Thursday 24 December 2015

Jam Enslaver Reviews...Body Harvest

The Body Harvest review became a bit of a white whale for me: I decided to review the game way back in 2010, as it was an N64 game that I really remembered liking but I never heard people talk about. It felt like there should be more discussion about this game and that I had an opportunity to talk about something that people might not even be aware of.

I started writing the script for it that year but got distracted by other things and never finished it. As you can imagine, the choices for what my next review is going to be are very strongly dictated by how easily I can collect footage, and the fact that I don't own an N64 meant that whilst I really wanted to review Body Harvest, it only came to the foreground at times when I could easily borrow a machine to play it on. When I did come back to the idea in 2013 I scrapped the whole script and started to re-write it. The original was very focused on the juxtaposition of such a violent game (I mean, it's called Body Harvest!) with Nintendo's usual family-friendly appearance and it just wasn't very interesting. It was then that I began to explore the way in which Body Harvest influenced GTAIII, and thus made a huge impact on the gaming landscape, which was ultimately the main thread of the final review.

By that point I had bought a copy of the game and played it a bit on my brother's console, but I never quite got around to recording any footage. Later I played around with the idea of using an emulator, but the ones that I tried all suffered from strange collision issues which made the game unplayable.

In late 2014 I found myself living at home with my parents for three months, helping my Mum look after my Dad before I was due to move to California to start my new job at Facebook. This meant that I would have some time to put into making videos again, which I threw myself in to when my father passed away not long afterwards. My reviews of The Beatles Rockband (dedicated to my Dad), Luigi's Mansion and Dungeon Defenders came quickly afterwards. Finally I had a week or so before I was due to fly out, so I decided to play Body Harvest, recording everything, with the hope of using the footage once I had moved to create the review.

Inevitably, sitting down to put the pieces together for the review wasn't high on my list of priorities after that, moving across an ocean, starting a new job and beginning a new chapter of my life in California with my wife and her family. The recordings sat on my computer for well over a year, waiting for a time when I could find the time and the motivation to use them. It didn't help that there wasn't really a place for me to work. My computer was in console mode, connected to a television, and my one attempt to do some development work with the keyboard balanced on my knees showed me that I needed something to change if I was going to make more videos.

In the Autumn of 2015 I started wanting to work on some personal projects again (my list of ideas for games that I could make is getting very, very long!) so my wife bought me a desk and a chair as an early Christmas present. We cleared out a little space on the landing to act as a workstation that I dubbed 'The Watchtower' since it overlooks the living room and commands an excellent view of the street outside. Finally having my computer set up in a comfortable working configuration, my first project was to finally get the Body Harvest review finished.
The Watchtower
It was certainly a very different from usual experience writing (or re-writing) a review for a game that I hadn't played in over a year and hoping that I had recorded the right footage! Luckily my tactic of recording all of my gameplay paid off and I had more than enough footage to get my point across. One shortfall was that I didn't have any clips of the end of the game. When starting out playing Body Harvest I already knew that if I played on the easier difficulty level then I wouldn't be allowed to get past level 3, so in order to get video beyond that point I chose the harder difficulty. I got so frustrated repeatedly dying on the same boss sequence in the second level that by the time I got to the third I didn't have the energy to record more than the bare minimum of what I needed to show the New York setting. The game does have cheats that would have helped me get unstuck, but they're tied to the name you give your save file at the start of the game and I didn't want to have to start the whole story mode over again. I'm sure that given more time I would have soldiered on to see the last two levels but that's not how things worked out. I don't think it really hurts the review as there's plenty of variety in the footage that is there, but it would have been nice to finally get to level 4 after all this time.

So that's how it took me five years to finish one review! With Body Harvest completed I'm moving on to other, more personal subjects, which I will hopefully have ready before too long. Talk to you then!

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