Disorder Reviews: OFF vs. OneShot vs. LISA vs. Undertale (MEGA REVIEW)

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Martintox

Mister Disorder
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Martintox Presents: Disorder Reviews

Rating System

I have a new album and a new Disorder Reviews blog. I have recently recovered from a stroke, and I am now in serious debt.

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OFF VS. ONESHOT VS. LISA VS. UNDERTALE

Mmmm ah yes Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi gimme that Pepsi gotta drink the Pepsi I am parched better get that Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi I require liquid sustenance in the form of carbonated drink Pepsi will do it Pepsi Pepsi is our man if you can't do it Pepsi can aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh yes quench this thirst drink drink drink give me that Pepsi in my tummy 6 out of 3 Americans drink Pepsi yearly personally I prefer 7-UP but it's about the Pepsi principle of the Pepsi matter Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi drink drink drink crack a can and pour it down it's Pepsi time gotta get six pack for Pepsi time it's Pepsi and pizza time Pepsi pizza drink yes

Excuse the digression, that was my stroke acting up. In the same way that mathematicians have organized bounties to encourage the solving of critical problems such as the relation between P and NP (the Millenium Prize Problems are but one example), video game developers have sought to resolve dilemmas that have eluded the medium since its birth. How do we properly render mirrors in real time? Are glitches a feature of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games? Does anyone genuinely like Dark Souls 2? Perhaps most importantly, is it possible to make an RPG with good turn-based combat? Ever since players had collectively realized that the Final Fantasy games have mediocre gameplay (maybe around the 7th installment or whatever number it is in Japan, XXV or some shit), indie devs have been hard at work on answering this last question. The results thus far have been less than fruitful, as their mission has gone from "making an RPG with good turn-based combat" to "making a good RPG with turn-based combat". Eventually, they must have gotten tired of this as well, as we have experienced a notable uptick in titles that place emphasis on self-aware game design, for better or worse (almost always worse, but you didn't hear it from me). To retrace this evolution in indie RPG design, I have decided to go over four notable games that span this transitory period where developers began to think it was a good idea to show through their work that they browse TV Tropes a lot.

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OFF (2008)


Anyone who's watched a film by Luc Besson knows that the French are ahead of everyone else in plenty of ways (source: me) -- cinema, fashion, colonizing Africa, and even video games. OFF is the brainchild of Mortis Ghost (real name Martin Georis), who realized quite in advance that there is pretty much no way to make RPG combat fun, and decided to pull a practical joke on his contemporaries by making battles a complete and utter formality. He didn't even bother to put in some sort of appropriate audio/visual feedback to make attacks anywhere near satisfying. Do you remember that scene in A Clockwork Orange where Alex DeLarge, following the Ludovico treatment, tries to grab a woman's breasts only for his body to experience a thorough averse reaction to the prospect? This is what happens when you experience the combat in OFF. Not even Yoko Taro has gone that far to sabotage the quality of his own games (until Nier: Automata, old readers know what's the deal).

That being said, just about everything else is actually very good. The main point of interest is the setting, an abstract collection of ominous pseudo-cities with featureless, brutalist architecture. Being born in France myself, this brings me right back to the many times I went to Paris as a kid; Ghost really captured the vibe of the city to a T with this. Also notable is the dark ambient/hip hop/industrial/swing soundtrack, courtesy of Alias Conrad Coldwood -- Ghost had enough humility to realize he's not a renaissance man like Austin Jorgensen, so he got a patrician composer to do the music for him instead. These two elements work tightly in tandem with the story to provide a bleak experience that will trouble you in a good way, contrasting with the combat that will do the same thing in a bad way. I highly recommend that you play this game, so I won't drop any major spoilers, but I feel the need to address its economic use of meta writing -- so economic, in fact, that it only becomes a component of the story at the very end, and at that point you'll either be so engrossed by the story or so repulsed by the combat that you'll be fine with anything.

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ONESHOT (2014, 2016)


Do you remember all those "revolutionary" flash games on Newgrounds where you only had one chance to play, and after that it was game over for good (until you deleted your cache)? Have you ever wanted to play a permutation of this idea that didn't suck? Boy oh boy, do I have the game for you: OneShot is the story of Niko, a child/cat hybrid of unspecified sex (depending on which sex/gender you actively attribute to this character, you will be put on a different sex offender list, so choose carefully) that must bring a giant lightbulb to the center of a world that is soon to drown in darkness. Your average player will call this an exploration game with puzzle elements, but the enlightened know that this is secretly Tamagotchi: Dark Souls Edition. You don't simply control a character here: you, as the player, are the god of this world. Your main task is to guide Niko through, and much like Neuromancer threatening to have his hardened criminal friend from Florida come and bust my kneecaps if I don't deliver my reviews, the game makes sure you take responsibility. What's that? You want to close the game because you don't want to play any more of it at the moment? You seriously want to leave this feline child to stand there in the middle of an abandoned factory without even finding a bed? Who the fuck thought it was a good idea to grant you custody, Maria?

Needless to say, Eliza Velasquez and Casey Gu have done a splendid job integrating these meta elements into the game, because I do not feel at any point like they are insulting my intelligence -- yes, it does make me a bit uncomfortable to confront my inadequacies as a father, but that's not their fault. In addition, OneShot is more than appealing in its presentation: as nostalgic as I get exploring the harsh, minimalistic environments of OFF, the designs here are splendidly rich, and the music is no slouch either. The biggest compliment I can give, however, is that there's no combat. The devs clearly must have at least double digit IQ, because no other game in this article does that. For that reason alone, it's easily one of the best turn-based RPGs I have ever played. While I'm at it, I should mention that there are two versions of OneShot: a freeware release in 2014 and a paid version in 2016. The advantage of the latter is that there's more content, but the disadvantage is that it allows you to restart the game, which completely misses the point. Shouldn't it be called InfiniteShots, then?

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Martintox

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LISA: THE PAINFUL (2014)


LISA: The Painful is the sequel to LISA: The First, which is the second game in the Lisa series as well as a very loose adaptation of the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which is in itself a loose adaptation of the Twin Peaks TV show, which is in itself a loose adaptation of my divorce. While I do recommend it, you don't need to play it to understand The Painful, one of the best games of the past decade. Do you remember when publishers started to advertise games on the basis that you are able to make decisions that have a meaningful impact on the course of the plot? Those were quite dark times for fatalists; they were once the most represented philosophical denomination in gaming, back when titles only offered you one real course of action, but from that point on, they had to make their own fun by pretending they didn't really have a choice when it came to picking a dialogue option. The Painful brings back the fatalist side of game design with a bang: not only do your actions as a player not matter, the game will kick your shit in and tell you what a stupid poo poo head you are for thinking otherwise.

Unlike the previous developers, Austin Jorgensen (aka Dingaling) is a renaissance man, as he has done every part of the game by himself. Not only does LISA: The Painful have a refreshing post-apocalyptic setting with plenty of hilarious moments and memorable degenerates therein (many of which can join your party), the soundtrack is a 3-hour slab of industrial/hip hop/electronic hybrid tracks that are just as primitive and sexually frustrated as the world itself. Unfortunately, he didn't have the foresight to find a way to remove combat entirely, but he did the next best thing by placing emphasis on the use of status effects to overcome enemies, meaning that battles will nonetheless require a lot more thinking than any Final Fantasy game out there. However, if you want to play it for any reason, it's for the story. For my American readers, I recommend you don't keep your guns loaded, because you might want to put a barrel in your mouth by the time you're done with The Painful. That being said, only the hunk of trash that is LISA: The Joyful will give you the courage to pull the trigger, so consider avoiding that one.

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UNDERTALE (2015)


Thus far, we have covered games with engrossing visuals, excellent humor, splendid music, meaningful meta elements, and/or valiant attempts to make turn-based combat fun. Now, imagine a game with none of these traits. You'll still have a better game than Undertale, because the one you're envisioning doesn't have a furry self-insert that Toby Fox intentionally shoved in a corner out of embarrassment, realizing how naïve he was to assume that an inflation fetishist wouldn't clock a thousand bucks to get one of his OCs in. In this game, a kid (already ripping off OneShot, that's not a good sign) falls into a mountain where an entire civilization of monsters resides, and must walk down an extremely long hallway to find the exit. (Don't worry, the hallway zigzags on occasion, so it's not quite a straight line.) Along the way, you stumble upon an expansive cast of zany characters with very inconsistent designs, and get to hear over a hundred variations of the same 15 musical motifs. See, you have to bear in mind that Toby Fox was part of the Homestuck music team, so he had already acquired more than half a decade of experience recycling melodies by the time he started working on Undertale.

We've already got a fat bust in terms of presentation, but this game has certainly done more to shake up turn-based combat than any of the previous titles: in most battles, you have the option to either attack enemies or attempt to pacify them through interaction options, with different requirements for each hostile NPC you fight. Conversely, enemy phases take the form of a bullet hell-style mini-game where you have to avoid all sorts of pellets and objects to avoid getting hurt. The big selling point is that you don't actually need to kill anyone to complete the game, and your decisions on who to kill can have far-reaching repercussions, such as having a few different dialogue boxes at the end. If you're a goody two-shoes and you don't kill anyone, you get to fight an anime villain while a melodic death metal version of the intro theme drills into your ears. If you kill everyone to put these freaks of nature out of their misery, you fight the eponymous Undertale while a remake of a song from an old Earthbound romhack plays, but not before a talking flower spends a whopping 10 minutes to address how much of a miserable imbecile the player is for trying to kill everyone and 100% the game (considering his involvement with Homestuck, Toby Fox definitely browses TV Tropes). If you go exercise your right to exclusively kill the characters you don't like, the game tells you to eat shit and return to the beginning until you commit to one path or the other. It's at this point that the horrible truth comes to light: not only is the combat turn based, the progression of Undertale itself is turn-based, with each playthrough being a turn. Congratulations, Fox, you've only made things worse.

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The above section breaker is dedicated to SupahEwok.
 
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Worgen

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You heard it here, Martintox declared Undertale the winner. So its time to post all the Undertale fanart he was clearly too shy to add himself since hes a shy boy.

tumblr_nx9mynWfhd1rdvka2o1_1280.gif
 
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Drathnoxis

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I was very underwhelmed by Off. It had a very "symbolic" type story that I got little out of. It was short, and that was most of what was in it's favour.

You are totally right about LISA: The Joyful. Total trash.

But I think you've just declared yourself my enemy for life with your Undertale review. It's a completely amateurish write up just soaking with the petty biases of the author. Any objective review would represent the game as the fantastic sparkling gem that it is!
 

Martintox

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UPDATE

Shortly after the release of this review, I had opened a Disorder Remote Viewing poll so as to allow my psychically capable readers to vote on who they think is the winner of the OFF vs. OneShot vs. LISA vs. Undertale standoff. Since it's been about two months, I feel it's high time to show the results:
  • OFF: 25.0%
  • OneShot: 25.0%
  • LISA: The Painful: 50.0%
  • Undertale: 0%
It's at this point that I realize I may have made a bit of a mistake when it comes to the voting method, as your average Undertale fan is known to use their psychic potential for outward projection as opposed to introspective abilities such as remote viewing. Nonetheless, it's a bit too late to fix that and this review series is probably getting cancelled, so we're rolling with the current results, which show quite a notable lead for LISA: The Painful. On the whole, this is a respectable guess, as it is one of the two best games in the list, but it's not actually the winner. The true winner is Spec Ops: The Line, for three reasons: 1) it's more fun than any of the aforementioned titles by virtue of the fact that it's not a turn based RPG; 2) it draws major inspiration from Apocalypse Now and consequently goes for a cinematic type of presentation on more than one occasion, meaning it's often more kino than ludo; 3) unlike Undertale, which talks down to the player for doing the right thing and exterminating the monsters (or even better, watching someone else do it), Spec Ops has many good reasons to be condescending to the people unhinged enough to finish it.
 

Latif

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So in essence, Undertale is a game that poses as the veneer of a choice-based RPG but in actuality berates you (actually you, the player) when you don't fall on line to the choices Toby Fox prefaces and on such an opportunity he demonstrates his supposed intellect when he instructs his author avatars to deliver punishment for you defiling his fetish furry trophy wives.

Does that make it a visual novel?
 

fOx

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So in essence, Undertale is a game that poses as the veneer of a choice-based RPG but in actuality berates you (actually you, the player) when you don't fall on line to the choices Toby Fox prefaces and on such an opportunity he demonstrates his supposed intellect when he instructs his author avatars to deliver punishment for you defiling his fetish furry trophy wives.

Does that make it a visual novel?
its not well written enough to be a visual novel, imo