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Board games based on video games were once an interesting art form. People would take classic games like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda and try to adapt them to a board game format. Most of the time they really had to stretch what kind of game they could make out of the source material. Most of the video game board games were designed much like old games based on TV shows, movies, or even personalities like Dr. Ruth and Lucille Ball. Alas, that’s all disappeared in the modern age in exchange for reskins of Monopoly, Risk and Yahtzee with Pokemon or Metal Gear Solid slapped onto it. I blame USAopoly for homogenizing the licensed board games market.

Actual picture of a Monopoly section at a board game store in a mall. 90% of these looked the same, from the materials inside to the back of the box!

Actual picture I took of a Monopoly section at a board game store. 90% of these looked the same, from the materials inside to the back of the box!

Let’s go back to the past, and talk about a little pellet chomper named Pac-Man. Back when Buckner and Garcia were exclaiming they had Pac-Man Fever, and this beloved character was not being slapped into crappy cartoons written by ex-Tiny Toon Adventures writers, Pac-Man was super-popular in the United States. This was mostly in part because of Midway’s (Pac-Man‘s distributor at the time) very aggressive marketing. There were t-shirts, toys, electronic handheld games, and of course, board games.

I could cover the Pac-Man board game by Milton Bradley in 1980, but it’s been done to death. It played much like the arcade game, where multiple Pac-Men could gobble dots for points while being avoided by the ghosts. It’s like Hungry Hungry Hippos, but with a board and actual strategy attached to it. They also made a board game for Ms. Pac-Man, but replaced the power pellets with a die roll, and had only one player take control of Ms. Pac-Man, swapping control to another player when an enemy ghost captured her. Also, the easily losable marbles were replaced with much more sensible chips.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the Pac-Man board games, they’re simple conversions of the arcade game. But the Pac-Man game train didn’t stop there. Enter Pac-Man: The Card Game, and Pac-Man: TWO CHALLENGING PUZZLES!

These are such silly taglines.

These are such silly taglines.

Released around 1980-82, both of these were released to further capitalize on the Pac-Man gravy train. I snagged both of these many many years ago, back when I was using eBay like a madman and buying things left and right. I kinda miss those days, that’s where a fair share of my games collection came from, as well as other obscure stuff I own, like a Wheel of Fortune play-along TV handheld from the late ’80s.

I don't know what kind of math you're using Milton Bradley, but I don't think adding will make Pac-Man more fun.

I don’t know what kind of math you’re using Milton Bradley, but I don’t think adding will make Pac-Man more fun.

The Card game is a little convoluted at first. Each player gets a game board and three cards drawn from a deck of 47 cards. You place a “number card” or a “picture card” on any player’s board to form a mathematic equation. The numbers are separated into 0, 1, 5, and 10; and the picture cards either had Pac-Man (which adds the two numbers), a green ghost (subtracts the two numbers), or Pac-Man eating Clyde (multiplies the two numbers). Once you made a set of three, you were scored based on the mathematic equation you or another player had made. First to 100 points wins the game.

Shown here: a 5, and a Pac-Man card and a  1 awards the player 6 points, whereas a 1, a ghost card and a 10 gives the player no points.

Shown here: a 5, a Pac-Man card, and a 1 awards player one 6 points; whereas a 1, a ghost card, and a 10 gives player two no points.

There is a catch, though: Your equation can’t equal a negative number, so if you did 1 – 10, you’d get no points. At least, that’s how the game is normally played. If you wanted a challenge (or you just wanna be a dick), you could make it so negative points are allowed. But since this might make the game tougher and take considerably longer, you only need to get to 50 points with these special set of rules.

Pac-Man: The Card Game would’ve fit fine in a third grade classroom as an entertaining side activity, with helping kids learn math, but it’s not an amazing game by any stretch. This game and its relation to Pac-Man is minimal at most, this could’ve featured generic symbols and numbers and would have the same impact. I wonder if this was just an existing Milton Bradley game slapped with a Pac-Man license on it. Guess we’ll never know.

Now, onto the TWO CHALLENGING PUZZLES!

When I bought this on eBay years ago, this had never been opened. Granted, I doubt the collector value for this was very high to begin with.

When I bought this on eBay years ago, this had never been opened. Granted, I doubt the collector value for this was very high to begin with.

This one doesn’t need much explanation: Inside the box are a bunch of various shapes. Your goal is first to make four Pac-Men with their mouths open using the pieces inside. Once done, you can then challenge yourself by converting those four Pac-Men into three Pac-Men with their mouths closed in a complete circle. That’s it. You can challenge these puzzles with friends, or see how fast you can complete both challenging puzzles.

Done, quick and painless. Awesome Games Done Quick, here I come!

Done, quick and painless. Awesome Games Done Quick, here I come!

The only challenge is where the pieces may be arranged. You must have at least one piece with an open “eye” on each Pac-Man, and it’s entirely possible to get one or two Pac-Men completed, but have other pieces that can’t be placed in a way to complete the puzzle. I had to completely reset so I could complete the harder puzzle a few times because of this.

One last thing: This puzzle is aged 8 to adult, but it shouldn’t be difficult for most ages to figure out. Though, Milton Bradley thought that some people might not have sick puzzle skills, so you could at one time mail Milton Bradley a letter and have them mail you the solution to the puzzles.

I am not making this up. I wonder if they still have some of those lying around in a warehouse somewhere.

I am not making this up. I wonder if they still have some of those lying around in a warehouse somewhere.

Out of all the video game board game adaptions, these are probably the most interesting of the lot. Both of them took the simplicity of Pac-Man and tried to put it into something in addition to the “converting the arcade game to a board game” concept, but I wouldn’t say these are underrated gems no one played. These are certainly better than the 500 video game board games that look all the same today, that’s for sure. If you really like Pac-Man, these are an interesting thing to add to your Pac-Collection, otherwise you can safely live without these games.

Come to think of it, I wonder what Namco thought of these games, or if they even know they even exist. Maybe that’s why Midway lost the rights to Pac-Man in the mid-’80s: because they were whoring Pac-Man out like this, and didn’t approve. It’s a complete mystery.

Conquered: Far Cry 3.

Alternate title: Jason Brody’s transformation from party animal to jungle psychopath.

Man, the Far Cry games have gone through this weird identity crisis over the years. The first game was a mostly linear, extremely difficult action game with aliens, Far Cry Instincts made your character become a mutated alien with superpowers, and Far Cry 2 was a promising game with too many stupid mechanics and probably the dumbest story to come out of a big-budget action game. To this day, I still don’t understand why people praise Far Cry 2 to the high heavens.

But Far Cry 3 has nothing to do with the others. Seems to be par for the course for Ubisoft: Instead of making a cohesive story/saga with the series, just make them like Call of Duty games where they’re mostly standalone and different, with the only similarity being a jungle theme. It seems to be working for them.

Far Cry 3 was one of my many purchases during the Steam Summer Sale this year (along with Tomb RaiderDark Souls, the BioShock trilogy…), and I bought it knowing that after the disappointment of Far Cry 2 that it could only get better from here.

Warning: Minor plot spoilers within.

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I’m not a big fan of list articles. At best, you could find interesting stuff that might intrigue you and maybe share to your friends on Facebook. At worst, you find terrible click-bait articles that seem to be written more for a paycheck than any informative value. It’s something I’ve refrained from doing here, as I prefer writing interesting long form stuff instead.

Seriously, this is what Cracked is now. I weep for our future.

Seriously, this is what Cracked is now. Remember when they actually wrote parody articles? Probably better than “11 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Your Pants,” anyway.

One particular list article by Cracked irked me considerably. A recent list, “6 Awesome Hacks That Did Mind-Blowing Things With Old Games” featured some cool stuff like Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk in Grand Theft Auto IV, or the entirety of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind in Oblivion‘s engine. Even Just Cause 2: Multiplayer Mod, where you could go crazy in the world of Just Cause 2 with hundreds of people, made the list. But what was number one? Brutal Doom.

I won’t go too much into Brutal Doom as it’s made the internet rounds everywhere over the past couple of years, but it’s championed as the “definitive way to play Doom,” with more gore, violence, Mortal Kombat-style fatalities, even a key that’s simply dedicated to flipping off enemies. It’s amazing at first, but it outstays its welcome pretty quick.

I’m gonna be honest: I think Brutal Doom is an overrated, mediocre mod. The only thing it has going for it is the ridiculous macho factor, and that seems to be championed by every average dude who always writes about the Doom mod scene. Brutal Doom is usually mentioned as “the way Doom was meant to be,” but it really isn’t. Brutal Doom isn’t the way Doom was meant to be played, it’s Doom if it was a terrible caricature of itself. It’s the Doom comic in game form.

Seriously, I wonder if there's people who love this sort of stuff.

All this does is make Doomguy look like a god damn psychopath who should be in a mental asylum, not fighting monsters.

So, as a response to the article (as well as breaking my own personal rule of no lists), I’m making a list of 6 awesome Doom mods that aren’t called Brutal Doom. These are ones that the Doom community swear by, and are more worth your time than Brutal Doom any day of the week.

As always, these require Doom to run. You can get Doom II on Steam for the low low price of $5. After that, you’ll need a source port to play these. I recommend GZDoom (for Singleplayer) and Zandronum (for Multiplayer). While these mods will work perfectly fine with the default Doom II levels, I do recommend playing these with custom PWADs, which I’ll link to as well. Unless stated otherwise, these are meant to be played in single player.

Police Brutality: Wildweasel presents Terrorists!

(idgames link)

Ever wanted to be an action hero? Terrorists! will live out your dreams of being the next Chuck Norris. Armed with only a pistol and the ability to kick dudes in the face, this mod adds real life weapons and enemies for you to fight in.

Stopping crime the only way possible: with a six shooter and a bunch of bullets.

Stopping crime the only way possible: with a six shooter and a bunch of bullets.

In addition to the weapons and enemies, there’s also a new feature where you level up your guns by killing enemies with them. Upgrades start out simple, like faster fire rate, but as you level them up, they get more crazy, like a Beretta that converts to burst fire, or a revolver that becomes a long-range rifle. Even your melee and grenades can get upgrades, from electric grenades to explosive roundhouse kicks.

Our hero, kicking robots like it ain't no big deal.

Our hero, kicking robots like it ain’t no big deal.

Wildweasel’s made some other great mods, like the WWII-inspired Nazis! (which goes great with the Egyptian themed EPIC 2), and the action packed Diaz. Terrorists became one of my favorites, only because of the weapon upgrades. The three I just mentioned are all pretty good mods for Doom, and give enough gameplay changes to make it just as fun. For those who want to live out their action movie dreams without actually getting hurt, Terrorists! will do the job nicely.

(Disclaimer: I might have a slight bias as I am friends with the guy who made this mod. It’s still high quality, though!)

Samsara

(ZDoom forum link)

Ever wanted to play through Doom campaigns with characters besides Doomguy? Well, Samsara adds characters from many old games of the era, from Duke Nukem, to B.J. Blazkowicz, even the heroes from Chex Quest and Marathon make an appearance here. Now playing as each character will allow you to use only that character’s weapons, so you can’t run around with 4-5 weapons from different games, sadly. However, that’s a compromise I can deal with considering the variety of classic characters involved.

Yeah. I'm the Ranger, a friend of mine is the Chex Quest guy, and we're fighting a Baron of Hell. Welcome to Samsara.

Yeah. I’m the Ranger, a friend of mine is the Chex Quest guy, and we’re fighting a Baron of Hell. Welcome to Samsara.

I’ve always loved crossovers between different game series, official and non-official. Samsara scratches that crossover itch. Playing as the various characters gives a much different take on Doom. Nothing’s more fun than ripping through Chex Quest as Duke Nukem, or playing custom levels like Community Chest 4 with Ranger, or bringing firearms to the world of Heretic. There’s even mods that add the enemies from those games, giving us an unusual mix that you normally don’t see in games like this.

B.J. Blazkowicz, Duke Nukem, and the guy from Marathon, all fighting on the same level. What's not to like?

B.J. Blazkowicz, Duke Nukem, and the guy from Marathon, all fighting on the same level. What’s not to like?

Samsara is meant to be played online, either fragging with friends in deathmatch or working together in co-op, with each person choosing different characters for each situation. Though you can play this single player in GZDoom, it’s not the recommended way to play this. Get some buddies together in survival co-op and rip through as many levels as possible. Just make sure you put it on random character for the ideal Samsara experience.

Reelism

(Official website)

Let me put it this way: Reelism is one bizarre mod. It’s a wave-based survival mod where you score points by killing dudes, but as opposed to other Horde Mode-style games, this one’s different. Every wave starts a slot machine which determines the the rules for the wave. Could be anything from fighting Wolfenstein 3D enemies with explosive weapons and the ability to fly, to fighting enemies from Strife in a freakin’ tank. This, coupled with the levels of a bridge, a hell planet and a generic JRPG world, makes for a ridiculous experience that you gotta play to believe.

I wasn't kidding about the tank part.

I wasn’t kidding about the tank part.

Some of the mods make it so you’re using weapons from a certain game and enemies usually from a different game, but sometimes they throw tricks in, like activating Rise of the Triad‘s Dog Mode for a Round, or throwing in harmless bronies. Others make it more challenging, like removing friction to Nintendo 64-like fog to exploding enemies. Some are just useless, like touch screen mode. All of this plays into Reelism’s absurdity.

I'm in a futuristic cyberworld fighting Doom enemies with Hexen weapons and can fly around at will. Don't try to understand it, it'll just hurt your brain.

I’m in a futuristic cyber world fighting Doom enemies with Hexen weapons and can fly around at will. Don’t try to understand it, you’ll just strain your brain.

Basically Reelism is the god damn melting pot of Doom mods. The items, enemies and weapons come from dozens of different old-school shooters, while also adding a few enemies of its own. All the levels are inspired by other games, and it has no consistent style. Though in this case, the randomness of it works in Reelism’s favor, making sure the experience is different every time you play.

However, the mod is not easy. Most of the time I was lucky to get past three rounds, and that meant games that were no longer than 2-3 minutes at a time. Despite that, it’s a great mod for when you got a few minutes of time to kill.

Psychic

(ZDoom forum thread)

Psychic is a bit different from the other mods shown here. Where most of these just replaced weapons or threw in everything but the kitchen sink, Psychic adds elemental magic to its arsenal.

The shop. Want to heal instantly or get weapons immediately? Here you go. Just make sure you got enough bloody cash.

The shop. Want to heal instantly or get weapons immediately? Here you go. Just make sure you got enough bloody cash.

When you kill enemies, you pick up Bloodmoney which you use to buy items in the shop. The things you can buy range from buying/upgrading weapons and magic, health and armor pickups, even brief powerups like enemy damage giving you health back or enemies being scared of you. Bigger enemies give more Bloodmoney, especially if killed with your elemental powers.

Learn lightning, and strike these fools down in an instant. They’ll never know what hit ‘em.

This gives a wholly new Doom experience, even with level packs like Requiem. Granted, this doesn’t make Doom itself any easier, in fact it’s a bit more challenging than the other mods mostly due to the limited weapons available. Don’t expect this mod to make Doom a cakewalk, even with powerful magic and guns.

At times, Psychic’s design feels like cyberpunk with a pinch of Gothic flavor, which makes it stand out a bit differently than the other mods shown here, and it’s pretty cool. It reminds me of 2000s-era action/horror movies, which was kind of a popular thing during the era. It’s quite a shame the idea of guns and magic has never been touched upon much before this, because Psychic has an interesting idea here.

Beautiful Doom

(Mod DB page)

Up to this point, I’ve covered mods that drastically changed the gameplay. Usually by adding new weapons and abilities. But what about the more cosmetic side of Doom modding? Where it’s more about looks than drastically changing the gameplay mechanics? I’ve got your answer right here with Beautiful Doom.

Screenshot_Doom_20140607_161555

The happy medium: Gory violence, while still playing like the Doom we all grew up with.

I always recommend that new Doom players try to play Doom the closest to the original as possible (that means no mouse look, jumping, or crouching!) because using mods or source ports that add features can basically break the game and give players the wrong impression on how Doom was played. Beautiful Doom doesn’t do that. The core gameplay is the same as it was back in ’94, but now features flashier graphics, more blood and wonderful particle effects. It takes those kind of aesthetics that Brutal Doom enforced, but without the drastic gameplay changes alongside it.

All the action of Brutal Doom but without the bitter aftertaste.

All the violence of Brutal Doom but without the bitter aftertaste.

If you liked the pretty graphical effects of Brutal Doom, but didn’t care for the ridiculous dismemberment, I recommend Beautiful Doom instead. Same cool effects, but with the classic Doom gameplay experience intact. No ridiculous finishing moves and taunt buttons here, and it’s better as a result.

Russian Overkill

(ZDoom forum page)

I saved the best for last. Get ready to praise glorious Mother Russia, comrade.

Russian Overkill lives up to its name. It has ridiculous weapons that pretty much destroy anything in their path. Dozens of shotguns, machine guns, and rocket launchers are at your dispersal. There’s also Black Hole launchers, explosive plasma launchers that can obliterate large groups of enemies, shotguns where the alternate fire launches spent shell casings… this mod is god damn nuts.

Because who doesn't want to kill their enemies with loads of spent shotgun shells?

Because who doesn’t want to kill their enemies with loads of spent shotgun shells?

This mod is clearly meant for those who just wanna kill everything in sight with the most ridiculous, overpowered guns without any worry of dying. Even through later levels of some of the hardest mods, I had loads of ammo and plenty of health and armor to spare. I was an unstoppable killing machine, the way Stalin would’ve intended. Provided he was around and supported crazy weaponry like this.

Seriously, this is meant to be played with levels where there’s boatloads of enemies at every turn. Throw on something like Scythe II and let ‘er rip with these weapons. The weapons are so overpowered that you’ll feel like a real badass even if you’re not playing on the highest difficulty.

Even the difficulty levels are ridiculous. One of the difficulty levels just replaces all the default weapons with the most powerful, devastating, area-clearing weapons. It’s great if you wanna clear entire levels with these guns, but bad if you value your survival at all.

Shortly after I used this, I killed pretty much everything in the room. Including myself.

Shortly after I used this, I killed pretty much everything. Including myself.

If there’s any Doom mod from the list that should be tried at least, it’s this one. It’s overpowered and hardly balanced, but it doesn’t really need to be. You’ll want to wreck everything in sight, and you don’t care what you use to get there. It truly is overkill.

Conclusion

Granted, there’s a lot of Doom mods that have come out in the past 20 years. More than likely I missed a few here and there, so if there’s a Doom mod that’s a personal favorite, leave it in the comments.

Keep in mind that I don’t hate Brutal Doom per se, stylistically it’s a well-done mod. It’s the excess gore, the over-the-top elements, and its ridiculous “hardcore” attitude that rubs me the wrong way. It’s not a bad mod, just highly overrated. All the other mods I mentioned are much better, more fun experiences. For anyone who wants to get into what the Doom community’s been doing over the past few years, these are much, much better examples than what Cracked thought deserved the #1 spot in their crappy mod list. (I would’ve replaced the Baldur’s Gate mod with something like Black Mesa instead. Bunch of guys take ten years to release a remake of Half-Life, now that’s a story.)

Other Doom mods I’d highly recommend include Action Doom and its sequel Urban Brawl, Zen Dynamics, and Zharkov Goes to the Store. I could easily cover a whole bunch of these, but I only wanted to cover some of my favorites. There’s a whole boatload of great Doom mods, this is just a small sampling of them. Hell, I’d recommend checking out the Cacowards at Doomworld, there’s a bunch of great mods there too.

This is why Doom is one of the best games of all time. You won’t find these absurd mods in a modern shooter, that’s for certain. And if they did, they’d probably sell it to you for $15 a piece instead.

Game Show a Go Go is a series where I look into game show video games, and games that are game show-like. Today, we travel back to the year 2001 as we remember the days when MTV still played music videos at a reasonable hour, and quiz ourselves on the pop culture that we know from the late ’90s to early 2000s. Hope you know your Blink-182 trivia.

Let’s talk about MTV. Go ahead, make the “Remember when they used to play music videos?” jokes, get it out of your system. That said, MTV was a cultural revolution back in the day. Seeing lots of quirky music videos, then it slowly started expanding to general purpose music programming, such as Beavis and Butt-head and game shows like Remote Control. Eventually MTV’s various TV shows eventually got video games of their own in varying levels of quality, most of them bad.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

Alas, as we entered the internet age, music videos became infrequent, and we were subject to various shows like Celebrity Deathmatch, punk’d, Jackass and webRIOT. These shows went further and further past the original “Music Television” concept and ended up being more about general pop culture. Nowadays we’re subjected to reality shows involving teen moms and people from the Jersey shore, with maybe some music videos in the middle of the night. But let’s forget about today and travel back to the year 2001, when times were much simpler, and it was more about the music.

Total Request Live, or trl for short, was a show that was part music videos, part talk show, and part “random teenagers screaming over the music video telling us how this Christina Aguilera song is their favorite song of all time.” It lasted several years on MTV before finally ending in 2008, which is surprising considering the state of the network at that point. TRL was where Carson Daly got his start, and he now hosts a podunk late night talk show on NBC that no one watches unless they fell asleep after The Tonight Show and forgot to turn the TV off.

In 2001, Take Two Interactive decided to cut a deal with MTV and make a game based on trl for the PC audience. Enter TRL Trivia. (or as it’s stylized on the box: MTV trl trivia.) I’ll give you three guesses which game this is meant to be like.

If you guessed this game would be a You Don't Know Jack clone, congratulations, you win this old HitClips thing I found in my bedroom. Enjoy the terrible sounds of *NSYNC's It's Gonna Be Me.

If you guessed this game would be a You Don’t Know Jack clone, congratulations, you win this old HitClips thing I found. Enjoy the terrible sounds of *NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” through a tinny speaker!

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Game Show a Go Go: Outburst

I mentioned this in the past, but there’s two things I have an unhealthy infatuation with: video games (natch) and game shows. Naturally since I like both of them, I’ve amassed a bunch of game show video games over the years. So I thought, “let’s talk about game show video games.” Because what better thing there is to write about than the 20 different versions of Jeopardy! that I own.

Though, this won’t exclusively cover video game adaptions of game shows, no sir. Naturally there are video games that try to simulate the feel and entertainment of a game show, and I’ll cover those as well. Such as our inaugural entry….

I always wondered what those circles meant…

Let’s jump back to 1995. Hasbro, wanting to get in on the burgeoning video game market, formed Hasbro Interactive that year. Most of their output was games based on their various properties, including Monopoly and Scrabble. Oh, and taking over the Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! games when GameTek went bankrupt. The company basically stayed on this path until Hasbro Interactive was bought by Infogrames in 2000, though Hasbro would eventually buy back the rights to make video games based on their various franchises.

Fun Fact: This version of Monopoly was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, Command & Conquer Westwood Studios.

Fun Fact: This version of Monopoly was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, Command & Conquer Westwood Studios.

Cut to 1998. This was around the time when Jellyvision’s (now Jackbox Games) You Don’t Know Jack was immensely popular, and naturally any Tom, Dick and Harry game publisher wanted to cash in by making You Don’t Know Jack-likes for the PC market. Either they tried to make a trivia game styled like Jack, such as TRL Trivia and Austin Powers in Operation Trivia, or they tried to copy the goofy “adult humor” and make their own game show-like game. Enter Outburst.

Remember Outburst? It’s that one board game where you shout out as many answers to a category as you can. It’s not a classic, but it’s one of those party games that gets thrown in along with Taboo and Catchphrase. Hasbro enlisted the development of Outburst by a small games company known as CyberDice. Not to be confused with the company that pumps out Battlefield games every two years, CyberDice was a development studio that only made a handful of party games. From the brief research I did, they worked on this game and Super Scattergories. I’m going to hazard a guess the developer folded shortly after the dot-com bubble burst.

outburst-sampleround

A sample round of play. Clearly I wasn’t thinking like the writers of this game were.

Outburst the computer game is stylized much like a TV game show. You can play by your lonesome or with other players, online or off. The game has multiple rounds of play, all based on the general theme of giving as many answers as they can within the time limit. After some rounds, you can earn bonus points by having the randomizer hit an answer you gave (Shown above). The team with the most points wins after seven rounds wins.

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Ah, the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio for the next three and a half decades. But this time, we’re looking at a small portion of that audio standard.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were working on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs held up to 700MB, and developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips, musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation). A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch these days, but it was a god damn revelation if you were around back then.

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Back in December, I decided to trade in my hunk of junk six year old HP Pavilion PC for a new custom built PC. Running on an Intel i5-4570, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD with Windows 7, I was in PC gaming heaven. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stop gap until I could afford a new video card. It worked out great, pushing most of the PC games I had to high settings.

But then, tragedy struck. I saw graphical artifacts while playing Crysis, but thought nothing of it at the time. Several days later, my video card started spinning its fans loudly while I was idling on my PC, temperatures rising by the second. Even with a quick dusting, the card still got loud and didn’t show a picture. It happened to me again: a video card died on me. I got the HD5770 as an emergency replacement for my dead GeForce 8800GT back in 2010, and now I had another dead video card. I was amazed the Radeon lasted that long, maybe pushing all those polygons in those two months was a bit hard on the old gal.

So, for the past month I’ve been playing other games, such as binging on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit from 2010 and playing through Call of Duty: Black Ops II on my 360. After being annoyed that I couldn’t play much on the PC, I decided to test something. All CPUs these days come with a integrated graphics chip. PC gamers won’t use this, opting to buy a video card to do all the heavy lifting for their gaming needs. I thought I’d give my i5 processor’s integrated graphics chip a shot in the meantime. After installing the newest drivers, I tried a bunch of games on Intel’s own integrated graphics, the HD4600 and saw the results. Boy, I was surprised.

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So, Sega recently announced a new Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon titled Sonic Boom, which comes with a video game tie-in. This was buzzing around the internet for the past couple of days, most notably because everybody couldn’t stop complaining about everybody’s character redesigns.

It’s like Tails is going “Man, what is with these people complaining about us?”

I lost interest in Sonic years ago, the last game I played was Sonic Generations and that was not a fun game for me. Before that, the last games I played were Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Battle and Sonic Rush. So I’m not an authority on Sonic or anything.

After the announcement, I realized that this will be the fifth cartoon featuring that blue hedgehog. So I decided to watch a few episodes of the previous cartoon series: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Underground and Sonic X; and write a bit about them. This will be a fun time indeed. So let’s take a travel through time, and look back at Sonic’s cartoon past.

Took me an hour in GIMP. Put more effort into this than I normally do.

Took me an hour in GIMP. Put more effort into this than I normally do.

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Today, I thought that it’d be interesting to dabble more into my game library, as I have a fair share of games that I’ve gotten or bought over the years. Plus, it’s been a while since I talked about a game on the site, I’m long overdue for this.

Ah, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. An awesome skateboarding game that was fun even if you couldn’t do sick tricks on a real skateboard. A long-standing franchise that eventually got the usual Activision treatment of “pump these games out until they stop making us money,” and now pretty much lives on through nostalgic memories of the early games and the occasional new Tony Hawk game that they trot out just to prove the franchise is not dead. Though, the less we talk about Tony Hawk Ride, the better.

I do remember playing the first two games at some point, but since I wasn’t big into skateboarding I missed out on the later games. Thanks to watching Tony Hawk’s Underground speed runs and Giant Bomb playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 online a few years back, it’s fueled my interest into the franchise now, and I’m kicking myself for missing out when it was king.

Let’s go back a bit and talk about the original game. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out on a bunch of platforms, like the Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. But I wasn’t expecting the first game on this system:

Yes. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the Game Boy Color. That’s not the weird part, though, this is the weird part:

This game was made by Natsume. The Harvest Moon guys. I can’t think of a weirder choice for a developer of a portable Tony Hawk game. Honestly, I didn’t even know they made games beside Harvest Moon until I had played this one.

I don’t even remember how I got this game, I think a neighbor had a copy of it years ago and just gave it to me. The only other thing I remember about this game is that I wrote a scathing user review of this on GameSpot. You can probably find it if you look around there, but I’d rather not remember it, much like most of my past writing.

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I’ve mentioned in the past that I collect a bunch of unusual things, such as demo discs and promotional DVDs. I covered a Nintendo Promo DVD from 2002 last year, and mentioned that I had other promo discs that I intend to write about. Well, here’s another one of these.

This is a special promo DVD from Nintendo Power, released around mid-2005. 2005 was a dark age for Nintendo. The GameCube was literally on its last legs, the DS was floundering and the GBA was the only success for the big N. This was before the Wii (or the “Revolution” as it was called) was even revealed. Like the 2002 promo, this disc is chock full of demos for the hottest new games on Nintendo platforms.

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Sega Hot Wheels, from 2003.

Back in late 2012, I wrote about Atari Hot Wheels. These were Hot Wheels cars based on old Atari games that had rather dubious car choices. At the end of the article, I had mentioned that I also had Sega Hot Wheels, and that I’d get around to writing about them someday. Well, now is the time, because I finally completed the whole set a few days ago.

So the Atari ones were not the first video game tie-in Hot Wheels cars. These Sega ones came considerably earlier, from 2003 to be exact. By this time Sega had already abandoned their console heritage and started publishing games for the other game systems like the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. Each car is based off an existing Sega game from around that time period, and like the Atari Hot Wheels, a few of them are based on unique Hot Wheels lines than real cars. But enough about that, let’s look at the cars themselves:

  • A car from the “Fandango” series based on Space Channel 5
  • A car from the “Phaeton” series based on The House of the Dead III
  • A 2003 Lotus Esprit, based on the Shinobi reboot
  • A car from the “GT Racer” series based on Super Monkey Ball
  • and a custom 2003 Mercury Cougar based on Jet Set Radio Future.

These cars give a perfect snapshot of Sega from this period. This was back when they were experimenting with old series frequently and making sequels to games like Jet Set Radio. This was back when Sega actually cared and made cool new games, as opposed to today where they’re content with pumping out mediocre Sonic the Hedgehog games while making decent bank on the Total War and Football Manager series. But I digress.

The Sega Hot Wheels look considerably cooler than the Atari ones, as they’re based on car lines that would seem grounded in reality rather than the weird toy cars they made for the Atari ones. You could probably use these on those Hot Wheels racing tracks that were super popular twenty years ago. I think I still have mine kicking around somewhere…

As for how I got these, it’s a little more complicated than paying $12 at a Bi-Mart for them. I already had the Space Channel 5Shinobi and Super Monkey Ball cars as they were in a giant bin full of 2001-2004 era Hot Wheels cars that we have that probably have little to no value. I found the House of the Dead III car at a garage sale last year, and picked up the JSRF car at an antique store in Milwaukie, OR for the low low price of 50 cents. So now I have two complete Hot Wheels sets. This, along with having a Back to the Future DeLorean Hot Wheels, makes me have a pretty modest Hot Wheels collection now. Though, I probably won’t start collecting all of them, I do have my limits.

Now, I’m willing to bet that these aren’t all the video game Hot Wheels out there. Knowing Nintendo’s crazy marketing frenzy in the early ’90s, there might be a Mario car. There might’ve been other companies willing to make deals with Mattel for more Hot Wheels tie-ins. If there’s any more like these, let me know in the comments (or on Twitter, Facebook, et al) and maybe I’ll be back here again talking about other Hot Wheels cars based on video games.

What a way to start 2014, with more silly game trinkets…

It’s time to the return of “Video Games According to TV/Movies.” After a several month long hiatus, we’re back with another one that hit the internet waves several years back. Previously, I looked at David Caruso chewing the scenery and giving us the most meme-worthy quotes as I checked out CSI: Miami‘s Urban Hellraisers episode. (You can check that out here.) As we bring the series out of moth balls, we look at another TV show that depicted video games in the silliest way possible.

This time, our suspect is Life, a short-lived police procedural that aired on NBC from 2007-09. Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews, a former cop who was imprisoned for 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Now as a police detective, Crews must solve crimes while trying to solve the mystery of who actually caused the crime he was imprisoned for. It’s like Monk, but instead of an obsessive-compulsive man, we have an eccentric ex-con.

As opposed to Urban Hellraisers, which I watched without watching any prior episode of CSI: Miami, I actually did watch the pilot to understand the premise of Life.The acting is solid, Lewis does a fine job showing off Crews’ personality traits. Though, expect to see a lot of “haha technology has changed since he was in prison” jokes, where in the first episode, I saw him fumble with a cell phone and trying to understand how he’s answering phone calls from his new sweet-ass car.

But I’ve stalled enough. The episode in question is “A Civil War,” from the show’s first season. The episode starts with two Persian-American employees of a gas station killed and stored in a refrigerator, with “GO HOME” splashed on the windows in motor oil. Crews tries to find out who caused it, finding out it’s a hate crime by three perpetrators. Later on in the investigation, they find out there’s a third person, Amir Darvashi (Oren Dayan) who was kidnapped being held for ransom, and they ask for help from the gas station’s owner, Nina Myers Mary Ann Farmer (Sarah Clarke).

I'm sorry, but after watching so much 24, it's hard to see her as anything but a psychopath that might kill anybody at any moment, even in a show like this.

I’m sorry, but after watching so much 24, it’s hard to see her as anyone but a psychopath that might kill at any moment, even in a show like this.

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A few days ago, I had snagged this wonderful gem:

Streets of Rage 2, a Sega Genesis classic, for $5. Initially I passed on this, but then I realized it’s Streets of Rage 2, a freakin’ Genesis classic. That Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack! Who could pass that up? The dummy writing this. Thankfully, I was able to correct my mistake and grab it as a wonderful addition to my Genesis collection, along with a Sonic cartridge compilation called Sonic Classics.

Granted, it’s just a cartridge copy and it isn’t in the best of shape, but it’s nice to have. There’s something special about this cartridge: The giant “NOT FOR RESALE” label on it. Anyone who’s into collecting Sega Genesis stuff may have also seen the big “NOT FOR RESALE” stickers on copies of Sonic the Hedgehog. My Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came with my Sega Genesis long ago also with a “Not for Resale” sticker on it. Many pack-in games on the Genesis also came with the “not for resale” sticker on them. It made me wonder: Why is this ugly text on there, and what was its purpose?

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Remember True Crime: Streets of LA? It was a decent Grand Theft Auto clone developed by Luxoflux (RIP) and published by Activision in 2003. While it didn’t reinvent the wheel, it was a decent shooter, driving game and beat-em up. While I was doing my Game Fuel hunt a few weeks back, I had stumbled upon this mysterious gem in the DVD section at a Goodwill.

This is True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered. A promo DVD for the game, presumably given to GameStop employees or people who pre-ordered the game. For $3, I couldn’t pass this up.

This promo DVD is chock full of interesting videos that highlight the game’s mechanics, a few behind the scenes features, even a video advertising the (now-defunct) truecrimela.com. There’s even a trailer for the original Xbox version of the game, which looked somewhat better than the other versions of True Crime.

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Half-Life is my most favorite game of all time. How I got to experience it for the first time is a story for another time, but one thing that really caught my eye was the mod scene for Half-Life. Much like Quake and Doom before it, people were messing around in WorldCraft making maps for the internet masses. Some were interesting, others were bizarre, then there’s the classics. The mods that did really interesting stuff for Half-Life, and end up being the must-play mods for the game. Such as today’s entry. Since Halloween is around the corner, let’s look at the zombified single player mod They Hunger.

They Hunger was originally released in 1999 as a PC Gamer demo disc freebie, followed by two additional episodes in 2000 and 2001. Neil Manke, who had made the Half-Life mod USS Darkstar for PC Gamer earlier in 1999, was already familiar with game modding for promotional purposes such as Coconut Monkey Adventures for Quake II and Soldier of Fortune for Quake. (Not to be confused with Soldier of Fortune by Raven Software, this SOF was based off a TV show.) Naturally, They Hunger looked to do something most Half-Life mods didn’t do at the time, and it definitely succeeded.

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