Thursday, 22 June 2017

Penky (Arcade)

It's a tragic thing, when a game has an interesting concept, but poor execution, and Penky represents one such tragedy. The base concept is actually pretty cool, and so simple and obvious that I'm surprised I haven't seen it done before: You walk around painting the floor, like in the old ame Crush Roller, but rather than just avoiding enemies and trying to paint the whole floor of the stage, you are instead competing with another floor painter to have most of the floor yur colour when the time runs out. I guess it's also a little like Splatoon too?

Unfortunately, Penky is a product of Yunsung, a Korean developer whos games have been featured on this blog before, pretty much exclusively in reference to their habit of making poor-quality knock-offs of Compile games. So it might not be an original concept at all, but just stolen from another game of which I'm not aware. All the typical hallmarks of poor games from mainland Asia are in full effect, though: stuff happening onscreen for no reason, low quality sampled music stolen from other sources (including at least one track from the excellent Mega Drive shooting game Thunderforce IV), ugly characters that look like depressing poundshop toys, and a general air of cheapness.

The negativity isn't just confined to the game's presentation, either: it also plays really badly. Now, the aim, as I've already stated, is to make most of the floor your colour before time runs out. So fast movement should be key, right? And there is a power-up that makes you move very fast for a couple of seconds. The problem is that there's also a bunch more power-ups that don't seem to do anything at all, and a lot of the time your character will be slowed to a crawl, or even just randomly stopping to do a stupid pose, both with no obvious reason or explanation. Also, during the matches, other characters will sometimes appear and wander around, clearing both player's colour wherever they tread. All this adds up to a game that's competitive in concept, but completely down to random chance in practice, making it a useless waste of time.

There's other problems too, like how, if you're playing single player, you'll just fight the same opponent over and over on different stages, no matter how many times you beat them. But really, talking about Penky any longer would just be flogging a dead horse. All you need to know is that it's awful and you shouldn't bother playing it.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Curiosities Vol. 11 - Tarot Uranai (3DO)

Although they've been around since at least the mid-80s, you'd think that tarot computer programs would be pretty useless to anyone. If you don't believe in cartomancy, then any kind of tarot, digital or otherwise, is a total waste of time, and if you do, then you'd also presumably know about the various taboos and traditions regarding the touching of cards, and how they're meant to come into the posession of the reader, and so on. But they do exist, and I'm pretty sure they're still around on things like the soon-dead X Box Live Indie Games marketplace, and on mobile phones and the like, too (Though I haven't actually checked, it seems like a safe bet).

Tarot Uranai has something over any of the other tarot programs I've seen, though: production values! Every other example I've seen has either been a very low-fi pixel art dealy on 8-bit formats like the MSX or Game Gear, or maybe even just a secret mode in a proper game like the Playstation port of Puzzle Bobble 4. But Tarot Uranai is on the 3DO, and of course that means FMV and pre-rendered CGI!

So yeah, there's a nice, short CGI intro showing some trees, and then you're presented with a room with three doors, representing three different options. The left door has a cross on it, and takes you to a traditional kind of reading, where a bunch of cards are drawn and laid out in a specific pattern. The middle door has a kind of magic circle design on it, and takes you to a big crystal with the works love, money, business and health. You pick one, and the cards are shuffled, then placed in a big circle, from which you pick one, which I guess reveals your future in that aspect of your life. The final door has a book on it, and contains a little tarot database, where you can look up all the cards and their meanings and such. Whichever option you pick, everything is presented and explained by a Japanese woman with a scarf covering her face speaking in front of bluescreened-in CGI backgrounds.

Like I said earlier, Tarot Uranai is a program with no real utility to anyone, especially people who can't read or understand Japanese. But it's not completely worthless! It does have a great aesthetic that perfectly marries early 90s CGI and a kind of vague pseudo-mysticism in a nice way, that feels like it could have been used as part of the plot-of-the-week in something like the live action Eko Eko Azarak TV series.