Thursday, November 15, 2018

IFComp 2018 - Five Short Reviews


I don’t recall trying the story that this is the sequel to but I recognize this veteran authors name and it’s a parser-based game, so I wanted to give it a shot. In this game you play a female with the super power to stop time. Now that time has stopped, you have to sort through scenarios frozen in time to get the superheroes out of the theme park. “TAKE”ing everyone as if they were static objects did feel a little awkward but I’m not sure would verb would have even been better.

There are ways to trap yourself and meet other bad endings, and I had to use the walkthrough to get to the proper ending. Had I not resorted to that, this line probably would have really nagged me:

“You have the worrying feeling that you’re forgetting something. But it might just be nerves.“ (Argh! Now I feel really insecure about this!)

This isn’t a bad game, but I feel it would have really frustrated me without a walkthrough. There’s some good humor, scenery descriptions, and the story isn’t long-winded or hard to follow.


In this one you are basically playing some sort of futuristic future agent. After a brief intro screen you are sent into a training mission only carrying a rifle and wearing body armor. There is a simplified choice-based conversation system here which is always welcome to me. The story shifts from different periods in the characters past like flashbacks. It’s quick with not a lot of description, but effective.

A bit more story and ending text would have been cool here but the way it is helps reflect the bleakness of the future portrayed.


This is an interesting one that I did have a lot of fun with. It’s not very traditional in respect to commands, movement, etc. However, I think this is one of the strong points because you are controlling a mechanized industrial vehicle while getting pointers from a fellow in some amusing dialogue. There is no walkthrough present, but if you are patient you should be able to complete the story fine without one.

Without spoiling anything for someone who has never played this one.. all is not what it seems here. This is made even more effective due to the fact that in the beginning it’s a bit hard to grasp what’s even going on to begin with.


As you may have gathered from my previous reviews I’m generally not a fan of “choice-based” games, but there have been some exceptions.The premise of this one in the entry preview sounded a bit interesting and mysterious. It definitely got mysterious. You have been taken in by two peculiar NPCs with unknown motives. The combat can get a bit repetitive but overall OKnot a bad game. I wish I was given a bit more background on the NPCs and the strange happenings of things on the other side of a particular door, but I suppose too much explanation would be a bad thing in this story.


This is a text parser game but seems to have been made from scratch rather than using a popular language like TADS, Inform, Hugo, etc. This parser took some getting used to. For instance, you can not use the command “SOUTH”, rather you must use “GO SOUTH” or “GO OUT FRONT DOOR”.

While I enjoyed the introduction of a new parser that was compatible with most OS terminals, I found the experience a bit frustrating.. the “USE” command is a bit ambiguous as well as other commands, but I can’t really say this is a bad game either. If anything, this game gets a point due to not being yet another choice-based game (heh-heh).

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

NEC Turbo Duo Repair

 About 20 years ago, I purchased a NEC Turbo Duo console from a now-closed store called "It's about games." I asked about Turbo Grafx stuff as at the time I think I still had a Turbo Express handheld system (It was later stolen along with my Splatterhouse and Bonk's Revenge Hu-Cards). An employee there mentioned he had a Turbo Duo still in the box with everything that came with it, and that he hated it and wanted 50$ for it. I instantly took him up on the deal.

 The system played well for years. I joined a group called R.I.G.G. (Retro ISO Gaming Guild) and learned the ways of ripping and burning CD games for the system. Eventually CD games that required a lot of loading such as Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective would hang/crash and I tossed a lot of those burned copies and put the system up for a few years.

 When I brought the system back out I could tell immediately there were audio issues. I could barely hear anything and what I heard was crackling. There were numerous posts on the Internet about this and it was quickly determined that I needed to order a cap kit because the surface mounted capacitors fail after a few years and to make it even better.. they leak acid all over the PCB which can ruin circuit traces. In my case, I was fairly lucky that there was not a lot of leakage but there definitely was some visible underneath nearly every original cap as I removed them. I had a bit of trial and error along the way because while I have quite a bit of soldering experience, I've never done any surface-mount soldering. Below are a few pointers I learned along the way, along with my list of capacitors replaced. Note how much larger the last couple of batches are! Once I had some practice and knew how to properly prep, things went much smoother and faster.

- Removing the old surface-mounted capacitors

 Some will probably disagree with how safe this is, but for me I never lifted a trace. I simply took needle-nose pliers and GENTLY rocked the capacitor back and forth and side-to side a few times each. Once it started feeling loose I would put the pliers down and use my thumb to gently rock the capacitor some more in a circular motion and it would just fall off. If some of the legs of the old capacitor are left on the solder pads, you can carefully cut them with wire-cutters though some people leave them as an additional bit of metal for new solder to stick to.

- Cleaning

 This is extremely important. You need to clean the pad and all around the area of the pad to ensure any residue left over is removed. I used q-tips and 93% rubbing alcohol. Clean each area repeatedly until there's nothing black or yellow left on the q-tip. If the pad is really dirty (won't get shiny) then you will need to use a fiberglass pen gently on the pad to basically "scrape" any hard stuff off, then hit it with q-tips and alcohol again. If your surfaces aren't completely clean, the solder WILL NOT stick to the pad! Also, there are two op amps near the audio sections of the PCB. They are black with 8 metal legs and have the code "4558" stamped on them. If you've had bad leakage you will have to get those off and clean underneath them. In my case I didn't see any signs of corrosion near them on top or underneath the board itself; so I soaked both pretty good in alcohol, wiped them off and only saw very light yellowing, then let them dry.

- Prepping

 You will need to bend each leg of the capacitor about 1/4 of an inch from the top outward, then trim the legs, essentially making little "feet" that will stand flush on the soldering pads. You can use the diagram and list here to plan out which capacitors to replace and where they go. I also ordered my capacitor kit from console5, but these days you can probably get more high-quality capacitors. In my opinion I don't really care because I know what's in that kit is miles better than the old caps. I recommend making a little list of your own per each "batch" of capacitors you intend on replacing so you can check them off as you go.

 Pay VERY close attention to polarity! Out of the 39 capacitors I swapped, I discovered I had one backwards which is a first for me on any soldering job. Good thing I caught it before I turned it on too because that could have seriously messed something up! The stripe on the capacitor marks the negative side. Do not trust the + marks on the PCB completely as it gets confusing when there are a lot in a cluster. Always confirm uF. voltage, and polarity of your replacement by checking the diagram in the link above! While voltage isn't as important; the general rule is that higher voltage will work, but not the reverse. Also, uF must be EXACT. So say if you need 6v 22uf, you can safely use a 10v 22uf, but you can not use something lower than 6 volts.

- Soldering

 I used a soldering iron picked up from Radio Shack years back. Certainly nothing special. It is adjustable to 15 watt or 30 watt. You'll obviously want to use a small, thin tip on your iron as this stuff is tiny. I used 15 watt (and you'll probably want to as well) because I wanted to be extra careful not to burn anything up. At one time early on I briefly used 30 watt and things just didn't want to "stick" properly. I recommend you have both solder wick and a solder sucker for cleaning up any old solder or to clean up any you accidentally may drip on a resistor or whatever. The best method I found was basically applying a little drop on each pad then waiting for it to cool, then gently touch it with my finger to ensure it's properly bonded. Then I would take my prepared new capacitor in my left hand and heat the solder drop for about half a second as I sunk the leg into the drop then quickly pulled away to solder iron. Wait for it to cool, then give it one last little wiggle to ensure it's not going anywhere.

- Testing

 It's not a bad idea to do a test after each batch of capacitors just in case something weird happens latter it will help you narrow down what went wrong. Make sure the the black and white wires are still soldered to the metal place that covers the middle of the PCB. Again, check your polarity! Ensure nothing is backwards every time before powering on.

 Doing multiple tests actually helped me solve an audio issue that popped up after I thought I was done! The first batch I did included c604 and c610. Those op amps I mentioned earlier pass through these. My first test after that batch brought back my audio loud and clear.. but after the total job was done I eventually discovered I only had the left channel of sound when using my AV cable (stereo worked fine through headphone jack). I was scratching my head and then remembered I had to bend a couple of caps to expose a screw. Sure enough, it was c610 and c604 and one leg of c604 had come loose. Probably because I wasn't cleaning/prepping as well as I should have been on that first batch! I hit the leg with more solder, wiggled it to make sure it's tight, fire the console back up and shazam, both audio channels working.

- Capacitor list by batch

Batch 1

Batch 2

Batch 3

Batch 4

Batch 5

Batch 6

Batch 7

Final Notes

 I found this project to be very time-consuming and honestly hope I never have to mess with surface-mounted capacitors again.. though that's probably inevitable. It took me nearly 2 years to get around to completing but that's mainly due to being busy with work and getting into other repairs that were more high-priority to me. However, I learned a bit along the way and the experience was very rewarding. Aside from the fact the first batch basically fixed my audio issue, with every batch afterwards I could see things like new colors popping up in Neutopia that I either forgot were there. Once complete, the audio is clear with no buzzing. The graphics are bright, crisp, and colorful. It almost feels like playing brand new system.

 I have not yet replaced the non-surface-mounted capacitors and they do not show signs of leakage yet. From what I've seen in arcade repairs, those could last a few more years so I'll just keep an eye on them for now and if something fails they'll be the first culprit. I also have not replaced the save game component but I have the part if save games start vanishing.

 I also have not addressed the CD-ROM yet. That will be next! As of now it just spins when trying to load an audio CD. First step will be trying to adjust the existing laser now that the capacitors have been replaced.

 You can find more pictures I posted along the way on my Twitter account

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Slowly but Surely

 Last year I had tried to get the DPRK interactive fiction game completed by Christmas. That didn't happen. Besides my job still chugging along at a pretty grueling pace, other things just pop up. Foundation work to my house, repairs and appliance replacing at the trailer I inherited near the coast; it's always something! This is the first year I didn't even take the time to play and rate the Spring Thing interactive fiction competition games. It honestly came and went before I even realized it.

 On the bright side, things are a little less stressful now and I haven't taken on any new time-consuming projects. A friend of mine is working on a new MMO type game and I've assisted here and there.. but now he's hit a wall with the networking of the Godot engine that can't be solved until there is a newer version of the engine it seems. I've made a couple of electronic tunes you can listen to here, but that isn't time consuming either. I only sit down to try to make music when I have an idea for a song or am in a certain mood, which is rare.

 Today I'm working on DPRK again and wanted to update this blog before I forgot about it again for a few months (heh-heh). Over the past year I'm probably averaging about 3-5 hours a month total of adding bits of code here and there, testing things, and adding new graphics. That isn't great but I suppose it's better than nothing. I've had to tell myself to basically not force myself to try to do things that will be too time consuming just for a gimmick or puzzle feature. The time came long ago where I just have to focus on the content itself as the game isn't meant to be very puzzle intensive anyway. Instead, it should be fairly easy cruising to get an ending, wonder if things could have ended differently, and then hopefully play the game again and try different things for different results.