This week, Zero Punctuation reviews a slew of remastered games.
Ah, spring is in the air; the daisies are in bloom; the mild April breeze is bringing the sweet smell of rotting flesh that emanates from the vacant lot full of disinterred corpses that the winter snows once mercifully preserved, which is as good an explanation as any for why so many fucking remasters have come out this month. So if you're one of those idiot millennials who think Halo 1 counts as a retro game, then there's never been a better time to educate yourself in a couple of old classics and start the long, slow, difficult road to becoming a tolerable human being. Having said that, some of the "old classics" on display this month are playing a bit fast and loose with the definition of the word "classic", and for that matter, "old".
Bayonetta's just been released on Steam, and I've got skid marks in my underpants that are older than Bayonetta. Although, fair's fair; this wasn't so much as remaster as a port, PlatinumGames finally bringing an old console exclusive to PC in accordance with the basic law of the universe that all matter must eventually gravitate towards a point of maximum sensibleness. A better example would be the Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition, that actually does posture itself as a "remastering" and not merely a port to Steam, which is just as well, since vanilla Bulletstorm was already on Steam, or rather, had been before this thing showed up. But hey, it's only by getting the Full Clip Edition that you can have the original intended Bulletstorm experience, by which I mean "pay full price for it".
Besides that, you get your graphical improvement (but it was only one generation ago, so it's the kind of graphical improvement that's like hanging a slightly nicer chandelier over an orgy), and there's a new mode where you can play through the game as Duke Nukem. I'm guessing Duke Nukem was the only one to return their phone calls, 'cos I can't imagine the Bulletstorm devs sitting down saying, "Right, who can we add to our game who embodies in our audience's minds success, high quality, and having a realistic understanding of one's value and capabilities?" "How about Duke Nukem?" "What an excellent suggestion, Crispin! Let's go with that! Obviously, I'm being sarcastic, and since it's so obvious, I'm going to omit this sentence from the official transcript of this meeting."
But anyway, let's move on to remasters of games that are actually both old and classics, such as Full Throttle Remastered, a scene-for-scene remake of the classic Tim Schafer adventure, now with a pixel resolution that doesn't make all the characters look like they're having their identities protected, 'cos he'd already done that for Grim Fandango and Day of the Tentacle, so the only one left to do was the dodgy one. Tim Schafer has stated that Full Throttle's shorter length makes it a better fit for 2017 audiences; a surprisingly candid statement, effectively saying, "What a relief that everyone's standards are so much lower these days!"
Now that's not fair; Full Throttle is by no means a bad game. It's a fun, fluffy little yarn about the leader of a biker gang in a proto-Mad Max near-future battling evil industrialists, the voice cast is basically a Batman: The Animated Series reunion, and really, how can one not admire a point-and-click adventure game whose standard commands are not "Look", "Talk", or "Use", but "Look", "Talk", "Use", or "Kick in the Bollocks"? Unfortunately, the metaphorical monkey on Full Throttle's back (or perhaps I should say Monkey Island on its back) is that it has to be compared to the other classic LucasArts adventure games, among which it would be the runt of the litter, if it weren't for The Dig staggering around on its one functional leg leaking on the carpet from every body part that can leak. I never had a problem with Full Throttle's length; it was more that most of the gameplay was shit, so complaining about the length would be like complaining about someone vomiting on your pie because they could only manage two heaves.
Story traditionally steers the adventure game motorbike while gameplay sits behind to offer the occasional reach-around, but for some reason, Full Throttle is obsessed with breaking things up with arcade minigames, most annoyingly the bike combat that's like trying to play Cookie Clicker while riding a unicycle. But even disregarding those, the puzzle design just isn't up to the usual classic LucasArts standards; wherein Monkey Island, you get puzzles that balance cleverness, good writing, and world-building, like the insult swordfighting business, Full Throttle has a prolonged puzzle centered around staring at a crack in a wall. Perhaps there's an inherent issue with making an adventure game - traditionally a more thoughtful genre about characters who can't brute-force their way through situations - about a dude who uses brute force like it's a brand new SodaStream that he's trying to convince himself wasn't a waste of money. It makes you wonder why we suddenly have to craft some artful means of distracting the souvenir stand man when smashing people's faces into the dirt has been so reliably fruitful thus far.
So let's move on to another new remaster: Planescape (HRUUH) Torment (HRUUH) Enhanced Edition, a CRPG popularly considered to be one of the best of its kind. Full disclosure, I cannot confirm because I could only ever play Planescape: Torment for about an hour before the combat gets too much for me. Not the combat combat, which is a load of sticky bollocks on a cold serving tray; I'm talking about the relentless battle I find myself in with the fucking text window, as it remorselessly disgorges endless spiked subclauses and paragraphs and conversation trees with more branches than Wells Fucking Fargo.
I've heard Planescape: Torment described as "the best book you'll ever play", but sadly, I'm not a book critic, 'cos you need actual qualifications to be one of those. I like games, with narrative woven into gameplay, and only prefer books when I'm in specific sorts of moods, you know, like when I'm on a long-haul flight or when my thumbs have been pecked off by crows. But hey, I fully admit to having a low attention sp-- oh, I'm bored of this sentence. Let's talk about something else!
The last remastering I'd like to bring up this week is perhaps the definitive example of aging poorly, second only to a fruit bowl in direct sunlight. I give you PaRappa the Rapper Remastered on PS4, which some people seem to remember fondly, but which look to me like a string of cutscenes that couldn't be enlarged beyond native PS1 resolution (and as such, you could miss entirely if a medium-sized fly lands on your TV screen), broken up by a total of six gameplay sections consisting of the crumbs of gameplay that fall off a modern game if you hold it upside-down and shake it vigorously.
I thought I'd like this, since I could hold my own in Guitar Hero and the principle of "press the button when we say so" is one that the last ten years of AAA combat engines has been keeping me well-practiced in, but the rhythm in this rhythm game is being monitored by a narcoleptic mountain goat! I could not, for the life of me, get past the fifth stage; I pressed the buttons when it said to, but the game wasn't having any of it. Then, experimentally, I tried playing as awfully as I thought I could get away with, and somehow, that had a slightly better success rate. One of us clearly has something badly wrong with them, PaRappa the Rapper, and I know it's not me, 'cos I got my test results back from the STI clinic. What the fuck do you want?! If you tell me to crack, crack, crack the egg against the bowl one more time, I'm going to crack, crack, crack your head against a plinth!
- Remaster and recommander: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I got confused playing Planescape because I spent the whole time wondering when we were going to start escaping from the plan
- But when are they going to remaster E.T. for the Atari 2600