GOTY 2021 CRUELTY SQUAD

It’s only March, but I’ve already decided what 2021’s best game is. The title already gave it away, it’s fucking Cruelty Squad.

There’s this meme that’s been going for around the last year or so: i want shorter games with worse graphics made by people who are paid more to work less and i’m not kidding.It has since become something of a rallying cry against the suffocating culture surrounding “prestige” AAA video games, and the White Boy Indie Games that want to be just like them. I’m not here to regurgitate the tired “AAA vs Indie” argument that’s been done to death for about fifteen years. Not every AAA game is bad; Tekken, Resident Evil, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater all count as AAA games. Likewise, not every Indie game is this profound work of art, mostly the ones made by people who post threats in my comments section or hang around with TERFs.

I bring this up because this line is what Cruelty Squad best represents. I have to be careful here, because I need to find the right term to describe this game, but without making it sound disparaging. “Trash.” “Garbage.” “Ugly.” These are terms I’ve seen used to describe Cruelty Squad. Most of the people who say this are not necessarily wrong, mind you, it’s just that to anyone who isn’t a fucked up, problematic, twice-cancelled artist, these sound like insults rather than terms of endearment. I will instead say “aggressively unpolished.” A sardonic shitpost of a vid con with biting commentary that is delivered in a gruesome, extremely violent way. The kind of “messy” art that usually ends with you getting called a brownshirt by a cis woman who’s mad she wasn’t the center of attention for five minutes. It’s brutal. It’s hard as fuck. It’s funny; actually funny, not Borderlands-style “does anyone here like MEMES” bull shit. And the most important thing is the game is actually good. Not ironically good. Good good. This distinction needs to be made here.

So what exactly is Cruelty Squad? For starters, it’s a first person shooter. To be reductive, I would say to imagine what would happen if Hotline Miami was actually good. Fast, objective-based combat with multiple guns to kill people with. You can take different routes, or use an alternate play style, in each level. You can go loud with big guns and mow down everything that moves, or you can take the silent route by sneaking around with silenced guns or by kicking things so hard they explode into a shower of gore. It’s fucking cool as fuck.

Everything takes place in these big, non-linear (at least until the last level) landscapes. There’s no railroaded “Press F To Pay Respects” here. Because you often times have to assassinate more than one person, you can use these environments to pick your spot, so to speak. So you don’t just plan out how you’re going to kill something, with your weapons and your equipment, but where and how. It’s the little things that make this a game worth coming back to. Also, the game is really fucking hard, so you’ll be replaying levels because you keep dying. But that’s fine, hard games are good.

The whole of Cruelty Squad feels like a fucked up dream. One of those dreams where everything makes sense, until you wake up and think about what you saw and did and realize that it was absolute nonsense. The world looks weird. The people look weird. You just sort of teleport around as things just sort of happen. You walk through a wall and have to fight weird looking monsters. You unquestioningly go out of your way to murder an elected official at the mall, a mall with a store simply called “PUNISHMENT” that only sells Funko Pops. The only thing it’s missing is a level where you stock shelves at your old job with your 7th grade math teacher, and a level where you’re back in high school with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, only to realize that you graduated over a decade ago and can leave whenever you want. Few games can pull off the feeling of a lucid dream, even a game about literal dreams. Cruelty Squad does it in terrifying detail. A unique, scary experience.

Cruelty Squad is the game of 2021 because it is an important piece of art. A surrealist commentary on depression, social media, corporations parasocially trying to be your friend, the co-opting of leftist language for sinister means, pretty much anything you can hate about the world in these Roaring Twenties. The gaming equivalent of a mentally broken person, covered in blood, screaming incoherently at the sky. Raw and vulnerable, the final form of art. Despite the garish colors and angular models, Cruelty Squad is the most beautiful game I’ve played in years.

making some observations

This is one of those weeks where I played a bunch of games and watched a bunch of movies, but I couldn’t really find anything worth a whole write up. I wanted to do a post about the Valis games, as I just finished replaying Valis 2 a couple days ago, but I felt that it would be in poor taste to talk about a series featuring scantily-clad high school girls right after I made a post about porn.

Instead, I think I’ll talk about observations about different aspects of the games…um…for lack of a better term, “community,” that I’ve picked up on lo these many years. So these aren’t necessarily new thoughts that I have, but I don’t think I’ve ever brought up my grievances outside of late night Discord calls before.

this will be another one of those posts where i put unrelated images in to break up the walls of text. this is a screenshot from “clockwork knight” on the sega saturn.

The thing about playing and writing about retro games is that the internet will give you lots of information that you don’t want. If I want to look up release dates and system ports? Google is occasionally good at that, when it isn’t trying to shove obvious spam links at the top of the query. Like yeah man, I bet I’ll find out all sorts of info on Hydlide from a URL like flyfishingwinelaw.shoes or whatever the fuck.

This bull shit carries over into the dread YouTube Algorithm. That evil thing that assumes you logged on specifically to watch 100% unfiltered white supremacist garbage after you watched three videos where cats did humorous things. Luckily, I’m getting a lot less “SJW’S RUINING STAR WARS!?” videos featuring some guy standing in front of a wall of Funko Pops. What I get now is video after video of people buying stuff. Retro collectors basically showing off how much money they have in the stupidest way possible.

I just want to say: first of all, collectors can go to hell. Because “collectors” also includes these motherfuckers hoarding all this rare, expensive shit, refusing to dump or scan these things for the rest of the world to appreciate, holding hostage the work of defunct companies and deceased artists. These anti-preservation sacks of garbage directly contributing to capitalism’s slow murder of art. I’m a person who doesn’t care if you play a game on original hardware or through a Retroarch core, or if you watch a movie on Laser Disc or in MP4 format, so long as you’re able to still enjoy it. These people are my enemy.

Second of all, you assholes are fucking BORING. I don’t know how to tell this machine that puts these garbage videos in front of me that I don’t give a fuck about some 40 year old idiot with no personality other than “I remember things I saw on TV as a kid” recording himself looking for 80’s shit at Goodwill, rubbing his hands all over the merchandise, which is definitely a good thing to do during a pandemic at a place frequented by lower income families, you selfish fuck, and going home with a bunch of Ninja Turtles merchandise to fix the hole in his heart left by his wife divorcing him. Or else you get these five minute videos about an old NES game that all follow the same script: “The game was good. The graphics are nice. The sound is an eight out of ten. All in all, I had a fun time. Like, comment, and subscribe.” You’re not going to tell me any of this shit in more detail? Not going to tell me what attracted you to the game or the Leonardo But With A New Hat action figure? Do any of you know how to think critically? Do any of you know how to think at all? Fuck! Get another Mario tattoo and drive to the store in your Dodge Dart that you customized to look like the car from Ghostbusters.

It can be very obnoxious, because I like to look for new voices. I like to find people who are creative with their thoughts. People with a fucking personality. People who can tell a joke that isn’t “the cake is a lie” or “arrow to the knee.” I mentioned before that I worry about being too normal. In my eyes, being a status quo Normie is the worst thing I could be. Being weird, traveling off the beaten path, having a little goddamned culture is where it’s at. I’m friends with multiple artists and free thinkers, I sometimes get a little self-conscious, because I talk about “normal” things like games. I’m developing games right now, games that are more in line with the mechanics-driven works I played when I was younger, rather than games steeped in a large narrative. I sometimes feel like I’m losing my touch; that spark of madness that makes me Me. Then I watch videos like this and it hits that no, me at my worst is still about a million times better then these clowns at their best.

But it could always be worse. They could be people who work on video game fan-translations.

Oh fuck yeah, bro, fan translations! A way for people to enjoy work in their native language for when companies don’t have the time, resources, or just straight up don’t exist anymore to do localizations themselves. And also at least 95% of the people who work on these (or at least work on the programing aspect of them) also happen to be, ironically enough, racist as fuck. Hey, thanks for translating this hours-long Japanese RPG, let me go to your web site or to your social media to see what else you’ve worked on. Oh okay, you seem to have some fucked up views on Black people! Hmm, yes, another joke about pronouns that got old ten years ago! Lots of Ben Shapiro and Mike Cernovich retweets you got here! You sure do have a wonderful theory that Trump can take back the White House from Joe Biden who stole the election thanks to the forced-feminization satellite laser owned and operated by Anita Sarkeesian! Nice sidebar on your website dedicated to showing a random Chuck Norris joke! A checklist of things anyone with any remote sense of empathy for another human being is beyond tired of seeing and hearing.

Shit like this is no secret; I’ve known about it for years. But I found out last night that one of these assholes did a bunch of Wizardry translations. It was bad enough that these motherfuckers tried to ruin the Ys series for me, now they have to go after goddamn Wizardry. What did those games ever do to you, huh?

I just want to grab one of these guys by the shoulders and shake them until they understood that YOU WORK WITHIN A REALM OF MEDIA THAT USES A LANGUAGE AND CULTURE THAT IS NOT RELATED TO WHITE PEOPLE IN ANY WAY, YOU STUPID ASS! Despite what your boy Hitler may have said about the Japanese back in the 30’s and 40’s, they are actually Asian. You know, the same people you blame for spreading the Coronavirus, assuming that you haven’t gone literally mask off and think that the virus is fake?

Now you, the astute reader, may think to point out Japan’s history of xenophobia and its own issues with right-wing bull shit, both in the past and at this very moment. I counter that with the following: do you actually think these fuckheads are actually smart enough to ingratiate themselves in the conservatism of another country? Let’s be real, these are guys who watched some an*me and assumed, wrongly, that Japan is this apolitical paradise where queers and women with their own autonomy don’t exist. Guys who think that their weird asses can simply stroll into the country and get the waifu of their dreams within moments of the airplane touching the ground. Guys who are dumb enough to believe that Metal Gear is not a political work. Hate the idea of the rest of us having to rely on the dice roll of whether or not a new translation of a piece of media that looks interesting was done by some shitheads that may or may not have tried to slide in their own bigoted beliefs into the text (see example: the Netflix version of Neon Genesis Evangelion). It’s fucking stupid, and if you’re going to be an alt-right fuckhead, at least be consistent and hate all of the races, not just some of them, and maybe the cognitive dissonance will get you the fuck out of game localization. And also leave things I like, such as Wizardry, the fuck alone. Jerks.

Despite all of this, I still love games. I love to talk about them. I love to make them. I love to find other decent human beings that can also do these things in a creative way. But fuck me if there isn’t also a lot of annoying and outright evil shit you have to deal with to get there. The reward is usually enough to make up for it, though.

3DO-Face Gaiden: The Yakyuuken Special- Kon’ya Wa 12-kaisen!! (NSFW)

About a week or so ago, I was having a conversation with my friend Hazel about the stigma that comes with adult video games. Why they’re so frequently dismissed and mocked to hell and back. I think I’ve got a pretty good idea why, and seeing as how this is my web site, I’ll go ahead and present my argument here.

Fifty percent of why porn games are looked at with scorn is that, as an American living in America, it’s not hard to notice that we live in a society (yeah, I know, lol) that is hypocritically hypersexualized, and overwhelmingly puritanical. Every check-out line at a grocery store has some magazine with a woman barely covering her titties on the cover. Commercials with some model bending over while eating a burger or some shit. Ads on so many websites telling you that YOU WILL NOT LAST FIVE MINUTES PLAYING THIS FUCK SEX GAME. But also, society will look down on the women who are involved with this, as if using your body to make a bit of money is this heinous act. People will have entire hard drives full of porn, then go onto Twitter or Instagram and call the performers disease-ridden whores right to their digital faces. It’s totally cool to go to a strip club, but you’re looked at as less of a man if your partner works at one. The entire existence of the term, “turning a ho into a housewife.” My high school sex-ed was Abstinence-only bull shit, and I’m pretty sure that’s still the case for schools today. Sex before marriage? You’ll go to hell! You get the ludicrous idea drilled into your head that you can get a girl pregnant by so much as looking at her too hard, and not even the world’s strongest condom will help you.

And this is just the hetero side of things! Looking at gay material, pornographic or not, is referred to as “sinning.” As in, “oh, I’m totally sinning” when looking at something as benign as fanart of two dudes kissing. Sinning. Evil. I can think of at least two trans sex workers who were singled out and accused of preying on minors in 2020, not for actually committing any acts against children, but for the crime of making porn and oh my god, what if a child runs across it? As if nobody underage has ever gotten access to adult materials at any point in recorded history until those goddamn trannies came along. As if HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime never existed. I came of age (no pun intended) during the height of peer-to-peer software. Things like Kazaa, Morpheus, Limewire. You didn’t have to try to find porn, it would find you. It would show up in completely unrelated search queries. I’m not about to write a call-out post on Jenna Jameson, Belladonna, or Danielle Foxxx, though. The world of straight porn is dominated by “step-sibling” themed scenes where the girl involved is dressed up like Misty from Pokemon or some shit, yet some 30-something jacking it in front of her webcam is the height of degeneracy.

This whirlwind of horseshit hypocrisy can and is doing potentially irreparable damage to a new generation. It’s concerning how often you see some completely unhinged take from some 16 year old on Twitter who will threaten sex workers with, “if I find your work, it is your fault, and you are a predator, because you did not protect me from myself.” An entire generation getting closer to or at their early-20s espousing these extremely shitty, conservative views about a woman’s bodily autonomy. As easy as it is to fob all this off as “these goddamned kids these days,” we have to ask ourselves: who taught them this shit? The answer is us. We fucked up, and failed this generation, the same way the generation before failed us, and the generation before failed them. A decade ago, allegedly fully grown adults on Tumblr and other fandom hell holes putting forth these us vs them ultimatums and call-outs against those that were different. They learned it from watching us, okay?

This should all be obvious to anyone reading this, but I just wanted to take a moment to complain.

The other fifty percent of why porn games are so looked down upon is because most of them are dog shit. This is The Yakyuuken Special- Kon’ya Wa 12-kaisen!! It is no different.

What is The Yakyuuken Special? It is a Sega Saturn game where you play rock-paper-scissors with a girl. Every time you win, she takes an article of clothing off, until she is naked. That’s the whole game. There is not much meat to it. However, the AI fucking cheats. The game will pull off some SNK boss bull shit to ensure these women keep their clothes on. Any lewd screenshots you see are the result of me using savestates until I could beat the CPU. So much effort, for resulting nudity that is honestly pretty disappointing.

And maybe that’s another issue with adult games: you have to work for it. When people are in the mood, they can simply watch a video or look at some images, or even dial up a phone number. The last twenty years of the digital age have made this easier than ever. You could sift through reams and reams of badly formatted text, play through a bad platformer, a bad fighting game, or a brutally difficult rock-paper-scissors session to get some goods, or you could simply remove all the bull shit and log onto a web site or open up a media player. An actually good adult game, such as Hardcoded, has to compete not only within an already competitive video game scene, but with multiple forms of other media. A bad one like this can easily be discarded.


Doesn’t help that whoever put this game together went out of their way to make the women involved look as unappealing as possible. Please do not take this as me bodyshaming, because these are not ugly women by any stretch. But you would be hard-pressed to think otherwise when you’re presented with porn starring people who look like someone’s mom. And I don’t mean a “mom,” I mean an actual, PTA meeting attending, sitting on the bench at the playground Mother. Like, how do you take adult actors in their 20s, and make them look like the gossip group at church??

It’s yet another example of taking a unique, interesting concept (the concept of an erotic video game), and completely fucking it up by making it look like shit. Nothing is helped by the women dancing with all the passion and energy of feeling like there is someone off-camera holding a gun.

It took me about ten minutes of saving and loading over and over to see a half-naked woman on my Sega Saturn emulator. That is a lot of fucking work. Maybe if you’re the kind of person with a denial fetish, this will work for you. But for everyone else, this is just some cynically made bull shit. It is not impossible to combine erotica and video games. The problem, is that developers just don’t want to try. Fuck it, they already got your money, you can eat shit and like it. It’s honestly a bit frustrating. Another one for the trash pile, I suppose.

Anyways, here’s your “reward:”

this sucks

STGs

The thing about challenging myself to at least one post per week, during a time where I’m not going outside much due to disease and the weather being in the negatives, is that I worry about becoming too boring. It’s why even though I’ve mostly been writing about one subject (games) all this time, I like to cover other types of games, and different generations. I don’t want to do racing games every week, or posting any incremental progress in an RPG every Wednesday, mostly because I would get bored of writing it, and I can only begin to imagine how bored you would get with reading it. The idea of being repetitive scares me. This paragraph is sort of a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been getting into shooters this past week.

Something about shooters really appeals to me. I am, at the moment, mostly terrible at playing them. Despite that, they have this sort of video game purity that I enjoy so much. Shooters and fighting games (puzzle games too, arguably) have this; this moment where you play long enough, and your mind begins to become one with the internal mechanics that the game presents to you; this strange ballet of brightly colored bullets and a spaceship dancing around all of them. During this time, you either master the challenge of the obstacles and opponents before you, or you fuck it all up, and still learn something from it. Watching high level play in either of these genres is fascinating to me because of this. I love to think of new strategies or ways to rectify mistakes I made mid-game.

I also love the feeling I got from 1cc’ing (that means “1 Credit Clearing”) the few shooters that I have. For the record, those games are:

  • Sin and Punishment (Nintendo 64)
  • Coryoon: Child of Dragon (PC-Engine)
  • Gradius* (PC-Engine)

(putting an * because I’m not entirely sure how I accomplished this, or if it was even legitimate. I was incredibly fucked up on Vicodin at the time (want to say around 2011), and I haven’t been able to replicate this success since then)

I’ve currently been “sampling” various games, trying to find one or two good ones to really dedicate my time to, so as to get that coveted 1cc. Of those, I’ve been sampling Blazing Lasers, Super Star Soldier, Gradius V, Thunder Force IV and V (I fucking suck at Thunder Force), and Raging Blasters (BUY THIS GAME). I’ve gotten close to that 1cc goal in Blazing Lasers and Gradius (only played Raging Blasters “arcade” mode once, opting for getting points in the Caravan mode), while failing miserably at the others. Needless to say, I think I’ll be sticking to those two games until I can get it, before moving on. It’s like getting into fighting games: if you spread yourself too thin amongst vastly different games, you’ll never really master any of them. Unless you’re SonicFox.

“Traditional” shooters are the order of the day, here. One, because I fucking love old-school shit. Two, because Danmaku (“Bullet Hell”) shooters probably aren’t the best place to learn how to finish one of these games, especially since I can’t even get past the third level in most Danmaku games without having to use a continue every thirty seconds. So no DoDonPachi or Touhou. Let me learn how to crawl before I learn how to run a marathon.

i am currently 19th in the world for raging blasters caravan mode

I’d like to come back to this with another post once I finally 1cc something. The concept of getting better at something is what drives me. Doesn’t matter if it’s art, writing, music, even something as relatively unimportant as “being good at hard video games.” STGs are an entire genre dedicated to that very thing, and I fucking love them for it.

probably not a surprise to learn most of the best shooters of the era were on this little white box

the pc engine is god’s favorite console, part 2

Been meaning to do another one of these posts, but then I get distracted by something shiny and write about something else. But luckily for all of us, it’s snowing outside, cold as fuck because my heat’s not working for some reason, and I ain’t got much else to do this weekend, so I’m going to do another PC-Engine write up woo hoo.

Kato-chan and Ken-chan

This game rules. It’s one of those platformers where you are constantly having to move forward, as your health is always draining. So something like Adventure Island or Wonder Boy (if you haven’t played those games, then what the fuck are you doing here?). This is also a licensed game, starring two Japanese comedians: Cha Kato, and the late Ken Shimura (RIP). Over here, they’re mostly known for being the reason that America’s Funniest Home Videos exists. As such, the game itself has this goofy comedic tone to it.

And by that, I mean there’s lots of shitting and pissing and farting everywhere.

You hold down on the d-pad, and your fart cloud can kill an enemy dead in their tracks. You run from point to point, dodging bird shit, large boulders that look like globs of shit, getting power ups out of public bathrooms, dealing with enemy flies (which are attracted to shit), avoiding falling bed pans, there’s just lots and lots of shit everywhere. If that’s too low-brow for you, first of all, go to hell, and second, maybe you’re better off playing something more your speed: Flower, Gravitation, Journey, or some other bull shit made for people who have never had fun a day in their lives. I might be a Serious Artist, but I will still appreciate poo-poo pee-pee humor.

Anyways, the game is fun as hell. At least until you reach the last stage, which is the worst Mario Lost Levels bull shit imaginable. But otherwise it’s great.

Batman

Hey, it’s a Batman game by Sunsoft! Say what you will about Batman the character, Sunsoft made some good shit in his likeness. You’ve no doubt heard of the other Batman games, but you might not be familiar with this one, at it was never released outside of Japan. You may that find that odd.

Or not.

Batman on the PC-Engine is pretty much a less cerebral Bomberman (ironic, given that you play as the World’s Greatest Detective). You walk around, all short and stubby, shooting Batarangs at enemies while picking up boxes of who knows what off the ground. That’s about it. After what feels like a million levels, you move on to the museum, and restore paintings that have been vandalized by the Joker’s henchmen. It’s a little off the beaten path, to say the least, and would certainly explain why we never saw the game.

bruce wayne has enough money to invest in that hell hole known as arkham asylum, yet he can’t invest in fixing gotham’s road infrastructure so that cars don’t drive about 100 through a “walk” signal.

This is kind of a short write-up. Mostly me saying “ha ha hey, look at this weird Batman game!” If you’ve played Bomberman to death, and are getting tired of Cratermaze, you might like Batman.

Right, can’t forget the sick version of the NES Batman music:

 

Now, a couple of you will probably stumble across this post while doing a Google search for info on the PC-Engine, or to be precise, what its best games are (to ensure this, let me game the SEO real quick: PC ENGINE BEST GAMES COCAINE PORN SEX). You don’t care about some weird obscure shit with loads of jank to it. You want me to get to the “good” shit, the objectively best titles on the system. First of all, idiot, there is no such thing as an “objective opinion.” Second, fine, I’ll kowtow to you apes, you fucking animals for a moment. Here it is, the best game on the PC-Engine:

It’s Rondo of Blood. Of fucking course it would be Rondo of Blood.

Like, what else were you expecting?

Rondo is the best game on the PC-Engine. By a mile. I would even go so far as to claim it is the best Castlevania; even better than Symphony of the Night. I know that there are some people who are wrong that will claim Super Castlevania IV is the best, but they are wrong, Gabi. It’s Rondo.

You could probably write an entire book around Rondo’s sense of design. The level design. The two characters that play vastly different from one another, without detracting from the game itself. The secret areas that reward you for being curious and looking around. Plus the great sprite art and music. Everything comes together in this tight, focused package. For as great as Symphony is, it’s all over the place. By the end, you have a warehouse full of armor you’ll never wear and weapons you’ll never use. Most of the hidden areas in that game don’t really make a whole lot of sense; as if it’s normal for Dracula to have a spare bedroom in the ceiling of his coliseum. Rondo has a vision, and runs straight for the goal. Also Michiru Yamane is a QAnon follower, so SOTN gets knocked down a few spots as a result.

Aside from just being a fucking great game, I appreciate all the little touches in Rondo. The way levels are designed around feeling like an actual place, in addition to being a series of obstacles. Being able to do stuff like read signs. It’s such a little thing, but it tickles a pleasure center in my fucked up brain. Discovering things like Richter being able to extend the range of his whip, or Maria’s secret Hadouken. Or finding that room in the boat level that leads to a mystery door that was probably part of an area cut for time.

A series of little things that build up to one good thing. That’s Rondo of Blood. A shame they don’t make them like this anymore. But for the love of God, stay as far away from the PSP remake as you can. That one is garbage.

That’s three more PC-Engine games worth checking out. Three more games on God’s Favorite Video Game System. Please play the PC-Engine. I don’t give a fuck if you emulate it, buy the PC-Engine Mini, or import an original one at an exorbitant price, just play the fucking thing.

there is some cool stuff on the internet archive

Some time ago, I want to say maybe a few weeks back, I was in a Discord call with my friend Miffy. I was watching her work on a project, which looked pretty fucking cool. The project in question used a lot of fashion references, which meant that there were a few nights where all we did was look at fashion magazines from about 10-20 years ago on the Internet Archive. I don’t know much about fashion myself, as my plaid leggings and Bullet Club T-Shirt will attest to, so it was fun to browse through them.

Something that we both discovered was the Archive’s “Collections” feature. Basically, a user’s likes with its own dedicated page. One of these was labeled, “grapes.png’s Favorites.” Okay, who the fuck is grapes.png? It’s such a weird link to throw out amidst a series of Vogue back issues and Shinjuku fashion mags. So of course we clicked it.

It was straight up porn. After we both got done laughing about that (followed by my despair at seeing all the antisemitic shit in there), the wheels in my head started to turn. There’s porn on the Internet Archive! Now, in my experience, if there’s porn somewhere where there’s not really supposed to be porn, then that means that there is other really cool shit hidden around. That’s what this post is about: here is some cool shit that I found.

1. Look at all this cool trans/queer shit

Let me start with something kind of serious, before I get to the gaming and artistic stuff. One of the few historical outlets we have for where we came from exists on this site. There a lot of trans publications from the 70s and the 80s, and probably even before then, that talk about The Culture of the era. Reading some of these as I write this, it’s actually really fucking cool to see all these girls having fun and forming communities, even as the specter of death that is AIDS loomed in the background, and Reagan’s bullshit continued unabated. And it managed to do all of this while prominently featuring trans women of color, something that today’s publications sure as fuck can’t do! Granted, some of these magazines would be considered “problematic” or fucked up by people who learned about gender through Tumblr memes, but they can go to hell. The magazines I read were some really good shit. On a personal note, I’ve been feeling less and less “weird.” Weird in the sense of pissing off The Squares. Weird in the sense that I’m supposed to be a trans(lol)gressive pervert that makes cool looking shit. Reading these has kind of helped me move back in the right direction.

it was acceptable in the 80s…it was acceptable at the time…

You don’t just have magazines. There’s radio interviews, as well as current day podcasts. An entire stand-up comedy special. Documentaries. The Wayback Machine once showed me a blog by an older trans woman who wrote about incredibly mundane shit like how much she likes the latest episode of the X-Files. Wish I could find that link again. While not trans, the Archive does have Caper in the Castro, the first (commercially, at least) LGBT video game. This is all extremely important shit.

I don’t really like to talk about gender shit much these days (outside of complaining about how fucked it is that young LGBT artists get run off of platforms for being too good at what they do), as I’ve grown too jaded for it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care, though. By now, we should all know about the bullshit lawsuits that publishing companies are filing against the Internet Archive. Bullshit lawsuit being endorsed by shameless cheerleaders like Chuck Wendig (eat shit Chuck Wendig) and NK Jemisin. Hack writers who pump out Star Wars fanfiction, mad that at least twelve people looked at their bullshit. I’ve mentioned the name Isabel Fall before. You know, the promising new author whose story on gender identity and corporate pinkwashing was the best piece of writing in 2020, and then got run offline by a bunch of shitty cis people and sellout trans women desperate for their approval. Who was one of the big names that drove her away? NK Jemisin. Wendig himself uses Randi Harper’s “I hate trannies” Twitter blocklist, and as recently as a month ago, was singling out trans women who had anything negative to say about him like the creepy weirdo that he is. Funny coincidence that they want a site with literally decades of queer culture erased because they’re too fucking stupid to realize that publishing companies are fucking them over, not some random dope who wants to read about TIE Fighters zip-zooming and blippity blooping or whatever the fuck, or are being willfully obtuse because fuck them shemales.

or it could all be because they wouldn’t want something like this preserved for future generations, right?

So yeah, fuck them and fuck anyone defending them. Keeping the Archive alive keeps our history alive.

2. Wizardry, motherfucker

Shifting gears to something more positive. Wizardry has since taken over my whole fucking life, so you better believe I’ve done a big dive into as much stuff about it as I could find. One of the cooler aspects of Japan’s obsession with the series is the amount of artists that take this goofy little computer game from 1981 and make it look cool as fuck, or give it even more humor.

Wizardry rules.

3. The Hypnotic Eye

This was a pleasant discovery to make. I had never heard of this show, and it’s understandable, given that it was a cable access show that only aired in Texas, so I’m glad that it’s here. It’s a “VHS mixtape” show, decades before those were as prevalent as they are now. Think along the lines of Forgotten VCR, except a couple decades before.

4. Old Game Magazines (mostly GameFan)

Something else I’ve talked about here and there is reading a lot of GameFan Magazine as a kid. Looking back, it wasn’t really a good magazine, and later being taken over by some alt-right dickhead (who I recently found out fucking died back in 2017, rest in piss, bitch) didn’t help it get any better. I know I’m talking about GameFan, but the following criticisms can be applied to any magazine of the time: bad writing, writers clearly on the take, schticky aliases with badly drawn avatars, juvenile dick jokes from grown men in their 30, lots of posturing over how skilled and manly they all were. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but I kind of also miss it? For as bad as these were, they were at least colorful and bright and had enough screenshots to let your child brain decide if it was something you wanted to play, and had to wait about 20 years to do so.

taking a moment to use the power of hindsight and say: AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Honestly, it feels like today’s games crit isn’t much different, other than looking bland as fuck and having a larger vocabulary. Both are infinitely capable of mockery.

the good old days

the modern day

Or it could just be that I’m extremely biased because for all their faults, it’s not like Nick Rox wrote an article about trying to look up a woman’s nudes on Kiwi Farms, which is more than I can say for someone like Patrick Klepek. And it’s not like Scary Larry started a harassment campaign against trans women, which is more than I can say for uh…the entire field of video games journalism since at least 2015. Also, haven’t found any shows of solidarity with sex criminals or people who treat rape victims like dog shit. Whatever, I’m petty, I don’t give a fuck.

That’s a small sample of Cool Things I Found Online. There’s more stuff to talk about, but I think I’ll save it for another post. Give us all a little something to look forward to. Hopefully, this post can help explain to you that we need the motherfucking Internet Archive!!!

playing wizardry at 3 a.m because i’ve lost control of my life

Prefacing this post with an admission: last couple weeks, haven’t been doing so great up in the old brain region. Being mentally ill and seeing recurring triggers popping up with an increased frequency causes me to feel bad, man. This is one of the reasons why there was no post last week. It causes me to be unable to do other things, like try and stream, or work on game development stuff, or try to play some competitive Tekken, or any other cool things I’m known for.

I was able to at least make a car in Blender.

The rest of the time, though? Slouching in my gamer chair, letting the world pass me by because I’m too fucked up to do anything with my time. Times like this, I tend to crawl through the cellars of the Internet Archive (eat shit, Chuck Wendig), looking for some cool and obscure stuff to distract me. Things that might end up being their own post at some point. Anyways, to get things on topic here, I ended up reading through a bunch of Japanese Wizardry artbooks and monster manuals, which led to me loading up Wizardry for the first time in a couple years.

Now, I’m no stranger to the Wizardry series. I was on a podcast about it (for like five minutes). I watched the entire an*me adaptation, as weird and as obviously rushed as it was.

Wizardry is fucking great. Nobody outside of Japan gives a fuck about this series these days, but I still absolutely love it. What’s so great about the series is that about 50% of each game is dedicated to level grinding. Long, tedious grinding. Now, for most games, that’s a negative. But when you’re sad as fuck for reasons that make little sense, to sit and grind and grind and grind into infinity is great. Takes my mind off things. Spending a good 2-3 hours watching numbers go up; it’s like investing in the stock market, but with less war crimes associated with it.

Another great thing about Wizardry is its lack of story. Given that this was meant to be an answer to the question, “what if Dungeons and Dragons was a computer game?” this is not a complaint. It allows me to use my imagination a bit more: why are these rag-tag groups of mercenaries putting their lives on the line for a couple hundred bucks? I’ll fill in the blanks for why a diverse group of characters are fighting skeletons and slimes and sentient coins in a multi-tiered labyrinth.

And boy, did I ever fill in the blanks! Late nights of intrusive thoughts and self-doubt lead to me making six OCs (that’s “Original Characters”). I even made rough, kind of shitty looking sprites for them!

Wagner (Human/Neutral/Fighter)

Wagner is a dependable, if single-minded man. Originally working on a farm with his family, he picked up a sword and became a fighter, as he found it more financially and personally rewarding than watching most of his years harvest get taken away by the royal family. Wants to open up his own fighting school when this quest is over.

Ashlynn (Dwarf/Neutral/Fighter)

Ashlynn is the pride of her Dwarven tribe. She’s joined this group to earn enough gold to raise her three children in comfort. Despite her stature, Ashlynn takes a leadership role quite often, and takes no shit from anyone.

Dahlia (Gnome/Evil/Priest)

The youngest of twelve children, Dahlia has grown up feeling like an outcast; like she doesn’t belong anywhere. Getting branded as “Evil” because she does not fight on behalf of any kingdoms or their particular religions hasn’t helped this feeling at all. Dahlia feels a strange kinship with this band of weirdos. Hasn’t thought about what she would do with her reward money.

Serena (Elf/Neutral/Mage)

Serena is a loner. Leaving her village after an incident she won’t talk about, Serena is only in this to get enough gold to retire in a nice house in the woods, far away from anyone else. Despite her cold exterior, Serena does sometimes show signs of her less cynical side around the group, much to her own annoyance.

Genji (Hobbit/Evil/Thief)

Genji is a thief with aspirations to become a full-fledged Ninja, like his brother Genichiro did. Contrary to the popular conception of thieves and ninja, Genji is extremely outgoing and personable. Even Serena enjoys having him around. Once he reaches Ninja status and completes this quest, Genji is looking forward to a less hectic life. Maybe running a tavern.

Rosa (Elf/Evil/Bishop)

Rosa is a devout follower of a religion that is labeled as “degenerate” by the kingdom, hence her “Evil” status. Having an ill sister at home, Rosa is journeying for enough money to care for her, as well as hoping to stumble across some medicine that could even cure her. As for her own goals, Rosa is a member of her church, and is looking forward to returning to her services after all of this.

Cool thing about these re-releases of Wizardry is the ability to use either the new hand-drawn graphics, or go with the classic wireframe graphics. Not to diss the updated graphics, because they look great, but if you’re playing a Wizardry, you gotta go with the wireframe or nothing at all.

This is the Super Famicom port I’m playing. I also tried out the Sega Saturn version, just to see what the differences are.

The Saturn game has polygonal backgrounds, as opposed to sprite ones. But of course, you can switch back to the wireframes. Something you can also do, that the Super Famicom game can’t, is use the original battle sprites if you so choose.

That’s nice, but I actually prefer using the modern battle graphics. All of the command boxes are neatly arranged in way that pleases my eyes in a nonsensical way. On top of that, the Saturn graphics are high resolution, and therefore look better than the Super Famicom ones.

Comparison:

sega saturn

super famicom

The Saturn also has a super convenient auto-map that you can pull up at any time by pressing the R button.

The SF version has one too. But that requires a magic user and at least one use of your level 1 magic. Which in the early going, isn’t that much.

But, I have to stick to the Super Famicom, for two reasons. One, although the game has a Japanese and an English option, item/weapon/magic descriptions are still completely in Japanese. The SNES port had a fan-translation to fix this, and the Saturn didn’t. Two, Thieves are far more useful in this version. You see, in Wizardry V, Thieves were given a new ability called “Ambush.” This is a two-turn ability that allows a thief to hide, then backstab an enemy for more damage. This also works in the back-row, where you can’t do physical attacks, meaning that thieves have a purpose in this game, compared to previous versions where they acted as glorified keys. Ambushing was retroactively added to the SNES version of Llylgamyn Saga, as this version was released in, holy shit, 1999, after the Saturn game. Anyways, in the Saturn game, thieves act as said glorified keys (because they can pick locks), and simply exist to take up space until you get access to ranged weapons, or you turn them into Ninjas. So even though the Saturn port looks better and has some quality of life changes, I had to put it down and go back to the 16-bit game.

That’s Wizardry. Like Space Invaders, it’s a form of video game comfort food for when you’re sad, bored mess of a human being. I mean, it’s good in other contexts as well, but it’s definitely a good choice to pick up if you feel like shit.

the worst game i have ever played

Let me begin this post with a short backstory about how I got to this point. A few days ago, I was watching a friend of mine play Ace Combat 7 (aside: it looks really good and I’ll definitely end up getting it at some point). At some point, another friend had asked us if Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was any good. The answer is a firm No. Assault Horizon is terrible. It’s an answer to a question nobody asked: what if Ace Combat was more like Call of Duty?

Also, this fucking song

The conversation then went on to other bad spin-offs of otherwise great anti-war series’. Like Front Mission. Front Mission had one. Evolved. Never played it. Front Mission also had a second bad spin-off: Left Alive. Left Alive happened to be on sale, and because I tend to make very impulsive choices in my life, I got it. I went in expecting a little bit of jank to it. I was not expecting an overwhelmingly great game, but I also didn’t immediately take the critical reception to it at face value; that IGN God Hand review gave me permanent psychic damage. Like, there’s no way a game could be that bad, right? Besides, the concept sounded incredible: a stealth-based game where you are in a hostile, war-torn environment trying to survive. That’s actually pretty damn interesting!

There are times where I might exaggerate the quality of something in order to make a joke, or to make a blog post more entertaining. Slight amounts of easily noticeable hyperbole.

I am not exaggerating here when I say that Left Alive is the single worst fucking video game I ever played in my life. Left Alive is bad on a level that I had previously only held for absolute dog shit like Manhunt 2 or Revolution 60. The difference, though, is that I went into playing those games expecting nothing, and still being let down. Left Alive was something I had expectations for. Not high expectations, mind you, but something along the lines of “janky ass PS2/PS3 game.” Something that wouldn’t be traditionally good, but still enjoyable on its own merits.

Left Alive is straight up a broken, unfinished game that completely falls apart by the third level. The enemies are either completely blind and deaf, and can’t see you running in circles or firing off a non-silenced weapon in front of them, or can spot you from an entire football field’s distance away while you are hiding behind a wall. There is no in-between. And the whole time, if there is an enemy in your proximity, a computer voice endlessly harasses you with CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. You are either strong enough to withstand an entire platoon’s gunfire directly to the face no problem, or you’re killed in one hit. There is no in-between. No in-between, no consistency, nothing. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Enemies respawn almost immediately, sprinting directly towards you (or, more often, an unarmed civilian you’re trying to rescue) like they’re Sonic The Fucking Hedgehog, completely destroying any progress you’ve just made. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING.

In this game, combat fucking sucks. The guns are terrible, enemies can withstand headshots and don’t even react to being shot until they’re dead. There’s no CQC aside from limited-use melee weapons. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. There’s the other method of combat, crafting traps and IEDs, which Left Alive is designed around, but materials are so limited and hard to come by that wasting even one improvised weapon is enough to reload a previous save. That is, assuming that they even work in the first place. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Molotov cocktails do such little amounts of damage to be laughable, and anything that involves electricity is a joke; I watched an armed guard walk into an electrified wire I set up, and all he did was literally sit and look at the thing as it kept trying to shock him. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Oh, and it has everyone’s favorite part of stealth games: forced combat! CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. Because that’s something Left Alive needed: sections where you are required to fight up to a dozen soldiers or more, in a game where your offensive options are paltry and weak by design! CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING. There are a few segments where you can climb into a Wanzer, in an attempt to even the odds. After all, this is a Front Mission game. Wanzers control like shit! There’s zero feedback to whether or not you’re doing or receiving damage. And because of the way the levels are built, with lots of impassible sections and tight alleyways, you can’t really do much with them. CAUTION: ENEMY APPROACHING.

Here’s around the part of the game where I gave up:

You can see the blue marker where I need to go. There’s a bunch of soldiers, some drones, and an enemy Wanzer in front of me.

The other side of this park, several more soldiers, and a fucking tank. There are also a bunch of snipers on the rooftop that I found out about way too late.

Behind me, a bunch of soldiers, some drones, and snipers that I cannot shoot at, despite that bridge clearly being unprotected. Also, one of the few times where hiding behind this crate didn’t cause an alert to go off.

The other side of the street has a shit ton of soldiers, drones, and even more snipers directly above me. There is an underground sewer system I can take, with smaller groups of enemies. The problem though, is that it leads to the exact opposite end of the level, and not where I need to go! So how do you get there? I don’t know! My solution was to sprint past everything, tanking what bullets and rockets I could, and hoping that I lived long enough for the alarms to shut off by the time I got to where I needed to go. It certainly wasn’t through stealthy means, you know, the way the game was meant to be played!

pictured: a stealth mechanic that works

Left Alive is garbage. It is almost hilariously unfair to play. It’s broken, the writing sucks, the characters are lame, the product placement is all over the place. Yoji Shinkawa was brought in to be the character designer, and look at this:

Shinkawa saw a scene that called for a black man, so he went through his notebook and remembered that, oh yeah, he made a black character about a decade ago, and just put Drebin from Metal Gear Solid 4 in there.

The only way that Left Alive could have been phoned in any more was if it had been developed by an actual telephone. I had watched a developer interview prior to writing this. It was a video featuring the producer, director, and Shinkawa himself. Nobody wanted to be there.

Nobody wanted to make this game. Nobody wanted to play it. Nobody wanted to market it. Left Alive is, by all accounts, a game that shouldn’t exist, yet it does. Normally, I could respect that kind of tenacity, but I can’t, because Left Alive is the worst fucking video game I have ever played. There are bad games. Genpei Toumaden is a bad game. Michigan is a bad game. Hydlide is…something other people say is a bad game. All of those games have at least one thing that makes them good, makes them redeemable. All Left Alive has is a concept. I don’t know what exactly the fuck happened here? Was it all a money laundering front (mission) for the mafia, inexplicably disguised as an entry in a long-forgotten RPG series? Who knows, who cares. Just play Gun Hazard instead if you’re dying for a Front Mission spin-off.

oh right, i forgot: when you get a game over, you are not killed, you are instead…”left alive.”

space invaders

Something that I’ve mentioned here and there in passing, but have never done an entire post about (until now anyway) is how much I fucking love Space Invaders. I’ve struggled for literally years to try and explain what it is about that game that’s so important to me. Not just because it’s a great, timeless classic that spans generations; a lot of games fit that description.

I’ve written about this one particular time in my life multiple times (see examples: Mega Man 9, No More Heroes), probably because it was a more formative time than I had previously thought; having a bad job with weird hours that kept me from being social. It’s hard to go out drinking with twenty-somethings when you have to be up at five the next day. So as a result, I would come home, tired as fuck, and just sit at my computer until bedtime. One of the first things I did when I got this job was going out and buying a new, “better” computer; a 2006 eMachines is still better than the 1999 eMachines my parents got for me as a teenager. And one of the things I did on that computer was download and play whatever MAME ROMs had interesting enough titles off of PlanetEmu (which is still alive and kicking, God Bless). I had (have) this thing for the aesthetic of old arcade games. That pre-1993 era of coin-ops.

In my weird ass brain, this old arcade style is something I find massively pleasing. Bright foreground colors to offset the solid black background. Rough, tiny sprites that manage to be detailed enough for your imagination to fill in the gaps. The loud sounds designed to reverberate through an entire arcade and get your attention. There are a number of games that fit this mold perfectly. Listing them all here would read like a passage from Ready Player One, so I won’t do that. But what I will do is say that, as far as I’m concerned, Space Invaders is the definition of the arcade aesthetic. The kind of game to keep your attention while you freeze your ass off in a shitty apartment while reading LiveJournal posts.

This is one of those posts that’s kind of weird to write. Mostly because you can’t really review Space Invaders. Everyone has played this game. Your mom has played this game. It’s on every system known to man. You can play it on your calculator, or on your watch, or in your web browser. The invader designs are so ubiquitous to the point of complete annoyance; every shitty “Gamer Aesthetic” account has to have at least a hundred pictures of these things painted on a building by some two-bit Banksy wannabe. What can I say, Space Invaders is good? No shit! It rules! It’s a timeless classic! It is literally perfect. It’s probably the most popular video game in the world, and I am utterly obsessed with it. This hypnotic, zen-like piece of art. It’s comfort food for the Depressed Gamer.

I guess I’ve already made my point about why I like Space Invaders so much, as best I can, anyway. Think maybe I’ll pad the rest of this post out with some notable versions/collections.

SPACE INVADERS (SG-1000)

The Sega SG-1000 was…it was something. A woefully underpowered console that made the mistake of coming out the exact same day as the Nintendo Famicom, which ultimately and immediately crushed it. But it did have some nice games on it, one of which being a really good port of Space Invaders. It’s easy to overlook now, but back then, having a home port of an arcade game that looked even remotely like the original game was nothing short of a miracle, which the SG-1000 managed to accomplish.

I mean, it’s not 100% accurate, but it has nice colors, you can recognize the graphics, and the screen resolution ends up working out well. Which is more than can be said for whatever the fuck the Famicom ended up shitting out.

what the fuck is this

SIMPLE 1500 SERIES VOLUME 73- THE INVADERS (PLAYSTATION)

This is a compilation pack. It contains all four version of the original Invaders (black and white, cellophane overlay, upright cabinet with the mirror reflecting the game background at you, and color). Also has a VS mode, where you fight another player/CPU to send as many invaders to their side until they lose, a Time Attack, and a 3D mode (pictured above), which is a neat gimmick, if nothing else.

There were two other compilations on the Playstation, but they aren’t as good, because they don’t have as much stuff. Play this one.

SPACE INVADERS ANNIVERSARY (PLAYSTATION 2)

Admittedly, this is pretty much the same as the previous compilation, except that this has Space Invaders Part 2. Well, there’s the aesthetic, where all of the games are played through a virtual game center. It’s interesting because the games are played directly on the machines themselves, without loading up a different screen. It’s a neat effect.

Oh, right, one more thing: you can play different background music from other Taito games! As someone who fucking loves Taito music, this rules. Just wish that there were more songs. For fucks’ sake, the ISO is less than 40 megs, I think you could have fit a few more tracks onto the DVD, guys.

Play this one, too. The PS2 collection is great.

why can’t i go into the space invaders bathroom?

SPACE INVADERS POCKET COLLECTION (PSP)

This collection is…okay. It has all four versions of Space Invaders, includes Part 2, Return of the Invaders, Majestic Twelve, and Space Invaders ’95. Won’t be covering those, as I’m trying to focus specifically on the original game here. Rest assured, they’re all fucking great. The selection and variety is great. The problem though, is that the screen resolution is really small, and cannot be adjusted for the PSP’s wide screen. Now, playing this in an emulator, this isn’t a problem. But if you’re playing on an actual PSP, like I was, it’s hard as shit to see things sometimes. That being said, it’s a big collection of games that you can play on the go, so it gets a mention here.

SPACE INVADERS (GAME BOY)

This is Space Invaders. Space Invaders on Game Boy. That’s about it.

UNLESS

Unless you plug the game into a Super Game Boy, in which case it then turns into Space Invaders: The Original Game! Granted, you could buy the compilation as a stand-alone SNES cartridge, and it was missing content from the arcade game, but whatever. Shit like this is awesome.

SPACE INVADERS DX (ARCADE)

This was the game the SNES port was based off of. An arcade game that was, again, a compilation, and had a versus mode. However, it also included a “parody” mode. This was really just more Space Invaders, but the graphics were replaced by characters from other Taito games. That’s fun.

OMAKE

I ordered these Space Invaders headphones from Japan around 12 years ago. I remember the sound quality on them being pretty okay. However, the cheap plastic used to put the whole thing together? Not so much. The electrical tape I put on to try and fix them wasn’t as sturdy as I had hoped, so I haven’t used them since then. Thought I would post about it here because why the fuck not.

Anyways. That’s Space Invaders. I love it, and it owns.

michigan

In my quest to play as many Grasshopper Manufacture games as possible, I finally found myself a copy of Michigan. It’s a game I’ve been wanting to play for a long time, and in recent months, there have been a number of posts that have made playing it more of a priority. Kimimi’s blog had a good post on it, as well as some posts on the Select Button forums. They were not high on the game, which, in a weird way, made me want to play it even more. I had taken into consideration the shitty treatment of women, and the extremely haphazard, terrible writing it had. But there was still that bit of hope in my brain for something special. I went in expecting something like a video game version of the movie Nightcrawler; being a heartless bastard, filming abject human misery for the entertainment of the masses.

Let me get a few things out of the way now that I’ve played it: Michigan is most certainly not Nightcrawler in video game format. To be perfectly honest, the game is actually really terrible! The writing is just as atrocious as you’ve heard; nothing is explained, and the plot barely makes sense. Suda51 did not serve as this game’s writer, and it shows (he’s credited as “Original Idea,” so he was probably a beta tester), because even other GHM games that use surrealist imagery and are intentionally left vague for the purposes of player interpretation (or in Killer7’s case, released unfinished), they still make some degree of sense; everything still feels grounded and sensible, even when the world is full of weird sci-fi and paranormal shit. And on top of that, there’s no message behind any of the way-too-fucking-tame “carnage,” which is absolutely inexcusable for any media involving the sensationalist nature of the news. The game itself is buggy as shit. Its Europe-only localisation added in several bugs not present in the Japanese version; animations don’t work properly, there’s a missing level, at least one of the scoring mechanics doesn’t work, only one of the secret unlockable modes is actually accessible (more on that later), and there’s a fight scene that is straight up unplayable, which will lead to the reporter you’re working with to face an otherwise avoidable death. Oh, and despite being called “Michigan,” the game takes place in Chicago.

Michigan is really bad.

Which is why Michigan is also fucking awesome.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s badly written, buggy, sexist trash. But it’s so spectacular in its fuck-ups that the needle breaks and shoots all the way back around to being great. So Bad, It’s Good.

I streamed this game on Discord the day after Christmas to my friends Hazel and Violet. I’m showing them this 2-3 hour piece of barely-interactable entertainment where I’m an unnamed cameraman tasked with filming some mysterious evacuation order, which turns into a series of monster appearances and attacks, which turns into the aftermath of a viral outbreak by a mad scientists, which turns into something involving the military and the TV station you work for, which turns into…nothing. The ending and the post-credit sequence only add more questions than answers to a game that barely answers anything. But that doesn’t matter. The fun came from all of us laughing at the horrible voice acting, with the notable exception of Jean-Pierre Brisco, played by none other than musician/announcer from Street Fighter Alpha 3, Greg Irwin.

The fun came from Michigan’s attempts at melodrama, completely undercut by me filming upskirt shots of the reporter I was working with, in order to increase my “Erotic” score. But even that’s broken, because shooting butts and vag’s doesn’t do shit, since you only get points for filming their knees. I guess there’s a whole viewing audience that can only get hard from seeing a young woman’s kneecaps.

The fun comes from unlocking secrets, finding out they don’t work, and instead take you to a debug level where one of the reporters is on a stripper pole doing the most unsexy dance routine I’ve seen since that time I went to a strip club back in 2005 and the DJ put on Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” all while Brisco rants and raves about some bullshit. I imagine this was designed to be sexy, but is instead fucking hilarious in its nonsense.

The fun comes from talking about how much better Michigan could have been. The entire concept of a seedy paparazzi-level news crew filming a bunch of cool body horror shit should have been much better. It’s not like there’s a lack of moments that are genuinely chilling, but they’re so few and far between that I ended up goofing off with the camera to entertain myself and my friends. The biggest sin Michigan commits is being boring. Boredom is the worst thing any video game can be, doubly so for something that is otherwise very unique like this.


Michigan feels like a game concept whipped up by a horny teenager, who gave up his thought process mid-way through because the porn he downloaded off KaZaa finally finished. As it is, this is probably the worst Grasshopper game that isn’t Killer Is Dead, and is really only worth looking at to make fun of and contemplate a better game. Again, it’s so bad that it’s good, but it’s still bad.