Games of December 2020

Only two games are actually new this month (and one wasn't even actually played in 12/20 proper). The rest are recaps to tie the old list better together with this one, with all of the graphic adventure games that I have covered in the past (except for Quarterstaff).

Orion Burger (Mac/PC)

I SHOULD have learned my lesson. Do not trust HardcoreGaming101 for what a "good game" is and isn't. Unfortunately, even what looks to be a good game on the surface is not. Take the tragic case of Orion Burger, released in 1996 by Sanctuary Woods yet not released in the United States because of a company refocus to educational software. Sanctuary Woods did play a small part in my childhood, Theatrix (which they bought around this time) was one of my favorite developers as an elementary-aged lad, and I ended up receiving three of four full versions from a demo CD-ROM growing up (those being Bumptz Science Carnival, Snootz Math Trek, and Julliard Music Adventure). More on Theatrix is perhaps saved for another day, but Orion Burger is not quite up to snuff.

Orion Burger, as describes it, "tells the story of Wilbur Wafflemeier, a young man randomly selected to test whether human beings are intelligent life. If he fails the tests, humanity will be harvested and turned into fast food Orion Burgers by an evil intergalactic conglomerate. In fact, there‚Äôs a good chance the human race will become burgers whether he passes the tests or not. After Wilbur fails the first test, he is meant to be sent back to earth from the exact moment and time that he left by a temporal transporter with his memory erased. Something goes wrong, and a Groundhog Day-style time loop is formed, allowing Wilbur to do what he needs in order to pass the horrible tests while remembering what went wrong in all of the previous attempts." Sounds innovative enough, yet in the main game as you try to collect items and solve puzzles, there's a hard time limit (which is not revealed to you) before you get returned to the spaceship and the time loop resets, causing some items to be lost in the process (even if it auto-solves a few puzzles upon completion). This would be a mild annoyance if it wasn't for a few other design flaws—you can get stuck without an item in the time loop and have to restart the time loop, have to go through the same cutscenes when Wilbur is sent back to the aliens, the slow lumbering through each environment (it's not compatible with SCUMMVM, so no helpful speed tools), the fact that Wilbur sounds a bit like Mickey Mouse (and there's no way to toggle subtitles), and in some cases, have to repeat the same puzzles even if you did it the first time around. An early game example is that you have to get some grasshoppers frozen in a block of ice, which are useful for the second chapter of the game. To get this, you need a "Puz" Dispenser and a spring from a mousetrap to repair it. But if you didn't complete the puzzle to get the grasshoppers, you have to get these items all over again. It's bad enough that a walkthrough is practically required to get anywhere in a game without hours of frustration, it's even worse when a walkthrough doesn't ease the pain of actually playing.

Sam & Max Hit the Road (Mac/PC)

Sam & Max Hit the Road is one of the twelve SCUMM games and one of the better half. Part of a franchise that included some games by Telltale (which were later censored on re-release to make a few jokes more politically correct) and (in the 1990s) an animated cartoon, Sam & Max Hit the Road tells the tale of the "Freelance Police", an anthromorphic dog (Sam) and his sidekick, a sociopathic rabbit named Max, trying to go after Bruno the Bigfoot, disappeared from a local carnival.

Causing mischief in graphic adventure games is par for the course, and Sam & Max Hit the Road is the pinnacle of this. In one of the earliest puzzles, you find a "bonded city courier" (a cat) can't hack up the orders to send the two down to investigate the carnival. The solution is to actually use Max (as an item) on the cat to reach into its throat and pull out the orders himself. The journey involves, like any adventure game, collecting items and using them together to get other items.

The best part of Sam & Max Hit the Road is slowly uncovering all the places on the map for you to explore, with only (at the start of the game) only a few places, namely, the carnival, the home office, a minigame, and...three "Snuckey's" locations, clearly inspired by someone's youth, as by the time the game was released in 1993, most of the Stuckey's roadside stores were just a memory, with many of the remaining stores just being a "store-within-a-store" of other gas stations. Ultimately, you unlock nine other roadside attractions to visit (not "Snuckey's" obviously).

There's a minor plot hole regarding how the villainous Conroy Bumpus manages to capture Trixie and Bruno on the lam (about 70% of the way into the game), and some puzzles aren't the easiest to figure out, but after a while, rather than returning Bruno to the carnival, you end up helping the yeti instead in a ritual that involves finding four items that you previously had no purpose for and putting them into a hot tub at a tiki-themed motel, which causes redwood trees to spring up around the Northwestern United States, even in major cities. It's a bit of a spoof environmental story, but the way the yeti chief phrases it, it's either that or a case of "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for yeti children".

The voice acting is great, I'm pretty sure that the same guy who voiced Hoagie from Day of the Tentacle voiced Bumpus' right-hand man, Lee-Harvey. (It was indeed the voice of Danny Delk, as well as Green Tentacle, Purple Tentacle, George Washington, and likely Harold in the future)...however, Bernard's voice actor, Richard Sanders, does NOT voice the Snuckey's clerks, at least according to IMDB.)

I first played Sam & Max Hit the Road in December 2010 (a full decade ago!) and played it again for this entry (actually in January 2021, but whatever), as part of this themed entry.

Eric the Unready (PC)

As part of trying to move everything in the "Old Games List" over, might as well talk about EtU again. First played in 2012 and an early burn from HG101, I would give it maybe two stars at best. Well, that, and I kind of enjoyed the "Swamp Trek" theme, a royalty-free variation of the Star Trek theme.

I don't know why I abbreviated it as ETR (it's UNready) but it's just an old page of the website. (I kind of liked the old thumbnail too and almost made the cut for this month's thumbnail).

Grim Fandango (PC)

One of the many games of 2016 I played and enjoyed, Grim Fandango is about a dead bureaucrat leaving his job behind (not that he had a lot of choice once he took a bit of initiative) to find a woman and uncover a huge conspiracy.

In my original 2016 review, I commented that it was cathartic to play a game where the employee found out he was getting screwed like he thought he was. Since 2016, in my personal life, I have had to endure far worse betrayals, and now find it unrealistic that in the end of the first chapter he begins to take over a mostly-abandoned diner and turn it into a successful casino within a year. In real life, if you start working in a low-end food establishment, a year from then you'll still be in the same place unless fate (more accurately, upper management) has smiled upon you. Maybe with a raise or two, maybe even shift manager, but certainly not at the top, and definitely not in a place to make a lot of changes.

The Adventures of Willy Beamish (PC)

Not a whole lot I can say about Willy Beamish again. It was one of the many mediocre graphic adventure games on the old list.

TeenAgent (PC)

For a knockoff LucasArts game, they at least executed it okay, I guess. It still feels like a cheap knockoff, but I guess it could've been worse (see The Fish Files.

Beneath a Steel Sky (PC)

As of this writing, Beneath a Steel Sky actually got a sequel. I think I can answer ZP's question of "Why are there two Joeys", as because "Ken", which took over LINC in the end of the first game was only an android with Joey's personality uploaded to it (as opposed to the evil base personality, which would strangle Foster for a game over), and I guess that the personality chip was recovered again to have Joey the Robot again. If I'm wrong about that, I would be very disappointed if I ever got a chance to tool around with BASS2.

Machinarium (PC)

Since writing the Machinarium review, it has received an update that changed it from Flash, as well as giving it a bigger screen. It also (likely around the same time) was ported to Nintendo Switch, which has been getting a BUNCH of indie PC ports from the early 2010s to modern times. (If I hadn't already bought most of the games for PC, this might be tempting...or if I got free download keys for the Switch versions from Steam, which will not happen).

The Shivah (PC)

The review for this game makes reference to a few adventure games, including Sam & Max Hit the Road above, plus an old reference to Homestar Runner, which I already mentioned in the review of the game listed below.

Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People (PC/WiiWare)

The aforementioned review can be seen here. I don't think I ever updated it for the other three episodes, they weren't much good and so non-memorable that I had to remind myself of the ending scenes as proof I even beat them at all. It was my first Telltale Games game, which already felt pretty weak, and I can definitely see why they went bankrupt in their weaker (comparatively speaking) titles.

Back to the Future: The Game (PC)

This game was definitely one of the weaker of the games I played since 2014, and I know I took extensive notes on them, most of which I never actually used. The main review linked does address my complaints of the game as a whole, like a lack of brand names that could've been obtainable (and even back when the game was made, I'm sure JCPenney could've benefitted from brand recognition, they literally filed for bankruptcy last year), the "gruesome puppets" graphics, and ultimately, the gameplay and story both failing, with a look at bugs, plot holes, story hidden in dialogue trees, a predictable storyline, and other stuff.