Jason and Maya canoe down river to locate the mysterious Hans Stroheim. Allen has needed something from him in order to pinpoint the location of the source of the regenerative liquid.
We can discuss the numerous question marks that our new objectives out of nowhere hand us, but let's leave it for a new topic.
Canoeing is probably the biggest nightmare of a mini-game ever. It's not really badly programmed, so you can't blame it on that. The speed seems about right, and the only thing I can really compare it to are two games:
- Oregon Trail: If you've ever seen the Apple IIe Oregon Trail, there's a mini-game if you caulk your wagon on the river sometimes, where you dodge rocks. Amazon: GoE's canoeing is much like that, with a few horrible exceptions.
- The Turbo Tunnel in Battletoads: Now, this is stretching, but in terms of difficulty and annoyance, that's what canoeing reminded me of. Except Battletoads is actually a little more fair. Canoeing in a lot slower than that, but the difficulty comparison is fair if you throw save states into the mix.
Let's go over some of the challenges when we canoe.
1. The sheer enormity of our boat.
Feel free to measure - that canoe is about HALF the damn screen. The canoe is heading right to left - kinda like the Hebrew or Arabic version of a side-scroller. As you pass the rocks you have to dodge, you'll be limited in how much you can move up and down, since you have to wait for the rock to go offscreen, or you'll hit it.
Vertically, the canoe doesn't look so bad - i.e. the canoe may be long, but it looks thin. It's actually deceiving - the canoe takes up some space vertically, too.
2. The OBNOXIOUS foreground.
That is not a Photoshop. It is fucking hard to see when the rocks are coming because Amazon had to show off parallax scrolling in the foreground, and it never ends. There's a constant loop of these foreground trees that makes navigation that much harder.
Even worse, that scrolling foreground is pretty slow. There are times where it will seriously cover incoming rocks and screw with how aligned you are.
3. The isometric view
"Hey, slowbeef, that's a big rock, you better go down!"
Actually, it's a very high rock - I can go up and bypass it. In fact, it's one of the forks we have to navigate to follow the Shaman's "left right right left" path. (Which, if you note because of the right-to-left direction we're heading, is actually "down up up down".)
But it illustrates the problem. Access was going for a 3-Dish effect which means it's very very very hard to tell whether or not you can slip by a rock or you're lined up the crash into it. And that's not some fancy Death Star trench run nonsense I did with the two rocks behind me for no reason at all; you frequently have to slip between rocks and do dangerous things.
4. Unfair rock configurations
Thanks for the deathtrap.
There's just no way out of things like this. If I go down, I'll hit the rock directly below me. I can go up a little, but no matter what, I'll hit the rocks in front of me. Keep in mind when you first see these rocks, you'll only see the rightmost ones, near the top and bottom and think, "I should probably stay near the middle since those are near the edges and I don't want to get trapped." Then, bam. The middle rocks come out and since your fucking canoe takes up half the screen, you don't have any time to get to the edges.
Access frequently does things like this. Even worse, they try and screw with you; first making the most dangerous-looking paths the ones you actually are able to navigate through - then throwing you for a loop by making the dangerous looking paths the ones you're not able to do!
And even worse, sometimes they'll place rocks in your way so you can't even take the fork the correct way unless you know the rocks are coming and you "get ready" by staying near that part of the river. And then Access screws with you by forcing you to other side so you have to look for an opportunity to switch over!
5. The fact that Jason's body is photo-realistically digitized but his head is drawn with pixel art.
The hell, man?
6. The fact that even if you know exactly how it works and what to do and where to go - it will take about 3 1/2 minutes real-time to beat the canoeing section.
It's boring, it's long, it's easy to lose concentration, it's hard to see where to go. I recorded a video where I managed it all in one shot without dying, saving, or loading and yep: about 3:31. That's a pretty long time for any mini-game.
As if that's not annoying enough, you just beat that medicine man puzzle and got dropped in a mini-game. This means you probably didn't save; so if you die (and boy will you) you have to reload and redo the medicine man puzzle! The only saving grace is that you can save in the middle of canoeing - and I so highly recommend many many save games under different files for the canoeing seection.
If you think that's bad, oh just you wait. Just you fucking wait a second, because there's one last "fuck you" coming.
Take your four forks correctly to "end" the canoeing section. Heh. Heh heh heh...
Jason checks the map and realizes they must be very close to Stroheim. Then, up ahead in a small clearing, they see several huts. Jason guides the canoe to the river bank and they follow a well worn path to the largest hut near the middle of the settlement. Inside is a ghost of a man who sits in a wheelchair. The man is none other than Hans Stroheim....
Meet Hans Stroheim, or as I like to call him, Grandpa Pixelface. That's the best they could do? Also that is Stroheim's only spoken (meaning voice-acted) line in the entire game.
This conversation tree - like I believe all others - does not actually solve a puzzle. In fact, it has a really mean twist.
(One more picture to show you that I didn't just capture Stroheim in a bad frame - his facial resolution really is that bad.)
Stroheim: That is very unfortunate for both of us. I was only interested in talking to Allen. I have nothing to say to you. Good day.
Jason: I have some idea of Allen's work; I'm sure you would wish to help us.
Stroheim: Allen's work! What about my work! I have labored in this jungle for thirty years trying to solve a mystery!
Jason: Is Allen's work tied to yours?
Stroheim: Only indirectly, but he had something that I needed very badly. Now that he is dead, I have lost the only hope I had. If I cannot solve my mystery, I will not help you with yours!
Jason: What I seek is for the betterment of mankind. How can you refuse us?
Stroheim: Do you think I care about mankind? I care only for myself. Look at this broken body! I am alone in this world. All my life I've searched for a great treasure. The world has mocked me; said I was crazy. But I'll show them. Someday they will know I was right! Leave me! I don't wish to serve mankind! They should serve me!
knowing you have failed.
(They waited like 40 years for Stroheim to talk to them?!)
Now I said this dialogue tree had a really mean twist. Wanna know what it is?
There is actually no sequence of correct choices that will let you survive this dialogue tree. All responses to Stroheim end up in death.
Now try to think back to where your last saved game was.
WELCOME BACK TO YOUR CANOE, MOTHERFUCKER!
There's no "finish-line" in the canoe mini-game, it just unceremoniously dumps you into the text about meeting Stroheim and then into the dialogue tree. You CANNOT save in the cutscene after canoeing or in the dialogue tree. Odds are, you have no idea that there's actually no way to survive the dialogue tree, so you're caught in a loop of restoring and trying new responses - which means you're just in a loop of dying to either river rocks or growing old.
Until you throw up your hands and read a walkthrough.
The trick with Stroheim is to use the "Offer" option right in the middle of the dialogue tree with him. You want to give him the map you got from the vault. The one with his name on it.
You now need to offer him the (drawing) compass you also got from the vault in Episode 3. Which is fucking amazing, since you'd think the guy would have one. You can even make one out of a pencil and a string!
Un-fucking-believable. Amazingly, you're actually still not done with the bullshit Amazon can throw at you. Yes, this is not the worst in the game.
Stroheim: The map and compass you have given me are what I needed, but now you must do something more for me before I will tell you anything. Several years ago, your brother came into possesion [sic] of this ancient Spanish compass that had engraved upon it the location that tied to a map crucial to my work.
What? WHAT?! The guy needs a map and compass because the compass has shit written on it?! Bullshit. This was last minute "Hey, it makes no sense the guy needs a compass, so let's write around that because we're launching on Tuesday."
Stroheim: It was the property of Diaz Valesquez. Valesquez had stolen the emeralds known as the "Eyes of the Jaguar" from Cortez and he escaped to this area of the Amazon.
Stroheim: Allen contacted me several months ago and said he would exchange it for information I have on Sitio Maldito. I know much concerning this subject but I need help finding the emeralds first.
(Stroheim pulls out the map you have given it and places the compass upon it. After a few minutes, he circles an area.)
Stroheim: Go to this spot and search the region for the Great Fortress in the trees. If you find evidence of the emerald, I will help you. I can trust no one else to do this because I know something that no one else could tell you!
And so, we are... on our way through the jungle... again. SAVE SO YOU DO NOT HAVE TO CANOE MORE.
Hans Stroheim had shown Jason and Maya the approximate location of the Conquistadors. It takes several days to hack through the thick vegetation and strangler vines. Each day they move closer to Sitio Maldito, and always there is the feeling of being watched from a distance....
Welcome to the only Jason and Maya teamwork scene where you actually need both characters. This revolves entirely around the fact that Jason weighs more that Maya.
Access decides to cut you a fucking break, perhaps realizing after all, the canoe was really freakin' cheap and annoying. This puzzle is not timed and I wasn't able to kill myself.
It's also so easy I have no idea why it's really in here. First thing to do is grab that plank of wood on the left. It's the only item you need here. Place it on the rock.
I think you see where this is going.
Have Maya stand on the lower end of the slanted plank. Then have Jason climb the stump and he will automatically jump onto it, catapulting (somehow) Maya into space.
Well, that's what the game says.
You climb to the top of the stump and prepare to catapult your partner into space.
Keep in mind with the whole man/woman thing going and the teamwork, the game's writing still equates the player with Jason.
Also by "into space" they mean "onto the lowered balcony thing on the left tree."
Yeah, I dunno. Anyway, climb the tree with Maya to get up top there. Swing across on the vine to the right tree. Manipulate the rope so that Jason can climb up.
If I may, I would like to point out Jason has actually begun his climbing the rope animation and will continue straight up from there. They couldn't line it up, I guess.
Finally, have Maya stand in the basket and Jason manipulate the pulley.
Tune in next time for: The Hall of Death. (Notice: Actual hallway contains no death.)