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Wednesday 29/03/2017: Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink

October 17, 2014

Pop-Up Pursuit

I could live anywhere inside the great
big red circle, fopr all you know.
A bit of history: I am not originally an English speaker. I am very much a Québécois, with the French language and all. Okay, not quite French, but, well, our French dialect, with many differences with the international French you might know. Either way, I am the best English speaker in my house. If you called my mother and spoke to her in English, she'd hang up immediately; and my father knows English words, but only the names of the tools he works with. Ironically, he doesn't know the French names to those tools. He doesn't use a “cliquet”; he uses a ratchet, and the word "ratchet" appears in the middle of his French sentences like it has always belongd there.

I was also trying to introduce my parents to gaming. I tried, every once in a while; my mother loves to play bowling on Wii Sports Resort, and my father likes fishing games. I was looking for a party game that wasn't too expensive, one I could buy on the WiiWare, and which I could play with my parents and have fun with myself. Because what's the point of video games if you're not having fun? ...Anyway, this quest led me to buy a game called Pop-Up Pursuit.

I regret that purchase. You'll see why here and now.

What the game basically looks like. You'll see a LOT of dialog boxes.
The even ask you to confirm every one of your choices.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Pop-Up Pursuit is a “party game” very loosely based on the concept of snakes and ladders, card games, and a few more. The result is... messy, to say the least. The point of the game is to reach the final space on the board; but instead of dice, you use cards to make your move. At the start of each turn, you can choose between picking up a card, or adding a coin to your total amount of coins. There are cards to move your character around, sure, but there are also special cards: Some will add coins to your total, some will force other players to move backwards, some will destroy cards right off your opponents' hands (geez, gotta be thankful you can see every other player's hand!) or coins off their total... There are many diferent types of cards and effects. You can have a maximum of five cards in the hand at any moment, and you can play as many as you want each turn; but you can only play 1 “move forward” card every turn. Even the “move forward” cards come in different versions: There's the usual “Move X spaces” stuff, but there is also “Move according to your position” (if you're in fourth place, move 4 squares ahead; if you're in first place, move one square ahead, etc.), and “Move X spaces plus an amount of coins” (thanks to which you'll move the said amount of spaces plus more; but you need to pay one coin for every additional space you'll move to). Coins can also be used to purchase additional cards.

Complicated yet? You haven't seen a thing.

That's not even the complete board.
Very few boards are available; only two, in fact. When you start playing, you select the number of human players, from one to four. By the way, there will always be four characters playing on a board, so if you play alone, you must also select three computer opponents. Then, you pick either “Single Play” (battle royale) or “Team Play” (you play in two teams of two, and both members of your team have to reach the end before the opposing two players do). Next you pick a profile, and then your character.

And what a funny lot of choice around Halloween! The six characters you can pick from are all defined by a trait, and are dressed like that trait, which means they all kinda look like Halloween costumes. Also, since the game happens inside a book, all the characters are flat like paper. We've got:

-Inventor, who has a wrench in his pocket and a pair of goggles on his head (though I'd be willing this whole site that the goggles are utterly pointless);
-Explorer, with a big exploration hat and a beard; he looks like a Sahara explorer, or maybe Dr. Jones Sr. Either way, it's kind of an odd look;
-Ninja, who looks more like a red-eyed green-bandaged mummy than anything else. “Nice mummy costume there! It really looks evil!” “I'M A NINJA!” Yeah, another character who failed his costume;
-Debutante, a girl with purple hair wearing a tuque. I guess she's the girly of the bunch, but is it even worth having one when there are no actual personalities around here?;
-Spy, a tomboy-ish girl who hides her right eye behind bangs. It would be cool if she was an actual goth, with the bang actually hiding a robotic eye, and- Wait a second, this makes no sense. She should be dressed as a freaking spy, not like a tomboy girl from high school!;
-And finally, Pirate, who looks, um, like... a pirate? I'd rather say a runaway Jamaican who forgot the Rastafarian colors were yellow, black, red and green...

Left to right: Pirate, Debutante, Inventor and Spy.

But that's not all! You then pick your opponents. No, it doesn't change a thing; you must pick among the remaining five characters. Oh, and the one you pcked can be picked again. Gee, so much choice! How wonderful! Six! Compared to Pop-Up Pursuit, Brawl is really lackluster in its character selection! (Notice the cringing, teeth-clenched, angry sarcasm.) For the Hell of it, why don't I just list the same six damn characters here with their “names” and “traits”?

-Inventor: Junior, Courageous (Hey, that sounds like three-fourths of all cartoon heroes!)
-Explorer: Doc (no, that's really his name), Easygoing (Guess I was right to compare him to Dr. Jones Sr....)
-Ninja: Ninzo (What the Hell kind of name is THAT?), Mysterious (Or just hides a gigantic pimple under all his bandages; we can't tell)
-Debutante: Penny, Timid (With a name like that, I bet her strategy is to rack up coins early on to pull lots of cruel pranks at the end)
-Spy: Agent 37 (I'd prefer “Opal”, but I guess the developers just didn't know what to call her), Devious (Can't be as bad as the stuff you can find on DeviantArt...)
-Pirate: Sharpe, Cutthroat (Oh, I get it. Har har har... Cue the canned laughter to accompany my very fake chuckle.)

Now, if these traits changed any goddamn thing to the gameplay, I wouldn't mind... But it doesn't change much! So, after all that, you can finally pick a board (You have Pitfall Island, and then Everdusk Temple, which is a little longer, with 36 spaces). You have three difficulty settings: Smooth Sailing, Fair To Middling, or Tread Carefully. The only difference is the number of different cards that you can draw. Then the game finally starts. Mario Party was never as complicated as that...

My frustration is unpronounceable. And it probably cannot be written either. I think, for the sake of politeness, I will try not to be too vile in my comments.

The spaces are revealed as one of the characters runs past
them. It's impossible to plan a startegy since you will not know
ahead of time what the game has in store for you.
Everything – I repeat, EVERYTHING – in this game is randomized. The cards you draw are picked obviously at random; but the spaces on the board are randomized as well. You see, there is a multitude of different spaces with effects and abilities that can give you extra help (coins or cards), boost you forward, or hinder your progress. Also, every square on the board is face-down when the game starts; in other words, there is no way to know what are the spaces you're going to see. Thankfully, the spaces the characters run by are also revealed, so if you have a bad start and you're behind the others, you can at least tell what the next few squares have in store for you.

Quick mention: Among the spaces, there is the Altar of the Book of Magick. Not a typo there, that's how it's called in the game. When a player lands on that space, the large book in the background will rise and its pages will flip; each set of pages has a different appearance and, thus, effect. There's a giant black hand, a large black bull, two smaller bulls, a large lion, an eagle, an angel... and maybe one or two more. The effect differs depending on which page it stops flipping. This will usually cause an effect to all players on the board. It can give them money, make them move forwards or backwards, it can make them earn or lose cards... One particularity of the Book of Magick is that its effects will usually be more helpful to “virtuous” players and harsher on “mischievous” players, the ones who tend to use underhanded tactics more often. You can get a reward and automatically lose it. Or you can see all of your opponents being rewarded more than you, because your cards pretty much force you to be nasty if you've got a bad hand.

Don't let the light fool you.
To unlucky players, this book is pure evil.
And every player is unlucky in this game.

What's my reaction when I lose this game? Take a wild guess.
It starts with F, ends with U, has seven letters ad is split in
two words.
Which brings me to my next point: The computer players in this board game are greater cheaters than the computer players ever were on, say, Mario Party. For starters, they always seem to know what is hidden under the tiles, even though these were randomized before the game started. Then, they seem to get just the right cards to counter your attempts and they keep some of the better cards for themselves; they'll often strip you clean of cards and coins, just because they can. Also, they seem to know all the tricks one can play, and they make sure they use any that would give them victory or, at least, prevent you from getting it before them. They are particularly fond of racking up coins and then using a “Move X spaces + Y amount of coins” near the end of the game to move five, seven, ten, maybe more spaces at once, guaranteed to reach the end quickly. Hop, 4 spaces by default, then set 7 coins: Voilà, you move eleven spaces! (This is the usual way they beat me. For the sake of politeness, let's just say I am not very happy when it happens.)

And of course, since they know everything about the board,
they WILL use its tiles against you. To say that I am angry
would be the understatement of the year.
And this brings me to the other problem: This time, the CPUs really are ALL against you. Yeah, it happened in Mario Party as well, but it wasn't so bad because you could just excel at the mini-games and keep more money than they ever could steal from you. That gave you an edge that made you relatively protected and able to win, based on the mini-games alone. Here, you have no such luck. All the things you got can be lost in a single turn. As long as you're ahead, you WILL suffer from the collective wrath of the Computers. And before you know it, they manage to put you far from the first place, while one of theirs takes the lead. They will annoy each other without picking a clear target, as long as one of them is the lead; but when YOU are the lead, you better watch out. You will NOT get a single moment of rest. They will do everything they can to stop you, and they have the resources to. It's even worse in a team match, where both you and your teammate must reach the final space in order to win.

For all the time I have played this game, I have won once. Only once, on the easiest difficulty (Smooth Sailing), on the smaller board of the two. And I tried. I tried really hard to win. I used all my tricks, my cards, my coins. I tried! And I won only ONCE. O.N.C.E. ONCE ONCE ONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCEONCE ONCE
ONCECNONCECNONCE Since I need to be a lot more productive with my time, you can probably see why I hardly ever play this game; what's more annoying than losing a half-hour of your life playing a game that is so rigged against the player that an actual victory is like an event to celebrate? This is going beyond “The computer is a cheating bastard”; this goes right into “The computer is a motherfucking asshole” territory. I deeply apologize for my foul language. But it's true! I mean it!



Then again, maybe I should stop playing luck games. I think I've established in the past that my luck really isn't the best one around...


The music is very meh and the art is simple and pretty. You get that paper feeling when the characters move around, when the Book of Magick flips its pages, and when the worlds in the large book open and close. Bonus points for that aspect, but it's not exactly like it can save it. Add a 1 to a 0/10, it still makes 1/10.

BOOM! You lose three coins!
...That's Player 1 in the tornado. In other words: You. You lose three coins.
You, non-PC you. You, who everyone is against.
The gameplay is absolutely horrendous, for all the reasons I've described: Insane cheating from the computer's part, which makes even beating a board on Easy a nigh-impossible task. The AI is diabolical, the opponents are demonic, the boards are infernal, the playthrough is Hellish. Dante would rather revisit teh circles of Hell than play this... this... this thing. The characters are one-dimensional, literally and figuratively; their so-called personalities are implied but do not serve any purpose in the game. And besides, it doesn't make much of a difference when all you can really see is that they work together against you. There are way too many windows telling you to pick something, activate an effect, choose a player... There are also windows that ask you to confirm your choice. There are even windows popping up when these effects have resolved. What's worse, those also appear on the CPU characters' turns, which means you spend most of the time not moving forward frantically pressing A to have their turns moving forward. Not only will they kick your ass, they will not do a thing until you've decided to let them have their turn. It's like you're permitting that asskicking of theirs on your own bottom. The Book of Magick really doesn't add anything interesting enough, just more randomness and luck in a game that has already WAY too much of it.

I'd like to make little paper puppets out of the six characters in this game, shove them in the foyer and set them on fire. That would be therapeutic, to say the least.

Pop-Up Pursuit is plain awful; boring for children, annoying for unlucky players, and extremely annoying for the skilled players who still won't win because of the goddamn luck factor. I couldn't care any less if there was more to this game beyond the two boards and the extremely flawed system (In fact, I checked: There are ONLY TWO BOARDS ON A WIIWARE GAME THAT COST 800 POINTS, EIGHT FUCKING BUCKS FOR ALMOST NOTHING). I don't want to care. This was not worth 800 Wii Points. This would not be worth 500 Wii Points. If this was sold at a dollar store, I wouldn't buy it. If a kid forgot it on a table somewhere, I'd pick it up... and throw it right into the nearest wastebasket. Heck, I'd assume the kid left it there because he hated it and wanted to get rid of it. I can't blame him. If it was a Wii disk? I'd probably bring it in my backyard and burn it in a bucket, like some people do with bad comic books; or I'd try to snap it in half, see I don't have enough strength, and then use one of my father's saws to try again and succeed this time around. Or I would lock it between two pieces of wood, bring out the hammer, and SWING IT TO DESTROY THAT CD! SHOVE NAILS INTO IT! DRILL HOLES INTO THAT CD! DESTROY IT! HAR HAR HAR HAR HAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Phew... Sorry, I just hate games I cannot beat. I WON ONLY ONCE...

Calm down, Nicolas!

In short: Do NOT buy this game. I'm dead serious here. Very bad games tend to do that to me: All of a sudden, comedy goes to hide, like it's scared of my angry side. I'll try to be a little funnier on my next hateful review, but seriously, I can't promise a thing.

See you next week for a Top 12 of the scariest Nintendo moments.