Monday, 4 September 2017

Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2: Final Rating

Written by TBD

I was going to ask Madame Chavez what the final rating should be, but got distracted by a hand that she somehow raised without moving her shoulder

Time to rate the game. Before we get started, I'd like to mention why I think this game went down the path it did.

Since point-and-click interfaces became a thing a few years earlier, the companies that made parser-based games had to make an adjustment when they moved to this new type of adventure game. From what I recall of the time, there was a perception that all the challenge would be taken away if you could just click on everything instead of having to write exactly what you wanted to do.

Sierra tried a few strategies to attempt to cope with this – from King's Quest V's dead-ends galore and nonsensical solutions to Leisure Suit Larry 5's tactic of just taking out most of the puzzles and telling a funny (and sexy) story. Infocom clearly went the same way as Leisure Suite Larry 5 with this game. The only puzzle I had a problem with was Barth's 'get the iron' puzzle, which was only hard because the game gave me the wrong information.

Let's get to the ratings!

Puzzles and Solvability


The puzzles in this game are almost non-existant. I'm now going to list all puzzles that don't consist of “Go places and click on things” during Lydia's playthrough
  1. Use Dad's machine to cause a rainstorm, flooding the dried up canal and giving me a way into the army base (which I unintentionally did by clicking on the obviously clickable lever in that room) 
  2. Get key from General's office in the army base to open the drawer in his house (not sure if this counts as a puzzle, but let's be generous) 
  3. Use code found in army base with the transmitter found in the General's car to trick the General into evacuating the town (which doesn't last long as the angry mob ends up in the same place when we get back from our interplanetary excursion) 
  4. Add 69 to the 4-digit copy protection code to get the radioactive isotope (this is the only one that really can't be argued is an actual puzzle) 
  5. Go to the correct strumpet's room in the brothel after reading the General's letter, in order to get his folder 
  6. Use (wear) the army uniform in order to get in or out of the army base 
  7. Use the ingredients Jim told us we needed in a bowl to make alien medicine, and give that and the food (isotope) to Barth 
  8. Click on the shackles of the Goddesses' prisoners (Does clicking constitute puzzle solving?) 
  9. Use invisibility shield before entering Goddesses' boudoir (Thanks for spoiling that solution, Zeke) 
  10. Use recording device on Goddesses 
  11. Use recording device on record player in radio station 
Hm. So, 11 puzzles solved, if we're being generous. And none of them particularly taxing on the brain. Barth has to solve a few more, including the dreaded 'use gun on child' puzzle and the cliched 'get a coin from a vending machine' puzzle.

I can't give a good score to this section, as the puzzles were too easy and unexciting. Let's go with... 2 for this category.

Rating: 2

Interface and Inventory


The interface is clear enough. The cursor changes when it's over something that can be interacted with. This avoids the possible pitfall of pixel hunting. There are no verbs to choose and no need for the right mouse button at all. The inventory is a simple graphical one. Each character has their own style: Lydia with her handbag, Zeke with a toolbox and Barth with a... slime sac?

None of  my three playthroughs had me using the 3d glasses

One small problem with the interface is the navigation mechanic. In most games, after I enter a room, to exit I assume I must turn around. In this game it's inconsistent. Often when I enter a room my character must have turned around as the door I came in from is in front of me – but not always. This makes navigating difficult at first, particularly for locations that have multiple exits. In one particular place the way to get somewhere that's 90 degrees to your left is to press the 'turn around' button three times - weird.

Luckily, this navigation quirk isn't too bad because the number of locations are fairly limited and you get a good feel for where everything in town is by the end of the game.

Functional inventory, simple interface and sometime confusing navigation interface. Hmm. How about a 4 for this category.

Rating: 4

Story and Setting


The setting of the small Nevada town in the 1950s actually works quite well, in a cartoony way – there aren't enough people to make it realistic (there are twelve prostitues servicing the other eighteen people who live in town) but there's enough to make your suspension of disbelief kick in. It reminds me a lot of the town in It Came from the Desert actually, with many of the locations being the same, though the latter also has a few farms and mines to better justify the existence of a town.

The non-Earth locations are less coherent. Planet X has a few locations, but really only one that serves any purpose (which is to hold a meeting we don't get to interact with)

Phobos is also underdone, with the entire moon seemingly a small palace and a rocket field.

As for the story, it's appropriately schlocky, but not interesting: The Leather Goddesses of Phobos are trying to take over the Earth in order to take over the rest of the galaxy! That makes no sense whatsoever, and isn't played off in a funny way to make up for its lack of sensibility.

The story from Barth's perspective is a little more interesting, with him deliberately deciding to contact humans to help his peaceful planet stop the evil Leather Goddesses, but there's still no reason for any of it.

The entire story seems like an excuse to show lots of cleavage (which in general I'm all for.) I mentioned in the Final Rating for the previous game that it was more Space Quest than Leisure Suit Larry – I think this game reversed that completely to its detriment.

So, the first part of the game has a decent setting but the other planets and the story itself are all ridiculous and most importantly, uninteresting.

Rating: 3

Sound and Graphics


The graphics are excellent. It's going for a kind of realistic-cartoon style and does it well. The dialogue screens look good and are well detailed. The only failing this game has compared to its contemporaries is in animation. There just isn't much of it. Most of the screens are static, with perhaps a few sections moving (people's arms mainly.) Barth has animation when he meets people, which is quite funny as his tentacles wrap themselves around people while the text makes it clear he's trying to politely greet the person in the same way he does at home.

The sound is a mixed bag. The music is okay, with some of the tunes being quite catchy (I particularly like the Gas Pump Girls theme, which seems appropriate for the time period and location). The sound quality of the voice acting is a bit off – not unusual for this early in voice-acted games history, but the noticeable pop at the start and end of each sound bite is a little annoying at first. It becomes less of an issue as you play the game and get used to it though – it wasn't long before I stopped noticing it.

I found this song particularly catchy

Hmmm. Great still pictures, little animation but some funny ones, unspectacular sound effects, decent music, subpar voice quality but having full voice acting which is still unusual for this time. I'm torn between a 7 and a 6 here..

Rating: 7

Environment and Atmosphere

Like its predecessor, the game tries to give the atmosphere of a low-budget 50s sci-fi movie. It fails more than it succeeds here, largely because of the uninteresting story I mentioned earlier.

Coming after a game that attempts the same small desert town with science fiction enemy atmosphere, It Came From the Desert, it's a disappointment on that front.

The alien locations seem... not really alien enough... as well, but that's not too different to the movies the game emulates so it'd not a total fail there.

Again, any of this would end up working if the situations and locations had enough comedy to sustain them, but they didn't – apart from Barth's misunderstanding of Earth's items and people, I can't remember too many jokes that weren't based on the 'it'll be funny because it's naughty' principle.

The 'sexy' atmosphere works well though, assuming the intended audience was a bunch of 13 year old boys. I do assume that's the case.

The problem with the game as a whole and this category in particular is just that it was so bare-boned. From playing I get the feeling that a lot of the situations were based off the writer having an idea and then just doing it without refining the idea too much or expanding on the basic – 'wouldn't it be funny if...” first thought. It strikes me as something that had to be put together quickly by some, admittedly talented developers, who did their best to take the the throwaway joke at the end of the first game and quickly make a sequel from it.

Rating: 3 (I'd probably have given it an 8 if I reviewed it back when I WAS a 13 year old boy)

Dialogue and acting

This is one thing the game does fairly well.

While the dialogue isn't particularly exceptional, the consistency of characters is done very well. The fact that descriptions and conversations differ depending on who you're playing as is done well, and the three playthroughs add to the 'realism' of the characters.

Here's a simple example.

Selma and Lydia, passive aggressive rivals

Selma and Zeke, occasional drinking and dating partners
Selma and Barth, tribal shaman and trespasser

The dialogue is funny, but not uproarishly so. I got a few good laughs out of it in each play session, so that's a plus.

One potential negative is that the dialogue is totally non-interactive – there are never any choices to make in dialogue and I'm pretty sure you could complete the entire game without talking to most of the characters. But as for adding to the flavour of the world and the comedy, the dialogue did its job for me.

As for voice acting, it's okay for the period. Nothing special, but decent. And again, as at this point full voice acting was still somewhat of a novelty, worth noting the extra effort.

A good score's in order for this category. Let's go with 7!

Rating: 7

FINAL RATING


Before I get to the fiinal rating, I'd like to revisit something I threatened to revisit about one particular puzzle solution - Barth getting an iron. Feel free to skip ahead if you prefer not to read my rant...

RANT OVER SOMETHING TRIVIAL THAT QUICKLY DEVOLVES INTO INVOKING GODWIN'S LAW AND SPOILING MOVIES FROM THE 1990s:
Now, Infocom. Let's have a discussion. You constantly make it clear when I attempt to use the blaster with people that the reason I can't use my blaster is because murder wouldn't ingratiate me to the local people. Fair and valid, one would think. But the only way to continue the game at this point is to use the blaster on a child. What the hell is wrong with you, Infocom? At first I just thought it was bad puzzle design, but now I'm seeing your ulterior motive. You're trying to desensitise gamers to killing children. How dare you?
I'm sure if I invented a time machine and went back to your offices in 1991 you'd probably counter that, while I had a point and you'd put some evidence of the blaster being discharged by shooting the stop sign into the game, that perhaps my time machine would be better spent going back to the early 20th century and killing a young Hitler rather than filling a stupid plot hole in an obscure computer game.
Bravo, Infocom. You bring up a good point, but allow me to again counter that WHAT IS YOUR OBSESSION WITH TRYING TO GET ME TO KILL CHILDREN?
If I do invent a time machine and go back to the time of a baby Hitler, I would, despite your murderous advice, kidnap the child and leave him with a nice Jewish family so he can grow up without hatred in his heart.
So, if I assume that time travel works like that movie where Bruce Willis dies at the beginning but nobody notices that he dies because he's in the whole movie but then you realise at the end that, oh wow... that was Bruce Willis dying at the start of this movie – MIND... BLOWN! No, no. I'm talking about the OTHER movie where that happens that came out four years before the one you're thinking of... Anyway. assuming time travel works like that movie and everything that I could change has already happened so I can't change anything, then that would mean that the family I gave baby Hitler to was actually just pretending to be a nice family and are actually practicing multiple forms of child abuse and... oh my God, I just created Hitler!
Point taken. I'll be quiet now. Back to the rating.
Now, our final rating will be... 2+4+3+7+3+7/.6, which equals... 43. Seems about right. Not a terribly good game, but fun enough to spend a few hours with and enough differences that it's worth playing thrice.


If I'd spent $90 on the game at full price I'd probably be annoyed at the short playtime but as I got the game from...<REDACTED FOR NATIONAL SECURITY> without paying for it I wasn't worried. If this game was available for digital download for a few bucks I'd say it'd be worth buying if you're after a few laughs and a game you can finish in a single evening. Get onto it Infocom, or whoever owns the rights to this game now – probably Activision.

If I was suggesting anyone play the game, I'd definitely suggest playing through as all three characters, or at least playing as one of the humans and Barth. Barth's playthrough was the funniest, so if you're going to play the game once, I'd say choose Barth, unless you're in it to have lots of implied sex, in which case choose Zeke or Lydia!

CAP Distribution


102 CAPs to TBD
  • Blogger Award - 100 CAPs - for playing through this game for his own perverse enjoyment
  • Grim Tales Award - 2  CAPs - for pointing out an adventure game sale
17 CAPs to Alfred n the Fettuc
  • Tom Cruise Award - 4 CAPs - for guessing the movie Doc Skelton was unintentionally referencing
  • Kurt Russell Award - 4 CAPs - for guessing the movie Tony Barber was unintentionally referencing
  • Shawnee Smith Award - 4 CAPs - for guessing the movie Flo was unintentionally referencing
  • Rowdy Award - 4 CAPs - for guessing the movie Zoe was unintentionally referencing
  • Facebook Award - 1 CAP - for liking one of my titles - yes, I give free CAPs to anyone who says they like something I've written
19 CAPs to Andy_Panthro
  • You're A Genius Award - 8 CAPs - for a fitting and valid guess as to what word was missing in the 'Ode To Trent'
  • You're A Penis Award - 3 CAPs - for thinking of a different fitting and valid guess but not telling us what word he was thinking of
  • Kiefer's Dad Award - 4 CAPs - for guessing the movie Zoe was unintentionally referencing
  • Damn You All To Hell Award - 4 CAPs - for pointing out what Reverend Layberry's church is likely referencing
14 CAPs to Ilmari
  • Psychic Prediction Award - 10 CAPs - for guessing that this game would be exactly one point better than Fascination
  • Some 1950s British Actor Award - 4 CAPs - for guessing the TV show Sheriff Andy was unintentionally referencing
11 CAPs to Joe Pranevich
  • The Quest for Peace Award - 6 CAPs - for guessing what movie was being referenced, and pointing out that it was all downhill from there (like skiing off a building)
  • Meanwhile... Award - 5 CAPs - for noticing an eerie similarity between the council building on Planet X and the place where the Wonder Twins work.
8 CAPs to Aperama
  • You're The Meanest Award - 8 CAPs - for a fitting and valid guess as to what word was missing in the 'Ode To Trent'
7 CAPs to Niklas 
  • Anachronistic Audiophile Award - 7 CAPs - for working out that the save game titles are references to songs and that the songs they reference are from the future
6 CAPs - to Voltgloss
  • A Nice Hot Barth Award - 6 CAPs - for leading the charge in trying to get Barth to be our main protagonist, only to lose out to Lydia. In hindsight, Barth was the funniest playthrough.
5 CAPs to Raifield
  • The Thing That Speaks Award - 5 CAPs - for letting us know a little more about the printer/sound thingie that came with the game
5 CAPs to nemryn
  • Isn't It Ironic Award - 5 CAPs - for pointing out that the soap name was less likely a translation joke, and more likely a brand name joke

8 comments:

  1. In that first image I addumr5its your own hand getting the palm reading and Madame Chavez's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It does look like the hand is closer to me than her, but that screenshot was from my Barth playthrough and he doesn't use red nail polish.

      The hand was actually her attempt to stop me wrapping my tentacles around her in greeting.

      Delete
  2. The Kurt Russell AND the Rowdy awards are the classiest awards ever, they're going proudly on my shelf!

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  3. I think it's worth noting that the entire "use blaster on child" kerfluffle would be completely obviated if this WAS a parser game, rather than a point-and-click game. With a parser, the player can easily instruct the game to "give blaster to child" rather than "shoot child with blaster." But with the "one click does it all" interface, you literally don't know what your click is actually going to DO until you go through with it.

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  4. Quite a coincidence there's only one point difference between Leather Goddesses and Fascination. I guess games making fun of sex fall close one another.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Can we remove the poll for the top left now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can. Give me a moment...

      ...

      Good call. Already completed and no longer relevant poll removed!

      Delete