Project Minerva

Conventional wisdom states that you need to spend some time with a videogame, really dig in there, in order to review it. Most days I’m with conventional wisdom on that one: just not today. Lately, I played Project Minerva for a few hours, and it committed so many unpardonable sins out of the gate that I was already writing the review in a corner of my mind from the first moments of the game. I couldn’t help it. My brain needed some kind of other stimulus to make the time go by faster, as the heroine plodded, hunched over, across an endless grassy plain.

Before the game has even properly started, an uncanny valley effect hits: in the opening video you’ll notice that the heroine looks much more human than everybody around her. This is a D3 Publisher joint from 2001, early in the PS2’s life. Though D3 had not yet figured out the whole “Simple Series” business that would bring them to success, the production values are certainly on the same level as that series. Bare-minimum character models dance the robot through every animation and cutscene.

Continue reading

Simple 2000 Series vol. 113: The Tairyou Jigoku

I have to say, this is an excellent coverWhat makes a Simple 2000 release worthwhile? Does the concept need to be original? Does the game have to be “good?” Or simply playable? There are roughly three grades of Simple 2000 games out there: those that are terrible and unplayable, those that are terrible and playable, and those that are not terrible. I had fully expected this game to fall into the first category, but I found something that just barely sneaks into the second.

Continue reading

The Maid Uniform and Machine Gun

it's a trap!It’s not often that a Simple 2000 game has recognizable – or even mildly appealing – characters. More often than not, Simple 2000 characters simply represent archetypes or attempt to imitate well-known characters from full-priced games. But when a game in this series has characters that are so appealing that they make one want to ignore the overall quality of the game, it’s clear that the developer has done something right. Such is the case with last August’s release of Simple 2000 Series Vol. 105: The Maid Uniform and Machine Gun – and, indeed, there’s a lot to ignore if one expects to have much fun with the game at all.

Continue reading

Simple 2000 Series Vol. 95: The Zombie vs. Ambulance

The most interesting Simple 2000 titles all start with a great concept. Volume 95, The Zombie vs. Ambulance (say that title to yourself, out loud), has that in spades, but is a concept enough to carry a game?

You control the last doctor alive in a city that’s been overrun by zombies. Ignoring the pleas of the other remaining hospital staff, the main character takes it upon himself to rescue every citizen that has survived the zombie apocalypse, using the last ambulance left in the hospital’s garage. Zombies roam the city’s streets and are spawned from thin air at a steady pace, menacing your vehicle and its passengers. What’s the solution to the problem? Running the undead over at full speed, of course. Guts and gore go flying everywhere with a successful hit, and multiple successive kills fill up the requisite combo meter. High combos add bonus time to the timer that limits the amount of time the player has before the hospital is overrun and it’s game over.

Continue reading

Simple 2000 Series Vol. 35: The Helicopter

Let’s get this out of the way right now: even though The Helicopter features a radio-controlled helicopter, it is not in any sort of competition with Shiny’s RC Stunt Copter. It doesn’t remotely aspire to that game’s level of simulation, and it won’t appeal to anybody expecting an extremely accurate flight model. What this is is a simple, pleasant, unassuming mission-based flight game not unlike Rescue Copter. It’s also the sequel to a Simple 1500 title for Playstation of the same title, which was released overseas as simply “RC Helicopter.”

The game’s set in a suburban Japanese environment, with three different major locations: the player’s home, a shop-lined street, and a school building. The player controls the helicopter at all times, from the very beginning of the game, and is free to roam about the available locations looking for work that needs to be done. Golden stars are scattered around the environments, and picking one up by running into it with the helicopter will cause a mission to start. The missions each involve one of the game’s NPCs giving the player a fairly mundane task to carry out, like washing windows, killing cockroaches with bug spray, scaring away crows, cleaning up empty soda cans in a vacant lot, or returning lost bikini tops to distraught female swimmers (um, yeah). Auxillary actions are handled with the R1 (and sometimes L1) button, and these actions – whether squirting or grabbing – behave predictably and reliably, unlike in Rescue Copter. All of the NPC speech is in Japanese text only, but it’s easy to tell when they mention the buttons one will be using on a mission, and easy to figure out mission goals even if one doesn’t understand a word of moonspeak.

Continue reading