Thursday, 8 September 2016

Missed Classic: Antheads: It Came From the Desert II - WON! and Final Rating

Written by TBD

Brick Nash Journal Entry: With the information I found in the hospital basement the antheads are no longer a problem. The giant ants themselves however are being destructive enough without their half-human brethren, and now I've been put in charge of the defenses of Lizard Breath. Being a man of action, I give a cursory look at our defense strategy but decide to commandeer myself a plane and deal with the ant queen in her own environment. To the nest!

Now that the town's put me in charge I can go to the police station to assign the army, police, construction workers and townspeople to whatever locations I choose to fight off the ants. I didn't bother much with this screen, I just sent all my troops to defend two locations – the airport and the M3 mine. I figured I'd need a plane and the M3 mine seemed to be where the action was in this game.

I then went straight to the airport to get a plane. I had to convince Louie I should be able to fly without a license.

I won't tell you which option I chose in order to convince him

After a few screens of non-interactive dialogue where I explained my Korean flight experience and we exchanged national stereotype insults, I got to the plane screen. The ants had beaten me to the airport, however, so I had to do a combination of fighting them off and avoiding them before I could take off. Eventually I got the plane safely off the ground.

Without a liberal use of save states I'd probably still be stuck at the airport

I then flew randomly around M3 mine many times before checking out a walkthrough. I'm not sure if it's the game itself or if it was just my mindset as I played but I had really lost patience with this game's action sequences. In the first game Geez had left me a marker which gave me a good indication of where to look. This time all I had was the evidence that it was likely somewhere near the M3 mine and northwest volcano. I was right, but it's a large area.

I'm not sure if I completed this game back in the day but the idea of doing it without save states and/or walkthroughs fill me with dread.

With help of walkthroughs I finally found the nest. Landing my plane with the skill of a pilot who'd shot down plenty of MIGs in Korea...

Without cheating crashing on this scrub after finally finding the nest would have made me stop playing the game for months.

Eventually I landed my plane near the nest, fought off the ants guarding it and entered,

Finally!

I once again had to traverse two levels of the hive maze and took many wrong turns and dead ends (and a few deaths) before finding the queen


Running up to the queen to give her my gift of a big pile of dynamite starts a ticking sound which gradually gets faster until I make my way back to the surface.

But the ants live underground. What good does watching the skies do?
If I lose the game, which you're almost guaranteed to do the first time you play, I get a slightly different ending screen

And after that I'll look for Jackie... and then the nurse, and I knew what would happen next...

And just to see what happened I also tried not leaving the nest before the dynamite exploded.

The last thing I remember? How can I remember the last thing that happens before my death?

Session Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 5 hours 10 minutes

Final Rating

Puzzles and Solvability - 1
There are no real puzzles in this game. A few minor dialogue puzzles which don't affect anything don't really count. Getting the safe combination from the antheads and the information from Billy may count as a puzzle but not enough to really count. I'm once again giving this a 1 because it isn't an adventure game

Interface and Inventory - 1

No inventory to speak of. The interface is simple and clear. Like the first game the map screen has a cursor and looks like it SHOULD contain mouse movement but I can't really punish a game more than giving it a 1.

Story and Setting - 5

I praised the story of the first game for being right out of a 50s monster movie, but despite the game in some ways improving on its predecessor, the whole explanation for antheads is ridiculous, While the individual dialogue might be improved (see D below) the story as a whole is slightly diminished by the premise of antheads being possible due to psychokinesis. The story is still great fun though. It's a simple premise and really feels like a story out of a 50s monster movie - or at least a slightly inferior sequel to a 50s monster movie. The setting of the small town in the middle of nowhere in 1950s USA still works. Unfortunately we lose some of the tropes that made the first game work so well, but we still have the one person doing what he can to single-handedly save the world.

Sound and Graphics - 7

A giant ant's favourite food is horse... or perhaps cow... maybe llama?

I gave the Amiga version of the first game a 9 here, and am dropping it to an 7 largely because it had a year to improve to keep in line with other games and didn't. I know I copped some flack for giving the original game a 9 but I still stand by my score based on the year of release.. When you compare Antheads with the best of 1990 it's not quite as impressive though, but still somewhere near the top.

Most locations have unique and appropriate music - the main wandering themes are atmospheric and add to the game as you play, and different locations and minigames have different music.

For a 1990 game, I put this on par with 1991's Space Quest IV, but below 1990's King's Quest V and The Secret of Monkey Island.

Environment and Atmosphere - 8

As always, this is the category where Cinemaware's games shine. They try to play like you're in a movie and this game does it well. I've mentioned some of this during the playthrough and in the 'Story and Setting' section but to really understand how well it does you have to have seen the old monster movies it's mimicking and have played the game. I'm considering repeating my 9 from last time but dropping it slightly to an 8. I feel that in all, while a brave attempt, it's noticeably inferior to the first game.

Still a cool intro, but I've seen it all before

Dialog and Acting - 6

For the same reason as It Came From the Desert, this game does quite well in this category. You often get the same information from different people, but in different ways. Each character has a distinct personality and that shines through when they speak.

Apart from Brick Nash, the only new speaking characters are Billy and his dad and they're probably slightly better written than the other characters. Brick's own thoughts throughout give him a personality that Dr. Greg Bradley never had.

The non-linearity that I drew attention to in my Final Rating of the first game is again evident, The dialogue actually gives us more options, though most of them are useless.

The only reason it doesn't rate higher is that there are still limited options to say different things.

One of the occasions we get Lots of dialogue choices, but what's the difference?

On par with the first game is Antheads' 'acting' which is mostly in the opening cutscene but also the way a nurse will call out during the hospital escape scene or the scream you make when an ant gets you.

Final Rating - 48

1+1+5+7+8+6*10/6 equal 47. I'm again giving it an extra discretionary point because it just does what it does so well, and only fails at categories it wasn't even trying to succeed at in the first place.

So, the final rating is 48, which means the 10 CAPs will go to...both Joe Pranevich and Fry. I am surprised it's so different to the 57 I ended up giving the first game's Amiga version. Perhaps nostalgia did cloud my judgement the first time or perhaps I was too cruel in marking this one down for not improving more.

Either way, I did enjoy the sequel – though not as much as the original. I'm not sure why though. If I'd waited more than a year between the games my feelings might have been slightly different. This time the action sequences were more annoying than fun and I put that down to the fact that I've played them all to death so recently.


7 comments:

  1. >I am surprised it's so different to the 57 I ended up giving
    >the first game's Amiga version. Perhaps nostalgia did cloud
    >my judgement the first time or perhaps I was too cruel in
    >marking this one down for not improving more.

    Standards for ratings subtly rise over time, don't they? At least subconsciously if not intentionally.

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    1. Ratings are very very difficult and not as much of a science as we might like PLUS I think we reviewers get better at them the more games we review. So I'm not surprised this one went a bit lower and that seems pretty well-deserved based on the writeup.

      Delete
    2. Also: Fry and I won the guess! I don't even know what happens when two people guess correctly...

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    3. When there's a free game on the line (which there isn't in this case) the winner is randomly selected, but both people get the CAPs. So as CAPs are infinite as long as we continue to sneak into Trickster's place and extract them nightly, everyone gets the same prize.

      But now that you mention it, I feel someone should win, so I'm going to randomly pick.

      I have a die in my drawer so 1-3 is Joe and 4-6 is Fry.

      Drumroll please... ... ... 3!

      Joe is the winner with 10 CAPs!

      Fry, you're the loser. Please enjoy this consolation prize of 10 CAPs.

      Delete
  2. It may not strictly qualify as an adventure game, but Steins;Gate gust got released on steam:

    http://store.steampowered.com/app/412830/

    It's the second highest rated visual novel on VNDB and third highest on Erogamescape (according to this analysis). The main premise is that instead of normal choices, you affect the story by sending text messages to the past. A very popular anime adaptation has been made out of it. And no, it doesn't have any sexual content. :-P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aaand people are complaining about it being a bad port. Damn.

      Delete