Something has been bothering me recently, something so indescribable in nature that it's almost vulgar to even think about. Cold and callous, this menacing force has left me in constant disarray, not to mention anxious and slightly more clammy than usual. At night, shortly after my evening Bible study session, I cry myself to sleep only to wake up moments later screaming foul curses and shaking my fists at imaginary devils. My normal relaxation habits have been violated and transformed in ghastly ways, leaving me with no escape. Even a surprise impromptu funeral would probably be more pleasant and tolerable than the hellish ordeal I endure each miserable day. I used to go down to the lake and practice obscene duck calls, but now I can't even do that with impunity. I get so overwhelmed with negative emotions that the temptation to drown myself like a desperately unwanted corpse is too great. The risk is too high, too inviting, and too absolute. I've been this way for a week, and my chances of lasting any longer are slim to none.

What's got me so upset you ask? Well, assuming you weren't trying to make a fool out of me by asking that in a rhetorical sense, I shall explain. I have been constantly thinking about the plot to the classic NES game Blaster Master. Of course by saying it has a plot I do a great disserve to the millions of well written games out there, such as A Boy and His Blob and Mutant League Hockey, all of which made perfect sense when juxtaposed with the colossal intellectual insult that is Blaster Master. I despise even uttering the name of this game, for in mentioning it I'm reminded of the tremendous horrors I've suffered through over the last week. Even if I spent the entire week crammed inside a hobo's ass, I think I would still have come out on top.

Okay, so far so good!Blaster Master starts out unassuming enough. We are eased into the actual gameplay via a slideshow introduction that sets the stage for an endless display of madness. In the first slide, our young "protagonist," Jason, admires his pet frog, Fred. The poor frog is housed in a glass jar, a translucent prison of body and soul. Like Hannibal Lecter in the movie "Silence of the Lambs," the glass prison may truncate freedom, but not mind and will. Fred's mind is outside, constantly scheming and waiting for the perfect moment. One can clearly imagine that the frog is unhappy in this container, as who would truly enjoy living in a claustrophobic world of glass? Vile Jason goes so far as to tap the glass, drawing the focus of the frog upon him, obviously curious as to how the amphibious inmate reacts to terror and mental cruelty. Somehow between the first and second slide, fate intervenes on Fred's behalf. The security of the glass prison is breached, allowing Fred to escape into the front yard. Fred, feeling the gentle caress of freedom blowing in the cool afternoon wind, dashes towards a radioactive crate resting comfortably in front of the garage. Jason, despite running frantically in pursuit of the frog, is unable to prevent destiny from shaping the day into something akin to a Greek tragedy written by retards. Fred is mutated, quite rapidly, growing much larger than any normal frog. Jason looks on in horror, first witnessing Fred's miraculous atomic resurrection, and then watching him flee into a gigantic hole also conveniently located in Jason's family's yard. Jason, transforming from cruel enslaver to sacred protector, immediately sets out to rescue Fred by jumping into the hole. There inside the dirty innards of the Earth he discovers an unoccupied battle tank and a vast world of danger and adventure.Uh, oh! But no big deal, right?Now right away we have problems with the game's story, or, at the very least, with Jason's parents. What the hell is a radioactive crate doing in their front yard? Honestly, could there possibly be a more irresponsible place to leave a radioactive crate? Second, why is there a gigantic hole in their yard? Why don't they just plant landmines and build a lovely garden out of German razor wire and diseased animal carcasses while they're at it? I also take issue with the notion that their house is built atop a large underworld of robots, mutants, and unparalleled danger. You would think the realtor would have at least given them a head's up about that. You know a casual, "As you can see, the property is an excellent shape… The yard gets good drainage, which is nice a bonus when you consider it rests above a vast underground world ruled by the nefarious Plutonium Boss." Hell, maybe the realtor did warn them, and they are just careless people who have no business raising a child.Wait a minute, what's that doing there?The situation is even more ridiculous when you consider Jason's response. In my younger days I used to catch frogs, toads, turtles, and snakes all the time. When you're young and from Indiana, random animals are like a form of currency and symbol of status. The kid in possession of either the most captured animals or the most exotic animal was always a figure of great fascination and revere. However, no animal, not even one that has been radiated, is worth jumping into a giant hole over. I don't care if there is an awesome battle tank waiting, because what good is a battle tank if you're stuck in a fucking hole? Yeah, there is the whole exploration and heroic frog rescue operation to pass the time, but that's a massive undertaking for a young boy. Honestly, I doubt Jason could handle the intense emotional strain of being trapped in a hole, particularly one filled with hostile creatures ready to tear him limb from limb. In a more realistic scenario, Jason would fall into the hole and immediately begin calling for help, begging for the warm embrace and calming voices of his negligent parents. Another concern is this: the underworld is filled with radioactive creatures and therefore with sources of radiation. I realize Jason finds a protective suit with the tank, but the danger of being eradiated is still there, especially if the suit gets damaged.STUPID.I've been thinking a lot about the plot to this game, and every time I just fall to pieces. How could anybody create a game with a premise so incomprehensibly stupid? Granted, I've never seriously played the game. I tried, but my tank blew up because giant golems kept jumping on me and I was too busy wondering why I could see the sky in the background to attempt to fight them off. Another time I got out of the tank and fell of a ladder and died, which was the most realistic event in the entire game. Sorry, I'm no Blaster Master Master, mastering each blast better than the last. That stuff is all extracurricular fodder anyway. I honestly don't care about 8bit gameplay, as I'm more concerned with engrossing stories and rich character development. From what I saw of this game, you're likely to find more interesting back-story oozing out of a clogged toilet. What's the moral of Blaster Master? Don't jump in a fucking hole, you stupid kid. I suppose the game also says a lot about the role of parents in maintaining a yard free of toxic wastes and giant death holes that swallow children whole like a crazy NAMBLA member. How does the overall story turn out? Well, I imagine that if Jason doesn't find and rescue Fred, he fights him to the death only to have his efforts rewarded with a couple quick victory scenes and then a list of the talented men who sweated over each pixel of his body.

I realize many of you are going to be hard pressed to understand my pain, but surely you agree rescuing radioactive frogs is hardly a premise for an epic story of any sort, even one aimed at crippled children who don't have the capacity to dream poignantly. This game has no excuse, since it was targeted at the average gamer when it was released so very long ago in 1988. It's not like there weren't intelligent games out there to draw inspiration from. Even Super Mario Bros. was more intelligent. At least you were trying to rescue a princess (the balance of political drama with the standard good versus evil conflict). Who knows, maybe Jason was some kind of weirdo who thought by kissing Fred he would transform into a prince. While that would have made for a fascinating story sure to inspire some exciting fan fiction, it definitely wasn't what the designers had in mind when they made the game. I'm pretty sure they were too occupied with the daunting prospect of securing more drugs and alcohol too care about proper character motivation. If you're looking for a great story, Blaster Master is the wrong game to play. There is no greater good, no hidden meaning, and no profound insights into life to be obtained. It is a hallow vacuum of a cartridge, a nonstop action game of fun built around a paper-thin premise that will torment you with its absurdity.

Rah Rah Rah!

Hey fools, Taylor "Psychosis" Bell here with a question - if you could play any game in the world, what game would you play? Now, I know half you readers will answer "A cheerleading game, of course!" and the other half will say "Cheerleading is for fags, I'd rather play a game about something manly like raising horses!" Well, both factions of the bitterly divided SA readers are in luck today, because I have reviewed both.

In the second mode, “Practice Mode”, you get to listen to the obnoxious background music you selected earlier while the freakishly tall cheerleaders chant and go through the hand-waving and slightly-to-the-side-stepping motions you selected when you created your routine. And on a completely unrelated note, occasionally an arrow will slide in from the right side and you have to press the corresponding arrow when the scrolling arrow hits the center. It’s kind of like Dance Dance Revolution but without the hyperactive asian kids and giant fat men who play for five or six seconds before going directly into cardiac arrest. I say it’s an “unrelated” note because pressing the arrow keys doesn’t seem to be a requirement for making the cheerleaders do anything – they just go ahead and do their little routine regardless of whether or not you hit any of the arrows. However, missing an arrow carries the risk of having your performance rating downgraded from “Super!” to merely “Good”, and needless to say that is not a risk to be taken lightly.

Since I have come at last to unite the Cheerleaderist and Horseist factions of the SA readers and end the bitter conflict which has ravaged our land, the least you could do in return is read the review.

– Josh "Livestock" Boruff (@Livestock)

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