A Review of The Final Specimen

final_specimen_title_screen

Not a kusoge, I promise.

A Review of The Final Specimen

I received a free copy of this game in exchange for writing this review. It’s cool, though; I told the author that I would only accept it under the condition that I could badmouth the game if I felt like it.

——

The Final Specimen is a simple PC platformer designed to resemble the weirdy-beardy freeware and shareware games of the early-mid 1990s. In this it succeeds. As an actual good game, my feelings are mixed, though mostly positive.

The game consists of eight levels of running to the right, throwing bombs, and fighting puzzle bosses. The layouts of the levels are always varied enough to never become tedious. Unfortunately, there is no save option, so you have to beat the game in one go. I expected the controls to be awful, but they were surprisingly smooth and effective. I could always make my on-screen avatar move wherever I wanted him to, which is more than I could say about The Witcher III: Wild Hunt .

I didn’t know there was a market for throwback shareware PC platformers. But if you’ve already scoured every abandonware site for platformers and you want more, this game is for you.

final_specimen_level

The Final Specimen has nine long levels but each one has enough design and visual difference that the game never gets boring. In tune with the nonsensical plot, none of the levels have any cohesion or rational existence for their gimmicks: One level is a fast food restaurant with flying food and burning stoves, another level is a haunted forest full of ghosts and possessed trees, and even the first level is a series of tubes followed by a free-fall through the atmosphere. Their lack of similarity is actually a point in the game’s favor; the level variety here is reminiscent of a far easier Battletoads .

As mentioned previously, each boss is a puzzle that (aside from the first level’s boss) has a vulnerability that is not readily apparent. You have a supply of bombs for each boss, but most of them just shrug them off unless you meet certain conditions. Against easier bosses, a player can usually discover the weakness fairly quickly, but they grow steadily harder as the game goes on. If you still think the game is too easy, there’s a hard mode that reduces your stock of lives. I’d love a boss rush option, though, as the bosses were the definite highlight of the game.

final_specimen_tree_boss

There are some downsides to The Final Specimen . The game is long and every level is long, so despite the varied environments I sometimes felt myself wishing the level would be over so I could get to the next boss. Some players will be turned off by the visuals, the "classic" gameplay, and the lack of save feature. But there’s enough good stuff to make it worth the ten bucks I didn’t have to pay for it.

The aesthetics and plot have that sort of benignly weird early-Weird-Al feel to them. Mercifully, it never devolves into MONKEY CHEESE RANDOM idiocy. The visuals look like they were done in MS Paint, but at least everything was designed by someone with some artistic experience. (I thought of trolling the creator of this game by making all of the images in this article from Moraff’s World , but he was too nice to me for me to do that.) The result is not ugliness but a lo-fi mixture of odd but pleasing colors. I also enjoyed the music, really enjoyed it, enough to give the creator money for it.

The Final Specimen is a strange game that fills a highly specific niche. I did play lots of games of this sort in the nineties, and I appreciate the throwback, but the game does stand on its own merits. Give it a shot. It even has a demo.

Commissioned, LEE YOU SOLD OUT I'M NEVER COMING BACK HERE AGAIN, Platformer, Video Gaming

The Lament of the Vanishing Game

It's happened to other media and it's happening to games.

It’s happened to other media and it’s happening to games.

The Lament of the Vanishing Game

Not every article of media gets properly preserved. There are all sorts of movies , TV shows , and books thought to be gone forever. If we are fortunate, they may be rediscovered, but it’s unlikely. But what about video game preservation?

One can copy electronic data infinitely, which should make storage and distribution of video games an easy thing, especially for older games whose file sizes are tiny by modern standards. Yet a game can have proprietary hardware that makes it difficult or impossible to emulate, or it may have had an extremely limited run, or it may have an online-only component that will cease to exist in the future. This last point is my main area of concern.

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MMO, Online Gaming, Video Gaming

Calculords Owns

Yeah it's from Google Image Search. Anyone know of a good Android screenshot-taking program?

Yeah it’s from Google Image Search. Anyone know of a good Android screenshot-taking program?

Calculords Owns

Seanbaby has been my favorite writer since I first saw his website in 1997. His x-treme writing style has been a gigantic influence on mine, and his video game reviews are always hysterical. I think his two articles making fun of Mark Discordia are the funniest things I’ve seen in my life, the kind of stuff I’ve injured myself laughing at. So when I heard that he was making a game, it was a guaranteed purchase for me. Yes, even if it sucked. Good thing it doesn’t.

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Android, Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Indie Games That Don't Suck, Strategy, Video Gaming

Darkest Dungeon Beta Review

Darkest Dungeon

Pic taken from the Steam page because I can’t be bothered to take a screenshot right now.

Darkest Dungeon Beta Review

Yes, it’s another Roguelike-like. I don’t care if you’re sick of them, because I probably never will be. Darkest Dungeon is a dungeon crawler inspired by the legions of Roguelikes, and is nearly as brutal. It achieves this through extreme difficulty, a constantly high body count on your team, and the psychological terror it inflicts upon your heroes. This version is incomplete, but the sturdy skeleton of a great game is there.

When people call Darkest Dungeon a Roguelike, it’s a misnomer because although there is permadeath and mostly randomly-generated dungeons, the dungeons themselves are for the most part linear, and you can even use a scouting skill to show what’s up ahead. Darkest Dungeon has a definite inspiration from the dungeon crawlers of old, but it is a different thing in itself.

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Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Horror, Indie Games That Don't Suck, Roguelike-Like, RPG or thereabouts, Strategy, Video Gaming

Risk of Rain

risk_of_rain_colossus Risk of Rain

Roguelike-likes have swiftly become my favorite video game genre, outclassing politically trendy walking simulators and self-flagellation platformers by a long shot. There is randomness, but in a good Roguelike or Roguelike-like (we’ve got to find a better word for this genre) it is tempered by the requring of a large amount of technical skill, a knowledge of the items/levels/etc., and an understanding of the process by which the game’s content is delivered. Risk of Rain succeeds admirably.

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Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Indie Games That Don't Suck, Roguelike-Like, Video Gaming

Probably updating next week

I know I just came back from a despair-fueled six month hiatus, but my father passed away yesterday and I’m traveling back to Iowa to visit my family. He always gave me encouragement and looked up video game stuff for me to write about even though the only game he cared about was Pong. Updates will probably resume next week. Thank you, dear readers, for your patience.

Not Video Gaming, Personal Life

A Review of "Masters of Doom"

doom_on_digital_camera A Review of Masters of Doom

Doom was a legendarily great game that will be remembered until the MayanNazis initiate the Obamocalpyse of 2023 and at last exterminate humanity, but you don’t need me to repeat the praises that have been heralded for two decades already. This is a review of a book. Continue reading

Books, First-Person, This isn't just a video game this is ART you wouldn't understand it you plebian filth, Video Gaming

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth — GOTY 2014

  the_binding_of_isaac_gameplay01 The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth — GOTY 2014

The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is everything I could have hoped for. I wrote two articles in 2012 and 2013 about how much I loved the original and its expansion, so I spent much of 2014 anticipating this remake. I was not disappointed.

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Horror, Indie Games That Don't Suck, Roguelike-Like, Video Gaming

Shovel Knight: Actually as Good as People Say It Is

shovel_knight_skeleton

I took a few hits to get a better screenshot. I promise.

Shovel Knight : Actually as Good as People Say It Is

Shovel Knight gets it. It doesn’t follow the cargo cult routine of indie games who use sprite-based graphics instead of good game design; it groks its favorite NES games but also aims to improve on them instead of miring in dead memories.

You know how I’m always griping about phony indie games that pander to lazy nostalgia instead of living on their own merits? Unlike most indie game creators that claim their work is “8-bit” and “retro”, Shovel Knight ’s team poured their souls into their game’s creation. It is clearly inspired by the later NES games, especially Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse and the second through sixth Mega Man entries. Instead of making the game look like a jittery Commodore 64 reject and calling it good, Yacht Club Games went out of their way to recreate the look of an NES game but also made it play much like one. This alone would make Shovel Knight noteworthy, but the game itself is also a blast from start to finish.

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Fantasy/Sci-Fi, Indie Games That Don't Suck, Music, Platformer, Video Gaming

Evo 2014

There will be no article this weekend. I will be watching the Evolution fighting game tournament for several days and complaining about the results on Twitter . There’s one benefit to being unemployed!

Video Gaming