Uncertainty

well…it’s certainly been quite a while, hasn’t it?

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looking back on it, i can say that 2017 has more or less been my “low point”. aside from the fact that my last actual review was posted seven months ago, ranking the pixar films STILL hasn’t been finished (though i’m thinking of re-starting it in a different format than i did before), and i’ve been struggling to figure out what to do with the site, and at one point it felt like i was done with reviewing games altogether. it doesn’t help matters that my problems aren’t even limited to wordpress – after i made the decision to place the site on indefinite hiatus, i chose to shift focus towards furthering my artistic skills and achieve the goal of developing my own project, even going as far as to change my username on most of the sites i had a presence on. but the thing is, whenever i do come up with something, whether it be a game like sketchquest or a series like louie & ollie, i’m always find myself being disappointed with the direction that they’re going in. while i can say that i’ve improved with my art, creatively, i’ve become nothing but a hot mess, going through several ideas but not having faith that they could really appeal to a wide demographic. i’ve been trying to keep something on a presence on wordpress by checking out the stuff you guys make, but even then i know that it isn’t really enough. needless to say, it’s gotten to a point where i can say that i just don’t know what to do anymore. i might try taking a break from social media and go back to square one, or i could try and work on salvaging all this, the former being more likely as of now. and…that’s pretty much all i have to say, i guess.

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How Sonic Mania Has Already Succeeded Where Sonic 4 Failed

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It’s no suprise that the Sonic franchise has had quite the buzz surronding it over the past several months – with a slew of reveals regarding Project 2017 from its’ story, official name (Sonic Forces), and gameplay mechanics, the second season of the Sonic Boom TV series (which interestingly enough I heard has improved in quality, though I still don’t really care about it enough to be bothered to watch it), and the topic of today’s article, the second major attempt at a game in the style of the original trilogy and CD, Sonic Mania.

With an all-new trailer for the latter being unveiled to the public as of late (which by the way is absolutely amazing and you guys should like, watch it immediately), a thought that has lingered in my head ever since Mania’s announcement resurfaced, and one that really makes me hope that it turns out to be a spectacular game in the long run. However, before we get into what that thought exactly is, I’d like to take the time to give you all a brief history lesson.

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As the franchise was slowly but surely beginning to show signs of moving past the times consisting of such masterpieces like Shadow the Hedgehog…

…the GBA port of Sonic 1…

…and of course, one of the crowning achievements of the franchise, Sonic 06…

…Sega made an announcement that they would be making a direct follow-up to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, in what they deemed a “critical first step” to repair the franchise’s tattered reputation. Initially under the codename Project Needlemouse, the game’s official title was revealed to be Sonic the Hedgehog 4, in addition to the reveal that the game was also to be episodic. While expectations, as stated earlier, were generally high (for the most part), they sadly more or less fell flat at the end, as both Episodes 1 and 2 received a generally lukewarm reception, which in turn led to a planned Episode 3 now sharing the same graveyard as X-treme. With all of that out of the way, it’s time we got into the true meat of this article, as well as the previously-mentioned thought in question: How exactly has Mania succeeded in its’ goals as a revitilization of the original games where 4 failed in that department? Well, it was a bit hard to pin down at first, but after a while, I realized just what it was…

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When you take a prolonged glance at either Episodes 1 or 2 of 4, you get the feeling that it’s all too familiar – and not even in the intended nostalgic way, for that matter. Even if there are some mechanics thrown in here and there to differnate itself from them, said mechanics cannot hide the fact that they’re more or less glorified rehashes of the first two games. Episode 1 in particular is absolutely ruthless with this to the point where it reaches full-on Memberberries territory; All four zones are blatant retreads of ones from past games, Splash Hill being a retread of Green Hill, Casino Street being a retread of Casino Night, Lost Labyrinth being a retread of Labyrinth Zone, and Mad Gear being a retread of Metropolis – hell, the bosses aren’t even safe from this! Episode 2 isn’t quite as bad with this, moreso to say less obvious, but my point still remains.

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Mania on the other hand, while indeed reusing levels from the original games and being a throwback to them, is rather more like Generations in the sense that they’re both “Best Of” compilations of the series’ most fondly remembered and iconic levels, though Mania revolves entirely around the original games in contrast to Generations revolving around the series’ recent entries. It also helps that there are also a helping dosage of new levels added in to spice things up, such as Mirage Saloon (pictured above) and of course, Studiopolis Zone.

When making a throwback-style game, the most important thing above all to do is know how to stay true to the past while at the same time not clinging too much to it. This is a tatic that Mania seems to be taking full of advantage of, a tatic which most throwback-style games could honestly really benefit from. And with that, it has already succeeded where 4 has failed.

BONUS QUESTION: What games are you hoping to see get announced at E3 this year?

© 2017 A retr0pia Production

it’s here

“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’.”

– Robert Oppenheimer 

Sonic Begins

In addition to wanting to pursure developing games, I’ve also had an interest in taking a look at various iconic properties and giving my own special take on how I’d reinvent them. However, there’s one property that I’ve had a particular desire to put my ideas towards, said franchise being Sega’s flagship franchise, Sonic the Hedgehog.

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What you are looking at are designs of a hypothetical complete reboot that’s been brewing in my head by the name of Sonic Begins. Essentially, Begins comes from a similar place where Sonic 4 and Mania came about; a back-to-the-basics fast-paced 2D side-scroller in the style of the Genesis games while also building and adding upon the formula established by them, as well as giving an all-new, unique take on the roots of Sonic/Robotnik conflict, as well as Sonic’s meeting with his eventual sidekick and best friend, Tails. If you guys are interested in seeing me develop this idea further, be sure to let me know in the comments below.

SOON….

I’ve been somewhat slow in regards to content here lately, and trust me when I say that I apologize for that. I mean, it’s been almost three months since my last real review, I’ve yet to finish Ranking the Pixar Movies, and there are several games lying about in the mist that I’ve yet to give my take on. However, I will say that (hopefully) very soon, the slack is more than going to be picked up. Expect me to branch out into other games, consoles, and companies (and perhaps some beyond the 90’s), as well as more forways by me into other entertainment mediums, as well as some all-new segments and Ranking the Pixar Movies to FINALLY be completed (hopefully before Cars 3 comes out). Until then, be sure to watch this space, and stay retr0 as always! Oh, and as a bonus, have this timeless masterpiece of absurdity:

© 2017 retr0pia Productions

Color A Dinosaur: An Analysis Of A Masterpiece

Throughout all the years that I have spent playing video games, one question that has stuck firmly with me is the topic on whatever or not they can be considered art. While many have offered varying viewpoints on this, I can say that there is one game that has singlehandedly made the answer point squarely to “YES”. I am of course talking about FarSight Studios and Virgin Games’ Color A Dinosaur.

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Released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the year of 1993, Color A Dinosaur gives you, the player, the task of bringing vibrancy and wonder to the beasts that once roamed the Earth. Right off the bat, gripping and thought-provoking ideas have been brought to the table. While games such as InFamous and Epic Mickey have utilized the morality concept, Color A Dinosaur had already took it to its’ utmost advantage years prior; you have been granted with the ability to either create life or let it wither away to an achromatic oblivion, void of anything resembling soul. This, in turn, leads into the visuals….

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…dear god. If this doesn’t prove my point about how this game is an objective work of art, I don’t know what will. Just take a long glance at that triceratops’ face. THAT is the look of someone who is ready to take on the world. After all, what could possibly stop him? A tyrannosaurus? Naaah. A meteor shower? An actual bath shower would pose more of a threat. An ice age? A total cakewalk! What’s that, you say? You want to see more? Well, I’m not sure what could top this symbolic brilliance, but I’ll try.

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In stark contrast to the triceratops’ fearless enthusiasm, it could be argued that the stegosaurus pictured in this scene shows reasonable concern to the prospects of having color brought upon him. However, despite his slight unease, he allows the process to go forth, not wanting you to carry the guilt of leaving him colorless. Dear god, it’s all starting to make sense now – the “FOR AGES 3 TO 6” text located at the upper left of the boxart wasn’t informing us of the game’s target demographic, but an immensely clever ruse on FarSight’s part to keep us away from playing it, as they knew that its’ artistry and high quality was so severe that they were convinced that noone could handle it or understand it!!! IT ALL MAKES SENSE!!!!

…okay, I might have gotten a bit “carried away”, if that is the proper way to describe it, but my point stands nontheless that Color A Dinosaur is a true, unsung classic of our times. It is more than just a game, it is a thought-provoking, poginant tale about creation, our duty as individuals of this planet, and what we must do to ensure a brighter future for those who live on it. And for that, it is worthy of more than a A+. That’s right – Color A Dinosaur has reinvented the alphabet as we know it. That is literally how good it is. 

With that said, have an episode of Xavier: Renegade Angel. One Adult Swim’s most underrated cartoons IMO.

Boogerman Revisited

There’s a frequently tossed-around saying that we’ve all got to start somewhere…and needless to say, I picked quite the game to start off this whole shebang.

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On January 17th, 2016, I published my second article and my first ever review, which was centered around the 1994 side-scrolling platform game, Boogerman: A Pick and Flick Adventure, released for the SNES and the Genesis. Developed at the peak of the “absurdist humor/gross-out” craze generated by the likes of Ren & Stimpy, Beavis and Butthead, and Earthworm Jim (which actually has quite a lot in common with this game, which I’ll explain later on during the review), the story revolves around Snotty Ragsdale as he must travel throughout Dimension X-Crement (get it, because it’s seven letters away from excrement which is another word for poop…yeah, don’t expect the comedy gold to end there) under the guise of his superhero alter ego, Boogerman, in order to retrieve a power source to a machine built to stop pollution, encountering several foes and obstacles along the way. Like I said, it was a pretty bizarre choice for the game to really get this going to where I am now. And looking back on the original review, I can say that from a personal perspective, it… hasn’t really aged that well. Of course, that’s probably because of how my writing style has generally evolved throughout all this time, but I didn’t exactly elaborate on certain points very well. However, with that in mind, I’ve decided to take a crack at remaking my original review to paint a better picture for hypothetical interested newcomers. With that said, does Boogerman manage to hold up after all this time, or was it just a relic of the 90’s that’s better off staying as such? Well, if you’ve read the original review you already know that answer, but for curiosity’s sake, let’s say that I don’t. Anyways, let’s find out, shall we?

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THE LOOKS

Make no mistake – this is a game that is gross, and one that is more than certainly loud and proud about that fact. Throughout your playthrough, you’re be greeted a nonstop barrage of visual gags revolving around bodily fluids and functions, and good god do they utilize them at every chance that they get. For example, as I’ve stated in the original review, the second world of the game, aptly named The Pits, features such lovely details such as wax oozing out of ears. And if that wasn’t enough, in order to get to bonus areas (which are sewers, because of course they are), you’ve got to flush yourself down a toilet. And if THAT wasn’t enough, the checkpoints are represented by outhouses (yes, in case you don’t know, those are a thing). And if THAT wasn’t enough, there are parts in which you have to get sucked up by a nose to get to one place to the other. And if THAT wasn’t enough – yeah, by now the main problem here is pretty transparent: it all generally reeks (no pun intended) of desperation. With that said, are the visuals outright terrible? Not really – even if the gross-out aspect can get tiresome after a while, the amount of detail that’s put into the backgrounds is pretty admirable and the character animations are very smooth and fluent. It’s just a shame that they’re going into a game that, again, is running partially on a gimmick that wears out its’ welcome.

THE SOUND

If there’s one thing that I can say this game truly gets right, it would have to be the sound, no doubts about it. For something built upon the foundation of a superhero who battles evil with bodily functions, the music honestly has no right to be as good as it is, offering some very catchy tunes that make a fine use of bass. Oh, and how could I leave out the fact that this might just be the first video game in history to prominently feature digitized burps and farts? Man, this might be more of an iconic landmark in the industry than I think it is…

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THE GAMEPLAY

This is where the aforementioned Earthworm Jim comparisons emerge. Both games feature an unconventional protagonist, a satarical and humorous style (though EWJ is based around absurd humor rather than just gross-out humor), and even some similar level design ideas, notably setpieces based around the theme of a level. However, while EWJ and its’ sequel (especially the latter) knew how to keep shaking things up to keep the player’s attention, this doesn’t really make an effort to keep things from eventually turning stale. As stated in the original review, each world has a total of four levels, each one increasingly more tedious than the last, which just gives off the overall feeling that the game is dragging on and on, refusing to end. The bosses can also be somewhat fustrating, as they’re significantly faster in comparison to Boogerman’s rather limited attacks, which primarily consist of snot-flinging, burping, and farting, which is not helped by the fact that it’s a bit of a challenge to pin down their patterns. There are also a fair amount of leaps of faith, a flaw that I personally believe a 2D platformer should NEVER suffer from. While it’s not Bubsy-levels of unpleasentness, this certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the big-name platformers by any means.

THE BOTTOM LINE

At the end of the day, while Boogerman admittedly has some good things going for it, it’s not enough to save from becoming a blandly-designed platformer that tries way too hard to be funny. If you’re a huge fan of character-driven platformers, I suppose you might find some enjoyment out of it, but other than that, there’s nothing really worth sticking around for.

C-

BONUS QUESTION: If merchandise of my characters was hypothetically made (shirts, plush dolls, cups, etc.), would you buy it?