Now Playing: Secret Agent (1992)

Sometimes you just need to bust out an old DOS action-platformer! This is another fine classic title by the legendary Apogee games and it’s no coincidence that it all looks more than a little bit similar to the original Duke Nukem. This (as well as the also very similar looking Crystal Caves) were both made by the same designer of the Duke Nukem series, though oddly enough, they both came out after Duke Nukem. I guess they didn’t expect Duke Nukem to take off the way it did!

Anyway, it’s all very similar to Duke Nukem in gameplay too. You need to search through the levels to find a bunch of key items and perform a bunch of key actions in order to open the exit. You’ll need destroy the radar dish and find the dynamite to open the exit door before you can leave, but of course it isn’t going to be that simple. You’ll need to find various colored keys to open locked doors and find a computer disk and a computer to use it on to disable deadly laser fields too.

Unlike Duke Nukem, there’s an overworld screen where you can walk around and pick different levels to go to, though the order makes no difference at all. The biggest difference though is the greater emphasis on platforming over shooting. Secret Agent isn’t quite the action hero Duke was, in fact you even have a limited supply of ammo, forcing you to be a little more careful in your combat encounters.

The levels can be pretty complicated and aside from the enemies there are a lot of traps, some instantly deadly. You also only get 3 hits and 1 life, but you have unlimited continues so it’s not so bad.

While Secret Agent may not have gotten the fame and recognition of Duke Nukem, it still serves as an example of the same fine talent that went into Duke Nukem and so many other memorable Apogee games. It’s a fun little game and still holds up quite well for its age.

Playing this again after all these years really gave me an itch for more old DOS games like this. Stuff like Dangerous Dave, Bio Menace, or Clyde’s Adventure. I’ll have to try to fit some of those in sometime soon…

Night of the Emus!

Haven’t done one of these for a while! Busy times. This is actually two separate short sessions mashed into one. Don’t tell anybody!

One of the ultimate NES classics if you ask me. Wizards & Warriors is a very flawed, early NES game, but it was a valiant effort for its time that ended up being very memorable against all odds.

Movement and combat are both clunky as hell and the level design can be maddeningly convoluted, but there’s just something so compelling about it all. The art’s actually really uneven too, with some enemies and environments looking really cool for their time and others looking weirdly unfinished, like that one spider boss that looks like it was drawn in MS Paint and then someone forgot to animate it so it just moves weirdly around the screen on a dangling web string without ever actually moving.

For the most part it looks pretty good for its time though and has a weirdly compelling look and feel to it all, along with a super catchy soundtrack. There’s a lot of running around getting lost and backtracking to find all the elusive gems and keys you require to proceed too, but at least the game gives you unlimited continues and you lose little to no progress when you die.

And then there was the sequel, whose only noteworthy characteristic is that it had Fabio on the cover for some reason.

I guess they must have spent all the budget for this on Fabio being in all the promo art because this game is fucking awful. Everything about it somehow became worse. Ugly visual design, forgettable music, even worse combat and platforming, and even more convoluted level design. It’s just a mess. I never bothered trying to get very far in it as a kid and I gave up on it even quicker today.

There was a 3rd game and a Game Boy spinoff, but I don’t think I can manage to care enough to try them at this point.

 Capcom made the arcade version of Alien vs. Predator and it’s basically the same as every other Capcom beat-em-up ever made.

They all just follow the same old Final Fight formulayet they never seem to get old (to me anyway). Just a lot of simplistic button-mashing baddie beating with weapons and explosions everywhere and cool enemy and boss designs. You can’t really go wrong with a Capcom beat-em-up, especially when it’s packed full of Aliens and you get to play as a Predator. 

This was always one of my favorites to try to play as a kid, though I could never come anywhere close to beating it. I don’t think I ever even made it past stage 2. Little did I know that I never even had a chance.

Rolling Thunder is a run-and-gun that has a great soundtrack and some really impressive character animations for its time. It seems simple enough, just walk forward and blast away at the bumbling minions that appear before you. The game says there’s only 5 stages so it seems like it should be do-able, but secretly, this is a game that was designed to be absolutely unwinnable. The difficulty increases by a massive amount after the first few stages, especially since you have to redo pretty huge sections of the stages if you die, and you die really easily. That big looking life bar is completely misleading because you actually will die in only 1-2 hits, depending on if you take a melee hit or a bullet. Oh, you also have pretty strict time limits on every stage too. If you aren’t constantly on the move, you won’t make it out in time.

And if you should miraculously make it through all 5 stages? Fuck you, that wasn’t the real ending, time for the second quest! Yep, you not only go back to stage 1, but the difficulty is turned up to an unbelievably high level and the stages have even been altered to be even more difficult. It’s not even just that there are more enemies too, and there are A LOT more, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that these altered levels were specifically designed to be impossible. Look at this shit:

This is NOT a platforming game, so these jumps are much, much harder than they look and of course if those guys touch you you’re immediately dead too. Oh, and if you shoot them? They explode into 4 more slightly smaller copies of themselves. It just goes on and on like that to the point that even with save states and turning invincible mode on in the dip switches, it was still really hard to complete, but damn it, I finally did it after all these years. Maybe I should have just stuck with the console version, but the NES couldn’t come anywhere close to replicating these graphics at the time. Maybe I’ll give it a try someday just to see what it’s like though…

Naturally, my next stop was Rolling Thunder 2. I’ve never played either of the sequels. Until recently I thought they only ever game out on Genesis, because I’ve never seen Rolling Thunder 2 in any arcade, but apparently it did exist, and you know what? It makes the first game look like a game for babies…

The sequel does away with the animated look of the previous game and makes everything a great deal more detailed and animated, including the new look of the bad guys who are now some kind of cyborgs I guess. It looks nice for what it is, but I think I actually preferred the look and sound of the original.

Man, this is another completely impossible game too. Again, it starts out seeming all bright and silly, opening on some kind of beach resort with an oddly chirpy soundtrack that sounds like it belongs in a comedy game, but it isn’t long before the game shows you that it means business. You need to have incredibly quick reaction time to survive the hordes of deadly enemies, and you know what? Even then, it still won’t be enough.

I’m disappointed to say that I couldn’t finish the game, though oh did I try. I actually got all the way to the last boss, but I just couldn’t beat him. The final stage is another sadistically difficult level that was clearly designed to be unsurvivable. It’s just a series of absolutely unwinnable fights against huge groups of enemies running, shooting, and throwing grenades at you from both side with no cover in sight and an insulting shortage of ammo supply rooms. You also get no checkpoints at all, so when you die you have to start the entire very long stage over again. Even with hours of trying to save-state-scum my way through, by the time I reached the end, I had no extra ammo and not enough time to possibly chip away at his huge amount of health with my slow emergency back-up gun. The only way to win would be to somehow not use ammo on the way to him so you’d have enough fast bullets left to kill him with in the short time you have left, and it’s just not possible to do so.

Actually, I just looked up some videos online and I guess it is technically possible, but you have to be some kind of crazy video game savant to do so.

Yeah, I’m never going to be able to do that. Guess I should have tried the Genesis version! Maybe next time…

Thus ends another installment of Night of the Emus. It may be a while again before I have time for another one, but oh, it will return…

Watchin’ Stuff

Another Schumacher film, 8mm tries to take on the then-topical subject of snuff films. As a thriller it’s decent enough, though a bit heavy-handed. Cage also does some pretty bad acting, but I guess that’s to be expected, isn’t it?

Recently got it into my head to try some of these modern ghost house movies again after seeing the interesting looking trailer for Insidious 4: Dance of the Keymaster or whatever it’s called. Saw this one back around when it came out because everyone and their mother said it was “the most terrifying horror movie ever”, but then it turned out to be another average haunted house movie, so I’ve pretty much ignored all the sequels and spinoffs and other ghost house movies by the same director.

Trying it again, my opinion hasn’t changed a whole lot. It’s decent, but doesn’t really do much new or memorable for the haunted house genre. Still, I continued on…

I think this one was a good deal better. They got a little more creative with the story, threw some more nice creature effects in, and the atmosphere seemed a lot closer to creepy in general. The nun demon was pretty cool and apparently she’s now got her own spinoff movie coming by the director of The Hallow (one of the best recent horror movies), which I might have to actually go see in the theater this time.

The first spinoff of The Conjuring, which felt about the same as the first Conjuring. It’s another average haunted house movie with a few interesting bits, but it’s pretty slow paced and doesn’t really do anything new or exciting.

But again, I liked the sequel much more. Better story, more characters (the previous movie focused almost entirely on a single person), and a lot more creepy scenes and demon appearances. Good times. There was also a quick cameo by the nun from The Conjuring 2. They’re starting to build a whole little universe around all these nutty demonic entities, and that’s sure fine by me.

Do you know how many Amityville movies there are? This is apparently the NINTH one just since the 2005 remake! That makes for a total of 18 Amityville movies. What the fuck? I was never much of a fan of the series. I didn’t really like the original. Amityville 2: The Possession was pretty good, but then it was just a constant stream of garbage after that until that 2005 remake which was pretty good too. I haven’t touched any of the other straight to video garbage after that because they just look unbelievably bad. It seems that Blumhouse now owns the rights to Amityville though, and they have a sort of decent track record for horror movies. Well…they’ve done about an equal number of good ones and terrible ones, which is sadly a pretty good ratio by modern horror production standards.

Anyway, this one looked like it might be halfway decent for once, but guess what? IT WASN’T! ISN’T THAT SHOCKING? Sigh. It wasn’t terrible, I’ve seen much, much worse, but it’s not something I’d ever bother watching again. Supposedly it was originally rated R and got 13 minutes cut out of it to make a PG-13 rating for more mainstream appeal, because you know, all the kids love completely unpromoted Amityville movies…

Pretty decent comedy/heist movie. Kind of dry, not-laugh-out-loud comedy, but still managed to have a suitably entertaining plot. Not much else to say about it. Suitable if you’re looking for a new comedy.

From the director of the Basket Case movies comes this film that I assumed was from the 90’s, but shockingly turned out to be from 2008. What an awful, awful movie. This director is known for his incredibly twisted and trashy films, but this one takes the cake. A woman talks into the camera and excitedly explains that she has 7 clits and so needs to have sex constantly, but ends up getting so violent during that she usually kills the guy, and also magically has 2 hour long pregnancies each time that make her pop out little mutant babies that she just leaves lying where they popped out.

Really, it’s not all that different from the crazy plots of the Basket Case movies, but where those had a lot of goofy creature effects to gawk at, this just has a woman who can’t act very well talking into the camera a lot and having a lot of really badly acted sex scenes. The production quality is just horrible by relatively modern standards and it all just put me off before the movie could even be bothered to get around to introducing the guy with the mutant super dick for her to fall in love with like the movie’s descriptions say.

Another one from the director of Basket Case, this one’s from the 80’s and seems to have a budget more fitting of its time period. It’s cheap and completely ridiculous, but it still manages to do more with its limited budget than Bad Biology did. This one is the story of a man who finds a strange little creature which begins to inject amazing psychedelic drugs directly into his brain. Unfortunately, the drug is severely addictive and the creature happens to have his own addiction to eating human brains.

It’s not a great movie, but it’s…certainly something to see. Definitely unique and memorable, if a little rough around the edges.

Haven’t seen this one in quite a while. Brainscan is a painfully 90’s horror movie with a sci-fi twist that has a semi-sociopathic Eddie Furlong dealing with a CD-ROM horror game that seems to have come to life and taken over his world through the use of truly nonsensical technology that you could only see in a 90’s movie. It all has a kind of 90’s FMV game feel to it too. I don’t know that anyone who didn’t have a fixation with bad old FMV games could actually appreciate this one. It’s pretty ridiculous, but I like it anyway.

I don’t know why this was lumped in with my pile of crappy old horror movies. I guess because it was directed by Lamberto Bava, but it’s just a cheap action/drama film about a cop-turned-vigilante who carries around his signature weapon of…a futuristic shotgun with a high-tech scope on it. Who puts a scope on a shotgun? Ridiculous. Not that it matters much, because as soon as we’re shown this fancy gun, he puts it away and doesn’t touch it again until almost the end of the movie. Anyway, instead of him gunning down criminals in the city like you’d think, it’s about the guy’s life after he got caught and did time for gunning down a criminal, and how he tries to go live a quiet life afterwards in a backwoods country town, but ends up getting into a war with a bunch of hick locals over their questionable deer hunting tactics. Then his long lost daughter shows up and then gets raped and killed by the hicks, because of course she does. I guess in the end this is just another one of those “exploitation” films and I’ve never seen one of those that I’ve liked. This one’s no different. It’s not funny-bad, it’s just bad-bad.

Well, that does it for this time, and hey, I made it all the way through the B’s in my big pile of recent horror crap! Only 24 more letters worth to go…

Until next time…

Changes for the new year

I don’t generally subscribe to the whole New Year’s Resolution business. This is honestly just a complete coincidence that these changes are going to happen right after the year change, but anyway, starting this year…

  • My fancy domain name and premium plan expire in a few weeks and I’m not going to be renewing them this time because money’s going to be a little tighter this year and I can’t justify blowing $99 on a domain name that has no real use other than vanity. I’ve never touched a single one of all these extra premium features and I doubt I ever will. I’m just not into self-promotion and advertising that much. I’d rather just continue to keep things casual and I can live with having a small audience because at least its made up of cool people.
  • Speaking of keeping it casual…I’m going to be stepping down from A Most Agreeable Pastime and just going to go back to more casually sporadic posts here. It was nice to try something a little more formal, but again, recent time and money constraints due to the real world are making me want to back away from any unnecessary obligations or restrictions.
  • Since it’s going to be getting all casual again, I will be taking the opportunity to occasionally write about completely random shit that isn’t about games, comics, or movies for once. I think I’ll probably start a series on music later in the year and if you thought I was joking about that top 10 pictures of my cat list, I assure you, I was not.
  • I’d also like to finally take some time to work on a personal project or two if I can manage to find the time and the will. I’m not going to bother getting into details at this point because who knows if I’ll ever even actually get started, but if I finally do, I’ll be sure to share at least some of the results here.

That’s about it. I’ll still be doing the same old Now Playing, Watchin’ Stuff, and Now Reading type stuff, so I guess things aren’t going to change all THAT much, but you never know what the future will bring…

Wild World of Warcraft III

The next stop on the Azeroth world tour was to be Zul’Farrak, but first we had to travel to many faraway places and do many convoluted quest chains to get those sweet, sweet dungeon quests. Along the way we did a difficult trio of escort missions for…mechanical chickens, because they just happened to be there and they were worth a lot of points.

Then we were sidetracked by ridiculous Christmas event quests where we won some more useless cosmetic items so we could look stupid because why not?

Then after many hours of preparation, it was finally time to go back to the desert region of Tanaris to tackle that dungeon, but not before I stopped to show off on my fancy paladin horse. Aaaaaanyway…

Zul’Farrak is basically just a giant troll city. It’s so large in scale that you can use mounts inside it, though you don’t really have much of a chance or reason to do so.

While it’s a big place, and it does have a few nice bosses and an interesting scripted event, it’s all a little too similar looking and you spend most of the time fighting the same few troll enemies over and over again. There are some nice rewards to be found, but it’s definitely not my favorite place.

The scripted event I mentioned involves killing a little boss at the top of a big pyramid-type structure who drops a key, which you use to unlock a group of cages, which starts another “escort” quest. There’s not really much actual escorting to be done, you all just stand at the top of the stairs while huge groups of guys rush you all. It becomes a pretty intense battle and luckily the people on your side aren’t as fragile as the usual escort quest people because things get so crowded and frantic that I lost sight of most of them within a few seconds.

If you manage to survive all the waves, you all walk down to the bottom and witness a dramatic scene where one of the prisoners leaves the group and runs away, and the rest suddenly turn on you and you’re forced to kill them. Thanks, guys.

About those super-convoluted quest chains, the worst one involves Gahz’rilla. If you want to fight him you’re going to have to jump through quite a few hoops. The quest only tells you that you need to find a way to summon him so you can kill him, and that the trolls might know a way to do it. If you do it the way the game wants you to, you’d have to actually go to Zul’Farrak first and get a randomly dropped trash item that’s actually an important text file that tells you what you need to do to perform the summoning ritual. Having done it before, I knew what needed to be done, but that didn’t make it simple still.

You need to find a certain enemy in Hinterlands, a forest area with more trolls that’s way on the other side of the world, kill him and take his sacred mallet, then you need to fight your way through an entirely different troll city, up to the top of another pyramid-type structure, all of which is almost the same size and difficulty as a normal dungeon itself, and use the mallet on the altar at the end to create Mallet of Zul’Farrak. Then you take that back to Zul’Farrak and use it on another altar, which finally summons the damn guy, all so we could win some items we didn’t even use. Oh well. He needed to be conquered, so that’s what we did!


Apparently if I get the other one of these two rare one-handed swords there, they can be combined into a pretty sweet epic sword. I NEED DIS! We had already moved on to the next place before I realized though…

Maraudon is a 5-player dungeon, consisting of 3 wings (The Wicked Grotto, Foulspore Cavern, and Earth Song Falls), located in the Valley of Spears in Desolace. It is a combination of ancient centaur burial grounds, as well as a primal temple dedicated to the elemental earth.”

Entrance to Maraudon. I’m sure it’s fine

This place was added into the game after its earliest days, and so I never had much experience with it. I think I might have gone there once, but don’t think we explored it all. I can see why we wouldn’t have done that at the time because this place is fucking massive.

It’s another one with a huge pre-instance dungeon, probably the biggest one since Deadmines, and to make matters worse, this area comes to a forked path, each of which leads to a separate entrance to the same instance, but if you should happen to pick the wrong one you’re going to end up doing it “backwards” and messing up the order of a few key Maraudon quests. Naturally, there’s no indication whatsoever which way you should go first, so if you happen to pick the wrong one you won’t know until it’s way too late to do anything about it other than do the whole place over again (unless you can get some magic GM help…).

Once inside,  the instance itself is even more enormous and confusing. Like the description says, there are three distinct zones and each one is almost a full-sized dungeon on its own. First (though as it turned out, this was NOT where we should have gone first) there’s The Wicked Grotto, a big series of crystal-covered caves full of angry centaurs, satyrs, and some really hard-hitting slime enemies. I always liked those slime guys because you can see the little bits of skeletons and stuff floating around in some of them and when you loot them they’ll be full of junk items like skulls and broken weapons. Always thought that was a nice touch of detail.

Anyway, then you reach another fork in the road, with one path leading to Foulspore Cavern, a weird bio-wasteland full of angry mutant plants. This area has a lot of enemies, but is pretty simple and linear (which I guess is why it’s supposed to be the area you’re supposed to enter first).

Sexy final boss of Maraudon

Earthsong Falls, the third and final section, is the biggest and nastiest. It’s a long stretch of twisting roads leading up and down some cliffs which branch off into multiple directions again, some leading down to an optional section of watery depths at the base of the waterfalls, which is guarded by giant worms and lizards, hydras, and some earth elementals, as well as some extra bosses. The other way leads up through a gauntlet of towering boss-sized stone giants, and finally ends with the last boss of the whole crazy place.

Many nice pieces of gear were found and much fun was had, but there’s much, much, much more to go still. Join us next time for adventures in the Sunken Temple and…whatever comes next after that? Stratholme maybe? I don’t even know! I’m excited to get started on these later level Azeroth dungeons though, as I seem to remember liking them and their semi-horror-themes the best. Until then…