Tour of Duty: Whatever You Please
Posted By: MartinDate: 4/12/14 2:17 p.m.

Last time on Tour of Duty, we chose a new way, from the jumble of lava, platforms, switches, Ticks, etc. that apparently passes for our subconscious, or at least a place where our masters can communicate with us on a different level, and actually effect travel between dimensions.

So, what do you do in such a situation? Whatever You Please! The Story of the name is about as lacking in profundity as that, except that it does tell us that this was the first Moo level designed by Randy (hmmm, did the recent forum migration change handling of special characters? I had to edit out the infinity symbol, en dashes, and cases of ellipsis, which used to show up okay pasted from Word). Beck’s Odelay came out four months before Moo, and the track Lord Only Knows features the lyrics “You do whatever you please, and I’ll do whatever I can.” For this level, whatever we -can- is possibly a good limitation to impose.

All I can say is thank goodness Randy got the acrobatic path for the insane out of his system before doing Ne Cede Malis. Oh yes, this level is home to probably the hardest progression option in the trilogy - the our own death foretold option. In fact, I think that the fact that we can just ignore that option and get to the secret end terminal with very little effort, from the normal end terminal, suggests that it was understood just how hard it was. It is a good test though - I managed to run through it fully over the process of a few hundred of those death things ... in preparation for this writeup, and I present a map with the route (in purple, starting from the solid circle near the bottom) and required switches (in pink, with lines for where you shoot from), as well as the pattern buffer that PS missed, about halfway through the hard way, and thank goodness for it!

Actually, I remembered (AIFAOD) and just found the thing about there being a third path, and would have checked out the movies except that the download is in a format I don’t want anything to do with anymore, damn Stuffit. The middle path is kind of just a subset of the high path anyway, as far as I can see. Its purported speed suggests to me that Cody Miller might have used it also, but that must be bloody hard to pull off reliably that far into a speedrun. Also interesting to note the bits about how hard the level was originally ... I think we got a good deal.

Anyway, as I was saying, we arrive on the level in freefall, and land on a teleporter. There is little point trying to resist by moving, because, umm, lava, and high platforms, and the rest ... is darkness. If we fire a shot we wake up a couple of invisible compilers (dreaming of S’pht) that we would otherwise probably not see. I found out about them towards the end of the hard way thanks to that pesky Enforcer falling off his ledge, but Fusion prevents that, so all is well :).

We actually start the level very close to both its ends, and I guess with the right weaponry and enough health one could make something of the situation? But I’ll just take the teleporter - to kind of a random spot on the map, in fact the only part of it that overlaps another at a different height, a curiousity given how much of the rest of it involves overlapping -paths-. There’s another dropoff, but we’re done with teleporters for the moment. A Fusion Pistol teleports in and we gratefully accept it.

Looking around, we’re on one of those dark platforms a ways above the lava. Falling in is a bad idea; Randy was not as lenient as Greg will be later on Eat the Path. This platform is where I started the route on that map; let’s just have a look at a full-sized embedded version without all that purple:

There really is a lot of lava here. Quite a different dream from Where are monsters in dreams, and we can be glad for the lack of invisible S’pht’Kr! We’re at point A on the map, and if we did wake up those invisible compilers at the very start, they’re probably shooting at us by now; they have nice clear paths through the level. In the distance, we see a switch at point B just begging to be shot at, hence the gift Fusion Pistol for the vidder, but we probably also have at least an Assault Rifle and maybe even an Alien Weapon from ES2. There are also areas around the place with bright red textures, walls of higher platforms that are mainly on the hard path.

The switch starts up a bunch of lifts around the level, including one right in front of us, forming much of the hard path. It also opens a corridor with a pattern buffer nearby, allowing us to continue the easy way, so it is not an optional switch. For now we’ll drop down on to the ledge above the lava behind the first lift, and continue on easy. The path is pretty quiet for a while, and we get to concentrate on keeping our footing. And then the path ends.

We see a switch in the distance, in fact two switches, and around here we probably also hear an invisible compiler shooting at us, which triggers panic and, somehow, the desire to fall in the lava. The first switch, of the style from the Electric Sheep levels, raises two platforms from the lava, allowing us to continue. The second switch, more black and white circuity-looking, starts a platform continuously raising and lowering, and we have to time a jump across it so as not to fall in the lava, maybe made harder by invisible compilers on parade.

Around a couple of corners we encounter the first terminal. A continuation of the subway story that led us to Aie Mak Sicur, and would make no sense if we had gone straight to Acme Station, with only the knife story to go on. There really was something intentional with that secret exit’s being the easiest one to find, but of course it was also unique with the story terminal leading to the secret (failure) level instead of the hangar terminal ... whatever (you please).

So we caught the metaphorical train (did this stuff feed into the Matrix sequels?), but just like with our timelines, there are a couple of differences: In Monsters we didn’t have the keys (keymaster? Again with the Matrix, and oddly Ghostbusters, which I just happened to watch last night, had been a very long time!) but we were getting away from the men in suits; this time we do have the keys, but apparently the men are going to get us. Various things remain constant, and this story is very clearly advancing, unlike our timelines, but just like our timelines, these stories cut off at unexpected times, and we can go back and revisit our dreams as well, as from ES2 to Monsters, but if we did that as a writeup we’d never get finished....

There are more high platforms here, some of them lifts, and at this point, on either path, we have to hit a high switch on the left wall. This opens a low passage for the easy path, and a high passage for the hard one. Through we go to see we’ve also opened a view to where we first jumped onto the ledge that got us here - a shortcut back to the pattern buffer is probably its most useful quality. The easy path has us perform a few small jumps over lava, before setting us on the ledge to the lift to the final terminal, but we can see there is more to things than that if we look at the map, and we start to get curiouser. The normal end terminal continues our story:

So we made it home - I’m guessing the bicycle was just sitting there rather than that it was with us on the train. More on the knife, described very much like the picture in the Monsters terminal, and not really sounding like a broadsword, but I guess that could just be a link to Roland/Durandal.

The door opens up, not much drama in the description - did this guy even lock it? And we’ve got clones outside ... Mr Smith? Actually, now I think of it, this is starting to sound more like the fate of one of those Pfhor researchers that leave their diaries in terminals and then find that we sneak up on them ... over and over whether through pattern buffers, different timelines, or just the fact that all of us as players are really just clones. In true Matrix style, I think I just caused a “Whoa”.

So, that has us avoid the inconvenience of seeing the end of the world again, shooting us straight on to Naw Man He’s Close. There’s also a pattern buffer here, though, so we’re free to check out other things on the level. Yet again in the Labyrinthy way, if we just turn around and take a leap of faith into a narrow little corridor opposite and to the right, we end up right at the end of the hard path, with just a single jump to the lift to the secret end terminal. So secret in fact that it is usually hidden behind a wall, but thankfully can still be used, as can the pattern buffer by its side. What actually makes these visible?

Anyway, we also have that teleporter where we started close at hand, and for the full hard way experience, we find ourselves starting back. Instead of falling down onto the ledge, we climb onto the small lift, and thus begins the Marathon Circus - where is a trapeze when we need one? As I’ve said before, I play with auto-run on, and here it is a blessing and a curse. This whole path is reliant on making very unlikely jumps between platforms, at different heights, sometimes going up and down, and with the added bonus of sometimes spawning Enforcers just because it was too easy otherwise *ahem*.

To get us started, we jump across to a stationary platform just in front of us, at the peak of our lift’s journey. The third, swift path that I mentioned skips a lot of this, jumping instead straight to a lift behind us and quite a way away, but I found that jump really hard to make, and wanted to be able to describe the full “high path” anyway. The lifts have different travel lengths, which makes it even harder to coordinate, but I guess the first run must work?

Our second jump is to another stationary platform, but this one is a bit further away, and holds the added bonus of three grey Enforcers that spawn on the ledge below, just past our original pattern buffer. This is one hell of an annoying aspect, and probably the biggest impediment to running the hard path exclusively, as it is difficult to not fall off onto the easy path while trying to find a way to deal with the Enforcers. I guess backtracking and jumping to the large platform we came from would be a good way, but it’s a stressful time, and that’s hard to pull off, and there’s no cover down there! Conveniently I’ve already done the easy path so have no qualms about jumping down to the ledge and nearby pattern buffer to handle this. I believe this level has the only instances of enemies spawning on a path only when we find ourselves somewhere quite removed from it - can’t think of others at least. As far back as Waterloo Waterpark (although how far back is that really?) we had shotgun ammo that would only appear once we had been to the -very- edge of the platform nearby, but not Pfhor. Some dream....

Next we have to leap onto a lift at its lowest point - thankfully the bright red floor makes this easier in the otherwise rather dark conditions. Then there’s a jump to a platform that is slightly lower than the lift’s highest point, making it a likely one to fall off the end of when trying to land on it - auto-run.... After that we come to an overlap with much later on this route, and we have actually have something to aim for that has walls on two sides! And yet I still managed to miss it just now on a final reminder run, and of course that means lava death *sigh*. For all the hardness of the hard path, they actually saw fit to provide a 1x recharge canister at this point, which never happened on the easy path! Also, several of the lifts have fusion batteries on them as a reward, which is always nice.

I should really refer you back to that map; this is shocking to follow in text!

One more jump to a lift and then we can relax for a bit as we get some stairs to climb, just for a change. Then the platform ends, but we see a switch. Getting in position to shoot it, we also find more fusion batteries teleporting in - generous! The switch raises part of the ledge from below, rendering it impossible to do the easy path from the start. This is also where those Enforcers spawned, so I guess if one managed to avoid them before, now would be a good time to kill them, but would it even be possible to survive that long? On TC of course....

Next we have to jump to the lift that we could have got to much earlier - this is a hard one even from here, but it leads to a pattern buffer reward, so it is well worth the effort :). And then we’re overlooking the second half of the easy path, the terminal area. The third jump from here spawns another Enforcer near that terminal, but we’re reasonably well protected from his shots if we just continue along the high path - we would still have to hit that switch if we hadn’t cleared the easy path first.

Curiously the Enforcer finds a way to hit us on the next lift though, one that is a bit bigger than we’re used to. And then we leap to a high ledge - another one with a two-wall area! - and see what looks like a smashable panel across from us, above where we found the 1x recharge canister. Apparently it is actually a switch though, and it sets a lift moving to allow us to get over there, although not by any means easily. Reaching the switch spawns an Enforcer in a window over to the right - thankfully he can’t shoot due to insufficient height, and just sits their making noise. Otherwise that would just be mean. Knocking him off the ledge is a poor plan, because then he can shoot you in the next part, and may well wake up those invisible compilers from the very start. Fusion seems best for killing him without having him fall off.

After all that, there’s still time for disappointment, as the leap to where the Enforcer was requires a run up, and we have to use the whole of the platform with the switch, including turning during the process. Kind of like that shotgun ammo at the end of Ne Cede Malis, which required a jump and then an immediate second, and really, just as useless given how we could have gotten off the level much more easily! If we make that, then we fall down to the corridor where we could have joined the hard path the cheap way *phew*.

The secret final terminal has us back in Hangar 96:

Now the corpses are screaming ... oh great. Was this timeline’s failure more our fault than that of the previous one? Therein lies the problem. We still don’t have control - never have. We recognised where we were heading at the end of Thing What Kicks..., but were powerless to object; powerless to change it, and were thus pulled out - by something else that recognised it as a hopeless path? By something that recognised our recognition of that? What if we could change things? Not as neatly as in Rubicon maybe, and Naw Man is a pretty bad implementation as we still don’t have a choice, but the thought is there.

As we are pondering all of this, we find ourselves being whisked through time again, with the aim of showing us how badly things turned out for this timeline ... and we find ourselves in a subway station ... in vacuum ... goddammit!

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Pre-2004 Posts


Tour of Duty: Whatever You PleaseMartin 4/12/14 2:17 p.m.
     Re: Tour of Duty: Whatever You PleaseHokuto 4/13/14 10:50 a.m.

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