Monday, 12 December 2016

Bargon Attack - Gargoyle’s Quest

Written by Alfred n the Fettuc

Bob journal #2 : “Ok, so maybe we’re in the suburbs? I don’t really go there a lot, so maybe it’s what it really looks like. I’m a bit surprised to find head-eating monsters though. Or quicksand. Or a killer sun… well I’m pretty sure that’s because of that global warming everyone is talking about… now where did this guy go? And what is this sound in the distance? It looks suspiciously like a giant crab to me…”

So last week we have made a lot of progress in an hour of playtime. Everything was coming pretty easily. This game was going to be a breeze… Even the giant crab I remembered from my youth was dead before it knew it. That when it dawned on me : the wall I hit when I first played this game was not the crab, but a few screens after that. A wall actually. A stubborn, solid, stupid wall. But first things first, we were on an alien planet last time. Let’s explore!

“Miles from nowhere”? That’s one heck of an understatement.

My first contact with the alien world is harsh to say the least. Going towards the sea kills you in a quicksand. Staying put kills you by turning you to stone (I’m guessing because of the sun rays or something because going for the shadow on the left avoids this). The little green pond on the left kills you. Poking the blob monster kills you. Getting in the cave… strangely doesn’t kill you but close enough. Running near a swimming pool kills you. Smoking kills you. Scratching your nose kills you... Well ain’t this a heartwarming welcome!

Famous last words : “Holy Amckerel!”

Okay, avoiding the sand, the sun and the pond, I manage to get to the skeleton, recovering some kind of arm unit in which I can put the Shoot Program. I now have my very own alien gun! Watch out, everything! The first shot I take is at the blob monster who dies in two laser beams. Great! Climbing the stairs not fast enough kills you but we’re quite used to the game over screen by now. Reload… climbing the stairs fast enough allows me to reach the shining orange pixel on the top left that seems to be… another disk! The Mutate Program! As a seasoned adventurer and considering another monster just popped behind me, I try my new program and… it doesn’t do anything. Reload. I go back to the basics and shoot the new monster with the Shoot Program. Nope. Reload. I discover that after taking the new program, I can simply go to the left of the screen, which takes me back to the start. Okay. I try my new mutate program that seems to do something to the quicksand. I can cross it now! So into the red looking sea we go. Bob disappears under water… and… wow it doesn’t kill you. Surprising.

Don’t worry pal. I don’t understand either.

And here I arrive to the dreaded crab battle! Funnily enough, the letters “insert coins” flash in the middle of the screen and “credits” is on the top left. I use my coins on the top left of the screen and it works. Pretty meta if you ask me. The giant crab shows up and it’s shooting time! The mini-game is straightforward. Simply click on the giant crab so he spits a small crab and shoot the small crab. If the small crab reaches you, you take a hit but your life bar is well fed. Around half of the boss life bar things start to get hectic with small crabs everywhere but randomly clicking on the screen works… and the game is won before I realise what’s happening. we’re pretty far from the battles in Star Trek! Strange it was the point I couldn’t pass in my youth… I don’t remember being so bad at action scenes… Maybe my memory is faulty… Well as we say, anticipating a problem is living it twice, so let’s move on!

That’s what I call a pretty detailed sprite for a screen time of about 20 seconds! I’m guessing we’ll see this little guy again before the end of the game.

After another cut scene of Bob swimming in the deep red sea, we emerge… in the St Michel fountain, back in Paris! Okay… Bob doesn’t seem to be too dazzled about all this. I’m starting to wonder if the game designers were actually trying to do something coherent or if every one of them were doing their own game in their corner and they just glued the thing together at the end, cadavre exquis style.

Phew, I’m glad we reused this crab sprite from this other game we had planned… what’s next? Philippe, you showed me a pixel design of Saint-Michel Foutain the other day, right?

Let’s not overthink all of this and concentrate on the problem at hand. I’m blinking in some kind of unhealthy yellow and exiting the fountain turns me into… a green statue with wings? Okaaaay. Time to use the mutate program! I shoot the lions’ mouths and Bob tells me the water is changing color. Shooting the other lion stops the blinking. I can now exit the water safely. If I try to exit the screen, Bob just comes back without telling me why. This is infuriating. He doesn’t tell me I need to find something else. He doesn’t tell me why he can’t exit. He doesn’t tell me jack. He just comes back, looking smug, and awaiting for me to do something else. Well I DON’T WANT TO DO ANYTHING HERE YOU STUPID PLAYER CHARACTER! JUST DO WHAT I ASK YOU TO ALREADY! I guess the bright side about this is that we can’t be dead-ended if we absolutely have to get the objects we’ll need before moving on but a few directions wouldn’t be a luxury.

My mistake, the green arrow must mean “ABSOLUTELY NO EXIT WITHOUT DOING SOME STUPID RANDOM STUFF BEFOREHAND”

I see that the object of my actual fetch quest is the glove under the right statue’s paw. I use the mutate program on the paw (which moves) and try to get them. The statue puts its paw back down nearly snapping off my fingers (which would remove the need for gloves altogether at the same time no? hem...). So the idea is to mutate the paw then shoot the paw. The gloves are mine and I can finally move on to the next screen. Thanks a lot you stubborn player-character!

The Quais de Seine are really right next to St Michel Fountain, surprisingly enough! I was half expecting to end up in another country at that point.

So, now we’re following a guy from the cult. These guys seem to appear everywhere on our path! A word with the bookseller tells me that the guy is one of his usual customers. I try to peruse a few books, but to no avail. Trying to move on to the next screen results on Bob going back in so I’m guessing I have to find something here. I try to look through all the books and I find… another program! This one is called the Translate program. Shooting it on everything here doesn’t seem to do anything so I move on.

And this is where it dawned on me… as violent as a Skywalker learning about his lineage. The chill runs down my spine. No it can’t be happening! The crab I remembered from my youth as the wall that kept me from continuing the game was a false memory. I knew it was too easy… I won the crab battle earlier but I hit a wall after that. Figuratively and namely speaking. This wall.

What’s that? … (realizing) … I know that laugh…

This was the point I never was able to pass on my first playthrough of the game a few years ago! Ok Alfred, don’t be afraid, you’re a grown man now, a seasoned adventurer… You’ll make it!

So I start my pixel hunt. I try shooting my different programs on everything. The Translate program helps me understand one of the graffitis. It says “When the walls are defaced, the city’s heart is laid bare…” The gargoyles seem to be the solution to our problem. Shooting the Mutate program three times on the gargoyles (or “grotesques” here) seem to do something but the third shot in a row reinitiate something. So we’re looking at a three number sequence. I try to shoot at everything. I try to touch/look everything. Well well well. In my inventory are only the hood and the gloves. Damn. What am I missing?

Wait until we spend a few more hours on this screen.

Ok so maybe I missed something. It’s time to RTFM! Looking online grabs me a manual for this game. Except a few more lines about the plot that doesn’t make a lot more sense, I find something incredibly important! You can use an inventory item on another inventory item by clicking the upper-left screen while holding said inventory item! Let’s try this! Maybe we can use the hood on the gloves or one program on another program! A whole new level of inventory interactions open to me! Aaaand… no… it doesn’t work. Clicking on the upper-left of the screen with an item does nothing. Okaaaay. Two possibilities here. Or we don’t have any item that works and it just doesn’t enable the option. Or it’s simply not implemented. Too bad.

After a few minutes randomly and angrily clicking on everything, I decide to restart the game. Maybe I missed something after all and I’m in a dead-man walking scenario. It doesn’t take me more than one screen to realize what I missed : the leaflets! The leaflets I dismissed on my first try considering it was only gibberish! Well the first one is definitely gibberish but the second one (the one we got by painstakingly solving the stupid moose-head puzzle) holds a clue!

My tears got a taste of salt alright for missing this clue

Going back to the bridge and shooting the Mutate program on gargoyles 1, 3 and 6 open the secret passage! Yay! But before moving on, let me ramble a bit. I have nothing against hidden clues of course! I mean Myst and its friends opened a whole new subgenre where the smallest of chirping noise can be a clue, but hiding it inside a leaflet that you remove from your inventory to solve a puzzle is just cruel! Just leave the leaflets in the inventory until you actually really need them no? Having to restart the whole game (granted it doesn’t take very long when you know what you’re doing but still) from scratch seems cruel. I tried to use the newspaper to get the garage key instead of the leaflets, to see if they stay in your inventory, but no, it doesn’t work. Anyway, enough rambling, more playing, let’s move on!!!

Or not…

Well let’s try to move on anyway… As soon as I approach the opened secret passage, a grate falls down in front of me, cutting the entrance. Okay, so apparently I need to do something else. I shoot everything again with my programs but to no avail. Maybe 6, 3, 1 on the gargoyles? 1, 1, 3, 3, 6, 6? Nope. 1, 6, 3? Uh uh… 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42? Nope. I try putting on the hood and gloves, wondering if they maybe have some kind of security camera but nope. I shoot everything again. I restart the game again. I search every freaking nook and cranny… nope nothing to do. I’m stuck. I was considering applying a request for assistance but I was a bit ashamed to do this so soon in the game! (or I think it’s soon, as far as I know, the game could be ending right behind the grate…)

Nothing new on this screenshot but I feel you haven’t seen this screen enough to perfectly understand my state of mind…

I try everything I can think of and just as I was about to give up, clicking on the red graffiti (for what feels like the millionth try) makes Bob going to it and pressing the black spot in the red O. Click. The grate opens. What?

Via 9gag.com

I had to reload my game to understand it. I spent one hour trying everything I could think of on this screen (or the rest of the game so far) and you just had to press the very obvious button in the very obvious red circle? I think what happened is that I pressed the button ten times while the secret passage was still closed and didn’t press it again after it. I tried Mutate the graffiti, translated it hundred times, I even tried to rub my gloves on it to erase it, but I guess I didn’t click on the damned thing. Three hours of my life went down the drain and I can’t even yell at the poor game for it. Well maybe if it gave me some comment while I tried it at first? Like “It clicks but nothing happens”? Or a clear animation of my character clicking on the wall? Well I don’t know. I feel stupid and I feel like I wrote the word “click” too much already. It seems like a good place to rest. I didn’t cover as much ground as in the first post, but I sure spent more time in the game! I’ll never be able to look at the bridges of Paris the same way now…

Yay, this sewer seems a nice enough place to rest… see you next week!

Session time : 3 hours
Total time : 4 hours

Inventory : Hood, Gloves, Arm Unit (Shoot, Mutate, Translate programs)

6 comments:

  1. I have a bad feeling this game won't really improve our appreciation of French adventure games. Unless the producers were deliberately trying to make a surrealist piece of art, where one screen can lead practically anywhere, I can't really make head or tail out of this. Well, at least I learned a new phrase (cadavre exquis).

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  2. Yes Cadavre Exquis mouvement spawned a number of books, paintings, even movies... never heard about it spawning a video game but we might be in presence of an authentic piece of art! (or a crappy messed up game, the jury is still out on this.)

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  3. Gargoyles and Grotesques are basically the same thing, but one of them features a water spout and the other does not.

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  4. Also, Capcom's Firebrand says "hi."

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  5. Good thing it's not Nintendo, or we'd have a cease and desist order on our hands...

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  6. Why do I have a mental image of Alfred going to that exact bridge in the real Paris and furiously pushing on a brick hoping something will happen.

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