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Boy in Gray

With December over, I've finished yet another theme month. As usual, they have the pesky side-effect of requiring enough text to convey an actual message, or worse, sometimes they involve games I believe I have something to say about!
Thankfully that's now over and done with, so I hope to start 2016 with a bunch of quicky puff-pieces with my only goal being to have enough connective text to point and laugh at pictures from some of the Gameboy games I've enjoyed recently.
...Case in point:
Out of Gas
It's a space-based gasoline tiles-with-"G"-written-on-them collect-em-up! Set in space! Or, set in a slidey arena where you kind of do space air hockey battles for no particular reason.
Well, it's both of these...and more less neither, exactly. I guess it would be most accurate to say, it's another in the Gameboy's long line of somewhat engaging action/puzzle games...though its action-to-puzzle radio is more 70%/30%, with the focus on action.
Enough of the jibba-jabba, let's see some pictures!
This is the story...
of a Slidey Space Ship!
who was shooting up some very lovely "G" tiles!
The first level has a hint in the title,
and so do all the others,
the second one in curls references a show starring Dick Van Patten!
Ok, that's probably about enough of that.
So; yeah, you scoot around in a little scout-sled. Your mission is to shoot all the "G" tiles in a given level, then you go to the next level. You have unlimited bullets, but they only travel a short distance and you have to get your aim right...which isn't always easy given your ship's controls:
You move by firing your engines for forward thrust, a lot like the game Asteroids...but you also lose a lot of momentum as you travel forwards. There's no penalty for bouncing off the wall, but there's also no breaks...so you have to use a mixture of thrusting, gliding, and natural deceleration to get around.
The first few levels are pretty much a cake walk: you just have to explore the level and shoot all the "G" tiles before your timer runs out, and each new "G" tile you shoot gives you more time.
Then by level 4 they start introducing the game's main "puzzle"-y aspect:
Numbered Tiles, that must be shot in the right order:
first you must shoot tile "1", then "2", etc.
The lowest remaining tile is blinking, indicating you can shoot it, after which it flips over and is gone, just like normal "G" tiles. You can explore the level and see the numbers on all the other tiles, but the higher-numbered tiles can't be shot until all the numbered tiles BELOW them have been shot (just like 9-Ball in Pool). Fortunately, the currently-lowest-number (the one that's now shoot-able) always indicates its shootability by blinking.
This is where a lot of the strategy comes in, and where the game's "level title hints" help. For example, level 1-4 is called "Zig Zag"...the numbered tiles are in two rows, a screen or two apart...Tile 1 is the bottom left corner, Tile 2 is in the bottom right corner, Tile 3 is the second-to-lowest on the left, etc. So, to shoot them all the quickest, you'll zig-zag back and forth across the level.
As the levels get bigger and trickier, your margin for error (or, the time you have to explore before you find the right sequence of numbered-tiles to shoot) becomes slimmer, and you may lose some lives learning the order you SHOULD have taken them in.
Every 8 levels you reach another checkpoint -- you go from "1-8" to "2-1", from "2-8" to "3-1", etc -- and when you lose your last life you can continue at the last checkpoint, and you also get a password that lets you continue at that checkpoint later.
The first actual "enemies" that show up are just sliding blocks that bump you around and make it hard to travel -- though frustratingly, they can't be shot; your bullets are for flipping tiles only!
Eventually you get terrain features that shoot at you, but their bullets don't immediately kill you, they just bounce you and shave seconds off your remaining timer. It's a nice twist because you don't end up having to juggle TWO parallel meters/punishments, your still just trying to beat the (ever diminishing) clock.
So, if this sounds like a pretty decent little action-puzzler...
...it really is. It's nice to see the Asteroids thrust-and-drift gameplay thing show up again, its another fun but rare game mechanic (right up there with the Robotron/Smash TV "walking direction/separate shooting direction" thing which should definitely have appeared more on console games!).
But you know what REALLY sets Out of Gas apart from its fellows, and makes it a baffling must-have and one of my favorite head-scratching discoveries? The game's introductory story!
Allow me to present all 9 frames in a stunned silence:
...yeah
So evidently, the title is to be taken literally: Rocket Q. Sleazebaggo has actually arranged for his spacecraft to run out of gas, in hopes of making out with the nubile space-blonde he's squiring around the galaxy.
I'm not sure which is the most disturbing element, because there are certainly a lot to choose from:
  1. The fact that these characters look like Jim Davis drawings?
  2. That he ACTUALLY LET HIS SPACE SHIP RUN OUT OF GAS as part of his plan, and the whole game is spent trying to get more fuel (which is somehow achieved by using a fully-powered space sled to shoot flippy-tiles)
  3. The fuzzy dice?
  4. The idea that THIS was their idea for the plot of a children's game -- something out of an off-color joke book published when Eisenhower was in the White House?
  5. or, to follow up on that last one -- how the protagonist gives ME, THE PLAYER the "Thumbs Up" sign, as if I'm pleased to be complicit in his interplanetary seduction plot:
Yeah, don't assume I'm sympathetic to your sad little scheme, you lanky goon.
Frankly, I'm disgusted.
...but I do love those Asteroid-style engine controls!
— carlmarksguy, 2016-01-04
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