« February 2010 | Main | December 2009 »


Machine Shrink

Entry 1622 posted in: 2. DNA, 3. Gamebits, 7. Star Trek - The Original Sucker

so that's how the inside of a computer looks like... History repeats itself just like the chicken at the zoo that perpetually wanted to pick some breadcrumbs lying inside the monkey cage but got hit each time on the head by a vigilant monkey carrying a stick.

Examining the Wintermute Engine for one of my soon-not-to-be Unfinished Projects I fell upon the games section and instead of downloading the editor itself I ended with Mental Repairs Inc. on my harddisk.

Mental Repairs, Inc. is a small 2.5D point'n'click adventure following Henrik Liaw, machine psychiatrist. His job is to repair electronic devices that are depressed or have gone bananas by giving them therapy, counselling, guidance or – in the true tradition of point’n click – by solving some riddles and handing over some goods one has picked up from another place.

Point’n click games go a long way but have been forgotten a bit by all these 3D, real-time, first person shooting extravaganzas that are, in my personal opinion of course, plain boring. My first shooter was the original Wolfenstein 3D (1992) that I played several times from A to Z (I even found the secret Pacman level). The game was obviously forbidden in Germany where the ‘don’t mention the war’-credo has been put into federal law. Wolfenstein is set in a Nazi-castle, the guards are SS-officers, the walls are adorned with swastikas and one of the final bosses is mister Adolf H. himself. (A de-nazified version was made for the American and German markets where they had shaved Hitler’s moustache and the attack dogs had been replaced by mutant rats. It made the programmers quip that apparently, for American censors, it was morally acceptable to shoot people, but not dogs.)

About a year later came of course Doom (1993) but I put it fast aside as it made me feel seasick. At the same time I was also an admirer of William Shatner’s TekWar novels and when a computer game came out I jumped on it as the proverbial chicken in the zoo (see above) but that game was ‘one of the worst licensed games ever seen’. Of course the TekWar novels are also pretty bad, so bad actually, that they have become quite cult.

But back to the Mental Repairs Inc point’n click game. Although made by an ‘amateur’ named Renzo Thönen it is actually better than some commercial games of its kind. Of course it is rather short (only half a dozen of rooms and situations) and you can play all levels in less than 30 minutes. The puzzles are pretty straightforward, quite logical and not too complex, other than in Douglas Adams’s Starship Titanic where some actions to be followed were so weird and arbitrary (and on top of that, incoherently programmed) that you simply had to buy the hint book in order to get any further. Hidden inside Douglas Adams was, next to a gifted writer who seldom came out, also a shrewd entrepreneur almost like an Italian second-hand car dealer, although his Digital Village company didn’t survive the dotcom crash despite the fact that it had devised a rather witty Wikipedia avant-la-lettre (read the funny H2G2 entry for Belgium). But even Wikipedia has got into serious financial troubles nowadays, so we can’t really blame DNA for that.

I haven’t been mentioning Douglas Adams’s name for the sake of mentioning his name alone. The Mental Repairs world is basically a Hitchhiker’s world where machines have their own disturbed mind. The copy machine has lost its coloured view on the world, the coffee dispenser is depressed because everyone kicks it and the elevator has got a split personality, one up, the other down. The idea of elevators only wanting to go up has been explored before in the Hitchhiker’s novels by the way, so we’ll call that a friendly nod from one universe to another.

I quite liked the warped humour in the game and the hero’s somewhat cynical comments, but that is because I am that kind of guy. The adventure takes a twist, like good adventures do, at the end but in order to make it comprehensible there is a rather lengthy explanation needed that takes, with my limited amount of patience, somewhat too long as it just adds extra ballast. Also Starship Titanic lacked in that department, where the main computer kept on babbling for about five minutes once you had activated it, so Mental Repairs is in good company.

All in all a very nice and enjoyable game (with excellent 3 D graphics, objects and persons, BTW) and, like I said, well worth the 30 minutes it takes to play. I saw that Thönen’s Hulub website also offers a second, slightly older, point’n click game, Murder In A Wheel. It mimics deliberately the Day Of The Tentacle style and has won an AGS award in 2007. I think I’ll download and play that as well because I simply can’t resist a game where the main plot is about who murdered the house hamster.

My next Unfinished Project will have to wait a little bit longer, I guess.

Other point'n click games reviewed on this site:
Nomen Est Omen (Starship Titanic)
Tentacle Day (Day of the Tentacle)
East Side Story 
Walking Through The Valley Of Eden Sandbox of God walkthrough, compatible with version 1.52


The Sandbox Of God 1.52 – Year 2010

Entry 1623 posted in: c. The Sandbox Of God

SoG 2010 It was already announced a couple of times before, but finally here it is: Sandbox Of God version one point five two. There is some good and some bad news.

People who were slightly aware of Mark Overmars’s Game Maker utility a couple of years ago obviously know Sandbox of God as it was, together with Seiklus, one of the top games created with this software. Sandbox is one those games proving that you don’t need ultra-realism and ten-minutes introduction movies to have decent entertainment.

Here is what I wrote about it in 2006 (the game was by then, already two years old, and still mega-popular):

The story itself is monotonous, the graphics are tacky, but in a strange way the game is very addictive. Before you know it hours have gone by because you still have not managed to create Volcano city or instigate world peace between rabbits and men.

Mr. Chubigans went on, creating Vertigo Gaming, now selling various (self-devised and highly original) indie games, but the legacy of SoG was one that couldn’t be easily forgotten and for the last lustrum fans have been asking for a follow up.

There have always been talks about a sequel and in 2008 SoG: Ancient Warfare was announced and then, a month later, put in the fridge again. The FAQ at Vertigo put it this way (for 2010 the text has changed):

Q: Sandbox of God 2?
A: I'm not prepared to say anything about that right now, and whether it's still going / cancelled.

Finally, last year, a Sandbox of God remake was announced for real. Mr. Chubigans hastily explained that this was NOT, I repeat NOT, Sandbox of God Part 2, the sequel, the next generation, or whatever… but merely an update to make the game running smoothly under Windows Vista and Seven.

Sandbox of God now comes in two flavours: the freeware edition (1.52) and the Remastered (and slightly commercial) edition.

The freeware edition has got the following changes:

Updated engine
Game Maker 8 instead of 5, making it faster and slightly more reliable.

Updated music and sounds
The original version contained some copyrighted music and sounds and these have been replaced.

Updating and news screen
Basically this is a build-in internet page showing you the latest news and updates from Vertigo with a possibility to download the most recent version (if any) .

Updated save system
Making saved games more reliable compared to the quirky 2004 version.

Updated play speeds
You can now play the game in three different speeds.

That the game is an upgrade and hasn’t got any new situations (quite the contrary as the original easter eggs seem to have disappeared) can be proved by the fact that my walkthroughs from 2006 are still valid (I have updated them a bit). I’ll put the links of these five walkthroughs, that is all it takes to complete the game and end with a 100% score, at the bottom of this post.

Sandbox of God Remastered is an expanded version of SoG 1.52 and is not freeware, but, until April of this year, given away for free to existing customers of Vertigo Gaming. In other words, you get the game for free if you buy (or have already bought) another one.

SoG:R includes all changes from version 1.52 but has two new features:

The Sandbox of God board game. You can still play SoG in it’s classic style or switch to a brand new style called Simulated board game. In this new style, SOG:R simulates how one might play a board game version of the Sandbox of God in their basement using light gels, clay figures, blocks and cards, and Christmas lights. Switching between the classic style and the board game style can be done between rounds.

The Sandbox of God Warfare. This is a brand new game and we’ll switch over to Mr. Chubigans’s description:

As man sits atop the world, enjoying the fruits of his labour, evil rabbits plot revenge. Defend man’s civilization as you purchase new defences and upgrades, and prepare to do battle with the ever-multiplying civilization of rabbits. Use your godly powers of lighting and destruction to destroy rabbit armies and huts…provided that you have enough cash, of course. Unlock new cards by beating Sandbox mode and see how far into the future you can survive!

The (recently updated) Sandbox of Gods walkthroughs can be found at:
Walking Through The Valley Of Eden (Sandbox of God Walkthrough Part 1) 
Bad Moon Rising (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 2) 
Under The Vulcano (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 3) 
I Want To Be A Little Fishy (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 4) 
It's the Final Countdown (Sandbox Of God Walkthrough Part 5) 


Slow Train Coming

Entry 1624 posted in: 1. General Mish Mash

Snowy MBS The Belgian railways have this magnificent computer management system that fully automatically delays all trains with 20 minutes or more whenever weather conditions change.

Although most Belgians knew it was going to freeze a couple of weeks ago the over-subsidized operators of the NMBS, drinking pink champagne with scarcely clad nymphets in corporate bubble baths, weren't aware of this fact and thus the train schedules suddenly looked like overcooked macaroni.

On television a communication officer explained that the train schedules were disturbed by, and I quote, the extreme weather conditions.

I understand it had snowed a lot and that it was minus five. Celsius that is, not Fahrenheit. But the press buff apparently wasn't aware of the fact that, in Belgium as in most other European countries, there is an annual recurrent phenomenon called winter.

Over four decades ago I learned a little French poem about winter, it was in first grade and I must only have been 7 or 8. I still can (partially) recite it now.

L’hiver est là
Et nos pas
S'effondrent la gelée (?)
Un beau matin
On n’entend rien
Car la neige est tombée

(Winter has come.
Our steps trace the ground.
On this beautiful morning,
you don’t hear a sound,
because snow has fallen down)

In those last 40 years something very important must have happened to our school education system that young university graduates who are willing to speak for our national railways do not have a notion anymore of what could eventually happen in winter. Do they not play White Christmas anymore on the radio? I would call minus 20 degrees damn cold, but is minus 5 extreme? People go swimming in the Northsea at minus 5.

It is a well-known secret that trustworthiness isn’t really demanded from NMBS public relations people. Belgium has always been an ambassador of surrealism and these spin doctors, paid with taxpayer’s money, need to excel in that artful quality as well.

A couple of years ago, and I dare betting my left testicle on it that this is the truth and nothing but the truth, the Parliament wanted to know why the Belgian trains had this uncanny tendency of always arriving too late.

This was, so said an NMBS fantasist on television, due to the fact that people were getting in and out of the vehicles when these halted in the stations, implying that if trains would drive around the country without any passengers on board they would at least drive on time. Obviously that made sense and the answer was very much appreciated by our politicians and the Belgian press.

It has to be said that most spokesmen (or women) of the NMBS only make it to the television screen once and that after their maiden speech they are never heard of again. It was rumored that this one was last seen in a straightjacket, just before he was ceremonially drowned in one of the corporate Jacuzzis.

This week on Tuesday, the commuter train I daily take was announced with a delay of 20 but arrived only after 50 minutes. The reason?

The temperature had risen above zero, in other words: it had stopped freezing. Just like an autistic can't bear a sudden change of environment so can’t our Belgian railway company.

If you liked this post - you might be interested in these as well: 2-0-0-9  


(I've got my) Mojo (working...)

Entry 1625 posted in: The Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit

As if the world has suddenly been hit by a temporal rift in spacetime the March 2010 issue of Mojo music magazine has hit the stores bearing a big (slightly photoshopped) portrait of a mister Syd Barrett. The well-written and rather accurate cover article, by Pat Gilbert, ranges from page 70 to 81 and tells the story of The Madcap Laughs, Syd Barrett’s first solo album.

Two other articles are of particular interest to the Church as they describe the mythical presence of a ‘girl whose naked body graced the back cover of The Madcap Laughs’.

This week's instalment at the Holy Church of Iggy the Inuit discusses Mark Blake's Who’s That Girl article. Next week's post will cover the second Iggy-related article from Mojo 196: In My Room, written by Paul Drummond, containing interviews with Duggie Fields, Mick Rock, Storm Thorgerson and Jenny Spires.


iPod Random Generator January 2010

Entry 1626 posted in: 9. I, Pod

For the third consecutive year my iPod will only play at random. The graph shows the 10 most played songs for the month of January 2010 and right underneath are the 10 most recent songs I have been listening to.


A Boy's Best Friend The White Stripes Freedom's Prisoner Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel Fee Fi Fo The Cranberries Spinning Wheel Blood, Sweat & Tears Jomo Man Blues Waymon 'Sloopy' Henry Real Wild Child (Wild One) Iggy Pop Les Chants Magnetiques 1 Jean-Michel Jarre Breakout (N.A.D. Mix) Swing Out Sister No Good Trying Syd Barrett Moonlight shadow (extended version) Mike Oldfield