Just when I thought I had played all the crazy survival horror games, I come across a game that really is something else. Ladies and Gentlemen, Gamers of all ages I give to you the 1999 release title for the Sega Dreamcast 'Blue Stinger.'
Blue Stinger is one of those games even back when I owned a Dreamcast in the early 2000s that I wanted to play. Alas life happened, the PS2 happened and more to the point I went off gaming for several years to pursue other interests. After a recent challenge set to me by an American chap I finally pulled the trigger and brought myself a copy.
The game is set on Dinosaur Island and before you get too excited, I'll save you the trouble, this game contains almost no dinos which is quite sad really. You play Elliot Ballade who is taking a much needed holiday fishing around said dinosaur island when a meteor hits causing a dome to form over the place trapping Elliot inside. Elliot being a part of the ESER (Emergency Sea Evacuation and Rescue squad) a sea rescue squad swims over to investigate and to rescue any survivors. After being attached by a suspicious monster he is saved by Dogs Bowler, and yes that is actually his name. Dogs operates ferries between the mainland but packs a pretty big punch with a bow gun and enjoys wearing his jean shorts all the time. The two team up and investigate just what the hell is going on.
The plot of Blue Stinger is absolutely stupid, it would probably be taken more seriously if the voice acting dialogue wasn't so hilariously awful. What I find funny is the game almost seems very aware that the story is stupid, plot points are never explained and the characters make a lot of terrible jokes, which gives the impression the writers of this tale didn't really care. I never felt particularly drawn in by the plot and even when there were twists in the story I never felt any attachment to any of the characters. Saying that this adventure has some of the oddest turns in it including men taking baths together, Santa outfits, father and daughter issues, inappropriate flirting, and many more scenes that will have you laughing at just how ridiculous it all is.
The main objective in the game is usually to head to a certain area or to find a specific item. On starting this and throughout the experience I found the game suffered heavily from 'where the hell do I go,' syndrome. The path ahead was not always clear even when using the 3D map in the pause menu. Without an online walk-through I found myself regularly back tracking through the same corridors, looking at everything, trying to figure out where the damn key was and what to do next. Like a lot of games once you figure this out you will speed through it on a second play through. For a first time though, be prepared to get lost a lot and possibly rage quit quite a bit.
You can control both main characters Elliot and Dogs. Elliot can use a guns with the right trigger, melee weapons with the x button and even swim. He's probably the character you will use the most. Dogs can block and use heavier and usually better weapons, making him a more preferred character for boss fights. Dogs can use melee as well but unlike Elliot he can only use one type of attack with the right trigger. So, its either melee or a weapon not both at the same time like Elliot's actions. You can switch between each character instantly in the pause menu, this can be particularly helpful if one character is very low on health so you can switch to the other character who doubles as a second health bar till you can find a safe place to heal. Even though the game uses guns, I found myself using melee a lot more on the standard enemies as it proved surprisingly powerful and effective rather than wasting ammo which was needed for boss fights. One problem I found with the controls was that the weapons, including melee, all had a funky auto aim system. A lot of the time unless my character was correctly aligned with the enemy shots would not connect and bullets would fly straight pass leading to a lot of frustration and health loss in the process. This game also has some incredibly tedious swimming sections which were very boring slowing the gameplay down even more and adding very little to the overall experience.
Blue Stingers enemies are rather interesting, some say this is where the idea of a necromorph originated (think Dead Space). Most enemies are these human looking characters with extra appendages. Killing these types of enemies will cause coins to literally spray out like a small geyser. The coins can be collected simply by walking over them and can be exchanged for items later in the game. What's quite impressive is that you can dismember the enemies limbs and head which is quite cool for a Dreamcast game. The strange thing is only this type and one other oversized dog necromorph actually drop coins. All other foes like the insects, and enormous bosses such as the jeep necromorph do not drop any money for you. This is particularly puzzling since the boss battles are quite enduring in this game. Fortunately the title is kind enough to include a health bar for them and all enemies that don't spill out money also don't respawn.
Money can be exchanged at vending machines where you can buy new weapons, health and ammo. The characters health bars can be extended with food plate items which remind me a lot of the yellow herbs used in Resident Evil 4. They similarly heal you and extend your health bar, though in this game they come at a high cost. After playing Blue Stinger I would hardly even call this a survival horror game, the reason for this is a survival horror is usually defined as a game with a deliberate handicap of health and ammunition items. Blue Stingers money spilling necromorphs re-spawn, so you can quite easily grind away at these enemies and keep stocking up on ammo and health items from a vending machine. It almost feels like a tedious JRPG.
The game is fully 3D from the character models to the environments themselves with a couple of pre rendered backgrounds peppered in for good measure. Even though this is a very early Dreamcast game some environments are surprisingly large. You have the ability to look around in first person perspective should you want to take in the view. I personally only found one point in the adventure I actually used this and that was at the top of a tall tower where I found the game had a surprising draw distance its just a shame there really isn't much to look at.
Overall, the graphics are not bad, character models are smooth, but I felt that the animations appeared a little clunky when walking around the world. The actual enemy models look quite grim and disturbing which was a nice feature. It's a shame that any horror element in this is ruined by featuring a heavy emphasis on Christmas. I know the film Gremlins handled this quite well but Blue Stinger never manages to show any form of terror within the game.
The soundtrack is laughable, there are two main scores that you hear most of the time. The first is a sort of action packed theme that sounds like your preparing for an epic action scene. The second is the most hilarious Christmas jingle you've ever heard. So OK I'll give the game a little credit, it is set over Christmas, but this tune flat out removes any possible horror theme the Blue Stinger was going for. You'll be too busy smiling from ear to ear from just how funny the situation is than being scared. When you have stopped laughing after this (and it will take some time) you may realise that the sound effects are not half bad. Interestingly the noises from the monsters are pretty good, if they had been accompanied with a better score, the game may have come across as scary.
Should you finish this you have a few things to unlock such as an unlimited ammo model and a mode that allows you to fire your weapons at rapid fire rate. Your first playthrough will take between eight to ten hours without a guide but this will be significantly shorter should you want to replay the game. Personally I wasn't jumping at the thought of a second playthrough after completing this. However, whether you believe it or not, a sequel for this game was in the works. But sadly it was not meant to be, which is a shame as a sequel would have probably improved on a lot of the issues with this entry.
Verdict:- Overall, I think I enjoyed the anticipation of playing Blue Stinger rather than actually experiencing it. What we have here is a game that has some great design potential that probably could have been built on in a sequel. You can kinda see some ideas in this game that feel like they have been built on further in other survival titles. But this game is more of an action adventure than a survival horror.
The balance of melee and gun combat is quite fun, but the fun factor doesn’t last long in this game, due to cheap enemy AI and finicky aiming with the weapons. It's also hard to ignore the frustrating level design throughout. Since a sequel was never green lit, what we are left with is a game with terrible music and voice acting. With only a niche audience on a guilty pleasure level as well as for the hardcore Dreamcast collectors.
Don't get me wrong, there is a fun game in here just be warned it may not be as amazing as the back of the box may advertise.
Second Opinion:- Transbot thinks this game is rubbish, pure and simple. Bad controls, bad graphics, bad story and terrible dialogue.
Playing this is like being given a kick in the nuts with every single step and unlike Resident Evil and it's cheesy overtones this game feels like the budget version of that so that's the extent of how bad it all is, it's the poorer version of an already pretty cheesy game.
Transbot Scores:- 4 out of 10