Monday, September 9, 2013

Game 3: 102 Dalmatians - Puppies to the Rescue

I forgot that the Game Boy was where licenses came to die. Of course, I'm remembering that now, given that two of my first three games have been shoddy licensed games with no souls. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Booting up this game I actually had a glimmer of hope. An Activision game? Not bad, Disney! Crystal Dynamics too? They made Gex or something...that's okay! Digital Eclipse? Wait, you mean the folks who poorly port arcade games to the Xbox 360? Um.

Then, the title screen. Oh such inspiration. Just look at it. The flat blue background, the weird dithering effect on the ears, the generic "PUPPIES TO THE RESCUE" font, the poor composition in general...this title screen communicates more about the game than any essay I could write.

After hitting start, I get a cute little animation that helpfully shows me that all dalmatians are purple, and Cruella De Vil is still cruel and/or a devil.

Purple Dalmatian vs. Yellow Pong Paddle
Then I get...another title screen? Ooookaaay OH GOD this music is awwwful oh crap what is happening why is there a second title screen and why does this music keep getting higher and higher and higher?? This is terrible, let's move on for God's sake.
Also who the hell is doing the coloring on this? Just...why?
Apparently, Cruella has dumped two helpless dalmations named Domino, who has stupid ears, and Oddball, who has no spots, into an evil toy factory. I think, honestly, Cruella may have gone a bit soft in the old think-meat since the last movie, because this plan is not exactly up to par. Not sure where the money is in torturing dogs via possessed play-things.
This is some decent art, actually
So I'm walking around this evil toy factory and jumping up and down. I guess I'm supposed to find the key to let the other captured Dalmatians out, but mostly I'm just finding doggy bones. I guess Cruella's not so cruel after all if she's leaving treats around for her captured puppies. Perhaps this is just an extended training session that will create a skilled jumping/evil toy fighting/key sniffing dog. Then she can sell the well-trained dog to fire stations around the world. Well done, I've underestimated you Ms. De Vil.
That dog is going to break its legs when it lands
I also find that the factory is filled with robotic dogs who seem to be named C9 judging by the letters on their side. I feel like this is a joke on "canine" but I think they missed the mark. The C9s seem friendly enough but I avoid them just in case. They don't seem to do anything but wander back and forth in a very small spot, much like every other enemy I encounter.
They also make toast
In trying to avoid a robot toaster dog I manage to fall about 9 miles to the bottom of the stage. It is both nerve-wracking and frustrating to be a free-falling dalmatian. I narrowly manage to avoid anything useful, including two platforms and a dog bone. I have seen a bunch of cages but not a single key. This leads me to believe that there is just one key, and once I find it I'll have to backtrack a whole bunch around the stage.
Look at those exposed gears. Now imagine a dalmatian in them.
I do manage to find the key, and also discover that I can bark at my enemies. I guess these puppies aren't so helpless after all, seeing as how they bark so loud that it creates visible, deadly sound waves. It disables the robot dogs and the other enemies for a few seconds, enough time to run right past them. I think honestly the enemies may just get really annoyed at the noise because it sounds like a blender on pulse mode chopping up marbles. It's awful. The animation is also hilarious while I'm running because it makes the dog hover over the ground like some sort of, I guess.

Weirdly, freeing a dalmatian looks a lot like exorcising a dog-shaped ghost, eager to haunt the machinery and take revenge on the workers for grinding up dalmatians to feed to their evil toy army. I'm not sure if I'm doing good work or causing innocent machinists to lose their arms. I guess we'll never know.
The power of Walt commands you!
After much backtracking and falling, I finally manage to free all the dalmatian-spirits in the stage. Thank god because that music was killing me.

Actually, let's take a second to talk about the music. All of the songs I heard start out listenable, a few beepy little instruments mingling at a chiptune party. Maybe drinking some punch. Then their drunk friends crash the party and start smashing bottles and throwing food on the floor. Soon the previously harmless instruments are joining in, charging into walls and doing cannonballs into the pool while screaming profanities at the top of their lungs. Then the song mercifully loops, starting at the nice part again. Of course, I've already heard the chaos I know is coming and that makes it so much worse.

Anyway, now that I've freed all of the Dalmatians, I am abruptly taken to the second stage, the creatively named Basement. Again it seems that I am supposed to find a hidden key and backtrack throughout the whole stage repeatedly to find all 8 cages. Amazing.

Why is there a Mario pipe on the - oh nevermind who cares
After screwing around in the second level for a bit and hearing the new music rise to its mind-melting crescendo, the sweet silence of death begins to call my name. I decide to find out what it's like to die, so I walk into a wall of electricity 4 or 5 times. Not kid friendly.
I guess being shocked by electricity until unconsciousness isn't enough to kill this puppy, because I still have 3 more lives. I repeat the procedure 3 more times until I'm able to finally find release from this hellish existence.
Death is too good for you, Domino.
As if the developers knew the reason for my untimely demise, the game over screen has absolutely no music nor sound effects. Normally, I would be offended by the lack of care put into the game, but this time I find the silence to be a welcome relief from vomiting blenders and drunken robot composers. 

Then the game kicks me back to the title screen and the nightmare starts anew.

In the interest of science, I delve back into the game as the second character, Oddball, to see if there are any differences.
Long answer: No
So I guess that's it. There's really not much more to say, yet another uninspired licensed game created by developers who are just trying to pay the rent. I think it's telling that four companies (Disney, Activision, Crystal Dynamics, and Digital Eclipse) all had their fingers in this game. Clearly this was a game designed by a committee, a bunch of people going "what's the quickest way to get this to market?" 

I can't imagine actually working on this project and feeling anything but resent or depression. I think this game is actually so bad not because of apathy, but more a combination of directed rage and negative emotions. The hateful music, the painful graphics, the insultingly simple yet still tedious gameplay all indicate a certain malice. Perhaps this game was a success at replicating the emotions felt while it was being created.

The most important screen in the game
The fact that you can turn the music off proves, I think, that there is mercy in this world. 

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