I find myself sitting at my keyboard, wondering if perhaps I'm just getting too old to review games that require me to mash buttons. I wonder if should give up my GameBoy Advance and PlayStation 2 days and stick to nice, simple games like MMOs on the PC. I rebel against this idea and keep trying, though, especially when a game's title catches my eye, as was the case with LarryBoy and the Bad Apple. My kids and I are huge Veggie Tales fans. We own practically every DVD that's come out, watch the show pretty faithfully on Saturday mornings and even have a few of the CDs to listen to on long car trips. So when given the chance to review a game based on LarryBoy, we were excited.
The story part of the game starts with "Archie," LarryBoy's butler, contacting LarryBoy to tell him that Jr. Asparagus is playing basketball on a construction site. Of course, at first LarryBoy doesn't get that this is a problem, in fact, he's confused that Jr. is playing basketball during football season, rather than being concerned about the location. This sort of humor is typical of the Veggie Tales world and just one reason we like the show so much. With a hint from Archie, he figures the situation out and heads to the site to try to rescue the little asparagus.
On the construction site, you encounter Oscar Onion. Oscar Onion, the bad guy, will slow down LarryBoy if they collide, so your basic goal at this point is to make your way from the bottom of the screen to the top and to end the mission by finding Green Veggie Ticket. This takes you to the next level, where you get a power shield that protects LarryBoy from Oscar. As these tutorial levels continue, more special challenges are added. For example, in one level you have to bounce extra high in order to get over the wall by doing a sort of "flip jump" by hitting the "A" and the "right trigger" button together. There really isn't any story advancement through these levels, just directions on what you're doing.
By about the 5th scene, we were starting to get frustrated with the controls. The controls require you to combine fingers to do special moves, and very precise timing, like hitting the "A" and the "right trigger" button together as I mentioned above. And to make matters more difficult, on "normal" difficulty, you only have a minute and 30 seconds per mission, so there's not much time for making mistakes or having to repeat a missed jump. On "beginner" we had 3 minutes, and it was MUCH easier, finding we could make mistakes and recover from them.
In one of the levels, a little blue timer clock became our best friend, because it stops the clock for a while. The Pesky Peas are just that, pesky. They stop the elevators from going up and down and are only distracted by a few seconds of music from LarryBoy's boombox. For me, this few seconds was usually not nearly enough time to get where I needed to go and to move on to the next part of the game.
And this is where I have to confess that I've only played to level 5, because I became so angry with getting stuck at the same spot over and over again that I wanted to throw the game at something.
Recently I've played more and more of these games that require an unusual amount of dexterity, particularly for a child, and I honestly don't think that it is my lack of skill, since there are many of them that I can play very well. And there are even more that my 11-year-old son can play even better than I. I honestly think that with LarryBoy and the Bad Apple, the problem is that the controls aren't responding as quickly as they should. And the few pixels short that LarryBoy seems to fall isn't because I responded at the wrong time, but because the "catch point" isn't where it appears to be. The other reason I say this is because there are times, especially on the level I'm stuck on, that I can walk LarryBoy through midair, but he doesn't fall. In a game like this, where the challenge for the player is to time the movement of your fingers just right compared to what your eyes are seeing, if the game doesn't "compute" accurately, the game becomes frustrating. I've tried to pay close attention to where I launch LarryBoy on one particular jump over and over to see if the issue really is with me, or if the game is lagging somehow, and came to the conclusion that it has to be the game, because sometimes, I'll launch from the same exact spot and make the jump, while other times I won't.
So what do we like about the game? Well, the story (from what we've seen) and the game's humor is the same as the show - as is the music. They have kept the music from the show so that as you're playing the game, you can hum along to your favorite LarryBoy tunes, and we have many. And the graphics are good for a GBA game. It's clear enough that we're pretty sure where we should be jumping and what should be double jumps rather than single jumps. And, of course, the part of the story that we saw was very true to the way we expect the stories in LarryBoy's world to go. Those are all good things, and so good that we're seriously looking at trying the game on a console rather than handheld game system.
Unfortunately, though, my kids feel the same way I do about LarryBoy and the Bad Apple. There is a "bad apple" to the game, and it is how frustrating, as opposed to challenging, the controls are. I give the game high marks for such things as story, music and graphics, but I didn't get to experience much of those things due to poorly implemented game play, I'm sorry to say.
The “glory days” of computer gaming for me were when games like Spectre Supreme, Pirate’s Gold, the Might and Magic series, the original Prince of Persia… those sorts of games were coming out on a regular basis. Back then I owned a Macintosh and was a die hard Mac fan. I was one of the first in my area to buy an iMac and on it learned the joy of playing games on the internet like daily crossword puzzle and “mind bender” type puzzles. My first online RPG was given to me for Christmas the year EQ was released, and I was hooked from day one. I played EQ for about a year. I started playing DaoC during late alpha testing, and was hooked on it.. well, to be honest I still am. I’ve tried pretty much every MMORPG I can get my hands on, from big names like EQ, to more obscure ones such as Underlight. I’ve been writing for IMGS since the first DaoC guide, and find I love the challenge of learning a game and presenting what I’ve learned (and sometimes my opinions), to other players.
I’m not a very strong player as far as learning PvE or quick reaction times, so I tend to stay away from games where I’m pitted against someone else in a way that requires physical (rather than mental) response. I still enjoy story and puzzle games, and in a way that’s how I still approach online games. I would much rather spend hours working through a quest than 5 minutes in combat against another player. I still get lost in simulation type games, obsessing over them until I’ve gotten them beaten. And I like being able to sit down at the computer when I’ve got less than half an hour and playing through a few levels of a puzzle game. I tend not to like first-person shooter type games, or anything with person to person violence, so I steer away from them unless they are fantasy based settings. All in all, I enjoy computer gaming so much that my life feels incomplete somehow when my computer is down.