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Hoosier City - Return to Oil City (PC) artwork

Hoosier City - Return to Oil City (PC) review


"As a huge Purdue fan, I should on principle be glad to see anything Hoosier tank so quickly. Not the Hoosier City series, though. It's not the first time a sequel failed to match the original, but here it's shocking considering that the flippant humor that makes the original such a laugh seems natural enough to continue. Also, part one was shareware, with nags to order the last two. They weren’t worth it. The three games share the same engine but little else. The corny jokes and puzzles h..."



As a huge Purdue fan, I should on principle be glad to see anything Hoosier tank so quickly. Not the Hoosier City series, though. It's not the first time a sequel failed to match the original, but here it's shocking considering that the flippant humor that makes the original such a laugh seems natural enough to continue. Also, part one was shareware, with nags to order the last two. They weren’t worth it. The three games share the same engine but little else. The corny jokes and puzzles have gone, replaced by a brief push for survival in unfair environs. The only flippancy in HC3 is the design.

You're still the same poor sap in a red radiation outfit, though from your rush to liberate Freedom City in HC2, you've got that magic wand you didn't need, and all those guns too. Apparently you need to find your castle, which can't be far away, as the game-world is still not very big: five screens by five. But now an oil river blocks you in, with a lethal tank guarding the bridge. The river is black, which is never explained, and so are the monsters. I call lazy graphics! Or I would, if I didn't have to duck off screen to avoid the fire demons that pop up every few seconds. Perhaps HC3 is trying to establish a breakneck endgame pace. But it is not the first game to bail out from actual plot and ideas this way.

HC3's not the first shareware game to abridge plot, either, but I don’t know any game has an in-game preview it so embarrassingly contradicts. Apparently, there's an antidote, according to the game introduction. I never found it, or its use. I wasted enough time gaining $20000 for a stamina boost at Bob's Ammorama (funny vendor stolen from HC2) before I went to the Rock, a dungeon with a few secret rooms exposed by rudimentary mapping. You find the key to your castle, hope random monsters don't shoot you too much in the Long and Winding Road, and walk back around the river. Enter the castle, get the jetpack in the basement, and look! Another dungeon!

Wait, no. It's the rock again. Same long scenic route. Then you use the jetpack, and HC3 is the first game to make THAT item tedious. You'll fly around blank screens but still need that edge-hugging you got bored enough on foot. Fly far enough away, and you'll learn you defeated some enemy or other. This may fool anyone who really did sleep through the game or who wants to believe something happened.

So where are the funny location names? The puzzles to find weapons? Even survivors giving meaningful clues? I didn't end with much of a resolution besides that aliens might've done something. I can't think of anything remotely weird and funny here besides a flaming couch in your castle, which has three mazy rooms. They are the highlight of HC3.

Maybe there is one final joke: that the shareware released for free is not the REAL shareware, and the designers' frustrated genius is wreaking vengeance on all who did not support the original product. Not a good joke, but the thought is still better than what we got. While HC2 forgot humor but had some interesting magic bits, I figured HC3 would set up for a grand conclusion or, at least, combine with HC2 to be comparable to the original. It didn't come close. Perhaps I should be grateful HC3 didn't try for coherent plot by railroading me into further nasty areas. Or maybe that HC3 is that it isn't HC1--I mean, I didn't play it first. I'd never have gotten to Assault of the Orcs then. So, series completists beware: this half-effort doesn't erase the light-hearted humor of HC1, but it comes close.



Rating: 1/10

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (June 29, 2009)

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zippdementia posted June 30, 2009:

I've only got enough energy left in me tonight to review your first paragraph. Sorry. More to come later. Changes are in bold.

"Hoosier City isn't the first series to surprise me with a strong start, only the first to surprise me by falling off so quickly."

The next sentence, "This goes for games or books," isn't needed, as it doesn't add anything and in fact muddles us as to your reviewing medium.

"Other series have gone downhill. Leisure Suit Larry, for instance, dumbed down the jokes and got cruder. The Harry Potter books refused to shut up. But HC3 deserves a special shame in that it moved away from the flippancy that made it more successful. HC3 goes south in a misguided attempt to bring the shareware series to a bang-pow conclusion."

This whole bit confuses me a bit. I can't tell if you're pointing out things about other series that made them worse, or made them better. You need some sort of modifiers, like the ones I've added. Even then, some things remain confusing. Probably the biggest complaint is that I'm not sure why HC3's move away from flippancy is a worse shame than the others you've mentioned.

"It's just mean to the player. And beyond a couch being on fire in your inexplicably mazy three-screen castle, there's no corny joke to be seen, or even told by a prisoner."

Again, I'm not sure how a couch being on fire constitutes a joke or what you're referencing by a corny joke told by a prisoner. Are these references to the first game?
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sashanan posted June 30, 2009:

As the review stands some knowledge of what came before is probably needed. The first game (as reviewed here ZOMG read NOW!!!) was a nice little action romp, collect weapons and items, slaughter enemies, hilarious in how it deliberately tosses different themes together so that you end up fighting orcs, a dragon, a berserk automatic tank and penguins in a game taking place in a large nuclear shelter.

Then come Hoosier City 2 and 3, which apart from using the same engine are nothing alike. The games are much shorter, all kinds of weapons are missing, you can often break the sequence and skip parts of the game entirely due to sloppy coding, and combat has become impossible by placing powerful enemies in your path when you have nothing to combat them with. Andrew mentions it's better to just run away from monsters here - it was true in HC2 already. And to top it off, the two games together are shorter than the first game in its entirety once you do know where to go.

Especially given the original business model in which HC1 is shareware and the other two episodes commercial, we got surprisingly little justified outrage on this piece. Just wait until I get my hands dirty with it.
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aschultz posted June 30, 2009:

Thanks both of you for the suggested edits. They're not in but should be. I just sort of tossed this off before I left work, as the game had left me in a crummy mood, and besides, I needed an H for the alphabetolympics. Perhaps I needed to weave in a bit more of the series. I thought I proofread it...I figured I had to keep the review short, too. Also I was thinking of how to write a game for a series. I thought this would be low risk, and apparently it's good it's a short game, as a bigger game review might've had more mistakes.

PS I just think couches on fire in games are funny. And it's the sort of thing the game gets away with earlier...and as for walking off the screen, HC3 cranks its necessity up to 11. In HC2 it's tolerable but with HC3 it's more frequent and with deadlier monsters.
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sashanan posted July 03, 2009:

...my goodness. Having just finished it myself I see your 1/10 is well justified. You know something is dreadfully wrong when a game makes Hoosier City 2 look good.

This whole episode 2&3 thing has been one major disillusion. Hoosier City 1 is fun for crying out loud. It is even nostalgic to me as the first game I ever wrote anything resembling a FAQ on (for personal use, when I was like 14, maybe 15, long before I had net access). How could they have sunk so low?
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aschultz posted July 03, 2009:

Well, at least you know you weren't really missing anything all these years!

As for me, I still don't want to have to replay the game in my mind enough to edit my review. Brr.

Update: I think playing that game made me dumber, based on how my review read. But it is updated. As easy as the game seems to slam, it took a lot of effort to.

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