Friday, September 4, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Doctor Who: City of the Daleks"

In 2010, the BBC saw the insanely increasing popularity of Doctor Who, being that the entire series had been brought to wider mass appeal and far, far better story after the sacking departure of Russell T. Davies from the role of executive producer on the show. Now with Steven Moffat leading things, it was time to get into the untapped market (more or less, considering earlier Doctor Who video game releases) of video games that don't rely solely on Flash to play.

Enter the "The Adventure Games" banner - with the intention of making "interactive episodes" that could plausibly be fitted into the canon of the actual television show and provide fans of the series with a way to become more involved in the world of Doctor Who. Definitely a brilliant idea, though how does it come out in the execution? That's what I'm here to take a look at - and in four parts, no less. Yes, I know there are five and I will get to the "Gunpowder Plot" in due course.

Like, say...around November, perhaps? Eh?

For now, however, let's see the BBC putting out their best foot forward with City of the Daleks.

...oh, right, there might be all of four people on the planet who don't know what Doctor Who is. Basically, for my American readers, it's the British-equivalent of what Star Trek is to our culture, science fiction that is often used to address real life issues of humanity within the bounds of fantastic places and times in both our past and future...and sometimes it has episodes of farting aliens (I did mention I really, really prefer Moffat to Russell, didn't I?).

The show, most often, follows a character known only as the Doctor. He travels around in time and space in a time machine that's bigger on the inside than the outside,  and he more often than not has a human companion who travels with him. Beyond that, you don't really need to know anything to get into the show or to enjoy the games that will follow, though being a fan most certainly helps.

The game begins with the Doctor (voiced by Matt Smith) and his companion Amelia "Amy" Pond (voiced by Karen Gillan) in the Doctor's time machine, the TARDIS, about to head back to London in 1963. When they arrive, however, they find things a little less rock n' roll and a little more Escape from New York, as it seems that London's been pummeled into rubble and the Doctor's dreaded old foes - the Daleks - are the culprits.

What follows is a jaunt around the war-torn London where the Doctor and Amy must sneak around several Daleks on patrol to follow a woman into the Underground, and here is where most players will experience their first irritation. You see, the visual range of the Daleks is somewhat decreased and they project handy little green cones that let the player know just what they can see at any given time - internal sensors be damned.

The irritation comes, however, when a player hits that range and then is immediately one-shot killed by a Dalek. For sections where the player is required to sneak, they're usually locked into a stealth mode until they either complete their objective or are caught. Those players who aren't as familiar with sneaking around are likely to get burned quite a bit if they don't learn to be patient and learn the Daleks' movement patterns. Of course, when you do, the game is really insultingly easy in that regard as you can literally walk right past a Dalek without them so much as vaguely noticing that their greatest enemy is within arm's reach (figuratively speaking) of them.

This becomes even more hilarious when the Doctor later builds a device out of science that can blind the Daleks entirely.

Also of note is Amy. There are several sections where Amy tags along with the Doctor in his sneaking - in fact, most of them - and it's important to note that if she gets shot, she'll likewise die and you'll have to start the section all over again. Not a big deal, but make sure to time your movements to include her as well, when necessary. In the event that you do get caught, however, don't panic, just get behind cover. You see, the Daleks are routinely known for giving up on finding an enemy - particularly one so prolific on their threat board as the Doctor - if they just hide behind a computer bank or some other form of cover for a few seconds.

There's also item interaction, which allows the player to access little mini-games to further the plot, such as rerouting the power in the London Underground by doing a little connect the dots via wires in a fuse box or matching Dalek letters to disable a security feed in the Dalek City. A little tedious, but nothing too taxing on one's sanity, they're all fairly straightforward. There's also the occasional pushing around of objects and climbing, both of which are done by a prompt that generally isn't too finicky about showing up when the player comes near the object.

I will say, for those who are diehard fans of adventure games and were drawn in by the banner under which these games are presented, you're probably going to be very disappointed. As I stated above, the mini-games are not all that difficult and even the fetch quests to pick up items don't fall under the insane adventure game logic of "that axe you could use to hatch a trap door open you need to use instead to give to the old woodsman who will give you the key", though given Doctor Who's use of technobabble, the logic is roughly just as sound. Still, there is no complexity of that kind to it. The Doctor needs an item, the player sneaks around and gets the item. Nothing to it.

The only real criticisms I have for the game are in the voice acting and the animation of the human(oid) characters. While both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are fantastic actors on the show in live-action (Smith being my personal favorite Doctor as of this writing), their voice acting is...a bit disconnected from things, though I think that has a lot to do with the animation which is rather like they took 3-D models of both actors and stretched layer after layer of Silly Puddy over their faces for that bizarre, Uncanny Valley sort of look.

As for the plot, it's a stock Doctor Who.  The Daleks are being menaces, they have an artifact of Ultimate Doom, the Doctor learns of the plot, does Doctor things, and eventually everything is sorted out because wibbley wobbley, timey wimey. While it does have some challenge for younger players (as it is intended for) and those who are not versed well in stealth or adventure games, it will hardly scratch the itch of anyone who considers themselves "teh hardcore" in either genre. Still, it is enjoyable and I could very easily see this episode being right there in with many of those of the Matt Smith era.

City of the Daleks is, all things considered, a good first step for the Adventure Games brand.

Let's see if the momentum continues next week. Pack up your parkas, flamethrowers, and blood-testing kits, everyone! Next time, it's Blood of the Cybermen.

Doctor Who: City of the Daleks is now available from the BBC.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

From MadCap's Couch - "Sliders: As Time Goes By"

"¿Por qué , se han pavimentado el paraíso y pusieron un montón parkiing !"
Remember back in "Time Again and World", when I said that the storyline mechanic of multiple parallel worlds wasn't exactly necessary to tell a good story? Or even a decent story? Guess what we have this time around? More of that.

...oh...yay...

Actually, I joke, but the entire thing just feels incredibly unfocused and spotty. The idea itself isn't so bad, but - like many things in Sliders - the execution is what absolutely kills it dead. A lot of this episode is just plain unnecessary, and really does feel as though three different scripts were railroaded together with a vague plot weaving through them all. One is a little bit "Love Gods", one is a little bit "El Sid", and one as I said is a little "Time Again and World", and it forms a...very curious hybrid that really should have seen a few more rewrites.

...if not been canned completely because it rips off three episodes that we've already seen.

So without further adieu, we begin with the Sliders on a street corner in the New Republic of España with a bunch of other Caucasian illegal immigrants. It seems on this world, the Americas were taken over by the Spanish, not the Anglos, and illegal immigrants from Canada are a common thing. Which is so believable. I mean, next time, they're going to go to an Earth where pigs refuse to eat Jews or something like that!

All pork aside, the Sliders are lamenting their situation as being among the working class when Arturo nearly picks a fight with a fellow laborer before a man comes up in a truck offering work...followed directly by a hit squad of the INS. The crowd scatters, Quinn falling and hitting his head in the escape...and yet still managing to escape despite being within spitting range of one of the INS jeeps. The other Sliders, however, aren't so lucky and end up being taken in. In his escape, Quinn makes it all the way back to the 'burbs and eventually makes his way to a townhouse...where the title sequence picks up.

Quinn makes his way over the stone fence, crashing someone yard and succumbing to his head injury. Staggering about before slumping against a wall, he's accosted y two guard dogs...and a woman who he seems to recognize - a maid by the name of Daelin. He seems shocked and she confused by his shock, but Quinn passes out before he can say any more. There's a crossfade and he awakens in a bed, having been tripped down to his underwear so the show can't be accused of only serving up fanservice for the male audience.

They save that for Season 3.

Good God, do they save that for Season 3...
For my female fans (and male fans who swing that way) behold...O'Connell Abs!
Daelin returns and they talk for a bit, Quinn telling her that he knows her. They went to grew up and went to school together, even dated for a while until she moved away in the tenth grade. Naturally, because she's not the Daelin of this world, she has no idea what he's talking about...not that this keeps Quinn from being all lovestruck over her. And quite right, too, seeing that she's been mentioned so frequently in so many episodes as the great love of Quinn's life. Like in...

...and then there was...

...well, that one episode...umm...

...yeah, no, she's never been mentioned. I'm also not giving any bonus points for anyone who guesses how many times she's mentioned after this. Spoiler alert: Never.

The wubby dubby nonsense is curbed by Quinn recognizing Daelin's fiancé from a photograph - Dennis, the man that Arturo nearly got into an argument with at the corner. Daelin naturally freaks out, but this too is stopped by Daelin's boss coming in just as Quinn gets hidden in the cellar. There's all of a second of tension before Daelin leaves.

In the same court room we saw in the beginning of "The King is Back", Arturo, Remmy, and Wade are being placed on trial where a lawyer is trying to get them any excuse that they can to get them off the hook and not deported back to Canada (not a short ride considering that they're filming in Vancouver), but is exasperated when they provide her with nothing. Despite an impassioned speech and defense, the Judge throws the book at them - deportation to Canada.

By the way, enjoy that scene with Arturo, Remmy, and Wade. Because this is pretty much all any of them do in this episode.

Back at Daelin's little home within her employers' home, she has apparently been told everything by Quinn and has even gotten to take a look at the timer. She thinks it's all far-fetched, and naturally so. But Quinn manages to woo her with visions of a non-Spanish controlled America. She seems to buy it, though worries for Dennis since she can't leave him behind being that he's being deported. Quinn agrees to help her if she helps him.
"What's this?" "A very brief cameo."
Even night falls, and Quinn and Daelin head out to a car...finding Charlie O'Connell! Actually, it's not Colin Mallory (who we'll get into in Season Four), but Daelin's brother who is a member of a group that helps the illegal immigrants. Here, he tells them that the group has tracked where the bus that will be taking Dennis and the other Sliders is going and the best place to intercept. The next morning, they're all thrown onto the bus where we have some banter from the group and some ill-natured jibes against Canada that I imagine the writing staff and all would have had after two seasons up in Vancouver.

A bit later in the morning, the resistance hijacks the bus and gets the immigrants off just in time. Daelin's reunited with Dennis, Quinn with the other Sliders, and the day seems saved...until more INS come and surround the group. It seems that Dennis had double crossed them! Daelin is distraught, and her brother shot by INS when he attempts to attack. However, the Sliders have gotten open their vortex and the rest escape...Quinn spending a moment to look forlornly at Daelin cradling her brother's body before he too jumps through.

Now what feels like it should be the end of an episode is only about a third of the way through, the Sliders appearing in a park and seeing a bench painted over for an advertisement for the "San Francisco Lions" football team. Clearly, they are not home, but it's definitely closer than the last. The others ask Quinn about the next window, but he's off being all brooding and emo. Arturo debates having a word with him, seeing his state, but Remmy takes it upon himself to do so...mostly because Arturo has all the bedside manner of a wood chipper.

At the Lamplighter, Quinn pours his heart out to the Crying Man. He sympathizes, relating a story from his own storied past and even suggests that he could look her up on this world - pointing him to the telephone book in the back. Naturally, because it's the late Nineties and people can actually read and even have cause to use a phonebook, Quinn finds the address...and meets Daelin in a sob-fit. She invites him in and...well...
Was flannel even a thing after the 90s?
...long story short, on this Earth, he moved in Tenth Grade instead of her and she's now married to the Dennis of this dimension - a loser punk who's greatest contributions to the world are his band that isn't successful and their daughter. So basically, this guy is a douchebag in any reality, much like Biff Tannen. Needless to say, Dennis is an abusive jackass and the home situation is about as good as you'd expect - that is to say, not at all. Dennis and Quinn get into a row which ends in Quinn decking him a good one before promising to help Daelin and her baby.

This translates to him finding his double on this world who - conveniently - never got over Daelin either and giving her the number and address and shipping her off to Seattle with her kid.

And no, he never actually appears on screen, but considering Quinn has a phone conversation with him...

Times The Sliders Have Run Into Their Doubles: 12

Later, at the park, Quinn fills Remmy in on what happened and the group gets ready to leave...Wade asking Quinn if he's alright before they slide. After a lengthy vortex sequence, we arrive on Quinn, Arturo, and Remmy in prison uniforms in a cell, and naturally looking pretty damn confused. Buckle up, kids, because I'm going to spoil the shocking twist of this part: time's running backwards for everyone but the Sliders.

Why yes, it is bizarre and completely out of place, thank you for noticing!

Basically, they're in prison, the timer's running up instead of down to when the next vortex will open, and they have no idea what's going on. They learn that they're serving a life sentence for the murder of a police officer - Daelin Richards. They're reunited in the court room with Wade, Quinn figures out time is running backwards in this universe from their respective, and they all plead guilty and are released from their handcuffs and out into the world, no muss no fuss.
"Professor, this makes no sense!" "Shut up, Mr. Mallory, the episode's almost over..."
Arturo brings up Stephen Hawking's theory of Time's Arrow to explain why everything's going backwards...which is still completely pointless, but nevermind that now...Quinn still can't deal with the timer, being that he has no idea what he can do. The others want to bunker down until the Slide, not the stupidest idea, but because we still have to have a plot, Quinn insists that he try and save Daelin's life. He reads details of the murder and believes he's ready to go, though Arturo dips a bit into Middle Eastern folklore, referencing the story of An Appointment in Samarra to bring up that they have no idea what the consequence of interfering with the timeline would be.

So, naturally, Quinn goes and takes this advice to heart when he tears a hole in the fabric of reality.

There's a bit of running from the cops and Arturo explains why the timer is running forwards instead of backwards...because it's adhering to the laws of this universe. Which is funny, considering that none of you are falling in line with the physical laws of the universe - i.e., you're still going forwards instead of backwards - but again, nevermind it.

They split up to avoid the cops and time reverses yet again. Quinn and Remmy end up running into Daelin and the real killer, and Dennis being a sniper covering Daelin. Naturally, Quinn Mallory Super Genius decides that the best way to alert an undercover cop that they're being set up is to scream it loudly at the top his lungs for every Tom, Dick, and Jane to hear as you rush to aid said cop. However, both Daelin and the man are shot...though this time, because of Quinn's interference, she was only winged in the shoulder.

Dennis reveals himself as, once again, her fiancé, and Quinn wanders off distraught as the backup and an ambulance are called. Not all is well as Remmy tries to console him, however, as Arturo brings up that there's a hole in the sky, leading to graphics straight out of an Atari Jaguar game. It seems that Quinn has torn a hole in the fabric of time. Shame we don't get Quinn baring any actual weight of any consequences for dooming an entire universe to cosmic destruction, but we're three minutes from the episode ending and the Vortex opens and they enter, with them landing in the park on another world with the normal flow of time seemingly restored.

Remmy points out the phone booth to Quinn, just in case he wants to give a call to Daelin on this Earth, and Season Two ends with looking to it, and then looking back toward the camera looking defeated...
[Insert "Crawling In My Skin" Here]
...well, that just sucked!

No, I mean the entire episode. It's one big gigantic mess that needed many, many more rewrites or, if they'd wanted to be even better, not have been attempted at all. This episode feels like three separate scripts that were sent through a paper shredder and then glued back together into one using pieces from the bin.

There's a love interest that we don't care about and never will (and I'm not knocking the actress, she's actually pretty good by Sliders standards) because she was brought on without even a passing reference beforehand, the second part of the plot on the Earth with her abusive boyfriend is so heavy-handed that it hurts, and an entire world where time flows backwards is interesting and really deserved its own episode to fully explore, but it makes absolutely no sense to throw that in as the third part of the story.

Actually, any one of the stories presented could have been made to work. They could have been fleshed out more, given more reason to be invested in the events that happened. All this episode is, ultimately, is Quinn being a lovesick puppy over a woman we've never met before and will never hear about again, and us being meant to feel bad because he keeps losing her in every world he visits where he meets her.

Also of note is the near-complete lack of the other Sliders. They don't do anything. In particular Wade, who all but said the words "I love you" to Quinn directly, not being involved in such a major life event for Quinn. This man who they've built up her having a romance with, and then when suddenly this great romantic love of his life suddenly comes in, she gets sidelined and shares all of one line of dialogue alone with him.

Compare to "Obsession", which I also didn't like, but where it at least showed Quinn's reaction to the events of Wade's almost marriage to Dick Roman. But when Quinn has an almost identical romance subplot, we get an episode that Wade's barely in. There was opportunity to develop character here, to further the romance between Quinn and Wade, and the writers chose to essentially throw her into background character status.

Which is about the same treatment that Remmy and Arturo got, though Remmy was at least thrown a bit of a bone at supporting Quinn's doomed venture. Other than that, though, the remaining three Sliders are completely unimportant and ineffectual in their own series, and I remind you that one such episode we've seen had a subplot of Rembrandt getting it in with his old high school girlfriend and Wade teaching a bunch of hippies astrology.

Altogether, this is not a well formed or well thought out episode and, as a season finale, it pales in comparison to "Invasion", which should have been the finale. I can only guess that executive meddling from Fox caused this to be placed as the finale, because otherwise someone Tracy Tormé was smoking something awesome.

However, the topic of executive meddling brings me to some news about this series. I have, as of this writing, completed reviews of twenty-two episodes of Sliders - that's two seasons of the show, and about an entire season of a standard television series in America. Given the nature of what we'll be getting into in Season 3, I have decided that I'm going to take a break from Sliders. Don't worry, I will be getting back to it (it's practically begging for me to tear it apart), but for the time being I need to take a break and refresh myself with something I enjoy...

...come back next time, when I will have hopefully figured out just what that is.

Sliders and all related materials are the property of Universal.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, August 28, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems"

Oh, this game...

Believe it or not, I was once not the snarky twenty-something who posts reviews about games (and various other things) on the internet. Once I was a snarky six or seven year old and I got my hands on this for my Super Nintendo. Being that I'd been a fan of superheroes ever since I was a kid, as I've gone into many times here on this blog, seeing this as the cover, how could I resist? It looks awesome!

I mean, you have Spidey front and center, Wolverine with his epic claws out, Captain America letting out a freaking death howl, and Iron Man with a fist raised to punch some evil-doer right in the fact, and - to top it all off - you got Hulk at the back ready to smash in the face of any fool stupid enough to get in his way.

Basically put, this game - by its cover alone - looks so stupidly awesome!

And now we've come to a time where Marvel is bigger than ever...something I did an entire retrospective of the pre-Age of Ultron films of and have been keeping up with the movies as they've come out, something which I do so very, very little. So, looking back on this little gem (no pun intended), I decided to dig out my old SNES and see if it was indeed the awesome button mashing adventure it was in my youth.

...only problem was I couldn't find my SNES. No idea where it is. Thus, to the internet and emulators. Huzzah indeed! Hence, I was taken back into the 90s and the War of the Gems. Adam Warlock has summoned to him five Heroes with Attitude in order to collect the Infinity Gems. Separately, they are six artifacts of extreme power in the Marvel universe. But when brought together, they can create an even more powerful artifact - the Infinity Gauntlet.

And, of course, with the likes of Doctor Doom, Thanos, and the Magus out and about trying to get a hold of them, he'll need the help!

The game allows you to pick from a computer at the Avengers Mansion, showing the Earth and various locations upon and above it in space where Infinity Gems might be found. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a crapshoot in that you're not guaranteed to find a Gem in each area, just that you might. So the player has to go through every section until they find the two or so Gems in each sections - baring the events that separate the plot, where a Gem is guaranteed to pop up after defeating a boss.

But after selecting a stage, you have to select one of the five heroes that have already been mentioned. The group is fairly balanced - Spidey is the smallest but also the fastest, whereas Hulk is largest but stronger than the rest. In between them, we have Wolverine as not as fast as Spidey and not as strong as Cap, and Iron Man who's stronger than Cap, but faster than Hulk.

As you might have guessed, it's a beat 'em up slide-scroller. You move from left to right (directional orientation changing only rarely), you punch a bunch of lower-tier enemies before moving on to punch a bigger enemy. There are, of course, occasions where there's a mini-boss shows up, but for the most part, it stays true to form.

When the player gets a Gem, they are actually able to use them as equip items for certain bonuses - such as the Power Gem increasing a player's physical combat strength or the Soul increasing a player's health meter - items can also be picked up in the levels or awarded for completing the Avengers training room, which will pit the player in a one on one fight against one of various enemies from the game. If the player does well enough, they can get health pickups or a Revive for a fallen character.

On the whole, it's not a difficult game. Once you learn the boss attack patterns, it can be ridiculously easy (I found even Thanos could be taken down by Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man without breaking too much of a sweat). My one major criticism would be when your character takes a particularly nasty hit, they're thrown back in a needlessly dramatic fashion, lie on the ground for a second, and then slowly get back up, which is wasting my time and several frames of animation that could have been used elsewhere.

Upon reflection, this game is pretty good and ridiculously addicting.  I found it frustrating as a youth, but that happens when you're six years old, you have no hand-eye coordination, and you don't know any better as far as video games go. It doesn't get more complicated than "punch things to get through to punch other things", but it doesn't have to. It's a beat 'em up, simplicity itself. And for a Marvel game, you could do a lot, lot worse.

Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems was developed and published by Capcom for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

From MadCap's Couch - "Sliders: Invasion"

And you thought your billboards were annoying...
Now we come to an episode of Sliders that I've been both excited for and fearful of. Excited because of the new ideas and concepts that it brings to the table...and fearful of those concepts being thrown to the wayside for cheap pathos and action schlock in the later seasons. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, let's focus on the episode before us.

We open on the TARDIS evading a missile shot from the Moon. The Doctor manages to land with his two companions, Jamie McCrimmon and Zoe Hariot, in late twentieth century England where...

[EDIT: Apologies. The intern responsible for making sure I have the right notes for this has been sacked.]

We open on the Sliders falling out of the vortex into an urban area. There's some banter about Remmy using some pads to avoid the worse aspects of falling onto the pavement while sliding before they notice that the world around them is...quiet. Very quiet. There's a definite feeling of emptiness as they walk through a San Francisco that looks, for all intents and purposes, to be completely deserted and barren, only graffiti and the garbage blowing in the wind seem to be their company as they try to discern what happened.

It's really a rather chilling scene straight out of an apocalypse film like On the Beach. The Sliders begin to poke around, Quinn realizing that something is interfering with their timer, making it impossible to get a fix on the next window. Somehow, Quinn is able to pick up the location of the disturbance on a cell phone screen - this, I remind you, being 1996 - and the group heads off to investigate.  As they head toward the source of the disturbance, they reason that whatever happened here must have done so only recently, signs of mass looting of only a short while ago are all over the place.

As they find themselves in an amusement park, an ominous hum cuts the air. Everyone wants to run away, but Quinn tells them that if they don't find the source of the disturbance, then they're likely never to get off this world.  Then Arturo points to the sky as we see...a decidedly better special effect than the Allosaurus back in "In Dino Veritas".  A mysterious, sting ray-like craft is looming down toward them, and Quinn realizes that it and the timer have their energies in sync somehow. They attempt to flee, but it's clear that the ship has them...until Quinn prematurely activates the timer. The ship goes berseker at that point, losing all control and crashing not far off and safely with our heroes not right under it, leading into the main title sequence...

Quinn explains some technobabble as to how the ship crashed thanks to him activating the timer, Arturo and Quinn taking the time to examine the ship.  Arturo has determined by a sight examination that the ship is made of an organic metal...somehow. They're also met by a man in a tuxedo and overcoat, who tells them that the "Kromaggs" (a name that has been seen by the protagonists graffiti'd onto many surfaces) aren't going to like that and will retaliate.

He tells them that the Kromaggs are marauders, conquerors, who came to their world and will eat their eyes.  However, he says that they're not from space...they're from right there. He walks off with his twin daughters (in reality two completely different looking women in garishly different dress), claiming that he does not wish to be here when the Kromaggs arrive.
"Do you read Sutter Cane?"
Because Wade has an astounding bonus to her Spot check, she managed to notice the medical bracelet on the man's hand, apparently from a place called "Gatehaven".  She mentions that her uncle worked at Gatehaven, on their world, a loony bin.  Quinn theorizes that, when the Kromaggs invaded, the inmates were set free in the city while everyone else ran off.  In spite of all of this, Arturo still wants to pick apart the space ship.

Remmy and Wade not being complete idiots insist that they should leave well enough alone, but Arturo won't be dissuaded and Quinn says that someone or something might be hurt in there, tells the others to keep their eyes peeled for any other ships, and promising that they won't be long. Again, the music is very ominous and the environment is very dark and foreboding as they navigate their way through the wrecked spaceship. Quinn and Arturo begin to investigate the technology, Arturo apparently able to identify that they're breathing an oxygen and nitrogen mix almost immediately, thus theorizing that the Kromaggs must come from a planet similar to Earth.

Outside, however, Remmy and Wade are both less than pleased at the idea of sticking around.  Remmy starts to rant about his backstory just before he was first picked up by the Sliders, but Wade - in a rare meta moment - tells him to stow it, since they all know how they ended up here. She laments being left out of things and we do a crossfade to reveal that it's now night.  So much for "won't be long", eh, Quinn?

Back on the ship, having been there for at least a few hours, Quinn and Arturo finally find a shrouded body...it's the Master from Buffy! Actually, it's a Kromagg - an ape-like creature in a ridiculous-looking flight suit. They determine that it's dead, Quinn lamenting that he caused it much like he did back in "The Good, the Bad, and the Wealthy", but Arturo cuts him off, claiming that - if he did cause this - then he's a hero. The Kromagg was an invading soldier, after all. Examining its arm, Arturo finds a strange device on the wrist that he begins to try and pull off...which activates a shrieking alarm that gets them both to turn tail and run from the ship.
"I wouldn't worry, Mr. Mallory, he's only mostly dead..."
Meeting up with Wade and Remmy outside, they take off running with two Kromaggs in pursuit having apparently come from...somewhere. It's here that we get our first good look at the Kromaggs and...well, to be frank, they look ridiculous. The creature design is fairly solid with the appearance, very ape-like and beastial. But where it gets killed is their outfits - black or dark blue jump suits with red stripes all about.

And given what we will see of the Kromaggs in later seasons, this outfit and appearance are null and void anyway, so...let's move on before I go cross eyed.

The Sliders run through the abandoned amusement park in the shadow of a roller coaster, where they hide as the Kromaggs actually managed to pass them.  With twenty-three seconds until the next slide, Quinn gets ready to open the vortex...and the Kromaggs turn up the lights.  Of course, panic at being discovered doesn't keep the Sliders from having a moment together where they discuss it, Wade being freaked out by the ape-man look of the Kromaggs. Arturo points out an even more chilling revelations - the thing in it that's disturbing isn't the ape, it's the man.

Unsettling as it is, Quinn activates the timer and the vortex is opened. Remmy and Arturo head through, Wade preparing to do so as well before they both hear the sound of a vortex opening and gaze up into the sky.  Instead of the calming blue-silvery appearance of their vortex, a portal of crimson red and dark black tears open in the night sky...and a Kromagg vessel pours out from it.

The Kromaggs are Sliders!!!!

Full disclosure, the first time I ever watched this, my jaw actually dropped at that, so kudos there.

Nevertheless, with the Kromaggs on their tail, Quinn nudges Wade toward the vortex and likewise follows, leaving the two Kromaggs looking just nettled. Through the vortex, we find an enthusiastic crowd applauding as the Sliders come through - apparently Arturo landed in a bread cart upon arrival and the people found this most amusing. Arturo has learned from that interaction that they are in Versailles West on the continent of New France. And, as the Englishman that he is, Arturo is just nettled.

Super nettled.

We get some visual gags and later some snarky French waiter before there's some serious discussion about the Kromaggs, Quinn and Wade apparently having gotten Remmy and Arturo caught up onscreen. From his studies on the ship, Arturo has determined that the Kromaggs actually aren't alien, they're just as human as we are - just from a different parallel Earth where a different kind of ape evolved instead of those that became humans as we know them. But with the Kromaggs being sliders, it's determined that they need now more than ever to get back to their world and warn them.  In fact, Wade goes so far as to say that they should warn every world - starting with this one. Arturo brings up the fact that they've got no way of doing that.

We get some more snark with the waiter because...funny? Then we come back to the downed Kromagg ship on the previous world.  Kromaggs have perfected the art of convenient closed circuit television and watch a replay of Quinn and Arturo's entrance into ship, thus having a positive ID on them.
"YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP!!!! OH, GODDAMN YOU!!!"
Back in New France, Arturo has to sell off his watch due to Remmy having lost his wallet. Arturo has a rant about French stereotypes that the others are amused by until Remmy notices something in Arturo's pocket and he's forced to pull out the Kromagg wrist device.  They are naturally a little shocked that he would do this, but Arturo points out that it is the only thing that would corroborate their story about the Kromaggs should they ever return to their Earth.

A good idea, in theory, though given that tampering with it was what got them into trouble in the first place...yeah, no, Professor. That's...really rather stupid of you.  Especially when you notice that it's flashing and you can't imagine why.

Needless to say, the Kromaggs show up and scoop them up before Quinn can shoot the ship down with the timer. The four of them awaken paralyzed to four sections of wall, a woman telling them that the Kromaggs have mastered gravitational science.  She introduces herself as Mary, saying they are "prisoners of...guests...of the Kromagg Dynasty". They try to talk their way out of it, but Mary and her masters are having none of it. The Kromaggs apparently refuse to learn any human tongue, so they psychically project their words to Mary so she can interpret.

This, again, goes against almost everything we see in later seasons, but that's a bridge we've yet to cross.
I've heard of sticking around, but this is ridiculous...
Mary explains they're being taken to Earth 113, with Arturo spelling out the revelation that the Kromaggs can control sliding, something that they are still unable to do. The Kromaggs, it seems, want to know how they disabled the Kromagg ship. The Kromaggs, according to Mary, did not invade but were called in to settle a dispute, in which the Sliders intervened.

Which brings up a very interesting idea...but we'll cross the bridge when we come to it.

Mary also explains a bit as to how she became a mouthpiece for the Kromaggs, and that her world had basically accepted the Kromaggs as their superiors and the world prospered and so on.  Mary tells them that they will be debriefed on Earth 113, and their willingness to cooperate with the Kromaggs will determine their fate.

On Earth 113, Remmy laments not having food or knowing what the time is. Quinn agrees, not knowing the same given their predicament - being in a room with no windows or clocks. Quinn notes that the four of them have never been together since they arrived, the Kromaggs trying to divide and conquer them.  Remmy is called out of the cell, Quinn demanding to come along, but the Kromaggs refusing him and likewise refusing to answer Remmy's questions.  Quinn urges him to stay strong, not tell them anything.

In a large chamber, Remmy encounters an older gentleman, who he identifies as his father. Mr. Brown tells Remmy that the Kromaggs now control Earth Prime, thought apparently - as on Mary's Earth - they were welcomed. Remmy's suspicious, noting how nervous that Mr. Brown is, but he goes on to say how much the Kromaggs have benefited their world and that dozens are going to the Kromagg homeworld - a paradise to outdo Eden itself.
"No, Remmy...I am your father..."
The Crying Man, naturally not being an idiot, does not buy any of this. When Mr. Brown tries to get him to let the Kromaggs cross-check the coordinates, claiming that the Kromaggs might even let him come live on the Kromagg homeworld with him...and his kid sister. Thus, the jig is up, as Remmy didn't have a sister on Earth Prime.

We cut to Arturo returning to his cell, Remmy meeting him there. Apparently, they've been brown-nosing Arturo if he just reveals the whereabouts of their Earth. Another prison knocks on the wall and talks a bit about how the Kromaggs are keeping prisoners...some for slave labor and some for food. Arturo claims that from all he's heard, the Kromaggs are supposed to be a civilized people. The other prisoner tells him about the black market price on human eyes, echoing what the crazy man said earlier.

Apparently, though, the sliders are protected...provided they tell the Kromaggs what they want to know. Arturo reaffirms with Remmy that they keep their secrets to themselves...and then turns to see Remmy entering the cell, the one he had been speaking to gone!

...no, I already used the "What a Twist" gif.

Nevertheless, it seems the Kromaggs have more abilities than they were led to believe. In an interrogation chamber, Wade is being...interrogated...for the location of her Earth, which Wade insists she doesn't know. They also are not the advance scouts of a Sliding army. Of course, Wade tells them that even if she did know, she wouldn't tell them...at least until Quinn is brought up and they pull a Bond villain on her.

Back in the cell afterwards, Wade tells Arturo and Remmy that she told the Kromaggs about some of the worlds they had visited to try and buy them time. They realize that they're all off balance because of the Kromagg techniques, Arturo coming up with the revolutionary plan of a jailbreak. Wade brings up that they need to find Quinn, though both Remmy and Arturo point out that he may already be dead thanks to the Kromaggs.
Looks like Wade's a little blue.......stop booing me!
Quinn Mallory however - who did not die - is in an arboretum with Mary. Mary tells him that this is her private sanctuary outside of the Kromaggs' watch, that she was only able to arrange for Quinn to be here. Mary reveals that the Kromaggs have been testing them, being that they're the first homo sapiens who knew of the secrets of sliding.

...besides Quinn's double from the pilot episode who was the one who...oh, wait...wait...nevermind. Bridge crossing to be determined...

Mary explains that Quinn that the Kromaggs were a tribal people who warred endlessly until they discovered sliding and found world after world inhabited and dominated by homo sapiens who were even worse than they.  Hence, the Kromaggs formed into a Dynasty and set about conquering Earths for their own good. Quinn asks why Mary would take the risk to tell him this, and she tells him that she knows his time is numbered - the Kromaggs will put him to death - and she does not want him to die, seeing as she has never seen someone resist the Kromaggs so.

Quinn urges her to get the timer so that he and the others can escape, even offering to bring her along, but Mary says it's too late - tomorrow, the others will be killed and Quinn will be carted back off to the Kromagg homeworld for interrogation of a higher caliber. Quinn vows to resist 'til the bitter end, Mary saying that there's nothing she can do...but she passes him a plastic card with Kromagg markings on it.

Quinn comes back giving us some details about Mary that we won't care about after this episode - spoiler alert - and Quinn uses it to open their cell and let them out. The four resolve, trick or no, to get through...getting the attention of the prisoner (who might be Bennish, it's hard to tell) from earlier. Wade goes over with the card, resolving to get him out...with us seeing that his eyes have been torn out by the Kromaggs. He tells them that it's too late for him...and for them.
"You don't need eyes where we're going!!!!"
 He screams for the guards and the others take off down the corridor. They fight and run through the few they run into, Quinn destroying some sliding equipment of the Kromaggs along the way to see that they can't use it. This time, however, sees that the Kromaggs catch up to and corner them...

...and then Mary shows up with a laser gun to cover their escape. With the timer back, they can slide but it has to be on the world that they came from. Conveniently, Mary has set the slide device to take them right back there! The others head through, but Quinn remains behind as Mary is shot, dying on the floor as she says that the Kromaggs had taught her more than they ever knew...never knowing she'd do something like this. She urges him toward his freedom, Quinn telling her that the Kromaggs were wrong concerning her backstory...etc., etc.
"I never took...the Kobayashi Maru test...until now. What do you think...of my solution?"
She dies, and Quinn goes through the gate. The Sliders return to New France, where Arturo decides that it isn't so bad after the Kromagg prison world. Wade and Remmy chuckle at this, but Quinn is still somber after Mary's death.

EXCEPT SHE'S TOTALLY NOT! OH, MY GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWD!

We return to Earth 113, a Kromagg is debriefing her on the events - speaking aloud in English.  They have come to the conclusion that Quinn and company really don't have any idea where their world is and have actually been sliding at random this whole time. However, the Kromaggs have implanted a tracking device into one of the Sliders that will allow the Kromaggs to track their journeys.

Got all that? Good. Now forget about it, because it has almost nothing to do with what happens in Season 3. At all.

No, I'm not joking. I don't even think they get so much as a vague mention until the end of Season 3.

Mary is allowed one hour of freedom in the garden before she returns to her cage, which she tearfully thanks her Masters for...bringing into question just how much of an act she was performing.

So, let's get down to brass tacks - is this episode good or bad? Definitely a good one in my mind. The beginning is rather dark and foreboding with all the hinting of what Kromaggs are. It's very clear that there was a lot of thought put into them, rather than just making them a sort of villain of the week. It's also clear they were intended to be recurring foes, though likely not at the volume they were used in Seasons 4 and 5.

Really the idea of an enemy that not only has access to sliding technology but has more control over it than the heroes do really builds up the Kromaggs as a really, really tough and frightening force. With such power at their disposal, the Kromaggs would always be a looming threat as the Sliders traveled from world to world - the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads through every encounter with the knowledge firmly in their minds that the Kromaggs merely existed to continue conquering parallel worlds. They could show up anywhere, at any time, and the Sliders would be almost powerless to fight them or even warn other parallel worlds about them.

The keyword in that last sentence being "could" show up, not "should show up every freaking episode".

Thanks, David Peckinpah.  Thanks a lot.

The other idea that this episode brings up a little more overtly is the fact that, in new worlds, Sliders have no idea whether or not their inventions are actually doing good. Granted, this idea has been brought up before like in "El Sid", but the fact is that the Sliders generally have no idea of the history or current events of the places that they land until a little bit later in any given episode. This has most recently been demonstrated in "Greatfellas" when Remmy took the one hundred thousand dollar bribe meant for his double.

Of course, the Kromaggs are pretty irredeemably evil and bloodthirsty, so I'm more than willing to give the group a pass this time around.

Also, this is a minor note, but I actually prefer how the Kromaggs look in this episode as opposed to the later appearances where they look like Sontarans in S.S. uniforms, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Now, with all of this out of the way, you'd probably think we're done with Season Two. This feels like a season finale, am I right? A new threat established, the heroes escaping just in the nick of time, but with the promise that we'll see the enemies once again due to the tracking device implanted in one of the Sliders - all of it seems indicative of wrapping up the season. But, nope, we've got ourselves one more episode before all is said and done for Season Two.

"Knock-knock!" "Who's there?" "A completely pointless and needless complicated episode!"

Stay tuned for the end of Season 2!

Sliders and all related materials are the property of Universal.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, August 21, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Doom & Destiny"

Remember way, way back when I reviewed Cthulhu Saves The World? Of course you do. I mentioned I liked the retro game feel and how they took a concept and made it twenty times more hilarious than it ought to be. Here I am with another game in a genre I seem to be on a kick about lately, Doom & Destiny - a game about four friends getting involved in some whacky multidimensional hijinks.

It's a little bit Dungeons & Dragons, a little bit Army of Darkness, and a little bit Sliders blended together with the retro feel of the old Final Fantasy games for the SNES, and it comes out as a wonderful butterfly of complete and utter amusement.

The game itself begins with a choice of difficulty settings before throwing us into the story of a woman trapped in a pentagram, surrounded by four magic crystals. Apparently, she is to be the instrument in some white-faced evil man's plans to enter the "Ultraworld". Unfortunately because she's not a virgin (after having some worries about how this experiment would go and deciding to have a party and inviting the entire science team), the lab is blown to smithereens.

We begin with the first chapter "Cellars and Lizards", where we're introduced to four friends heading over to a friend's house to being a new D&D campaign. Their Game Master, Benjamin, is apparently wanting to do something different and has called the four of them - Nigel, Mike, Johnny, and Francis - over to get started. When they arrive, however, they find the front door locked from the inside and decide to enter the house via Benjamin's cellar, where they find a locked door to the DM's playroom and several source books for a new roleplaying game.

Looking it over, it's a standard RPG. Going around, collecting keys, opening doors and chests, and apparently even wardrobes and closets, kill monsters, and gain levels. Your vanilla set of actions for any RPG-based hero. Between them, they end up picking up the traditional adventurer classes of fighter, rogue (ninja), healer (paladin of the Flying Spaghetti Monster), and mage.

There's a brief tutorial level where they mull around through Benjamin's basement...though the lines between reality and fantasy have clearly begun to blur. When they do finally complete the main objective of getting the key to the DM's Playroom, however, they find that it's not the room they remember, but are immediately sucked into a dimensional portal to another world. Brought before the King, they are assumed to be great heroes because of their ability to survive travel from a parallel dimension. The King decides that they can prove that their Heroes if they're bad enough dudes to save the princess from the evil Orcus.

And then, they can go recover the Necronomicon...I mean, go and fight the sinister "Unnamed".

Who is, in reality, named Dark Eidous!

...my apologies to whoever was just struck by lightning from the heavens.

Though really, this doesn't come as a huge shock  (ha!). While they react to this with the amazement you would expect, they clearly are bad enough dudes to rescue the princess. After all, any skill you get from a role playing game clearly translates into the real world. It's the same reason why I'm a ninth level fighter, a sixth level swashbuckler, a thirteenth level bard, and a fifth level wizard with a necromancy specialization.

Y'know, in real life.

Joking aside from there, the world is largely open as the mighty foursome journey out partaking in the traditional RPG activities of traipsing around opening containers, killing monsters, earning loot, and gaining levels in their respective classes. Standard stuff. Unfortunately, that comes with the same problem as many RPGs - grinding. Which, at the very least, this game bothers to make somewhat fun much like in the Symphony of the Night way with making it bright and colorful. And of course, with leveling up and killing things comes with taking their loot and adding it to your own.

Your main attributes are split up into four categories - Might, Charisma, Grit, and Dexterity. Each attribute governs two stats - Might covers Hit Points and Strength, Charisma covers your Mana and Special Attacks, Grit governs Resistance and Critical Hits, and Dexterity lords over Evasion and Speed. If you've any inkling of Dungeons & Dragons, you can likely translate to which you need to work on for which class though, top tip, make sure you're putting points into Strength and Charisma on level up as well.

Hit Points and Mana Points are used by everyone, yes everyone, and the Special Attacks are pretty awesome to boot. You're gonna wanna use them often.

Beyond that, it has the mechanics of any RPG of the Final Fantasy variety. The combat system is turn-based, which I have issues with normally, though as it's homaging the original FF games...no, I still can't really get over it. People don't fight like this, they just don't. Of course, I'm not going to hold it against the game.

Really, I can't hold much of anything against this game.  The humor is absolutely smashing. As I said before, it's a homage to the likes of Final Fantasy games of old, but it's so much more than that. There are references peppered all around to various things such as Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Dragonball Z, Huey Lewis and the News, and so, so much more. Really, I could make an entire review out of just all the references I was able to catch, that's how many there are!

Needless to say, with great reference comes great responsibility, and there's a lot of work done in that regard. As well as being a deconstruction of Western RPGs, JRPGs, and just about everything in between, and showing a extensive love of many, many fandoms, and yet it never feels like it's overdoing it when they dev team threw in winks here and there, some far more blatant than others and to glorious effect.

That's all I can say and all I really need to say for this. It has a fairly easy to learn system, it has good humor, and it's definitely some of the best entertainment I've ever had for five bucks. Also, there's a wonderful sequel out now. Hmm...I guess I'll just have to get on that...

Doom & Destiny is now available from Heartbit Interactive and Benjamin Ficus Productions for Xbox 360, various mobiles, Windows 8, and Steam.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

From MadCap's Couch - "Sliders: The Young and the Relentless"

"Check his pulse, Yugi!"
Finding your own dead body? Impossible, you say. Not if you're a Slider, as we see demonstrated when our four amigos drop out of the Vortex and onto a new world...where they find Quinn Mallory face down in a swimming pool and try to resuscitate him with good ol' CPR.

And even though he is technically dead...

Times The Sliders Have Run Into Their Doubles: 10

But that's not all the double reveals we have time for today, as it seems that Wade also has a double on this world who was connected with this Quinn.

Times The Sliders Have Run Into Their Doubles: 11

You just make up for that lost time there, Sliders. Get all the doubles in!

Naturally,  the two Wades are stunned by one another's appearance...and the opening credits roll. After them, Wade with 80's hair is speaking to someone named "Gillette" about the situation while the others browse around the study, Wade finding an article about a young boy (must younger than the required age on our world) running for President.

Yuppie Wade (here after referred to as "Yade") is stunned by Quinn running around as well, given his striking resemblance to her late husband.  She is also taking the concept of parallel worlds amazingly well...likely because the plot won't work otherwise.  Quinn changes clothes and we get a short scene between himself and Wade to build on the romance subplot between the two of them that David Peckinpah will ignore.  Yade enters and introduces Mr. Gillette, a servant. While she explains the set up for the first few minutes of the episode - namely a party that she and her Quinn were throwing - Gillette takes their wet clothing to be laundered...and takes the timer as well as he is unnoticed by all.

She also explains "Edu-Learn", a computer program to give all children an education, from the rich to the poor. All of it in a bid to replace the crumbling public education system. If you're thinking this is too good to be true, it is, but that would be skipping ahead a bit.  Without her Quinn, however, the entire thing might go down the tubes...and thus Quinn, off screen, agrees to help.  In spite of Arturo and Remmy insisting that this is not a good idea in the least.

Also, Arturo mentions that if Quinn isn't convincing, there will be inquiries...which will mean the authorities and that it could compromise the slide.

Remember that. It's going to hurt later.  Twice, in fact.
"You look incredible...ly terrible, Quinn..."
Nevertheless, Quinn tells them not to worry and goes along with it.  Yade lies through her teeth about how good he looks in something that A-ha would have been embarrassed to wear circa 1985 and when Remmy and Arturo mention being there for morale support, she mentioned that they can't - they're both over 30, and her Quinn had few senior associates outside of the house staff.

Quinn suggests that the two of them head to the city, which will in no way lead to shenanigans. Whomp-whomp.

Quinn and Yade attend the party, Quinn having a few hits and misses as we're introduced to some characters including actual important ones like Kyle Beck who wants to reaffirm if Quinn is 100% onboard on Edu-Learn. Yuppie Wade pulls him away, however, before the questioning can get too direct.

Meanwhile, Rembrandt and Arturo have made their way to the Lamplighter Pub. From an Almanac of Exposition, Rembrandt learns that the youth of America took over in 1980 when it was determined that Social Security stood to bankrupt the economy.  So, after some well-chosen words by Howard Stern (of all people), the voting age was reduced to 9 and Baby Boomers were kicked out of the job market. Now, the age of mandatory retirement in the United States is thirty.

On the plus side, Recycling and Waste Management is at an all-time high.  And no, this isn't a cheap set up for a Soylent Green joke, but I wouldn't have put it past them if they'd gone that route.

Arturo and Remmy head into the bar for a drink...only to be told that they don't serve their kind here. The sign above the bar says no drinks for the aged, which could have just been left there...except for the fact that bartender tries to talk smack to Arturo. The Professor, naturally, gives that British charm we've come to know him for...until the man comes at him with a bat upon which occasion he rather politely shows him just which of his knees he can pull it out of before he and Remmy bet a retreat out of the bar.

"Bye! Enjoy the 30 seconds of screen time you ate up, Nameless Lady! Bye!"
At the party, Quinn is approached by a stunning blonde woman who asks him why he hasn't told Yade about them. When he doesn't answer, she leaves in disgust and tells him to call her when he gets it together. When he asks Yade about her, she just says that she's nobody and doesn't comment further.

And she's right. She never appears again or is even mentioned in the entire episode.

At all.

Between her, Michelle, and the con woman from last week, we could start a Sliders-spinoff of the minor undeveloped characters of the day.

In important character land, however, a Kenny Hatcher is introduced and makes himself known, pulling Quinn away and trying to convince him to not go ahead with Edu-Learn.  Apparently, Edu-Learn will get a bunch of old teacher's out of work...and Kenny wants to make an alternative to it on their own outside of things, instead.  Getting him back, Yade says he ought to stay away from Kenny.

Upstairs, Wade is looking for pills to pop in the bathroom when Quinn walks in on it.  It seems that Yuinn and Yade took a lot of stimulants.  We get reaffirmation that people have to pull a Logan's Run or it's into the homeless shelters and under the feet of the young by the age of thirty.  The party ends...and it's revealed that Kyle was in on the whole thing thanks to Yade pulling him away. It seems, however, that Kyle is about to pull the rug out from under everyone...wanting Quinn to come to the senator's meeting for Edu-Learn and, if he doesn't, then the Sliders won't have the timer.
The Crying Man says: "Fornicate the constabulary!" 
The next morning, it seems that Arturo and Remmy were arrested for the scrape in the bar.  Arturo is confident that they will plead their case, pay their fine, and leave.  Standing by order of the twenty-something judge, they are introduced to Tiffany August - their court appointed public defender. She wants them to play dumb, she gets them off with senility and they get thirty days. Naturally, they are less than pleased with this plan. They are about to get off (nearly) Scot-free when Arturo has to mouth off to both the judge and to Tiffany...which gets them the thirty days in lock up.

Unfortunately, Arturo and Remmy pull a N.W.A. and escape (largely because instead of an armed escort that have one guy in business casual taking them away from the court).

As they head to their meeting, Quinn and Yuppie Wade talk, Quinn asking who Melanie White is - Yade telling him that she's a housewife who is trying to cut herself in on the profits of Edu-learn...and then admitting that her husband has been head of their R&D. Apparently, he was jealous of Yuinn and - when he realized he couldn't beat him - he killed himself.

At the meeting, Quinn stops the presentation after a demonstration of an addition problem using "Impact Cola", claiming that it's just an advertisement for the brand name and not actually helping kids in any way.

Like most education programs, though this one is admittedly a little more honest.

Yade attempts to save some face, getting everyone to leave the room. We get a short scene with Kyle and Kenny where Kenny tells Kyle to keep an eye on Quinn, reasoning that something's up.  Back in the board room, Yade and Quinn talk as she tries to school him on the finer points of how their world works...then bringing up that everything will be over a week from Wednesday when they meet with the Senator...which Quinn naturally takes issue with, since it means they'll miss the Slide. They share a kiss to tease the shippers before the secretary calls to tell them that Melanie White is there to see him...Yade angrily telling her to contact his lawyer.
It was as if millions of shippers suddenly squeed out in joy...and were suddenly silenced...
Quinn then talks to Wade, explaining the situation. Wade laments that Gillette is still watching her and tells Quinn that she called the Dominion, learning that Arturo and Remmy never checked in, though Quinn doesn't think there's any reason to worry.  Out on the mean streets, Remmy can't get the number of Yade and Yuinn's mansion, seeing as it's unlisted.  He and Arturo try to find somewhere to sleep for the night, only to be accosted by four teenagers on bicycles...the local police racket.  Having even less intimidation factor than grown men police on bicycles, Arturo is derisive as ever, though Remmy stopped him before he can cause another incident.

That statement he made about getting the authorities involved hurting yet?

Quinn is heading out to Yuinn's car after the meeting, stopped by a woman who gives him a subpoena. She, it seems, is Melanie White. She promises that the cover up is coming to light - Edu-learn and Yade, the whole thing. She claims that Yade fabricated the details of her husband's suicide, saying she killed him.  Naturally, not being an asshole and wanting to help, Quinn asks her if she has any proof of this. Melanie doesn't take it well, angrily declaring that she'll prove it if it's the last thing she does and warning Quinn that, when they're finished, they'll kill him too.

And we know who they are, do we not?

Quinn heads into his office to find Kenny rooting around.  The two talk, Quinn trying to play his way through and not realizing that Kenny sets him up with a comment about going sailing next weekend...as Yade tells him when she comes in.  Apparently, Yuinn was deathly afraid of water.  Quinn, however, confronts Yade with the words of Melanie White and, while Yade tries to seduce him into compliance, he has none of it.  He has also checked with the Senator's office, the Senator not getting back into the country until the weekend.  In essence, everything that Yade has told him has been a complete lie.

Yade doesn't take this well, but Quinn tells her to stow it. He wants the timer back.

Nevertheless, Quinn does agree to do a call with the Lieutenant Governor in exchange for Yade talking to Kyle about the timer. Yade praises him, but Quinn isn't flatter and tells her to call Gillette and let Wade off house arrest.  Yade tries once more to seduce her a Quinn, but he has absolutely no interest, claiming that the only thing they have in common was wishing that the person they were with was someone else.

Back with Arturo and Remmy, Remmy laments the slop of the homeless shelter they've found themselves in and that he'd rather just try and find themselves a way back to Quinn and Wade.  Arturo reasons that they should stay put and rejoin their fellows right before the slide.  Mind you, however they intend to accomplish this is left delightfully in the dark, but I don't guess it really matters seeing as the writer didn't much think of a way to weave the subplot in better.
"Ceiling Gillette is watching your escape attempt..."
Back with Quinn and Wade, they attempt to sneak through the mansion to find some kind of evidence against Yade. Quinn reasons that all he needs is a computer and some time and he can access the police records from the murder. Y'know, because this was the 90s and hacking was A-OK! As they escape, however, they fail to realize that they are not alone...Gillette is watching.

At the shelter, a sleeping Remmy and Arturo are roused by Tiffany. Arturo is surprised that she found them, but she turned them down because...plot. Despite their begging to be let go, since they're sliding in the morning, she tells them to stow it and rebukes the "remember why you became a lawyer" argument with the fact that her grades weren't high enough to get a high-priced corporate job, so that's out.  However, Remmy gives an impassioned speech about how her desire to have climbed up the corporate ladder got her nowhere and if she really wants to get out of being a public defender, she'll have to start standing out and impressing people and actually trying to win a case.

She rolls her eyes at this and it seems all is lost.

Back with Quinn and Wade, Quinn is committing his act of cyberterrorism in an internet cafe, and determines that Mr. White had enough amphetamines to kill a small elephant in his system...Wade mentioning the drugs she found in Yade's medicine drawer, though Quinn says that Yade wouldn't be that stupid...though he quickly theorized that Yade might have killed his double as well.  Sparking inspiration from this...Wade has an idea.
"There's a storm comin', suckers...and his name is Gillette. CAN YOU DIG IT?! CAAAAAN YOU DIG IT?!"
Outside, Wade elaborates that they don't need a smoking gun...just the illusion of one.  Before she can explain further, however, Gillette sits up in the back seat with a gun, smooth as silk, and tells them they need to head off on a little drive...Yade is more than a little upset at Quinn and Wade playing detective.

Later, after the board, Quinn is apparently more than alive and confronts Kyle...or rather, Kyle confronts him about his meddling and Quinn plays a tape for him.  Wade, dressed as Yade, confesses to everything - killing Melanie's husband even killing off Yuinn.  Despite Kyle's insistence, Quinn tells him that he'll leak the tape to the public unless he gets the timer back.

SMACKDOWN!

Even later, Quinn and Wade discuss if everything is set in place over the phone.  Neither of them have heard from Remmy or Arturo despite the fact they slide in three hours.  Now everyone's worried.

Back in the Murders' Anonymous meeting hall from "El Sid"...err... I mean, the courtroom, Remmy and Arturo are once more before the judge.  To the shock of both Remmy and Arturo, Tiffany actually shows up in decidedly more professional dress than before.  With a bit of errata, she gets the pair of them out of all the charges.  It seems that Tiffany took Remmy's words to heart, thanking them for their words at the shelter.

At the Mansion, Yade busts in and gives Quinn and Wade hell, apparently having been wrongfully dismissed from the company by Kyle.  But Quinn and Wade turn the tables on her, showing a video of the security camera from the pool...when Yade did in Yuinn.  She destroys the tape, but Quinn tells her they have back ups. While she insists that it's not a problem, seeing as they won't be around to testify...they reveal their trump card, someone who will MOTHERFUCKING GILLETTE!

In short, Yade gets arrested, Gillette inherits Yuinn's will, and the sliders reunite to slide away at the last minute.  Arturo brings up, as they're leaving, that the doubles that they meet on alternate worlds are essentially them, just that they've made different choices that have changed the courses of their lives.  Depending on that, they could be good or bad either way.

He also brings up Edu-learn and wonders what will happen to it, Quinn theorizing that with the bad publicity from the murders and Yade's arrest that the Governor might think twice and the public schools will stay open.  Arturo makes the rather depressing, though truthful, comment that they can't save every world before they all head through, Quinn leaving a picture of Yade and Yuinn in happier times sitting on a table nearby before they all jump through the vortex.

This is a mixed episode for me. On the one hand, the intricacies of corporate espionage can make for a very interesting plot. And they do. On the other hand, Remmy and Arturo's subplot is largely filler and doesn't really amount to anything.  Not that this is uncommon in Sliders, but this is really where you could have cut it out entirely and lost nothing but screen time - perhaps using it to build up on the single scene appearances of that blonde woman at the party or of Melanie White or others.

Arturo also almost immediately going against his warning to Quinn also makes me slap my face into my palm while shaking my head.

Still, this episode does have some really good points. Rather than simply a plot where the Sliders are screwed over by one of their doubles - either by accident or design - this is actually a pretty cool plot where the Sliders (particularly Wade, showing a stroke of genius as in "Time Again and World") use the fact that they are the exact physical doubles of their...well, doubles...to their advantage in achieving their aims.

Sure, it's not the most noble of ways to solve problems, but you play the hand you're dealt.

But while it's not as bad as some, the issues do bog it down a bit, at least for me.

Next week, we are introduced to an antagonist that is either beloved or loathed by Sliders fans...and no surprisingly, I'm not talking about David Peckinpah.

Next time: INVASION!

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, August 14, 2015

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale"

I know that this is going to shock a lot of people out there, but I feel that I need to be entirely and completely honest with you. After all, you're my audience and you've been with me for over 100 game reviews - not even getting into my television, comic, and film reviews that are also available here on my blog (click now and avoid the rush!). So, I have decided that I need to come clean with something about myself.

I love Dungeons & Dragons.

...

I'll give you all a moment to absorb that.

...

So, needless to say, you shouldn't be too shocked that I'm covering a Dungeons & Dragons game. Considering, you know, I've done a couple of reviews in that vein before now. Thus, Daggerdale, a hack and slash game set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons and I know I'm losing a lot of my more mainstream audience. You don't really need to worry all that much about the D&D settings - of which there are several - as playing this game doesn't actually require you to go into the specifics of the setting in order to enjoy it.

Basically a mage from a group of evil mages is trying to take over Daggerdale for Bane, the god of darkness and naughty black evil who he worships.  A former Banite priestess decides to craft four special rings and gives them to four special adventurers so that, with their powers combined, they can summon Toril's greatest champion - Captain Planet!

Actually the game immediately hits a wall before the cutscene that sets everything up when the player is given options for character creation - and I say "options" in the loosest sense of the word.  Whereas pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons and several of the video game adaptations give you a staggering amount of races and classes to choose from...Daggerdale only gives you eight.  And they're all locked by class and race so, really, only four - a human fighter, a dwarven cleric, an elven rogue, and a halfing wizard. And no, actually, you can't customize your character even within those limitations. At all.

Now I can understand that programming has its limitations, but this game originally came out in 2011. By comparison, Neverwinter Nights - which I already covered - came out in 2002, and allowed all Third Edition Core Classes and several Prestige classes on top of allowing several different races. And that was nine years before this came out. I've read that future DLC would add more, but that doesn't help the game here.

Not that the game here can be helped that much.  The game is listed as an action RPG, but is really not much more than a hack n' slash. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but this is D&D. It deserves to be more than a simple hack n' slash game that is third person and thankfully doesn't have a fixed camera angle. You have your four attacks, the inputs for the interface are fairly self-explanatory and you can very easily just pick it up and start hacking. Simple enough for a hack n' slash.
And as a hack n' slash, it's alright. It's even good.  As a Dungeons & Dragons game, though?  Not so much. And because it has the Dungeons & Dragons name slapped on the cover, I'm afraid I'm going to have to give this one a thumbs down.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale is now available from Bedlam Games and Atari for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.