Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Interactive
So it's 2014 now. New year, new you etc. So let's start things off with a new webcomic review, Cup of Olea by MasterComi...Oh, wait. I did this one last year. Well, the author sent me a message a while ago asking for a rereview because the comic has made a lot of progress since it first started. In the review I posted six months ago, I concluded that the had some good writing but a slow plot that was the result of reader input. Looking through the new pages, I can see he's made some effort in the art and has pursued some options that cut down on the slow pace while still keeping the comic interactive. However, a lot of the old issues still exist.
Though I posted the review for Cup of Olea in July, I previously wrote a review for the comic on the SmackJeeves forums in June. The later review was updated to reflect new pages that had been added since the new review was posted and a review of the updated site. I don't know if he's seen the July review, but I didn't notice any changes in the site design since the last review, so nothing has changed here.
Since the last review, Cliff meets the king's son Sheridan who tells him and the team about how the Cup of Olea can revive the dead, explaining the zombie outbreaks. They all return to the castle and the king tells them that the knight who stole the Cup was rumored to have run off to Trosdan, and the team is sent to Trosdan to find information about the knight's whereabouts and keep a low profile. But considering the user input, Cliff does anything but. He beats up multiple people for no reason, and Sheridan has to meet them and tell the Trosdanian army that Cliff is an escaped mental patient. Cliff falls down a hole, finds a new weapon, meets a spy, gets information about the knight, and gets a cloaking device. After they return, Cliff and Katelynn go on a date, and Zazoom and Taxi visit Murica (not to be confused with 'Murica).
As I said in the previous review, the interactive nature of the comic explains the strengths and weaknesses of the comic. One thing I praised it for previously was the unpredictable nature of the comic, as new comments change the story in ways that no one would have predicted, such as Cliff getting various powers, Sheridan getting a stupid nickname, and random NPC's getting humiliated in bizarre ways. And while some of that can be chalked up to commands, the author also deserves credit for coming up with good ideas on the fly. For example, in some earlier scenes, Cliff is shown going up and down green pipes, a reference to the Mario games. When someone actually suggests he dress up as Mario, he dresses up as the R&B singer. When Cliff is about to open a treasure chest, someone suggests he do a Zelda reference and instead of the obvious choice, he references something different entirely. And once savestating is brought in, the save menu becomes a character in it's own right, acting like a clingy neglected spouse. And finally, he threw in some “cheats” which fit into the video game conceit and result in some weird effects on the page.
Like the first 185 pages, the random excursions are fun, but there's no denying that the pace still tends to lag. The trip to Trosdan takes 176 pages, which is almost as long as it took for Cliff to find out what the Cup of Olea had to do with the zombie attacks in the first place. The author does try to address this using polls which streamline some of the commanding while still keeping the comic interactive. He also does some exposition while carrying out the commands, getting those aspects of the story across regardless of what is actually requested. Though like in the earlier strips, he will have cases where he holds requests until after they're relevant and say “Oops, we already did that,” which still exists to skirt requests not worth carrying out, though that still comes at the cost of dragging the plot down. And as the comic goes on almost 600 pages I do wonder if the length and the slow speed of the plot will turn newcomers off to going through the archives.
The art is still done in the intentionally blocky pixelated style as the beginning. Like I said in the original review, this is probably to facilitate making a page for every request that was made. Though I excused it, I did ask that the author put a little more effort in the pages, which I will say he has done. He has made some pages that are animated gifs, which in the cases of Cliff dancing work better than if the images were static (also, I like that the author posts YouTube videos of music in the comments). And he did this Photoshoped image as a request for “hyperrealistic” graphics, which probably was more ambitious than the previous pages (not that I would want every page like this, but I like that it probably took more work than the other pages).
The only other thing I would say that can improve the comic is to avoid mixing photographic images and stylized game-style graphics. They look really out of place, and could easily be recreated to fit in with the rest of the comic (though the giant slab of bacon is pretty funny in a Monty Python-esque way).
The comic is still fun to read though, but the plot still could move faster. While the addition of polls and some railroading is being done to keep the comic on track, I can still see some new readers not wanting to slog through the quickly growing archive. The art is still the same pixely blocks, though there are some pages that show more time was put into them.