Inventory Time: Metal Gear Solid’s PAL Key

The Metal Gear Solid is a bizarre series. Personally I’m a fan of it, I like the ridiculous and the over the top, and so the MGS franchise suits me well. Of all the crazy MGS stuff, and trust me if you haven’t tried the series, there’s a lot of bonkers stuff, one item in particular has perplexed me for decades, that item is the PAL key. The PAL key or the Permissive Acton Link key is an emergency disc that is used to activate or deactivate nuclear weapons. That’s all fine and good but it’s the actual disc and how to use it that I want to talk about today. Obviously this is going to contain spoilers for Metal Gear Sold but nothing too spoilery. If a memory card reading, gas mask wearing, levitating psycho hasn’t persuaded you to play the MGS series then my mild spoiler shouldn’t turn you away for good. With that, let’s talk about PAL, pal!

palkeyred

Towards the end of Metal Gear Solid you discover that the enemy, Liquid, has started the activation process for the nuclear weapons. Not good news. So you, as Solid Snake must deactivate the nukes. Previous plans have failed but you discover the emergency option, the PAL key. In an emergency, 3 discs of data can be input into 3 computers to either activate nuclear weapons or disarm nuclear weapons. These keys are one use and if you mess up the input order or input the same disc by mistake then you’re all out of luck. As Eminem said, ‘You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow nukes’. Pretty sure that was it or close enough anyway, clearly he wrote that rap whilst playing Metal Gear Solid. So Solid Snake checks his infinite pockets and wouldn’t you know it, he only has one PAL key. He gets on his walkie-talkie to his urine soaked scientist buddy Otacon and has a bit of a moan about only having one key. Otacon explains that that PAL key is a 3 in one key. It’s designed with a special Shaped Memory Alloy which allows the key to transform shape so that different discs within the key are readable by a disc scanner. I believe that’s correct, the MGS series is confusing. When in doubt, nano-machines did it. For those who are reading and don’t know what nano-machines are to the Metal Gear Solid franchise, they’re whatever you want them to be. It’s that bit from The Simpsons where Professor Frink asks a really specific question to Lucy Lawless about an episode of Xena where a really specific detail was wrong. And then she responds with this:

Simpsons wizards

Just replace wizard with nano-machines and you’re an expert on the Metal Gear Solid experience. Again, I must reiterate, I love the series for reasons like that.

Back to my PAL! So, this disc can transform and needs to transform for it to be used properly. How do you transform it? I hear you ask. Simple really, by severe changes in temperature. And by severe I mean Sweaty Betty or Chilly Willy. Rubbing the disc in your hands isn’t going to heat it enough and to cool it you can’t just seductively rub ice cubes on it like it’s Kim Basinger. Extreme temperatures are needed to get those 2 states and the 3rd state is just room temperate so that isn’t a problem. To get the key to cool enough you need to head to a freezer area of the facility and wait in that area for the PAL key to cool enough. Once it does, the icon for the item will change to a blue disc and you can then use it on the suitable computer. To increase the temperature of the disc sufficiently, you have to take Solid Snake to a furnace area and have him wait till the disc heats up. Once the disc is heated up, you must make your way back to the computers and input the disc into the correct disc drive. Sound like fun to do in a video game? Of course it is, everyone loves backtracking!

So where is my issue with this? Well, the existence of the PAL key is for emergencies. A trip to a freezer and then a furnace, does not sound like an emergency that is swift, and speed is usually what emergencies require. It’s not like a scientist can pop this PAL key into a microwave to heat it up. Have you ever put food in a microwave that had a small piece of aluminium foil attached to it? I have and I might as well have got the sparklers out and set up a bonfire. Then there is the case of the journey to and from the freezer and furnace. Solid Snake is a clone of Big Boss, the greatest soldier of all time. A high mark for fitness and stamina is required to earn that title. Him running to and from in a timely fashion I can accept. But a regular person? Unless they’ve got Usain Bolt in a lab coat, I don’t think they’re getting those discs anywhere sprightly. An average Joe scientist will be doing a run for 2 minutes, then with winded breath that becomes a jog for another 2 minutes and then a brisk power walk to the freezer. That doesn’t include the trip back or the furnace expedition. BOOM the nukes have detonated and the super mutants are being born.

Giant mechs that roar like a Bionicle T-Rex? Sure, I’ll bite. CD’s that require a hot water bottle and a slushie nearby? Yeah, OK Kojima, where are you hiding the glue? Anyway that’s my shower thought for the day. More than likely I’ll be returning to the MGS series in the future for Inventory Time but in the meantime feel free to check out my thoughts on The Legend Of Zelda’s Iron Boots. Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments. Take it easy.

A Couple Of Couch Co-Op Games To While Away A Couple’s Couple Of Hours This Valentine’s Day

You know that thing when a word doesn’t look like a word anymore? I’ve just done that to myself with ‘Couple’. Literally had to Google search it. Nevermind that though! The day of love is upon us! And I come bearing gifts of gaming knowledge, wearing a red sash I dangle gracefully above your head, showering ideas for you and your loved one on this day. And to be quite frank, if you don’t have a loved one this year, play these games anyway! You don’t have to share the loot with anyone, happy days! Personally, Valentine’s day isn’t a day for me or my partner. We literally get each other a card or write a note for each other, usually we order take away and watch a film or play games together. Nothing grandiose because in our eyes it’s not the product but the time being together that is important. A film is great but for me, playing games together is better. There’s more interaction and connectivity when fighting a boss together or solving a puzzle. And so with that, here are a few games to try this Valentine’s day. Some of these may be on my Gaming and Your Partner post from 2017 but I haven’t checked it. These are just games of the top of my head that I currently think are great games to play with your loved one or solo.

Diablo 3

diablo-3

If you haven’t played a Diablo game before, you may be thinking that Diablo 3 sounds a bit much for Valentine’s day. And yes, while the games themes and visuals are more suited for Halloween, the gameplay is very much a Valentine’s day experience. Not only that but some people feel intimidated by Diablo 3. Because the series has such a loved history, especially with the PC community, the game sounds like it could be praised for its complexity. Wrong, in fact Diablo 3 is the perfect game to play hungover! I’ve done it and it’s a doddle. There is very little story, you’re constantly on the go and so there is very little down town. There are tons of difficulties and the basic enemies are easy to mow down. The game implements a very satisfying loot system too. When a legendary item drops with a loud dink and a ray from the heavens beams from it, you and your partner are racing to see which character class that item belongs to. It really is a non-taxing game and perfect for a lounging on the couch, vegetative day. If your partner isn’t as well versed in games as you are, this has very easy to understand mechanics and a lot of leeway in terms of difficulty and accessibility.

Don’t Starve Together

Don't Starve Together

My partner isn’t a full-fledged gamer but does like to dip her toes with games like this. More top down and rogue-lite kind of games. I never played this game until she showed me it. It’s a simple concept, you spawn on a random map and you have to build a base and gather resources to survive enemies and the seasons. It’s a game about seeing how long you can survive, just like real life! Playing it together is a great experience. 2 people looking for resources speeds up the whole process but also means that you go through those resources at double the pace. What I love about Don’t Starve Together is the delegations it requires to have a fighting chance. Sure you can both go off together in the same direction but you’re going to encounter the same stuff. With the clever mechanic of the screen splitting when players separate and merging back when both are together, it provides ample opportunity for solo adventures for a joint cause. 1 person might explore and find a scary cave to explore full of potential goodies, whilst the other player gathers berries and hunts animals for meat. Both players then grouping back up by the campfire at base, providing protection to each other but also sharing what they gathered. It really is a game that spurs on communication and team work and I’m all for it. See how long you and your partner can survive!

Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity Ori

If Diablo 3 is a light dungeon crawler, then Divinity: Original Sin is the heavier version of that. I possibly wouldn’t recommend this to very newcomers of games because it is quite slow at times and more plot focused but it does offer a great co-op mode. The whole game can be played in co-op and it’s a long game too. You both create a character at the very start and then begin your investigation into a murder in a sea-side town. What begins as a simple plot slowly unravels into more nefarious dealings and you, your partner and a few NPC’s must travel the land to solve  mysteries and defeat evil. Tale as old as time really. This is a full on RPG that is fully playable solo or co-op. Why I suggest it is because you don’t get that much. A game of this length and scope and that is 2 players hardly comes around. It won’t be for everyone though. Like I said, lots of dialogue to scroll through and micromanagement of gear and inventory can put a lot of people off. Not only that the combat is turned based. Both players will have to communicate and plan their moves as a team to succeed in a fight and while that is fun, there is a lot of waiting for your partner to take their turns. Again, not an issue for some but others will find the combat boring or too heavy which is a fair point if you want something more laid back. Similar to Don’t Starve Together, this also features the map split and merge function which can alleviate a lot of the waiting around time for you or your partner. While one player is in town selling their old weapons, the other player can be turning in quests or talking to NPC’s in another town or engaging in a battle with a troll. The game also has an amazing feature in the drop in and out function. For example, if your partner wasn’t fussed about playing the game, you could play it yourself. But, if you partner fancied playing it another time or a few hours later, they are able to jump back in and take control of their character. This lightweight feature makes this heavy game more manageable and accessible which is why I feel it deserves to be mentioned. It is also a brilliant game, solo or non-solo.

Overcooked 1/2

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I will always suggest Overcooked games to couples! The original was one of the first games me and my partner completed together and Overcooked is the kind of game that will progress your relationship years ahead or at least that is what it feels like. By that I mean, the game starts nice and light and you learn to cook a burger together in a restaurant whilst politely requesting ingredients and asking each other to do the dishes. By the end of the game you’re demanding fish from your partner so you can make the blasted sushi that customer 37 has been waiting for for 6 damn minutes and your partner is yelling at you that she can’t serve the customers because I haven’t done the dishes again! Sorry, it got a bit personal there. I was having flashbacks. This game can truly test your relationship at times but there is no other game that has made us closer, than when we’ve completed a particularly difficult level in Overcooked.  A simplistic idea with easy controls and a difficulty that scales nicely for the most part. Overcooked is an easy recommendation for Valentine’s day or date night and if you’re feeling extra daring, a double date night. Be warned, that night could end with 1 or 2 relationships coming to an end. Word of advice, wash the dishes before you have to be told to wash the dishes.

The Witness

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A bit different here as technically this isn’t couch co-op but I think this deserves a mention. The reason being is the simple phrase: two minds are better than one. Have you ever been staring at a puzzle or riddle for ages and someone just glances over your shoulder and solves it in one try? Remember how smug they look and how stupid you feel? Good news! The Witness can help you to relive that over and over again.  The Witness is a puzzle game set on an island. You walk around the land and find a variety of puzzles that gain complexity as you progress. This game will truly stump you at times and to be quite honest, I still haven’t cleared it. Me and my partner got stuck at a puzzle and I refuse to lookup the solution. You may fare better though. It is a great game to play with your partner or even just to ask them now and then if they can help with you a puzzle. It doesn’t require full commitment from both people which is a weird strength for it in this discussion. Your partner could be on the couch on a laptop or something and when you get to a puzzle, you can get them involved. Nobody can turn down a chance to outsmart their other half. Everyone enjoys figuring out puzzles too, it releases those endorphins and makes the individual’s head grow 3 times bigger that day. A beautiful, serene game that I fully recommend checking out and getting your partner involved with.

Bonus Board Game Recommendation: Love Letter

Love+Letter

With a name like that, you know it’s perfect for Valentine’s day. Yeah, while the others you can quickly download for you and your partner to play, this one will require going to a nearby board game shop if you have one or using Prime Now or similar. But, I also highly recommend this game outside of Valentine’s day. In fact, this is a staple for any time we go away anywhere. Even if only for a day, we still take Love Letter. It comes in a really small box that is perfect for travelling. Love Letter is a quick board game that consists of 7-14 rounds that can last several seconds to several minutes. With easy to pick up rules, several index cards to keep track of details and a basic premise, Love Letter is ideal for getting your loved one into board games. The game is simple, you have 16 cards and each card has a character on it. There are only 8 characters, each with a skill and point ranking. Each player begins with one card and when it is their turn they must pick up a card and discard a card. When they discard a card, they must activate that character’s skill. The round ends when all cards are gone from the deck or if a player has to reveal their card. Then the winner takes a token of affection and the first to 7 tokens wins.

Simple enough but what really makes the game is the characters. As I said, each character has a score from 1-8. At the end of the round if nobody has revealed their card, both players show their card. Whoever has the highest scoring card wins the round. You would then think that the lower numbered cards are the weaker ones but in fact they are the strongest cards to have. For instance, the Priest card is only worth 2 points. If you have this at the very end of the match, then more than likely you will lose. But when you discard it, it lets you look at what the other player is holding. Then if you have the lowest scoring card, the Guard card, this lets you guess what card the other player is holding when you discard it. Now, any reasonable player will try to discard their card when you see what they have but some situations won’t allow that. For example, the Princess which is the highest scoring card in the game and will guarantee victory if all the deck is depleted, is also the deadliest card to have. The text on the Princess card says ‘If you discard this card, you are out of the round’, so you can’t get rid of it, you just have to hope the other player doesn’t guess that card if they get the opportunity. For a game that only features 16 cards and only 8 different variations, there is a lot of minutiae. If you want something a bit different to video games for you and your partner then I highly suggest checking Love Letter out. For more of an in-depth look and a review on Love Letter, I recommend Michelle’s review at A Geek Girl’s Guide, here. If I can’t convince you to try this amazing card game then maybe she can.

And that’s it for me on this romantic day. Hope all you love-birds out there have a nice day and for all you solo players I highly recommend the video games I suggested. Each one has solo or online play and are all amazing no matter which way you play them. In my opinion anyway but feel free to let me know how you feel in the comments. Take it easy!

 

 

 

Devil May Cry V Demo Impressions

I was gutted when I couldn’t play Devil May Cry V when the demo released on the Xbox One.  Essentially the one system I don’t have but when the demo was announced for a future date on the PS4, my hopes had been delivered. I try not to watch gameplay trailers nowadays as I like to keep the game mostly a surprise. When a game gets announced that I like the sound of, I’ll have a look at the launch trailer and until launch I’ll watch some GIF’s and an odd video on occasion to get a better feel for a game. Most recently I did this with RE2 Remake. I barely saw anything of that and then a week before release I started paying attention. It feels so good when a thing you’ve just got an interest in, is right around the corner. And it isn’t because I’m not excited for the games, it’s just that I like to trick my brain into not being excited until closer to the time. That hasn’t been the case for DMCV. I’m really craving a great character action game and DMCV is hopefully exactly that. Bayonnetta 2 was the last fantastic one for me with Nier Automata scratching that itch but not wowing me as much as I hoped. And so I’ve been eagerly awaiting DMCV and watching most footage that has come out for it.

Devil May Cry 5 Demo_20190208122636
So happy when I saw this pop up after the demo.

So with my excitement high I jumped into the DMCV demo and here are some of my thoughts on it. I will clarify that even though I said I enjoyed these games, I would never say I’m good at them. I clear them and sometimes on higher difficulties but the style meters and rankings at the end of each mission, have never been my forte. I stopped counting how many stone Enzo trophies I got in Bayonetta. And it’s not that I don’t try to do well, but it’s the same thing for fighting games, I just don’t learn the systems. I don’t have the patience and creative flare for it. I love watching it and when it all comes together for me and I do something cool I get stupid hype for it but I’m not one of those technique masters. Hell, I barely get far in the Bloody Palace’s of previous Devil May Cry’s. The moves that suit me and combos that I can perform easily become my staples in each game. Do they kill the enemies? Yes but they also kill my rankings. The reason why I bring this up is that in my brief time in the DMCV demo (3 attempts with 2 being successful), I can see myself learning the systems. Specifically the Devil Breaker system.

Devil May Cry 5 Demo_20190208120036
An S is very good for me! It does go higher than this. Thought I should tell you before you start worshipping me.

So, my thoughts:

  • Devil Breaker is cool! You have 3 options in the demo: Gerbera, Overture and Punch Line. Up to 4 Devil Breakers can be equipped and each one can be used up if you opt to use its devastating functions.
  • You can’t switch between Devil Breakers without destroying the one you have equipped. I really like this functionality as it makes choosing the order of Devil Breakers important.
  • If you get hit in the process of charging your Devil Breaker or in mid use of its strong attack, it breaks. Fragile but powerful parts of Nero’s arsenal.
  • Gerbera is my favourite and my go to. It’s the mobility arm. Using it to damage enemies creates a short shockwave in front of you but my main use is its air manoeuvrability. Using it in the air while pushing the left stick in a direction will blast Nero a few feet that way. Holding the Devil Breaker button and releasing it in the air will launch bouncing lasers at your target. Holding it on the ground and releasing it, will launch a powerful, controllable beam that can hit multiple targets. A Devil Breaker that seems best suited for crowds of enemies with the option of destroying a bunch in exchange for destroying the arm.
  • Overture is more damaging than Gerbera and seems like a good Devil Breaker to have for standard enemy fodder. Tapping the Devil Breaker button (O) will blast a fracture of electricity from the palm at enemies. This needs to be up close but it does a good chunk of damage to enemies in range. Holding O and releasing it near an enemy will grab and launch the opponent away from Nero. The monster will then have a timed bomb attached to them. You can let the bomb go off when its countdown ends or you can shoot the enemy to prematurely set it off.  A great tool if you can aggro the enemy into its friends.
  • Punch Line is a big dumb flying fist. I love it! By tapping O Nero will launch the rocket propelled fist into his foe. The fist will then repeatedly loop around the victim, smacking it every chance it gets. It’s great for keeping an enemy distracted. By doing that, you eliminate them from the fight for a few seconds or leave them wide open to attack. By holding and releasing O, Nero will do a flaming uppercut to all in range. As you can guess, this does a lot of damage. I feel this Devil Breaker is best suited for stronger enemies or even bosses. The uppercut alone is a big deal as it seems the biggest and quickest damage dealer out of the 3. I may be wrong on that though. Gerbera’s laser is good damage but so easy to interrupt whereas Punch Line’s big finisher is big damage done very quick.
  • Nero’s gun, Blue Rose, can now preemptively load up several high damage bullets. Tapping square will fire bullets like normal but holding down square will load up 3 super charged bullets. When you release the square button, Nero will automatically fire one of those bullets. So the choice is yours, do you run around with 2 super bullets or do you do the charging in combat to get the full 3. It doesn’t take long to charge but I feel happy running around with 2 super shots ready to go.
  • It’s great that Nero still has the ability to pull his opponents close to him, it really does feel like a natural progression from his last game of now being able to pull enemies into his new powered up metal fist.
  • I’m willing to bet that there are a lot of ways to use the Devil Breakers in creative ways around certain enemies and bosses. I didn’t test it out much in the demo but in the boss fight, having Gerbera equipped seemed to be a huge dealing during one bit. Goliath starts inhaling and a massive suction whirlwind starts moving towards you. Using Gerbera I was able to constantly blast Nero through the air away from it. I’m not how you’d escape that otherwise. The other time I tried it I had another arm equipped and as I was getting sucked in, I was prompted to click L1 to launch my arm at him. Losing the arm in the process but evading any damage. I’m really excited to see the weird and unique ways each Devil Breaker can be used in certain situations. I feel there’s a lot of room for hidden techniques and cool moments.
  • I’m not sure how I feel about the running yet. It may be just because I’m so used to the mobility in Bayonetta but Nero does feel me weighty. It’s not a bad thing, I think that suits his style. But when running around out of combat, it didn’t feel as precise to turn as I was expecting. Saying that though, on my 3rd playthrough of the demo I felt comfortable playing but that might be because I knew more of the layout of the level. Only time will tell how I feel about this. I’ll have to see how I feel when the full game comes out.
  • The taunting is brilliant. I never really utilised the taunts in past games. Stupid me didn’t understand why you should taunt but now I understand for style points and to keep the style up during downtime in fights. It really helps that the taunts are incredibly likeable too and the enemies react to certain ones which can be pretty funny and empowering. Great detail that I fully appreciated.

And I think that about does it. There are loads of details I could talk about but I just wanted to get my quick impressions out there. Overall it looks beautiful, it plays for the most part like I hoped and I really excited to keep playing the demo to see what hidden gameplay mechanics I missed. If you fancy trying the game, I highly recommend this demo. Thank you for reading and feel free to sound off your thoughts on the game in the comments.

Devil May Cry 5 Demo_20190208122621