The Frenetic Five Versus Sturm Und Drang / Neil deMause (1997)

The Evil Midnight Bombers Which Bombs At Midnight's Verdict: So he says to me "do you want to gather about a whole lotta objects like in frigging Hitch-Hiker's for the majority of the game, baby?" And I say, "YEAH BABY! GIMME DEM TOOLS AND PHONES AND LET ME GO TO WORK!"

Delphine's Verdict: It's almost embarrassing, because our side-scroller Out Of This World violates every decent premise set forth by this game. But we're French, and if we can't be bothered to bathe more than twice a week we certainly can't be bothered to make immersive games.

My Verdict: Anyone thinking about making games should play this one.

The Review...

The satisfaction garnered through playing a game by someone who actually knows what the hell he is doing is much like being introduced to pleasures of the flesh by an experienced, qualified concubine. Every worthless, acne-pitted, hormonally frustrated geek thinking of getting into the entertainment aspects of CS should be thrown in front of a PC and made to spend two hours playing The Frenetic Five Versus Sturm Und Drang. Not for arbitrary reasons. No. For purely arbitrary reasons they should be softened up with Road Rash 3D so that they don't suspect anything and are mentally dulled. However. To ensure that only competent designers are allowed to charge for their products. It's quite simple. Other choices remain: they can get into tech support for someone's ISP. The Country's Best Yogurt is usually hiring. Anything to stop another piece of crap from skulking about the shelves of a Babbage's.

It begins. The youngster is told to download the TADS .gam file and begin to play. At the end of two hours rad programming haxor will face a test that consists of one question.

"How did you know how to use the other character's powers late in the game?"

The answer, of course, is that you were previously taught how to do so by Mr. deMause.

The mundane, everyday task of getting yourself and four other superheroes out the door is in fact a cyphon. An illusion. It comes off as irritating, but that's the point. In this game, in order to simply get to the crime scene you need to discover how to get your team-mates to use their powers.

So. Rather then becoming angry later in the game while attempting to fight the terrible plans of some evil criminal masterminds because you don't know how to make the Clapper find something, you've been previously introduced to her powers in a setting where there is no time limit, no chance of getting killed. Video games have simply advanced beyond what we used to play on our 2600s. Not all games have the same command set. To presume that players are going to drop themselves into someone's world and intuitively understand how to work things is short-sighted and foolish. Mr. deMause understands this, and thus prepares his players for it.

Why do so many game designers in this day and age utterly and wholly fail to comprehend this? Are they just stupid, or something?

Or what?

The Frenetic Five, however, also works as a bona-fide game. It's not just a design lesson. The game consists of a MacGuyveresque "everyman" named Improv whose power is the manipulation of everyday objects into useful tools. A perfect choice for a player character, as that's what most adventure games require of their players anyway. The other members are colorful, if not hulking world-beaters. Lexicon has the entire dictionary at his disposal. Pastiche has many different powers you accrue throughout the game. The Clapper has the ability to locate any object by, er, clapping. Mr. deMause has managed to add several neat features to the TADS parser and library while giving them personalities, characteristics and feelings. Genius.

The Frenetic Five Versus Sturm Und Drang is probably the greatest superhero adventure game ever made. While it definitely has a cartoonish flavor to it, it's an incredibly play and always fun. Recommended.

(And look, you're lying if you say you don't want to bang The Clapper. Kids, insert your own derivative STD joke down below!)


Simple Rating: 8.9 / 10

Complicated Rating:

Story: 8.0 / 10

Writing: 9.2 / 10

Playability: 9.9 / 10

Puzzle Quality: 7.0 / 10

Parser Responsiveness: 9.2 / 10

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