Crash Course (ep. 18) – The Binding Of Isaac

Here it is – the game I wanted to start Roguelike Month with. The game that I’ve been looking forward to for a long, long time. The game that I’ve seen and heard so much about. The game that has garnered a massive following in the gaming world.

After hours of troubleshooting with my recording equipment, I can now finally say that – based on first impressions – it is a huge disappointed.

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Crash Course (ep. 16) – Rogue Legacy

Roguelike Month marches on! Next in line is “Rogue Legacy”, where the gold and items you earn in one life are inherited by your successor and can be used to upgrade your future play-throughs with additional classes, weapons, spells, and passive buffs. While we will remember the lessons and misfortunes of our fallen forefathers, we will still plunge headlong into the deathly castle before us for riches and glory!

Crash Course (ep. 15) – FTL: Faster Than Light

This February, CrashTestGenius is looking at a slew of roguelike games. Starting off this parade of inevitable death is “FTL: Faster Than Light” – a game where you take control of a spaceship and its crew on the run from a rebel fleet. As you fling your ship across the galaxy jumping from one sector to the next, you will encounter space pirates, various alien species, slavers, and civilian colonies in peril. Only one thing can be certain of all of these scenarios – they never, EVER end well.

Follow-Up to “Crash Course (ep. 14) – Super Metroid”

For the most part I kinda’ enjoyed my run through “Super Metroid”. I know that statement isn’t taking a strong stance one way or the other, but that’s because I came out the other side of the game with mixed feelings. I enjoyed the actual mechanical gameplay, what with all the shooting this and blowing up that and whathaveyou. However, being my first time playing the game, I was not familiar with the layout of the areas and the locations of any of the hidden passageways or powerups. Because of this, the game crawled to a halt several times because I needed some special item that I hadn’t stumbled upon yet in order to advance, or I needed to find a certain way out of a room that was hidden behind a destructible wall. Even after I found the X-Ray Scope, most of the game was spent running around the different areas of the planet in search of that one passage that I needed to find and travel down to advance the story. In fact, after I found the X-Ray Scope the game came to a sharp stop. I now had this new technology – this gadget that would get rid of all of the guesswork on which spot to shoot or bomb or fall down – and all it made me do was obsessively check the ceilings, walls, and floors for hidden icons and passages every few steps while switching back and forth between the map pause screen and the game itself. “Yep – there’s a blank space below me on the map. Better scan the area. Nothing? Well, I better make my way to the hallway two floors down and check the ceiling in case the possible entrance is below the room. How do I get to that hallway? Lemme check the map… oh! – I have to traverse the whole damn area to get to that point. (*sigh*) …Alrighty then – let’s get this show on the road.” Every. F*****g. Room. No – every f*****g square of every f*****g room! Son of a bitch!

On top of my personal vice of being a bit of a completionist was the fact that the explorable area was huge. In the second half of the game I yearned for a teleporter or quick-travel device of some sort to help me get from one zone to the other. I know that having such a device or mechanic in the game would drop the gameplay time significantly, but it would have certainly helped my frustration and stress levels drop as well if every time I got a new weapon or item or some other such thing I wouldn’t have had to run back all the way through the core of the planet to get to a tunnel on the opposite pole to get in a room that I just happened to remember could be opened with the thingy I just picked up. And – once again – this entire process was made exponentially more tedious with the introduction of the X-Ray Scope. Granted it wasn’t as tedious as it would’ve been if I hadn’t picked up the Scope, or if the Scope didn’t exist in the game at all, but now that would’ve been just ignorant and cruel, respectively.

Now all this griping aside, I enjoyed the actual gameplay – the exploring new areas (which is different from combing old areas for passageways for five hours), the running and gunning – I liked those parts. The biggest difficulty I faced (other than not being an elf) was the platforming. Moving Samus around – especially in midair – took some getting used to. She has a bit of acceleration that you have to factor in when jumping from platform to platform. Also, when you jump her in one direction with the D-pad, if you let go of the D-pad she stops in the middle of her arc instead of moving forward along her initial trajectory. This took me some time to fine-tune because I always either laid on the left or right directional button too long and overshot my target, or I would let off the D-pad too soon and stop juuust short of my intended landing pad. In fact, I died more to screwing up the platforming sections and burning in acid or lava than I did to enemies – including bosses.

Speaking of bosses, these big angry bad guys that ran the planet were absolute pushovers. I only had difficulty against Draygon (the main boss of Maridia) – I died fighting him twice, but the third time I took out the turrets on the walls before he showed up and then the rest of the fight was a cinch. I know that there is an easier and quicker way to beat him by letting him snatch you and then grappling one of the broken turrets, zapping yourself and Draygon in the process. In fact, I knew about that tactic going into the fight… buuuut that information fell out of my head by the time I reached the combat chamber. My roommate – who has played the game – informed me of that possibility, but my brain is dumb and I don’t memory good. But other than that hiccup with Draygon, I had no problems against any of the other bosses or mini-bosses:

The biggest pain about fighting Kraid was hopping up the platforms to get to him.

Crocomire was easy enough to defeat… however, when he burst through the wall to the left and then collapsed into a screaming, bony mess – MAN that scared me! I mean I legitimately jumped in my chair, let the controller slip out of my hands, and let loose one of the most emasculating yelps I’ve ever created. Fortunately it was just a cinematic, so I was able to live past my startled shame.

I was fortunate to not use any super missiles against Phantoon – apparently when he’s hit with one of those puppies he gets really pissed off and starts throwing fireballs all willy-nilly. I stuck with my trusty charged beam and just shot up the fireballs, collected any power-ups they dropped, waited for Phantoon to turn from ghostly to solid, then laid into him with a charged shot. Rinse and repeat until exploded.

Botwoon sure was a worm boss – shoot it in the tail… nope. Shoot it in the head… there it is! Continue shooting in the head. Done. Moving on.

These weren’t really a boss battle, but they deserve an honorable mention. The Silver Space Pirates (… really? That’s what the laser-shooting mantis people are called? …Huh.) were a pain to take down solely because there was only a small window of time in which they were vulnerable to any kind of attack. The two of them went somersaulting and kicking through the air and really gave me a run for my money. Because of my terrible aim this battle went on for longer than necessary, but props to them for giving me more trouble than some of the big bads in the game.

The Golden Torizo was another fight that could’ve gone worse if I wasn’t such a boring fighter. I beat it to death with my charged beam instead of using missiles, which was lucky because he can catch and return super missiles. Yeouch! That would’ve sucked a butt. But it didn’t. So… there!

Ridley would have been a problem if Samus’ jump and his jump didn’t sync up perfectly. Basically, when he went all pogo-tail and was spitting out fireballs like a machine gun spittoon champion, I’d just space jump next to him (making me f*****g invulnerable!) and hit him in his face with a super missile or two. After the super missile well ran dry, I just switched to charged shots and finished him off using the same pattern of “space jump → shoot in face” until that thieving little pterodactyl succumbed to my awesome might and space battle prowess!

Ok – Mother Brain… what the f**k! I did some reading about Mother Brain (as well as several other characters, locations, technologies, etc.) on the Metroid wiki page after beating the game, so now I understand what the f**k, but while I was fighting it all I could think is “What the f**k?! Whose brain is this? Who preserved it? Why is it hidden below the surface of an inhospitable alien planet? What’s up with all the automated turrets? Why does it want the metroid? Who built its ridiculous godzilla-esque body? What is its relation to Ridley and the other guardians on Zebes? Oh s**t! Oh s**t! What the hell was that rainbow beam thing?! That wrecked my s**t!” and other such deeply intellectual things.

Like I said – now I know that Ridley, Kraid, Mother Brain, and Samus all have a history from the first two games, but those games were on completely different game systems. I know from the opening screens that “Super Metroid” is in fact titled “Metroid 3”, but without proper backtrack storytelling I’m completely in the dark about what is actually going on, why Ridley is attacking and trying to steal a baby metroid, what a metroid is, who Mother Brain is, what planet Zebes is – it’d be like if Star Wars: A New Hope was a successful multi-season TV show, Empire Strikes Back was a novel based on the Star Wars universe, and then Return of the Jedi was released as a motion picture. Sure it’s a continuation of the same story arc, but that story arc has traversed three different mediums of storytelling (or, in Metroid’s case, three different gaming platforms), and if I saw some trailer for Return of the Jedi and got pumped to see the movie and saw it without watching the TV series and reading the book beforehand, I’d be completely in the dark as to what the flying f**k was going on in the plot! Oh sure – I’d still love the space battles and lightsaber fights; I’d still be captivated by the parade of the multitude of interesting alien species; I’d still think that The Force was cool as s**t and I know I’d sit around my house staring and straining and reaching out at pens from a distance in an attempt to move them with my mind or whatever; but I wouldn’t know anything about anything in the plot! Why is the Death Star being rebuilt? What happened to the first one? Why is Han frozen and displayed in a giant slug’s dance den? Who was that tiny green guy that Luke visited? Who was that ghost that visited Luke? You see – you need to give context if you’re going to continue a story. You can’t expect someone to jump into part III of a series without at least explaining a little bit of what happened in parts I and II. You can’t just –

… I’m sorry, what?

… That was all covered? Where, when?!

… The instruction manual? I didn’t have one of those. Hold on – lemme check that out real quick.

Mm-hmm… mm-hmm… ok……….. oooooooohhh, alright, I got it now.

… Huh. Wish I had thought to look at that before now. I mean, that’s kinda’ the point of the show, you know – I play a game I’ve never played before and just try to figure out what’s going on. I mean, I guess there was a teensy bit of backstory in the opening sequence. Also I suppose after I filmed the episode I should’ve searched for explanations right away to give me context and information from previous games. …It makes sense now.

… Man, I feel like a total bootyman now. And after that long rant and everything. Jeeze.

… (*sigh*)

Well then – now that I have all this egg on my face what else can I talk about?

… Ummm, right! – wall-jumping. That took some time for me to get used to. I really didn’t understand how it was done, even after watching those adorable little critters mockingly jump up and down that shaft in Brinstar over and over again. I will admit this – how to wall-jump was the only thing that I looked up online. Promise. I watched a video on it, and I practiced it, and I actually got fairly consistent with nailing it by the end of the game (unlike chaining the space jump, which seemed buggy as hell to me).

I also got to a bunch of areas waaay before I was probably supposed to by bomb-jumping up to them. I became the master of bomb-jumping. I eventually fused the tempo of the button presses with my own psyche, forcing it to override my own natural heartbeat (which – by the way – is not a healthy resting rate… but I did lose four pounds playing through the game, so I got that going for me).

Speaking of getting to areas before I should, I am apparently His Lord High Majesty of Sequence Breaking. “What is sequence breaking” you ask? Sequence breaking is when you trigger events or reach zones in a game before the creators and programmers intended for you to (and was actually made a popular phrase because of another Metroid game… fitting). Most of the times, sequence breaking is used to aid in speed runs or allow players to get equipment out of order to make early areas of a game easier. For me it just made the game even more of a nightmare than it already was. I would become curious about a high platform or a long hallway of spikes and go, “I need to get over there somehow.” Most of these sequence breaks came from bomb-jumping to places before I had the necessary equipment to continue past the platform. Some of them came from me running a natural cycle in the layout of the chambers backwards, making me struggle against all of these terrible forces that would push me back and were trying to say, “You don’t need to be here yet!” but all I could think was, “Oh boy! I bet whatever’s on the other side of this insane hallway is awesome and will be worth my tribulations and totally won’t be a dead end!” I bet I sunk more than an hour into trying to push on the many “pull” doors I encountered in this game. I may not be clever, but I am as dumb and observant as a brick (and as persistent as one, too).

Right, so now we’re getting to the part that everyone has been waiting for: what was my play time and item collection percentage? Well, here’s a hint:

thumbs up

Congrats on being so slow!

Yeah – I got that ending. Wanna know my time? You really wanna know?

And half of that was spent using the X-Ray Scope.

And half of that was spent using the X-Ray Scope.

As for my item collection score, it’s at least better than my play time (I found every key item except the Spring Ball):

It damn well better be that high since I played for eleven hours!

It damn well better be that high since I played for eleven hours!

So that’s what I thought of “Super Metroid” – one part platformer, two parts shoot-em-up, seventeen parts scavenger hunt. Boring, tedious scavenger hunting. Woo. I enjoyed the parts where I got to shoot things. Those were fun. And the music is boss (here’s a link to that “Metroid Suite” I mentioned in the episode), so that’s a plus. Even without knowing what was going on in the story, the game could’ve still been enjoyable if wasn’t so g*****n secretive. I don’t mind puzzle-solving and exploration and all that, but combing several miles of a hostile subterranean alien base for hidden passages and cracks in the wall are not my idea of a fun time, and that’s what I spent half the game doing. Perhaps I’d enjoy it more on a second playthrough now that I know what to do and where to go and what to look for, but I’m just so sick of the game after the first go ’round that I think it will be a long, looong time before I pick this up again.