Keyboard Geniuses

Organ Trail

Grappling Hooked On Bionics

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • September 28, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Gore-Egon Trail

Ryan Smith Sawbuck-ized Organ Trail, a clever take on the edu-tainment classic Oregon Trail. While Ryan called into question the educational value of the original, HobbesMkii vehemently defended it for its harsh teaching methods:

What do you mean, “What exactly was Oregon Trail trying to teach us?” It taught us lots of things: How quickly a person can die without proper medical attention, the importance of careful preparation, the rude intricacies of chance, the importance of not over-hunting (although, conversely, it also taught us how much fun it is to shoot shit). But, most importantly to me, it wasn’t that stupid one Mac game where you have to go up the mountain doing math, or the one where you had to meet a targeted words-per-minute or your character would get eaten by alligators.

Staff Infection
Wabbajack appraisal

As you may quite possibly know, the Wabbajack—The Elder Scroll’s multi-use staff—feverishly swept the Best Treasure Ever bracket. It trounced Fallout’s Luck Bobblehead, along with a few guns of adequate size and utility. While this victory surprised few commenters, Fluka was wary to revel in the staff’s chaos, and pointed us to an insane (and heavily modded) playthrough of Skyrim, where a dual-wielded Wabbajack toastified an entire town:

Those that have followed Richard Cobbett’s Random Skyrim Modding diary knows that where Riften once stood, there now lies a smoking crater. Humanity was never meant to wield the power of Sheogorath, and now we have unleashed it upon the world!

A Hookshot In The Dark

Anthony John Agnello explored two different implementations of grappling hooks in this week’s entry of Decadent, comparing the rigid Bionic Commando to the dreamscape of Umihara Kawase Shun. EmperorNortonl took issue with the way many games limit your movement or progression options, and offered his own solution:

The way that so many gaming genres rely on such silly and arbitrary ways to limit your freedom of movement in the surface of level design has always annoyed me. Why can’t I pull myself over that thigh-high ledge? How on Earth does this locked door block my super-powered character who wields the power of several Greek gods? Why does this particular pile of trash block my progress, when that pile over there is just an obstacle to climb over? I always thought of rather obvious, brute-force solutions to puzzles, which made it nearly impossible to think through the “clever” and contrived solutions intended by the designers. Only on rare occasions were my intuitions at all applicable. I still remember to this day the absolute joy I felt when, in Full Throttle, I was able to solve a puzzle in what felt like the “right” way for the time and place: by punching it.

GhaleonQ respectfully disagreed, arguing for a less realistic, more immersive reading of game worlds:

The Umihara Kawase series is arguably unfair and unrealistic, but it builds the rules very clearly into each field. There is never any question whether something will work, only whether it’s the right solution and whether your fingers will allow you to do it.

Splinter Cel
Borderlands 2

Though it doesn’t reach the level of customization found in Train Simulator 2013, Russ Fischer enjoyed Borderlands 2 for its wide-ranging executions of ultra-violence and its expansive world. In the comments, a thread broke out discussing its cel-shaded visual aesthetic, and Pgoodso provided an amusing anecdote of a roommate shocked by how ugly and gray most games looked:

In 2009, I lived with a roommate who was very erudite about film, but never played a video game in his life, and so looked and played from a childlike critical standpoint (having to explain the evolution of menus and controllers to him was actually an interesting thought experiment for myself). Anyways, in relative sequence, I played Gears Of War 2, Fallout 3, Borderlands, Chronicles Of Riddick: Butcher Bay, and Resident Evil 5. He wondered why “all” video games had to exist in such bland and ugly worlds; he’d never seen so much brown and grey in his life. He preferred the art style of Smash Brothers Brawl to any of those.

Furries: Fine By Us
Kitty Punch

Derrick Sanskrit reviewed Kitty Punch, a Sawbuck Gamer entry starring a man dressed as a cat. Furries are easy punching bags around most corners of the internet; it’s hard not to giggle at the abstract thought of people who dress up like animals in full body suits. RTW attended a furry convention as an outsider, and shared this personal experience of discovering a fondness for furries:

I attended a furry convention in moral support of a friend once. For me, the easiest comparison is to hippies—maybe they look and/or smell weird, and they’re into things that are beyond most people’s most basic faculties of comprehension, but the vast majority of them are extremely nice, polite, and cordial, and were very open once I revealed myself as a detached non-judgmental observer. Many of the ones I met and played games with were easy-going and extremely self-aware. Maybe I just ran into the right ones, but that was my experience.

Leggo My Neo Geo!
Hands On - The elusive art of control

Anthony John Agnello contributed a monster of a feature this week, “Hands On: The Elusive Art of Control.” Making prime use of a Beavis & Butthead moment, where the two render themselves unable to pee because they start thinking about how to do it, Anthony dove into the short history and near future of developers tinkering with control schemes. Building off Anthony’s examples, Citric brought up Micro Machines, an NES game with a control scheme that was easily forgotten in the moment:

Speaking of forgetting to pee—you went there first, I’m just along for the ride—there are games that become completely impossible to control the moment you think about the controls. The old top-down racer Micro Machines is an example of this, though other top-down racers apply. While you’re playing, it feels natural, and actually quite smooth, to have the controls relative to the car—pressing right moves it to it’s right, left to it’s left, and so on. This all makes absolutely perfect sense unless you start to think about it, and then you will crash immediately. The moment it goes off automatic, you lose your orientation within the game world. For some reason my friends and I were all discovering NES emulation in high school, and lots of people were playing Micro Machines, so whenever someone saw them they would mention the controls. It was the easiest way in the world to completely ruin someone’s game and make them angry, because it worked every time.

That about does it. Thanks for reading and commenting! We’ll see you all next week.

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934 Responses to “Grappling Hooked On Bionics”

  1. Fluka says:

    But seriously folks, go read Skyrim Week of Madness  if you want a good laugh.  Don’t read it if you’re afraid of really fucking big lions.

  2. George_Liquor says:

    That control scheme Citric talked about reminds me of Gyruss, an arcade game that played a lot like Tempest in that you were a spaceship that moved in a circle  around the edge of the screen and shot towards enemies coming at you from the center. In a sense, you didn’t have direct control over how your ship moved. Instead, you used the joystick to point to the side of the screen you wanted it to go, and it would follow the shortest arc to get there, and stop moving when it arrived. With practice, it became second nature to move around like that, but the moment you paused to think about what you were doing, you’d lose track–and usually get blown up.

  3. stakkalee says:

    Alright, let’s hop to it.

    The article with the most comments – Hands On: The Elusive Art Of Control with 184 comments.  That thread reminded me once again why GS is fast becoming the preeminent video game website on the Net.  We have some intelligent (and attractive!) commenters here!

    Now, I’m going to try to add some value – the top 5 most liked comments (non-KG):

    1) The very first comment of the week – @Merve2:disqus praising Wabbajack, with 17 likes.

    2) @green_gin_rickey:disqus introducing a professor to the magic of video games, with 14 likes.

    3) @Captain_Internet:disqus giving a great overview of getting started in programming, with 13 likes

    .4) @Staggering_Stew_Bum:disqus waxing eloquent on the relative merits of Borderlands 2, with 12 likes.

    5) @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus opining on 4chan, also with 12 likes.

    We really have some funny (and attractive!) commenters here!

    Now on to what you’ve all been waiting for, Those Who Have Been Chosen (dun dun).  We have 3 new members getting their plaid jackets today, @EmperorNortonI:disqus, @Pgoodso:disqus, and RTW (of the Twitterverse), so welcome aboard folks!  Hale, and well met!  RTW, you’ll be our Furry expert, so everyone, if you have any questions about Furries, direct them at RTW!  Additionally, @Fluka:disqus and @GhaleonQ:disqus each get a second pin, @Citric:disqus gets a third, and the Fuzzball Avenger @HobbesMkii:disqus gets a ninth pin!  Well done, one and all!  Also, Hobbes unlocks the “You’re Likeable Enough” achievement, because his 9 KG comments have earned over 50 total likes! (54, to be exact.)

    So that’s all, folks.  Enjoy the weekend, play some video games, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • caspiancomic says:

       Excellent and well said, fellow attractive person. I was, for whatever reason, thrilled to learn that the week’s very first comment was from Merve. Little bits of trivia like that really brighten my day.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I bought that damn cat so much tuna and this is what I get in return?
      It had nothing at all to do with my lackluster comments, it’s all politics! It’s who you know, not what you know.
      I can picture them there, Soupy and the 1% cat-people clinking their glasses of milk and nibbling their nip.
      Well… I don’t want you stupid whiskas temptations anyways and nip makes you stupid and you can’t digest milk… so… there!
      Elitist bullshit is what that is… The select few… the masses… media…

      PS: Not really, but it was fun to write. I don’t know how conspiracy theorists and crazy libertarians do this 24/7.

    • HobbesMkii says:

       Girard broke the 1000 Like barrier this week.

    • Girard says:

      Likes, KG accolades and comment counts are all well and good metrics of commenter quality, but I think we need to take a page from Parappa’s book and start having throw-down rap battles to assert commenter dominance.


      Girard attractin’ likes like a magnet at the scrapyard, dog!
      Don’t try to school me, fuck I’ll school you I’m a pedagogue!
      Prolix comments, verbose verbage, bustin’ at the seams,
      You want to read my shit? You’ll scroll through seven screens!
      My style is cosSACK,
      You watch your back, JACK,
      Start talkin’ shit ’bout text adventures,
      An’ I’m liable t’ATTACK!

      • stakkalee says:

        Oh hell no.  You think Imma just let this lie?

        Step back Mr. Kotter let me represent,
        When it comes to spitting rhymes I am the One Percent.
        I go by the name of MC Stak,
        when I hit you I’m electric like the Screw Attack.
        I got more style than Luigi’s got issues,
        your flow is wack, mine is vicious.
        You may think you’re Link, but this ain’t Hyrule,
        We’re in the rhyme-zone now, this is where I rule.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      It’s nice to see some fresh faces up in the ol’ Keyboard Geniuses this week.  My face is more like one of those limes that you forget about in your counter top produce bowl, but instead of rotting, desiccates into a leathery little ping pong ball.
         Which is to say, not fresh.
         I just finished a page long comic as the final piece to the first phase of an NSF project my company is working on, so I’m feeling a little effervescent and spilling over with goodwill.
         So I hope all of you, my Gameological Comrades, kill every motherfucking thing you come across in whichever digital arena of you choosing this weekend.

      • Girard says:

         I was planning on playing Imagine Babyz this weekend. Thanks to your well-wishing, that game is going to be a fucking bloodbath.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        I bet it’s because the staff is doing a fantastic job with their essays and fostering discussion.  Their taste doesn’t line up with mine that much, so my commenting’s low, but I always find the articles and comments intriguing.

        Merry bludgeoning!

    • EmperorNortonI says:

       Woot!  First Time!  Yeah!

      • EmperorNortonI says:

         That reminds me, though . . . winter is coming up soon, and my plaid jackets are kind of old.  I should probably order a few new ones.

        Trust me on this – the best way to survive poorly heated educational facilities in winter while adhering to a business casual dress code are woolen plaid jackets.

  4. caspiancomic says:

    This was really a crackerjack week on the site, and I feel like we got out a lot of really killer discussions. My favourite article for comments this week was AJA’s dissertation on controls- if memory serves every comment from that article was like three paragraphs.

    Anyway! Although I said I would attempt to have my latest Game Theory article available by now, real life intervened, so it’ll be another week I’m afraid. I have, however, prepared something of a preview. In order to keep you all from dying of suspense, I’ll give away the conceit of the article right now: I’m basically playing fantasy game designer, and creating my own sequel to The World Ends With You, set right here in sunny Toronto Ontario. The preview indicates the boundaries of the map and the discrete areas within the map that can be explored, and the article itself will delve into the location, the changes I would make to the game’s mechanics, brainstorming for new characters and gameplay modes, and feature a selection of new brands that I’ll be describing in frankly ludicrous detail. It’s going to be much heavier on illustration that my last three articles, which is part of why it’s taking so long, but it should be done in time for next week.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      The world literally ends when winter comes and there are no snow plows. Or the following spring, when survivors try to escape the gaping pot-holes.
      At least you can make just about anything out of Tim Horton’s cups. As long as you don’t have to drink the coffee to survive.
      And the Blue Jays stadium is a pretty good spot to hide. It’s pretty much always empty. Even now.

  5. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    *facepalm* I totally forgot what I was going to post here, as just before I started typing received an email stating that I would soon be charged $120 for my next year of web hosting.  (The first year was $9, which I sadly wasted not doing anything with the site.)

    Now I have to decide if it’s worth it to continue with Dreamhost (since I conveniently already renewed my domain name with them) or figure out a new option…

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I have a website that the members of my community there barely appreciate. I went with JustHost who seem fairly well priced and also pretty reliable.
      I think I paid $90 for 3 years.

    • Girard says:

       I’ve never used them, but heard good things about hosting. As I understand it, they’re very “pay-for-what-you-need,” so for a personal, low-traffic domain the costs can be pretty low. But, again, I’ve never used them personally.

  6. Effigy_Power says:

    Incidentally I added another piece to my blawg:

    It’s not the next part of “The Henchman Problem” yet, which is also sort of going a bit off topic, but a piece about my experiences with DayZ, well… two days worth of it.
    I have a feeling I will be writing a pretty vitriolic piece once I can actually be bothered to finally get a controller for my PC to play Dark Souls. Somehow I think I let the hype and videos cloud my judgement.

  7. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody, Mr Glitch here! My review of the incomparably awesome Metal Slug is now up at

    Dig it!

    • caspiancomic says:

       Man, Metal Slug is so rad. I haven’t played it in ages, but it was a real go-to choice for my friends and I a few years ago. We had a Playstation port of Metal Slug X, which if memory serves is just a sort of “director’s cut” of Metal Slug 2. I could hear the announcer saying “heavy machine gun!” when I reached the same words in your review.

      I’m also reminded now, thanks to your accompanying screens, of how good this game looked. To look at it you’d think that it predicted modern gaming’s “grey and brown” trend, since the screenshots are pretty sombre in tone, but look at the detail that went into this thing. There’s a supernatural level of fidelity in every frame of this game. I’m pretty sure that those are individually rendered logs on that bridge, you can see the ocean waves crash against the boat and scatter into droplets and mist, and in possibly my favourite visual flourish, the aircraft hangars in that final shot are rendered with attention to aerial perspective. It really is an absurdly beautiful game.

      Also, I’ve never played Splatterhouse, but I’m familiar with its legacy, so I’m looking forward to getting a run-down on it next week!

      • GhaleonQ says:

        It’s actually quite comedic, too, with my only real modern point of comparison between some Japanese comics and animation.  The animations, which got funnier as the series went on, started really funny.

        It made me realize that I don’t mind self-aware violence in 2-d, but am harsher on it in 3-d.  Gears Of War doesn’t work for me, but Vanquish does.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      Yay Metal Slug! I played the original on occasion back on an old NeoGeo 4-cartridge arcade cabinet, but just got killed.  Many years later, I started playing Metal Slug 2 on emulation with a Microsoft Sidewinder gamepad.  I refused to ever continue – each run was from the beginning.  I got pretty damn good at that game, and was able to get rather close to the final level.

      I spent a lot of time around 2000 trying to forget the fact that I was in grad school by playing old games in emulation.  Metal Slug 2, Super Metroid, Link to the Past, Samurai Showdown 3, Tempest, Gyruss, Vindicators (an awesome tank game for which it was bloody hard to set up controls) … it makes me shudder thinking back to those days.