Tag Archives: point and click

2018 Game Review Haiku, #19 – ERROR: Human Not Found

Death of a robot
Sparks an investigation
But first, logic gates

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.


I’m not smart enough for ERROR: Human Not Found’s computer-science puzzles

I’d like to think I’m not afraid to admit when I’m not good at something, but that’s probably not the case one hundred percent of the time. So, in that honor, here is a short list of activities and skills I can confidently say I absolutely stink at and you can silently judge me all you want from your side of the computer screen because that’s the Internet for you, all stares and snippy comments:

  • Cooking
  • Running
  • Confronting people
  • Arm wrestling a bear
  • Sports
  • Walking on snow
  • Mathematics

Now, it’s that last listed item there that plays a part in today’s blog post, which is all about ERROR: Human Not Found, a free point-and-click/visual novel adventure on Steam that examines that differences between humans and artificial intelligences. Certainly not breaking any new ground, and yet I continue to be unable to stay away from this subject matter, fascinated by the themes and characters in things like Battlestar Galactica, Ghost in the Shell, and Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, to provide a few examples. I mean, as Black Mirror has rightfully and accurately predicted, we’re moving ever closer towards a technology-driven future, and it is going to be both sleek and shiny and bleak as hell. It’s best to start prepping for it now.

In ERROR: Human Not Found, you play as sassy Grace Fortran, a computer scientist stationed on the Noah Sphere, a space-based research station. There’s celebration to be had, what with the first artificial intelligence being successfully uploaded into the physical body of an android. Yahoo and wahoo. Alas, no time for cake and cheers just yet, as Grace must quickly move to clear her name in the mysterious death of this very AI who is murdered not twenty-four hours after the upload. She’ll have to work together with Ada, another AI body-bound, to search the station for clues, question suspects, and solve various computer-science related puzzles to get the job done. Grace will ultimately need to determine the fate of AIs while exploring their relationships with humans and the world at large, and it’s all pretty standard stuff, save for the hints that they might be better at running the government than the flesh-and-blood models.

This is interactive fiction, with a stronger emphasis on fiction than interactive. CelleC Games’ ERROR: Human Not Found is broken up into different chapters, and each one contains the same style of gameplay. You’ll have conversations with Ada and other members on the station, make a couple of dialogue choices, explore a limited environment (usually consisting of a couple of screens) for clues, and then take on a puzzle or two. Rinse and repeat until the story concludes, so long as you can get past the puzzles, which are, more or less, logic gates. I mean that both literally and figuratively. Now I was able to fudge my way through the bulk of them, guessing here and there, but the last one, which is based around binary code, stumped me for a bit, forcing me to walk away from the game for several nights. Then, because I can’t stand starting something and not seeing it through, I went back for one more hard, stubborn-drive swing, to finish this off.

Would you like to know how I solved the final computer science-themed puzzle? Well, for starters, I had The Descent: Part 2 on in the background, and let me tell you something…it’s a terrible sequel to a strong adventure horror film about a group of young women getting lost inside an unexplored cave and discovering a race of flesh-eating subterranean humanoids. It’s fine to listen to, but don’t waste your eyeballs on it. Instead, I had the game open in a window, as well as the notepad application, and I jotted down each successful attempt to match a number with the what-I’m-assuming is its respective binary code, because you only get so many tries. For instance, 8 is 1000 or 14 is 1110. Again, if you are currently salivating and ready to jump down my throat and call me stupid because this is so obvious to you, please remember that I started this post by being honest about the things I’m no good at, and this is one of them. The more I knew ahead of re-starting the puzzle, the further I got, and it took me ultimately six attempts to finish.

Evidently, there are three different endings to see in ERROR: Human Not Found. I’m fine with the one I got, though I can barely remember it now, some days later when typing up this post. I appreciated the game’s love for all things scientific and mathematics, with a number of nods at popular players in these fields, like Grace Hopper and Isaac Asimov. There’s even an exhaustive database full of profiles on these characters if you want to read more. However, I can neither recommend it to those looking for a story-driven game or something puzzle-y, as it doesn’t truly succeed in either of those departments.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #10 – Back to the Future: The Game

Doc’s life needs saving
Back to prior Hill Valley
Fun story, a cinch

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

A new time-altering adventure for Marty McFly and Doc Brown

Funny enough, the day after I finished the last episode of Telltale’s Back to the Future: The GameBack to the Future Part III was on TV. I haven’t seen it or the other parts in several years now, probably not since reading Justin Peterson’s Very Near Mint and realizing there’s a bunch of Easter eggs in there related to Marty McFly’s journey through time. And if I’m cutting to the heart of the matter, the third film in the trilogy is the one that I like the least, with Part I and Part II being my favorites, in that order, because that’s generally how I like my trilogies, including Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings. I figured I’d get that out there in the open at the start of this post because…

Back to the Future: The Game is better than Back to the Future Part III. Don’t immediately call me a butthead. It’s also a thousand times better than Jurassic Park: The Game could ever imagine, but that’s not the hardest goalpost to hit in comparison to that pile of dino droppings. Right. Moving on.

Allow me to set up the plot, as best as I can: it’s been about six months since Marty McFly last saw Emmett “Doc” Brown, and the bank has decided to foreclose on Doc’s home. While helping sort through Doc’s possessions, Marty is surprised when the iconic time-traveling DeLorean appears outside of the house. Inside the ride is Einstein, Doc’s dog, as well as a tape recorder with a message from Doc explaining how the time machine would return to this present should Doc ever run into problems. Mm-hhm. Anyways, Einstein helps track down Edna Strickland, the elderly sister of Marty’s school principal and a former reporter for Hill Valley’s paper. At her home, Marty reads through her newspaper collection to discover that Doc had been jailed in 1931 and killed by Irving “Kid” Tannen, Biff Tannen’s father. With that knowledge firmly in hand, Marty and Einstein zip back to 1931 to prevent Doc’s death.

This new time-altering adventure spans five episodes–namely “It’s About Time”, “Get Tannen!”, “Citizen Brown”, “Double Visions”, and “Outatime”–multiple decades, and even copies of characters. Good guys become bad guys, bad guys become good guys, and even Marty ends up a little square (well, in Jennifer’s eyes). Bob Gale, who worked on the films, assisted Telltale Games by writing the game’s story, and it shows, feeling like a natural fit in terms of plot, pacing, humor, direction, and so on. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd also lend their likenesses, which helps greatly with immersion and feeling like you are really them wandering around Hill Valley, and Lloyd voices Doc. Alas, Fox was unable to voice Marty, but A.J. Locascio does a phenomenal job imitating him and his sarcastic quirks.

Gameplay is pretty straightforward and same-y across all the episodes. You play as Marty and explore a limited number of screens, examining objects, talking to people, and solving somewhat easy, mostly logic-based puzzles to progress the plot forward. Occasionally, there are some things you’ll need to do, such as choose a specific line of dialogue or visit an area first, in order to trigger an event that’s required to complete the puzzle, but it’s not always clear what that action is, which resulted in me brute-forcing my way through sections of the game, trying out everything. There’s an in-game hint system, and the more complex a puzzle, the more hints you can view, but I only used it once or twice by the end, and I never felt like I used my inventory as often as one generally does in an adventure game, with a lot of things just being carried around with no purpose, like that photo of Arther McFly. The whole affair is relatively simple, focusing more on nostalgia than challenge, and for some, that will be a deterrent.

In a critique certainly only related to my experience, I found going back to get some missed Achievements in Back to the Future: The Game extremely frustrating. You often had to replay the bulk of an entire episode for some of them, and you could only skip specific bits of dialogue, but not all, definitely no cutscenes. It also crashed a few times on me for seemingly no reason, and I spotted a few glitches here and there, which is fairly common with these adventure games, where animations are wonky and jittery.

In the end, I enjoyed Back to the Future: The Game, so long as I didn’t think too hard about all its time-twisting, paradox-defying derring-do. The puzzles never got too complex and there was sometimes too much reliance on lengthy cutscenes or conversations, as well as revisiting the same locations with minor changes, but the magic we all felt watching those original films pops up now and then, and that’s more than enough for me to push past some mediocre gameplay and eat up a story full of twists, turns, and treachery. If you are at all a fan of Marty McFly’s time travels, you’ll probably have a good time here, but point-and-click adventure gamers might not find enough challenge to keep their brain occupied. Still, if my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour… you’re gonna see some serious shit.

2018 Game Review Haiku, #2 – Samantha Swift and the Hidden Roses of Athena

Recover scepter
Travel the globe, items list
Mel mostly beat this

For 2018, I’m mixing things up by fusing my marvelous artwork and even more amazing skills at writing videogame-themed haikus to give you…a piece of artwork followed by a haiku. I know, it’s crazy. Here’s hoping you like at least one aspect or even both, and I’m curious to see if my drawing style changes at all over three hundred and sixty-five days (no leap year until 2020, kids). Okay, another year of 5–7–5 syllable counts is officially a go.

2017 Game Review Haiku, #128 – Grim Legends: The Forsaken Bride

Your sister’s wedding
Stopped by bear, abstruse secrets
Find objects, use cat

I can’t believe I’m still doing this. I can’t believe I’ll ever stop. These game summaries in chunks of five, seven, and five syllable lines paint pictures in the mind better than any half a dozen descriptive paragraphs I could ever write. Trust me, I’ve tried. Brevity is the place to be. At this point, I’ve done over 200 of these things and have no plans of slowing down. So get ready for another year of haikus. Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

A congregation of cassette tapes transforms Small Radios Big Televisions

I grew up on the cusp of mix tapes and mix CDs, that span between the late 1980s and into the 1990s, spending my time as a young boy listening to the radio, waiting for a specific song to come on and record it with a tape deck cradled in my lap. Frustratingly, I’d often capture a snippet of commercial in there or the DJ talking over the first few seconds, permanently changing the song to my ears for years to come. Oh well. There are still several mix tapes in my possession given to me as Christmas gifts from my sister Dina that I cherish and no longer have a way to listen to anymore, and I’ll always prefer tapes over CDs despite now using a thumb-drive in my car full of MP3s.

Either way, these tapes were listened to over and over and over, taking me away from the bullies outside my window shouting mean things about me keeping to myself to musical worlds ruled by the likes of David Bowie, the Steve Miller Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, etc., and so I really resonated with the cassette tapes you find in Small Radios Big Televisions that transport you elsewhere when you drop them into your portable player, the TD-525.

Small Radios Big Televisions is the very title that inspired the My Laptop Hates These Games feature here on this gracefully aging blog of mine, and so I thought it only fitting that it be one of the first games I try to run on my brand new, fancy laptop. And good news–it worked perfectly. Not a single hitch or stutter or black screen of death or obtuse error message laden with computer jargon. So, that’s good. Also, the game’s pretty good, a bite-sized adventure that sees you descending into abandoned factories in search of lost cassette tapes which hold mystical, door-powering gems for you to find. Sometimes you need to manipulate the tapes first by tossing them against a magnet, distorting them. Progress is hidden within the spools of magnetic tape.

Most of the puzzles in Small Radios Big Televisions focus on fixing dormant machinery in these deserted locales, and these honestly don’t require that much effort. You’ll find doors you can’t open, which means searching for a gem in a tape. If you can’t find a tape, it’s probably behind a door or gate, which can be opened by correctly utilizing gear pieces. If you have all the tapes, then you need to search within them more for a bright green gem, which means try all versions of a tape to see what, if anything, changes. I forgot to mention that, for most of these sections, you are a distant viewer, clicking on things from afar; when you enter a tape, it’s more of a first-person perspective, with limited movement. Towards the end of the game, you’ll actually control someone with WASD and move around a limited area looking for key items.

Alas, there isn’t much story to go off here. After completing each factory section, you’re treated to a short dialogue sequence playing over a radio, with some words cutting off due to static. The conversations are between two unidentified men and tease the origins of these cassette tapes, implying their use as a means of recreation, as well as escape for those in need. Especially as the world outside these factories is crumbling away. Or something like that. Really, it wasn’t at all clear, but that’s okay. Because the Small Radios Big Televisions soundtrack, written and produced by the game’s developer Owen Deery, does an amazing and even better job than any words could depicting worlds within worlds and contemplating the manipulation of audio-visual data through its haunting, transformative synths.

Small Radios Big Television can most likely be completed in a single sitting, seeing as I put in a little more than two hours and saw credits roll, but I did that over several sittings, pausing after each completed factory session. To think, to ponder. To listen to the soundtrack on the side. Also, after you complete the game, you can go back to all the levels and find any missing tapes, and the game tracks which ones you have or don’t have, which is a feature I would kill to have in every single videogame ever going forward from this time and date.