Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Tales of Game's Studios, who you may recall as the people responsible for Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, have released their second game. It is, of course, a roguelike starring the Wu-Tang Clan.

It doesn't have randomly generated levels, but it does have the arguably cooler feature of letting you open up all the level data in notepad and edit it yourself (this, by the way, reminded me a lot of another recent game that I forgot to mention here - Tiny Hawk). It's also probably the easiest roguelike I've ever played - I won the first time I played after choosing Inspectah Deck, who takes no damage from traps, automatically identifies items, finds hidden doors and opens all locked doors without a key. I imagine that the other characters are much harder to win with. It's not quite compelling enough to play through twice, but it's worth checking out, at the very least!

You can download The Sewer Goblet - The Wu-Tang Cland and the Wu-Tang Baby, from here.

(credit goes to kthorjensen of the selectbutton forums for this entry's title)

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pinball Week Episode 2 - Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection

Williams. A legend in the American coin-op industry. In video game circles they're often heralded for revolutionary arcade games like Defender and Robotron, but it's their pinball output from around the same era that I think shines brightest.

Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection (released a few months ago for the Wii, PS2 and PSP and impossible to find in retail as far as I can tell) is a fairly faithful video recreation of 10 Williams pinball tables spanning around 20 years, focusing mainly on the 1980s. It's mostly really good. Yes, mostly. Ain't that always the case?

The selection of tables does a good job of representing Williams' popularity and design sensibilities. Nearly all of the games are important for one reason or another, be it for technical firsts, fan favoritism or simply strong art design. More importantly, nearly all the games in the collection stand well on their own.

Firepower is one of the earliest solid-state games (read: microchips controlling the rules as opposed to electromechanical components) on the collection, hailing from 1980. It's got a big ol' open playfield, sound effects straight outta Robotron (Eugene Jarvis was responsible for the sound programming), and 3-ball multiballlll. It was also the first game to introduce "lane-changing," which is the feature that lets you move the multiplier lane lights at the top of the table around by hitting the right flipper button. It's a staple of pinball design, the kind of thing so ubiquitous that you don't even realize it was a "first" at one point.

The collection's other game from 1980 is Black Knight, a legendary game with a two-level playfield and "magna-save" - after completing certain requirements, you can press a button when the ball is near the right outlane to freeze it in place with a magnet and drop it safely back towards the flippers. I think it's earned its reputation as a classic, and its presence is welcome.

There are also two Pat Lawlor games on the collection. Lawlor developed The Addams Family in 1992, which went on to become the best-selling pinball game of all time, and Twilight Zone shortly thereafter, which is a close runner-up.

Addams Family and Twilight Zone aren't on the collection due to licensing issues, but the two Lawlor games that are included are Whirlwind and Funhouse, both excellent games. Whirlwind's the one with the spinning circles in the center of the playfield that disrupt where your ball goes, and Funhouse is the one with the big talking puppet head. You may have seen both at some point - I know that Washington's in downtown Fort Collins had Funhouse at one point, anyway.

There's also Taxi, Pin*Bot, Gorgar, Sorcerer, Space Shuttle and Jive Time, the last of which is the only electromechanical game on the collection. I'm not mentioning them in detail because, uh, hey - I've barely played them in real life, and I'm never going to finish writing this thing at this rate. Oh, what the hell. Lemme give it a shot, anyway.

Pin*Bot's got outlanes from hell (the lanes on the bottom-left and right sides of nearly all pinball machines which lead straight to the drain if your ball happens to roll into one), and was ported to the NES by Rare back in the day. How bad are the outlanes? A commenter on the Internet Pinball Database had this to say:
"Pin*Bot *could* be a good game. But I find it to be an unforgiving and sadistic drain monster that is way more frustrating than any pinball machine should be. Yes, I've played my fair share of pinball and I know how to nudge. I know how to set-up a machine with the proper pitch and am meticulous in this regard. With Pin*Bot, it didn't matter. Even with the posts on the most liberal setting, the magnetic outlanes drove me so crazy that I had no choice but to either sell the machine or set it ablaze."
Pin*Bot doesn't quite deserve immolation in my opinion, but there you go.

I like the rest of the games on the collection without reservation. Taxi is a pretty ridiculously charming table that has you picking up fares like Dracula, Gorbachev, and, in a typical Williams bout of cross-promotion, Pin*Bot. Gorgar almost matches the lurid themes that competitor Bally really flaunted during the early '80s (for comparison, check out Centaur, Embryon and Voltan Escapes Cosmic Doom). Sorcerer is solid despite having an incredibly generic theme and artwork. Space Shuttle's USA rollover lanes and helpful defensive features (including a stopper for the center drain and an extremely forgiving right outlane) might just give you diabetes. Jive Time is the one electromechanical game on the collection, and has a spinner on the backglass that gives out random bonuses.

Solid games all around! There are just a couple of nagging little problems with the collection's presentation thereof that rubs me the wrong way.

First, the collection defaults to having insanely obnoxious cock rock background music overlaid on top of insanely obnoxious Fake Arcade Ambience overlaid on top of the actual sounds of whatever pinball game you're playing. This is even more retarded than it sounds, but they let you mute all of it right from the get-go, so I'll just wonder what they were thinking instead of complaining about it.

Second, the PSP version of the game lets you rotate your PSP sideways to play with a vertical screen orientation to see more of the table at a given time, but doesn't let you remap the buttons and maps nudging the table to the analog stick. The X and triangle buttons control the flippers, meaning that this mode is nearly impossible to play comfortably. Bummer.

The other odd thing about the game is the ball physics - I've gotten the ball to clip inside the flippers on a couple of occasions, leading to an instant drain. What the heck?
And yeah, the graphics aren't nearly good enough to do most of the tables justice. Funhouse and Whirlwind are both busy and nearly incomprehensible blobs of indistinct polygons (I might be a little harsh, there - the above screenshot is a pretty good example, so judge for yourself). The table textures are generally too blurry and indistinct to do their explosively colorful source material justice. Still, I would say that every table is totally playable! And uh, not in a "well I guess this is ok" kind of way.

There are some good ideas here, too! There are two sets of table goals for each game - the first batch usually just requires you to complete most of the basic scoring mechanics on the table and get a decent score. Finishing all of the default rules unlocks a set of "wizard goals," which are pretty damn tough, requiring you to really plumb the depths of each table.

The developers have also seen fit to add the usual unlockables - some of the games start out on freeplay, but others require that you pay virtual credits for each play. Finishing all the table goals unlocks freeplay for any of the locked games on the collection. It's... unoffensive, in practice.

If you like pinball at all, you'll probably dig this one. Go check it out!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Pinball Week Episode 1 - Necronomicon

The Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown is this weekend, and I've been cooking up some pinball articles this week. Holding back the plunger on some pinball articles, with the threat of imminently launching them straight towards the gaudy and animated-gif-infested playfield that is the internet? I'm not liking these pinball metaphors as much as I expected to.
Anyway, I've uploaded a few videos of Digital Pinball - Necronomicon, a Japanese Sega Saturn game which mixes the aesthetics of all things related to wailing guitars with pinball. It's an awesome game! I wrote a little article about it back when I had a blog on the web site of my humble college newspaper, but everyone blogging for that place got laid off after the editor-in-chief got a little too brusque in the editorial section. That said, here's the original article that I wrote about the game, with youtube videos of the game's three tables after the jump. Enjoy!

Necronomicon is a video pinball game developed by now-defunct KaZe Co. Ltd. and released for the Japanese Sega Saturn back in 1996. Ridiculously, ridiculously obscure. Of course, it only takes one guy to get the word out, and that guy was Lawrence Wright of NFG Games and his review of Necronomicon. I disagree with some of the points made in the review now, but it made me aware of the game in the first place, and that's what counts, y'know?

Compared to the real thing, Necronomicon's simulation of pinball physics is fairly unrealistic. You can effortlessly make the same shot from the same flipper over and over and over again, and the ball often travels across the play field in what almost appear to be preset arcs. Shots that would normally be incredibly easy to make on a real table, like shooting the ball towards the near-center of the play field, are strangely difficult to do in Necronomicon. Pinball is about dealing with the little, random nuances of real-world physics and their terrifying implications for the suicidal silver ball in play. Necronomicon fails to capture this, but that's ok! It's a charmer.
Take, for example, the game's announcer. Actually, he's less of an announcer and more of an omnipresent, borderline incomprehensible poet. "Far away a temple stands," he mutters. "Far away... in the dreamlands." His emphasis, not mine! He doesn't actually comment on the state of the game, but he will often trail off on wild tangents while you're trying to manage a wild six-ball multiball. The resulting aesthetic effect is one of endearing insanity.

The game's soundtrack (with intro and ending music provided by John Petrucci of famous progressive rock group Dream Theater), is marked by its wildly over-the-top production values. It's also gloriously cheesy - starting multiball on any of the tables means bombastic, wailing guitars and screeching vocals. Williams' pinball division in the mid-90s was famous for its excellent sound design on games like Medieval Madness, and Necronomicon captures the energy and enthusiasm of those games in a way that no other video pinball game I've ever played has managed to do.

Even the table designs, which are kind of simplistic when compared to real pinball tables, have a hard-edged, creepy feel to them. There's a grainy, photo-realistic eye staring out from the center of the Arkham Asylum table. A fake instruction card present on all the tables' bottom-right corners states that the game is "For mortals only." There are lots of little details like that, adding up to a strangely personable and endearing experience.

That, really, is what's so great about Necronomicon - it simulates the mechanics of real pinball imperfectly, but it gets the intangibles just right.

Youtube videos: Arkham Asylum demonstration, Cult of the Bloody Tongue demonstration, Dreamlands multiball (above).

Friday, April 18, 2008

Grab bag update #1?

I'm updating from my parents' house this weekend, and I didn't really have anything waiting in the back wings for an update, so here are a few things that I felt were worth mentioning.

-Joakim Sandberg has released Noitu Love 2, which you can buy for $20 from his web site. I'm definitely going to have to pick it up eventually. I mean, how awesome does this game look?

Yeah, pretty sure I gotta support this monetarily. And write about it. Go play Chalk, too, if you haven't already. It's free!-Made in Wired takes the rapid fire structure of Warioware (Made in Wario is the Japanese title, in case you were wondering) and stuffs it full of arcade shooting game motifs. It's just a little bit like Rom Check Fail. It comes courtesy of dong over at Engrish Games, who translated the (originally non-English) 2006 game and re-released it today. Here's what he has to say about it:

Do you know Junpei Isshiki?
He's a professional shmup programmer and an indie game developer.

He makes really cool shmups,
but sometimes he forgots to publish his games :(
How unselfish!

How unselfish indeed! You can download Made in Wired here.

-There's no way that Mortal Kombat is still relevant. Is there? I must not hang out with the right people, I guess! Sub Zero, though, he's always cool. Also, here's BBH's awesome MKII glitches page. Aaand here's this unintentionally hilarious ending from MK4! And this thing.

That's about it for now. Next week is a theme week!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Crisis Core - Dreck and Schlock are best buds until...

I recently finished FFVII Crisis Core, Square Enix's latest (and hopefully last) attempt to squeeze money out of thirteen-year old kids who still think Final Fantasy VII is the coolest game ever. That's kind of mean, because I remember thinking that Final Fantasy VII was the coolest game ever too, back when it came out. I still kind of do! It's got a lot of guts, that game.

Crisis Core, though. Man. In FFVII, there's a fairly infamous hour-long cutscene near the beginning of the game. In it, the protagonist, Professor emeritus Cloud Strife of MIT, tells his fellow party members about what happened four fateful years ago in his hometown of Nibelheim...

Cloud's hero, Sephiroth, went crazy, burned Nibelheim to the ground and killed everybody. Later in the game, it turns out that Cloud is actually pretty nuts, too, and that he was comatose for most of the incident. The guy he really looked up to, a man named Zack, went and fought Sephiroth. Of course, this is all presented in extremely confusing flashbacks in FFVII.
The game's battle system: "DING DING DING THREE SEPHIROTHS"
Crisis Core, then, is Square's attempt to fill in the blanks. It's a high-budget PSP game that tells Zack's story up until his inevitable death, and it makes an already confusing story that I thought I already kinda knew into a borderline incomprehensible new one! I guess I have scenario writer Kazushige Nojima to thank for that.

Nojima was also the douchebag responsible for the story mode in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and that sure was stupid. Playing Crisis Core, I think I've figured out what makes his work so consistently awful: in all the games for which he's been responsible for the story, I always feel like there's some other game I was supposed to have played which filled in the backstory. In FFVII, that was part of the charm.

The problem with Crisis Core's narrative is that, as the game I was supposed to have played before playing FFVII, it doesn't make much sense on its own. Hell, it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Crisis Core has one of the dumbest video game stories I've seen in a long time. It's not just dumb because the plot events are contrived, ridiculous and poorly explained - the game itself often sullies or outright breaks the narrative.

There are numerous moments when the game presents you with a pressing situation, and immediately cheapens it with a "mini-game moment." Missiles are heading straight towards the hometown of Zack's mentor, Angeal! The one person left in town is Angeal's elderly mother! Quick, Zack, you gotta do something!

"Like play this stupid minigame!" the game says. "Press the X button with the right timing to cut the missiles out of the sky! If you miss, it's not a big deal, but shouldn't a member of SOLDIER be able to handle this kind of thing?" I'm paraphrasing here, but just barely. Each time you press the X button at the right time, Zack performs a stilted canned attack animation as pixelated explosions erupt around him. It's supposed to look like he's destroying the missiles with his sword, but it looks a little too cheap and clumsy for that. The game keeps track of your "combo," too, and tells you that you're "awesome!!", "superb!!" and "amazing!!"

After you press the X button twelve times, the game gives you an item you don't need based on how many missiles you intercepted successfully. I imagine that there are guys out there who replayed this segment over and over again, making sure to intercept all the missiles in order to get the best item and satisfy their complex OCD.

Immediately after this missile-downing segment comes a cutscene: "Angeal's mother is still in the village! Hurry and save her!"

"But be sure to run around and pick up all the items in the area before time runs out!" the game interrupts, stupidly. You then run around the deserted village square, hastily picking up items before the time limit runs out. Eventually, if you let the time limit run out, even though there's supposed to be an airstrike on the way, the game reveals that it doesn't matter. The items just disappear. It's like nothing even happened.

Every time the story tries to convince you of its gravitas, the game lurches in from offscreen, drunk as hell, and shoots both itself and the story in the foot while juggling colorful and distracting balls, dropping most of them on the floor. Not that it matters, really. If the game is drunk, then the story is retarded.
"I don't make allowances for old men!"
There is a moment near the end of the story when Zack and Cloud are escaping from Nibelheim on motorbike. The game's villain, Genesis, appears suddenly. His motivation for most of the game has been that... whoops! I actually have no idea! He's never given tangible motivation, outside of "revenge" and "Gackt really wanted to voice a character in the game." He spends a lot of time reading lines from his favorite play, LOVELESS, and asking Zack if he understands what he's talking about ("No."). He's also "degrading," because like Sephiroth, he's a mutant supersoldier, too!

Genesis tells Zack, after stopping his bike on a bridge in the middle of nowhere, that Zack's greasy black hair is the secret to preventing him from "degrading," and he proves this by having one of his clone cronies eat his hair. Genesis then flies off as the clone shrieks, is enveloped in a multicolored geyser of light, and transforms into a giant Tetsuya Nomura zipper-beast. This plot development is never mentioned again. As far as I can tell, it's only there to make sure that a boss can appear at that very moment.

One last thing: the game has an optional mission (one of several hundred, all nearly identical) where you fight god, who has 10 million hit points. The only way to win is by maxing Zack's stats out to 255, getting 99,999 HP etc. The ending of the game, even if Zack is totally iller than god, is that Zack gets killed by helicopters and the same stock soldiers that have proven no threat to him for the entire game, in a sequence that Gamespot's Kevin VanOrd says "brilliantly mingles gameplay with narrative in one of the most incredible and moving moments in role-playing history."

Man, I bet.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

"You will F(L)aiL"

Matt Thorson's Flail is the best game ever made on the subject of leaping repeatedly into walls full of spikes, possibly at high speed. It pretty much has to be. Thorson's previous games, Jumper and Jumper Two (not to be confused with the feature film) explored similarly sadistic platform game territory, but Flail is far more clever, less initially frustrating, and occasionally something of a mindfuck. It's a real step up!

At its core, Flail is about moving a green stick figure from the starting point to the goal, which is represented by a floor enshrouded in a beam of red light. Initially, the level designs are simple enough that you can accomplish this by simply running forward and jumping, but as the game introduces more play mechanics, it also begins to take the gloves off.

The core play mechanic of Flail, besides jumping, is "flight" - press the jump button, and you jump. Press and hold the fly button, and you immediately freeze in place, regardless of whether you're standing still or exactly 1 pixel above a pit of spikes. At this point, you have about half a second to hold one of the eight cardinal directions. After that half-second, you are violently shot in whatever direction you're holding at the time. This creates a lot of interesting new ways to move around, but you can't do it indefinitely - you have to land on solid ground before being able to fly again.
Besides the fly button, there's also a very simple wall-climbing mechanic. If you touch a wall right below its lip (assuming that it has one), you'll hang on. Any lower than that, though, and you'll fall, presumably to somewhere extremely unpleasant.
This is where Thorson starts messing with the rules a little bit, of course. There's an anti-gravity item, which immediately causes gravity to reverse after you touch it. There are levels that require you to flip gravity several times in wonderfully brain-bending ways, with goal platforms suspended upside down, sometimes directly above the starting point.

There's an item which lets you fly again after picking it up, allowing for stage designs that require you to fly carefully through a maze of razorblades suspended in mid-air while never touching the ground once.

There are also yellow, green and blue "fields," which are basically just different color tiles drawn over the backgrounds of certain stages. Green fields cause you to slow down when passing through them, yellow fields prevent you from flying, and blue fields cause gravity to reverse if you press the fly button when inside of one.
The ramifications for the last one are brutal. There's a stage in zone 5 (out of 8!) that requires you to carefully fly through another maze of floating razorblades, like several previous stages. The difference is that you also have to reverse gravity when flying through the tiny squares of blue scattered throughout, nearly flying off of the top of the stage at one point. And this is only a little more than halfway through the game, here! I'm trembling in fear at the thought of what future levels are going to look like.

There's also a level editor, which you unlock after clearing the first couple of zones - it lets you put stages together without any restrictions that I can see, other than that you can't compile stages into groups the way the actual game does. There's certainly a lot of design space to play around with, though, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what people come up with.
According to Flail's in-game statistics page, I've played the game for a little over an hour so far, and have died 474 times. That says it all, right there.

Download Flail from Matt Thorson's games page.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Phantasy Star Complete Collection OR: M2 does a wonderful job

Phantasy Star Complete Collection is the latest (unfortunately Japan-only) entry in the Sega Ages 2500 Series, which started out as a bunch of low-budget remakes of Sega's classic game franchises, but has since evolved into some of the most lovingly assembled collections of old games currently available for any platform. PS Complete Collection assembles the 4 games (including the English-language versions) from Sega's groundbreaking console role-playing series, and makes most of them a lot more playable with a few new features specific to this collection.

The last time the series was compiled in the United States was in 2002, with a fairly terrible compilation for the Gameboy Advance, and in 2006 on the slightly better Sega Genesis Collection, both courtesy of the lazy guys at Digital Eclipse. This series deserves better!

Phantasy Star (seen at right) was the first console role-playing game ever released in the United States (arriving in 1988, a year before Dragon Warrior) but it remains relatively unheralded because of its appearance on the unpopular Sega Master System. It borrowed liberally from other games of the time period, taking first-person dungeon crawling from Wizardry and its ilk, and creating a fairly original setting by borrowing from fantasy and sci-fi pop-culture whenever possible. Besides that, it's one of the first games with a strong female protagonist, in addition to being a technical marvel for its time period - Final Fantasy was released two days before Phantasy Star in Japan, and it looks genuinely embarrassing by comparison.

Phantasy Star II, which appeared about two years later on the Megadrive/Genesis, is also widely regarded as a classic. It had a large cast of characters, an epic storyline spanning multiple planets, and a fairly modern-lookin' battle system. I also have a really, really hard time playing it, these days!

Like many really old RPGs, most of your time spent in PSI & II consists of walking around in circles just outside of towns, fighting monsters over and over again until you accumulate enough money and experience to move on to the next segment of the game, which usually involves looking for an item, person or dungeon in the middle of nowhere. It's really hard for me to enjoy these games, because making numbers go up as slowly and tediously as possible is... not fun! At all!

Thankfully, M2, the compilation's developers and all-around great guys, saw fit to add several new features to make playing the earlier games less tedious and horrible. Besides including the English-language versions of all the games on the disc, you can play both games with sped-up combat and walking speeds, and every game on the compilation lets you adjust the difficulty a little bit - "Normal" is the default setting, identical to the original game, while "Easy" and "Very Easy" increase the amount of experience and money that monsters drop when defeated, effectively tripling the speed of each game. Here's a video I uploaded demonstrating some of these new features:

Thanks to these additions, it's a lot easier to go back and appreciate the good things about these games, as opposed to just wallowing in tedium. That's important, because there's a lot of good here. Eric-jon Rössel Waugh's review of the first three games in the series from back in 2002 makes this clear:
"Phantasy Star II is the first truly great videogame epic, and one of the few tragedies attempted within the medium. It is the ultimate coming-of-age game. It is the Lord of the Rings of videogaming (especially when compared to The Hobbit of Phantasy Star 1). To be sure, at times it can be just as inaccessible as Tolkien's rambling saga. And yet, for those with persistence, it offers a chillingly poignant experience that can haunt you for the rest of your life."
I don't quite agree, but goddamn. Clearly, this is an emotionally powerful series of games - even if I've never quite felt the same way about them, I can't just dismiss them as technically interesting exercises in level-grinding.

Anyway, beyond the first two games, the compilation also includes Phantasy Star III, which was developed by a completely different team than the other games, rushed to market and is kind of hilariously bad at times. Phantasy Star IV ties up the story from the I & II in a really satisfying way, and doesn't require hours of grinding out levels. It's a really good game!

Sega also developed a series of text adventure games that helped flesh out the back story for the characters in PSII, and they're on the disc, too! Unfortunately, they were only available on some kind of satellite game service that Sega or somebody offered, and as such they were never officially translated into English. The absurdly professional MIJET romhacking group went ahead and translated three of the games into English unofficially, though, so if you want to check a few of them out, there you go!

So yeah, hey. This is a really nice package for $30, even if you gotta go through play-asia and whatnot. Maybe Sega will decide to localize some of the more recent Sega Ages entries for the western market? I'm not banking on it!

(as a side note, many of the early budget remakes in the Sega Ages 2500 Series were thrown on a disc and released in the United States as Sega Classics Collection so there's still hope, sorta. Also, Kurt Kalata has written a pretty decent page covering every entry in the series, which you can read here)

UPDATE: Since I put this post up, the game's official site has been updated with information on how to unlock Phantasy Star Gaiden and Phantasy Star Adventure, two Japan-only spin-off games for the Game Gear. The prior is a console RPG like the other games, but on a slightly smaller scale, and the latter is a text adventure game. Both have been translated into English, unofficially.

Anyway, the method for unlocking both of the games in Complete Collection is pretty simple: just hold down right on the d-pad at the title screen and press start. Both games have an extensive gallery collection like every other game on the disc, as well. What'd I say about M2 being great?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Captain McGrandpa saves April Fools

It's April Fools, which means plenty of jerks out there are twirling their fingers around, cackling in front of their Dell Inspirons, and thinking about how much their hilarious Internet Meme Prank Thing is totally great.

They're wrong, though. Well, except for Gametap staff member Frank Cifaldi (formerly of Gamasutra and Lost Levels) , who has decided to use his powers of April Foolery for good, with a little exercise in communal self-entertainment called "Captain McGrandpa - Memory of the Forgotten". Here's the PR statement:
"The latest GameTap Originals production, Captain McGrandpa – Memory of the Forgotten is the first truly multiplayer adventure game. Using brand new technology developed at GameTap HQ, an unlimited number of players will be able to shape the world and story around them, in real time, with limitless possibilities. Only as a community can we help Captain McGrandpa find his way. "
Basically, Cifaldi started a thread on the Gametap forums in the guise of a classic text adventure prompt. Black background, second-person narrative, point and move totals in the upper right corner. After that, actual Gametap forum users simply posted what they wanted to do, and Cifaldi responded accordingly. The results err disturbingly close to genius.
(go outside)
As you make your way toward The Outside World, The Mean Lady You Don't Like waves and wishes you a pleasant day.

The Outside World
It's cold and frightening out here and you don't like it. To the East is A Place You Don't Want To Go, to the West is A Place You Don't Want To Go, and to the North is The Idle Springs Retirement Home. There is a Taxi Cab parked haphazardly on the curb.

You have to register for the Gametap forums if you want to participate, but I'm just watching the thread as it develops, something which requires no registration. Go check it out, it's seriously great.