a game by Psygnosis Limited
Do People Still Worry About The size of their penises? I think I'm right in saying that the 'does size matter?' question seems to have been rearing its angry head less frequently in recent years. Whether it was ever truly resolved or not, I'm not entirely sure; the last word came from the women, and typically, they couldn't really make up their minds - although the 'nays' just about won.
Some said that what you do with it is more important (which is pretty obvious really - if you were boiling it in a saucepan or something, instead of guiding it into the desired location, then it ain't much use to anyone, even if it's the size - if not shape - of Canary Wharf). Others insisted that large ones hurt far too much to be enjoyable anyway (I have a similar theory regarding stools), whereas on the other hand the dissident voices of the 'big is beautiful' brigade maintained that as far as appendages go, the closer the resemblance to five quids' worth of beef saveloy, the better. Anyway, I'm lucky enough not to have to worry about the whole debate, because I've got a 'magic' one which actually changes in size from time to time. Incredible. It'd baffle medical science, I can tell you. (Actually, I think the word is 'appal' - Ed.) Anyway, when it comes to the size of your games, size most definitely does matter. Take Ecstatica, for instance - remember that? It boasted brilliantly animated characters formed from eye-pleasingly curvy 'ellipsoids' as opposed to angular polygons, plenty of Alone in the Dark-style 3D shenanigans, a pungent and pervasive odour of brooding menace - all in all a superb game. Until you finished it, that is. Which, sadly, happened rather too quickly.
Just like its forebear, Ecstatica II features some fantastic animation, for both the lead character and each of the multitudinous mooncalves (You Roget's Thesaurus wanker, you -Ed.) This is due to the efforts of Dave Lowry and Ken Doyle, a pair of highly talented animators (on this evidence, at any rate). Both hail from a traditional ink-and-paper animation background, something that Ecstatica's graphic editing tools have quite a bit in common with. Subtle changes to the actual shape of a limb here, the odd bit of stretch or squash there, and you're left with movements that look authentically fluid - and, most important of all, introduce genuine character into their subjects. We'd show you a picture of the editing screen in action, but they'd prefer to keep it secret. So secret in fact, that we'd have to hunt down and slay every single reader of this magazine if we accidentally printed one. Get down on your knees and pray that our Art Department hasn't mussed up, or your days are numbered.
Great big number two
Which is where our story really begins. For lurking away in deepest, darkest North London, the merry band of coders at Andrew Spencer Studios have been slaving away on Ecstatica II since January. It looks all set to contain the good bits of numero uno, and none of the bad. First things first: it's bloody huge. How huge? Well, let's look at it this way: if you were to sit down and play the initial Ecstatica game from beginning to end, knowing exactly what to do in each location and without making a single mistake, it would be just about possible to complete the whole thing within three-quarters of an hour. Try that with the sequel and you'll be at the computer for a full 50 hours. Not only would you be tired, hungry and more than a little strung out, you'd probably be sitting in a pool of your own urine as well. It'd be like playing Tramp Simulator.
Furthermore, after that much time spent staring at a glaring monitor screen, your eyes would burst and run down your cheeks like so much egg yolk. Which would be a shame, because then you wouldn't be able to appreciate the lovely svga graphics that accompany the whole shebang. And your fingers would be suffering from such severe rsi that you'd have to snap them off and forget about them altogether, so you wouldn't be able to appreciate all the new character actions either. So don't do it.
The storyline picks up from where the original game left it dangling (er... assuming you played as the bloke and chose the 'good' ending, that is). It goes something like this...
Our 'ero (who's a Prince, innit?) has been and gone and fallen in love with Ecstatica, the bird he saved from that bastard demon geezer wot was lordin' it up in the village of Tirich. Fancies 'er rotten, 'e does. Anyway, they're making their way back to 'is castle, all set to get hitched and that, when 'e starts noticing that his manor's looking a bit dodgy and run down, like. So there they are, on horseback, just making their way through the castle gates when would you Adam and Eve it, a bunch of monsters pop up and give the pair of 'em a right old kickin'. Bang out of order. He wakes up a bit later - and he's only been bunged in the bleedin' stocks, innit! And as for that Ecstatica bird, well, Christ knows where the 'ell she's got to. It's a right old mystery and no mistake, that it is, guv'nor, knees up muwer Braahhn strike a light cor blimey. That's how it opens - your task is to roll your sleeves up and sort it all out. Which isn't going to be easy.
Hey hey we're the monsters
Had the first Ecstatica game starred Shaggy from 'Scooby Doo', he'd probably have yelped his trademark cry of "zoiks!" about six or seven times each time he saw a new monster. Were he to stumble his way into Hcstatica II, his throat would get so hoarse he'd end up gargling Oil of Ulayjust to cool it down, because there are shitloads more petrifying beasties this time round. In fact, he'd probably have to shout "zoiks!" into a sampler and start hitting all the buttons at once, while shouting, in order to keep up.
Yes, it's a like an Ethereal Creature Convention (or MonsterCon '97, if you prefer) at times in Hcstatica II. All manner of hairy backs and scaly palms, gnashing teeth and mis-shapen genitalia (probably), heading your way with a distinctly malevolent gait.
If you've ever stood on a platform at Reading station and looked at passers-by, you'll find it unsettlingly familiar. Most of your (un)favourites from the first game seem to be there (giant spiders, little piggy people, that bastard werewolf), but among the new arrivals you'll find skeletons, zombies, very ugly ogres, scary floating-eyeball things (called 'beholders'), vampires, goblins, and Earnonn Holmes'. There's even a point where you find yourself getting beaten senseless by a gang of Amazon Women (Russ Meyer eat your heart out).
There's another difference here too: in the original game you couldn't actually kill some of the rotten buggers: most famously in the case of the bastard werewolf who seemed to shadow your every footstep from the moment you entered the village, dishing out a series of merciless beatings with an ego-shattering regularity. Well, that's all changed. Now, you can kill everything that tries to kill you - but since they're randomly generated, you won't ever get the chance to fully relax. Navigating a sprawling and hostile environment, being relentlessly assaulted from all sides by gross aberrations of nature - it's a bit like a tour of South London after midnight, really. Only much more fun.
Eggs da tick r2
At the time of writing, Ecstatica II is due for release sometime within the next two months. We're itching to get our hands on it. We're squatting on our hind legs, panting and making doe eyes at people, expectantly awaiting our review copy of the game. It won't be long now. Once we've got it, we'll play it to death and let you know what it's like, okay? And from what I've seen so far, I'm prepared to bet we'll be using lots of exclamation marks and saying nice things. Keep 'em peeled,
The world is a sick ball of darkness
Andrew Spencer and his cohorts are clearly an imaginative and industrious bunch, and once you visit their office it's clear that they exhibit several of the telltale signs of the truly artistic. For one thing, they seem to work in almost complete darkness. Judging by the size and content of their communal ashtray, most of them smoke fairly heavily. They start work around midday and keep at it until the early hours. Easy going, but with a tangible air of deep thought about them. And if the audio CDs scattered around the place are anything to go by, they've got good taste in electronic music, too. Bet they know a Camberwell Carrot when they see one.
Not quite as sick
Another thing that made Ecstatica 1 so noteworthy was the nonchalantly callous nature of much of the content - bishops hanging from ceilings, helpless maidens skewered on swords, blind beggars being beaten to death and the like. It's been toned down a bit for the sequel (and most of the religious references of its predecessor are gone too - blame the barely-evolved scum populating the US Bible Belt), and as such should be available to a slightly wider audience. There's still some pretty sick stuff in there, though (a brief aside with a torture rack springs to mind). Wait for Andrew Spencer's next project, the long-anticipated Urban Decay, for the full quota of visceral nastiness (and plenty of swearing too).
2018-11-05 Ecstatica II game added.