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Ever have that feeling where you wake up and find out something surprising? That happened to me a while back as I was combing through my scant emails while watching stuff.


I won a free year of Loot Crate. I’ll admit, I was shocked. I rarely win things. I envied a friend of mine who usually stumbled upon getting free stuff all the time. I don’t even remember what contest I entered to win this, but hey, I’ll happily take free Loot Crate for a year.

For the unaware, Loot Crate is a simple subscription service where every month you get some geeky goodies based on a theme. It’s $13/month usually, though you can go for longer subscriptions that’ll save money in the long run. If you’re into fairly geeky stuff, this might be something worth looking into.


So simple and mysterious… I wonder what’s inside…

The theme of this month’s was Combat, based on various ways to fight the world. As I only casually followed Loot Crate, I didn’t know their stuff was based on a theme every month. This is pretty neat, as it only hints at what’s in the box.

Now for the highlights:

Blizzard Entertainment “Cute but Deadly” blind bag!


Ah yes, the wonders of mysterious toys in sealed bags that may or may not have something interesting in them. Blind bags are fascinating as hell to me, mostly in part due to Ashens’ videos on it. While I’m not a cheeky brit with a mangy old brown sofa, I am a bloody yank with a stained TV tray, so let’s go and check this out.

All of these are based on Blizzard franchises. I’ll admit I don’t follow much in terms of Blizzard games. I’ve dabbled in a demo of Diablo or StarCraft years ago, but I never really followed their stuff like StarCraft II, Hearthstone or World of Warcraft. But whatever, the mystery of the blind bag is intriguing. Let’s crack this sucker open.

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There are many things that I’m always fascinated by, and one of them is portable versions of big console games. It’s surprising to see studios small and large try to squeeze as much power out of handhelds and hopefully make a good game out of it. I collect these on a rare occasion, and thought I’d dig one out of mothballs I bought awhile back and give it a spin.

Let's OWN THE CITY! As opposed to what, Own the Parking Lot?

Let’s OWN THE CITY! As opposed to what, Own the Parking Lot?

Let’s hop in a ride and drive the mean streets, because we’re checking out Need for Speed: Carbon – Own the City for the Game Boy Advance. I mentioned buying this in an old “I bought stuff!” post from a year ago, and I wanted to see what a racing game looks on the ol’ GBA. This is an EA Canada joint, and came out on the GBA, PSP, and DS as the spinoff portable title alongside the main game. Usually the portable version is different in some ways than its console brother, so let’s check it out.


The story’s fairly silly: You were in a race alongside your brother Mick, and a multi-car pile up by some unknown assailant caused the death of your brother and made you get amnesia.. What follows is a typical revenge plot as you work with Mick’s former crewmembers, Sara and Carter, as you climb your way to the top and dominate districts and solve the mystery.

So let’s take a look at how this looks on the Game Boy Advance…


If you think it looks bad on a screenshot, imagine this in motion!

Oh. Oh dear. I’m not a graphics snob by any means, but wow this game looks pretty bad, even by GBA standards. Feel the thrill of going 100 mph while it looks like a casual stroll through a city road. The game runs pretty slow for a racing game. Now I know the Game Boy Advance is not a 3D powerhouse, but something is really wrong when this runs at a snail’s pace. It doesn’t help that I can barely see anything. It’s hard sometimes to see what’s ahead of you, and most of the roads are made at 90 degree angles that make it hard to make good turns. Doesn’t help that this perspective also makes swerving past traffic and other racers difficult.

One of the few modes where being in first isn't guaranteed a win.

It’s impressive how the 3D looks, but it looks like a pixely mess where I can’t see crap.

But enough about how it looks, here’s how it plays. A accelerates, B brakes, L activates Nitrous – provided the car has it unlocked, and R is the handbrake. There are four race types: Circuit, Sprint, Elimination, and Hunter. Circuit and Sprint are simple races. Elimination removes the last place driver at each lap. Hunter is a strange one: Every skill or trick you do fills up a health bar, but hitting anything or stopping loses health. It’s less about finishing first and more about finishing skillfully.

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It’s that time of the year again…


You know it’s time when you see the ol’ kitchen stove…

Mountain Dew gets buddy-buddy with major game developers and makes a fancy Game Fuel dedicated to a major game. This year, Activision gets the choice for the second year in a row, this time for Carl on Duty: Black Cops III – Revenge of the Urkel- er, Call of Duty: Black Ops III.

At this point, Mountain Dew has made the Citrus Cherry a standard flavor. No longer seasonal, you can get the stuff at any time anywhere. I noticed this as I found bottles of the normal Citrus Cherry at a Safeway, rather than the 7-Eleven like I usually do. You can also get Game Fuel Citrus Cherry in small sized bottles over at Amazon, which is where I first heard about it. Since this change, they’ve had various game-related promotions with Game Fuel this year, such as items for Batman: Arkham Knight and Warframe.

At first, I thought Mountain Dew retired the seasonal flavors, which would’ve meant an end to what has become a yearly tradition on my blog. But thankfully that wasn’t the case, as I found the new special flavor in the usual locations.

I’ve written about Citrus Cherry every single year since I started this. It hasn’t changed in taste whatsoever. It’s got a cherry taste with a citrus-y tinge that reminds me of Squirt or similar citrus-heavy sodas. At this point, I’m not even gonna bother talking about that flavor, and skip ahead to the new special flavor for BLOPSIII.


Jesus, this is hella green. Am I gonna change into some mutated being after drinking this?

The new Berry Lime flavor certainly tastes like berry. At times, it tastes like I’m drinking Mountain Dew mixed in with a berry lime candy or something. Much like the Citrus Cherry, it has a very strong fizzy aftertaste which took a little getting used to. I’ll certainly say that it’s not the worst soda I’ve had, but this is definitely the weakest promotional flavor. To be fair, I’m not a regular Mountain Dew drinker, so maybe it’s an acquired taste. But I’d rather they bring back the Lemonade from last year instead, at least that tasted good.

It took me a second to realize this cover looks the exact same as Black Ops 1's cover, but WITH MORE FUTURE!

It took me a second to realize this cover looks the exact same as Black Ops 1’s cover, but WITH MORE FUTURE! It’s getting harder and harder to tell these damn things apart.

Much last year, you can “FUEL UP FOR BATTLE” and punch in codes at to get XP boosts in the game’s Zombies mode. You don’t even get special items like last year’s Advanced Warfare promotion, so it’s much less cooler this time. Maybe Treyarch had no time to make dumb fancy cosmetics for it.

So, I already said how I felt about the Call of Duty series in last year’s entry about Game Fuel, and it hasn’t changed. Moreso this year since it looks more like an Advanced Warfare 2 rather than something cool and unique. Even Activision is likely aware of how derivative it looks, since I hear more about the new Zombies mode than the base campaign or the multiplayer. I bet it’s not awful, just underwhelming these days. Besides, if I wanna play some futuristic Call of Duty-like game, I could always play Titanfall.

So, this is where it gets a bit interesting. Now with Citrus Cherry being a normal anytime flavor, I could in theory write about the various game promotions throughout the year, no longer making this a yearly fall tradition. But I’m more interested in the special flavors than anything. In the case of the times where I wrote about Monster and Red Bull sponsored drinks, it was just normal cans with game branding. Hell, right now I could buy a Rockstar Energy that advertises the recent Mad Max game. But that’s not nearly as interesting to write about, compared to these special flavors.

I can’t wait ’til next year to see what experimental flavor they bring out next, likely for the next Call of Duty game. But for now, I will FUEL UP FOR BATTLE alright, just not this battle. I’ve been more of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive guy anyway.

(In an ideal dream world, CS:GO would be the next Dew and Doritos promotion. At least I’d proudly have a gun skin that had silly Mountain Dew/Doritos branding…)

Before, I wrote blogs about the stuff I bought under the relatively boring “Game finds” title. I wanted something more punchy, more entertaining. Then the name came to me. It’s sillier, but I like it more.

So, re-introducing a semi-regular feature on the blog: I bought stuff!


This one will be all the stuff I got at this year’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo. I could go into great lengths about the PGRE itself, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I did get to enjoy classics like Outrun and Crazy Taxi, I saw some pro-level Tetris being played, I saw people play multiplayer Star Wars Battlefront 2 over Xbox System Link, and I met the guys who made Game Sack. This was a good year as always, and I anticipate the next year being bigger and better.

I will publicly admit that all but 2 of the things I bought were recent 360/Wii/PS2 stuff, mostly shooters. You could call me a “fake retro gamer,” but I’ve gotten to the point where either I have everything I want, or the things I want are ridiculously expensive to me. Like I’d totally want the Spyro the Dragon trilogy, but I ain’t paying $20-25 for each game, especially when I bought the entire trilogy on the PlayStation Network for a buck a piece. I am not a man who can throw hundreds on Turbografx-16s, Steel Battallion controllers or even a complete copy of Panic Restaurant (though I give Chris Kohler guts for even offering $800 for it). So instead I go for the cheaper stuff, and that’s usually games from a generation or two back.

It’s probably the best time to start grabbing Wii, 360 and PS3 stuff. As people start gravitating towards the prettier PS4 and Xbox One, some games are gonna get harder and harder to get. So I got a fair share of stuff and junk. Let’s see what I bought.


A 5 for $10 deal of the following:

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter (360)

  • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 (360)

  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (360)

  • Gears of War 2 (360)

  • Call of Duty 3 (Wii)

So one booth, Another Castle, was doing a ridiculous fire sale on Sunday. One of the aisles had 2 games for $5, or 5 for $10. Most of them were shooters or sports games, and I thought I’d grab some of the few that I missed out on for a good bargain.

GRAW and GRAW2 were pretty solid third-person shooters for their time. I don’t expect them to have aged gracefully, but the first one was the big action game people were playing on their 360s ’til Gears of War came along. Since I had gotten Future Soldier earlier in the year, I thought I might as well grab all the Ghost Recon games on the 360.

I had beaten Modern Warfare 3 in the past, back when I had a Gamefly subscription. Hell, I even wrote a blog on the shoddy PC port after dabbling in it on a Steam free weekend. This was basically the fifth game of the set. It was either this or EA’s Medal of Honor reboot from 2010, and I decided to go with the ridiculously over-the-top shooter as opposed to the copycat.

I always wanted to try Wii versions of popular 360/PS3 games, like Call of Duty 3. It felt like it was built for the Wii first considering the ridiculous quick-time events involving fighting enemy soldiers. Here’s hoping I can get used to waggle motions, as I had difficulty playing through Medal of Honor Heroes II with it’s weird first-person shooter/light gun hybrid control scheme.

Funny enough, the only Gears of War game I owned was the first. Heard great things about 2, and good things about the later ones. I bet this would be fun in co-op.

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About a day or so after I finished writing the last post about Counter-Life, I took a nap. When I woke up, I found out about this:

More CS:GO music kits.

Not only more of them, but practically doubling the total number of music kits from 16 to 30. I nearly fainted after that. This time it seems we’ve hit a big variety sampler pack, from returning artists to film composers, and even an interesting collaboration between Valve and a record company. In addition to the new music kits, they added “StatTrak” versions that keep track of the times you’ve become the MVP in competitive matches. It seems a bit silly, almost like a joke someone made to Valve without saying they were kidding afterwards.

Since I’ve written about the previous ones before, it’d be remiss of me not to continue the tradition. (You can see what I thought of the initial nine music kits here, and the later additions in February 2015 here.) Like before, I’m gonna write how I felt about each one, mentioning some of my favorite tracks, and whether or not it’s worth the $5-8 to grab, with a quick verdict at the end.

Now in the last collection, I had made videos of the new kits, but this time I passed on doing that. It’s not that it wasn’t fun to make, it’s that considering my meticulous nature for making these things, I would’ve been here all weekend working on something that’s already been eclipsed by other YouTubers for lesser effort. So instead I’ll be linking to the pages of the music kits on just click on the album cover to be whisked away to a page where you can listen along.

So without further ado, let’s get started…

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If you haven’t noticed, I really like maps and mods. Mainly because I believe in new content being made by creators rather than developers packaged into $15 chunks. But also because people make really good mods.

Some of my favorite mods tend to be ones that only change that gameplay slightly while leaving the original content intact. Stuff like Police Brutality: wildweasel presents Terrorists!, like I mentioned in my Doom mods article a while back. So this time, I cover yet another one of those kind of mods.

So what happens when you take the world of Black Mesa in Half-Life, and throw in the guns from Counter-Strike? You get Counter-Life.

Gordon Freeman is a cold-ass motherfucker.

Gordon Freeman is a cold-ass motherfucker.

I remember this mod in its early days, back when I used to lurk on a Half-Life mod forum. It makes sense that this exists, considering the popularity of both.


So the story is identical to Half-Life: You play as Gordon Freeman, except instead of an HEV suit, you have a kevlar vest and you get to fight with more realistic weaponry. Basically this is more of a weapons mod than something like They Hunger, which not only had new weapons, but new levels and enemies as well.

The arsenal from Counter-Strike 1.6 is in full force here, from the classic USP, AWP, and Deagle; to the lesser-appreciated TMP and M249. Though there are some new weapons, such as the M4A1 having the M203 grenade launcher like in Half-Life, as well as a rocket launcher that almost resembles a LAW.

This is the weirdest rocket launcher I've ever seen...

This is the weirdest rocket launcher I’ve ever seen…

In addition, some of the weapons have features not in CS, such as the P90 having a zoom in scope, or the Glock 18 actually functioning like its real-life counterpart as a fully-auto pistol and not the weird Glock/Beretta 93R hybrid it’s been since the beginning. So while it’s not a 1-for-1 conversion of CS‘s arsenal, it works. Hell, in older versions, you could have akimbo USPs and Deagles, in addition to the Dual Berettas. Man, those would’ve been fun to use…

Silly Barney, why are you just leaving stacks of cash lying around?

Silly Barney, why are you just leaving stacks of cash everywhere?

So how do you get these guns? Well, in Counter-Strike, you’d go to a buy zone and buy weapons with money you earn. In Counter-Life, killing enemies give you cash that you can go to a Health Unit or an HEV Charge station to buy guns, ammo and other important things like health and armor. There’s also money strewn all over the place, so you’ll likely have plenty of cash to buy what you need. When you get to Xen, the Longjump Module in Half-Life doubles as a mobile buy zone, where you can refill ammo when you need to, but by then you can’t buy new guns, so make sure you got the weapons you want before you jump to the border world.

This probably looks weird to everyone but Gordon, just seeing a floating menu where you could buy stuff.

This probably looks weird to everyone but Gordon, just seeing a floating menu where you could buy stuff.

There is a catch to this weapons system, though: You can only have one of each weapon type. One pistol, one shotgun, one assault rifle, you get the picture. This means like in CS, you have to drop weapons to buy new ones. I’m not a big fan of this, because I believe in having bottomless pockets to hold practically everything. But it’s not a deal-breaker, it just means planning for what weapons to use in the next area. It doesn’t take long to adjust.

The only other gameplay difference involve the NPCs. Barney’s been upgraded from using a dinky Glock to a more powerful SPAS-12, and the grunts have powerful assault rifles and shotguns. I’m not sure why they made the changes, but I approve.

Man, this place has heavy god damn protection...

Man, this place has heavy god damn protection…

While I enjoy the mod, there are problems. In addition to the weapons system, ammo has to be bought at the health stations, which can be frustrating when there’s long gaps between finding those to refill. Not only that, with their new guns, grunts are literal aimbots and will kill you extremely quickly with their new inventory. Armor ends up being ineffective in these cases, which sucks having to fight them in later sections.

Get your quicksave buttons ready, cause you'll be using it a lot.

Get your quicksave button ready, cause you’ll be using it a lot.

That’s Counter-Life in a nutshell. There’s a multiplayer mode that converts some notable CS maps like Assault, Oilrig and Prodigy as well as one of the billion Dust clones that came out during its heyday, but any multiplayer for GoldSrc/Half-Life engine games these days are deader than a dodo. It also seems redundant considering Counter-Strike in itself is a multiplayer game. Perhaps if it had a co-op/survival mode instead, maybe then it would’ve been fun to play.

Your 5.56mm bullets are no match for the Gargantua's massive flame arms!

Your 5.56mm bullets are no match for the Gargantua’s massive flame arms!

Thankfully the mod is not lost to time, it’s on ModDB and was updated to be Steam-compatible around 2008. The developer has moved on to other projects, though I can’t see what else you could add to this besides support for other Half-Life levels. It’s worth a look, even though Counter-Strike: Condition Zero Deleted Scenes is basically this but with extra polish. On the other hand, Counter-Life is free and requires only Half-Life to run.

Eh, I hate making choices. They’re both great, give both of them a spin. It’s a shame there was never a Counter-Life 2 for Half-Life 2. I’d totally play that with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive‘s weaponry…

Sometimes I can get into a groove and write stuff for weeks straight. Other times, especially during the summer, I get into long gaps where I write at most once a month. Maybe I’ll find some inspiration while grocery shopping.

In addition to buying relatively unhealthy things, I found two things I just had to have: One was the return of New York Seltzer, the other was this:

These fruit snacks are NEW! NEW! NEW!

These fruit snacks are NEW! NEW! NEW!

Mario Kart fruit snacks.

2015 is becoming quite a year for video game-related food and drink. First the Mario gummies and Plants vs. Zombies 2 fruit snacks, then the Destiny Red Bull, now this. These ones are actually made by a notable company (Kellogg’s) rather than some off-brand company I’d never heard of, so these can only be good.

The cover is taken straight from the recent Mario Kart 8, which makes sense considering its popularity. But don’t expect anything not Mario-related in this set, as much as it would’ve been nice to have Link from The Legend of Zelda in gummy form.

The box I had opened had 3 packages with Mario and 7 with Luigi. THE YEAR OF LUIGI SOLDIERS ON

The box I had opened had 3 packages with Mario and 7 with Luigi. THE YEAR OF LUIGI SOLDIERS ON!

These fruit snacks feature Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Toad, a Koopa Troopa shell, and the famous Star as our options. All good options, though them making the purple one a regular Koopa Troopa shell instead of the evil blue shell seems like a slight misstep, but this is a fine lineup. At least I can bite the head off Yoshi like the crazed maniac I am. :P

As for how they taste, they have the typical taste of fruit snacks. I can’t say each character has a discernible flavor, but they taste like your average fruit snacks. At least this time each character applies to a color, which made it easier to get a proper set.

Man, this would've been nice to have around when I was a kid....

Man, this would’ve been nice to have around when I was a kid….

Since these are made by Kellogg’s, on the back of the box has inspirational options for kids to get outside and have fun. I like this idea, but I find it somewhat strange. Like if this was on a box of Corn Flakes or Froot Loops, I could understand. But it’s on a box of somewhat unhealthy fruit snacks. Kind of a double standard there.

Props to Kellogg’s for making fruit snacks based on a recent video game and having them taste good. Then again, it’s really hard to screw up fruit snacks, unless you do what the Angry Birds people did and label them “fruit gummies” in order to make a bait and switch. I still haven’t forgiven them for that one.

Since we’re slowly approaching autumn, it can mean many things, like pumpkin spice everything and the changing of colors. But hopefully I’ll be getting back in the groove of writing things. In the meantime, enjoy this quick little thing I wrote. More “substantial” stuff coming in the future. At least, as substantial as it can get for a blog like this, anyway.

One day, I was checking out some YouTube videos, until I had stumbled upon this one by RottKing/Pordontae:

I was gonna write something about that Doom level set featured in the video, but I realized there wasn’t anything particularly unique about it. Some of the levels feel bland and featureless, other levels don’t have a sense of balance, that sort of thing — E2M9 has a fight between one spider mastermind and three cyberdemons, for crying out loud! — This is the epitome of a 1994 level. But that’s not the main reason why I liked this level set. It was the random sounds that the creator replaced.

Playing this level made me realize how amazing the Doom mod scene was during the mid-to-late ’90s.

Modifying an existing game wasn’t really new, but Doom was one of the few to openly embrace it in its early days. This lead to many creative levels, some made by people who’d later become famous in their own right.

Though this wasn’t always the case. Since the tools were fairly new, most people were making fairly dreadful levels, usually plagiarizing parts of the original Doom levels, or in some cases created tutorial levels.

(video from rybacksda on YouTube, playing through it with all secrets and all kills on Ultra-Violence, aka “UV-Max.”)

This above is an example of what most people had to offer. For 1994 standards, it was great to have another level to play, but it’s very tough to play today unless you’re like me and have a liking for crap. :P

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I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve had difficulty at times coming up with good, interesting stuff for this blog. Then I found out some video game is cross-promoting with a beverage company. To the 7-Eleven!

Well, that's one way to get people to buy your stuff.

Well, that’s one way to get people to buy your stuff.

Bungie’s Destiny teamed up with Red Bull to partially promote the upcoming Destiny: The Taken King expansion. Unlike the many years where I’ve covered Mountain Dew Game Fuel, this is merely just a rebranding of the existing product to tie in with an upcoming game. Oddly, this is only available at 7-Eleven. It’s weird how 7-Eleven is always the place where I find the dumb video game drink stuff…

This is probably weirder than the time Pizza Hut teamed up with Xbox to make an app...

This is probably weirder than the time Pizza Hut teamed up with Xbox to make an app…

I’ve covered video games doing promotions with energy drinks before, like Call of Duty: Ghostchasers III did with Monster Energy back in 2013. You can read about that here. But Destiny is a different beast. It’s as if Halo and Borderlands had mated and had a baby. I played Destiny during the early beta days, back when all that was available was Earth and that one brief time where they had a mission on the Moon. I liked the idea because not only did it have standard linear missions, but it also had free-roaming exploration akin to most MMOs. But it didn’t seem like something I wanted to jump into immediately since a lot of people were pretty down on it not long after release. Though I figure the game still has a modest following if Bungie and Activision are throwing advertising dollars at Red Bull for this.

The cans feature a code under the tab where you can redeem it for bonus rewards in Destiny that are timed exclusively to this event. Granted, they’ll be freely available to everyone in 2016, but if you want it right now, you’ll have to grab a can of Red Bull. Assuming it’s a code that hasn’t already been redeemed that is. I heard that the codes aren’t randomized very well, so people were redeeming the rewards by just guessing the codes.

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I have a certain fondness for Wolfenstein 3D. Back in the early 2000s when I was just a middling teenager, I was playing a bunch of cool level packs for Wolfenstein. Hell, the first online blog post I ever made was talking about an old Wolfenstein 3D mods website that I thought was cool. Yeah, it’s kinda plain compared to Doom and Quake, but damn it, I still had fun going through mazes killing things.

I’ve played practically every major Wolfenstein game barring the Muse Software prequels and the most recent The New Order. I was even a hardcore Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory player back in the day. But I didn’t know that there was a Wolfenstein game I missed…

They don't make game covers like these anymore...

They don’t make game covers like these anymore…

Mission Pack 2: Return to Danger and Mission Pack 3: Ultimate Challenge are unofficial third party expansions to Spear of Destiny, developed internally at FormGen and released in 1994. If you were craving more Wolfenstein and were ignoring Doom for some reason, this was one of the few ways to get more digital nazi killing. That, along the Wolfenstein map generator mentioned on the box, gave you seemingly endless opportunities to expand your Wolfenstein 3D experience.

Both episodes have similar stories: Hitler recovered the Spear from B.J. Blazkowicz, and it’s up to B.J. to fight Hitler’s Nazi regime and recover the Spear twice more before he brings hell demons to Earth. It’s corny stuff, but back in those days FPS games were never known for having great stories.

Well, I hope you like blue because there's a lot of it.

Well, I hope you like blue, because there’s a lot of it here.

So what’s different in these Mission Packs compared to vanilla Spear of Destiny? Surprisingly there are a bunch of changes in this game. New levels (natch), new sprites, new textures, even the enemies look and sound different. So already this is looking promising, right? Oh, if only.

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A few days ago I had found out a memory from my PC gaming past was going away. Xfire, a game chat client, was shutting down its client and account services. This news saddened me, as Xfire and me go way back.



To describe Xfire, it was part instant messenger, part server browser. It was a lighter, sleeker Gamespy Arcade, or for a more recent example, AMD’s Raptr client. While Steam has basically taken over that landscape, for a long time having a complimentary client like Xfire was sometimes mandatory, almost to a point where it was bundled with some games, even being used in console games like Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom, something that Sony Online Entertainment thought was fit for a press release.

Wasn't it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn't play it? Such dark times...

Wasn’t it fun to buy a game and find out that you couldn’t play it? Such dark times…

For those who weren’t around in Steam’s early days, Steam was mostly garbage. Games didn’t run, you had to wait hours to install games (and there was no guarantee you’d get to play it right away!), and the most important feature, the Friends/Community, was perpetually broken and unusable. This is where Xfire excelled: It was a great chat client program to keep up with your gaming friends. Though it wasn’t just for Steam games, but other games where the server browser was cumbersome, like Soldier of Fortune II, or Battlefield 2, were also helpful for finding games back before peer-to-peer multiplayer was more common.

The Xfire website — which still exists, but only in a fragile shell nowadays — also had a fairly cool profile system setup. Here you could make friends, keep your favorite game servers for convenience, even take screenshots and video. All of these were considered pretty impressive for the mid-2000s, and paved the way for competitors to adapt that into their social features.

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Every once in a while, I kind of go on a “vacation” with the site. It’s not that I hate writing for this site (In fact, I love all those who read this site, especially those who leave hateful comments on that Doom mods article I wrote in 2014!), it’s that I get into a writer’s block, struggling for ideas. But then those vacations give me interesting ideas while I’m doing other things. Suddenly I get an idea, and get back to writing. Today, I’m dipping into a bit of late ’90s-early 2000s nostalgia.320px-Dreamcast_logo.svg

Sega was going through some rough times throughout the ’90s. The back-to-back failures of the Sega CD, 32X, Game Gear, and the Saturn put them in pretty bad shape by the time they released the Dreamcast. While they made a lot of games that I loved (Crazy Taxi and Chu Chu Rocket were my jams, man), it wasn’t enough to fend off the PlayStation 2 and the forthcoming GameCube and Xbox, forcing Sega to bow out of the console race for good around 2001. Nowadays, Sega is merely a husk of what it formerly was, occasionally putting out a Sonic, Football Manager, or Total War game to keep them afloat.

But let’s go back to the glory days of Sega. Around 2000, Sega’s PC arm made this game available to freely download, which became a wonderful time-waster during my middle school years:

What the heck kind of company is

What the heck kind of company is “Sega of America Dreamcast” anyway?

Introducing Sega Swirl, a fairly simple puzzle game released by Sega, loosely inspired by the Dreamcast logo swirl (seen above).

Sometimes, simplicity is better than complexity when it comes to menus.

The gameplay is fairly simple: You’re given a grid of swirl colors, and your goal is to find groups of colored swirls for points. Removing them shrinks the playfield down, making it easy to build up combos. The only danger is removing a single swirl rather than a cluster, which’ll give you a score penalty.

They almost look like colored cinnamon rolls.

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One idea I had during my game show research was to cover most of the notable adaptations of game show games, such as Jeopardy! There’s one problem, though:


There are a lot of Jeopardy! games. I mean a lot of them. MobyGames doesn’t even list all of them. Plus for a game as simple as Jeopardy!, there isn’t much to say about each one. So I decided to go smaller. Much smaller.

I kinda loved that starburst GameTek logo more than the later one...

I kinda loved that starburst GameTek logo more than the later one…

Today, I’m gonna talk about Jeopardy! on the Game Boy. Jeopardy! was one of the few game show games that made it to Nintendo’s greenscale handheld in 1991, alongside Wheel of Fortune. Naturally GameTek published this outing, and it boasted “Over 1,500 new questions!” on the box. Though technically they’re answers, but I’m not gonna get too nitpicky here.

Jeopardy (U) [BF]_11

I remember getting both Jeopardy! and Wheel in a combo pack at Target for about $10 each. This was the mid-90s, and Target was chock full of excess copies, so selling one to a young budding game show/video game nut like me was a treat. It also helped during vacation trips, such as the one time I went to a resort cabin with my family and was happily having fun with this, and probably Pokemon Red. There wasn’t much to do in the times before everybody had the internet in their pockets. :P

But enough reminiscing. Let’s play Jeopardy! on the Game Boy.

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R.I.P. August 7, 2008 – March 31, 2015.

On March 31, 2015, a piece of PlayStation history died. PlayStation Home, the strange graphical chat client that had been running for about seven years, was ending on that day. I had almost forgotten about it until someone had mentioned it to me.

For those who never experienced it, Home was a graphical chat client that was meant to be used as a social hub. It was like Second Life but more PG and less phallic objects. Home was announced by then Sony executive Phil Harrison, complete with this trailer:

(courtesy of IGN.)

Naturally most of us laughed it off and mocked it incessantly. Webcomics, gaming sites, among other places were lambasting the idea, even more so when it was released to the public. For its entire run, it was a punching bag more than it was a legitimate thing.

Then again, it's hard to take it seriously when you see stuff like... this.

Then again, it’s hard to take it seriously when you see stuff like… this.

When I got my PS3 around 2008, they actually were doing their “closed beta.” In spite of the dog-piling, I decided to hop in and give it a try. As the years followed, there was always that moment of “Oh right, Home is still a thing,” and I’d pop back in to give it a look to see what’s happening. This was usually when a big event was happening that had a Home space, like when E3 came around. For instance, back in 2013 I actually did a video of me roaming around the E3 Studio, which was an interesting experience.

I think I still have those pictures on my PS3 somewhere…

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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!


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!


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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