Monday, 31 July 2017 00:00

Marooners Review

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First: minor scrambling to rent a car and drive to (big box store) to pick up a new TV

My old reliable 49” TV wasn’t at her best; a couple of transistors burnt out on the left LED control panel that fed into the timing control board, and voila: no picture. Amazing how a few little electronic kernels can pop, some black burn marks appear on just a few (three, maybe four) copper leads on a ribbon cable, and an otherwise functioning piece of equipment becomes a big hunk of problem. She was coming on seven years of age; finding spare parts is an inconvenience, if not an outright impossibility.

I suppose it was about her time, though her passing may have been premature as the result of the abuse wrought by the physical exuberance of my young daughter, smacking the screen as if it were a big iPad. At any rate, I needed a new TV, so I got one and set it up. In the year 2017, I powered on an LED TV and saw the static snow noise of an absent transmission. This is new(er) technology; the effect was deliberate and immediately nostalgic.

“Grandma, can you help me plug in the Atari?”

I’m not sure what language that came out in, as my grandmother didn’t speak English. It was four-or-five-year-old me, asking his grandmother to help ‘figure out’ where to put the audio and video cables to get the Atari to work. Looking back now, I cannot fathom the lack of mental development – how children are so simple! How we take for granted our luminescent knowledge accumulated from decades of living!

“Would you be able to review the game? [It’s] pretty fun and great to play with friends or colleagues to wack each other’s heads :).”  It was the representative for Marooners, reaching out to OPNoobs. ‘Certainly,’ I thought, ‘looks interesting enough.’ It was a slow week for our reviewers, and the title was not soon picked up. ‘I’ll review it myself, then.’ Open Steam. “Activate a Product on Steam…” Enter the key. I don’t have that much time; it’s already 9:30, and the doctor’s office called; they want to move the LASIK appointment up an hour. It’ll take me an hour to get there; 1 PM now, not 2 PM. I won’t be able to see for the rest of the day, so I need to get this out of the way now. OK, it’s done downloading… but can I really experience a game properly in such a short amount of time, knowing nothing about it?

Bouncy. Brusque. Brutal.

I choose to play offline since the competitive streak in me doesn’t like losing if it can be avoided. And, it’s kind of BM to just jump into a game and not know what the hell you’re doing, isn’t it? Character selection, let’s see. A paunchy caveman, a busty pirate, a petite explorer, and… an old school diver?! Shows over folks, I know who I’m gonna be. Ah, well, there remains two more decisions, actually: I can choose the weapon (Pink Squishy Club was a close contender, but I went with the Diver’s Trident – call me old-fashioned), and I can choose my color. The flush white looks nice; it’ll probably make it easier for me to keep track of my guy, just in case.

All that’s left is to flip that red Not Ready button to a bright-green, let’s-go Ready, and we’re off. First thought: Mario Party. Second thought: Wait, what the hell – the map is just switching out like that in the middle of the round – wait, it’s doing it again now? Third thought: Everyone else is swinging their weapon around, so I know weapons are not for show; is it “Q” (no), or “E” (no)? Well, I’ll figure that out later. I can still hop around and grab coins and jewels, and I can still get in people’s faces, so NBD. Fourth thought: Oh, nice, I see. We’re back to the first map where we left off. It’s like Mario Party but without the dice rolling. Just raw, straight action. Fifth though: Damn it, what is the SMACK button? They’re all doing it… There’s only so many keys. Commence mashing: I discover it’s “M,” and I become a rabid, trident-swinging maniac, exacting vengeance for my last few rounds of pacifism.

And beautifully brief.

No sooner did I gain my newfound offensive abilities than did the match end. I placed second, not bad; I wasn’t even at my full potential the whole time (but I was in the subsequent match and I still placed second, lol). And that was it. That’s the game: now time to review. At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I needed to get ready to go catch the metro and go to the eye appointment. But it wasn’t long fore I came to terms with what just happened: I picked up a game and came to it from a position of pure ignorance. “Grandma, can you help?” Thirty minutes later I knew what to do, and I wanted to do it: the experience was delivered.

And it was delivered in an aesthetically consistent, tight, bright, and approachable package. These devs wanted to make a game that they could play with their friends, and by any measure, they succeeded.

Yes, but what is the moral development of the protagonist in the second act? How do all the different playable races and upgradable weapons balance against one another? In what ways does the title highlight the implicit moralities that might stem from dominance hierarchies and the ethics that emerge from the social interactions therein? Calm down, folks.


Disclaimer: The OverPowered Noobs manages tournaments for Game Drive as an independent contractor. However, the opinions of the author here are his own and do not represent the opinions of The OverPowered Noobs.


The Verdict

Some gamers have come to expect, with undue regularity, the world from a gaming experience. What about fun? Simple, intuitive escapism? Why must a title always be adorned – or beset, perhaps – with pseudo-sophisticated ornament? Some might find the frenetic gameplay off-putting (it is optional, anyway), but the fun factor prevails, and especially with good company, Marooners hits the mark.

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Rey Urias

Rey Urias is a professional writer, having spent his career penning textbooks on craniofacial orthodontics, promotional flyers for holiday specials, proposals for multi-million dollar military contracts, and documentation for enterprise IT systems. He has a background in Information Technology, but his favorite technology has always been video games. Growing up, he relished the serenity of Harvest Moon, the strategy of Command & Conquer, the epic experiences of Zelda and BioShock, and the challenges of Call of Duty, Ninja Gaiden, and Soul Calibur. But these days, Rey spends his free time with his amazing wife and adorable daughter - and when he can sneak it in, he plays Smash 64 competitively as poobearninja, the king of the up-smash.


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