BLUE STINGER / Activision / Dreamcast

Two times in my life now I've tried to play Blue Stinger, and both times quit about 1/4 of the way through the game at the first part where you have to swim. The swimming control just epitomizes the problems that kill this game; janky, clunky control and poorly plotted out level design and enemy placement, which when combined with a camera that swings all over the place and doesn't have a stable first-person mode, leads to a lot of cheap deaths that are no fault of your own (and a lot of replaying of annoying segments.)

Blue Stinger is easy to forgive, though, and many people have. At the time it came out, as a launch title for the Dreamcast in '99, it was the first survival horror game to be entirely rendered in 3D. Much as with Sonic Adventure, Dreamcast devs were leaping into this brave new world without having any real mastery over it, just learning as they went, and you have to expect a certain level of jank and awkwardness from the games of this period. If this concept had sat on the shelf for a couple more years then been released for the Xbox by the same people, I don't doubt it would have come out a much better game.

Another reason to forgive it is its unintentional B-movie charm. This was actually a high-budget game with a lot of elbow grease put into it. Sega and Climax were banking on it being a blockbuster to jumpstart the new console (and it actually did sell half a million copies in spite of mixed reviews.) However, somehow with a fairly experienced team at the helm and a sizable budget, and with Activision going so far as to revamp the entire camera system for the English localization, the story and dialogue are still amazingly corny and terrible. This actually ends up being a good thing, as the adventures of main character Eliot and salty sewer mouth Captain Dogs would probably have been painfully tedious if everything was played more straight. The most memorable parts of the game are the goofy lines like "Her skill is A+!" and Dogs' trademark "God damn son of a bitch!"


The game is heavy on cinematics, some of them actually quite good, but usually when the voice acting kicks in it ruins any possible sense of drama whatever and you're right into MST3K Mode. They also tend to drag on far too long and could have stood some firm editing. My favorite is one fairly early on where an elevator gets stuck with someone trapped inside. The robotic female voice of the control console announces that the emergency brake is about to release and the elevator is about to fall in 130 ... 125 ... 120 seconds. Meanwhile the camera is centered on Eliot the entire time as he does his herp derpy stare and twitching, letting 10 seconds burn off before finally realizing ... "Hey! The elevator is gonna fall!" Another thing that got forgotten in the localization is changing common Japanese mannerisms to ones that Westerners would recognize. I always love when a character is blocked from going through a door or using something and pulls that "smelling a nasty fart" animation to tell you you can't proceed.

Another quirky, enjoyable thing about the experience is the bombastic, often quite good symphonic soundtrack that accompanies all the action, even when you're just kind of casually running around in a hallway grinding money drops from easy-to-kill enemies. Everyone's favorite bit is the Lab Town segment that is the second major area you explore, the game's shopping mall area. The game takes place at Xmas time so everything here is decorated with Santa and whatnot, and the game plays this great (but ridiculous for the monster movie setting) 1950s New York Christmas music, like something you might have heard at Woolworths while holiday shopping back in the day or something. All while you're running around slaughtering the horribly twisted bodies of the former occupants of the island with napalm and fire axes. And buying shotguns and missiles from vending machines.

The whole thing is just Classic Sega in the Dreamcast era to the hilt; dumping a big budget and tons of polish on some quirky, experimental game that turns out to be charming even if it does frequently play like ass. The latter bit is just too much of a problem for me; the charm isn't enough to outweigh the clumsy movement, cheap monster spawns, and the ultimate deal-breaker, the absolutely horrible swimming segments. It has for plenty of other people though, so maybe give it a shot if you see it for a few bucks.


Videos :

* Gameplay Video
* Best Xmas music ever



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