Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

BrainDead 13

Readysoft has built it’s reputation translating  Don Bluth’s classic  “Dragon’s Lair” and “Space Ace” to every system known to humanity.  It comes as no surprise that it’s first original title rehashes those games’ feel. What is a surprise is the fact that  Braindead 13  adds little in terms of gameplay. The interface has remained basically unchanged. This is unacceptable given the advances of the past 15 years.

The formula will be familiar If you have played “Space Ace” or “Dragon’s Lair.”  Players take the role of a computer technician named Lance. Dr.Brain and his accomplice Fritz have duped Lance into their mansion.  The stated reason for his visit was to fix a malfunctioning computer. Once Lance realizes the trouble he’s in, it’s already too late. The evil doctor has deployed Fritz and his other minions after Lance.  You have to guide Lance through the dark hallways and creepy rooms of the mansion. Braindead 13 is basically a FMV title. This means limited interaction with the player. Braindead 13 is non-linear. Players move through the game on different paths. The rooms are available via the different branches. For example, at the first hallway players can move either left or right. Unfortunately, that’s basically the extent of the interaction in Braindead 13.   The game has primitive interface. Gamers merely wait for the right moment and move their joystick. You must execute the proper command at just the right moment.  Fail and it’s right back where you started. There are no visual cues to give a hint to players. Going through the same scene a dozen or more times is not uncommon. Luck determines the player's success in the game. This  title is merely an exercise in rote memorization.  It’s because of this that the game is an incredibly frustrating title. You’ll play through it over and over and not make much progress. Only the bleeps of the computer as you move give any indication that what you are doing has any effect on the action. Had the designers taken out the interaction entirely, this would have been much better. This would have been a far more enjoyable title if you were just sitting watching a movie. As it stands, players will be more frustrated than entertained by the game.

This would be acceptable if the game offered any reason to keep playing. It doesn’t. The enemies in the game aren’t as effective as they could be. While the main enemy Fritz is a funny invention, he doesn’t have nearly enough screen time to justify the prominent position given to him  on the box.  The other characters are also amusing as they attempt to kill or maim the hero.  There’s an especially memorable sequence in a beauty parlor. Vivi looks like the Bride of Frankenstein but her manicures are a little bit on the rough side! The game also includes scenes with a crazed alligator chef and a  psychotic marionette. Both of these are funny and imaginative. It’s a shame that all of this creativity goes for naught. There are some amusing scenes in the game. These include a sequence in a psychotic beauty parlor and the many encounters with Fritz himself. After sitting through the same scenes for the 35th time, the entertainment value plunges.

The graphics in the game aren’t that good, either. The animation itself shows excellent production values, unfortunately it looks grainy on the Saturn. The game suffers immensely due to a poor conversion of the animation to the Saturn’s Full Motion Video format. Instead of the crystal sharp graphics many of us have come to expect, the colors look washed out. The game also suffers from unacceptable levels of pixellation. It causes the game play to become  jerky. Thus it lacks the natural grace common in good animation.  The sound is pretty good as can be expected with a CD title. The voice actors who portray the characters do a good job in bringing the wacky cast of loonies to life. Their valiant efforts get little effect in the end. The unimaginative execution of this title undermines their efforts. When the interaction is so limiting,  it takes the fun out of the title.  Since  BrainDead 13 owes more than a lot to “Dragon’s Lair” and “Space Ace,” comparisons between them are  inevitable. 

 Those games showed people the promise of CD-ROM gaming a decade before it arrived on a mass-market basis. The sheer novelty of the cinematic cartoons as a video game backdrop made the games hugely successful.  This was a time when most games were extremely simple graphically. What BrainDead 13 is trying to accomplish other than serving as a clunky tribute to those nostalgia shrouded  titles isn’t apparent. This points to a big caveat to anyone who wants to recapture the spirit of those titles. One of the main flaws of  “Dragon’s Lair” was the fact that many players could beat it simply by memorizing the codes and their correct order. There are many possible ways to counteract this lack of intelligent gameplay. The developers should have tried to improve the way the games played for today’s more sophisticated and demanding audiences.  Unfortunately, the game fails to come up with any creative solutions to this problem. As happened before, many players will get so frustrated with the game’s lack of challenge and interaction that they’ll simply bring it back to the store.

Unfortunately, this is more fun to watch than to play yourself. This is what caused the quick death of this genre 15 years ago.  It’s hard to imagine anyone getting much entertainment value for their dollar out of this title today. Very few living gamers haven't seen an FMV title. One wonders what the developers saw in this title.  There’s been nothing added to the old Bluth formula by  Braindead 13 The complete lack of innovation and poor presentation makes the game staler than two month old bread.

Robo Pit  - THQ

This action game starts out with  a very strange idea - How did this get through the focus groups? It’s a simple yet ingenious premise: have you ever wanted to play a game in which you duel with cute little fighting robots you create? Robo Pit gives you the chance to live out this fantasy. Before each round, you have a menu of different options for your robots, ranging from facial expression to body types and more.  There are literally dozens of options from which to choose, which can be slightly confusing to the average player at first, most of these are useless. Some of the options are much better than others, though you’ll have to find this out by trial and error. After this has been selected, you can save your robot.  Then you get to fight it out, robot to robot in the deadly Robo Pit. The fight scenes are more reminiscent of a combination of Cyber Sled and Jumping Flash than Tekken. There isn't much technique to the fighting, basically hit the punch and kick buttons one of the robots explodes. This makes the game very simple, though you can do special moves when your power meter is powered up. This isn't a bad thing however, since the emphasis is on creating and controlling cool robots, not fighting.  The graphics are very cute, yet feature many detailed polygons, giving Robo-Pit a strange, yet oddly fun feel all its' own. I loved the way the robots looked jumping around. The controls are also very easy to get used to,. None of that complex stuff here, which makes this a very good title to play when you’re in the mood for something a little out of the ordinary. There’s lots of strategy and daring here too. You can select up to 20 or so robots ahead, which means that you take a larger risk each time you fight. Each time you win a fight, you get the opponent's arms and weapons which you can use to enhance your robot - and you also get more skill points for the weapon you used during the fight. You also gain ranking as you beat other fighters, which means you can move up the list and fight the enemy faster. Unfortunately if you lose, you lose the weapons you’ve built up in the fights and fall in the rankings. Fighting a robot close to yours in rank is a much better risk, unless you have loads of confidence.  There are 100 different robots to fight in order to beat this game, so it has a lot of replay value. The graphics are very good for the Saturn system, the levels are highly detailed and the animations are quite good. There are lots of them but the levels are  a little unimaginative. A more bizarre concept with equally bizarre soundtrack has rarely been seen in electronic gaming. Robopit does get a little tedious after awhile, and it is simply a game of endurance with very little skill.  Aside from this, ROBO-PIT is a good game, though adventurous types will enjoy it more than those looking for a standard type game.

Alone in The Dark: One Eyed Jack's Revenge -THQ

This conversion of the inexplicably popular PC game is similar in feel to Flashback and Out of this world, but has none of the challenge or gaming value offered by those other titles. This gothic horror adventure title hits the Saturn not with a bang but with a thud. During one of the many rendered cut scenes in the title, You control a private eye on a mission inside a mysterious haunted house in order to unlock it's mysteries. The graphics are quite good, featuring outstanding character polygon animation and detailed scenery. The plot involving zombies and ghosts wandering around a haunted house is very promising, but is killed by the title's terrible execution. It is hard to get into a title that is constantly pushing the player away with its’ lack of foresight. The sounds are definitely below average and lead to the overall impression of a quickie port. While the game is engaging with a lot of plot, it is one of those point-and-click type PC games that don't require much thought on the part of the player. Those familiar with this type of game know that it requires a great deal of patience. You will definitely have yours taxed during the long load times and frequent viewing of the same cut scenes in the title. You can view your death scene a dozen times before you get anywhere with this title, the puzzles and challenges are not clear at all, making the player do the same motions over and over until they accidentally stumble on the right one, If you thought FMV was dead,  you were wrong. The same techniques used in those hated games return here, with the live video replaced by rendered 3D polygons. The designers obviously are proud of their graphics, since the perspective changes far too frequently. A  simpler more straightforward view of the action would have been much better. As it is, the multiple camera techniques popular on workstations are overused beyond the point of overkill  causing even the most patient players to become confused easily. The weapons control is particularly frustrating, how many video games make you go to a menu and select a weapon before you can use it? This definitely kills the immersiveness of Alone in the Dark. The graphics scream “Dull computer adventure game”  so Alone in the Dark does not start out as the most engaging Saturn title, but I was willing to give it a chance since I thought the plot was cool. Then, hours of frustrating gaming followed. Vainly, I  tried to control the character - he looks great but after he dies again and again thanks to the awful controls, you begin to wonder if anyone even bothered to playtest this  trash game.. This has a really terrible user interface that instead of adding complexity as intended, just makes the game incredibly frustrating. You have to navigate  through a confusing menu system  while selecting which device to use, while the action is still taking place, out of your view. The buttons seem out of place on the controller and worst of all the reaction time and control is terribly frustrating. You cannot help but to think that Alone in the Dark seems to take place in a slow  motion tedious world. This game is a tedious exercise at best and a tired example of an outdated view on gaming - you could have played games like this five years ago on your 16 bit Amiga. An obvious example of why gaming interface design has advanced so much - Isn’t the point of playing a game to play the game, not spend hours frustrated by the frustratingly outdated  menu based interface? Alone in the Dark’s developers obviously haven’t seen any of the recent trends that clearly indicate that the interface should be transparent to the player. There is a much better title called "Resident Evil" which does everything Alone in the Dark does and does it much better.  Steer clear of  this frustrating headache. This is a real shame because Alone in The Dark could have been a great title.