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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Broken Age has readers rethinking the cartoon logic of classic adventure games

Illustration for article titled iBroken Age/i has readers rethinking the cartoon logic of classic adventure games
Keyboard GeniusesKeyboard Geniuses is our occasional glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the community’s discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity.

By That Logic

This week, the developers at Double Fine closed the book on Broken Age, its throwback to classic adventure games that took Kickstarter by storm in 2012. Joe Keiser, who’d previously reviewed the first act when it was released last year, returned to take a look at the game as a whole. Down in the comments, Curmudgahideen turned the conversation toward the ways old adventure games reacted to the tendency of players to try using all of their doodads on any person or object they come across:

One of my favorite things about the ’90s adventure games was the level of work put in to account for the fact that players would try to rub everything in their inventory up against everything in the world.

The best use I ever saw of this was in the first Broken Sword. Hours of George lamely trying to use that electric hand-buzzer on everyone he met only to be coldly rebuffed. And then, just as he’s about to be shot down on a mountaintop by a Templar assassin, the guy says he admires George’s pluck and would like to shake his hand before he kills him. Cue hand-buzzer, sock to the jaw, and daring escape. For the sheer joy, that still has to rank in my top 10 gaming moments.


And Angry Raisins brought up the weird way these games combine grounded situations with cartoon logic:

For a long time adventure games (text or graphic) were the closest thing one got to a “real life” simulator. Instead of constantly killing things/being killed, jumping on platforms or some other contrived mechanic, you walked around, looked at things, picked them up, talked to people—normal stuff. But then to actually provide the gaming challenge, you have this slightly insane tacked-on mechanism where the solution always lies in random junk you’ve acquired. You don’t bribe the guard or sneak past the guard or sweet-talk the guard; you distract him by using that half-chewed piece of bubblegum to attach a kazoo to a nearby pigeon.

I’m just acknowledging, as a big adventure game fan, that they’re a bit of a crazy hybrid: half gaming at its most “normal,” half notions that make Mario flying through the air via raccoon tail look positively level-headed.


Unexpected Dave recalled an especially illogical adventure-game puzzle:

Cartoon logic, as was found in most of LucasArts adventure games, was fine. But some games couldn’t distinguish between silly puzzles and illogical puzzles. In Discworld, for example, there’s a puzzle where you need to catch a butterfly so that you can use it to make it rain. In principle, that’s a good puzzle. It has the logical underpinning of a chaos theory joke. But one of the intermediate steps requires you to do something completely absurd for reasons that I still don’t understand. Before you can catch the butterfly, you have to stick a frog in the mouth of a nearby drunk. Don’t ask me why. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Discworld is notoriously frustrating, because it repeatedly does a number of “unfair” things: It buries crucial information (such as the fact that Nanny Ogg’s custard contains love potion), it has time-sensitive puzzles with unforgiving windows (such as picking the dentist’s pocket), and the dreaded pixel hunt (that damn whistle.)


Let’s Playlist!

The Gameological staff kicked off another community-driven playlist this week. The theme was “songs worth sitting through the credits,” memorable exit music and credits themes. We got a ton of awesome responses. The final playlist is the longest we’ve ever compiled, closing out at a whopping 50 tracks. You can find the whole thing embedded above. Before I lay out the songs and the commenters who suggested them, let’s highlight a couple of individual posts. First is General Teddie, who dug into “Change Your Way” from Persona 2: Eternal Punishment:

I find it hard to evaluate this song outside the context of the game. A cursory glance at the lyrics make it seem like a simple and straightforward uplifting tune. On one hand, it does resonate with the glib catchphrase of the protagonist (Maya Amano) whenever the party is caught in a dire situation: “Let’s positive thinking!” But I think the song works primarily because it contrasts so strongly with the themes of Persona 2, and this effect is amplified if you play both Innocent Sin and Eternal Punishment in order. I don’t want to spoil too much for those who haven’t played them, but they deal with deeply flawed and troubled characters who struggle to escape the consequences of their upbringing and their own poor choices.

The games take a very cynical view of human nature. The characters are rarely if ever able to change for the better, and most of them are doomed to remain unhappy no matter what their circumstances. There’s a scene in the game in which one of the teenagers asks an older man if life gets better as an adult, and the adult’s response is far from affirmative. Maya herself is much more vindictive than her cheerful demeanor makes her appear. Even the deities in the game have surprisingly limited influence over human affairs. This is the exact opposite of the message in the credits song. And so we’re left with a conflicting message as the credits roll. Are these characters really going to change for the better? And if not, might superficial messages such as “Be confident, think positive” still serve some inspirational purpose?


Elsewhere, ItsTheShadsy stumped for two more nominations:

The ending theme to Illusion Of Gaia is a beautiful version of the game in miniature that captures its emotional arc rather than individual themes. In the game, it’s accompanies characters walking on-and-off-screen to represent the way your party changes over the course of the story. It’s a curtain call but also a summary, and it’s emotional to revisit the entire story in the length of an SNL skit.

I’m also going to go with a super deep-cut and recommend “Transmigration,” the credits theme to the bizarre cult hit Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls Of Tong-Nou. For those who haven’t played it (everyone), the game is aggressively surreal and alienating. You finally get chance to breathe at the very end, when you escape the corrupt Tong-Nou island and float off into the sky. In contrast to the preceding hours of chaotic art direction, it’s an oasis of ambiance. It’s also a really terrific piece of Japanese folk-influenced electronica.

And here are the rest of the nominations:

· “The Splode Beneath My Splosion,” Splosion Man—VitaminShoe

· End credits, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time—KrakenNiz

· “Curtain Call,” Mother 3—Wolfman Jew

· “Electric Dreams,” Hotline Miami—snazzlenuts

· “Tex’s Lament,” The Pandora Directive—Unexpected Dave

· “Staff Roll,” Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne—inamine

· “Change Your Way,” Persona 2: Eternal Punishment—General Teddie

· Ending Song, Limbo Of The Lost—BedroomPastrami

· “Somnia Memories,” Parasite Eve—Citric

· “Ending,” Yoshi’s Island—Guillermo Jiménez

· “Staff Roll,” Super Mario 3D World—DrFlimFlam

· “Homeworld (The Ladder),” Homeworld—Monkeylint

· “Way To Fall,” Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater—Amy Dunne

· “Staff Roll,” F-Zero X—Diet Kloster Wallace

· Dog ending credits, Silent Hill 2McDougles

· “Time Is Changing,” Dark Cloud 2—thesmokeylife

· Ending theme, Crystalis—Buttersnap

· “Ending,” Super Mario World—Jordo

· “Around The World,” Illusion Of Gaia—ItsTheShadsy

· “Good End,” Streets Of Rage 2—rinceRepeat

· “Answers,” Final Fantasy XIV—CrankyKong

· Staff credits, Final Fantasy Tactics—Mr. Adequate

· “Setting Sail, Coming Home,” Bastion—AllWordsAreDust

· “Katamari Of Love,” Katamari Damacy—CNightwing

· “Melodies Of Life,” Final Fantasy IX—Drinking_With_Skeletons

· “The Path (A New Beginning),” The Last Of Us—Venerable Monk

· “Hometown,” Silent Hill 3—ElDan

· Credits theme, Bionic Commando—muchsarcasm

· Credits medley, Dynamite Headdy—Afghamistam

· “Skeletons In My Closet,” The 7th Guest—The Seagull Of Doubt

· “The End Is Never The Same,” The Witcher 2: Assassins Of Kings—Fluka

· “Take Us Back,” The Walking Dead: Season OneSkyweir

· “I Believe,” Wolfenstein: The New Order—a thoughtful muse

· “Theme Of Ace Harding,” Deja VuZidko12

· “Smiles And Tears,” EarthBoundCommish of hangin’

· Ending medley, Ducktales RemasteredVinny Bruzzese

· Ending, Sonic The Hedgehog 3—thisguyrighthere

· “Still Alive,” Mirror’s Edge—Markthulu

· “Still Alive,” Portal—Everyone

Phew! And with that, another week comes to a close. Thanks for helping us put together a killer playlist. I’m going to throw it on and walk into the sunset. But we’ll be back next week. We’ll see you then.


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