More rule-breaking

Published March 2, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

I laid myself out a rule that this blog wasn’t going to be about my hobbies; they were terra impermissa.  But I’ve written about my doll/toy collecting a couple of times already now, and…well, today I’m breaking that rule again, but about gaming.  Specifically, the “Professor Layton” games.

So, I had always discounted them, thinking “eh, puzzles, who cares?”  Then I saw a 3DS demo machine running a demo for the latest one, and the anime cutscenes looked really cool.  So I started looking into them, and found out that the stories and writing were a lot of fun, and I ended up hooked.  So I’ve been working my way through the series.  (Ugh, could I possibly have started more sentences with “So I”?  Okay, yes, I obviously could have, but…)

By this point, I’ve gotten up to “The Last Specter”, the last of the DS ones, before the two 3DS ones.  I’m currently in a bit of a state of rage-quit on it, actually, because I came across the most obnoxious puzzle last night.  It’s about a girl “giving out candy” to her friends at her party.  It gives some numbers, and you’re supposed to determine how many friends are at her party.  So the numbers clearly point to 6, I put that in, and it says I’m wrong.  I calculate again, still get 6, and think that maybe the handwriting recognition thingy mistook my 6 for a 5 and I didn’t notice, so I input 6 again, and it still says wrong.  So I check the hints, and it basically says “you silly nitwit, you forgot to subtract one for the girl giving the party!”  Despite that it said she was “giving out” the candy, not “sharing” the candy.  You can’t just change the meanings of words, assume everyone will know you’ve changed their meanings, and then call it “a puzzle”!  It doesn’t work that way!  If she’s having some of the candy, then she isn’t “giving it out” she’s “sharing” it.  That’s how English works!

Ugh.  Sorry.  It was only last night.  I’m still kind of angry about it, as you might have guessed. (Plus I’m feeling irritable because I still have that bad movie hanging over my head.  I just don’t want to watch that dang thing!)  Anyway, that wasn’t actually what I wanted to talk about.

In one of the earlier DS games (due to issues with finding older games, particularly ones like the Layton games, which aren’t so commonly sold to used game stores, I’ve been playing them out of order, so certain details outside of the story get confused in my sub-par brain) there’s a bonus thingy that’s a sticker storybook.  How it works is that when you complete certain puzzles, you’re given stickers to put in the storybook, and you use them to fill in the gaps in the story.  (Like Mad Libs, but without the flexibility.  And without being able to use swear words and sexual innuendos.  Or is that just me?)  So in this one, they seemed to have repeated the storybook idea, only this time it’s a puppet theater, and you get “actions” that the puppets can perform.

It seemed like a sensible(ish) bonus feature.  Until I tried it.  The first “play” is about a frog taking his first cooking lesson.  Not terribly exciting, but the storybooks hadn’t been exciting, either.

So I go along through the slightly slow-paced text, and finally get to the first part where I can interact and select an “action”.  The chef tells the frog that the vegetables are dirty, and then you decide what the frog does in response.  Looking at the list of actions, I selected “lick” because that seemed suitably hilarious.  (Or at least the most amusing of the choices available to me.)

There’s a brief and very generic message about licking, and then you get a title card saying “Boo!  Hiss!” because the audience is revolting, and so you have to start the play over again.

So I click my way all the way through up to the choice again, and duly select the boring “wash” option that it wanted.  And I think at that time I maybe had enough “actions” to get up to the third choice, but then I didn’t have whatever it was I needed.  So after I got the new “action” I needed, I go back in…and find I have to start over at the beginning again.

This is a very bad thing.

In the sticker storybook, the stickers just sat there, and didn’t react if I wanted to say that the door was opened by, say, a fork.  (Sorry, don’t remember the specific stickers anymore.)  Also, you could look ahead and see if a sticker you were about to use was likely to be wanted later on, which you can’t do in the play, despite that in the play’s case it becomes absurd that you can’t re-use “actions”; unlike stickers, you’re not getting rid of them in any way!  Furthermore, the text did not have to type itself out in the storybook–it was present instantly–and the stickers stayed in place no matter how many times you left the storybook and went back to the main game.

But those are the technical problems, the lesser problems.  The big problem is the way it reacts to a wrong entry!

Seriously, which would you rather watch a puppet show about?  A frog who gets a cooking lesson and carefully, neatly does everything perfectly?  Or a crazy frog who licks the dirt off the vegetables, sautes the peeler and tastes the knife?

I know which one I would rather watch!

Think about the most entertaining chef in television history.  What does his average appearance consist of?

Disastrous failure to cook, throwing things every which way, possibly a few explosions, and a melodic dissonance of vaguely Scandinavian-sounding gibberish.

That is what a puppet show cooking lesson should be like!

Forget doing things neatly and properly!  Give me the nonsense of the Swedish Chef any day!  (I apologize to anyone who might read this who is actually from Sweden.  I’m sure that the Muppet crew never intended to insult your nation or its chefs.)

Seriously, if anyone tried to perform the puppet show from this game as a puppet show, they would put their audience to sleep.  Especially considering that most of it is pure narration; no action, not even any dialog, just the lead puppet reflecting on this excessively ordinary, every day scene.  Boooooooring!

Where’s making chicken-in-a-basket by using a chicken as a basketball?  Where’s using a blunderbuss to put the holes in a donut?  Where are the bandito lobsters coming to rescue the lobsterina about to be cooked?  Those are the necessary ingredients in puppet show cooking lessons!

That boring frog didn’t even bounce any meatballs or blow up any pumpkins.

It’s not how a bonus play in a video game should be handled.

Switching consoles and genres to an older game called Suikoden III (on the PS2), one of the 108 Stars of Destiny you can recruit is an actor, and he sets up a stage in the pub in your castle, and at various places in the game you can find scripts for the various residents of the castle to perform.  (Strangely, the actor running the show won’t perform.  Then again, maybe he didn’t call himself an actor, but a director?  Sadly, I haven’t re-played any of the Suikoden games in ages, so a few minor details have grown fuzzy.)

In those plays, you select the character to play each role, and then watch the play.  No matter how badly you cast (even if you, say, cast a dragon or a giant bug as Romeo or Juliet) the play is always completed, and each character has different dialog for every single role, though sometimes it’s just putting standardized dialog through a speech filter, but frequently they’re unique.  (Sadly, they didn’t program it to react to who’s playing the other roles.  So if you cast Hugo, one of the three leads, as Romeo, and Chris, also one of the three leads, as Juliet, you don’t get a different performance from Hugo than you usually get, despite that he hates Chris because she killed his best friend.  (It’s complicated.)  Nor do you get a different Juliet out of Belle when her beloved Hugo is playing Romeo; you get the same Juliet from her if you cast absolutely anyone else as Romeo, whether it’s Chris or even the giant bug.  (No, I wasn’t joking.  You seriously recruit a giant bug.  Suikoden is an awesome series.  If you like turn-based RPGs, and you have access to the PlayStation Store, you should definitely check them out.  The first two are PS1 titles, and available through the store.  I think III is, also.  Not sure about IV and V, but they’re not so important anyway, because the creator left (or got fired?) while III was in development.  In fact, V is barely more than fan-fiction, really.  I wasn’t a fan of that one.)

Uh, anyway, back to what I was saying…right about the plays in Suikoden III.  No matter how bad the casting is, the play is performed in its entirity…but if it’s really bad, the set will fall down at the end and the audience will boo instead of clap.  But those are usually the funniest ones to watch.  Because that game gets what’s important about a bonus feature like that:  you need to make it entertaining.  If it’s boring, no one will want to do it, so why did you bother coding it?  It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

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