Dominic Deegan Chapters 24 - 45 (Written and Illustrated by Michael Terracciano)
Yes, let's ring in 2020 by wrapping up some garbage from 2019!
Did Dominic Deegan improve at all during its run? Well, a little. The art got a little cleaner, Terracciano occasionally tried new things with the comic layout, and his alien monster designs are better than his humans, if a little sketchy. But it never overcame its most egregious flaws: the story that flips between anime cliches and stupid filler, the bland characterization, every plot point being followed by two weeks of overexplanation, the restrictive panel layout, and janky human anatomy. In addition, it goes down the same path every webcomic that goes on too long seems to take (see Bob and George) and becomes grittier, darker, and more violent, culminating in a final battle straight out of the J.K. Rowling Guide to Stakes Raising where half the cast gets killed off. But the slight improvements might have been a detriment. Early Dominic Deegan was so incompetent it sometimes dipped into amusingly bad, but towards the end it got boring.
A recurring theme of the story is how life and death, order and chaos, and light and shadow are not "good and evil", they're all partners that need to exist in balance. Which wouldn't be the worst theme, but Deegan completely bungles the execution with infodumps that beat you over the head with the idea. And if you're going to preach that the world is not made up of wholly good and wholly evil opposites, maybe don't write your primary cast as either infallibly virtuous or cartoonishly evil? The character that goes through the most significant change is Jacob, Dominic's necromancer brother who enters the story balls-out insane but comes to respect the balance of life and death, but (A) it takes him maybe five strips to do his 180, and (B) he's a tertiary character at best.
The Shoggoth at the center of the comic's endgame might have been foreshadowed early in the comic, or maybe its significance when the nameless infernomancer was first dropped into its dimension was retconned. I can't tell because the story really feels like it was being made up as it went along. If Luna's tusks are caused by an orc curse that randomly but regularly pops up among humans, why was everyone treating it like something nobody had ever seen before? Most people afflicted by it have a magical surgeon pull or reshape them so did the doctors, like, not keep files on that shit? Or babies born with the tusks? You'd think there'd at least be a paper by somebody doing research on it. But no, let's all act like Luna was the only person in the world to have them for the sake of melodrama.
And I'm pretty sure the second big bad had never been mentioned before. If he had been, it had to have been in passing early in the comic and if I couldn't remember this fucker from a few months ago, how the hell was somebody who had been following this comic over eleven years supposed to? And his main power is a form of mind control, and you need to be a damn good writer to make a villain compelling when you give them that power. This guy is so sloppy that one of his schemes is to control a monster into attacking a major city, then dispatch it to make everyone think he's hot shit. I'm willing to bet Terracciano's inspiration for this was The Incredibles, but that's an overused cartoon trope dating back to at least Real Ghostbusters.
And yes, you read that right, Dominic Deegan ran for eleven years. Eleven years to tell a story that could have been told in two or three if you edited out the infodumps, bad jokes, and general stupid bullshit that shouldn't have been there like Gregory coping with the loss of his white magic by starting a rock band (what is with this comic and rock concerts??), or Dominic and Luna spending a month at a fertility clinic. And remember when "Snowsong" introduced comic books into the Deegan universe out of nowhere? They're dropped just as abruptly after "Oracle Hunter."
It was by sheer coincidence that I started reading this around the time the Legacy revival kicked off, so let's touch on that real quick. The art's better, at least, but as well as it being hard to care about about three new characters trying to find out what happened 200 years ago instead of dealing with something going on *now*, it's disappointing that Terracciano made the comic with the premise of not having dialogue but couldn't help filling it with walls of text spelling everything out anyway.
King's Quest IV: Perils of Rosella (PC)
King's Quest IV takes all the gameplay steps made in III, throws them in a bin, and rolls everything back to II. Then it cranks the bullshit up to 11 to make itself the most obnoxious King's Quest so far.
Okay, I tell a lie, the artwork has seen improvement. But as you're solving puzzles that only make sense if you're Princess Absinthe of the Batshit Kingdom and drowning in a swamp because your toe touched a pixel of water, you're also contending with "Fuck you, player!" "Well, fuck you right back, game!" moments beyond any previous entry including, but not limited to:
- Climbing up a whale's tongue with no indication of which spots can be climbed on and which will send you tumbling off. Because fuck you!
- Appeasing a family of ghosts by... I guess desecrating their graves to retrieve trinkets they were buried with? You're supposed to somehow deduce where they're buried by which gravestone's vague epitaph best suits them, but your shovel was apparently carved out of a giant slab of chocolate because you get one dig per ghost before it breaks. Because fuck you!
- Navigating a darkened cave with a lamp that only illuminates a tiny spot around you, falling into chasms you can't see, and getting ripped to shreds by a troll that keeps spawning on top of you when you enter new rooms. Because fuck you!
- Constantly falling off spiral staircases that become very narrow in the middle because perspective, and when you get to the top of the screen pressing Up will actually make Rosella walk down. Because fuck you!
Now for the pressing question: if these games are so fuckawful, why have I been scoring them a half Skitty intead of no Skitties? Because 0 Skitties is reserved for things that don't just piss me off but legitimately offend me, and the King's Quest games don't go that far. Their mistakes come across as ignorance and stupidity rather than malice and arrogance, products of the text adventure genre trying to find its footing and limited technology. Although having an idiot calling the shots isn't helping.
Sam and Max Hit the Road (PC)
Well, after months of retro Sierra games, it was refreshing to consult a game's hint booklet and think "Huh, guess I should have thought of that" or at least "Okay, I never would have guessed that but I can see where they're coming from" instead of "Are you taking the piss?"
Long before TellTale had them foiling the schemes of a Fred Rogers wannabe trying to take over the world, LucasArts had the titular dog and rabbit-thing duo investigating the mass disappearance of Bigfoots. At least I'm pretty sure that was the overarching story? Sam and Max Hit the Road is the most kitchen sinky LucasArts adventure game so far, as Sam and Max travel across the country visiting chintzy tourist attractions. Which is fitting, the Sam and Max comics were a grab bag of insanity. But while there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, Sam and Max humor fits the episodic style of the TellTale games better than a full-length game and heck, even the comics were a series of short, self-contained stories.
The story and puzzles might not be the best of the LucasArts lineup, but when you're going up against Secret of Monkey Island don't take it too hard if you don't come in first. But there is one type of point-and-click puzzle I really dislike, and if you remember me talking about Broken Age years ago or even Pajama Sam (...) Dark Outside last month you might be able to guess what it is. It's when you have to go through a multi-step process to gain the opportunity at a puzzle, but if you don't figure out the final step in a brief window it resets and you have to set everything up again. This game has several. Admittedly you don't have to much do to get into the Tunnel of Love, you just have to sit around for a minute trying to figure out what to do in there only to realize you don't have all the pieces. But then there's getting the bathroom key from Max. Later, there's a robot you need to reprogram to distract a thug while you try to get a key out of a VR machine.
I'm also not fond of the interface. Fair enough, they wanted to devote the full screen to the graphics, but I prefer clicking on the command I want instead of cycling through them with the right mouse button. Full Throttle made a decent compromise, where you'd click something, then click what you wanted to do with it from a GUI popup.