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video game closet collage

I am a master at image manipulation.

For the past several years, I’ve been collecting my fair share of random video game stuff. Some of which I’ve talked about on this blog, others of which I still need to get around to. But it hasn’t just been physical stuff I find at Goodwills and other places, oh no. It’s also been loads of digital stuff.

Many years ago, back when I had a crappy old HP Pavilion PC with Windows Vista, 2GB of RAM, and 250GB of hard drive space, I was hoarding lots of digital video game goodies. Wallpapers, soundtracks, press kits, the works. That practice continued when I got my current PC in 2013, where I let them lay in my cluttered downloads folder. It didn’t dawn on me until I started moving it to a unique folder on my hard drive that I thought these were worth sharing, just like everything else I do on this blog.

The downside is that I’m slowly rebuilding my collection. When I was on the old PC, there were times where I had to delete some files to save space. So for now, some of the things I had are lost to time, unless I find them again somewhere. If these are still available on the official website, I’ll happily link to where you can get them, otherwise I’ll slap them up on my Dropbox for those who want it.

So let’s clean out my digital closet with these goodies…


Payday 2 wallpapers and posters!

post_hotline_miami-763x1080

Payday 2 has slowly become one of my favorite games in recent memory. While it’s flawed in many areas, it’s still a fun action-packed ride. For some of Payday 2‘s updates in 2014, Overkill was releasing free goodies to go along with the big Team Fortress 2-style update pages. This included wallpapers for the Shadow Raid mission featuring the Payday crew, a poster advertising the crossover between Payday 2 and Hotline Miami, and the Gage Assault Pack, featuring the smirk of weapons dealer Gage as he holds a FAMAS and carries an M79 on his back.

Thankfully Overkill is damn generous and put these wallpapers on their official website, however they’re only for 16:9 monitors on 1920×1080, so ones with other setups are left in the cold, which is a shame.

Here’s something I’m wondering: Does anyone still rock a 4:3 monitor in this day and age?

You can grab these and some of the wallpapers at Overkill’s fan service page. Some of the individual update pages have more, but not all of them do.


Shadowgate NES ringtones!

gfs_29041_1_1

I heard these games were notorious for being real dickish to you. I wonder how they got so popular, then…

I didn’t know about this until recently, but there was a reboot for Shadowgate a while back. As I never played any of the MacVenture series of games I can’t say much about it, but developer Zojoi didn’t want to forget the roots of the NES version. So they released a set of ringtones based from the NES soundtrack by composer Hiroyuki Masuno.* Now you can listen to some of those tracks without needing a pesky media player. Or you can pretend you’re the Gaming in the Clinton Years guy and have that Hall of Mirrors track as your ringtone. Either way, a nice treat considering how classic some of that music is.

You can snag those ringtones at the developer’s website here.

(*-Until very recently, no one knew who composed the special music for the NES MacVenture games. Thanks to the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation for solving the mystery of who composed those great tunes. Those guys do the heavy lifting not many others do, and it’s pretty great for a guy like me who loves nerding out about video game music.)

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A few years ago, I had found out there were gummy candies based off the then hot new property Angry Birds: Space, which I reviewed here. I decided to give them a try and was firmly disappointed how they tasted like gummy bears and not actual fruit snacks. Then I had found out thanks to a store called Rocket Fizz that there were several variants of this dumb candy.

Clearly I'm not gonna try them all, the first box I had was bad enough!

Clearly I’m not gonna try them all, the first box I had was bad enough!

Struggling with what I wanted to write about lately, I decided to hop into a nearby Dollar Tree in Portland. In addition to the rare sight of Pibb Xtra in bottles, I found these two gems:

Because video game candy can spur ideas more than anything else can.

Because video game candy can spur ideas more than anything else can.

Super Mario 3-Dees gummies and Plants vs. Zombies 2 fruit flavored snacks. Score! Because unhealthy things like candy and soda will always fuel my blog in some way.

I’m gonna review both of them today, in spite of them not having anything to do with one another except both of them are candy. This will be fun.

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Lately I’ve been on a kick of looking at old DOS game show games. There were a lot of official game show games of the 80s, from the greats like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune to lesser-known classics like Now You See It, Fun House and Remote Control. But what I was really interested in were the game show games made by hobby programmers.

I remember seeing this in a Micro Star shareware compilation disc. I wonder if I still have it...

I remember seeing this in a Micro Star shareware compilation disc. I wonder if I still have it…

I was looking for Wheel of Fortune clones, but I could only find two. VGAWHEEL (aka EGAWHEEL, I’ve seen both names online) is a no-frills version of Wheel that has probably the prettiest wheel made for DOS. Oh, and it has a cute little theme that plays on the PC speaker. Alas, there isn’t much to say about VGAWHEEL, other than Russell Mueller made a pretty good Wheel clone for DOS.

However, the other one I found is most intriguing: Tommy’s Wheel of Misfortune.

Man, this guy even had a BBS line! I wonder if there were aliens on it.

Man, this guy even had a BBS line! I wonder if there were aliens on it.

Tommy’s Toys was a garage developer who made games “designed by aliens from outer space.” They made a lot of games throughout the ’80s and ’90s. We’re talking about hundreds of them released over ten years.  Tommy’s Toys pretty much disappeared by the time Windows became super popular, and the designer stopped making games to write books. At least that’s what Mobygames says, anyway.

So let’s dive into this alien-made Wheel of Fortune clone, shall we?

You know it's a DOS classic when you see that smiley face in there somewhere.

You know it’s a DOS classic when you see that smiley face in there.

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Let's ignore the stickers and look at the big prize: NEW MUSIC!

Let’s ignore the stickers and look at the big prize: NEW MUSIC!

It’s that time again. On February 12, 2015, Valve introduced a second batch of music kits for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. I had written about the first nine late last year, and it’s become one of my more popular posts recently. If you wanna see my reviews for the first nine music kits, click here.

Since there’s new ones, I thought it’d be nice to come back and write about these brand new ones and see if they’re worth your money.

Naturally, I’m going to review these, complete with videos so you can listen along. Like before, these music kits will randomly appear in the game as an offer for $6.99, or you can buy one on the Steam Market. Right now, they’re a bit overinflated (About $10-15 per kit compared to the $6.99 in game), but they’ll eventually even out once more of them appear in the store.

I’m also gonna throw one in that came out in December, after I had written the original CS:GO music kits post. Consider these music kits part of a “Series 2,” if you will.

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If you were around in the ’90s, you might be familiar with Tetris mania. The original game hit a myriad of systems, most notably the Game Boy, and became a massive worldwide success. Naturally when something like Tetris is popular, people try to reinvent the wheel and make variants of Tetris, with varying levels of success.

Some of these, like Tetris 2 or Tetris Blast just added a more puzzle element to the base Tetris game. Others were games like Tetris Attack, which was merely a rebranding of what we now know as Puzzle League. Then there’s the game that we’re talking about today:

Even the cover is similar to the original NES Tetris cover.

Even the cover is similar to the original NES Tetris cover.

Proudly mentioned on the box as “Tetris made Letter Perfect!”, Wordtris is a Tetris-like game released for several different systems. Though today we’ll be specifically looking at the SNES version of the game. Spectrum Holobyte took the block-building concept of Tetris and put a unique spin on it, which is hardly unknown territory to them. Wordtris was one of several Tetris spinoffs Spectrum Holobyte released, including Welltris and Faces: …Tris III. See, I wasn’t kidding when I said there were many Tetris spinoffs in the ’90s.

Surprisingly bare-bones looking for a game like this.

Surprisingly bare-bones looking for a game like this.

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The year is 2011. We’re nearing the final stretch of a console generation. We’re seeing awesome games made by awesome people. Here I was, browsing on Twitter like I usually do, until someone I followed retweeted this gem by one Clifford Bleszinski on Twitter one day:

Naturally, being the curious guy I am, I checked out the website and found out there was a free game. I download the 700MB installer, not knowing what to expect.

Making something sound so generic is quite impressive.

Making something sound so generic is quite impressive.

Duty Calls: The Calm Before the Storm is a parody game that makes fun of the long-standing Call of Duty franchise. This is very apparent by the logo that makes fun of the old Call of Duty logo, to even that important disclaimer that Activision had nothing to do with it. Because the last thing we need are lawsuits.

Parodying games in other games is a fickle thing. Sometimes you can be right on point and make it funny, otherwise you end up just making half-baked references like “That’s one Doomed Space Marine” from Duke Nukem 3D did. So let’s see how they did with this parody, shall we?

Must be very boring for the army today...

Must be very boring for the army today…

Our adventure begins with an introductory cutscene learning about some secret base, complete with a Call of Duty-style talking about how war has changed, and yet war never changes. Reminded me of that Wizard song from Idle Thumbs. After that, our intrepid shooterguy drops in with an M4 assault rifle and a secret base to find by some random commander dude. So let’s jump into the fray and fight the big bad.

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I’m convinced no one wants to be the sniper in a video game. Yeah, there’s parts of movies where being a sniper is cool, but most of it involves walking around and occasionally killing people at a distance with a bolt-action rifle. Unless it’s something like Call of Duty 4‘s “All Ghillied Up” mission, which is more of a stealth level than a sniping level.

Thus any game I’ve played where sniping is the focus, like Sniper Elite V2 or Sniper: Ghost Warrior, ends up being a fairly simple shooter with strangely elaborate sniping mechanics. I don’t know why people keep making games based on it, but then again they keep making sequels to the Sniper movies, so I guess there’s an audience for this stuff.

Today, we’re looking at another one of those sniping games, and this time, it’s a budget shooter…

If this doesn't look generic to you, I don't know what.

If this doesn’t look generic to you, I don’t know what.

CTU Marine Sharpshooter is a budget FPS where sniping is the base mechanic. Despite the name, you don’t play as Jack Bauer, but rather a generic soldier dropped into certain exotic locales and go pew pew at bad guys with sniper rifles.

The developer of this game was Jarhead Games, a master of making budget military FPSes, such as Navy SEALs: Weapons of Mass Destruction and Army Ranger: Mogadishu. The only other notable thing they made was NRA Gun Club, which is ironic considering the NRA was lambasting video games before. Guess they forgot about that one.I’ve played only one of Jarhead’s games before, and it wasn’t that interesting, so I don’t have high hopes for this one.

Man, what kind of gun skin is that, Spotterguy? Can I get that for CS:GO? :P

Man, what kind of gun skin is that? Can I get that for CS:GO? :P

You play as some generic sniper and his spotter buddy, with an M4 assault rifle. They don’t give them names, so I’m gonna call them “John McSniperdude” and his partner “David Spotterguy.”

What a good starting level, a big load of nothing.

What a good starting level, a big load of nothing.

After a thrilling introduction where McSniperdude and Spotterguy arrive to Afghanistan by boat, the game begins. Sniping in this game is a bit strange: You use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. It takes a little getting used to, especially since I’m used to many other games allowing you to scope in with the right mouse button. As you play, Spotterguy will tell you that there’s enemies in a certain direction, also highlighted on your radar above.

Each set of levels gives you a unique sniper rifle: The starting Afghanistan missions give you an M40A3 that requires to chamber a round in each time you reload. Later, you get a Barrett M82, a heavy anti-tank rifle that the player uses like it was an assault rifle. The final set of levels give you an “AW”, which I assume is meant to be the Arctic Warfare Magnum, which would’ve been more appropriate in the other levels.

Get used to this weapon. It'll be your best friend in many cases, more than your sniper rifle will be.

Get used to this weapon. It’ll be your best friend in many cases, more than your sniper rifle will be.

When not sniping, you have two other weapons: A useless knife, and your SOCOM-MK23 pistol with an optional silencer. The pistol is really only useful in close quarter areas, of which there are a few. I’d recommend telling your Spotter to fire at will so you don’t have to switch between weapons or no-scope enemies often. You’re given 4-6 health packs you can use (signified by the crosses on the HUD), but they only refill when you change locales, so if you used up all your medkits on the early levels, you won’t last long. Also, your spotter has infinite kits and can heal himself willy-nilly.

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I think Devolver Digital is slowly becoming one of my favorite publishers. Earlier this year, they teamed up with The Expendables 3 and released a demo for Broforce called The Expendabros that was pretty damn fun. (You can read about that game here.) They gave the dormant Serious Sam and Shadow Warrior franchises new life with new games in the series, and published the awesome yet frustrating Hotline Miami. So yeah, they’re a pretty cool publisher.

Now they’re spreading some holiday cheer with yet another free game, this time featuring their mascot/CFO/Twitter darling Fork Parker. This one is quite a doozy…

This title is a damn tongue-twister.

This title is a god damn tongue-twister.

Fork Parker’s Holiday Profit Hike is a Christmas-themed promotional game featuring Parker and developed by Dodge Roll Games, a new studio who’s working on Enter the Gungeon coming out next year. Unlike Expendabros, Holiday Profit Hike is not a reskinned version of Gungeon. Instead, it’s a unique game of its own.

Fork Parker seems like my kind of guy.

Fork Parker seems like my kind of guy.

You play as Fork Parker, who must make a load of profits for Q4. His solution? Climb a tall “mountain” filled with perilous spikes, snowball-throwing yeti, and tacky Christmas sweaters while trying to grab cash along the way. If you get to the end and finish in the black, you’ve saved Devolver Digital. A fairly simple holiday-related story, and for a game like this it doesn’t need anything more complicated than that.

Holiday Profit Hike boasts a pixel art aesthetic, which I’m usually not a fan of, but I’ve been slowly warming up to it in recent years. Somehow Dodge Roll Games made a dodgy old dude like Parker into a cute-looking character thanks to the art style. It also has a few music tracks, one that loops endlessly. It’s a bit short, but it fits the rest of the game’s atmosphere.

The start of a short, yet rewarding journey.

The start of a painful, yet rewarding journey.

So what makes this game different from other platformers? Well, Parker comes equipped with a cool feature in which he can throw pitons at certain walls and floors and make a rope zipline he can ride with his cane. This is the core mechanic of the game, and is pretty unique for a platformer. He can even use his cane as a pogo stick to temporarily stun some enemies, taking a few tips from Scrooge McDuck. I wonder if Parker and McDuck are BFFs. They both share a penchant for cash…

This game follows the formula that games like Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV follow in which one hit is certain death. There’s a lot of spikes strewn around, and lots of slippery blocks will be the cause of many deaths. Thank god the game has checkpoints after every major puzzle, but even with those, it’s not an easy challenge. Nothing sucks more than getting past a difficult part, only to die in a spike pit, negating all progress.

This one part almost drove me insane. I'm surprised I beat it.

This one part almost drove me insane. I’m surprised I beat it.

I don’t get frustrated at games very often, but Holiday Profit Hike broke me. I died so many times that my swearing became shrieks and cries of “NO!” when I botched a difficult section. The part above is what wrecked me the most, causing me to swear and shout more than anything else in the game at that point. Eventually I got so frustrated from failing so much on this one section that I received concern from other people in my house. When people start worrying about me over a game like this, I knew I had to take a break.

This is why I'm not a businessman. Or a platformer expert.

This is why I’m not a businessman. Or a platformer expert.

However, I am not a quitter. I will push myself, yelling and screaming until I finally get past those damn difficult sections. After many failed tries, I persevered and got to the top of the mountain in an hour and a half. Alas, I got the worst ending, but it’s better than giving up and missing out.

The game isn’t very long, and doesn’t have much in replay value. The only other options are get better and beat the game with a positive score to get the best ending, or to speed run through it, which is an impressive feat if you can do it. I don’t think I’m up for replaying this, but I did enjoy playing through it in spite of it breaking me more than any game has in years.

If you wanna play this, it’s available on Steam for a limited time. It’s very frustrating, but still fun despite the hard difficulty. Props to Devolver for giving out a free holiday game, and to Dodge Roll Games for perfectly capturing the spirit of a balls-hard platformer. I wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel of this. Just make it a bit easier next time, alright? :P

Hoyle Casino: Gambling on the go.

For a long while, I was fascinated by casino video games. Maybe since I was too young to actually play at a casino that I wanted to simulate the casino experience without losing loads of money in the process. It’s a shame that nowadays casinos are inundated with digital slots and video poker machines, with maybe a blackjack and craps table here and there. Damn kids don’t know what they’re missing.

During my teenage years, I was playing one of these casino games, back when I had just gotten the fancy new Game Boy Advance. Though, it was a Game Boy Color game…

Probably the best quality picture I could find. If my box wasn't crushed to hell, I'd just scan mine in.

Probably the best quality picture I could find. If my box wasn’t crushed to hell, I’d just scan mine in.

Hoyle Casino is a game sponsored by the Hoyle game company, which primarily was known as a card company though these days they’ve branched out to publishing digital games based on shows like Ice Road Truckers. This game is also unique because it was one of the few games Sierra published for the GBC, the others being Hoyle Card Games and a version of 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride. The game came to other systems, but today I’m looking at the portable release.

Pulsar Interactive worked on this, and they were mostly known for Game Boy games like Barbie Fashion Pack, as well as assisting in Quest for Glory V and Blood & Magic, as well as IBM’s Manage This!, which is not a video game but they were more than proud to feature it on their website.

I figured I played this a bunch because of the aforementioned fascination with casino games. Plus since it was on a portable and this was before everybody had smartphones, it was a great time waster when you had nothing to do, which was fairly common in my high school years.

Now, my gold standard for casino games is Nintendo’s Vegas Stakes – both the original SNES version and it’s Game Boy counterpart – so let’s see if Hoyle Casino is good enough to dethrone the king of casino video games.

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So for the past month and a half, I’ve been fixated on something a bit unusual:

When you need some jams while using the AWP on Dust II.

When you need some jams while using the AWP on Dust II.

Valve introduced “music kits” to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. These special items replace the game’s default music with unique tracks by nine different musicians. You can get one of these offered randomly in-game for $6.99, or buy one on the Steam marketplace if you’re looking for a specific one. Alternatively you can “borrow” anyone’s music kit who has a music kit equipped, so you can give it a try in action.

I love video game music. I also tend to get nerdy about the parts of video game music most people don’t notice. Naturally when this was announced, I was excited for something that was probably done to distract us from how broken the CZ75-Auto is in CS:GO. But I was curious on what each one sounded like, and if they were a good fit.

The first nine music kits introduced. A nice mix of game composers, DJs and rockers.

The first nine music kits introduced. A nice mix of game composers, DJs and rockers.

For the sake of this, I’m gonna give sort of a mini-review of each kit. Granted, I’m not great at reviewing music, but I’ll try to review it to the best of my abilities, and link to videos that feature each kit so you can listen to them for yourself. Without further ado, let’s get started.

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Hey, it’s that time again. That time where a certain beverage advertises a certain video game. Just in time for it’s release…

Shamelessly stolen from a Mountain Dew Wiki. Yes, That Exists.

Shamelessly stolen from a Mountain Dew Wiki. Yes, That Exists.

Yep, Mountain Dew Game Fuel makes its return. I’ve written about these in years past (here are my reviews of the 2012 and 2013 flavors), and I had totally forgotten that they were doing it again until very recently. Reviewing Game Fuel has become a tradition on this site, and I would be remiss if I forgot to cover this year’s model.

This year, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is our big sponsor, after Microsoft got dibs last year, forcing Activision to settle with Monster Energy cans with Call of Duty: Ghostbusters instead. You can read about that, and my virgin experience with Monster Energy here.

Something old, something new. It seems to be Mountain Dew's MO these days.

Something old, something new. It seems to be Mountain Dew’s MO these days.

So we have two flavors this time round: Citrus Cherry and Lemonade. I’ll make it quick on the Citrus Cherry, since it’s the same flavor as previous years: It tastes like Mountain Dew mixed in with a cherry tinge and gives a citrus punch that’s unexpected. I used to drink Squirt religiously, but I can barely tolerate drinking a glass of Citrus Cherry because of the citrus kick.

Because one should always taste test their drinks in a small glass. It's for maximum fancy.

Because one should always taste test their drinks in a small glass. It’s for maximum fancy.

As for Lemonade, it tastes like fizzy lemonade. It’s like having Tropicana lemonade if it was mixed with carbonated water instead of regular water, complete with the weird lemonade aftertaste that branded lemonade has. Certainly better than the Electrifying Berry of last year’s. I wish this was a regular flavor, it would be the only Mountain Dew-related flavor I’d actually drink!

Alas, Kevin Spacey’s visage does not make an appearance on the bottles, which is quite a shame. I would’ve been proud to say I owned a bottle of Mountain Dew with the star from House of Cards, but I guess he doesn’t sell soda compared to MILITARY DUDE WITH A STERN MILITARY FACE! OORAH!

I shouldn't be surprised this kind of promotion exists, but it makes me laugh every single time.

I shouldn’t be surprised this kind of promotion exists, but it makes me laugh every single time.

This year, they brought back the “DewXP” concept where you can input codes to give you free XP or bonus goodies in Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer mode, now called “FUEL UP FOR BATTLE.” I’m going to guess that you’ll likely get free emblems, gun skins or other things you can customize, all with the appropriate Mountain Dew and Doritos branding.

Forgive me if I seem ignorant of what you can get out of the Fuel Up for Battle thing. Since I stopped following Call of Duty religiously not long after Black Ops, I couldn’t tell you what the multiplayer has, except it probably has XP, point streaks, weapon attachments, 10 game modes that everybody ignores except for Team Deathmatch and Search & Destroy; and 20 levels of Prestige for the hardcore players. It hasn’t changed much since Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer back in 2007. You play one of them, you played them all.

I wish I could be interested in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but it just seems like a mish-mash of Black Ops II and Crysis 2 with a pinch of Kevin Spacey for added flavor. Since Call of Duty games come out every year and I can’t really afford games at full price, putting down $60 on a video game plus the game’s DLC and a subscription to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network seems like a ridiculous preposition to me. (I know the game is also coming to PC, but I have little faith of it being a good version, especially since how bad the PC version of Ghosts was.)

It doesn't help that stuff like *this* exists in the game. This beats Ace Combat Assault Horizon for "most ridiculous quick-time event ever".

It doesn’t help that stuff like *this* exists. I could see what they were going for here, but these are just as ridiculous as the ones in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.

Oh well, I can still drink these special flavors of Mtn Dew and write about them. It looks like Game Fuel is here to stay, complete with the gamer stereotype of chugging Dew and gobbling Doritos while you get that sweet XP. See you guys in 2015 when we do this once again with some other video game. Here’s hoping that Citrus Cherry doesn’t come back along with it.

prge1

So this past weekend, I went to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. It’s my fourth time to the con, and I remember when it was wedged into a small conference area in the DoubleTree Hilton near Lloyd Center to it’s current home at the Oregon Convention Center.

Last year I had recorded video footage from the event, but didn’t use any of it and didn’t write anything about it. This year, I promised myself I’d actually blog about it this time. Especially since the people that run the Expo actually linked to my entry from 2012, where I had gotten a bunch of stuff, talked to “Gamesmaster” Howard Phillips, and had David Crane sign a copy of Pitfall I found at the same expo. I have to thank the expo for even giving my podunk blog a few extra views every now and then. :)

This is more of a “what I saw” post. I didn’t spend much at the con itself, but I did find a bunch of really, really interesting gaming stuff. Join me as we look at some of the things these vendors had to offer.

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I am not a fan of Kiss. I only know a few of their songs, mostly because they appeared in Rock Band. I watched that Behind the Music episode they did once, at least. Besides that, all I know about them is they want to Rock and Roll All Nite and have a wonderful time, they made a bizarre ’70s live-action special, and then there was that period in the ’80s where they took off the makeup and were like every other hair metal band of the era. They have a couple good songs, at least.

Naturally, with how popular Kiss was, along with Gene Simmons’ shrewd business tactics, there has to be a video game about them. Enter Kiss Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child.

This is one of four different covers. I guess they hoped people would buy all four in a way to recuperate the development cost?

This is one of four different covers. I guess they hoped people would buy all four in a way to recuperate the development cost?

Kiss Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child is a video game adaption of the Psycho Circus comic book series by Image Comics and Todd MacFarlane Productions. The comic involved the band members becoming supernatural beings and saving the universe as part of the Four-Who-Are-One (I wish I was making that up). The video game borrows elements from the comic, but has a wholly different story.

Instead of playing as the band members, you play as members of a Kiss tribute band, who get teleported to a special world ran by this gypsy named Madame Raven. She tells you about this big bad called “The Nightmare Child,” and your band are the chosen ones to stop them. Separated by the Hall of Mirrors, each band member goes through each world as they grab each of the six pieces that form the respective Elder.

I hope you love mystical dialog that barely makes any sense!

I hope you love mystical dialog that barely makes any sense!

After writing that paragraph, most of which I consulted the manual to understand this bizarre-ass story, I can say with authority that this story is so god damn ridiculous that it’s not worth knowing. Then again, with this being co-opted by a band known for wearing silly outfits and the guy who created freakin’ Spawn, I’m not expecting Half-Life levels of storytelling here.

Here's a goofy little easter egg: The statue is holding the logo of developer Third Law Interactive.

Here’s a silly little easter egg: The statue is holding the logo of developer Third Law Interactive.

This game was developed by Third Law Interactive, founded by one of the original members of the Daikatana development team, so already we’re off to a shaky start. They didn’t do a whole lot of notable stuff, my brief search found out they worked on an Aliens vs. Predator 2 expansion and added stuff to the Game of the Year edition of No One Lives Forever. So we’re looking at a small studio with not much notability, which is worrying.

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Over the years, I’ve amassed ridiculous amounts of video game knowledge. I created the Secret Area as a good place to share said video game knowledge with people. Naturally, video game music is something I’m also interested in. While I am a bit of an outlier in terms of my game music tastes – I usually prefer stuff by American and European composers, and don’t really care much for Japanese game music past the SNES/Genesis era – I still love finding information about game music, much like a lot of things I like.

So I’m gonna get nerdy about video game music. I’m gonna write about something that came to mind fairly recently that I thought would be worth sharing. This will hopefully be the start of a new series where I delve into the oddities and bits of inane trivia of music in games.

2014-09-21_00001

Poke646 is one of the best Half-Life mods out there. At the time, most Half-Life mods reused most of the existing templates that the original game used, making Black Mesa look like a research facility that spanned a whole continent. Mods like They Hunger and many others changed how people looked at Half-Life, but not nearly as well as Poke646 did. One day, I should write about Poke646 and its sequel Vendetta, they’re some of the best Half-Life mods out there.

The game’s credits, featured below, featured this haunting, ambient tune.

The hip-hop styled track really fit in line with the rest of the game, which also had some great original ambient music. Thankfully all this music is in the Poke646 mod folder, since I don’t know much about the composer of the ambient music, and there’s little information about it or the mod’s soundtrack online.

Cut to 2010. I had recently picked up Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction Special Edition for $35 at Ubisoft’s online store because of an issue of the special USB keys not working on some copies. As I was going through the game itself, a certain tune started to play that sounded familiar…

(WARNING: Plot spoilers for Splinter Cell: Conviction within.)

Yep. It’s the same song. Until then, I had thought that credits music was a unique track made for Poke646. In reality, it was a licensed song: DJ Shadow’s “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” from his 1996 debut Endtroducing…..

Ubisoft had licensed “Building Steam…” to play over this part of the game. Since it had been years since I had played Poke646, I had realized the tune sounded familiar but couldn’t quite place it until I replayed the mod much later. After knowing this fact, I bought the song not too long after, naturally.

Games using licensed music is hardly new, think of the many music games that have come out over the years. But most games usually have a composer do all the incidental music, rarely do they use a licensed song unless it’s made specifically for the game, like Eminem’s “Won’t Back Down” and “Survival” from Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Ghosts, respectively. Why Ubisoft thought the DJ Shadow tune fit this particular scene is a mystery that we’ll probably never know.

Speaking of DJ Shadow, he has contributed remixes to a few games himself, such as the “El Dorado Megamix” he did for the Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune soundtrack, and two tracks for Motorstorm Apocalypse. So he’s contributed music to the video game world, both directly and indirectly.

To bring it back around to Poke646, “Building Steam…” got a remix when Vendetta was released in 2006, adding some rocking guitars over the game’s credits. In a way, adding additional instrumentation to a song that heavily uses samples is interesting, because it’s using a song with samples as a sample for a new song. It’s fascinating, really.

Thanks to these mods, “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt” has become the Poke646 theme in my mind, which was used in some big budget game. Its inclusion in Splinter Cell: Conviction seems quite bizarre to me, especially since I first heard the song through a game mod many years before. Still a good song, highly recommend you give it a listen. Can’t say if the rest of Endtroducing….. is as amazing, but I’m willing to bet it’s a solid album.

I don’t follow many hip-hop or electronica DJs, but after hearing “Building Steam with a Grain of Salt,” I could probably get into this kind of music. Hell, I loved Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, which was mostly Amon Tobin’s work, as well as enjoying most of Crackdown‘s licensed music which was the same kind of style. Time to broaden my tastes in music…

Speaking of game music, I recently updated an old article from 2013 comparing the tunes from NES game show games to their real-life counterparts. No longer using volatile YouTube videos, I replaced them with convenient MP3s. Check it out here if you wanna read more of me getting nerdy about video game music.

Holy crap, when’s the last time I publicly documented my game finds on the blog? Seems like it was just last year when I wrote about find a “NOT FOR RESALE” copy of Streets of Rage 2, and a 20 minute video that about 3 of you watched. Let’s resurrect this old series, because I got some good stuff this time around.

Through most of 2014, I’ve found mostly cheap games, stuff like Eye Toy: Antigrav, licensed games based on The Great Escape and Starsky & Hutch, old PC games such as Mickey’s Word Adventures, even recent Game Informer issues for 50 cents each. If you’re following me on Twitter, you might’ve seen these already.

Funny enough, I found Mickey’s Word Adventures after taking advice from YouTuber Lazy Game Reviews. After mentioning him on Twitter, I found out one of my finds were in a viewer finds segment of his “LGR Thrifts” show. I was floored when I saw it too, I didn’t expect it to be featured in the slightest. (It’s at the end of this episode, if you’re wondering. Look for the magazines on green bedding.)

Back in June while I was job hunting, I went into my local Bi-Mart. I’ve mentioned Bi-Mart before when I wrote about Atari Hot Wheels, and it hasn’t changed one iota: It still feels like I stepped into a late ’80s supermarket. While perusing their games section, I found a whole bunch of these:

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Man, remember when the Rabbids were a thing? I can’t say I miss them.

It’s Rayman Raving Rabbids for the Game Boy Advance, sealed, for $6. I’m finding sealed Game Boy Advance games. In 2014. Even the guy at the counter was surprised, mentioning a war fighting game and a World of Warcraft expansion also collecting dust. His words: “Somebody made the wrong call on this one.” At least this copy of Raving Rabbids has a home now. I bet there’s still plenty of copies, two months later.

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