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I remember why adventure games died.
03.09.07 / 12:15PM / Joe

Spoiler Week continues, now teetering relentlessly towards Chulip.

Chulip is the hardest game in the world.

It's an adventure game, so you have to figure things out by exploring. It wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't insist on punishing you for exploring...

And even that wouldn't be so bad if the game didn't have an antiquated save system, where you can only save in certain locations. This game is rough.

This is why adventure games died... because we all got tired of the endless trial-and-error with little to no clues. If you need a hint book to get through the game - and I mean you need it to figure stuff out, not just using it to find sidebar quests or hidden junk - you end up feeling like you're reading an interactive novel, not playing a game.

Sam and Max had stuff in it that made no sense, or requirements that you were just too likely to keep missing. I never would have discovered that their office is two screens long on my own. Never. There's nothing to make you think that you can walk to the right and push the background to reveal a storage closet (which contains an absolutely necessary item.) Either you got lucky and discovered it on your own, or you looked it up in the hint book seven hours later. And that's not even a truly egregious example, just the first one I could recall.

Even Animal Crossing was like this... how would anybody ever had figured out the Perfect Town crap without getting the info from an online guide?

All the adventure games of the classic era had stuff like that in them, but where they deviate from Chulip is that they didn't kill you over it.

Chulip is also really bad about giving good hints. Or at least, it's really uneven about it.

The basic grind of the game has you kissing people to add to your heart strength. Most of the kissable citizens are found in underground holes. You look in the hole and you get a short clue about what this person likes or wants before they'll accept a kiss. These folks only come out of their holes at certain times of the day, but most of them don't say when that will be. All you know is that, when they do show up, they will walk around for a few moments, animating I'm Pissed Off, which means you can't get near them... except for a split second when they animate little happy music notes: the Kissing Moment.

So you probably don't know when you will see them so you can kiss them. You might have an idea about when you should go for the kiss, or you might not. And even if you do see them, they may very well not ever give you the Kissing Moment, either because their shtick is tied into something else you haven't done yet, or just due to complete random happenstance.

Example: Mr. Apollo takes off like a rocket every day around 1pm. He's one of the few who tells you his time. Your only chance to kiss me occurs when he lands, and lands correctly. If he lands on his head, he goes right into pissy mode and attacks you. Whether or not he lands correctly is a coin flip. I have parked myself near his hole at least twenty times, and I only saw him land it once. And I missed the kiss anyway.

Example 2: Dr. Fill bounces out of his hole on springy shoes sometime in the middle of the night, but he will not allow a kiss until a (seemingly) unrelated storyline event happens (Mrs. Plum loses her teeth). Before that, he remains completely unapproachable, not that you'd know any of this from the supposed hints.

Then there's the stone tiger guy who runs the bathhouse. In order to get his kiss, you have to pay 200z to gain entry to the male side of the bath sometime after 6pm. After undressing, you have to use the faucets in the following order: right, left, right, left. Then you have to stand on a bucket and trigger a silly balancing animation. Then you get in the tub until your eyes shock open in surprise, at which point you can kiss the tiger guy. Now where is the hint system to explain that to me?

Beyond that, there's another underground character (Turtle Boy) who has a 50/50 shot at allowing a kiss, but only if you're undressed... so his Kissing Moment is contingent on doing the 200z bathhouse trip and then sneaking outside while still nearly-naked.

And don't even get me started on the arcane guesswork required to kiss Dr. Dandy.

Not all of the game is this bad, just enough that it really inhibits your fun value. On one hand, the game expects you to explore to find the solution to all the various puzzles... but on the other, it will slaughter your soul and make you replay for hours if you're not careful about it. Especially in the beginning (because your heart meter is low), which is a game-killing sin.

How do I know all of these tricks, by the way? Because I gave up and started peeking through the strategy guide that inhabits the back half of the Chulip manual. I'm having a lot more fun now, because I at least have some guidance as to what the hell is going on.

I've always said that going to FAQs and guides is a renter's cop-out and does nothing but speed-play you into a joyless experience. The underlying premise to that is that it only applies when the game is good... well-designed with in-game hints, a logical task progression, and its own internal logic.

When the game is fundamentally flawed in the way that Chulip is, however, all bets are off. Without that strategy guide (which is kinda vague anyway), there is no gamer out there who stands a chance in hell of finishing the game.



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