Tag Archives: cyberpunk

Cyberpunk romp Technobabylon shines with futuristic style

I desperately want to play Unavowed, but I have other point-and-click games from Wadjet Eye Games in my collection to get through first, along with nearly a  bajillion indie downloads from itch.io that all look super neat, such as Robin Morningwood Adventure and The Librarian. However, for this post, I’m talking about Technobabylon, which came out in 2015 and is a substantial reworking and expansion of James Dearden’s trilogy of freeware games that debuted back in 2010. I never tried them then, so this is all new information to me, but clearly Wadjet Eye Games saw something special in them initially.

Technobabylon is set in the city of Newton in the grand ol’ futuristic year of 2087. In this world, genetic engineering is the norm, the addictive Trance has replaced almost any need for human interaction, and an omnipresent AI named Central powers the city. CEL agents Charlie Regis and Max Lao are investigating a serial killer calling himself the Mindjacker who is tapping into the neural wiring of seemingly ordinary citizens, stealing their knowledge, and leaving them dead. Yikes. On the flip-side of this, an agoraphobic net addict named Latha Sesame might be the next target. However, Charlie’s past comes back to haunt him, and he and his partner find themselves on opposite sides of the law, with Latha’s fate stuck right dab in the middle.

Gameplay is your traditional, old-school point-and-click affair, and that’s perfectly fine. I know what I came here for, loving just about everything about previous works from Wadget Eye Games, namely the Blackwell series, Gemini Rue, A Golden Wake, The Shivah, and, heck, even Two of a Kind. You’ll acquire items into your inventory, combine them in strange ways, or simply exhaust dialogue options until you start making things happen. Technobabylon features multiple protagonists, and each one also has access to different bits of technology, such as the Trance or logging into Central. This helps open up options for puzzles while still keeping everything within the same system…though I fear it could become overwhelming down the line.

Speaking of that, there’s a ton of world-building going on here in Technobabylon. It’s seemingly a mix of things like Blade Runner, Black Mirror, and Ghost in the Shell…though I’m not sure how successful it is everywhere. For instance, I don’t fully understand how the Trance works, nor do I grok what “wetware” ultimately is or does, but maybe the point isn’t to fully explain everything happening in this dark, somewhat desolate future. You believe it works as they say it does and go with it. I also may not have paid as close attention to some bits of dialogue, so perhaps the fault rests on my shoulders.

I’m currently somewhere in chapter three of Technobabylon and am enjoying it greatly. I’ve only used an online walkthrough now and then after I felt like I had truly exhausted all my options, and the solution often makes me feel slightly stupid for not figuring it out on my own first. Oh well. That’s how some of these point-and-click adventure games go, I guess. If you miss picking up one single item, you are doomed, like I was for not finding the mag coil before entering Mr. Van der Waal’s apartment, which left me flustered on how to get the dang pistol out of the bloody Jacuzzi. And I do mean bloody.

I’ll keep plugging away at Technobabylon, though it seems like a longer game to get through. At least once I’m done I can move on to other point-and-click adventure games in my collection, many of which have been waiting patiently, for years, for me to…well, point and click on them. We’ll get there, I promise.

2016 Game Review Haiku, #45 – Read Only Memories

2016 gd games completed read only memories rom

Join Turing on quest
To find maker, stop Big Blue
Sick, killer mesh tunes

Here we go again. Another year of me attempting to produce quality Japanese poetry about the videogames I complete in three syllable-based phases of 5, 7, and 5. I hope you never tire of this because, as far as I can see into the murky darkness–and leap year–that is 2016, I’ll never tire of it either. Perhaps this’ll be the year I finally cross the one hundred mark. Buckle up–it’s sure to be a bumpy ride. Yoi ryokō o.

The future rewards those who press on in Read Only Memories

gd early impressions for read only memories rom

Well, the newest videogame bundle to make your eyes pop out of their sockets is the Humble Narrative Bundle, which, at its “pay whatever you want” tier, is handing out copies of Her Story, Cibele, and Read Only Memories. Yowza. I already have Broken Age, but the next tier contains that, plus 80 Days and Sorcery! Parts 1 and 2. I don’t really know what those last two ones are. Oh, and if you drop $10 or more, you’ll get Shadowrun: Hong Kong – Extended Edition. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a hypnotized ad man here, but this bundle is phenomenal, especially if you like games built more around stories than crazy upgrade mechanics. Y’know, like me.

Despite Her Story being on my list of games I just didn’t get to in 2015 yet really wanted to, I dove into Read Only Memories first. It seemed…well, to be honest, a smaller adventure, and perhaps something a little easier to digest in small chunks, as I wasn’t intending to play through anything on one single sitting last night despite there being a Steam Achievement called “Iron ROM” to do exactly that.

I’m going to do my best to describe the story or at least the setup, but like all things cyberpunk, there’s a lot of jargon and acronyms to wade through. Read Only Memories takes place in 2064, where most people have their very own personal robot, commonly known as a relationship organizational manager (ROM). These AI-driven bots act as interactive personal computers, but are limited to their programming. All that changes with Turing, a ROM made by the protagonist’s old friend Hayden, which is much more advanced. to the point of being sapient. Turing breaks into your apartment in the middle of the night after Hayden is kidnapped, requesting your help. Not because you are some superhero, but rather, according to Turing, the most statistically supported in getting the job done. Trust me, it did the math.

And that’s all I really know, having completed the prologue and am somewhat into chapter one. You’re tracking down clues as to the how and why Hayden disappeared, all while learning about Neo-San Francisco and its colorful cast of characters. It’s very much a retro point-and-click adventure title, with lots of things to interact with in a given scene, as well as plenty of throwaway text written for silly combinations, like using spoiled milk on a parked car. Normally, in a game like The Blackwell Legacy or A Golden Wake, you’d probably get a “I don’t think so” or “That’s not going to work” kind of comment, nothing else. Here, in Read Only Memories, you get a response, which only encourages me more to try everything on everything. I guess this previously thought smaller adventure is going to take me that much longer to finish. Sorry, I can’t not click on stuff that potentially holds fun flavor text.

Writing is key for Read Only Memories, much more prevalent than puzzle solving so far. Be prepared to read. Thankfully, the writing is strong and fun, if a little long in parts. Turing is a cute robot that can also be frightening when you realize it knows next to everything about you. Well, me. I made Turing address me as “Pauly” and use the pronouns of “him/his.” Also, I have an omnivore diet. It’s nice to see a game include such options and openness, as well as a future were LGBT characters face less discrimination, but then again…this is San Francisco. In actuality, this is a queer-inclusive videogame, and its developers are also involved with the GaymerX series of LGBT video gaming conventions.

I’m definitely interested in seeing this mystery unfold, as well as trying more drinks at the Stardust bar. Then I’ll move on to Her Story. Or maybe Cibele. Regardless, more story-driven adventures are in my future. Also, Read Only Memories has reminded me that I need to check back in on Matt Frith’s work and see if he’s done anything else to Among Thorns, which certainly shares some similarities with the darker side of technology.

Nothing works properly for Abel the Stringshaper in A Landlord’s Dream

a landlord's dream screenshot 01

It only takes three screens to tell the story of A Landlord’s Dream, but, for a Monthly Adventure Game Studio Competition (MAGS) entry, this is all it needs. Amazingly, there’s a world here, cyberpunky and mysterious and sparkling with inspiration, not that far off from dystopian Los Angeles from Blade Runner or the futuristic, augmented Detroit from Deus Ex: Human Revolution. It may not be entirely fleshed out in every instance, but there’s a lot to digest, with plenty of room to grow and become something bigger. Certainly, the conspiracy goes deeper than just the landlord.

A Landlord’s Dream comes to us from LostTrainDude, and this is the first game of his or her portfolio that I’ve touched, but I suspect I’ll dip back into some older work, such as A Night That Wouldn’t End, which is an intriguing title to start. Anyways, this short hop around a building is about Abel Lowen, a Stringshaper and sleepy band member, who is awoken in the middle of the night by his apartment’s alarm clock on the fritz. Once he’s finally up and at ’em, Lowen realizes that almost nothing technological seems to be working properly–not his phone, not his alarm system, and certainly not his implants, the ones that power his musical talents. Venturing out into the hallway, he quickly sees that he’s not the only one experiencing problems.

Gameplay is your standard point-and-click adventuring stuff. You can left click to use/interact with items and right click to learn about them. Lowen has an inventory too, though you won’t hold very much over the course of three screens. Inside your inventory, you can examine objects further or click on them to use on whatever person, place, or thing you desire. In terms of puzzles, they are mostly logical, though I got stuck for a bit on how to create a distraction despite having the idea down; eventually, I just tried every combination of items until something happened, which did not make me feel smart, only frustrated.

A couple of other nitpicks I ran into with A Landlord’s Dream. Technically, there is some pixel hunting for some of the tinier items or interactive spots, such as using the cell phone on the door alarm, and the game ends with the UI still accessible during the end credits sequence. Small quibbles, but they are there nonetheless.

I’m usually not the sort that replays point-and-click adventure games, but if this one got reworked a bit and lengthened in all the right areas (more screens, more info about implants, more characters to chat with), I’d be down for helping delirious men with prophet-driven hallucinations and scaring cats to create distractions again. I don’t know, but something about the grainy pixel art of this digital world really resonates with me.

JC Denton versus byzantine global conspiracies and time

Everyone was playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution last night, as well as tweeting some funny things about that East Coast earthquake. If anything, when the end of the world does come, it’s going to be freaking hilarious. Thank you, my fellow tweeters. But yeah, earthquakes. And Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Between all the positive reviews and extensive coverage at GiantBomb, I’m salivating.

Well, my copy is on the way, thanks to the generous Greg Noe, and it should hopefully arrive by weekend time so that I can sneak and augment and take notes like a cyberpunk pro after moving a hundred boxes and heavy furniture. Will be doing a first-hour review, as well as some random musings here at Grinding Down. Until then, there’s always…Deus Ex: The Conspiracy. Y’know, that PlayStation 2 port of the 2000 PC classic, featuring horrible load times, awful model animation, and strange sounds when you walk across grass. Yes, it’s true. I have a copy. See:

If you’re curious, my hand has the following augmentations: extra glow, resistance to radiation,+2 damage, and death chop.

I’ve played the opening of Deus Ex: The Conspiracy at least three or four times since purchasing it for a sweet $8.99 way back in the day, and there’s a good reason for that: many paths. For me, the Liberty Island mission is what sums up the Deus Ex experience (Deus Experience?) the best, with a ton of options and variety. Your goal is to locate and interrogate the NSF commander, most likely atop the Statue of Liberty. You can go in guns blazing, you can sneak around the back, or you can kind of do both. And then once you’re inside the Statue of Liberty, there’s even more things you can do. The game is always asking you to decide, sometimes on the fly. Like, this time around, I used my crossbow with tranquilizer darts to sneak around the back to the docks, climb my way up to the statue’s base itself, and creep on in; unfortunately, I set off a gas grenade, alerting two guards to my position, and had to switch from non-lethal tactics to oh-so-lethal. I could’ve reloaded a save file, but it’s a better experience to just roll with things.

I always end up trying for stealth…for as long as it’s possible. Sometimes, when the going gets rough, I have to shoot it out, which is not fun because the game’s shooting mechanics are iffy. It’s a more rewarding experience to lockpick doors, hack security cameras, and crouch around corners. There seems to be a point where I stop playing though, and that is right after the LaGuardia Airport mission. Can’t really pinpoint why that happens, but it does. You’re supposed to head off to Hong Kong, but instead find out your brother Paul (hey, that’s me!) is in trouble, and off you go to Hell’s Kitchen. Despite me trying to save me, I lose interest here. Or something more shiny distracts me.

More than likely, this time around, I’ll stop playing Deus Ex: The Conspiracy the moment my copy of Deus Ex: Human Revolution arrives, and that’s okay. It was a nice refresher of what I like about the franchise, as well as what I hope gets an upgrade in the new prequel from Eidos Montreal.