Tuesday, 10 April 2018

MEAT PUPPET


Kronos Digital Entertainment are best known for their controversy-baiting Fear Effect series on the PlayStation but their 1997 game, Meat Puppet, could be seen as it's progenitor. It's here that saw the inception of an of hyper-sexualised female protagonist clashing with corrupt corporations in a cyberpunk sci-fi setting. And enough profanity to more than warrant that mature audience rating.

While Fear Effect is more of an action-adventure, Meat Puppet is closer to an action-strategy along the lines of Crusader: No Remorse. You play as the wafer-thin Lotos Abstraction, a bounty hunter whose newest employer has forced her into assassinating the city's mutated ambassadors among other dirty deeds. The streets are filled with armed mercenaries, killer knife-wielding toddlers and other freaks that appear to be normalized in 2026. It sounds crazy, the game did predict a financial crisis in 2007 - off by one year! I look forward to the first man-made "metaform" coming late this year.

The gunplay certainly takes centre stage in the gameplay department. You have a nice array of weaponry right from the off including a rocket launcher, a flame thrower and nerve gas. You only have ammo for your machine gun though so you don't get to use them quite just yet. The problem with the action is in how it controls. Lotos is controlled almost entirely with the mouse. Right-click and she walks towards the cursor. Left-click and she fires. It's unnecessarily awkward and cumbersome. Walking along a narrow path becomes a chore and aiming is even worse. In other games that would use this type of system for aiming, you can shoot an enemy as long as he's caught in the line of fire. Not so here. You have to be precisely on-target to place a hit and with the unpredictable movements of the rather small sprites, it's not particularly fun.

These terminals dotted around the place will give out handy info, including a map of the area

You can change controls in the menu to 'keyboard' but that's a bit of a misnomer. You can now control Lotos directly with the arrow keys but you'll still need to aim and shoot with the mouse. She moves respective to her character in a similar way to Resident Evil, but turning is a bit too twitchy for it to be a viable alternative. Many times I found myself wanting to turn 90 degrees only to do a complete 180 and exit the room or fall off a ledge. It's compounded by a level design that's not suited to this type of control scheme.

The isometric cityscapes are interesting enough to look at if a little too dark at times. Thankfully there's a brightness level in the options screen. I set the level up to 7 so you can now see some interesting landmarks and design choices, even if it's at the expense of a nicely moody atmosphere (screenshots are mixture of the two). All of the elements are placed on a grid which gives off an air of falsity.  Their primary purpose is to be a level of a game rather than a believable world and it would do a decent job of it too were it not for the controls.

If a section has multiple enemies, there's enough space to stand back spray some bullets. More often than not, you can see some obvious spots in which gives you a better view to take out your foes before attempting any rudimentary puzzling or platforming ahead of you. For smaller ledges, jumping is automatic but higher platforms will require a double-click of the right mouse button (who thought this was a good idea!?). In keyboard mode, it will be a double press of the Ctrl button - a move not mentioned in the manual. The jump is not used to leap over pits or chasms, only to climb the higher walls which at least shows me the level designers had some idea as to the limitations of the controls.

Switches will open barriers and shut down fans among other things (left). Lockers can 
hold some handy health and power-ups if the many found in the open aren't enough (right)

Areas are structured in a non-linear way. You can explore side areas that will reward you with ammo for the tantalising weaponry your carrying as well as some much-needed health and stamina boosts. To add to the pressure, a bomb has been placed inside Lotos to make sure she does what she's told. This means levels are timed, but any hint at this will only come about five minutes in when a disembodied voice exclaims "15 minutes 'til colonic detonation" (you heard that right). There's no on-screen timer just this dispassionate female voice over.

Lotos has some other nifty moves including some near useless rolls and dodges. The arrow keys perform these acts, while shift needs to be held for the alternative control method. I can image these were put in to help you dodge incoming bullets which are depressingly accurate compared to how you can aim. The problem is that when you want to get out of the way quickly, you'll more than likely be in the middle of a fire-fight. How the shooting mechanic works makes all the effort gone to program and animate dodges a waste of time. Shooting your weapon will lock you out any other action in your move-set, including dodging and walking. This makes you a sitting duck until the shoot animation has completed. Not only this but if you do dodge, you travel some distance which shifts the camera that puts off your aim.

All these issues combined makes me think Meat Puppet was rushed out the door before completion. As finicky as the controls are, they do not break the game (not completely). If you stick with it, it is completable and you'll come across some enjoyable carnage as you wrestle with the mouse and keyboard. Playing through the game, however, I very much doubt anyone would feel they had a grasp of the foul-mouthed heroine. And considering the compromised position she finds herself in, I'm pretty sure Lotos Abstraction herself would prefer it that way.


To download the game, follow the link below. This exclusive installer uses PCem running Windows '95. Press Ctrl-Alt-PgDown to toggle fullscreen. Press Ctrl-End or middle mouse button to release mouse. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.

IMPORTANT - Remember to shut down the emulated version of Windows before exiting PCem. This could potentially result in errors, lost saves and corrupt data. Close the program only when it is safe to do so.

File Size: 694 Mb.  Install Size: 914 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


Meat Puppet © Kronos Digital Entertainment
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me

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8 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Thank you for posting this. Have been looking for a workable version forever. Just one question. Does this include the patch. The patch disables the time limit. Could never finish this due to that in 95. Again Thank you.

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    1. It doesn't. The only thing I could find only was a NOCD fix (which is pointless when using the emulator). Granted, I didn't look too hard but I didn't know it existed. If you find it, let me know and I'll see if I can create an update.

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    2. FYI there's a couple of cheats found of GameFAQs and other sites. You can't remove the time limit but some might help. To get the ~ symbol on the legacy computer press shift-` (that's the top left button under ESC key).

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    3. http://www.patches-scrolls.de/patch/2629/7/27579
      it says it is a patch for sound but it also took out the time limit.the game is almost impossible to win with the time limit enabled. Lotus explodes. LOL. yes the cheats help a lot for sure.

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    4. Thanks! I'll take a look into that when I do a revision. Part of me wants to keep it as the designers intended but to be honest I don't think they thought it through / programmed it correctly.

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  3. Interesting. This isn't one I'm familiar with. While I have fond memories of the Crusader games, boy has time not been kind to those controls - they're pretty difficult for me to revisit at this point because of the obtuse control scheme; and it sounds like this one hasn't fared any better. I'm admittedly a complete sucker for cyberpunk though so I might get some enjoyment out of it regardless. Thanks!

    It's kindof funny that Kronos started with an isometric game, then went to Fear Effect, and now the new Fear Effect (not developed by Kronos) is isometric (and terrible, from the looks of it).

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    1. I was interested in the Fear Effect until I saw it wasn't a true action adventure like the first two. I might give it a go when it gets cheap.

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