Monday, June 30, 2008

Day 120: Kung Fu 2

Having successfully executed to most used video game scenario ever (rescuing the damsel in distress) in their first game, the makers of Kung Fu desided to mix things up and try their hands at the second most used video game scenario (taking down a crime syndicate) for Kung Fu 2. Thomas, the hero of the first game, has joined some Guardian Angels type of group (which explains the gaudy new outfit) and changed his name to Jonny Spartan.

The change in scenery (Jonny now operates in various underworld locations, like the subway and a plane full of circus performers, more on that later) is about the only difference you'll notice. Most of the game is still spent kicking your way through a seemingly never ending barrage of thugs on your way to kicking the stage's boss. Speaking of bosses, now that Jonny's working for the man, he has to get his orders in between stages via comlink.

Wait for backup? When has anyone ever waited for backup? On to the next stage! Which is just like the first stage only in a warehouse. Then to the third stage, which is just like the second stage only on a ship. Then, this--

Fortunately this primitive cut scene takes care of the death defying leap from helicopter to airplane. Based on Jonny's poor showing leaping over boxes on a conveyor belt in stage two, I don't think he could have made it on his own.

Anyway, the cycle continues for a couple more stages before the big showdown with the final boss, who Jonny kicks into submission, thus dismantling a global crime ring in less time than it will take Lenscrafters to finish his new prescription aviator glasses.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Day 119: Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam

My extensive research into the British people and their customs (several episodes of Are You Being Served? and a copy of Cricket for Dummies) has led me to conclude that they are a people with a low threshold for excitement. How else can you explain millions of Britons watching three days of batting practice with rapt attention?

Another case in point is Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam, a game that combines beautiful pixel art with steampunk and a giant chain gun but still manages to be a dreadful bore. The main problem is Monty. Monty is the old guy trying to look like Albert Einstein who appears every 10 steps to explain exactly how to get through the next part of the level, completely removing any challenge that might have existed.

The game itself is pretty straightforward. Blast your way through The Baron's giant flying steam fortress, collecting medals which seem to have no defined purpose, and rescuing other British fellows, who cheer and then leap inexplicably to their deaths, before reaching the final battle with The Baron.

The controls are a combination of the arrow keys and the mouse, which is a bit strange since it left me playing the entire game with my left arm stretched across my body. Clearly Dirk Valentine is meant for those who've made the move to laptop computers with their fancy centrally located touchpads.

Dirk Valentine, like all things British, is too polite for its own good. It spends too much time pandering to me and not enough time kicking my ass.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Day 118: Guitar Hero On Tour

Let me show you why the Guitar Hero franchise is so popular.

That guy looks like a rock star.

Now let me show you why Guitar Hero doesn't work on the Nintendo DS.

That guy looks like he's getting real time stock quotes on his Blackberry.

If Guitar Hero was just about the music, On Tour would be fine. It's not he most comfortable game in the world to play. The buttons on the guitar grip are small and the whole thing can be difficult to hold on to sometimes, but it works, however awkwardly. There's a decent selection of songs, some from GHIII, some new to the series, and the sound isn't awful.

But if Guitar Hero was just about the music, players would play it sitting on their couches holding standard controllers just as if they were playing Halo or Madden. Guitar Hero is about strapping on a plastic, 3/4 size guitar with no strings and feeling like you're Jimi fucking Hendrix, not some guy who sits on the couch all day, controller in hand, playing Halo and Madden.

In that sense, the only sense that matters, Guitar Hero On Tour is a complete and total failure, even with "We're Not Gonna Take It."

Friday, June 27, 2008

Day 117: Action 52 Friday with French Baker

I've been trying to come up with a less exciting name for a video game than French Baker. So far all I've got is Brown Paper Sack. I'd probably have more fun playing with a brown paper sack than I did playing French Baker, which is another climb around the platforms and shoot everything else game, a premise we saw just a few games ago with Chill Out. French Baker looks and plays like something I would have been embarrassed to produce for the Game Boy, much less the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Day 116: Cosmo Fighter 2

This game really made an impression on me. Hours after turning it off I still have vivid memories of playing something on the Colecovsion.

If Cosmo Fighter 2 looks just like every other early 80's shooter game out there, that's because it is just like every other early 80's shooter game out there. Except that Cosmo Fighter 2 was made in 1997. As scary as it is to think that 1997 was more than ten years ago, it's even scarier to think that fifteen years after the heyday of games like Galaga there were still people out there not only making these games but using the word "spectacular" to describe them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 115: Sonic Drift

Riddle me this: Why did Sega release their kart racer for the floundering Game Gear handled system instead of their wildly successful Genesis console? Not only would this have made for a much better game, it would have made for a game that people might have actually played.

With the word "drift" right there in the title, you might expect to do a lot of drifting. And you would be right. Once you master drifting, you can also expect to win most of your races very easily. Just look how far ahead of the other racers I am.

Sonic Drift doesn't offer a lot of depth. There are only four characters to choose from and power ups are limited to speed boost, temporary invincibility and spring jump and play a very small role. Yes, there are three cups with six races each for a grand total of eighteen tracks, but only the last three lap race lasted longer than 1:15, it clocking in at 1:40. I was able to play through the entire game in less than half an hour.

Given the Game Gears notoriously short battery life, maybe programmers felt they had to make the game as short as possible. But they still could have made it interesting.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 114: Velocipede

Velocipede is the true story of a man, his bicycle, and large quantities of hallucinogenic drugs.

The goal is to get to the beach, avoiding obstacles real and imagined. This is usually done by leaping or dodging. Think of it as Moon Patrol after leaving a Dutch coffee house.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 113: Bomberman Max

Bomberman Max is the Porsche Cayenne of video games. See, for years, Porsche had its thing. It made sports cars. They looked cool, they went fast and people liked them. Porsche made sports cars in the seventies when everyone else was making tiny little fuel efficient cars. They made sports cars in the eighties when everyone else was making minivans. The came a trend that Porsche just couldn't ignore. The SUV. So Porsche made an overpriced, butt ugly SUV.

For years, Bomberman had been pretty much the same game. It was unique, it was fun and people liked it. Bomberman remained basically the same game even when everyone else started making first person shooters. Then came a trend that Bomberman just couldn't ignore. Pokemon. So Bomberman became Bomberman Max, released in a red version and a blue version and full of cute little creatures to catch and trade.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Day 112: Knight Lore

Knight Lore is like one of those resorts that gives rooms names instead of numbers.

There's the Apple II room.

The Virtual Boy room.

Knight Lore even caters to alternate lifestlyes, like those who prefer a bed of nails to a comfy pillow top.

Most rooms are furnished.

Though a few are left bare for those who prefer a more spartan setting.

Regardless, you'll always find a little something special on your pillow when you arrive.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 111: Golvellius - Valley of Doom

To Whom It May Concern:

The League of Concerned Parents regrets to inform you that your game "Golvellius: Valley of Doom" does not meet our standards for video games and cannot be sold or marketed in the United States until the following changes are made.

The word "Doom" must be removed from the title. That word implies feelings or defeat and hopelessness, which plays right into the hands of the terrorists. We suggest replacing it with the word "Freedom." Also, some there was some confusion as to the meaning of the word "Golvellius." Some members of the board believed it to be nothing more than the name of a fictional location, while other feared it might have some satanic meaning. We suggest replacing it with "America" to avoid confusion and help instill a feeling of patriotism in our youngsters.

We also noticed early in the game testing that the protagonist always faced to the right, even when moving to the left. This is very reminiscent of the "moonwalk" made famous by known child molester and anti-American Michael Jackson. This "glitch" must be corrected before we allow any American children access to your game.

Several members of the board took exception to the protagonist's appearance. They felt his long green hair projected an anti-establishment attitude that would be unhealthy to expose to young children. Instead of a "cyberpunk," we feel you should use a hero with a more traditional, wholesome look.

We sincerely hope you are able to make these changes in time for the upcoming holiday season.

Best Wishes,
The League of Concerned Parents

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 110: Action 52 Friday with Megalonia

Overheard at the Action Enterprises offices:

"Hey, isn't that the gun sprite I designed for my guy who shoots aliens and jumps over holes game?"

"Yeah, I needed it for my spaceship game."

"But it's a pistol."

"I don't care, man. Look, the boss only gave me an hour to finish this thing, I don't have time to design sprites."

"'Only' an hour? Dude, I did Chill Out in twenty minutes, conception to finished game."

"Wow, that's awesome. I wish I was as good a programmer as you. I spent four hours on Ooze and it still didn't come out the way I wanted."

"Hey, man, don't sweat it. Tell you what, I've got a few minutes, I'll help you out here."

"That'd be awesome."

"So what are we calling this thing?"

"I was going with 'Megalonia'."

"Oh, I like it. It has that whole doesn't mean anything Galaga vibe going. What have you got so far?"

"Well, I have a spaceship that flies from left to right shooting at other spaceships."

"Dude, this game's already done! Why are we sitting here?"

"Really? It doesn't need anything else?"

"Nope. Let's go see if the vending machine has any of those mini donuts."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 109: Cosmic Spacehead

Finally! The excitement of a point and click PC game has come to my Sega Genesis! No longer will I have to waste my time playing those dreadful, fast paced blue hedgehog games. At last! Pointing to objects on the screen with a cursor! Picking them up! Using them! God! It's like heaven!

Alas! All is not perfect, not even in paradise. The blue hedgehog has corrupted paradise with his infernal running an leaping. Alright, more like walking and hopping. Curse you, blue hedgehog! Why must you destroy everything you touch?

I won't let you get away with this! No, no, my friend. Two can play at this game! And I won't stop with pointing and clicking! No, sir! There will be game boards and cards! Yes, cards! Prepare for my wrath, blue hedgehog! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 108: Bo Jackson Hit & Run

Talk about adding insult to injury. First Bo Jackson's football career is ended by a hip injury. Then his baseball career almost comes to an end as he is released by the Kansas City Royals (the Chicago White Sox would sign him a month later, but he missed most of the 1991 season and all of the 1992 season due to that injury). Then THQ plasters his name and face all over Bo Jackson Hit & Run, an ambitious game that managed to desecrate two sports at once.

Since the game was licensed by neither the NFL nor MLB, no actual professional athletes or teams appear. Even Bo Jackson, whose name is on the box, shows up only briefly and rarely to give players "helpful" tips.

Thanks, Bo, but if I want advice on avoiding strikeouts, I'll ask someone other than the guy who K'ed in over a third of his major league at bats.

It looks like a little more effort was put into the baseball half of Hit & Run. There are 12 teams to choose from and the players actually have names. That doesn't really do much to improve the play though. The fielders are difficult to move and any pitch that doesn't go pretty much right over the middle of the plate is called a ball. Also, the second baseman refuses to field anything, leaving the pitcher to run after anything hit to the right side of the infield.

About the only touch of realism the programmers added to the football side of Hit & Run was apparently incorporating Bo's debilitating hip injury. Every player on the filed moves like he has an artificial hip. The game is not only slow, but ugly. Players are nothing more than stick figures. There are just a few basic plays to choose from, and no teams to pick from.

Thankfully, the poor reception given to Bo Jackson Hit & Run led to the cancellation of the planned follow up, Deion Sanders Strut & Blab.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Day 107: Cursor*10

Oh Engrish, how I love thee.

You tell me what to do.

And what not to do.

You never sugar coat the truth.

And you always give me fair warning.

Sometimes you confuse me.

But you keep me informed.

Please don't ever leave me.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day 106: Magical Chase

If you've ever played any side scrolling shooters, Gradius or Fantasy Zone or any of the, let's call them stripped down, shooters on the Action 52 cartridge, you've played a game very similar to Magical Chase. All you're really missing are the creepy chicken heads with legs, and frankly, I'd say you're better off for it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Day 105: It's the Big Game, Charlie Brown

There are two parts to It's the Big Game Charlie Brown. The first part is rounding up kids for the baseball team. That part's boring, so I'm going to skip to the baseball part, which is awful.

The game's mouse only control system is unwieldy, which is totally inexplicable as the much older Backyard Baseball used a similar mouse only system and was not only playable but actually enjoyable. The game is further hindered by the fact that the Peanuts gang, with the exceptions of Peppermint Patty and Snoopy, are terrible ballplayers. Charlie Brown is hard pressed to throw a ball from the mound to first in time to beat the runner, and when he does get it there he pulls Linus off the bag.

Innkeeper's wives may not have naturally curly hair, but center fielders apparently do. Freida has a cannon. She was regularly able to throw batters out at first base from deep center field. It's a handy skill to have since Chuck's only pitch seems to be the meatball.

If the controls don't make you quit before the first inning's over, the interesting interpretation of the rules of baseball just might. Getting a runner to take an extra base is sometimes difficult with the mouse, so the game discourages it by allowing runners to be forced out at apparently any base when in transit.

This being a game meant for small children, the argument seems to be that it's OK for it to be awful, since they won't know the difference anyway.

Your children deserve better.

Day 104: Pain

Pain is either someone's attempt at being edgy or someone's attempt at making fun of America's obsession with violence. One of the problems with using violence to satirize violence is that 99% of the audience is going to miss the joke. Either they'll think it's just some awesome new violent game or they'll call their senators demanding laws banning video games and giant rubber bands because of the 3% of the audience that tried to recreate the game in their backyards.

The 1% that does get the joke will quickly become bored with what is essentially a one trick pony, and it's a trick they've seen before, either in the crash mode of Burnout or the stunt games of Flatout. The creators of Pain have promised more content will be available to download in the future, meaning that players will have to keep doling out money until their ten dollar bargain game ends up costing them as much as any other game in their library.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 103: Action 52 Friday with Sharks

I'm going to go on record here and say that Sharks is the worst Action 52 game yet. If you're familiar with the Atari 2600 game Seaquest, it's a lot like that except instead of a constant onslaught of voracious sharks and enemy subs out to destroy me, there are a few well fed and apparently tame sharks completely ignoring me. Instead of Steve Zissou I'm Troy Lee Gentry.

About 75 percent of the time I spent playing Sharks was spent waiting for an actual shark to appear on the screen. When one finally did appear, it swam by on its predetermined path, completely oblivious to me and my harpoon gun. The game quickly jumps from too easy to impossible when the sharks are replaced with jellyfish, which appear and disappear at random positions on the screen, making them nearly impossible to hit.

As bad as this game is, I have discovered a use for it. The rockin' background tune would make great music for your next party. Since the sharks make no actual attempt to kill the diver, it should play indefinitely. Just run the audio through your stereo so you can turn your TV off. You don't want this burned into your screen.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Day 101: Geometry Wars Galaxies

I am continually amazed by Circuit City's ability to remain in business. Whenever I go there, I'm the only customer in the store, and I rarely end up actually buying anything. I assume everyone else is frightened off by the awkward layout, made worse by a recent reorganization of the store, and the poor customer service. On my last trip, I took my merchandise to a podium located in the geographic center of the store, marked with a large sign that read "Checkout" and was told to go to the desk marked "Returns." I fully expected to be sent right back, or to have the full purchase price of the item returned to me.

I was almost disappointed when the cashier rang up my copy of Geometry Wars Galaxies, clearance priced at seventeen dollars. At least now I'd finally get to see what all the hooplah was about. Not owning an Xbox 360 (I see no reason to pay 400 dollars for something that's jst going to stop working in a year), I never got to play the original Geometry Wars. The original "Retro Evolved" version of the game is on the Wii disc, along with the new "Galaxies," which is essentially the exact same game but with the added need to "unlock" things.

Geometry Wars is a good shooter, but it's no the best out there. It's not even as good as the classic games it's modeled after. The addition of levels and power ups to unlock adds nothing in my opinion (I think I've already mentioned somewhere how sick I am of having to "buy" half the features of any new game), but the score multiplier is a nice way to reward longevity and really boost scores. If I had paid full retail price for Galaxies, I would have been disappointed, but for 17 bucks, it's hard to go wrong.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Day 100: Torus Trooper

Torus Trooper could've had a story. Something about transdimensional aliens attacking through wormholes. It would have fit nicely on the first page of the instruction manual. The page everyone skips over on the way to the page that tells which buttons fire which weapons. That story was never written though, because all you need to know about Torus Trooper is go fast and shoot things.

This is a game that rewards speed. The faster you go, the more powerful your weapons. The more powerful your weapons, the more things you can kill. The more things you can kill, the quicker you get through each level. The quicker you get through each level, the more time you have for the next.

Like a cross between Tempest and Turbo, Torus Trooper sends you blasting your way through a cosmic roller coaster. Dying only matters because it takes away precious seconds and when the timer hits zero, the game is over.

This is a nice, retro style shooter that feels familiar without feeling like it blatantly ripped something off. The sense of speed is impressive, aided by a pounding soundtrack. Torus Trooper definitely does it right.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day 99: Adventure II

Before there was Link, there was Yellow Square. Yellow Square had to retrieve the Enchanted Chalice, which had been stolen and hidden away. The Enchanted Chalice was very important to the people of the kingdom, as it had the power to keep beer cold indefinitely.

Like all good video game sequels, Adventure II stick with the basic premise of the original game and just spruces up the graphics and adds a new wrinkle here or there. Once again the Enchanted Chalice has been stolen and once again it's up to Yellow Square to find it. Also once again there are three hungry dragons roaming the countryside.

So you get the idea, right? There's a lot of the same. There are a few power ups now and a minotaur roams the maze, but most of the differences between Adventure and Adventure II are cosmetic.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Day 98: Kumoon

First person and second person shooters don't really appeal to me. Even those that I like I only like for the multiplayer mode, which suggests that I enjoy shooting my friends more that I enjoy the game specifically. Now I've got this second person shooter with no enemies, no multiplayer and to top it all off, it penalizes me every time I fire my weapon. Must be some kind of cutesy clever puzzle game.

Which is exactly what Kumoon is. Like Boom Blox, the goal is to knock a bunch of stuff over, but instead of using the Wii's motion controls, Kumoon uses standard shooter keyboard and mouse controls. And since each shot after the first penalizes you, you want to break as much stuff as possible with as few shots as possible.

Oh, I also dislike peeps, which the fuzzy chick protagonist strongly resembles. That's why this one's already in the trash can.

Saturday, June 7, 2008