Sunday, 8 January 2017

Cuntlet II (NSFW)

All right, it's time to get this new year off with a bang! I'll be skipping around chronologically a little bit here (I appreciate that provided that it's all vintage or at the very least retro, the particular sequence isn't terribly critical: the important aspect is that with this particular title, I'm better off not posting it at my workplace.)
My relationship to this title goes back over 20 years: indeed, 31 years ago, Atari released Gauntlet II into the arcades, a refinement of the previous year's Gauntlet, and I remember playing it (a couple of years down the line) at Atari founder Nolan Bushnell's subsequent venture, Chuck E. Cheese. But in 1989, the arcade title was ported for home play under MS-DOS by PC users, and that's where this story really gets started. A few more years along and a copy had wound its way down to my custody, a neat specimen with mind-blowing digitized PC speaker sound and a kind of same-machine simultaneous multiplayer, with memory suggesting three keyboard inputs and the 4th player controlled by joystick. It was fun and continue credits were not so necessarily constrained by material conditions as at the arcade, but some hacker out there thought that there was still room for improvement.
Back when I was getting started (woah!) a bit over a decade ago documenting games at Mobygames, I thought that there was the correct place to catalogue and demonstrate the precise way in which this game's cake was... iced, but despite a few different approaches, the volunteer approvers there held firm to their commitment that the site's mission was to document games in the state in which they were initially sold on store shelves, not ways in which they were subsequently altered by immature miscreants and fan translators. So the only outlet left available to me was to make a note in the game's trivia -- a note I was delighted eventually trickled down and worked its way into another game blog I follow when Gauntlet 2's turn came up in their queue.  But I did hold on to the screenshots I originally attempted to use to demonstrate the hexedited hack's distinguishing points, and now at last I'm going to share them for ... posterity.
What's this?  The splash screen is familiar (you can compare and contrast with the original versions of these screens) but ... somewhat altered.  I can't quite put my finger on it.  Is it the wizard's robe?  Perhaps the elf's goatee?  No, wait... what's that the valkyrie is holding in her hand?  Hang on a minute, the logo isn't quite right, that doesn't say "Gauntlet" anymore, it says... what the hell is a "Cuntlet"?  (Here's a clue: if you try to research this game online, its name would traditionally invoke quite a great deal of pornography.  Hilariously, since the opening of the Internet Archive's arcade (and the penetrating reports by bloggers into its seamy underbelly), the edited game has been reclaiming its rightful place at the head of the search returns.  And speaking of head...
This informative screen demonstrates to us that the original gang of four heroes featured in Gauntlet II have had their names and character classes revamped since perhaps the last time you'd seen this screen.  Also the corporate attribution has been tweaked slightly, and ... gosh, that's a hell of a company logo! Do you think you can buy it on a mug or t-shirt?
The introductory screens continue, elaborating into what kinds of objects and equipment you're likely to encounter in this series of deeper dungeons.  Some of them look as they always did (what's a puerile equivalent to a mirror?  oh, forget it!) and others are quite a bit more... seemingly derived from a very old copy of the alt.sex FAQ.  Ice cubes?  Vitamin E?
It is in the rogue's gallery of opponents where the full scope of this reenvisioned implementation unfolds, as the denizens of the monster-filled pit are all transformed from their relatively humbly initial forms into a series of riffs on male genitalia -- a homophobic tip of the hat to the most horrible things the presumably cishet hackers could imagine overrunning them in waves emerging from a genitalia-generator?  (The presence of the breast is somewhat incongruous, and of course the misspelled "buthole" is equal-opportunity, but elsewise the roster looks like it might have emerged from a lesbian's worst nightmare.)  The most interesting transformation here is the game's initial "it", a magical player-transferrable status (as you would when playing "tag") that acts as a monster magnet, rebranded as AIDS.  In light of that chilling new context, reducing all the other monsters to enormous phalli seems rather tame by comparison.
And here you go.  Gameplay remains unchanged from the game we all know and love, but I gotta tell you, even in a game I'd never endorse eating food sitting on the floor so nearby to a pool of semen.  (Speaking of which, when characters die in this game, they are reduced to a mere wet spot on the mattress.  It's not much of a theme, so you've got to work it!)
And.. you get the idea.  (Same but different!) I'm not prepared to offer it up for download (anymore, I learned my lesson circa 1995 after being locked out of a BBS I co-administered by uploading an archive of the game for play and proclaiming it, in jest, to be Nitty's [the SysOp's] favorite game!") but if this game interests you (for even a minute, to paraphrase the late Leonard Cohen, you are lost) you can play it through your web browser courtesy of the Internet Archive.  And who knows, if this post sees enough interest, maybe when the right occasion rolls around (Valentine's Day?  Which is the holiday of orgiastic frenzy?  May Day?  A cursory Googling suggests that for ancient Rome, it was ... all of them!) I might profile the hard-to-believe French phallic Bomberman clone Bomb'X.  (But until then, my entry on it over at Mobygames, allowed due to not being a hack of another game, is reasonably comprehensive.)