Category: Video games and pop culture


I’ve been writing a lot about various tie-in games over the past few years. Hollywood Hellfire, Expendabros, Duty Calls, that sort of stuff. A fair share of these are usually just stuff made in flash on a shoestring budget and will likely be forgotten unless people are smart to preserve these artifacts.

Sometimes, albeit rarely, these games actually have installers and can be played from a PC, which surprises me these days. That’s something from the old Shockwave days when you could play miniature games based on Nickelodeon movies and TV shows. (I gotta find those someday…) But this recent one, based on a big comic book movie, was one I wasn’t expecting.

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I have to give props to the blog “I’m Reloading” for bringing this to my attention. It’s one of my favorite blogs because reload animations are solely unappreciated in video games, and somebody’s gotta highlight them. They showed a recent animation to some Suicide Squad game, and they mentioned “It’s on PC.” Cue me scrambling right to the website to give it a download.

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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 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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If there’s anything I like about video games, it’s when there’s video game tie-ins to movies or TV shows. Most of the time, they get a small developer to make a crappy $60 game on a shoestring budget that’s usually long forgotten. Other times, they’re just dinky games made in Flash as a brief tie-in to an upcoming movie, such as the “Hollywood Hellfire” tie-in for This is The End. Then there’s the times where they go all out and make full-fledged free games, like that multiplayer Half-Life mod made as a tie-in to Underworld. (made by the guys who did They Hunger, no less!) Thus, when I heard about this, I got legitimately excited:

The Expendabros is a genius idea: Take the goofy machoness of Devolver Digital and Free Lives’ Broforce and combine it with upcoming The Expendables 3 and you got this amazing movie tie-in. Expendabros is freely available on Steam, and doesn’t require a powerful PC to run.

Since I had yet to play Broforce, I was skeptical with this game. I’m not one for games with pixel art styles since they’re very overdone, but if it compliments the gameplay like in Hotline Miami, I can let it slide. Broforce is a mash of action platformers like Bionic Commando, with the violent action of Metal Slug and Contra. You have one life and three special items by default, with each “bro” having its own signature weapon and special. You get more lives by saving your bros in cages, and rescuing enough bros unlocks an additional bro character to play as.

The plot is a loose recreation of The Expendables 3: Broney Ross and his crew of Expendables has to stop Conrad Stonebanks from destroying the Expendables, who will destroy them by any means necessary. In the case of Broforce, Ross must shoot and explode his way through enemies while saving his bros, eventually finding the commander or boss of the level before making a dramatic explosive escape. As you go through the game’s ten levels, you fight more powerful enemies, and even ridiculous areas like rooms with saw blades and rocket turrets everywhere. Then there’s this guy:

I'm pretty sure Stonebanks doesn't have an arsenal of mechs in The Expendables 3, but a man can dream.

I’m pretty sure Stonebanks doesn’t have an arsenal of mechs in The Expendables 3, but a man can dream.

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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.

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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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The next Xbox has been revealed. It’s called the Xbox One, it’s heavy on fancy media features and Kinect stuff, and maybe plays games too. But let’s go back, shall we? Before the Xbox One, there was the Xbox 360. Eight years and one week ago, Microsoft along with MTV announced the unveiling of the 360 on TV, with Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed. Which later gets changed to Xbox 360 Revealed, but that title isn’t as catchy.

Our host for this evening is Elijah Wood, which you may know from some series of movies about Hobbits. Along with Wood, our co-host is MTV2’s Jim Scherer joining along in the festivities, being the primary interviewer for most of the special.

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I found out recently that Snoop Dogg* has a new game out called Way of the Dogg. It looks to be a brawler featuring his likeness. This got me thinking about previous games that Snoop has been in. While it’s not a metric ton of games, it is more than the game history of other rappers like Dr. Dre and 50 Cent. So let’s check out Snoop’s history in video games, because why the hell not?

Note this may not be a complete list. I likely have left out a game or three, so if I did, let me know through the usual channels. That being said, let’s get started.

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Licensed titles. You know what I’m talking about: Movie games, games based on TV shows, even one based on a book series because the publisher got the book rights and not the movie rights. The lesser-known licensed titles are the movie tie-in games. The ones done by a small team usually done just to tie in with the game, and is enjoyable for about 30 minutes. A few examples that come to mind is that flash platformers of films like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid or modifications of existing games like the Underworld modification for Half-Life that was their version of Team Fortress.

While reading my usual email junk of Twitch newsletters, IGN deals and newsletters for The Hobbit, I was glancing through Sony Pictures’ email that I saw this quirky little game at the bottom of the newsletter: Hollywood Hellfire, a new movie tie-in game for the forthcoming comedy This is The End.

I am not a big moviegoer, so I didn’t know this movie existed until today. Seems to be a self-parody of disaster movies, with exaggerated versions of the actors portrayed in the film. All I got out of the trailer was stoner gags, Emma Watson robbing the main characters, and Michael Cera being impaled on a pole. Also a strange fascination with “titty-fucking” (their words, not mine).

It’s a dinky platformer where you play as Seth Rogen or Jay Baruchel, running through a wartorn Hollywood, grabbing mushrooms for points, water jugs for extra lives and food for health. You have three hearts, lose them all (or fall into a lava pit), you die. Run out of lives, its game over. While dodging fireballs and James Franco’s head, you jump on moving platforms, bounce on blue jump pads, and run away from hazards in a few areas. I only got to the third level before I finally lost, so I don’t know what the ending is like.

The game itself has a confusing sense of design: It has a chip tune soundtrack and 8-bit sound effects, yet the platforming and art style is very reminiscent of mid-to-late-’90s platformers. It’s like it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a modern game or a retro throwback!

If you’re one of those people with Sony Rewards, you can get Rewards points with the game, or so I thought. I’ve been a member for years (thanks Wheel Watchers Club!) but they say I’m not eligible for these points. Bastards.

If you wanna play this yourself, you can try it out here. As always, don’t expect this to be up forever, so play it while you can. Gotta get those badges and high scores to share on your favorite social media groups!

I also found out Jonah Hill is in this movie along with Seth Rogen. I always got the two confused for a long time, and I still confuse them every once in a while. Now that they’re in the same film, maybe I should start writing that script for a buddy cop film starring Hill and Rogen. It could probably get awards. Maybe one of them Razzies…

I’m a man of many ideas. Long ago, back when I was an aspiring YouTube guy, I had this idea for an internet show where I would review a TV show that depicted the world of video games in a hilariously bad light. This was back when The Nostalgia Critic was a big thing. Unfortunately, the issue of using clips from a TV show for mockery purposes could get me in legal trouble, so that idea got canned. But hey, it’s 2013, and I’m in the mood to revisit old ideas, this time in written form. Least they can’t sue me for copyright over here…

So this series will look at TV shows – sitcoms, dramas, news reports, stuff like that – and how they inaccurately depict video games. Some will be funny. Others will be tragic. Hopefully you’ll laugh along with me.

Our debut episode is CSI: Miami. The first spinoff of the long-running CSI TV series, it starred David Caruso as Horatio Caine, where he head-tilted and mumbled his way through ten seasons of science fiction police procedurals. Caruso has a very interesting career, in addition to being Horatio, he got shot by Christopher Walken in Gangs of New York, was on NYPD Blue for about a season, then left that show to do a film career that didn’t pan out. I’m not a fan of CSI: Miami – hell, I am not a big fan of CSI in general. I didn’t mind the original series until William Petersen was replaced with Morpheus. Things just weren’t the same in Vegas after that. Heard they replaced Morpheus with Sam Malone now, which is an even weirder choice.

During CSI: Miami‘s fourth season, they decided to tie video games into a crime, hot off the heels of the Grand Theft Auto controversies. The result was “Urban Hellraisers,” an episode full of hilarious and inaccurate video game references mixed in with terrible acting and writing. At one point, they added a subplot involving a minor character and Emily Procter’s character just because the plot was so paper-thin that they couldn’t fill it into a 45-minute episode.

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Monopoly, the classic property building board game. Also known as “that one game that goes on forever because dummies add house rules that make a two hour game go on longer than it should.” No, you don’t get money on Free Parking, you must auction a property if you don’t buy it, and you get $200 if you land on GO, not $400. At least it’s a better board game than Risk, now that one’s a pain to play.

I have a large Monopoly collection, from Disney Monopoly to Seattle Mariners Monopoly to one of those bootleg “Build Your Own” Monopoly clones made for Windows 3.1. Though, much like everything in life, I took it to excess and got sick of collecting them, shoving all the various Monopoly games I got in my garage, some of which have never been opened. However, buried between Deluxe Edition Monopoly and Michael Graves Monopoly, there was this special edition:

Yeah, they made a Pokemon Monopoly game. Gotta catch em all, I guess. This edition was made back in 1999. Pokemon fever was in full swing, and this was before Hasbro licensed Monopoly to USAopoly to make such silly spinoffs as The Beatles Monopoly and Rolling Stones Trivial Pursuit. I don’t remember how I got this, but I think I might’ve “borrowed” this from my grandma and never gave it back, I can’t be certain.

I’m going to assume you all know the rules of Monopoly, so instead I’ll just cover the noticeable differences between this and the original you know and hate love.

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Sometimes video games and toys make a bizarre combination. Who knew that Atari and Hot Wheels joined forces to make a nostalgic car collection that came out this year, of all things? I didn’t know until someone mentioned these to me.

I was tipped off to these from a friend at Hardcore Gaming 101, who found one of these at a Bi-Mart. Ah yes, Bi-Mart, that podunk little chain of discount club stores based in the Pacific Northwest. Bi-Mart gives me that folksy vibe that reminds me of a supermarket that’s stuck in 1987. I even remember the TV commercials which looked so low budget you’d think they were made for public access. But enough about Bi-Mart, let’s look at the cars.

These are a set of six Hot Wheels cars based on famed Atari franchises. It’s funny how the Atari of today has stopped making original games completely and is content with squeezing as much blood from the old-school Atari stone as it can. I can’t blame them, Atari was a significant name in the early heyday of video games, gotta keep that spirit alive. The cars are based on old cars, and have decals that resemble the game’s graphics or the game’s cover art, where available.

The cars are the following:

  • A ’55 Chevy Panel based on Tempest
  • A custom ’52 Chevy based on Pong
  • A car from the “Fast Gassin” line, based on Missile Command
  • A car from the “Cool-One” line, based on Centipede
  • A ’49 Ford C.O.E. based on Breakout
  • and finally a GMC Motorhome based on the Atari 2600.

The car choices are absolutely bizarre, either they’re based on vehicles from the ’50s or unusual branded Hot Wheels. More suitable choices would have been stuff like the AMC Pacer or the Chevy Impala, stuff from the same time period as the games being featured. I do love the choice for the 2600 it just screams 70s thanks to that faux wood paneling that was pretty popular back then.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge toy collector, and that includes toy cars. Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars were meant to be played with, not collected. I’d play with these cars in the backyard with the dirty, worn out car playset that a neighbor had. At least, that’s how it was for me when I was younger. I do have a tub full of unopened Hot Wheels from about ten years ago, but their resale value is pretty much next-to-nil, so I’m holding onto them in the hopes they’re worth something someday. This isn’t even the first time Hot Wheels has made video game cars, Sega joined forces with Hot Wheels back in 2003 to advertise then-recent Sega games. I’m missing two of those, and maybe I’ll talk about those sometime.

The best part is that I paid $2 for all six, giving me $12 for silly video game cars. Thanks Bi-Mart! You are useful when I want silly junk at rock-bottom prices.

Ah, the Spike Video Game Awards. Advertised as a legitimate video game awards show — ignoring other, more professional award ceremonies — the Video Game Awards are celebrating their tenth year as being a hilarious trainwreck of TV executives trying to “understand” gamers combined with exclusive trailers for wonderful games like Command & Conquer Generals II. I personally haven’t watched the awards in years, opting to see the trailers on GameTrailers.com after the show is broadcast instead. Doesn’t mean I still can’t mock it endlessly every year. Unlike a certain Angry person, at least I have tact and don’t give Geoff Keighley the third degree about this, as he’s clearly held against his will, making a goofy awards show just to keep his job.

To commemorate the tenth anniversary of this wonderful award show, I thought I’d give you the highlights of the event. Note that this is not a complete list, anything prior to 2005 is pretty fuzzy, and since I don’t watch the event, I have to go by hearsay and likely second-hand information. So let me know if I left anything out, or made any errors in this. But enough of that, let’s get started!

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Okay, I might be pushing it with the whole “video game blog” angle with this one. Granted, it’s video game-like, and had a video games company sponsor the show, but it’s a bit different than what you think.

Just about anyone who was born in the late ’80s to early ’90s may remember Nick Arcade, that awful Nickelodeon game show with an annoying black host, rejected Double Dare contestants, and having a prototype of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on an episode. If you’re older, you might remember Video Power, that weird “video game tips” show turned sub-par game show in its second season. At least that one had the guy from Remote Control doing the music. And for all the old farts out there, you probably remember Starcade when was new. Or you’re like me and remember it when G4 reran it constantly, before the network was total garbage. But I bet you don’t remember this weird video game-meets-game show entity: Throut & Neck, a Game Show Network original that briefly ran in 1999.

The late 1990s was a weird time for Game Show Network. Before they had aired bad Candid Camera knockoffs, before they reran The Amazing Race daily, even before that weird “We’re not just game shows” phase where they thought giving Scrabble host Chuck Woolery a reality show was a good idea, they were on this ridiculously weird interactive TV kick. Interactive versions of The Price is Right were broadcast among other call-in and win shows. Throut & Neck is one of the few examples of GSN experimenting with these interactive call-in shows.

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Video games and pop music are two unlikely things that somehow go great together if they’re done properly. Dance Dance Revolution, Guitar Hero, Rock Band… Then there’s the weird video game homages in music, like Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Californication.” Which was more of a crazy animation experiment by some college kid than an actual video game homage, but it was cool all the same.


Complete with appropriate graphics at the time! Still looks better than an Xbox!

Around 2004, some guys must have saw that Californication video while on a 2AM drinking binge and thought that these ideas should be combined into a TV show. The result is one of the most bizarre combinations of music and video games that I’ve seen since some anime character appeared in some Japanese creepy idol-managing simulator: MTV2’s Video Mods.

One of the lesser-known shows of MTV2’s library, which consisted mostly of Beavis & Butt-head reruns and that one show that Seanbaby worked on (oh, and music videos), Video Mods was a strange concept: Some dudes would make a music video of a popular song and put it in relation to some recent video game. It sounds weird on paper, so the best way to explain it would be to show one of these “video mods”:

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