If you are familiar with the OHRRPGCE 48 Hour Contest at all, then you probably know some about its history. You know that games have to be created within a 48 hour window, and it is not extremely often that quality games are released, much less finished products. And& was created by Rinku and Charbile for the first OHRRPGCE 48 Hour Contest way back in 2000 (where it actually won second place). Although I was active in the community when it was first released, I never played it until today.
I know that many people held it in high regards back then, especially for it being birthed in a 48 hour window. I also know that it ranked fairly high on multiple Top 30 game polls back in the day. Having finally played it now I honestly don’t know why it would have been considered so “great” back then, unless you like a serious grind fest. We are not talking about the FUABMX kind of grind either, but rather a “grind ten hours to complete two maps” kind of grind. That’s not to say the game is terrible, but it really makes it an unenjoyable experience in my opinion.
You play as Ampersand, who bears a striking resemblance to Rydia from FFIV. She wakes up with no memories and is forced to slay thousands of enemies in order to find new memories. That is essentially the story outside of a few rather bizarre conversations between certain individuals and the narrator commentary. I will admit that I found the idea behind the story quite intriguing, though I felt it suffered in its delivery. To me, the dialogue was not only a bit awkward but was also delivered via single line text boxes. Some people may not have an issue with that, but it made me feel like I was trying to get through a conversation on Shenmue or something. Regardless, the fact that there is a relatively structured story in a 48 Hour Contest game at all is pretty fantastic.
The graphics are acceptable, especially given the time constraints. I don’t really get the fascination with Rydia-like clones for every NPC, but that isn’t a huge issue. The only real complaint I had was with the battle backdrop, which appeared to be an imported photo with interesting color choices. You were lucky to see a game without the sandsea.bmp back in those days though, so at least its better than that. I’d be curious to know what graphics Charbile worked on and which ones Rinku did, but I felt that the graphics overall were just fine.
The reason I really wanted to play And& was because I heard it was incredibly difficult. I do enjoy my games on the more difficult side, though I’m probably not as hardcore as some. Anyone who has beaten this game deserves a “nerves of steel medal” (if they don’t have those I’ll have them made), because most people would take a lobotomy over playing this game much longer than I did. I’ll admit it is extremely difficult, perhaps one of the most difficult OHRRPGCE games out there but exactly how it is difficult was a bit misleading at first.
You don’t really face a variety of enemies that have unique attacks or require certain counters to overcome. The difficulty comes from the newest monsters having three to four times the strength and health of previous monsters, yet they all still essentially do the same attacks. The worst part is that three or four levels to progress generally isn’t enough. Sometimes the newest enemies are so much stronger that you have to fight the same two enemies for a good hour or two before progressing further. To me, that really isn’t true difficulty though I know some people would argue that. I generally do not mind level grinds, but And& seems to take it to the extreme.
On top of that, random battles happened WAY too often. Having a fight every 2-3 steps doesn’t make a game more difficult, it only makes it about 100 times more annoying. Fortunately battles are fairly fast paced, but it still sucked taking a step or two and fighting again. From what I’ve heard from those who have actually beaten the game, you need ALL of those fights to win, but I just didn’t find it intriguing enough to keep at it.
Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY appreciate that we have a complete game here, and that it was all created within a 48 hour window. That alone is an amazing feat in itself, but I really don’t see how people could enjoy fighting battles after battles with no real strategy or depth involved in it. I understand that there’s only so much you can implement given the strict time constraints, but I still feel some things could have been different to make it a much more enjoyable experience for everyone.