Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Day 59: Cabbage Patch Kids - Adventures in the Park

Yea verily, I stand today on the very forefront of the retro gaming scene, having played the long rumored but only recently discovered Atari 2600 game, Cabbage Patch Kids: Adventures in the Park. Yes, thanks to this fortuitous discovery made by Alex Handy, gamers can play a graphically inferior version of a game they haven't been playing on their Colecovisions for the last 25 years.

As far as I can tell, Adventures in the Park is complete. It play almost identically to its Colecovision counterpart although, especially for a game aimed at young children, it's very unforgiving. Misjudging a leap by the tiniest amount leads to the loss of a life, as does contact with pretty much anything other than the ground. Perhaps it was awaiting a few last tweaks in that department before commercial release.

Essentially, Adventure in the Park is Pitfall for little kids. The player controls what was obviously a Cabbage Patch Kid in the Colecovision version, though here it's not so obvious, through a series of screens, each with an obstacle to overcome. This being a game for children, those obstacles mostly come in the largely harmless forms of bouncing balls and blocks to jump over.

Despite being, technically, a prototype, this game plays very well and makes impressive use of the Atari 2600 hardware. Most screens are colorful and packed with objects to interact with and there's enough variation to the challenges to keep the game entertaining for at least a little while. Definitely a very nice discovery.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Day 58: Aah! Harimanada

It's a good thing overweight people are the one group it's still socially acceptable to make fun of in this country, because this game's got more fat guys in it than the line at a $4.99 all you can eat buffet. I haven't seen this much raw tonnage concentrated in one spot since the last time Oprah Winfrey went on safari.

Okay, enough kidding around. To most of the world, sumo wrestling is just a bunch of fat guys in big diapers shoving each other around. To the small minority who truly understand it, sumo is the tradition rich, highly disciplined sport of fat guys in big diapers shoving each other around. The programmers responsible for Aah! Harimanada definitely fall into the majority. According to them, sumo is a sport of fat guys charging blindly at each other and pounding buttons, hoping to stumble upon the combination that will throw the other fat guy out of the ring but usually failing and getting thrown out themselves.

If you find other fighting and wrestling games to complex, Aah! Harimanada, with its small playing area and moveset that consists entirely of slapping and grabbing, might be just the game for you. However, you would be in the minority, along with people who like Intellivision controllers and bought a Lynx instead of a Game Boy. In a perfect world, it would be socially acceptable for me to publicly ridicule you people but, unless you're also grossly obese, I will have to keep my disgust to myself. For now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Day 57: Shark! Shark!

A sure-fire way to make anything instantly sound more urgent is to say it twice. The best part is, it works just as well with chipped fingernail as it does with a toaster fire.

Shark! Shark! has plenty of fake urgency, but no real urgency. Instead of a game full of mutant sharks charbroiling humans with laser eyebeams like a real video game would have, Shark! Shark! is just a bunch of sharks doing what sharks do in nature, which is eat everything that fits in their mouths. If I'm going to spend money on a video game, I don't want something I can see just by turning on the Discovery Channel.

At least let me control the shark, throw in a few tasty surfers and have Roy Schneider show up every now and then with a harpoon. That, children, is a video game.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Day 56: Mario Kart Wii

Nothing I have to say about Mario Kart Wii could possibly add to what literally thousands of other people have already said about Mario Kart Wii, so instead of wasting my time and yours by trying, I'm just going to play some more. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Day 55: Tee Off

Tee Off is the most blatant rip-off of Hot Shots Golf you're likely to see, specially formulated to either make players forget they bought a Dreamcast instead of a Playstation or heighten their inferiority complex.

The game plays fine, but never quite removes itself from the shadow of Hot Shots. The characters and courses are fairly generic. The two male characters I used sounded like they were voiced by the same actor, which would've been fine if he'd at least altered his voice a little for one of them. And maybe come up with more than four things for each of them to say. And just possibly put some feeling into it.

While Tee Off may lack interesting characters, imaginative courses, challenging AI (my computer controlled opponent pretty robotically parred almost every hole) and almost everything else we expect from Hot Shots (except the big heads, it does have those), it does have one thing the other game doesn't. Virtual croquet. Called Gate Ball or G-Ball, it resembles croquet played on a holodeck, and is at least as boring, if not more so, than you are currently imagining.

Tee Off adequately, if blandly, serves its purpose, joining Alex Kidd and Sonic Shuffle in the pantheon of Sega games that aren't quite the competition.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Day 54: Action 52 Friday with Jupiter Scope

Unlike Earth and Mars, Jupiter does not have a solid surface. Instead, it is made up mostly of gases, making it impossible to build skyscrapers there.

I could probably forgive Jupiter Scope if that was its only flaw. Realism and video games mix like oil and vinegar. And while it isn't dreadful, Jupiter Scope certainly isn't any fun either. It's a bit like the Intellivision classic Astrosmash, with a ship defending the "surface" of a planet from a storm of meteors. Unlike Astrosmash, the meteors do not split into smaller pieces when hit and there is no penalty for allowing one to pass.

But, wow, the music is excellent. Catchy and appropriately urgent with some nice stereo separation. I suggest that you park your ship out of the way and leave the volume up while playing a different game.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Day 53: Conquest of Mars

I'd like to take this opportunity to present an argument against sending a manned mission to Mars. They don't seem to want us there and they have a lot of missiles.

Why do we really need to conquer Mars anyway? Aren't we having enough problems taking care of the planet we already have? Conquering another planet would be sort of like buying a new Hummer when you still owe forty grand on the Benz and only make thirty thousand a year. Which is what everyone seems to be doing these days anyway. Maybe Mars will become the new trendy place to be, clearing the Earth of all the Hummer-owning Paris Hilton wannabes.

For that to happen, Mars will need several small cafes that allow patrons to bring their purse dogs which can take turns being the hip place to be seen eating lunch. Some sort of collective bargaining agreement will be worked out to allow the others to stay in business until their turn comes around, since no one will want to be caught dead eating in them until that happens.

Mars will also need exactly one judge who is not impressed by wealth or fame and will hand out appropriate punishments, giving the rich and famous a chance to spend some time in a minimum security facility and work on their book about how they've seen the light and will now use their money and influence for causes like collecting Donna Karan sweaters and Gucci backpacks for small dogs from underprivileged families.

Of course, no one can be famous without the tabloid media to remind everyone else that they are indeed famous. If we're lucky, Mars will attract all of the Earth's fame whores, meaning there will be no reason for Mark McGrath or any paparazzi to stay behind. Meanwhile, the expense involved in transmitting shows like Extra and Inside Edition to Earth will prove prohibitive, meaning fans of those shows will have to strap rockets to their trailers and relocate to the red planet in order to view them.

With all of its undesirable elements removed, Earth will enter a new Golden Age. Those remaining on the mother planet, sensing an opportunity to make sure things never revert to the way they were, will plant several powerful bombs deep within the bowels of Mars and blow it the hell up.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Day 52: The Naked Game

This is not a screenshot from The Naked Game.

And neither is this.

The Naked Game, in fact, has nothing to do with nudity. It is, or rather, it claims to be "the worlds first piece of online conceptual video game art." Anyone making a claim that bold and pretentious should first learn how to operate apostrophes, but that's just my opinion.

The "naked" part of The Naked Game refers to the code of the simple Pong style game, played by two AI opponents, which is left exposed allowing players to toggle individual lines on and off. While mildly interesting, this does not provide as much in the way of entertainment or greater understanding of the universe around us as I'm sure the creator hoped.

The experience would be much better if the pretense of "art" was dropped, along with the music loop, and players were given more control, like altering the values of the constants to change the size and speed of the ball and paddles, for example. Or allowing two players to compete online, each having to choose to either boost their own abilities or sabotage the other player (while figuring out how to do so).

Hopefully this developer will learn what I learned from The Naked Game, that programmers aren't philosophers, and apply that lesson to his next project.

Day 51: Action 52 Friday Tuesday with Crytical Bypass

I was very excited when I saw the name of this game. As anyone who was ever a fan of the Sleeze Beez knows, anything with an intentionally misspelled name is automatically 10 times cooler than it would be if it used the correct spelling.

That being the case, I'm either giving the Action 52 guys way too much credit by assuming they misspelled "critical" intentionally or "Critical Bypass," if it existed, would be far and away the single worst video game ever made, even counting every game ever made on a Commodore 64 by someone just learning to program with BASIC.

What we have here is a pink and green circle that needs to make it to the end of the runway without running into any boxes or giant space potatoes. The circle can defend itself by firing in four directions, but it can only fire in the last direction it moved, meaning it has to move toward the danger to eliminate it.

Far be it from me to discriminate against pink and green circles. They make fine power-ups, but they make lousy protagonists. I died once waiting for my ship to appear on screen, not realizing it already had. On the bright side, at least an awesome space ship sprite wasn't wasted here.

Day 50: Boktai - The Sun Is in Your Hand

Encouraging children to spend more time outdoors is a worthy endeavor. Encouraging children to spend more time outdoors so they can play a video game with a photometric sensor on it just adds an increased chance for skin cancer to their already high likelihood for obesity.

Being fair-skinned, I decided it would be best to play Boktai in the darkest room in Pasadena, guaranteeing I wouldn't get very far and thus have more time to spend at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach.

Day 49: Dig Dug - Digging Strike

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Day 48: Mario vs. Donkey Kong

I played this game three days ago on an inflatable mattress in North Hollywood and quite honestly I don't remember too much about it. It's essentially a reimagining of the first Donkey Kong game but with all the maneuvers Mario learned since getting his own video game franchise and a convoluted plot revolving around Mario action figures since Donkey Kong is a good guy now and can't go around kidnapping Pauline, which wouldn't get Mario's attention anyway since he kicked her to the curb for the princess.

Personally, I find rescuing a bunch of toys more rewarding than rescuing the princess for the eleven millionth time, even though additions like picking up and throwing trash cans and preforming complex acrobatic flips detract from the classic jump over things or bash them with a hammer Donkey Kong game play. Also, Mario vs. Donkey Kong moves at a much slower, puzzle-game pace than its arcade ancestor. Definitely a case of subtraction by addition.

Day 47: Original Frisbee Disc Sports Ultimate & Golf

I've discovered the secret to Frontier Airlines' excellent on-time record. They fudge the numbers. When my plane pulled up to the gate, the flight attendant announced that it was 7:50 local time. However, when speaking to a customer service representative after missing my connection to LA, she informed me that according to the official record, which is what gets sent to the FAA, my plane reached the gate at 7:30 local time.

Fortunately, thanks to Original Frisbee Disc Sports Ultimate & Golf, waiting on standby for a seat on a flight to LAX was not the worst part of my day. In fact, compared to the Ultimate half of what will from this point on be referred to as OFDSUG, waiting for a cranky Frontier employee who may or may not get her next paycheck to call my name was downright enjoyable.

If you're unfamiliar with Ultimate, the best way to describe it might be football with a frisbee. The goal is to get the frisbee into the endzone by throwing it to your teammates. In the real world this usually involves being able to see your teammates, some of which even run diagonally. Neither of those happen in UFDSUG. Since your view of the massive field is limited to the area immediately around the player you control, playing defense mostly consists of waiting for the other team to drop the frisbee, which results in a turnover.

The disc golf half is just a stripped down golf game. There are 18 holes to play and 5 different discs to use. Sinking 70 foot putts is disturbingly easy, even the first time you play the game.

I made it out of Denver on the next flight and never touched UFDSUG again. OK, I did touch it, but only to eject it from my DS so I could play Advance Wars Dual Strike while waiting in the lobby of a Los Angeles salon. It's a long story...

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Day 46: Mekuri Master

I shouldn't be at all surprised that a skirt flipping would be so dull. Adult themed video games have been boring since Custer's Revenge, which asked that players do nothing more than walk across the screen to be rewarded with what, with a little imagination, looked kind of like a cowboy raping an indian.

Mekuri Master asks players to lift the skirts of schoolgirls using the mouse. Fortunately, moving one hand up and down while sitting at a computer is an action very familiar to most of the primary audience for Merkuri Master, so they should have no trouble racking up high scores.

The "hero" needs to see as many panties as possible in the passing period between classes at a school that apparently has no other male students. The better the timing, the better the score. And don't even think about touching the school nurse's skirt unless you enjoy the feeling of a clipboard to the jaw.

And that's the whole game. Five levels of see girl, flick mouse, see girl, flick mouse. And with nothing but a few quick glances of cartoon panties, there's nothing here in either the gameplay or titillation departments to make Mekuri Master worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Day 45: Gravitation

If you're looking for proof that video games have made the leap from entertaining diversion to art, I suggest Gravitation. Playing Gravitation is a lot like watching one of those movies critics say is great but is really just two hours of uppity smart people sitting around talking about how much they hate themselves. You sit through it and tell all your friends you thought it was great so they won't think you're an idiot, but you really would've rather watched Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Again.

The instructions are appropriately vague. Use the arrow keys to move, the space bar to jump. Everything else is up to the player to figure out and interpret. I don't want to do that for you, so I'll just leave you with the link to the developer's website.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Day 44: Recca

I don't think I've ever seen the original NES/Famicom hardware put this many objects on the screen at once. And every single one of those objects wants to kill me.

I'm just blown away by the amazing speed of this game and how seamlessly it all runs. Despite the massive number of sprites on the screen at times, and the screenshot above could be considered a lull in the action, Recca almost never slows down or flickers.

This is by far the most intense shooter I've ever played. That said, it is still just a shooter, and apart from the technical accomplishments, adds nothing to the genre that might grab non-fans.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Day 42: Dr. Micro

I don't know if Dr. Micro is the good guy or the bad guy. The bad guy has the whole evil scientist thing going, so he could be Dr. something, but Dr. Micro sounds more like a nickname you'd give someone back in the 80's if the knew a lot about computers and where all down with microchips and stuff. The kind of guy who'd wear headphones everywhere he went.

And don't even try to tell me his choice of outfit is a coincidence.

So anyway, headphone guy is looking to stop scientist guy's giant boxing germ creation experiments which, if you ask me, are totally legitimate science with huge entertainment potential. I mean, don't you feel a little like a barbarian watching two guys punch each other in the face for half an hour? But watching two giant germs punch each other, that's guilt free right there.

Like any good platform game of the era, and by good platform game I mean Donkey Kong, Dr. Micro has an elevator screen.

And a conveyor belt screen.

And to prove that it is, in fact, a totally original game and not, as some of you might have suspected, a rip off of the aforementioned barrel throwing monkey game, Dr. Micro has this floating on a balloon throwing rocks at germs screen.

The elephant has me completely baffled.

Dr. Micro steals the right things from the right games and uses them well. The simple truth is every screen is fun to play, looks good, sounds good and presents unique challenges. Dr. Micro is everything a video game should be.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Day 41: Van Van Car

Van Van Car is not, and I'm sure I'm not the only one disappointed to learn this, a strange Japanese version of Duck Duck Goose. Van Van Car is, in fact, so brutally unimaginative that I won't even waste time describing it. I'll just show you a picture.

My disappointment has led to inspiration. Not every child has siblings or lives in a neighborhood with a lot of other kids and wide open spaces. What do these kids do when they want to play Four Square or Red Rover? For now they do nothing, but I imagine a future in which they can play Intense Online Hopscotch against players from around the world. Here are just a few of the games I plan to include in my proposal to potential investors:

Dellwayne Robinson Xtreme Duck Duck Goose '09 Named for the fastest kid in my elementary school, DRX 09, as it will be known, will feature the most realistic Duck Duck Goose gameplay to date and support for up to 10 players online. For those seeking a more fast paced game, the arcade mode will let players use a variety of power ups like Speed Boost and Untied Shoelaces.

ARRA (American Red Rover Association) Breakz Inspired by the popular NFL Blitz series, ARRA Breakz will have super buff players and lots of intense, but child friendly, on screen violence. The intuitive, easy to master controls are sure to make this one a favorite of children of all ages.

Mother May I Revolution The ultimate game of exclusion, now playable by up to 16 online contestants. Baby steps, giant steps, even umbrella steps! All at the push of a button! Assuming Mother gives you permission, of course.

Smear the Queer: Street Flashy moves and flashier clothes are what it's all about on the Street. Players start as nobodies but work their way up the ladder to become King of the Neighborhood, earning valuable stickers along the way which can be traded for new outfits and new abilities.

All games will allow players to create their own online avatars for play, keep online stats and the Xbox 360 versions will even have achievements to earn. I plan to release all games as bargain titles, with prices starting at $19.99. Look for them in time for Christmas.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Day 40: Action 52 Friday with Silver Sword

Hark, brave warrior! Our once prosperous kingdom has been cursed! Only by traveling into the enchanted but strangely narrow woods and killing everything that moves can you free us from our despair! Please hurry warrior! The longer you dally, the more exclamation points I'll have to use!!!!

Silver Sword attempts to be either The Legend of Zelda or Gauntlet, or maybe Fatal Labyrinth. It doesn't matter really because it utterly fails to be any of those games. Even Fatal Labyrinth, for all its flaws, at least had the good sense to put some indication of how close I am to dying on the screen. Silver Sword, like several other Action 52 games, has no has no on-screen indication of score, lives remaining or, in this case, hit points, forcing me to keep track on my own. Quite frankly, being asked to count to 3 while avoiding giant caterpillars and fireball shooting Mankeys offends me to my very core.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Day 39: Dream Shopper

Ugh. This game hurts my brain. And my eyes.

Did you memorize the locations of all the 500 point squares? OK, good, because they're all going to disappear now.

All you have to do now is uncover 10,000 points without getting captured by one of those yellow things or falling into a pit. Waddaya mean you don't see any pits? They're right there. One's right below the red purse down and to the right of the shopper. There's another one by that clump of purses on the right side of the screen. There are two more, but I'll let you find those on your own.

Ten thousand points earns you admittance to what looks like a TI-99 game. And not a very good one either. Collect as many presents as you can and head for the woman in red at the top of the screen. Those aren't C's. They're cobblestones. Or something.

This is where a talented writer would make some sort of clever dream/nightmare comment and wrap things up nicely. But good writers don't write on free Blogspot pages. They write for GamePro.