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After a long period with zero gaming (focused on other nerdings for a while) I finally jumped back into Marathon and completed it a little bit ago.  I was only about halfway through, and it honestly ended a little abruptly, but that means it’s crossed off.  Onto the next in this chronological history of the FPS genre, which means it’s finally time to BEAT DARK FORCES!

I remember Dark Forces being something of a revelation when I was a kid.  I didn’t really do the Doom thing (although I did have a copy of Wolfenstien 3D for a while), but I knew about it?  Wasn’t my thing for all the classic reasons; unpowered computer, lack of interest in FPS, and dislike of K+M as a control scheme. But sure, FPS was a thing, and I guess that people liked it?

We were visiting one of my mom’s friends one summer, and her kids showed me Dark Forces on their PC, and it was pretty bad-ass. I mean, when you’re a kid any sort of licensed work beholding to a franchise you love is great, but this was actually kinda special. The attention to detail, the cinematic sequences, it all felt good and high-budget and on point.  I didn’t get a chance to play much, but that quick glimpse locked the title away in my head for examination at some point, which I returned to years later as I discover the Star Wars Extended Universe though it’s myriad of novels.

It ended up being another in my endless stream of barely-touched PC games, but this ends now.

To be honest, this game does feel a step ahead of other Doom-clones of the time, elevating it beyond the bar set by id’s seminal FPS masterpiece (even though next year they’d drop Quake and change everything again).  Dark Forces really wrapped itself up in its lore, making it feel like a unique FPS adventure, instead of another graphical wrapping around a boring mechanic.  The graphics were immersive, the voice clips and cinematics gave us 100000% more story than Doom ever hoped, and it took care to make expansive, diverse levels instead of the monster-filled corridors of other games.

Marathon did it first, but the addition of jumping/crouching and practical 3D space allows for more exploration and opportunities. It also has several bits of usable equipment in the vein of Heretic, with stuff like headlamps to let you see in dark spaces, and boots so you don’t slip on ice.  This adds an element of resource management beyond weapons and ammo, and damned it you don’t always run out of batteries at the worst time (side note: batteries can be looted from any minor robots by destroying them, but this doesn’t work on DarkXL. Beware)

The attention to detail is really doing it for me, too. In particular, the fact that the Stormtrooper’s rifle is not only startlingly inaccurate (it fires all over the place, explaining why Stormtroopers in the movies are such terrible shots), but also has a certain degree of ricochet.  This is the kind of stuff that makes a difference, that really binds the game to the universe and allows the player to feel like they’re part of it.


It has many of the same mechanical problems that I had with Marathon, which were par for course back in the day, although mitigated in some ways.  It’s save system is kinda crap, only auto-saving to your profile when you complete a mission. It does have a checkpoint system in-level where you’ll be regenerated if you die, but this is tied to how many lives you have left; lives are a limited resource and are found in various secret parts in levels.  In any case, you only have a limited number of tries to get the level right, or you start from scratch.

It’s better than Marathon’s manual-save-point system, but I really miss being able to save, leave, then come back to complete the level.  It’s kind of a weird step back too, considering that Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Heretic let you save anywhere, but with the lives system being in place as well, it’s definitely a deliberate choice, and I respect that.

There’s a lot more focus on big sprawling levels, where it feels like you’re actually getting from point A to point B.  Doom/Heretic’s monster-hallways felt super linear, and Marathon’s levels seemed to progress without a serious sense of direction; point a to point b, but with more emphasis on structure and verticality what with elevators and such.  There’s also more switch puzzles and interactivity in the levels (even though some of the ‘interactive’ pieces don’t stand out as well as they could) instead of the more generic key-hunt gameplay of Doom. Even when Dark Forces makes you backtrack, it’s all part of the story.

Speaking of story, it’s so refreshing to have an FPS game go all-in on story at this early stage.  While other, more hardcore FPS would continue to eschew story en masse for the next bunch of years, Dark Forces gave you not only characters, but settings, themes, and motivations.  Cinematics play between levels, and a mission screen at the start of each gives you background on where you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it.  It gives your main character, Kyle Katarn, something of a personality, and even introduces ancillary characters like Jan, his friend, fellow smuggler, and mission control operator.  They also give us a look at the antagonists, including the ever-present Darth Vader (can’t have Star Wars anything without Vader), which is also a welcome reprieve from endless samey hellbeasts spawned from the depths (by which I mean Stormtroopers).  This gives the whole game a sense of purpose that other entries in the genre have been lacking thus far, and gives compelling reasons to keep playing.

In all, LucasArts gave us a stand-out game here.  Previous Star Wars games had their pros and cons, for sure; X-Wing gave us a new twist on flight-sim, Super Star Wars platformers fully embraced the core franchise, but Dark Forces let them both capitalize on a rapidly-rising genre, and set a high bar for games in that genre to come.  Looking forward to seeing what new tricks they pulled in the their next FPS game, as well as Dark Forces’ eventual sequels.


I’ve never been much of a PC gamer, as I’ve said before; the various barriers to entry just seemed like too much work (and that’s from someone who loves fixing problems), and I preferred consoles for a number of reasons.

This means, of course, that there are untold reams of games that I’ve never played, but are considered touchstones for various reasons.  In particular, the FPS genre has always been a huge market on PC, with consoles only really picking up the slack in the wake of Goldeneye and Call of Duty, but the lack of standardized cross-platform releases prior to 360/PS3 means there’s tons of exclusives that never got played on both sides.  I’ve never been huge on FPS as a whole, but charting its rise in the video game canon is incredible, from humble beginnings to being the reigning champ.

Anyways, it’s basically the same story as all of my PC gaming: get interested, pick something up, play a bit, get frustrated by something technical, try to fix it, and succeed or not, play a bit more and then drop it.  Just another game that I’ve played the first 1-3 levels of a dozen times, but never got further in.

This kind of got started a few years back, when I beat Wolf3D/Spear of Destiny, and moved to Doom.  And then to Heretic.  And realized that as much as I may or may not be enjoying the gameplay, there was some really interesting stuff happening behind the scenes.  Engines were updating, mechanics were evolving, and I could feel the games moving to a more modern feel.  On consoles, this is usually evidenced by a jump in generation; Super Mario Bros. 3 to Super Mario World to Super Mario 64.  On PC, it’s more of a slow climb; less big risky jumps, but more controlled building on what works and what doesn’t.

This history project is both enlightening and infuriating, like all good history projects.  It gives me an impetus to continue (and not just switch to something else), and I can look at the frustrations as a lesson and a learning experience.  Nothing is insurmountable, right?  Especially something that’s considered definitive/important in the genre as a whole.

Anyways, I’m referencing a few different Top X lists, along with Wikipedia’s list of FPS games, to cherry pick games to play in chronological order. It’s slow going, and has already been ongoing for a while, but each piece is a building block in my head and it’s a decent way to kill time.

Only 20+ more years to go.

PCGamingWiki, always a valuable resource.

Pretty sure I’ve mentioned the XL Engine on here before. It’s not a source port, per se, but an engine recreation using original assets. It started as a way to get Dark Forces working on Windows (the titular DarkXL), before branching out as a platform for several other early FPS’s with outdated engines (most notably, Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall).  It fell by the wayside a few years back though, and the website and forums have basically been overrun by Russian spam-bots.

The original dev threw it up on Github at some point, and the guys over at OpenMW (another valiant engine recreation project, focusing on Elder Scrolls III) have taken it and started to work on it on their own Github.  Sounds like they’re focusing mostly on Daggerfall engine stuff and fixes, but hey, progress is progress.

Anyways, with the engine not being at full compatibility yet, there are certain restrictions and problems with the XLEngine as it currently stands.  Apparently they all have workarounds and the game can be completed, but maybe not?  I’m cruising through it right now, and am just before “the big bugs” start to happen, so pray for me.

I did find another option while cruising around, in the form of Dark Forces + on the GOG forums.  It’s basically a scripting add-on for the DOSbox version of the game (GOG and Steam) that includes mouselook and a couple other quality-of-life enhancements, without sacrificing the original look or function of the game.  If you’re interested:

1. Make sure your “DosBox” folder and “Dosbox.conf” are inside the GAME folder in the Dark Forces root (should be as-is for GOG, might have to move the folders for the Steam version)
2. Extract the first patch into the GAME folder, overwriting files
3. Optional: Download and extract the second patch into the same place, overwriting files. This includes a couple tweaks like reversing mouse axis, and changing sound and video settings.
4. Run “DarkForces+.exe” which is a script file to load the program and add-ons. Apparently it might come us as a virus on some systems, this is likely a false positive.

You’ll likely still need to tweak bits and pieces to your liking, but instructions to do so are both in the original forum thread, as well as generic DOSbox config tweaking.  Personally, I amped up my mouse sensitivity and enabled double-buffering.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Save files between these two versions are incompatible. Dark Forces saves to “Game\DARKPILO.CFG”, but DarkXL saves to “DarkXL\DXL_Saves.sav”.

You have to choose a version and stick with it, no way to swap back and forth

Modding Madness!

Anyone who knows me knows that I love me some retro-gaming goodness.  As I child, I was enraptured by the growing video game scene, but I was pretty much restricted to handheld consoles in my home.  Most of my gaming was done vicariously, reading gaming magazines like EGM, watching and playing at friend’s houses, etc.  As a result, I developed a deep love for the early eras of gaming, wrapped in mystery as they were.  The rise of emulation in the late 90’s allowed me to play (and re-play) a host of games that I had never been able to get at before, and to a history buff, it was a treasure trove.

I’m very pro-retro gaming, but there are certain points in gaming’s evolution that it’s hard to jump into, particularly the early 3D titles.  While sprites can be easily categorized into a kind of artwork, the low-poly counts and jilted movements of early 3D titles tend to just be written off as ‘bad graphics’ in this world of 4K, FXAA, and high-quality shaders.

There’s definitely a certain charm to be had with early 3D, especially when it’s used with non-realistic art design.  Blockyness and and low color can be used like cartoon cells, making them almost like sprites in their own way, but early attempts to create ‘realistic-looking’ characters usually fall flat in the hardest way possible.

I was always more of a console guy.  Despite a computer being the only gaming machine in my home for many years, it was generally underpowered, far below the system requirements that kept shooting up year after year.  Consoles called to me for several reasons, the prime reason being their simplicity.  A game either worked, or didn’t.  1 or 0.  No system requirements, graphic settings, drivers, issues with hardware, or anything else that plagues PC gaming.  I’ve long preferred some sort of gamepad to a keyboard/mouse setup, although I do admit that K/M has it’s place in certain genres.  Also, genres I preferred (like JRPGS and platformers) tended to have a greater foothold in the console world.

The infuriating lack of backwards compatibility for old games was also a stopping point.  With an old console, you just dig out the console, or if you’re lucky, backwards compatibility is built-in to some extent.  Regardless, if you keep old games around, you usually keep the console, too.  But how many people had an extra computer kicking around for DOS games?  Virtual Machines and DOSbox were hit-and-miss, and even when they worked they gave mixed results.

For a while there, my passion was source ports. Stuff like Doomsday Engine or DarkXL brought classic games to current OS’s, with engine and graphics updates that made them way more playable than before.  Later, stores like would start packaging classic games with pre-configured DOSbox installations and the like, removing even more barriers to entry for old games on current systems.

Graphics are generally pretty secondary to me, but one of the big things that allured me to the PC scene was modding.  The ability to go into a game and change mechanics, make additional content, and upgrade graphics was pretty enticing, but I never really got into it until I discovered the mod scenes for Morrowind and Baldur’s Gate.  Two seminal CRPG’s that I’ve started countless times and never finished.  Maybe this, these modernized versions would give me the push I needed to finally complete them.  As it turns out, not so, but they definitely added some enjoyment to the time I spent with them.

Still, the obtuseness of the mod scene is highly reflective of PC gaming as a whole.  Untethered by the devs, the sheer amount of options available can be extremely off-putting, and can turn what was supposed to be a simple load-up of an old game into a time-consuming and patience-draining process.  As a result, I’m hoping to log most of my setups here on the blog, both as a resource for myself and for anyone else who would like to give an old game a fresh coat of paint.

Been trying to figure this out for a while, and I figured I’d make a blog post about it, both as a resource for myself and as an answer to anyone with the same question.  So here’s the situation:

I have an old Falcon 360 with a classic JTAG hack.  It’s pretty amazing and does all sorts of stuff I love, like letting me control the fan speed (after 2 previous Red Ring boxes, I’m not having any of that) or use it as a devkit.  Some time ago it stopped running certain games freezing at specific points, and always at the same place.  In Batman: Arkham Origins, it stops as soon as the intro cinematic is over, before the game loads the actual engine and hands control over.  In Split/Second, it checks for DLC, then moves to a loading screen and stops there, never getting past it.

There are a number of others, but most of them have the same problem, freezing before the ‘game’ itself starts.  Some make it past the main menus (like Fist of North Star: Ken’s Rage), while some stop during the initial loading (like El Shaddai or the aforementioned Split/Second).  All of these games have worked in the past, both on disc and loaded onto the hard drive, but now they all consistently freeze in the exact same place every time, no matter what format I play them on (disc, internal, external, extracted, GOD, etc).  In all cases, when I press the Guide button on the 360 controller, I can *hear* the sound of the Guide opening, but it doesn’t show on the screen.

Meanwhile, the majority of my games work flawlessly, no issues at all.  Since they all *used* to work at some point, I’m fairly certain that I fucked something up somewhere along the way, possibly during a dashboard update to the JTAG at some point.

My NAND is clean (no bad blocks), and I’m running on Dash 16202 without any overt ‘errors’.  I’ve tried running both my original JTAG’d NAND and a recent ‘working’ backup through the latest version of xeBuild, and each time I’ve been given an E71 error on boot.  Getting pretty frustrating.

Originally I was having trouble flashing my ‘working’ NAND back to the XBox via XeLL-Reloaded.  Tried a bunch of USB sticks, a bunch of differently named NAND backups, bunch of different ports, and XeLL wasn’t having it.  Wouldn’t even see the drive, let alone the file.  That was both frustrating and scary.

Eventually found I needed to use a specific USB stick in a specific USB port (front top-most when the box is horizontal) for XeLL to find it, and I managed to recover back to ‘working’.  ‘Working’ meaning that it’s having the same problem with the same games, but the majority are still fine.

Eventually, I found that I had a plugin enabled on my Dashlaunch, a dev kit plugin.  I removed that, saved the dash.ini, and ended up using that file with xeBuild (2.096) to build it into the new NAND flash.  I also removed a weird $Titleupdate folder from the root of my 360’s hard drive, no idea what that was.  Went back in with Flash360, flashed the new image, and lo and behold, success!  I had updated to the newest dash.

Full of trepidation, I attempted to load one of the ‘problem’ games off my internal HDD… and it worked!  Yeeeeaaa~!  Tried a few more off disc and external, and again, they worked!  Solved the problem (although I’m not sure how, exactly), and got my games back!  Now to see if I can get the dev kit back, I was enjoying that.


The entrance to the final world: Click Clock Wood!

Click-Clock Wood is pretty unique, in that it’s one level with four different ‘seasonal’ forms.  The beginning of the level functions as a hub to the various seasons, and let’s you move between them.  It’s a lot of cause-and-effect gameplay, with some areas and things only accessible in certain seasons, but for now we only have access to Spring, so here we go!

Again, I started by exploring the perimeter of the level, checking landings and platforms thoroughly.  We collected a bunch of Notes, but no sign of Jiggys or Jinjos anywhere.  There is, however, a Mumbo Hut, where we’re turned into a fairly ridiculous-looking bee.  Luckily, the bee can bumble-fly indefinitely, and give us access to a few higher areas that we couldn’t get to before.  We found a squirrel inside the main tree who seems to want more acorns, a Jinjo trapped in a plant, and even a Jiggy at the very top of the tree!  I also found the switch to open the Summer aspect of the level, but being a bee, I can’t pound the switch.


A very pleased looking me… I mean ‘bee’

There’s a large beehive attached to the main tree that we couldn’t get inside as a bear, so we try again as a bee.  We managed to get in and see a Jiggy sitting there, but it looks like it’s encased in something and we have no way to get it out.  We do collect another Jinjo, though, and then head back to Mumbo to get changed back.  Now that I have an idea of the layout of the level, we do some double-jumping back to the Summer switch and pound it, opening the way to the next part of the level.  Continuing up, we pound a large egg that we saw earlier and release a baby eagle from inside, and at the very top of the tree, find a doorway which leads to another Jiggy!

I feel that’s it for here, so it’s back to the hub and we head through the Summer door.  A Jinjo makes itself known right near the entrance, so we snag that and set about collecting caterpillars for the eagle from earlier, as well as hunting for new Notes and Jiggys.  We help a beaver, Gnawty, get back inside his home, but can’t make it past the doorway as there’s a steep slope stopping us from continuing.  Hmm…


I don’t know how to get this Jiggy!

 The Autumn switch is easy to find, and after some more running around we discover a new path that wasn’t available in Spring, leading to another Jiggy.  We’re still a few caterpillars short, though, so we press onwards and grab another one, while finding another Jiggy hidden inside the treehouse which is getting more complete with each passing season. We’re able to get inside the beehive as a bear this time, but we still can’t get the Jiggy and the guard-bees are vicious and pursue you until you leave the hive, so we’ll hold off on that one again.  We manage to feed our collected caterpillars to the eagle chick who thanks us and goes back to sleep, but doesn’t hand out any collectibles, and the top of the tree has nothing new to off, either.  I guess it’s over to Autumn to see what’s in store over there.


These guard-birds are extremely annoying

Autumn seems heavy on the Notes, but that’s a good thing.  The eagle wants a bunch more caterpillars as well, so while we’re already looking everywhere in the level, we might as well collect what we can.  We picked up another Jinjo on top of a pile of leaves, and noted that Mumbo is still closed for business in this season.  Looks like we’ll have to take some risks to get the rest of these Notes.  We climb the tree again, grabbing what caterpillars we can find, and the squirrel ropes us into collecting acorns for him, as well.  Man, Banjo’s delivery service.  We dropped off the caterpillars with the eagle (still for no reward) and hit the Winter switch before we went back to collect the acorns.  Luckily, they were all pretty close to the squirrel, except for one which I’ll probably have to be in Bee form to grab.


Soooooo treacherous.

Winter’s last on the list, and we’ll give it a thorough look-over before we start bouncing between areas.  It’s probably the area that allows the most freedom, since there are Flight Pads scattered around the level for us to use, and use them we do.  First it’s straight up to the eagle, who finally gives us a Jiggy for feeding him all this time.  During the flight, I also notice the last Jinjo on top of Mumbo’s Hut, so we grab him and get our Jiggy for collecting them all.  There are notes scattered all over the place as well, so we grab as many as we can, which leaves us only 5 short of having them all.  There’s not much else in Winter besides a Grunty Switch for a Jiggy in the hub world, so it’s time to hoof it back to Spring, switch back to Bee mode, and then explore the others worlds in the insect state.


Lazy squirrel is too lazy to collect his own nuts.

But first, we head back to Summer, smash the rock preventing the beaver from getting back into his cave, and then head to the same place in Autumn.  We can finally swim up the area and claim a couple of Notes and another Jiggy!  Only a couple more to go!  It seems like we can’t take our Bee form to the other seasons, so I have to rethink my strategy a bit.  We finish collecting acorns for the squirrel, and that gives us the 8th Jiggy, and one’s in the beehive.  I decided to investigate the one other suspicious area in the level, and after planting some eggs and watering it throughout the seasons, the plant blossomed and gave me the 9th Jiggy!


This huge flower had to be watered through each season, and took me forever to figure out.

Just the one in the beehive left!  And Jiggy was actually easy, once I realized I just had to kill all the attacking bees in the hive.  I was just so sure it had something to do with being a Bee, or that giant flower.  Looking in all the wrong places, I guess. Well, that’s it for Click Clock Wood.

I grabbed the last Jiggy from the Grunty Switch outside the level (had to stay in Bee form to fly up to it), and headed to the finale!  I opened a Note Door earlier in the same area as Click Clock Wood, so I figured that should be the next area.  It only needed 760 or something, but it feels good to have all 900.  I don’t know why I do these things to myself.


The final world has more in common with Mario Party than Donkey Kong Country.

It’s… a quiz show/board game?  Yea.  That’s exactly what it is.  What is this place?  It plays like a board game, forcing you to complete a challenge on each square as you make your path towards the end.  Squares have various challenges, like questions about visuals or audio from the game, little trivia bits about levels, questions about Grunty (to which her sister was providing answers throughout the game), or boss-rushes and mini-game challenges.  It’s totally nuts, and infuriating, but kinda awesome!  Also, Grunty is now a star player, and her poorly and hilariously-wrought rhymes pervade the whole thing.  It’s pretty trying, since it’s such an odd mixture of gameplay and obscure observation skills, but eventually we make it to the end… and don’t fight Grunty?  We just rescue Tooty, and Grunty says she’ll escape while we’re forced to sit through the credits.  That’s brilliant.


This crazy witch took a few tries, but we prevailed in the end!

In any case, once the credits are over, I decided to go check it out one more time.  This time, the board was wide open, and there was a passage into another area off to one side.  A Note Door barred our way, or would have if we didn’t already have all 800 Notes.  Through the pasageway up to a final area where we’re able to face down with Grunty and put and end to her mischief.  She’s a pretty intense boss with a number of forms, so it takes some time to finally kill her off, as I memorize each pattern and counter it.  She finally loses though, and we blast her out of the mountain and run off for a final credits sequence!  That’s it for Banjo-Kazooie, finally off the list!


Where’s Grunty? You see that rock on the bottom of the screen? Somewhere under there.


Sweet, now that we’re done Mad Monster Mansion, it’s off to… oh no.  RUSTY BUCKET BAY!!  Noooooooooooo!


This will lead us to the next world… eventually…

Rusty Bucket Bay is probably one of the more infuriating worlds I’ve ever played in a platform game.  It’s just mean.  And of course, before I can willingly subject myself to it, I’ve gotta figure out how to open it up.  I manage to open the gate behind Mad Monster Mansion and found a small house in behind it.  Banjo can’t get in though, so it’s back to Mumbo in the Mansion, and Pumpkin-Banjo lives again!  After sneaking into the house through a crack, I find a switch in a coffin in the shack.  Hitting it raises the water level in a previous area, and starts a search for the next switches.  After finding the rest of them to raise the water level the rest of the way, and activating another Cauldron for quick access, we head into the level.  God help us.


Pleasant, right? Almost picturesque.

One of the big reasons that Rusty Bucket Bay is such a pain is because the oily water uses up your air twice as fast when you’re swimming, and of course, a lot of switches and items are underwater.  You even lose breath from swimming on the surface of the water, and don’t regain any of your Breath points until you’ve been out of the water on dry land for several seconds.  We hopped around and collected some Notes and our first Jinjo of the lot, hidden underwater beneath a grate near the beginning of the level.  We continued to explore the perimeter, found a couple more Notes, and made the dumb mistake of jumping into a caged area to rescue another Jinjo.  We got the little guy, but there’s a shark prowling in the caged area, and we don’t have much time in the water before he snacks us down.

There was a hole in the wall that led to a secret area with a Honeycomb Piece, so that’s awesome, but still no exit.  The shark ended up lunching us to death once we came back out, so I guess that’s one way to escape that are?  Argh.  On the way back to where we were, though, I saw a window that looked out of place, so we smashed it and dropped to another area… with a Jiggy!  That’s one down!  Another few Notes, plus a 1-Up, and we exited through the water and swam to dry land.


How did that guy get over there?

As we continued circling the level from the outside, we found a toxic waste pit with another Jinjo trapped at the edge.  How do these little guys get themselves into these messes?  We grabbed him, despite crappy camera angles costing us some damage, and headed into a nearby storage container to grab some more Notes.  Other containers had another Jinjo and another 1-Up, so none of it was for waste, but at that point we hit a wall and had to go back.


Totally not-suspicious switch.

Back to the beginning of the level, we headed up the ramp onto the boat.  We have a few Jinjos, one Jiggy, and about a third of the Notes in the level already, so this is probably where the meat of the level lies.  I explored the upper decks first, grabbing some more Notes and finding a pipe to jump down.  Inside, there was a switch to change the speed of the rotors in another room, so I’m glad I hit this first.  We found a Jiggy at the very top of the ship, then jumped down the rest of the pipes on deck to see if there was anything below.  A few more Notes and a Jinjo later, and we’ve explored all the pipes, too.  I seem to be running out of places to look, but I notice a door in the bottom of one of the smoke stacks, and Beak Bash it open to find some more unexplored territory.


The guts of the ship. Oh, and did I mention that’s a bottomless pit beneath us?

Inside is the engine of the ship, and the reason I hit that propeller switch earlier.  Several sets of rotors and spinning platforms are all over this area, but I navigate through them an score my third Jiggy, along with another bunch of Notes.  Over 80 Notes now, but not even half the Jiggys.  Another switch reveals a Jiggy outside the ship on the other side of the engine (which will be a gigantic pain to get to), and I’m pretty sure a dolphin that we saw earlier, trapped by the anchor, has one.  We hit another propeller switch, and the engine stops completely… for a set time period.  Luckily, we have everything in this area, so we boot it out of the engine room and to the back of the boat, grabbing the Jiggy with seconds to spare.


I wonder if there’s an area that tells you what switches to hit? I just guessed and got lucky.

Trail and error net me my fifth Jiggy at the top of the ship, with a code-entry puzzle involving steam horns.  Every mistake costs a life point, but a few lucky guesses net me the proper combination and we claim the prize.  The angle also affords me a new view of a crane from earlier, and I see how I can use the ladder on it’s side to claim grab another Jiggy that’s been sitting in front of me for a while.  There’s still one area that I can’t seem to get to, but I’ll look for a way to move the anchor in the interim.

Some more poking around revealed that some of the portholes on the side of the ship were also breakable, so we explored another couple of rooms, nabbed ourselves another Jiggy and a Stop’n’Swap Egg, as well as some of the last of the Notes kicking around the level.  Some random exploring sticks me to a rope near the top of the ship, which I climb up to access the crane I’ve been missing.  From here, I can access the last Jinjo and it’s Jiggy, as well as a few more Notes, and I can open up the last area of the level.  Woot!


It’s a boss-in-a-box. Well, a bunch of them, I guess.

It’s a boss! Luckily, this box is kind of a pushover.  Three hits is all he takes before he splinters into two smaller boxes, which split into smaller boxes, etc.  It’s a little frantic, but we clear out all of the bits, and claim our ninth Jiggy!  But where’s the last one?  How do I help that dolphin?  And where are the four Notes that I’m still missing?  We continue to poke around the level, and although I think I’m looking for a Flight Pad, we end up finding the Grunty Switch for the level, so we’ll collect that Jiggy when we get back to the hub world.

I swam around the dolphin for a bit, and finally found that we could go inside the ship through the anchor hole.  Inside were a couple enemies, the last four Notes (that’s all 100 of them!), and a switch to bring up the anchor.  The dolphin leaves behind the last Jiggy, so we grab it and exit out of this awful level!  Finally!

We pick up the Jiggy from the Grunty Switch is Rusty Bucket Bay, and with the 33 Pieces we still have, we should have no problem unlocking another level… if we can find the platform.  Luckily, I unlocked a Note Door earlier right near here, but didn’t explore it too deeply.  Guess it’s time to do so!  It leads into a meadowed area, with the entrance to Click Clock Wood at the top.  We hit a switch to activate the Puzzle Platform needed to unlock the level, but it’s back at the beginning of the hub world.  Ugh.  Well, a couple of Cauldron teleports take us back to the beginning and we push the pieces into place, before teleporting back to the same room we were just in, now housing the entrance to the final(?) world.


I know, I haven’t been updating at all lately.  Family stuff and work have devoured my life, and I haven’t been gaming solo at all.  Ed and I have been pouring mucho hours into Chrono Cross, but I don’t feel like blogging through that one at all.  I just want to sit there and be blown away by it’s awesome.  In any case, I’m on my way back, and should start updating again in the next little while.


YEA, one of the premier platformers of the generation!

Since I seem to be on a Rare(ware) kick, and still need to clear one more thing off of my backlog, I’m gonna pick Banjo-Kazooie back up and finish it off.  It’s been a while since I’ve played, but I know I’m already fairly far.  The game states I have 63 Jigsaws and 600 Notes, and tells me I’ve maxed out 5 of the 6 Worlds I have access to, missing 1 Jigsaw in Freezeezy Peak.  Let’s head there first and grab the one we’re missing!

Since I can’t remember any of the moves, or where to go, I ran around the overworld for a while getting my bearings, and figuring out why my Jigsaw total is wrong.  I forgot that you spend Jigsaw Pieces to unlock worlds, so 31 is my Jigsaw total, minus the ones I’ve spent to unlock various worlds.  It’s all making sense now, but I’m still missing a few!  I managed to find Grunty’s sister again, and confirmed the following about our evil hag opponent:

  • She wears a Flea Circus under her girdle
  • She brushes her teeth with Moudly Cheese-flavoured toothpaste
  • She washes her hair with rancid milk
  • She gets her clothes from Saggy Maggie’s Boutique
  • She was called Jelly Belly at school
  • Her favourite sport is Belly Barging
  • She attended St. Dungballs’s School
  • Her party trick is blowing up balloons with her butt
  • She sleeps in a dumpster
  • She won the biggest butt competition
  • She posed in her longjohns of the cover of Fat Hag Monthly
  • Her bedroom has smelly socks hanging from the ceiling
  • She has a loogie bush growing in a pot beside her bed
  • She has enormous streaky brown undies
  • She keeps a Dragon’s Foot in her pocket for luck
  • She cuddles her dirty undies in bed at night
  • Her broom is a Lardmaster 2000
  • She has rat bagels for breakfast
  • And dog dung burgers for dinner
  • Finishing with cockroaches and cream for desert
  • Her favourite pastime is flying radio-controlled bats
  • Greasy Grant was her first and only boyfriend
  • She used to have a greasy warthog for a pet

These will all factor in to a mini-game later, but for now they’re just fun lore.  I also found the Picture for Click Clock Wood, but no Jigsaw Platform to use in order to unlock it.  What the hell, Rare?  I eventually found my way to Freezeezy Peak, and searched around for the missing Jiggy.  It wasn’t too long before I found the Walrus at the start of the race section again.  He wanted another race, and it looked like I needed the Running Shoes ability in order to beat him.  Luckily, I picked that up in the last level, so after grabbing the Running Shoes we handily beat him in a race and collected the final Jiggy for this level.  Now I guess it’s back to figuring out where to go next?


Freezeezy Peak is COLD!

After pressing on past Freezeezy Peak, we ended up inside a volcano which contained the Puzzle for Gobi’s Valley.  I’ve already unlocked and beaten that one, so I guess we keep going?  I found a suspicious-looking graveyard area just beyond the Puzzle, but no open doors, so we headed back into the volcano and headed deeper into it, looking for the next Puzzle.  I hit a dead end, blocked by a tunnel that was too small for Banjo to fit through, so we headed back.  In the area prior to the volcano, I found a couple teleport cauldrons that hadn’t been activated yet and activated them, and also found a Note Door, asking for 450 Notes.  Luckily, I’ve got 600, so we pass through the door and head through a few small areas connected by underwater tunnels.  At the end, we finally find the Puzzle for Mad Monster Mansion, and throw some Jiggies at it to activate it.


Alright, next world unlocked!

We head back to the suspicious graveyard, which holds the entrance to the latest world, Mad Monster Mansion.  We’re greeted by a large, dilapidated house as we arrive in the level.  Some initial recon around the house give us a bunch of Notes, and upon inspection I find that we can break lit-up windows and enter rooms in the house.  After plundering the various rooms for a number of Notes, and a couple of Jinjos, we head through the Chimney and are confronted by a large green ghost… who’s sleeping on a Jiggy and a Flight pad.  We take care to maneuver to not touch the floor as we head to him, and we’re rewarded with our first Jiggy of the level, and a third of the notes already.

There was big hedge maze to our left as we entered the world, but I also remember seeing a cellar behind the house.  Leave no stone unturned and all that, so we head around back into the cellar.  There’s a ghost and a few Notes, but we also find another Stop’n’Swap Egg, a Jinjo, and another Jiggy hiding inside various barrels once we crack them open.  In a courtyard to the right of the haunted house, there a few Notes and another Jinjo, and behind the house there’s a strange shack with light coming out of it.  We collect the Notes from on top, then bash in the door and head inside.


Video Game Rule #3: Always check inside barrels

Inside, there’s a picture of Banjo and Kazooie on the floor, and a Jiggy in the center with what looks like an upside-down shot glass over top of it.  Around the border of the picture are a number of tiles, some with Grunty’s face, others with letters.  The shot glass talks to us and tells us it’s a puzzle, and when we jump on top of it a ghost appears.  At this point, we can surf around with the shot glass, and it looks like there’s enough letters on the tiles to spell BANJO KAZOOIE, so we surf around and light up the tiles to spell it out, avoiding the ghost.  We claim another Jiggy, and exit this shed.


Whatever drinking game this is modeled after, I like it!

Heading past the shed, we note another locked gate on our way and eventually end up at a well.  We grab the Notes and powerups from around the well before jumping in.  We collect another Jiggy and a bunch of Notes from inside before jumping out and heading back to the hedge maze from the beginning of the level.  Inside the maze, we find the last Jinjo (and the resulting Jiggy), as well as a few Notes and powerups, although we’re again blocked by a gate preventing us from exiting into another area.  Need to figure out how to unlock these.


Those ghosts are damn hard to avoid, too.

The maze is still kind of a dead end, with another gate blocking us from getting into another area with a large church and graveyard.  We find another way across from the roof of the haunted house, and collect the Notes on the roof of the church, as well as the Jiggy from the spire on top.  There are a bunch of pots in the graveyard, too, and once we drop some eggs into them, flowers bloom.  Of course, once we get flowers in all the pots we’re given another Jiggy.

There’s also access to one of Mumbo’s huts, so we jump in there and have him turn us into the new animal for this level.  It costs us 20 tokens, but he turns us into a… pumpkin?  The pumpkin form allows us to fit through tiny passages, and I think we’re supposed to use it inside of the haunted house… except that I lost a life somewhere, and all of the windows aren’t broken anymore.  Grr.  We do find a small drainpipe that we can fit down on the roof’s gutters, though, and it drops us onto another Jiggy and a few Notes in a small area I noticed.


Cutest pumpkin EVAR!

So we’re down to our last Jiggy, and I know exactly where it is.  It’s inside the church, but I’m not sure how to get in.  There’s a switch that opens the door for a limited time, and a pair of Running Shoes to get me there, but these gates are still in my way, and I’m stuck on getting rid of them.  That’s until, cursing myself for a fool, I try attacking one and knock it open.  Turns out there’s a lock on one side of the door, and if you attack the locked side it’ll open.  I’ve been doing this level the long way all along.  Kill me now.  In any case, I hit the switch, grab the Shoes, and dash into the church.


Seriously, worst organ player ever. Have some enthusiasm!

Inside, it was a giant-sized church, with ghosts haunting and a disembodied hand playing a tone-deaf organ.  After collecting the notes ,we talked to the hand and had to follow him along the keyboard, stomping the keys he played.  This was no game of Simon, though, we just followed him along and stomped the keys right after he finished playing.  We’re rewarded with our final Jiggy for the level, and after grabbing the last 4 Notes, we were clear and moving on!


Still in World 6, we hit up Misty Mine.  Again, I’m filled with trepidation that it’s a mine cart level, but it to be just another platforming run, and it falls with ease.  The next level however, Loopy Lights, almost gives me an aneurysm.  It’s using the lights-out gimmick again, but this time you have to hit switches to turn the lights back on.  With switch placement, deliberate stretches with no light, and enemies ready to kill you the first misstep, I lose more lives to this level than any before it.  Such rage…  Platform Perils isn’t bad, a level using moving platforms that fade out after a short period.  A few tight spots, but nothing that we can’t get through.  Necky’s Revenge is the boss, and it’s just an amped up re-hash of the earlier Necky boss.


Loopy Lights, you are infuriating. Thank god levels like you exist.

The final world, Gang Plank Galleon, is… oh, wait.  It’s just King K. Rool?  But he’s the last boss!  I thought there was a world to go with him!  Huh.  Well, I guess not!  He’s actually not that difficult either, and after sitting through his fake ending, designed to lure us into a false sense of security, we beat the last few hits out of him and clear the game.  That was… anti-climactic?  Oh whatever, it’s a 1994 platform game.  What am I expecting, Shakespeare?