Rex Nebular – Final Rating

From The Adventure Gamer

Written by TBD

It seems weird to make a big deal about your manual being written by an award winning game designer when he had nothing to do with the game itself.
So let’s get to rating Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender. I’ll start with some general thoughts. I was really surprised (and rather pleased) that the game didn’t contain a whole heap of sex-based jokes. That type of humour can very quickly become repetitive and boring so well done.

Having said that, I enjoyed the game a lot more at the beginning. I was wondering if it was just that the humour got stale after a while, but I really think it’s more because much more effort was put into the beginning of the game than the late game. More items seem to have unique and detailed descriptions earlier whereas later in the game there are a lot more generic or shorter responses.

Puzzles and Solvability

The puzzles in this game are fine. They’re mostly inventory based.

The most memorable puzzles in this game were puzzles that didn’t happen. What I mean by that, was that I spent much of the game pondering the use of things that ended up having no use at all.

There is one area on the surface that I can’t get through because I’m a man. One of the first things I did after changing my gender was to go past that area, wondering what excitement I’d find beyond.

Well, I found some more huts just like the one on the screen before, a chicken roasting over a fire, and a stream that I can’t cross because of the piranhas. I spent much of the rest of the game wondering how I would get past the piranhas and what I’d find beyond it. Then the game ended. The only reason to go to the surface as a woman was to get a roast chicken that wasn’t useful until the very last section of the game. Thinking about it now it’s rather baffling. The piranha stream wasn’t the only red herring in the game. There are a lot of items that serve no purpose whatsoever, and don’t even have interesting comments when interacted with (but I’ll get to that later)

I feel that they had planned a much larger game but ran out of time or money. Some of the things that make me think so are the above section, and also the software store that is only useful for getting penlight batteries but contains a security system and various types of software. I felt sure I’d have to either get an item through the security system of the software store or take parts of the security system to trick someone else at some point. More puzzling possibilities that are strangely not there.

Seriously. With the security stands at the front, and the software on the special stand in the middle, how can the small penlight on the shelf be the ONLY interactive element in the entire store.

Adding to my bafflement of non-puzzles was the entire gender changing thing? It’s a massive missed opportunity. It’s used twice. Once to get to the southern section of the female base (and the go back to the surface for a chicken – can’t forget that one) and once to be able to activate the car in Machopolis. Despite finding a teleporter in the southern section of the female base, I die when I tried to get through as a man so I don’t even have the chance to enter the women’s section as a man for comedy value.

The one positive in the puzzles and solvability section is the lack of negatives. Mazes, bad mini-games, and timed sequences don’t exist. The manual hinted that hard mode could have dead-ends, but I didn’t find any, and wouldn’t blame a game for including them if they also included difficulty levels that don’t have any dead-ends, so another good here.

The difficulty levels are quite a positive, or at least could have been. Difficulty levels can really help a game by making it easier or harder depending on each player’s wishes. I did solve one puzzle by spoiling myself in easy mode, but when I redid the first half of the game in medium difficulty I was surprised at the limited amount of times it was used. Using it for more than a handful of puzzles is something else I felt was a good idea but largely ignored in development.

Overall, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the puzzles in general in this game. So a slightly below par 4 seems appropriate.

Final score: 4

Interface and Inventory
The interface has some nice ease-of-use features. Holding down the mouse button acts as a “What is” or tooltip option so you don’t get stuck pixel hunting. I appreciated that.

I was annoyed that the game never made it clear that the explosives couldn’t be used without a detonator. I wasted a lot of time attempting to blow things up – the game even made of point of me having to be careful with it, reminding me about Professor Pyro blowing herself up whenever I looked at them. Come on game, if the cases won’t blow up without detonators, you could have told me that every time I try to throw them or put them on something.

Each inventory item had a funny (potentially) description, and at least one special action. Some of the actions are obvious, like ‘read’ for the repair list and most were there for a single joke, like ‘fondle’. The spinning inventory, which was so exciting it was touted as a feature in the manual, isn’t terribly exciting but does add some movement to a section of the screen that would otherwise be static, so well done, I guess? The downside is that the section becomes very drab and grey. I assume the spinning meant they couldn’t also do much with colour, because all items are just light shades of grey over a darker grey background.

Grey chicken looks much less appetizing than brown chicken.

So, a thumbs up for the tooltips and the funny descriptions, but otherwise nothing special.

Final score: 5

Story and Setting

The background story of a gender war was interesting, as long as I didn’t think too much about the logistics of it, but of course most comedy game stories fall apart if you try to think about them logically. Machopolis was by far the most fleshed out setting in the game.

In fact, the post-apocalyptic style setting of Machopolis is a weird contrast to the attempted tone of the game as a whole. The game descriptions are full of jokes and it’s clear the game doesn’t want me to take it seriously, but the empty husk of a city that was Machopolis on its own is rarely funny at all. I’m not sure I’d call it bad but… it’s just very strange, and didn’t click with me.

I’m a fan of the Fallout series and that’s something that has a largely serious post-apocalyptic setting that also manages to do plenty of silly comedy and have the two mesh very well. So it can be done, but this game just didn’t succeed as well.

The fact that the MacGuffin of the game, the vase, was something I kept forgetting about shows the game gave me no reason to care. It never told me why the vase was important – did it have power or was its rarity and value its only use (I strongly suspected the second)? Again, in a comedy game the MacGuffin is often secondary and unimportant but even in a good comedy story it should at least play some role in my motivation to solve the puzzles. The vase is mentioned in the Audio Log booklet that came with the game documentation as something Rex’s rich employer had fond memories playing with as a kid (A reference to a rather popular old movie, most likely)
Rex himself isn’t terribly well characterised either – 
  • Is he clumsy? Well yes, but I only found that out in the ending cutscene, when he knocks over the vase. 
  • Is he unlucky in love? It seems so, due largely to his stereotypical single-bachelor style living conditions, but it’s not something that defines him like Larry Laffer. 
  • Is he competent? I’m really not sure – I suppose so but how much of that was just me successfully solving puzzles rather than part of his personality?
I actually don’t know much about Rex at all. It’s possible I missed or forgot a lot, but the lack of characters for Rex to have conversations with limit the amount I learn about him, which makes me less interested in his success or otherwise in this story. He does say a lot more in the Audio Log and has more of a personality there but none of that personality seemed to make it into the game itself.
Perhaps Rex’s personality would have made more of an impact on me if he was the one narrating rather than a separate narrator

Another slightly below par score here. A somewhat interesting back-story and a third of the game taking place in an interesting but tonally odd setting are countered by the unimpressive characterization and lackluster story as a whole.

Final score: 4

Sound and Graphics

The game surprised me by only having talking during the opening cutscene. Even the end cutscene, with Rex and Stone, where Rex knocks over the vase after they have a two-line conversation doesn’t have speech – strange choice.

Anyway, the sound in this game was… not good. Gee, in coming up with these ratings I’ve been a lot harsher than I expected. And listening to some of the sounds again, it’s really years behind the times.The dog sounds nothing like a dog. Even the gender bender machine itself sounds like it could be made with PC Speaker in the 80s. (I’m possibly slightly exaggerating the quality of 1980s PC Speaker sounds, but it’s certainly not actually good.)

Well, at least we know who to blame for the dog sounding so bad.

The music was (and I say this a lot in my final ratings) not very memorable. The music is all very background and not at all interesting or emotion-inducing. I’ve been playing a Youtube longplay in the background while writing this and none of the music is reminding me of the game or evoking emotions in me. Perhaps this is the most forgettable game soundtrack of all time!

As for the graphics, they’re acceptable and things look like what they are supposed to look like. The animation I spoke so well of in the introduction post was indeed only an indication of the opening cutscene quality.

I’m once again going for a 4 in this section. It’s not quite okay.

Final score: 4

Environment and Atmosphere

This is always a hard one to rate. I suppose it can be defined as the feel of the game. How do all the facets of the game combine to make a cohesive and fun experience.

Well, the opening of the game gave me a very good impression. The verbose funny responses amused me. The animations impressed me and the dialogue was written and acted well.

Ah, the times when I had a much higher impression of the game.

The game tries to do the funny sci-fi humour thing and succeeds sometimes. It’s not bad, but oh, let’s just get to the crux of it – the whole game is mediocre.

A medicre game deserves a mediocre score. I’ll go with a 5 here.

Final score: 5

Dialogue and Acting

After the first section I played, I was impressed with the writing, and the acting of the opening cutscene.

But the more I played the less impressed I became. The verbose funny responses to things are largely the same. Trying to look at something the first time gives me a funny response. Looking at the eleventh item on a screen that gives the same funny response as the previous ten quickly makes the response lose its humour.

This is one of 11 items on this screen alone that has the exact same description when looked at.

There’s very little actual dialogue in the game as Rex rarely interacts with other people. Most of this category is referring to the narrator’s lines when trying to interact with items.

There were, if they can be called that, a few dialogue puzzles – two if my memory’s correct; We had to answer the doctor’s questions without being a smartarse or die, and we had to convince the surface woman that we were a real man by giving her the cliché man responses. Neither of those were too taxing on the brain but some of the responses were worth the comedy value.

Possibly the best writing was actually in the confusingly named Audio Log that came with the game documentation and was written by Steve Meretzky. The Audio Log is a 23 page booklet and contained a rather funny text version of an audio-captured Captain’s Log.

The Audio Log ends in the middle of the opening cutscene!

The writing and dialogue as a whole was okay, and it had enough funny dialogue that it kept me amused for a decent portion of the game. I’m sitting on a completely average 5 again here.

Final Rating: 5

Final Rating

This gives us a Final rating of… 4+5+4+4+5+5*10/6, which equals…

It’s fair to say, if I rated this game after my first gameplay post, I would have gone higher for many of the categories and it probably would have hit 50 or so. I’ve heard that first impressions are more important, but in the case of a final rating the first impression barely makes a dent if the game can’t keep up the quality for its entirety. Sorry, Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender, but I find you to be a below average game. At first I thought 45 might be a bit low but then I looked at some of our other games and it’s the fourth 45 we’ve given for 1992, and the third 45 in a row! Maybe 1992 is the year of 45!

And to give an indication of my Overall Fun Factor, I found that thinking more on the game for the purpose of rating it actually made me think less of the game. I don’t think that’s happened to me before. There must have been something about the game that kept it interesting enough not to notice its flaws as I played. Having played this game once, I can’t see myself ever wanting to play it again – I enjoyed Space Quest IV and even Leather Goddesses of Phobos 2 more than this game and really can’t see myself playing this game again. Sorry, Rex. I’ll give the game a 4 out of 10 for Overall Fun Factor, which gives a PISSEDOFF rating of… 4+5+4+4+5+5+4+4+4/.9 which equals 43!

CAP Distribution

100 CAPs to TBD

  • Blogger Award – 100 CAPs – For playing Rex Nebular and the Cosmic Gender Bender for everyone’s enjoyment

31 CAPs to Leo Velles

  • Bad Motivator Award – 5 CAPs – for letting Charles know that the vase is entirely uninteresting as a motivation
  • True Companion Award – 20 CAPs – for playing along and sharing thoughts on the game
  • Assistance Confirmed Award – 6 CAPs – for giving me confirmation that I’d need Charles’ help, and some extra help that I didn’t end up needing

21 CAPs to Charles

  • Underused Award – 5 CAPs – for noticing and lamenting the lack of puzzles related to the Gender Bender
  • Assistance Granted Award – 10 CAPs – for helping when I was stuck for a second time soon after the first
  • In Conclusion Award – 6 CAPs – for a nice series of random comments on the Won! Post that I must have agreed with, seeing as many of those comments were echoed in this final rating.

15 CAPs to gboukensha

  • Assistance Dog Award – 10 CAPs – for helping me when I was throwing the bone at the wrong thing
  • Observation Award – 5 CAPs – for further pointing out that my not noticing the hermit alley just meant I wasn’t paying attention at all.
10 CAPs to Alex Romanov

  • Psychic Prediction Award – 10 CAPs – for correctly guessing the PISSED Rating Rex Nebular would get.

10 CAPs to Mister Kerr

  • Pantene Award – 5 CAPs – for Noticing how full-bodied and 80s Rox’s hair is
  • Underused Award – 5 CAPs – for noticing and lamenting that the Gender Bender appears to be just a keycard

10 CAPs to Joe Pranevich

  • Patron of the Arts Award – 10 CAPs – for donating to Tony Longworth, a musician who’s done Infocom-inspired music on The Adventure Gamer’s behalf

5 CAPs to Lisa H

  • Snoo-Snoo Award – 5 Caps – for putting an extremely appropriate Futurama reference in the comments

5 CAPs to Corey Cole

  • Fine Art Award – 5 CAPs – for telling us a little about the late Kenn Nishiuye, an artist for this game who also worked for Sierra.

5 CAPs to Ziggi

  • Sorry Award – 5 CAPs – as compensation for having rose tinted memories tarnished by someone judging a 1992 game in 2019. Sorry.

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