts. Maybe taking that year off from a predictable sequel to Rollie McFly's exploits was all Greenstone & co. needed to reflect on what worked and what didn't. The first two levels here evoke Bugdom's opening, sure, but with much improved presentation, player readability, and overall pacing. Better yet, stage two isn't just a repeat of the opener like before; you leave the Kansas farming community for a whole different planet!
Never does Otto Matic settle for reusing environments when it could just throw you into the deep end somewhere else, or at least into a boss arena. We go from the sanctity of our silver rocket to scruffy cowpokes and beehive hairdressers, then to literally Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and other mutated comestibles. Next we're chasing down our hapless primate friends across worlds of exploding crystals and elemental blobs, or an airborne theme park of clowns, avian automatons, and four-armed wrestler babies! Pangea practiced a great sense for variety and charm with their thinly-veiled take on A Bug's Life, but the idiosyncractic sights and sounds here feel all their own. I'd even say this game avoids the trap of indulging in the same trope-y xenophobia its inspirations did, mainly by avoiding or at least muddling any clear Cold War allegories. Otto's just as much an interloper here as their sworn enemies, a metallic middleman acting for peacekeepers from beyond. Both your post-level results and Game Over screens show a striking comparison, with humans treated like cattle by either party. Granted, we're not the ones transmogrifying them into jumpsuit-adorned cranial peons.
Parts of the game are actually a bit more challenging than the harder bits in Bugdom, but tuned to give players more leeway and options for engagement. For starters, the jump-jet move works even better for these maps than the ball & spin-dash did previously. It helps that you've got a lot more draw distance throughout Otto Matic, the most important graphical upgrade beyond just particles and lighting. Whereas the rolling physics could sometimes work against player movement and combat, boosting up and forward through the air has enough speed and inertia for you to feel in control. Punching's not too different from Rollie's kicks, but all the pick-ups, from ray-guns to screen-clearing shockwaves, have more immediate utility. (Part of your score bonus also comes from having as much ammo as possible, incentivizing skillful usage!) But above all, the game genuinely encourages you to play fast and risky, sending UFOs to snatch humans away before you can.
I think back to something as loved or hated as Jet Set Radio, which similarly has a less-than-agile control scheme one must master to get an optimal outcome. Frequently using the jump-jet ensures you can reach those cheerleaders and labcoats in time, but drains your own fuel, requiring engagement with enemies and breakables to replenish that gauge. Both games have you watching your resources while finding shortcuts to dive into the action, which in Otto's case means farming baddies for rocket fuel to leave the stage. It's not all that removed from grabbing graffiti cans and kiting the Tokyo-to police, and that reflects how much fun I had on every stage. A couple bits still irritate me here and there, like the unwieldy, tediously scarce embiggening potions on the jungle planet. (The bumper cars puzzles are annoying at first, but straight-up funny after a time.) It's still a somewhat janky piece of work on the fringes, like anything Greenstone made with his '80s design influences chafing against newer trends. But I can recommend this to any 3D platformer fan without reservation—neither too insubstantial nor too drawn out.
And I find it hard to imagine Otto Matic releasing for the first time today with its mix of earnest pastiche, technological showcase, and quaint sophistication. Mac OS X early adopters clamored for anything to justify that $129 pricetag and whatever new components their machine needed; Pangea was always there to provide a solution. As my father and I walked into the local Apple store early in the decade, we both had a few minutes of toying around with Otto's Asmov-ian antics, no different in my mind from Greenstone's other computer-lab classics. But playing this now has me asking if he'd finally done real playtesting beyond bug fixes and the like. No aggravating boss fights, ample room to improvise in a pinch, and worlds big enough to explore but never feel exhausting—their team came a long way while making this. The lead developer's estimation of the game speaks volumes, as though he was on a mission to prove there was a kernel of greatness hiding within what Nanosaur started. Nowadays I'd expect needlessly ironic dialogue, some forced cynicism, or concessions to streamers and those who prefer more content at all costs. Players back then had their own pet complaints and excuses to disqualify a game this simple from the conversation, which is why I can respect the focus displayed here.
Confidence, then, is what I hoped for and gladly found all throughout Otto Matic. It's present everywhere, from Duncan Knarr's vivid, humorous characters to Aleksander Dimitrijevic's impressively modernized B-movie music. Crawling through the bombed-out urban dungeon on Planet Knarr, electrifying dormant doors and teleporters in the midst of a theremin serenade, reminded me of the original Ratchet & Clank in a strong way. And hijacking a ditched UFO after evading lava, ice, and hordes of animated construction tools on Planet Deniz was certainly one of the experiences ever found in video games. (Yet another aspect improved on here are the vehicular sections, from Planet Snoth's magnet water skiing to Planet Shebanek being this weighty, easter egg-ridden riff on Choplifter where you use said UFO to liberate the POW camp.) Factor in the usual level skip cheat and it's fun to just select whichever flavor of Pangea Platformer Punk one desires, assuming high scores aren't a concern.
Just imagine if there were usable modding tools for this version, or if the game hadn't sunk into obscurity alongside neighboring iPhone-era releases of dubious relevance. It's so far the Pangea game I'd most enjoy a revival of, just for how well it captures an underserved style. A certain dino and isopod both got variably appreciated sequels following this and Cro-Mag Rally, but nothing of the sort for Greenstone's own favorite in that bunch? That's honestly the last thing I'd expect if I'd played this back in Xmas 2001, seeing the potential on display here. If I had to speculate, maybe the fear of a disappointing successor turned the team away from using Our Metallic Pal Who's Fun to Be With again. Same goes for Mighty Mike, an even more moldable, reusable character premise. Sequelitis never afflicted the startup like some other (ex-)Mac groups of the time, particularly Bungie and Ambrosia Software, but then I suppose any game releasing in the wake of iMac fever, not within it, couldn't justify the treatment. Otto Matic never reached the notoriety of its precursors, for better or worse, and that means it retains a bit of humility and mystique all these years later.
The OS X era heralded tougher days for Pangea and its peers, as its backwards compatibility and plethora of incoming Windows ports meant these Mac exclusives weren't as commercially savvy. That one company making a military sci-fi FPS jumped ship to Microsoft, the once great Ambrosia shifted direction towards productivity nagware, and Greenstone had his tight bundle deal with Apple to thank for royalties. As a result, I consider Otto Matic emblematic of the Mac platform's transition from underdog game development to a more homogenized sector. I spent most of my childhood Mac years playing a port of Civilization IV, after all, or the OS 8 version of Civilization II via the Classic environment. Neither of those really pushed anything exclusive to OS X or Apple hardware; I'm unsurprised that Pangea hopped onto the iOS train as soon as they could use the SDK! Times were a-changing for the Mac universe, so flexibility and letting the past go was important too. At the end of it all, I appreciate what Otto Matic achieved in its time just as much as I enjoy how it plays now.
Completed for the Backloggd Discord server’s Game of the Week club, Mar. 7 - 13, 2023

As soon as I started playing I was in love with the music and aesthetics, it has a really nice vibe going!
It didn't stop there though, the story is really enjoyable and pretty fun to see play out, the 'collage' theme becomes more apparent as it unfolds. It is about the connections between the characters, about how everyone can have a positive impact on each other and how we can accomplish greater things when we join forces and support each other.
The way every part relates to the others is amazing! I think it really got what it was going for!
This may be a weird thing to say but if you are a persona fan for the right reasons you may like it.

Making cartridge games in the pre-Famicom years poised a dilemma: they couldn't store much game without costing customers and manufacturers out the butt. It's no surprise that Nintendo later made their own disk add-on, among others, in order to distribute cheaper, larger software. All the excess cart inventory that flooded North American console markets, thus precipitating the region's early-'80s crash, finally got discounted to rates we'd expect today. And it's in that period of decline where something like Miner 2049er would have appealed to Atari PC owners normally priced out of cart games.
This 16K double-board release promised 10 levels of arcade-y, highly replayable platform adventuring, among other items of praise littering the pages of newsletters and magazines. Just one problem: it's a poor mash-up of Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and other better cabinet faire you'd lose less quarters from and enjoy more. This was the same year one could find awesome, innovative experiences like Moon Patrol down at the bar or civic center, let alone Activision's Pitfall and other tech-pushing Atari VCS works. Hell, I'd rather deal with all the exhausting RNG-laden dungeons of Castle Wolfenstein right now than bother with a jack of all trades + master of none such as this.
I don't mean to bag on Bill Hogue's 1982 work that much, knowing the trials and tribulations of bedroom coding in those days. He'd made a modest living off many TRS-80 clones of arcade staples, only having to make this once Radio Shack/Tandy discontinued that platform. His studio Big Five debuted on Apple II & Atari 800 with this unwieldy thing, so large they couldn't smush it into the standard cartridge size of the latter machine. Contrast this with David Crane's masterful compression of Pitfall into just 4 kiloybytes, a quarter as big yet much more enjoyable a play. Surely all these unique stages in Miner 2049er would have given it the edge on other primordial platformers, right? That's what I hoped for going in, not that I expected anything amazing. To my disappointment, its mechanics, progression, and overall game-feel just seems diluted to the point of disrespecting its inspirations.
The premise doesn't make a great impression: rather than reaching an apex or collecting an item quota to clear the stage, you must walk across each and every colorable tile to proceed. Anyone who's played Crush Roller or that stamp minigame in Mario Party 4 (among other odd examples) should recognize this. The only bits of land you need not worry about are elevator/teleporter floors and ladders, but the game requires you to complete a tour of everything else. In addition to padding out my playthrough without much sense of accomplishment, this also let me spend more time with Miner 2049er's platforming physics. And the verdict is they're not good. Falling for even a couple seconds kills you, and a lack of air control means mistimed jumps are fatal. The way jumps carry more horizontal inertia than vertical always throws me off a bit, too. Folks love to complain about a lack of agility or failure avoidance in something like Spelunker, but that game and Donkey Kong at least feel more intuitive and consistent than this.
It wouldn't be so bad if the level designs weren't also full of one-hit-kill monsters and platforms with only the slightest elevation differences. The maze game influences come in strong with this game's enemies, which you can remove from the equation by grabbing bonus items, usually shovels or pickaxes and the like. Managing the critters' patterns, your available route(s), and proximity to these power-ups becomes more important the further in you get. But I rarely if ever felt satisfied by this game loop; the flatter, more fluid and tactical plane of action in Pac-Man et al. works way better. Combine all this with getting undone by the least expected missed jump, or running out of invincibility time right before touching a mook, and there's just more frustration than gratification.
Now it's far from an awful time, as the game hands you multiple lives and extends in case anything bad happens. The game occasionally exudes this charming, irreverent attitude towards Nintendo's precursor and the absurdity of this miner's predicament. Mediocrity wasn't as much of a sin back then, especially not when developers are trying to imitate and expand on new ideas. But I think Miner 2049er is a telltale case of how back-of-the-box features can't compensate for lack of polish or substance. For example, it took less than a year for Doug Smith's Lode Runner to do everything here way better, combining Donkey Kong & Heiankyo Alien with other osmotic influences to make a timeless puzzle platformer. The arcade adventure-platformer took on a distinct identity with Matthew Smith's Manic Miner, part of the European/UK PC game pantheon and itself born from the Trash 80's legacy. One could charitably claims that this pre-crash title never aspired to those competitors' ambitions, that it finds refuge in elegance or something. I wish I could agree, especially given its popularity and number of ports over the decade. All I know is this one ain't got a level editor, or subtle anti-Tory/-Thatcher political commentary. The only identity I can, erm, identify is that silly box art of the shaggy prospector and bovine buddy.
Give this a shot if you appreciate the history and context behind it, or just want something distinctly proto-shareware. I just can't muster much enthusiasm for a game this subpar and oddly mundane, both now and then. None of the conversions and remakes seem all that special either, though props to Epoch for bringing it to the Super Cassette Vision in '85. By the time this could have made a grand comeback on handhelds, Boulder Dash and other spelunking sorties basically obsoleted it. Minor 2049er indeed.

Ugh this is gonna be one of those reviews where I'm going to be so cringy about my experience with the game. I really apologize in advance if anyone reads this. This was a really good experience for myself and right now I'm very happy to have played it.
So short little story here, similar to Castlevania Portrait of Ruin, I was always hoping to find a used copy of this game. I thought the cover looked cute but sadly never saw one at a store used but now that I've played it I can say now I really wish I could have played it sooner.
So this is a dating simulator with a rhythm game put into the story as well. You play as a normal girl who you can name and you switch roles with the princess from an alternate world who happens to have the same name and looks as you. The princes you meet are also guys that are similar to your world counterparts. It's up to you to decide who you fall in love with and become dance partners with.
I won't lie I don't really play many in this genre mostly because idk maybe I think I wouldn't enjoy them. I can't deny putting myself in the role of the character definitely made the journey all the more special for me. The dialogue is nothing amazing or anything but I really did like speaking them like I was there. It put me in a reality different from the one I'm in.
The rhythm stuff is neat but it's nothing outstanding but I enjoy it and a lot of the music is like classic stuff. Stuff you would hear irl. It's even got that one song people associate with Spider-Man 2 on stuff like PS2. I swear I've heard that song in other games too idk how it keeps showing up. I do feel like the touch screen makes it a bit iffy if you want a perfect score but you'll never feel screwed over from at least never getting a bad.
Honestly the only real gripe I have with this game is that some of the dialogue can get repetitive when exploring the world which can kind of hurt the immersion and oddly there is incorrect grammar in the US version which confuses me. It rarely happens but I'm surprised it wasn't caught during testing.
The game graphically isn't anything too special but I do like the dances attributed to each song. I also like the magical girl cutscenes for any accessory you try on. Since this is the DS, the models aren't too great but they aren't too bad either. The 2D art is rather cute too, I especially like the girl you play as for the art. She's just super cute! The music for outside of the rhythm stuff is servicable but I will say the constant voices for getting a good combo could annoy people but it never annoyed me personally.
Still kind of just amazed how much I really enjoyed the experience. I think one of the things that made me really smile is late into the game you can get an angel ring item and have an angel outfit for the dances, it's just like wow it fits me so well considering my name and stuff. There's a lot of replayability here but I sadly got other games to get through but I'll be sure to play it every year because I just love being a Princess. I could end this review saying something funny or maybe showing the awful PAL cover but umm yeah it really was a great experience for me personally. Certainly one of the biggest surprises this year for a game. An experience I'll never forget and I always love those kind when looking back. Sorry I'm just so full of joy rn I'll end the review now. Bye bye!

A hyperlinking manifesto for the funny lil' guy in all of us. You exit that clean Mac OS desktop and meet the eponymous object, framed like a Mayan calendar in all its majesty. Then the camera snaps to a more bizarre scene, a fantastically mundane fire hydrant separate from the hatch. Futzing with it either spews water from the spout or invites you to "Touch Me!", upon which begins an adventure in juxtaposition that would make Carroll proud. It's a non-Euclidean, all-inclusive sojourn into an information age lucid dream, a palate cleanser for our inner child, that most surreal utopia.
It can't be understated just how much Bill Atkinson's 1987 invention of HyperCard (and its scripting language, HyperTalk) democratized multimedia software creation. That's a lot of words to say that Rand & Robyn Miller never would made Cyan Worlds the atelier it is today without such a simple but feature-rich engine like this. And they were far from the first to start probing HyperCard's potential. Earlier digital storybooks, like '87's Inigo Gets Out, showed how you could make a simple but amusing story from postcards and duct tape. This software suit did for collages, graphic adventures, and even more real-time games what The Quill had for text adventures, or Pinball Construction Kit for that genre. We know The Manhole today both for its connection to later masterworks like Riven, but it matters more to me as an ambassador for so many ambitious HyperCard works made up to the advent of Mac OS X. Together with the puzzle-oriented, point-and-click paradigm first codified in Lucasfilm Games' Maniac Mansion a year before, Rand & Robyn's earliest title pushed the medium in new directions.
One could look at this short trip and call it slight or too tedious for what unique content's actually included. It's true you spend a lot of time waiting through laborious scene transitions, a compromise worth making at the time. Not only was HyperCard generally not the fastest or most efficient way to make a Mac game (though certainly the easiest), but all the cool animations and sounds the Miller brothers packed in here slow the pacing down further. I'd argue this gives ample time for reflection on the things you've just encountered, however—let alone how they all connect together. From the start, the Millers had their own predilection towards meditation, with a world that beckons your attention but doesn't demand concentration.
The Manhole feels like a dérive, an anarchic dive through unexpected portals to events and characters both showy and quaint. First comes the beanstalk, casting aside the concrete status of the titular object in favor of the unknown. Climbing up and down the vine brings you to the heavens and seas, followed by yet more turns around the proverbial corner. My stroll through this world became a circular rhythm of entering, leaving, and returning to personable spaces, from hub & spokes to beguiling dead ends. And every personality you meet seems to know and accept this bewilderment, the unexplained but hardly unexpected confusion of time, location, and cause-effect.
I doubt the Millers had any Situationist or psychogeographical angle of critique to communicate here. They improvised nearly the whole game as a pet project, a simple consequence of learning how to work with Atkinson's tools and having fun in the process. It's that ease of transferring their creative processes and hobbies into a previously inaccessible venue, the personal computer, that makes this adventure so compelling. Sure, I could criticize how short the stack is, as well as the bits more obviously categorized as edutainment just for Rand's two daughters. (Even then, the rabbit's bookcase of classics has its own idiosyncracies, like the book Metaphors of Intercultural Philosophy which isn't about anything.) Well before the highly regarded, non-condescending storytelling approach Humungous Entertainment's adventures used, I see The Manhole treating any player of any age with empathy and intelligence. Hierarchies and transactions need not exist here. There's a better, more equitable reality promised by the laggy, monochrome disk in your floppy drive.
Enough big words. Let's talk about Mr. Dragon's disco clothes, the elephant boating you through the white rabbit's teacup, and all the linking books and frames later used in Myst for dramatic effect. Observe how easily you can click around each slide, finding new angles in odd places or a delightful audiovisual gag where least expected. Just as Mac OS was the iconic "digital workbench" full of easter eggs and creative potential, The Manhole puts itself aside so that you can just explore, appreciate, and vibe all throughout. It's nice to not have puzzles or roadblocks for the sake of them—if anything's here to challenge you, it's the absence of game-y mechanics or progression. This might as well have been the original walking simulator of its day with how loose it's structured and what few interactions you need to use. And it's entirely in service to the amorphous but memorable, personalized sabbatical you take through Wonderland.
HyperCard cut out the hard parts of multimedia creation, expediting the processes once interfering with non-coders' motivation to finish their work. As such, The Manhole remains a convincing demo of the benefits, philosophies, and cultural impact this technology made possible. Even the initial floppy release I played has a lot of digitized speech and music for its time, and the CD release would leverage that format's increased storage and sample rate to improve this further. Compare this with just the first island of Myst, a place as enshrined in gaming history's pantheon as it is loathed by players seeking to make progress in that game. That single, setpiece-driven location couldn't have its staying power or sense of discovery were it not for Cyan's '88 debut. So much of this game's simple wonder, interconnections, and whimsy would get encapsulated into the '93 title's opening hour, showing how far the Millers had come. This kind of design continuity is hard to accomplish today, let alone back then.
Honestly, I could go on and on and on about this adventure often dismissed as just a children's intro to the point-and-click adventure. In the context of Mac gaming, this was an important distillation of the genre that the platform's earliest game of note, Enchanted Scepters, had pioneered. In my so far short acquaintance with Cyan's library, the parallels between this and Myst are too hard and meaningful to ignore. In The Manhole's defense, you need not play it to understand through cultural osmosis the message and principles it luxuriates in. That's what makes this so perplexing on an analytic level. Though Rand & Robyn made this ditty to satisfy their urges and ultimately start selling software, it's more introspective and uncaring of what you think about it than usual. One can sense the confidence and ease with which this colorful 1-bit universe exists and presents itself. Why rush or insist itself upon any and all who wander in? How can it know who we are, other than a friendly traveler? Our dialogue with such a game should respect both its outward simplicity and the subtleties that creep into view.
I first played The Manhole maybe a decade and a half ago, back when my ex-Mac user dad tried introducing me to this genre and Mac OS software at large. Predictably, I bounced off of it hard, sticking to my fancy PS2, DS, and Windows XP games. But beyond just having a vested interest in older video games and their history now, I've grokked what this unassuming pop-up storybook wanted to communicate. Food for thought, perhaps. Nothing in The Manhole strikes me as therapeutic, though—hardly chicken soup for the gamer's soul. It's as cartoonish, surreal, and irreverent as ever, a brief respite that one can claw into or bask in. Akin to something contemporary like If Monks Had Macs, this piece of history delights in playing the part of a media crossroad, a frame through which new perspectives can be found. I think there's a lot of value in that; if and when I write my own interactive stories, I'll be revisiting this to remind myself of what I cherish in this medium.

lol, uh, I'm concerned that anyone might actually think the Speccy games this "homage" references were ever this bad
It's not horrible for a 5-10 minute romp through hastily-made, gorily garish mazes until you find the somewhat hidden secret room that ends it. The music choices remind me of the earlier Space Funeral in a good way, and its commitment to just being a little fucked-up guy of a game, only loved by its creator, is admirable. Sadly, Fucker Gamer Scum Get Fucked almost entirely misunderstands the source material it's deriving from. Both of John George Jones' splatterpunk classics for the ZX Spectrum, Go to Hell and Soft & Cuddly, are both more playable than this and offer an ironically meaningful kind of Thatcher-era nihilism. They were emblematic "video nasties" taken to the computer's known limits, while FGSGS would barely escape the Newgrounds blam-hammer with how much it tries my patience.
From the start, you're bombarded with Speccy-like colors-on-black aesthetics, albeit balking that platform's infamous graphical restrictions (ex. sprite color clash). None of this looks as cohesive as I think the creator intended. More detailed sprites and objects stand out in an uncanny but uninteresting way, like an overworked collage canvas. We're supposed to be floating a bizarre nightmare maze of sorts, the kind of Grand Guignol show turned gore film that Go to Hell did so well. But I wasn't even a bit spooked or put-off by the imagery, just bored. At least this doesn't fall into the same traps as fashionable mascot horror one-offs these days, but the baneful bits of J.G. Jones' duo have lasting power this doesn't. Used syringes, nondescript projectiles, and a cheap glut of bloody surfaces does not a fun horror show make. Gimme me the conjoined babies, flying guillotines, walls made of Hell's victims spanning all its rings, distorted scrimblo faces to make Otto from Berzerk proud...all that you'll get in the actual '80s games.
Now, you won't catch me saying there's any trenchant narrative or commentary in something like Soft & Cuddly. Transgression was by far the most important goal for Jones, using the Sinclair PC's inimitable visual strengths to transform horror cliches into something more compelling. But his creations weren't lumped into the more literary splatterpunk movement without good reason. There's a distinct air of anti-Tory, pro-creators ethos felt throughout either adventure, from the mercurial hells you explore to cute humor like the game over screen punchlines. All the grim, strange sights on offer, plus shrill soundscapes, evokes the evolving, never-ending drudgery of living through miners' strikes, predatory capitalism, and Mary Whitehouse screeds against non-conservative art in general. Jones made these shambling but nonetheless enjoyable scare houses for himself and friends, something the punks and outsiders could share in common.
I'm not sure who the audience for this modern retread is. Parts of FGSGS look too polished, too modern game engine-based to fit a visual style made under technical constraints. Go to Hell wasn't much more than a decent if tedious maze adventure, but this has barely any progression at all. You quickly jet your way through not nearly enough screens to feel as complete as its inspiration, all while seemingly anything kills you without logic. The life-draining walls and enemies in Go to Hell are very punitive, but possible to work around and feel some accomplishment for reaching each cross. FGSGS just has nothing like that. It's a big nothingburger of an attempted mid-2000s Flash game in its current state. Less like an amateur's earnest riff on Clive Barker, Alan Moore, Tanith Lee, or any other icons of '80s UK pulp fiction—more like My First VVVVVV Fangame v0.3.
But worst of all, this just doesn't get the kind of socio-economic nihilism that makes Jones' games so interesting today. I couldn't come across any weird level design, enemy type, or wacky set-piece here suggesting that vibe of "we're stuck in a hellish war-torn ghost town world with nowhere to go, hounded by those above us". Go to Hell has you playing a very simple but recognizably Manic Miner-like character, traveling through corridors adorned with commodified villains, symbols, and unfortunates like yourself. The crosses you seek are themselves distorted, flashing neon facsimiles of the real thing, lighting up a night of meticulous wandering. Jones' hell feels surprisingly barren despite its content overload, a telling contrast. Reaching each cross and finally Alice Cooper's digitized mug may not mean much, but there's something to feel accomplished about. FGSGS really just throws everything and the kitchen sink at you, hoping something sticks.
IDK, there's not much more to say for this one. Throw it on if you love watching your PC monitor forcibly switch to 640x480 resolution, or want a quick laugh. I get more enjoyment from Livesey Walk animations, let alone a quality YouTube Poop with the same runtime. Normally I'd just give this kind of game a 2-star rating and move on, but it's hurt a bit by having such a dismissive attitude towards Jones' games and the "ZX Spectrum aesthetic" in general. (Not that I fault anyone for disliking how Speccy games almost always look, but developers have crafted very artistically interesting works on it for a long time.) The most praise I'll give to Fucker Game Scrum Get Stabbed is that I finally played Go to Hell because of it—now that's what I call Entertainment.
Completed for the Backloggd Discord server’s Game of the Week club, Feb. 28 – Mar. 6, 2023