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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

I Can Still Smell It

Greetings all - I hope you all had a great Christmas and are preparing to hoist a few to ring in the new year. And if you aren't, well that's OK, I will drink an extra one for you. It's no problem at all I assure you!

A couple of posts back I talked about the iSmell and it's wonderous but unrealized powers to bring smells to gaming. Well my brain wouldn't let go of it right away so I did a little more websearching and discovered a few interesting factoids. Since the whole point of dabbling in this blog thing was to chronicle my opium-fueled gamer visions I thought - why not share. And so, here is a jumbled collection of what I found.

I mentioned in the last post about the scratch n sniff card included with the Infocom game Leather Goddesses of Phobos.



I discovered that there was another game that used this same gag - Leisure Suit Larry 7: Love for Sail. In Love for Sail, there was a scratch n sniff (called the CyberSniff 2000) that the player was prompted to smell at various points throughout the game. I found an interview with the game creator Al Lowe on JayBot7 that provided the following delightful exchange:

Jason Surguine: And include the CyberSmell 3000 [I was close]

Al Lowe: And CyberSniff 2000!

Jason Surguine: I don’t even want to know where you got some of the smells. [The CyberSniff 2000 was a scratch-and-sniff card that came with Larry 7]

Al Lowe: You know, that was one of the most fun things about developing that game; researching and finding the company that makes Micro Encapsulated Odors. We called them up and had this hilarious phone call with this woman who, I’m sure, her normal day consists of people doing straight-business things.

And here these two wacky game designer and producer call her up and ask:

‘Yeah, have you got a good fart smell?’




I also discovered that both FIFA 2001 and Gran Turismo 2 for the Playstation came on scratch n sniff CDs. FIFA 2001 smelled like turf and GT2 smelled like burning rubber.

Hideo Kojima apparently wanted to coat the disks for his 1988 PC game Snatcher with a chemical that, when heated by being inside the computer, released the smell of blood into the air to enhance the immersion with the "stench of a murder scene." Konami nixed the idea.

And last, but not least, I found a BBC video about a company in Birmingham that is giving the iSmell another go. Some of the delightful odors featured are garbage, body odor, hosipital, and burning rubber. I'm starting to see why this never gets off the ground - nobody ever includes chocolate chip cookies or roses, they always go straight to the BO and burning rubber!  That's just a poor business model.  Anyway you can check out the video of that in action HERE.  PEACE!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Damn You RARE COLECO TELSTAR COMBAT COMPLETE IN BOX

When I was a little kid - after my Mom and Dad got Pong for the family but before the old Atari 2600 - my little brother and I put in some serious time on an awesome little dedicated console by Coleco called the Telstar Combat!.  Does anyone else remember this thing?




This beauty of a system had two separate sets of dual grip tank controls that allowed one player to pilot a white tank and one to pilot a black tank. Every time you shot your opponent you got a point. Also, on at least one of the 4 switchable options there were mines strewn about and when the opposing tank ran over one of your mines you got points for his foolhardiness. It was a predecessor to the classic Atari 2600 title Combat - which remains one of my favorites for that system .

I found a tiny little video clip of the game on YouTube below:



Well every so often I check eBay for this long lost system of my youth in hopes of snagging it but in a few years I've only seen it come up once before for a broken one. Well today I FOUND IT!  And apparently I'm not the only middle-aged bastard with fond memories of this thing because with an hour left there are 11 bids and the cost is up to $410!  I'm nostalgic, but not THAT nostalgic.  It hurts not to bid too because it is complete with the box and manuals and everything - you can check out the auction HERE.  But $410?  C'mon man, my Mom said she paid like $15 for the thing way back when. Damn. Guess the search continues...

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The iSmell - Smellovision for Video Games

I was perusing an old issue of the Official Dreamcast Magazine (July/August 2000) and I happened across this article about the iSmell - a product by a company called DigiScents that was going to revolutionize gaming by not only hitting your eyes and ears with sensory input but your nose as well. I thought it was interesting so I checked into it a little more.



The iSmell was developed in 2001 and used a cartridge (like an inkjet printer) that contained a number of different chemicals that could be mixed in various combinations and amounts to produce a wide variety of scents. The company had reportedly indexed the required recipes for thousands of common odors. The formula for the mixture would be embedded within a game (or other application) and sent to the iSmell via a USB connection. The chemicals would then be mixed in a chamber and dispersed into the immediate area with a small fan.

Here is what the device looked like - a shark fin on a disk. I couldn't find any reference of the product ever actually hitting production so I assume this was a prototype.



There were a number of promising demonstrations, but apparently the product never got of the ground and now the only references to it I found on the internet were mocking it as a horrible product. But I don't know, I think it would have been kinda cool. They say that scents trigger memories and emotional responses more than any other sensory input - so wouldn't it help thrust the player even deeper into the virtual world of the game? Wouldn't it be more immersive if you could smell the smoke of the burning building that Nathan Drake is trying to escape from in the upcoming Uncharted 3? The smell of the flowers that you were crawling around in during the fight with Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3? The faint whiff of an unseen monster in Resident Evil or Dead Space that got stronger as he approached? The dank underground smell of a cavern in Zork?

In 1986, the Leather Goddesses of Phobos came with a scratch and sniff card and at several parts of the game it would tell you to scratch and sniff scent #1, #2, etc.  I rather enjoyed that little novelty, and if modern tech could expand it and make it a passive inclusion rather than an active one that required you to stop playing to experience it that would make it even better.

So, assuming the product functioned properly and software developers supported it in their games, I think may have actually bought this product that never actually saw the light of day.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

The Top 3 Best Games About Janitors... #1

[UPDATED 4/17/2011]
I got a little sidetracked with work and Christmas parties, but it's time to finish off this list. Recall that my #3 janitor game was the text adventure Planetfall, my #2 was the point-and-click adventure Space Quest IV, and so now without further ado - ok perhaps just a bit more ado - my #1 favorite janitor game of all time - MDK.



MDK is a 3rd person shooter that was developed by Shiny Entertainment and released in 1997 for PC, Macintosh, and Playstation. I can't speak for the Mac version, but I've played the PC version and the Playstation version and I prefer the PC version for the superior graphics and controls.

In MDK you play as laboratory janitor Kurt Hectic working for Dr. Fluke Hawkins aboard the Space Station the Jim Dandy. The earth is invaded by alien marauders who are stripping the planet of its mineral resources with gigantic rolling alien cities called "minecrawlers". Dr. Hawkins fits you with his newest invention, the "coil suit", which provides you with armor, a built-in parachute, an arm-mounted chain gun, and a head-mounted sniper rifle and you head planetside to take out the alien trash! Not exactly an original idea for a story, but the oddball characters and details make it seem fresh.

There has been a lot of debate over what MDK stands for and I won't go into it all those details - but after reading an interview and viewing a promotional video for the game it seems clear that most MDK fans at the time were correct - it stood for Murder Death Kill. But Shiny apparently didn't want to scare off any commercial sponsors (apparently they had a toy deal in the works) so they stuck with the abbreviation and then played up the hooplah when everyone kept asking what it really stood for. You can check out the concept proposal video that the developers put together to try and sell the game and Murder Death Kill is clearly shown in it.


This is the first game (I believe) that allowed you use a zoomable sniper rifle - so you could focus in on an enemy far away that had no idea you were looking at him and then pop him right between the eyes. Of course these days pretty much every shooter out there offers that feature, but back in those days it was truly unique and I thought it was really cool at the time.



Most of the game is played in the style of a run-and-gun/platformer, but it incorporates several other gameplay elements as well. At the beginning of each minecrawler level Kurt plummets to earth and must avoid the enemy radar and missiles (think of God of War III when Kratos is plummetting downward by that chain), you sometimes remote-pilot a bomber which gives you a top-down sky-view and lets you bomb your enemies (I've seen this mechanic used in a couple of Modern Warfare games), there is a snowboarding-esque sequence where you shoot you enemies while you sliding, Kurt sometimes does a little luging where he has to grab powerups on the track, and there are the sniper parts I already mentioned, I'm probably forgetting some others but the point is that it has a variety of mini-games in it that breaks up the run-and-gun gameplay to keep things from getting stale.

I actually played a little of MDK before writing this and I still liked it. Today, the graphics are somewhat dated of course and maybe a little more polygonal than I recall, but they still look great. There is a bizzare futuristic look to the graphical style with transparent surfaces and dark areas with glowing neon beam of light - hard to describe really but it has a unique look to it that is instantly recognizeable to anyone that has played the game.



Another thing I remember very fondly is the sound. The gameplay sound effects themselves - the shooting of the chain gun, the jibber jabber of the aliens, etc. were fine but nothing special.  Where the game shined was in the mood music. The music was superb and really added to the mood of the game throughout. The game songs were even released as a soundtrack CD.

Overall the game was just kind of bizarre - a bit trippy. And it had an offbeat comedic tone that I quite enjoyed (big Monty Python fan here).  That unique flavor is what made it stand out in my mind versus a lot of other run and gun games of the time. When you beat the game a music video plays that stays true to that trippy nature - check it out:



They did make a sequel, which I also own, but like a lot of my games, I have yet to make my way around to playing it. I've read that some people like MDK 2 more than MDK and I've also read that a lot of people like the first one better. One of these days I'll check that one out. But for now, if you haven't played the original MDK then you really should.

You can find the game on Amazon and eBay, you can probably find it on some abandonware sites too, but you are probably best off just downloading it legit from Good Old Games where it is only $5.99 which also includes the manual, wallpaper, and the original soundtrack I mentioned that by itself would cost you $9 on Amazon. So it seems like a great deal. Heck I might even re-buy it myself.

[UPDATED 4/17/2011] - I stumbled across a video of the French song that Ulala chick sang at the end of the game and this one thankfully included English subtitles. So now, a mere 14 years after I first beat the game and saw the video, I finally know what that chick was saying. The song is Non Non Rien N'a Changé (No No Nothing Changed) and is apparently an anti-war statement. This version is by Les Poppys. Enjoy.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Uncharted 3 out November 2011

I didn't catch the VGA show last night, but one of the high points for me would have been the release of the full trailer for the upcoming game Uncharted 3. Along with Arkham City, Uncharted 3 is one of my most anticipated titles. I loved the first two games and I'm sure I will love the third one too. Uncharted 3 is scheduled to be released November 1, 2011. Here's the trailer.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

More New Flyers at the Arcade Flyer Archive



Ah French video games. Where the flyer for even a simple Tetris-type puzzle game shows a buxom blonde with her nips taking a peek at the world.  Vive la France!

As you may know, I'm a sucker for old arcade game flyers and I saw that The Arcade Flyer Archive just added 45 new flyers to their online collection. And of course if you are running MAME with a frontend that has a flyer viewer (like moi) then you MUST download them post-haste. Possiby even pre-haste. Well, presumably they will be added in to the next batch of flyerpacks when version 0.141 of MAME rolls out - so you might not need to download them but you can at least give them a peek.

By the way, in a previous post I included a link to TAFA for the new MAME flyer packs (through the current MAME version 0.140), but TAFA immediately started having bandwidth issues with everyone downloading these huge files so they now reside at progetto-SNAPS - a great Italian site that is an awesome resource for all sorts of supplemental MAME files like flyers, snapshots, cabinet pics, control panel pics, etc. Viva Italia!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Top 3 Best Games About Janitors... #2

In yesterday's post I talked a bit about the Infocom classic Planetfall, the 3rd best game of all time in one of the most underappreciated genres of gaming - the janitor game. For today's entry I'd like to mention the first "point and click" adventure game I ever played (I think) - the 1991 hit Space Quest IV - Roger Wilco and the Time Rippers.



In SQIV you play, not surprisingly given the title, as Roger Wilco, who is 50% bumbling janitor and 50% heroic adventurer. At the beginning of the game Roger is relaxing at the local space bar when he is accosted by the evil Sequel Police who deliver the message that your enemy Sludge Vohaul (apparently from previous SQ games that I never played) has some nefarious plans to take over the universe and he wants you good and dead first, but before the Sequel Police can administer the coup de grace you manage to break free. Then a couple of mystery guys open up a time rip that you jump through to escape. The time rip deposits you in the far-flung future of Space Quest XII (noted on the status bar at the top of the screen) and that's where you take control and begin your quest to figure out how to survive in this world and how to get back to Vohaul and defeat him before it's too late!

That's the gist of it anyway. If I recall, I found this game to be somewhat difficult and although I quite enjoyed it I don't remember actually finishing it. I think I got stuck somewhere and eventually just moved on to something else. Hey don't judge me!  Back in those days you couldn't just hop on the internet and Google up a walkthrough to get past a tough spot you know!  Sierra On-Line sold hint books, but I never bought any of those (I did buy an Invisiclues one time for Zork II to see what they were all about - but that's another story). So actually I think I will be buying this game myself and giving it a good honest try to play it through to completion for the first time.

If you've never played a point and click adventure game it is all driven by the mouse and drop-down menus. You move Roger around in the world and interact with various items and characters by simply pointing and clicking. Sierra went to great lengths to provide a huge amount of detail so you can examine and interact with almost anything and with multiple senses too - sight, smell, taste, touch - a different kind of open world game.

Here is a little vid of the gameplay from the beginning of the game (they stripped out the opening movie part). This is the updated version released in 1992 on CD which featured full speech - I played the old silent floppy version.



One of the reasons I liked the game so much is the same reason that I liked Hitchhiker - the humorous tone throughout the game. The game is always making jokes and although it can get a little tiresome from time to time, overall it is pretty amusing and a refreshing change from the mood of most games. But the thing I really remember is how gorgeous the graphics were at the time - especially on the cut scenes which were essentially like watching a cartoon. It took full advantage of the 256-color VGA cards that were the leading edge of video cards at the time. Also, I read that it was one of the first games to utilize motion capture technology.

Another unique feature I had never seen before - in the game when you go back in time and are playing within the world of Space Quest I, the graphics and sound revert to the more primitive style of that 1986 game. There is even a scene during this part where some monochrome alien baddies give Roger a hard time for his superior graphic stature - "Well lookee here - if it ain't mister look-at-me-I'm-in-VGA". (Apparently their response changed based on whatever type of video card was actually being used). I don't know if Sierra actually invented this gag, but Metal Gear Solid IV for the PS3 recycled it years later when Snake was dreaming and you got to play a little of the original PS1 Metal Gear Solid in the properly reduced resolution. So I'm thinking maybe Snake owes a slight tip of the hat to Roger for that.

I've also heard lately about the arcade minigames hidden in the new Call of Duty Black Ops, to which I've seen a few GTA fans respond with "ho-hum hidden arcade minigames - Rockstar already did that", to which older Dreamcast fans similarly respond "punks - you ever heard of Shenmue?" Well, almost a decade before that you could mosey on up to an arcade game in SQIV, drop in a quarter, and play a game of Ms. Astro Chicken. So SQIV (and actually SQIII before that, I discovered) get some props for that bit of "open-world" immersion that so many these days attribute to Rockstar.

I stumbled across this commercial for SQIV that apparently aired around Christmas in 1991.  The quality looks like it was filmed through a soapy fishbowl, but I've always enjoyed watching old game commercials and trailers so I'm stickin it in here in case someone else feels the same.




So I felt like was rambling a bit there - but the bottom line is that this a cool janitor game and considered somewhat of a classic in PC gaming circles, so if you haven't played it you might consider checking it out.

Where do you buy?  As I was writing this I checked out eBay and I see that someone is selling the original 3.5" floppy PC version complete with box, manual, and disk with a current bid of only $0.99 ($4 shipping). Note that if you do decide to purchase this item it is possible we might engage in a bidding war.You can also buy the collection of all the Space Quest games (1-6) - on eBay for $7.84 (shipping included) - click HERE for that one. And they also offer it (bundled with 5 and 6) at Good Old Games for $9.99.

Tomorrow - the stunning and controversial janitorial finale that everyone is sure to be talking about. Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Top 3 Best Games About Janitors

The noble janitor. Custodian, if you prefer. He has played the starring role in some of my favorite games. Rather than spend days at my keyboard writing about the hundreds of examples I can think of off the top of my head, I will confine my comments to only the top 3 titles. These are all classics, so if you have never tried them you should a) be quite ashamed, and b) play them as soon as possible to abate said shame.

#3) Planetfall



This classic text adventure was released in 1983 by the king of interactive fiction - Infocom. Yeah that's right - text only. We don't need no stinking graphics! So you direct your player by typing commands such as LOOK UNDER THE TIME MACHINE or DROP THE FURRY ALIEN IN THE BASKET and watch as the story unfolds before you in pure unadulterated monochromatically glowing alphanumeric characters. The game was written by Steve Meretzky who was also known for such Infocom hits as Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Sorcerer, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, A Mind Forever Voyaging, and Stationfall - the sequel to Planetfall, but in that game you have been promoted to a paper-pushing desk jockey and therefore that game has no place in this post.

In Planetfall you are a lowly Ensign Seventh Class in the Stellar Patrol serving on board the Starship S.P.S. Feinstein and it is your job to mop the decks, but as the Patrol says in their recruitment flyers - "There's plenty of opportunity for advancement in the Patrol for those who live up to our motto, 'Boldly Going Where Angels Fear to Tread.'" The manual summarizes the story nicely:

Prepare to be teleported 120 centuries into the future and hurtled out of your Stellar Patrol space-ship mere moments before it explodes.  And if the first five minutes of PLANETFALL don’t kill you, you’ll really have your work cut out for you. Because the planet on which you crash-land is plagued with floods, pestilence and mutant Wild Kingdom. And during the next couple of days or more, you’ll be confronted by the bizarre, the baffling and the inexplicable.What destroyed your vessel? Why are there buildings but no inhabitants? How does one gain entry to the secret recesses of the vast scientifc installations? And who is that little fellow who keeps following you around? (It is, in fact, Floyd, a multi-purpose robot who has the personality of an eight-year-old and whose memory banks may hold the secrets of this strange planet. In short, the ideal companion with whom to brave your new world as you explore its secrets and dare its dangers.) Laughs, thrills, tears and triumph. You’ll find it all in PLANETFALL. Have a swell trip, and don’t forget to drop us a postcard!

Before you embark on the journey you should take the Patrol's self-evaluation to make sure that you qualify for their elite squadron. Here is the 2-page questionnaire. Please complete and mail into your local Patrol recruiting station.


 

You can occasionally track down the original Planetfall for PC (that's the one I have) on eBay, but it will be on the 5 1/4" floppy disk - do you still have one of those drives in a bay? Probably not. It is included in the compilations the Lost Treasure of Infocom and the Masterpieces of Infocom (one of my favorite possessions) which you can occasionally find on eBay but they usually go for about $40 and up. You can give it a go online at http://www.accardi-by-the-sea.org/Infocom/Online/, but I never figured out how to save your place on their online games which makes these games an exercise in futility unless you are determined to knock it out in a single textacular sitting.

So - you might consider downloading a copy of the PC file from one of those shady abandonware websites (cough! Abandonia) and playing it in DOSBox or WinFrotz instead. Not that I'm advocating piracy. Oh wait - that's precisely what I just did. Well whatever, just play it wiseguy!

OK, my plan was to put all 3 games on here but this one ran LONG so I guess I'll split it up to one per day.  Tomorrow is #2. And remember, In Space No One Can Hear You Clean.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

NES Coffee Table

It's fairly rare when I have a particularly kind word for the NES and its legions of fanboys, but thanks to Destructoid today I saw this full-size coffee table shaped like an NES and I thought it was pretty cool.

It has large compartments for storage - including a flip-open cartridge slot and a sliding drawer in the back, it has a working LED light that comes on when you hit the power button, and has 2 power outlets where the gamepad plugs are normally located. The guy did a really good job on it. He built 3 - one for himself, one for some art exhibit, and one that he's trying to sell to you on eBay HERE with a starting bid of $700 (no bidders as of yet). Check it out.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Uncharted? Uninterested.



OK, this is my last post about the Uncharted movie - I promise. I vented previously about the ridiculous choice of Marky Mark Wahlberg for the role of Nathan Drake. Yesterday, Destructoid pointed me to an article in the L.A. Times where director David O. Russell talked about his "vision" for the movie. I can already tell I'm not going to like it from the very first paragraph:

Fans of the video game Uncharted: Drake's Fortune have been intrigued since the moment David O. Russell committed to direct the film -- if nothing else, it's a chance for a quirky auteur and surehanded filmmaker to shake up the beleaguered videogame-to-movie genre.

(Hurriedly googles auteur... OK) Apparently, this quirky auteur genius is already halfway done with the script, "it's a locomotive!" says he.  The article continues:

While the video game centers on Nate Drake (a descendant of Sir Francis Drake) and his quest to find lost treasure on an island far from civilization, Russell plans on expanding the movie to include Drake's extended family -- and put them in fraught, globetrotting situations with some of the world's most influential people.  "This idea really turns me on that there's a family that's a force to be reckoned with in the world of international art and antiquities ... [a family] that deals with heads of state and heads of museums and metes out justice."

I already heard that this giant of a director was putting his own stamp on the story by inventing an uncle and father for Drake, but now it's starting to sound like the pilot for a bad 80's TV series. The auteur Russell is apparently planning to remold the characters and story to be more in line with his previous movies. "We'll have the family dynamic, which we've done in a couple of movies now." That's fine Spielberg, but this doesn't really sound much like Uncharted anymore. And I've already seen National Treasure and (God help me) National Treasure 2.

Ah, but then Russell waxes poetic, "And then you take that and put it on the bigger, more muscular stage of an international action picture, but also put all the character stuff in it. That's a really cool idea to me." The musings of the immortal bard - timeless.  All you film students out there, this is where you should be taking notes. In your work, please be sure to put all that really cool character stuff in it.

I'm not saying Uncharted is Gone With the Wind, but if they are going to buy the rights and stamp the name on it shoudn't they at least try to be true to the characters and mood of the game if not the story itself?  It bugs me when these egomaniacal Hollywood knuckleheads cook up these "reimaginings" of established stories and characters that I care about just to put their own stamp on them. And it doesn't even sound like this particular knucklehead is even creative - just going to churn out more cliche-ridden swill. This movie has officially gone from one that I likely would have watched in the theatre to one that I probably won't even watch when it comes on cable TV a month later. And so, to close the subject forever on this blog, I leave you with an actual leaked scene from the movie:

Nathan stumbled forward into the flickering light of the torch. Still groggy from the explosion, he steadied himself against the wall of the underground cavern.
"Ha! Son, I haven't seen you walk like that since you took your first steps back on the farm."
Nathan rolled his eyes. "Dad!  We don't have time for this. We've got 48 hours to get the Statue of Liberty back to the Smithsonian or we're all dead!"
"Quiet you two!  Listen..."
Nathan and his father turn to face Barack Obama.  "What is it President Barack Obama?" they ask in unison.
"It's quiet..." Obama responds.  "A little too quiet."
Queen Elizabeth steps forward into the light.  "He's right.  I've got a bad feeling about this."
Then a rumble can be heard in the distance. It rapidly grows to a roar. Suddenly, a huge boulder bursts forth from the darkness, barreling toward the group.
Drake reaches down and grabs Queen Elizabeth's hand, "C'mon your majesty - we gotta go NOW!".
Queen Elizabeth jumps up and takes off in a mad dash toward the edge of the chasm. "I'm gettin too old for this shiiiiiiiiiiiiit!"

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Icons - Season 2



The website Emuparadise just added the downloadable videos for Season 2 of the show Icons that used to air on G4TV from 2002-2006.  Each 30-minute documentary episode focused on a different significant piece of the gaming industry - influential games, software companies, consoles, characters, TV shows, etc. After a while the show started branching off to include other miscellaneous pop culture and then was unceremoniously cancelled (as it probably deserved by that time) - but for a while there the source material was strictly video game related.

I've seen a few episodes of this show and rather enjoyed the ones I watched, so I'm going to check out some more from Season 2. A few of the 22 episodic topics from that season that piqued my curiosity include Atari, Intellivision, Xbox, Arcade, LucasArts, PC Gaming, The Crash, and Naughty Dog. They have Season 1 on there as well. So if it is something you might find interesting go check it out - you can click HERE to go directly to the shows.

[Updated 12/7/2010] Emuparadise just added season 3 of Icons to their inventory as well so there are another 20 episodes for you to check out. Some season 3 titles include Sega Dreamcast, Tetris, Apple II, Mortal Kombat, Donkey Kong, and Game Boy.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Commodore 64 - You Can't Buy a Better Computer at Twice the Price

Finally, at long last, my lost child has come home. As chance would have it someone on Craigslist was having a garage sale Friday and one of the items they were selling was a Commodore 64 with all the cords AND a 1541 floppy drive! And as chance would also have it this guy just happen to be located right around the corner literally 11 houses down the road from my house! Never one to snub my nose at fate, I check my wallet to see how much cash I had - hmmm... $12. Not sure if that'll get the job done or not but I decide to put on some shoes and go check it out. Mrs. MP says "You can stay and finish your coffee. I'll go get it".  "OK cool, thanks" and I hand her my $12. "What if they want more than that?" she asks. I shake my head - "All I have is 12 bucks, so we'll see if it's meant to be."

About 5 minutes later she comes back with a Huggies box full of Commodore goodness. The guy was actually asking $15, but she told him we only had $12 handy and he took it!  And in addition to the C64 and floppy drive, he also included the user's manual for both pieces, 2 old-school joysticks (including a WICO BOSS), the book "How to Use the Commodore 64 Computer", 8 sealed blank 5 1/4" floppy disks (handy since I got rid of mine long ago), and a decent little pile of miscellaneous commercial software - Blue Max (I actually had a copy of this one back in the day), Star Trek Evolution, Alien, Bits Pieces and Clues (with African Adventure, Pirate Adventure, and King Tut's Tomb text adventures), My 64 a Computer Tutor (yawn), and Games I & Games II - 2 compilation disks of some sort. When the C64 was the new kid on the block back in 1982 this haul would've cost about $1000 new, but here in good ol' 2010 it's only $12 - not bad!




And I already have my existing C64 games that I slowly accumulated in the last year or two when I came across a good deal - Hardball! (sealed), Telengard (sealed), Deadline (sealed - got that one for $1 shipped!), Wheel of Fortune (sealed), Suspended, One on One: Julius Erving and Larry Bird, On-Court Tennis, On-Field Football, and Beyond the Forbidden Forest. Who knows there might even be a few others buried in my closet. I'll also be hooking up my old Commodore 1526 dot matrix printer. Surrounded by this much retro hardware I might accidentally slip back in time to 1983 like Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time. Hmm... that chick flick reference might be a little too obscure. Oh well.

I was a little too busy this weekend to hook everything up but don't be surprised if there is a spike in the number of Commodore 64 posts around here pretty soon. 

Load "*",8,1

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Good Old Games


I've been hearing about Good Old Games for a little while, but finally got around to checking out their site this week. Good Old Games, owned by the Polish company CD Projekt and launched in 2008, offers older PC games for download that they have patched or packaged with an application like DOSBox and a wrapper of some sort to ensure compatibility with newer versions of Windows (in my case XP). If you've ever tried to play older PC games on a new system you know it can sometimes be challenging to get it to run properly. Also, all their games are sold without any DRM protection and when you buy the game you often get other downloadable extras included like game soundtracks, wallpapers, manuals, etc.

I checked out their games and there were several titles on there that I had heard of but never played and their prices looked pretty reasonable. But the best thing is that they offer 3 commercial games for you to download absolutely free to try out their service - Beneath a Steel Sky, Lure of the Temptress, and Teenagent. Registration is simple and I figured you can't beat the price so I downloaded a copy of Beneath a Steel Sky, a 1994 point and click sci-fi adventure game and tried it out.

I'd never heard of the game but apparently it is a bit of a cult-classic. I played it a while and thought it was decent although I wasn't blown away - all things being equal I'd rather replay Space Quest IV (which is also offered on the site packaged with SQ 5 and 6 for $9.99) - but the point of this post was just to point out the GOG service to any readers that might not have ever tried it out (like me a week ago). It was simple, worked well, and they are offering some full-version free games for you to try it out so what is there to lose?  Check it out at http://www.gog.com/.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mark Wahlberg is Nathan Drake????

Uncharted and Uncharted 2 are two of my favorite PS3 games - heck two of my favorite games overall, so when I heard about the Uncharted movie in production I thought "cool - I'd go see that".  The game was always heralded as a cinematic adventure romp anyway so it should have been an easy transition to an entertaining popcorn flick. Then I heard that they weren't going to be following the story in the game at all - well OK - the story kinda fell apart at the end in the first one anyway so maybe that's not so bad. And today I read they signed up Mark Wahlberg to play Nathan Drake.  Mark Freaking Walhberg. That is bad casting.

Movie Trailers - Movies Blog

Let's compare and contrast - Nathan Drake is a smart-alecky but clever and good-natured everyguy that can kick ass when he's cornered but generally would rather avoid trouble. Wahlberg is - well I was going to simply say "a douchebag" for comic effect but that's not fair since I don't know the guy, but based on my viewing of his movie roles and interviews he seems to be more of a mean, angry, slow-witted, overacting and over-REacting, punch you right in your fuckin face as soon as look at you kinda guy.

But hey he's done some good work like 'The Happening' - no wait, that was shit.  Uh - the remake of the 'Planet of the Apes' - eh that was pretty much crap too.  OH!  He played Max Payne in that video game-based movie.  So that should mean he's ready for another game role - right?  Did anyone out there see 'Max Payne'? No?  Consider yourself lucky because it was shit. I'm ashamed to say I even saw about 15 minutes of Wahlberg showing off his comedy chops with Will Farrel on 'The Other Guys' and it was as close as I have ever come to plucking out my own eyes.

Like several others out there, I was hoping for Nathan Fillion. In case you are unfamiliar with him he's the captain from the sci-fi cult TV show Firefly (and follow-up movie Serenity) and more recently the detective series Castle. If you've seen him in either of those roles and played Uncharted as well you realize right away he is perfect for the role of Drake. He's reportedly an avid gamer and even kinda looks like Drake. Hell he even lobbied for the role on Twitter!




But no - we get Marky Mark. Thanks again Hollywood...


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Monday, November 22, 2010

NBA Jam for the PS3 and Xbox 360

I just bought the new updated PS3 version of one of my all-time favorite arcade games (and Genesis ports) - NBA Jam!  It has been out for a while on the Wii which for some inexplicable reason did not offer online play (yet another shake of the head to Nintendo and the Wii) but the PS3/360 version offers online play and of course a bit of an HD facelift.  Like most sports games, two guys playing in the same room old-school style is optimal, but how often does that happen anymore? At least for people in my age-bracket - not very often. And my wife is not exactly adept at throwing down the Jam so yeah - online play capability was a requirement.

I found this trailer for the PS3/360 version below:

 

It was originally going to packaged as a free add-on with the new NBA Elite 2011 game for the PS3 and Xbox 360, but after a bug-filled demo was very poorly received and various other problems EA Sports decided to just go ahead and put NBA Jam out as a separate release on its own - which was fine by me since I didn't give a crap about Elite anyway. 

Fallguy40 also chose to get it so we tried it out last night for the first time.  I have to say - I like it!  It definitely retains the feel of the classic with the upgrades you would expect from a current-gen version. It also has several different modes of play like Smash, 21, Elimination, and a few others but those modes felt a little like they were tacked on to try and justify the $50 price point, which FG40 and I both agreed was a little steep for the game (felt more like a $30 game to me - whatever that means). I doubt I'll play the various other modes much but I haven't given up on them yet after only one night. 

There is also a career/challenge type of mode (forget what it's called and the manual is clear over by the TV) which seems to unlock various options and features as you go along so I'll be playing that through as well. That sort of incentive helps add to the fun of playing solo when the game, like all sports games, is really designed for 2-player action. So bottom line is - if you like the original NBA Jam then you should like this new one too and should go out and drop the fiddy on it like I did.  BOOMSHAKALAKA!

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

FINALLY, an "Open-World" Game That I Liked



Today I finished Infamous (or inFAMOUS according to the box), an open-world 3rd-person action adventure game where you play as Cole MacGrath, a bike messenger in Empire City who is delivering a mysterious package when it explodes, devestating the city and granting Cole electrical powers. A plague starts spreading so the government quarantines the city and gangs take over. Your job is to help restore order to the city and solve the mystery of what happened which introduces you to other super powered beings as well for you to fight- or you can just kick ass and be an evil dude too. The game operates on a karma system wherein you slowly progress to the goal of either Hero or Villian. I went with the more natural selection - hero.

This game is a PS3-exclusive title that came out in May of last year and received very good reviews so I'm way behind the curve on finally playing it. But it was always described as an "open-world" or "sandbox" type game and my experience with that genre so far has left me disappointed so I think it scared me away. Unlike the rest of the modern gaming world, I thought Grand Theft Auto IV was boring and I was fairly underwhelmed by Red Dead Redemption as well. But Fallguy40 was nice enough to let me borrow his copy of Infamous and I discovered that I liked it quite a bit after all. So maybe I just don't like the way Rockstar makes the so-called open world games. I dunno. Either way, if you own a PS3 and don't already have Infamous you should give it a shot. In my usual 1.0-10 scale I give it a 8.8.

I liked: The story, grinding on the power lines and rails to get around the huge city quickly, the various powers and the way you progressively obtained and learned new ones, the climbing mechanic, the way heights/falls looked which felt genuine enough to make my stomach feel a little nervous.

I disliked: Cole was a little too grabby onto things which sometimes made precision jumping and falling awkward, getting on a ladder was needlessly difficult and frustrating, quite a bit of pop-in on buildings etc as they appeared from the distance, goon fights were fairly repetitive, Trish.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Zork On a Typewriter!

Staying with the recent Zork theme here - I happened across this short video of this nifty little device created by Jonathan M. Guberman - the Automatypewriter. Guberman added various technical bits to the back of a real typewriter along with a USB interface to communicate with a computer that in effect allows you to play Zork (and presumably other IF titles as well) directly on the typewriter!  You type in your commands, the typewriter recognizes them as if it were a keyboard, and then it self-types the computer output response.  See him play a couple of minutes of Zork on it below.  And if you want to check out his explanation of the tech details of the device you can check that out HERE.


A new way to interact with fiction from Jonathan M. Guberman on Vimeo.

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Eaten By A Grue Achievement/Trophy

MadPlanet recently showed off some clever advertising for Call of Duty: Black Ops, but the cold war-era shooter has a few other gems for us as well. You can actually play Zork from within the game! And if you're a trophy whore like me, you will be rewarded for your retro-gaming efforts.

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It Is... TELENGARD

"It is an enigma, a maze, a treasure chest, an arena... and it is also a quick death for the unwary. It is... TELENGARD." 

Thus reads the box of this true classic computer game which I just added BACK into my collection of Commodore 64 games thanks to my good friends at eBay.



This baby is still sealed and in near-mint condition and since I don't even have my C64 anymore I haven't even cracked it open yet - but I'm going to.  Check out the awesome box art of the dragon with the hapless adventurer in his talons - one of the cool gifties inside the box is a full-size poster of that art. That's going up on the wall in the Commodore 64 corner of my gameroom - when I repurchase a Commodore 64 that is - and uh - get a gameroom to put it in. Details...

Telengard was released on several different systems back in the early 80's, but I played and loved the DEFINITIVE version (might be a little fanboyism showing there) on the Commodore 64. It is a real-time (more-or-less) dungeon crawl RPG where you are an adventurer who is exploring a dungeon filled with treasures, traps, all sorts of crazy magical items, and a variety of monsters that may do one of two things - like you and reward you with mystical gifts or, as is more often the case, really want to kill you and/or take your stuff. Let me tell you, nothing is quite as frustrating as seeing an Elf pop in in front of you, steal your Armor +40, and then disappear into the darkness before you can do a damn thing about it. Well, possibly more painful is being unexpectedly transported down to level 50 when you are still a young level 2 adventurer and meeting a Dragon who just crushes you in the wink of an eye - that's a little worse.

Good dragon... nice dragon....
The game is basically a computerized version of Dungeons and Dragons which was very popular at the time. Just like the original D&D, at the beginning of the game you roll randomly-generated points for your various attributes - strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, and charisma. Then you name your character and start your exploration of the dungeon to see how many evil monsters you can kill (or befriend) and how much treasure you can 'snarf' (a word this game introduced me to). And you just keep playing and ratcheting up your hit points, stats, and inventory of items - there is no real end-game.

The game was stored on a data cassette and I clearly remember starting my C64, typing the command to load the game, pushing play on the datasette, and then going into the kitchen to get something to eat, maybe watch TV etc. while I waited the eternity it took for the game to load, calculate all the monsters and rooms, and finally let me get started. I turned the volume on the TV (my monitor) up loud enough so that I could hear the tell-tale gong that signaled that the game was finally loaded and ready to go.

I've heard some folks call Telengard a "roguelike" game or a Rogue variant or clone which I consider a bit of a slap in the face since Telengard's production actually predates Rogue. Daniel Lawrence wrote DnD on a PDP-10 mainframe at Purdue in 1976. In 1978 he ported it to the Commodore Pet and changed the name to Telengard. Then in 1982 he sold it to Avalon Hill for commercial release on multiple systems.  Rogue was developed in the early 1980's on a UNIX mainframe at U.C. Berkley and was later included with U.C. Berkley's BSD UNIX package that was distributed to universities across the country so it became very well-known. Epyx tried to publish the game in 1983 and was a commercial failure. So to that "Telengardlike" game I say bah!

Rogue on Unix - aka Telengarbage
I bought my Telengard off of a guy from Caracas, Venezuela who apparently somehow stumbled onto a large stash of shrinkwrapped Telengards in a warehouse or something because he has been selling them for the last several weeks. I bought a single copy but at them moment he is selling a bundle of 6 if you care to check out the auction HERE.

If you don't have a C64 but would still like to check out this all-time classic game I recommend you try the emulator CCS64 (download HERE) and grab the ROM at Gamebase64 HERE and give it a whirl. These days it is an extremely simplistic game that probably won't hold your attention too long but I assure you that back in the day it was awesome and took up many hours of my time. In the words of Matt Barton in his book Dungeons & Desktops "What is Diablo but Telengard with better audiovisuals?"

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

TAFA Flyer Packs 0.140



As I've mentioned before, The Arcade Flyer Archive is a remarkable resource for old arcade flyer images and they have provided downloadable .zip files of the flyers for a long time, but there were always 2 problems with it - 1) they weren't updated very often and 2) the image files in the flyer packs were smaller versions of the full-size images that you could browse on their website.

Well NOW they have fixed both those issues.  They are now offering .zip files of all the games they have available for the current MAME version 0.140 (and reportedly will be updating them regularly) and the zipped image files are the full size high resolution images to boot! The files are all in .png format so they are compatible with the various MAME frontends out there (like my favorite MAMEUIFX).

So if you are a big MAME guy like I am or just have any interest in taking a look at the old arcade flyers they used to try and sell these games then click HERE and start downloading.  But be warned - there are a total of 62 zip files with about 75 MB of image files in each so it will take a while and a pretty good chunk of hard drive space if you decide to get them all.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops TV Commercial

I got burned out on the various Modern Warfare/Call of Duty FPS titles a while back and decided I wasn't going to buy anymore of them for a while, but I recently saw the TV spot for Call of Duty: Black Ops and found it pretty entertaining. It mixed in a little game footage but mostly it showed various regular people playing soldier blowing away stuff. Lots of big explosions and the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" playing in the background - that equals a good commercial for me. And Jimmy Kimmel's RPG said "Proud Noob" on it - amusing. I'm still probaby not going to buy the game - at least not for a good long while - but they almost got me.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sega, I Wish I Knew How to Quit You

I've never owned a working Sega Genesis. I've played on one quite a few times back in the day with Fallguy40 and have known some other guys who have owned one in the past, but personally I've never owned one. They are obviously easily obtained and pretty cheaply, but I have been determined to wait until I find an outstandingly good deal before I get one.

A couple of years ago while I was in Rhode Island I noticed a person on Craigslist that was selling their complete Genesis model 2 with the box, Sonic Spinball, controllers, instruction manual, etc. for $5. So I figured OK let's go grab it and I'll shove it in my suitcase. So we drove out there and did just that. When I got home to Texas I plugged it in and guess what - it didn't work. So now I own a $5 copy of Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball with no system to try it on - fair enough.

Two years and hundreds (or if I include eBay thousands) of potential Sega Genesis purchases later I see on Craigslist that a guy in my very town not even 3 miles down the road is selling his Genesis Model 1 with a controller but no AC adapter cord for $6. I figure - OK cool, I'll just use my useless power cable that I got with the Genesis 2 and I'm goood to go. But Sega would have none of it.  Turns out that even though the 3 different models of the Genesis were fully compatible with each other game-wise, for some reason Sega decided to make their power cable for the model 1 with a negative tip polarity, but for the following 2 models they went with a positive tip (the more conventional apparently). The nice fellow I bought it from did actually inform me of this and said I would most likely fry it if I tried to use the model 2 cord - which fits perfectly. Now why the hell would Sega do that?? So anyway, I thought I might be able to use a universal power supply I have so I bought it.  I got it home and my universal power supply could match the voltage but didn't have near enough amps.

So now I own 2 Sega Genesis systems (Genesi?) and still no way to play this damn copy of Sonic Spinball that I probably won't like anyway.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Amstrad GX4000

Today on the internet I stumbled across a console with which I was completely unfamiliar - the Amstrad GX4000. So, in accordance with my usual routine in such circumstances, I felt compelled to learn a little about it and, of course, to add it to the ever-growing list of systems I emulate on the game cab at home.

Here is a TV commercial for the system:



Amstrad released the GX4000 (only in the UK) in 1990 to compete with the other popular 8-bit consoles of the time, the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System. It was essentially a stripped down version of their CPC 6128+ computer and did have some hardware advantages over the other consoles, but unfortunately for Amstrad, Sega released the Mega Drive (Genesis) that same year to bring consoles into the 16-bit generation and the SNES followed shortly thereafter - so the GX4000 became obsolete almost immediately.

There were several other factors in its failure - inadequate advertising, the existing hold that Sega and Nintendo had on the industry, the complete lack of games for the system (fewer than 40 produced in the system's lifetime), and the fact that most of its games were just straight ports of older CPC games that were readily available at much lower prices on tape or disk.

I for one think it looks pretty cool though. How can you not like a system that looks so much like a rebel snow speeder from Empire Strikes Back?

The Amstrad GX4000

The Rebel Snow Speeder
It looks like it might have a little Cylon Raider mixed in there too which doesn't hurt in my book.

It came with the pack-in game Burnin' Rubber - which I assumed would be the European version of Bump n' Jump but actually turned out to be a racing game that was somewhere between Pole Position and OutRun. A decent little racing game that actually featured "drafting" where you could increase your speed if you approached directly behind a car to take advantage of their wind-breaking. But certainly no killer-app.



One fan even made a website as a tribute to the Amstrad GX4000 - http://gx4000.co.uk/

A glance on eBay shows these things are available for dirt cheap in the UK, but most of them didn't ship to the US and I don't even know if they would work with US power or on a NTSC TV so I found a good emulator for it instead. If you are disturbed like I am and want to try out a few of the GX4000 games then check out WinAPE at http://www.winape.net/ - it's a nifty little emulator. And you can download and try some of the games from theoldcomputer.comI played a few just to check out the console's capabilities and they were OK - but probably nothing that would bring me back to it -which I guess is what the general public thought back in 1990. But regardless, now I'm ready in case someone somewhere happens to recommend some obscure GX4000 game to me!

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Happy Birthday PS2... and I Hate the Term "Shmup"

A quickie post here. Apparently the PS2 was launched in the U.S. 10 years ago this week and in honor of that b'day I want to mention a PS2 post I saw on the excellent blog Retrogaming with Racketboy - "the PS2 Shmups Library" - mostly to bookmark it here for my own purposes because I am a big shooter fan and would like to try out some of the games mentioned in the post one of these days. I've never played a PS2 shooter.

One other thing. I used it because it is in the title of the blog post, but I absolutely hate the term "shmup". I see it fairly often online these days so apparently it is fairly common - at least among the younger crowd I'm guessing, but I'm 41 so I'll just stick with the good ol' generic "shooter". And if I want to get more specific to avoid confusion I'll just add a word - for example, "River Raid on the Atari is a great vertical shooter, but if you like horizontal shooters you gotta check out Chopper Command" - see what I did there kids?

I would love this t-shirt except for that ridiculous word across the top

I'm a little more comfortable with the unabbreviated version of the word - "shoot 'em up" - which clearly has entirely too many syllables to bother saying in toto, but even that term feels kind of stupid to me and essentially adds nothing. At first I thought this was just an age thing - old dog and new tricks and all that, but I just learned the term "bullet hell" not too long ago and I'm fine with that one. So I concluded that I am only resistant to those new video game terms that just sound fucking stupid - like shmup.

Hmm - I didn't realize I had a rant in me tonight. Must be sleepy. Don't even get me started on the idiotic term "pwned"...

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

HAAG Arcade Expo! (Part 2)

As Pungent Onion mentioned in a previous post - we recently spent 2 game-filled days in attendance at the Houston Area Arcade Group's 9th annual Arcade Expo.  There were a ton of games and the usual favorites were there, but there were a couple of unexpected surprise stars:

Quantum:  This 1982 color vector game by Atari is a bit like the game QIX. You use a trackball to control a probe with a trailing tail to encircle atomic particles which destroys them for points. Touch the particles and your probe explodes. Simple concept but great game. Joystix used to have this game, but I never played it until the Expo and I quite liked it!

Varkon:  In 1982 arcade games were all the rage and pinball was on the way out. So Williams designed this 1982 pinball to look like an arcade cabinet! The playfield was hidden at the bottom and reflected onto a vertical mirror like an arcade monitor while the flippers were controlled by dual joysticks a la Robotron. The most unique pinball I've ever seen and quite fun to boot. Unfortunately, someone broke the right flipper on Saturday but luckily we had played it quite a bit on Friday.

There was also a couple of unexpected disappointments:

Slugfest:  This 1991 Williams game is a bat-and-ball type where the ball is pitched to you from the center of the playfield and you bat it into various targets. 2 players can play simultaneously with one person pitching and one batting. There were several new features on the typical bat and ball game such as you could put spin on the pitch with breaking balls, steal bases, throw out runners, pinch hit, etc. We'd played the game before at Joystix (gone now) and loved it so expected some good fun - but the sound was tuned to an ear-piercing frequency and dialed up to 5000 decibals so I could barely play in between wiping away my sonic-induced nosebleeds.

Joust Pinball:  This 1983 pinball by Williams offers 2-player simultaneous play, is based on an all-time great arcade game, looks great, and is very rare. Plus I recently posted about the guy selling one on eBay so it was fresh in my mind and I was really expecting big things. I'm not saying it was terrible - but there are so few targets on the playfield and the hype in my mind was so high that I came away feeling a bit meh. And it's biggest downfall for me was that, unlike most other pinballs, it was pretty much worthless as a 1-player game.

Pungent and I did a walkthrough of the gaming area which he recorded on his trusty iPhone. I spliced the video files together and here is the product if you care to take a look at the various games that were there. The video is pretty long (see aforemention 'ton of games'), but we had to document them in case we ever had to prove it in a gaming court of law!

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

After Burner!

Another classic game they had in residence at the American Classic Arcade Museum in New Hampshire was the 1987 cockpit version of After Burner - where you pilot a F-14 Tomcat and destroy enemy fighters with machine guns and missiles while avoiding their fire with the throttle and flight stick. Coincidentally, Gnome had just recently posted in his excellent blog Retro Treasures about a guy who was selling one of these beauties on eBay for about $3K. When it comes to gaming I typically let myself float on the winds of coincidence so when I saw this baby at the museum I had to hop in for a spin.

Actually, most of my younger experience on After Burner was with the stand-up version and I was neither that fond of it nor very good at it (perhaps the former was a result of the latter). But one day I tried the deluxe version with its rotating flight-simulating cockpit, surround sound, and various lights on the control panel and all of a sudden this mediocre (to me) game became a pretty cool game after all.

Upon trying the game at the ACAM I discovered that I still found it quite enjoyable and that I was still awful at it. I did take a brief video of the experience and given my level of proficiency at the game the key word here is BRIEF.  Check it out.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

And Now... Finally... Kneel Before Death Race

I just got back from a week-long vacation in New England and a key part of the trip for me was a visit to the American Classic Arcade Museum - part of the Funspot Arcade in Laconia, New Hampshire. I tried to record a walk-through video of the place but I was fighting a dying camera battery and an overwhelming sense of awe and excitement that kept interfering with the efficiency of the recording. So that video needs to be cleaned up a bit first if I am going to post it.

But I did want to do go ahead and do a quick post about one particular game that I have been trying to play for a while now and finally got a chance to at the Museum - Death Race.  I did a post about Death Race back in August and now that I've actually played it I must say the game was much more fun than I initially expected it to be. Simple but fun - just like a good arcade game is supposed to be. And I only played it in 1-player mode - I'm sure playing 2 player would be even better.

You have 90 seconds to run down as many gremlins as possible and my high score of 18 wasn't quite enough to qualify for "Expert Driver" status but I'm happy with my "Gremlin Hunter" title.  I only played it 3-4 times, but if there weren't SO MANY other games there drawing my attention away I would have happily played it several more.

It was pretty dark in there so the video quality is not top notch - but if you care to check it out here ya go.

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Saturday, October 16, 2010

HAAG Arcade Expo! (Part 1)

As entertaining as topics from MadPlanet or Fallguy? Little chance of that! But, given the topic of the HAAG Arcade Expo, well, I can't screw it up too bad!! This is the first of 2 or 3, or maybe 4 or 5 posts (not sure when this will get horribly boring) about the Expo; both MadPlanet and I made it both days. To start, it was a great time and there's rarely a chance to spend about 20 hours playing lots of cool games over a 30 hour period. Some games never showed up (Death Race, Crazy Climber, etc), but there were also some games you rarely see (Joust pinball, Varkon pinball, and some old school stuff) that made up for it. The second post will have video of every game that was there, for now you'll have to put up with some mindless chatter about what we came across and my general impression of the event.


First, and most important, as of Saturday about 8:45 PM I had high score on Millipede of 94,125. Not sure how it finished up at 2 or 3 AM, but I am pretty damn proud of that accomplishment. I've got to believe (really, it's the only inspriation I have at this point) a few half-way decent players were on before me. Plus, MadPlanet already confirmed that his high score on his cabinet at home was only 92k and some change; nice being the king of the hill if even for a short time. I'm guessing that on return from the NE, MP will have already beaten or make it a mission to beat my score and it will fall within 2-3 weeks; feel free to let me down on this one.





So, on to things that other people care about. The games at the Expo included the following:

Cabinets (53 total):
  • Bubbles
  • Robotron
  • Joust
  • Mystic Marathon
  • Make Trax
  • Mystic Marathon (Prototype)
  • Battle Zone
  • Millipede
  • Journey
  • Gravitar
  • Joust 2
  • Dig Dug
  • Root Beer Tapper
  • Qubes
  • Defender (sit down version)
  • Track & Field
  • Astroids
  • Lunar Lander
  • Star Gate
  • Mario
  • Popeye
  • Donkey Kong
  • Galaga
  • Pong
  • Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
  • Spy Hunter
  • Ms Pacman
  • Tutankhan
  • Tempest
  • Major Havoc
  • Quantum
  • Black Widow
  • StarFire
  • Space Encounters
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Star Wars
  • Star Trek Voyager
  • Star Trek
  • Off-Road
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Guitar Hero
  • After Burner
  • RoboCop
  • Asteroids
  • Great 1,000 Mile Rally
  • Xybots
  • Tron
  • Baby Pacman
  • [plus 5 I couldn't ID from the video]

Pinballs (51 total):

  • Fish Tales
  • Eight Ball
  • Arena
  • Gophers
  • High Speed
  • Indiana Jones
  • Star Wars
  • Varkon
  • Adams Family
  • Doctor Who
  • Revenge from Mars
  • Check Point
  • Junk Yard
  • Gophers
  • The Who's Tommy
  • Johnny Mnemonic
  • Demolition Man
  • Fish Tales
  • WhirlWind
  • Joust (2-player)
  • Gilligan's Island
  • Elvira
  • NBA
  • Pin Bot
  • EarthShaking
  • Pinball Magic
  • Diner(?)
  • Bad Cats
  • Batman
  • Iron Man
  • 24
  • CSI
  • Corvette
  • Roller Coaster
  • Frankenstein
  • Scared ???
  • Attack from Mars
  • Champion Pub
  • Black Hole
  • Star Trek
  • Eight Ball
  • World Cup
  • Flash
  • High Speed
  • Jungle Lord
  • Lethal Weapon 3
  • Star Wars
  • FunHouse
  • Avatar
  • Attack from Mars
  • [plus 1 I couldn't ID from the video]

Old Scool Pinballs (8 total):

  • Unnamed (Flags)
  • Sally
  • Flipper Pool
  • Kings & Queens
  • Sing Along
  • Bank-A-Ball
  • Hi-Score Pool
  • Suspense

Old Scool Cabinets/Pinball-ish (5 total):

  • Baseball ???
  • Strike Zone
  • Unknown (Crazy marble game)
  • Little League
  • Shooting Gallery

Other:

  • Atari 2600
  • Atari 5200
  • Atari 7800
  • Comodore
  • Vectorex
  • ...and some others I can't ID on the video
So, what's next? Part 2 will hopefully be the videos showing all the games, and part 3 should include a bit of commentary on some of the games. There were a few that were surprisingly good, and a few that fell short of expectations.......to be continued.........











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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hardball! on the Commodore 64



I am seriously considering buying this factory-sealed new boxed game of Hardball! for the Commodore 64 on eBay for $14.99.  Maybe a little steep with the $5 shipping thrown on top, but Hardball! is definitely on my classics list and I can state with certainty that it still holds up pretty darn well (for me at least) because I played a game of it versus FG40 just a couple of years ago and it was still great fun.  Oh Hank Contos, how I miss you and your "somebody gonna pay" attitude. I'd probably rate hardball as my second favorite baseball video game of all time - and I've played a lot of them. Hardball was released in 1985 on multiple systems and I played the hell out of it on two of them - the Commodore 64 and the Mac 512K - both excellent versions with enough differences to keep it interesting.

But I saw one guy on the Lemon64.com Hardball forum who apparently loved it even more than I did.  He played an entire season of 162 games against the computer and kept unbelievably meticulous offline records to support a very impressive statistical evaluation while finishing the season at 141-21.  Check out his posts on the effort here. Who was the offensive star in his season?  The flamboyant Willie Barnes who hit .457 with 100 home runs and 204 RBIs - that's not a bad year.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Firebug Ad - It Sizzles!

In the previous post I talked about a controversial old game by Muse for the Apple II called "Firebug" and today I stumbled across an old magazine ad for the game on the website http://apple2history.org/ so I just had to do a follow-up post.  Don't ask me to explain why - my brain wasn't quite ready to let go of Firebug yet and as usual I'm just along for the ride.

So here it is - for the original retail price of $24.95 - Firebug.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Firebug - You Made an Ash of Yourself

I was reading the January 1983 edition of Video Games Magazine (yeah - that's the kind of stuff I do) and saw an article about a controversial game on the Apple II called "Firebug" by Muse Software.  In the game you are a "firebug" whose job is to set fire to several different floors of a building using a lit fuse and several gas cans - the more fire damage, the higher your score.  Fire officials were outraged by the game and were concerned that it would encourage kids to become arsonists.  I then discovered the game was created by Silas Warner, who also made Castle Wolfenstein which was one of my all-time favorites on the C64 - so I decided to give Firebug a go.



When the game begins you get to select the length of your fuse - the shorter the fuse, the higher the difficulty level of the game.  Then you (a 3x3 square) start running through a maze of walls on the fifth floor of the building stringing the fuse behind you which eventually lights and burns toward you.  Gas cans are scattered throughout the maze and when you run over them you knock them over which creates a spreading puddle of gasoline that the trailing lit fuse quickly ignites.  If you run by the can without knocking it over the lit fuse will cause the gas can to explode into a fireball when it reaches it.  You can also pick up the gas cans and drop them in other locations in an effort to maximize your fire damage.  If the fire touches you it's a gruesome death and game over - remember that kids!  Once you've created as much charcoal as possible without igniting yourself you escape down the stairs to the next lower floor and proceed to burn that one down too.  Each lower floor brings tighter and more complex mazes until you burn down the first floor and escape out the front door.  Here is a brief video of the gameplay:



The game ran on Apple II's Lo-Res graphics mode which only displayed 16 colors with a 40x48 resolution so as you can see the graphics were quite primitive even for 1982.  But the colorful display when the fire exploded and burned was pretty cool - I imagine that effect was pretty impressive back then.  Actually I think it looks kinda cool now.  Also, the game stores high scores with the player's initials - a feature that I have always appreciated.

My only real complaint with the game is that it ends after you escape the first floor so you only get 5 floors of play before the game is over which doesn't take long at all.  I would have liked them to have allowed you to run into another building and continue the game.  Then again, maybe I'm just missing something because several people on the high score list had higher levels listed by their names and mine just said level 1.  Maybe if you burn down 100% of every floor then it lets you continue - I don't know.

So all in all I think it's a decent little game.  I can see where the simple gameplay could be addictive and the colorful burning effects would have looked pretty cool back in the day, but without the benefit of Apple II nostalgia I probably won't be coming back to this game much in this day and age, especially due to the apparent 5-floor limitation.  Still, I did enjoy it while I was playing it.  I would definitely put it in my list of top 10 favorite games of all time for the Apple II. Just don't ask me how many Apple II games I've ever played.

If you'd like to try it for yourself download the AppleWin emulator HERE and a copy of the game HERE from RetroCPU.

Also, now that you've witnessed the horror, here are the pages from the 1983 VGM article if you care to read them - click to expand.


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