Friday, September 16, 2011

Flash Fiction Challenge: The Numbers Game

It's that time again!

Time to huff ether and drive a city bus?


Time to flip my underwear inside out to get the extra day?


Time to shake a baby till it stops crying?

No, it's Friday! Which means time for another terribleminds Flash Fiction Challenge. This week the Beardilicious One has asked that we write a 100 word story using only three words chosen from a list of five. The words, chosen by a fusion powered robot of such cognitive power that if you looked directly at its CPU for even a second you would walk away knowing how to speak Japanese, are as follows: Enzyme, Ivy, Bishop, Blister, and Lollipop. I have cleverly embedded three of those words into the following story, I hope you enjoy it.

The End

I was unprepared when the end came. I don't beat myself up about it though. I mean, who prepares for the apocalypse besides tinfoil-hat crazies and the echelon they expect to bring it about? Not that it mattered; it got them anyway.

One hundred thousand people died the first week.

Locked in my lab, I work on a cure. I've isolated the correct enzyme, but my hands won't stop shaking. The veins are black and creeping up my arms like ivy, and I can feel the blisters forming on my eyes. Not much time now. Not for any of us.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Game Think: Dead Island

The same rules apply to my game "reviews" as do my book and movie "reviews". These are merely an articulation of the thoughts and feelings elicited by the game and still require an economy sized salt shaker handy when reading. 

The first time I heard about Dead Island was because a trailer for the game had been released which caused half the people who watched it to shit themselves over how awesome it was. It featured a Tarantino-esque use of disjointed storytelling, detailing the tragic end to one family’s vacation by starting at the beginning and the end, then meeting in the middle. You can watch it here.

Personally, I thought it was great. I mean, if they could tell such an effective story in a three minute trailer, think of what they could do with a full length game. But, for every Yin there must be a Yang, and this particular Yang consisted of another group of people shitting themselves, but it wasn’t joy that voided their bowels, it was outrage. You see, the trailer recounts how a young girl is bitten, infected, zombified, and subsequently hurled out of a fifth floor hotel window by her own father. Which is pretty brutal stuff. Awesome, but brutal.

This opened a can of worms, who then all shouted in unison, “How can you kill a child in a game? That’s disgusting!” To which I replied, “With a mouse click of cour—holy shit talking worms!” I’m going to be honest here; if it’s a zombie I’m killing it. No questions asked. At that point physical maturity ceases to matter. Confronted with the moral conundrum of a zombie fetus, I reach for the coat hanger. Every. Time.

So, now that we’ve established that I am a horrible human being (who is going to hell), let’s talk about the gameplay shall we?

Let’s get a couple things out of the way right up front:
1) If you were expecting a L4D clone, you will be disappointed.
2) If you were expecting a traditional FPS, you will be disappointed.

Dead Island is neither of these things. It’s more of an amalgamation of an FPS, RPG, and Adventure game. Kinda like if Diablo roofied L4D’s drink and then invited Dead Rising, GTA, and Just Cause 2 over for some sweet DVDA action.

You have four character classes to choose from: a throwing weapons expert, an edged weapons expert, a firearms expert, and a blunt weapons expert. Each gives you an advantage with the weapons they are experienced with—obviously—and their skill tree provides ways to further increase those advantages as your character levels. I have only played with Xian, the knife expert, and she has a skill tree specific to edged weapons. I assume that each character’s skill tree is set up to increase their skill level with their inherent weapon expertise.

After an initial cut scene and a prologue adventure that serves as a tutorial, you finally get into the real meat of the game. It quickly becomes apparent that in Dead Island “FPS” stands for “First Person Swinger” as the game is heavily dependent on melee attacks. I am currently on the fourth mission and I still haven’t seen a gun.

Weapons are found and, at least in the beginning, wear out rather quickly. You might be lucky to get through ten or so zombies before your boat oar or metal pipe runs out of “durability” and becomes useless. This is something you need to keep an eye on as once the durability meter reaches zero you will still be able to hit enemies with the weapon, but it won’t do any damage. I learned this the hard way after beating on a zombie with a pipe for half an hour before I realized the reason it wasn’t dying was because my weapon was used up. 

The RPG elements consist mainly of XP generated from kills and completed quests, which level you up, and in turn earn you skill points to spend upgrading your character. The skill tree has three branches: one focuses on a berserker style attack which you can unleash once your “rage” meter is full, another focuses on increasing your skills with the type of character you have chosen (edged, throwing, blunt, etc…), and the last focuses on defensive skills such as increasing the effectiveness of med packs and the like.

I managed to get a few hours of play in last night before my nightly-vodka-induced-coma (otherwise known as “sleep”) set in, and I admit to having quite a bit of fun. The graphics are good, not breathtaking, but not Shelley Duvall ugly either. The quest system works, as far as I can tell, and I am looking forward to putting my first frankenweapon together. All I need is the circular saw blade to finish my “Ripper”, which was a bonus for pre-order.
I did, however, run into two glitches—I think—in my first two hours of playing. At one point my flashlight stopped working. I then clipped through the floor of the map and fell deep into the netherworld where, presumably, Satan’s horned cock was waiting for me (I quickly ctrl+alt+del’ed, as I have no desire to preview the violation waiting for me upon my inevitable post-mortem descent into Hell).

The other—which I’m not sure was a glitch, but seriously pissed me off—happened when I tried to play a random coop. Every so often—if you set your game to “internet”—you will receive a message saying “HornyPedo is near your part in the story. Press ‘J’ to join their game.” After about the fifth time, I figured, what the hell, and tried to join a random person that popped up. The result was, the connection never got made, and when I got back to my game everything in my inventory was gone, including all of my money! The game had saved my position, but not my stuff, which kinda made me say a whole lot of bad words all at once in a high octave. I quickly recovered though, and continued on my merry zombie-bashing way (but haven’t clicked the dreaded “J” button since).

All in all, I enjoyed my first foray into the tropical nightmare of Dead Island, and am champing—look it up—at the bit to get back to questing all over the resort’s shady beaches; where the ocean froths red from all the spilled tourist blood. I have yet to kill any zombie-children, but more disturbing than that, I have learned that when attacked by a zombie in a bikini, I will totally check out its tits before I cave its skull in with a tire iron.

Hell, and the mighty horned cock of Satan, wait for me.