ALF Reviews: Summer Game Fest 2020

It is a truth universally accepted that the year 2020 is the worst thing. Race riots, pandemics, voter suppression…it’s been a rough stretch. The fact that the second half of the year is being officially heralded in by ALF is evidence that things are only going to get worse.

For those of you reading in the distant future — within the next seven or eight years that humanity has left — I’ll set the context a bit. Each summer for the previous 25 years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo gave teenagers a reason to stop masturbating for a couple of days. New video games, game consoles, and sometimes even chairs that vibrate would make their debuts. Eventually they’d be released in much worse shape than they seemed to be during their reveal, but, still, it was fun.

Here in 2020, the event was cancelled due to the fact that everybody died. In its place, various companies and organizations have held their own roughly concurrent digital events. We still get the trailers and reveals, but now we get them in smaller, more-focused chunks. I assume. I haven’t watched most of it. Hitman 3, though!

Anyway, part of the fun of E3 was seeing all of the celebrities and musicians trotted out to pretend they had any interest in games whatsoever. Money well spent, I’m sure. With the event cancelled and shitty digital streams taking their place, no celebrity wants anything to do with it.

Enter ALF, whose coat was dusted of spider eggs so that he could serve as the emcee (M and C are also letters in Melmac!) for whatever the hell this stream today turns out to be.

I know the focus will be on the games and not ALF, but “ALF Loves a Mystery” was focused on cartoons and I reviewed that so I’m legally obligated to cover this as well. Only this time it will be much sadder because I’m actually watching this shit live.

Why is ALF hosting this event? He has nothing to do with video games. Unless there’s going to be a surprise reveal of an HD remake of ALF for the Master System with voice acting (Willie will be played by a malfunctioning juicer), I don’t get the connection at all. I guess the connection is that Summer Game Fest had $50 to spend on a host and Paul Fusco wanted his electricity turned back on.

Actually, this whole pandemic thing must be perfect for ALF appearances. Nobody will have to interact with Fusco directly, or be trapped in a trench next to him while he makes the puppet scream obscenities and hit on children.

The big news for this stream seems like it will be the reveal of Crash Bandicoot 4. Crash Bandicoot 4 was revealed like three days ago, though, so maybe they weren’t counting on many people sitting through irrelevant ALF monologues after all.

I have nothing against Crash Bandicoot, but I’m not a fan. I didn’t grow up playing his games and getting around to them as an adult hasn’t impressed me. Compare that to Spyro the Dragon; I also didn’t play those games growing up, but I adored the original trilogy when I finally got around to them a few years back.

All of which is to say I’m not interested in the whole reason to tune in so I am sure I will have a great time watching ALF bitch about the removal of Confederate monuments.

The stream is starting with two guys playing music from Outer Wilds. No sign of ALF yet. Let’s hope the stream can keep that up!

I wasn’t a fan of Outer Wilds. It should have been up my alley — the game was about aliens and time loops and you could roast a marshmallow — but it didn’t engage me at all. There are plenty of games with minimal “gameplay” that are still great, but I think other games look at those examples and use it as an excuse to do very little. What Remains of Edith Finch crafted the most moving, haunting, memorable video game experience I’d had in years, and the gameplay consisted of little more than moving around. Outer Wilds seems like it looked at games along those lines and rather than said, “That is also the best way to tell our story,” it said, “Oh, I bet we can get away with that.”

We’re 12 minutes into the stream and one of the guys just introduced himself and said, “We’re about to play some Outer Wilds.” I thought you were playing it. What the hell was that 12 minutes of noodling about, you fuck? I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between that and the actual tunes from the game.

It’s not bad music, but…it’s just there. I’m sure it’s a richer composition than I’m giving it credit for being, but it’s just spacey background stuff with guitar melodies that periodically move to the fore.

20 minutes in and this is still going. One of the musicians is so bored with his own performance he turns around to check his Facebook notifications. I’m not even sure the one on the right isn’t a mannequin.

People go to concerts to hear the music of Final Fantasy and The Legend of Zelda, and I can understand that. I’d be happy if some guys came out to play Donkey Kong Country or Mega Man music, or Mario or Crash or Spyro, because those games have songs I might actually want to listen to. This is just a galactic throb.

I dunno. Maybe ALF will make some joke about space since Outer Wilds takes place in space and ALF is from space but I honestly doubt there will have been any coordination between the video game side of things and the obsolete puppet sitcom side of things.

If I ever wanted to put a baby to sleep and also give it a lifelong confusion regarding what music sounds like, I’d play this.

I’ve never wanted ALF to kick down a door and burp more than I want it right now. I think I’d stand up and cheer.

It’s been 25 minutes and the guy on the left just pulled out a banjo. I was glad to see that happen because I was afraid I’d passed away in front of a static image.

Guys, I like instrumental music. I love it. I even love freeform experimentation with little in the way of clear direction. I love Phish. I love Zappa. I love Medeski Martin & Wood. This sounds more like an Explosions in the Sky cover band you wish you play a little more quietly so you could concentrate on the bartop trivia machine.

28 fucking minutes later, and ALF has not aged well at all.

This guy introduces himself, then the video goes away to show an overall schedule and then comes back to the same guy in the same room and he introduces himself again. He says ALF will show up at some point.

I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a joke that Crash Bandicoot comes to his house instead, or if both Crash Bandicoot and ALF just happen to be in the same stream with no connective tissue whatsoever between them.

Crash Bandicoot shouts and plays a trailer. It plays that irritating as fuck “Funk Soul Brother” song that came out when I was 18 and which I’ve therefore hated for my entire adult life.

Crash takes a selfie.

The guy comes back and says the game will come out in October, and he interviews one of the guys who made it via Zoom.

I don’t know what the value is of keeping the date in the middle of the screen throughout the entire stream. I’m annoyed. What else is new.

The guy being interviewed is from Toys for Bob. They are the ones who did the remakes of the Crash and Spyro trilogies recently, and those were both good. I guess if you like Crash you should be pretty happy. He’s talking about how he learned from the originals and wants to bring back that spirit.

It’s been 36 minutes and there’s been no fucking sign of ALF. Is he even involved in this, or did you all get together to trick me into thinking he’d show up so that I’d write something for this site again?

Speaking of which, I know I know. It’s been a while. There’s so much I want to write but so little time. I’d like to get back to writing here regularly. You can stop sticking ALF’s face on things just so I’ll pop back up, I promise.

They’re just talking about all the stuff you can do in Crash 4. There’s not much for me to cover because it just looks like another game in a series I barely know anything about. Looks fine. I hope you like it.

Then ALF shows up! Paul Fusco struggles to read jokes he doesn’t understand off an index card somebody handed him. It’s actually pretty funny how difficult it is for him to wrap his performance around what he’s saying. Fuco’s preparation for this segment extended to cashing his check.

Anyway, he jokes about being in hiding from the government for decades and then provides some hilarious gaming tips the way a only 65-year-old man speaking through an oven mitt can.

tip 1: clean the fur off your controllers every 20 minutes
tip 2: don’t charge your controller in the microwave
tip 3: don’t play warzone with ET
tip 4: don’t wear pants

Great. Then we go back to that other guy who introduces a Smite clip too brief for me to even get a screenshot. Already we go back to ALF.

He jokes about wanting to eat the cat from the Stray trailer (which dropped about a week ago and has nothing to do with this event) and he says it looks so realistic he can smell the barbecue sauce.

He also jokes about this guy’s career being over due to a Dorito’s thing and says he needs to stream fro 24 hours on Twitch to become partnered and fucking hell why am I watching this. Do kids think this is funny? Who is this for? People who used to remember ALF and know he has nothing to do with this? Or kids to whom these jokes are timely but have no fucking clue who the hell the fuzzy ribeye is delivering them?

He does make some comment about potentially making his return to video games, which I can’t decide if I admire. Certainly if he’d have said, “It’s about time I got a video game of my own!” or something I’d fly to his house and beat him up, but acknowledging that ALF on the Master System exists, even fleetingly, might make me angrier.

Somebody, somewhere, is going to hear him say that and think, “ALF had a video game? I’d better track it down and play it!”

That’s a kick in the dick 31 years in the waiting.

ALF disappears so video game people can talk about video games again. We see a few new ones. I miss their names. This one has a big pause button on it during the gameplay footage.

Then we see a game called The Artful Escape. It’s about a disappearing jazz club or something. It looks boring as hell. The character walks around doing nothing.

One of the other characters talks to him, and the player is presented with a bunch of dialogue options. He chooses the option to end the conversation immediately. Man, it can’t even engage whoever is demonstrating this gameplay footage.

The character plays the guitar to communicate with animals I guess. They say you can choose what planet he is from.

I don’t want to play this.

As much as Crash 4 was the main draw, the core of this presentation is Day of the Devs, focused on indie games. I’ve never watched these streams before, but I do like indie games (as elastic as that definition is) so I do usually check out the announcements afterward.

So far none of this is really for me. This one, Starbase, is the closest one that looks interesting, but it’s an MMO and I know I’ll never have the time to play one of those as long as I live.

Still, it’s someone’s passion project. It looks cool and the two developers who are talking about it seem nice and genuine. I hope it sells better than Alien Guitarist.

Someone introduces Foregone. She said they wanted to create a game that reminded them of the games from their childhood, and clearly based it on Dead Cells, a game from three years ago.

I’m being snarky; I’d play this for sure. Dead Cells wasn’t nearly as good as it should have been, and I’m convinced its fans enjoy it more for what it wants to do than for what it actually does. If Foregone (or some other game) can take and refine that formula to give us the game we should have had all along, I’m on board.

It seems pretty good actually.

Then they introduce Spinch, which looks and sounds fucking fantastic.

I could be wrong. I don’t know jack shit about these games other than what they’re showing, but Spinch just seems naturally awesome. The soundtrack sounds great and the music was made by a guy with a bunch of toys.

I love this. I’m on board.

Then we see Ynglet, described as a platformer without platforms just to further upset genre sticklers.

Don’t ask me to explain anything I’ve seen, even after the developer has explained it to me. Looks like it might be fun but I’m already daydreaming about Spinch.

We’re told Ynglet takes place in Denmark. Well, fucking DUH.

Then Skate Story, about a skater made of glass who skates to Hell skates and skate

It actually looks good, graphically. It’s pretty gorgeous in motion. If I liked skating I’d be into this. Then there’s Black Book, which is a 19th century Eastern European deck-building game. I’d be into it if I were into 19th century Eastern European deck-building.

Unfortunately for everyone, I’m only into Spinch and ALF.

A guy shows up to talk about Drake Hollow and he brings his dog, which makes this the best reveal yet.

His company made The Flame and the Flood, which I didn’t think was very good. This game has that weird sort of hard-rubber cartoony look of Fortnite. Even the animations look similar. The game is clearly different from that one, but the inspiration is clear. That’s fine. Not my thing. Put the dog back on camera.

Panzer Paladin looks great. It has a clear Mega Man feel with an emphasis on melee combat that reminds me of Zelda II. I’m definitely interested in this. You can even make your own weapons with a pixel-art drawing mechanic. It’s cute.

It’s supposed to come out this summer for the Switch, which is a perfect home for it. This and Spinch are the MVPs so far.

Then Haunted Garage, which is a game with a minimalist art style that is completely ruined by that fucking date that seems to need to be plastered across the middle of the stream for no benefit to anyone whatsoever.

Seems weird in a good way. It looks like the sort of game I’d get nothing out of but a lot of people will make hour-long video essays about. Which I mean as a compliment.

Eternal Cylinder looks kind of neat. You’re a little alien (or a squadron of little aliens?) and your planet is being destroyed by this gigantic cylinder that rolls along behind you, crushing everything. I have a hard time expressing why this appeals to me except that it’s exactly what I hope happens to my planet in 2021.

Then a game from the folks who made Journey. I think I’m the only one in the world who didn’t enjoy Journey. I’ve been meaning to write about why, and this has reminded me to do so at some point. The game looks fine for people who liked Journey. I did not like Journey.

There’s also a graphical adventure game called The Night is Grey. It seems to either have a time-loop mechanic or the trailer was short so they repeated footage.

Knuckle Sandwich looks like a cross between Earthbound and Undertale. It takes place on a fictional Australian island. The developer says, “I hope you dig it.” Which is adorable and I love it already.

Then Sea of Stars, which was made by the guys who did The Messenger. The Messenger was fantastic.

Huge Chrono Trigger vibes off of this one. If they can do justice to this they way they did to the action platformers of yesteryear, this will be amazing.

Then Over Look Trail which was too quick a trailer to even get a screenshot but it was a guy eating Cheerios.

We get another performance, this time by Dose One, who evidently provided music for the rest of the stream. I don’t remember any of it.

It goes on forever. This is what plays in the bandcamp elevators.

He says “Black lives matter” at the end, which is correct and welcome and probably also why ALF refuses to show up a third time.

Yeah, that was it for the old ALFer. Two segments crammed almost back to back at the very beginning of the stream. So…what was the point of having ALF involved at all?

I get having a celebrity walk across the stage to thunderous applause makes your event look good, even if nobody, including the people applauding, truly give a shit. But this was Paul Fusco reading a grand total of two paragraphs somebody wrote for him, stumbling over it without a second take, and then putting ALF back in the broom closet.

Like…was that worth it? I don’t know…let’s say somebody had a Pac-Man puppet come out, or something. It would have been exactly as stupid, but it would have had some kind of connection to what we were watching.

Instead we just cut away twice to an emaciated gorilla and asked, “Remember this guy? No? Well, he was on TV for a while…not all that long really…” then trailed off and left you to wonder why anyone bothered.

I mean, I guess I got to see some neat games. Honestly, most of them looked good even if they didn’t appeal to me. And it reminded me to write about Journey sometime. And it reminded me that I hate ALF and I hate ALF’s ass face.

For fuck’s sake.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far into an ALF post that didn’t have much ALF in it, you deserve a reward for being good: I’ll be announcing the next TV show I’ll cover soon.

I’ve held off on covering anything in the ALF-review style because it takes a lot of work and most shows, honestly, either don’t deserve the hatred or don’t deserve the effort.

Then I found a show that made me angrier than ALF ever did.

Oh yes.

Stay tuned.

MELMAC FACTS: ALF attended reform school and majored in software development. He created Hatsune Miku but can’t pronounce it. On Melmac, cave paintings had more pixels than the PS5. In their version of Grand Theft Auto, you did “real time”; ALF still has three stars over his head in the Andromeda Galaxy.

Announcement: Upcoming convention appearance, Aug. 8-9

I’m thrilled and honored to announce that I will be a special guest at Uplink, the digital convention by the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. I hope you can join me; it’s going to be a fun time!

A while back I considered reaching out to conventions to help promote Resident Evil, but then the world collapsed and a plague killed everyone, so conventions were either cancelled or suddenly a Very Bad Idea. I figured I’d wait for next year and hope for the best.

The Long Island Retro Gaming Expo changed my plans. Thanks to the pandemic, they are taking their annual convention online under the name Uplink. They reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in being a special guest and, after learning more about the event, I agreed.

Uplink is interesting and ambitious. I hope it goes well, because it seems like they are taking the entire convention experience — barring the wealth of illnesses you’d take home with you — online. Guests, panels, discussions, activities, cosplay…and my personal favorite things: vendors and gaming tournaments.

Colorado Pop Culture Con, one of my favorite experiences of each year, has been cancelled, so strictly as an attendee, this would interest me. As a special guest, I am profoundly flattered to be involved.

It’s not just me, either; there are a lot of other great folks on the roster, including a good number I’m interested in seeing myself.

What’s more, any convention appearance I could make in person would leave a lot of people out. I don’t expect folks to travel across the country — or to the country — just to shake my hand / punch me in the neck. Now, at Uplink, anyone anywhere can join in real time and call me the noun of their choice. It’s fun!

What will I be doing there? Well…more details to come, so stay tuned. But I will have at least one panel, and hopefully some other fun things to reveal as well. I’m sorry if that sounds cryptic, but this is the first year for Uplink and a lot of things are still being figured out. As the date approaches and I know more, I’ll be glad to share it with you here.

I’m very much looking forward to it, and I hope you are as well. Tickets are on sale right now for a measly $10, so definitely consider attending. It should be a fun weekend, and I’d love to see you there.


When: August 8-9
Where: Online!
Tickets: Available now

Best ending

The Kickstarter has ended with 615% funding. That makes it Boss Fight Books’ most successful campaign yet.

To everyone who backed the campaign — whether for my book, somebody else’s book, or all or any combination of the books — I want to say thank you, sincerely.

This was a long, challenging project. I’m very happy with how it turned out and I suspect you will be as well.

If you did order my book specifically, you can expect updates directly from Boss Fight Books. As of right now, the anticipated month of publication is August. If there are any delays it will be due to the fact that the world is crumbling around us; the book itself is complete and ready to print.

If you didn’t back the campaign but still want a copy of my book, just sit tight. I’ll have ordering information for you as soon as possible, but it will be available through Boss Fight Books directly, through Amazon, through Barnes & Noble, and almost certainly through any other book shop of your choice.

I will also sell some here, through this site. If you buy it here, I’ll be glad to sign it. If you buy it elsewhere and would like me to sign it…stay tuned. I’ll figure something out.

I have more to share, more to write about, more to discuss, but it’s been a difficult few weeks for everybody, even compared to how difficult this entire year has already been. It’s difficult to write and to focus. I’m glad I finished the book when I did. I cannot imagine trying to work on it right now.

Regardless, more to come soon. More announcements, more goodies, more of whatever it takes to stay afloat. My good news is very small in comparison to the bad news so many are facing every day. I know that. I won’t pretend otherwise.

Keep strong. Keep fighting. Do not give up.