Friday, April 30, 2010

For Sale: X-Arcade Joysticks

Using your keyboard to play old arcade games on MAME is great and I did it for quite a while. But eventually I discovered the X-Arcade Joystick rig and I gotta tell ya, it makes the experience so much more enjoyable. They use real arcade quality gear on these things and if you really want to bring the authentic arcade experience home they work great! I happily used mine for years before finally taking the plunge and getting the full-blown MAME cabinet. They aren't cheap but then again a new PS3 game will cost you $60 so you know - if you really want to play some old arcade games at home it is definitely worth it.

My set was the X-Arcade dual joystick which I think ran me $150 or so back in the day. But you can get it today at the low-low bargain basement price of only $129.95. What a steal! That sounds like I'm being sarcastic but no seriously, I think they are awesome. I only got rid of mine when I got the full-sized cab and didn't need it anymore so I traded it to a guy for a modded XBOX (that I rarely play).

But what? You say you like to play Centipede, Missile Command, Millipede, Marble Madness, Golden Tee, or the dozens of other games that use a trackball? Well you're in luck my friend because when I was playing on it I just had to make due with a mouse for all that stuff but now they have the X-Arcade Tankstick complete with Trackball!

With this baby you can play all the trackball games plus it works pretty darn well for spinner games too like Tempest and Arkanoid. This model goes for $199.95. It also has 2 buttons on the sides that you can use for flipper and bump action for pinball games. They also have a mini 1-player only version for $99.95 - but really - if you are going to drop that much change on a controller you might as well set it up for 2-player action. But that's just - like - my opinion man.

They also sell adapters so you can use it on your PS3, Wii, XBOX 360, Dreamcast, etc. if you want to - although I never got around to trying that because I became captivated by the thousands of arcade games on MAME that I had to play.

So there you go - strong recommendation to buy. I got mine at a store years ago - Fry's I think - but I never see them around anymore. So you will probably have to get yours on their website: Do it! Do it!

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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dead Space 2 Trailer Released

EA’s Visceral Games studio in Redwood Shores, California released their first announcement trailer for Dead Space 2 today. The first Dead Space scared the hell out of me and is one of my all-time favorite games. Dead Space 2 is supposed to be out in December 2010 so you can get into the holiday spirit with some more jolly dismembering - "Merry Christmas you Necromorph bastards!" This will most likely be one of the very rare occasions where I buy a game on day 1.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

For Sale: Game Cartridge Soaps

Not really planning on buying any but thought this product was unique enough for a shoutout - is selling soap in the shapes of NES, SNES, Nintendo 64, and Gameboy cartridges. Can anyone say Nintendo fanboys? Other systems are in the works.

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Emulators: MAME - Flyers and Cabinets and Snaps oh my!

If you followed my previous MAME post you have Galaga up and running. MAMEUIFX also has several tabs on the right side of the screen that when clicked show images of a snapshot of the game in progress, the sales flyer for the game, the arcade cabinet, etc. These images are .png files (all with the same filename) that are saved to various folders in the MAME installation folder. So again using Galaga as an example, click the links below and download these image files into the associated MAME folders.

Save the Snapshot to the folder "snap"
Save the Flyer to the folder "flyers"
Save the Cabinet to the folder "cabinets"
Save the Marquee to the folder "marquees"
Save the Title to the folder "titles"
Save the Control Panel to the folder "cpanel"
Save the PCB to the folder "pcb"

You don't need these files to play the game but hey - they're cool so you really should have them. Also I recommend going to Options -> Interface Options -> and checking the box to "Stretch screenshot larger than actual size" so the images are maximized to fit the size of your window.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Press Play on Tape - Cannon Fodder

As promised - here is Press Play on Tape playing the Cannon Fodder theme song on game controllers hooked into a synthesizer at RetroConcert Copenhagen in 2005. Is it geeky? Of course. Is it awesome? Absolutely!

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Press Play on Tape

If you were ever blessed enough to own a piece of pre-1541 floppy drive Commodore technology called the datasette and had it hooked up to your C64 (I'm just assuming you had one) then you know full well that the title statement often preceeded an opportunity to go take a break and get a snack while your program slowly loaded in.

A while back I discovered the self-branded "Commodore 64 revival band" from Copenhagen called 'Press Play on Tape' when they played the theme song to the game Cannon Fodder using nothing but old game controllers hooked up to a synthesizer. I'll throw that video on here too but I just saw this video of their original song "The Man With the Gun" using their more usual conventional instruments and I thought it was cool so I wanted to share it - enjoy!

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Monday, April 19, 2010

For Sale: Arcade Mugs

What? You say you could really use a mug with a maze on it that when filled with hot coffee has pac-man ghosts and dots magically appear? Okey dokey - $7.99 at They have a Space Invaders one too.

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Modern Warfare 2 on Family Guy

In case you missed the last Family Guy, Peter played a little Modern Warfare 2 at the end...

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Emulators: MAME - Getting Started

There are lots of emulators out there for playing lots of old video game consoles and computer systems but the most famous and most well-developed one is MAME – the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. MAME is a non-commercial labor of love started back in 1997 to preserve classic arcade games and is still being developed and played by an active community. Currently MAME emulates over 7000 games – about half of which are original titles and half of which are clones or foreign builds of the original titles.

There are a number of MAME front-ends and alternate builds that provide additional features not provided in the native MAME code - my favorite is MAMEUIFX, mostly because it provides high-score save support for games without NVRAM support (generally older games). I also run Hyperspin on my MAME cabinet as a front-end for MAME and other emulators but that is for a later post. So let's start off this trip down memory lane with a simple but timeless classic - Galaga.

1. Click HERE to download the MAMEUIFX installation file (mameuifx32_0137.exe). Double-click and follow the prompts to install - put it in its own folder because it expands into a number of files and folders. I recommend leaving the box checked to create a desktop shortcut. Once MAMEUIFX is installed you can delete the original installation file.

2. Click
HERE to download the Galaga ROM file ( and save it into the "roms" folder in your MAME installation folder. Do NOT unzip the file - leave it as a .zip file.

3. Run MAMEUIFX32 and after the MAME screen opens up hit F5 to refresh the list of games. If you have a PC joystick you can also plug that in and use that to control your games; otherwise you will just have to use the keyboard.

4. You will probably start off in the "All Games" folder on the left of the screen which shows a ton of games - none of which you have yet. So click on the folder right below that titled "Available" and you will see Galaga as your one available game in the big middle screen.

5. Double-click “Galaga" in the middle screen to run the game. When the intro screen to the ROM shows up just type OK (or hit the left-right keys) to proceed. Then another menu showing technical specs on the game shows up - hit any key to skip by this and then the actual game screen appears (FINALLY!).

6. In MAME the "5" key indicates inserting a coin in the Player 1 slot and the "1" key is the Player 1 start button. So.... push 5 to pop in a virtual quarter and then push 1 to start a 1-player game and you are off to the races!

7. The left and right controls of the joystick are controlled by your left and right directional keys and the fire button is the left Ctrl key. All these buttons can be customized to other keys if you wish but we won’t get into that right now.

8. If your game is over you will need to hit 5 to put in another quarter and then 1 to start another game (or 2 if you want to play a 2-player game - but that will cost 2 virtual quarters!). If you are ready to quit playing just hit the Esc key. An exit confirmation screen will appear and you just need to hit Enter to quit (or Esc again to cancel the quit and keep playing).

Enjoy and let me know what you think or if you have any questions!

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bio-Attack - Maybe not fantastic, but it's a voyage

The sci-fi classic Fantastic Voyage was on TV last night - in case you are unfamiliar with it a group of scientists and their super-scientific surgery ship are miniaturized and injected into a comatose VIP to perform life-saving surgery while being attacked by the host's immune system (and an on-board traitor). Well, except for the traitor, that is the same theme of Bio-Attack - an arcade vertical shooter released in 1983 by Taito. I'm pretty sure no one has ever seen this obscure game so - why not talk about it?

You pilot a miniaturized ship making your way through a man's bloostream with the goal of shooting the bacteria, viruses, and other little baddies that are screwing with this guy's innards - and apparently he's filthy sick because no matter how much shit you shoot you never quite cure this poor bastard. You work you way to his heart, then stomach, then eventually to escape out of his right eye (just like in Fantastic Voyage) to - that's right - start all over again (poor bastard). The different areas in the body also offer different types of obstacles to overcome and your progress is tracked on a map of the guy's body in the lower right corner of the screen.

All the while your oxygen supply is depleting at the bottom of the screen - but this is never really a factor anyway except that you get bonus points for oxygen left over after each level.

To me Bio-Attack is like Vanguard mixed with Venture. Definitely a lower-tier version of those guys but still not a bad little game. The sound effects are OK for the day but the constant music definitely tends to get rather annoying after a while.

The bigger problem with the game though is that the hit-detection is a little flaky - there were several times where I thought I glided safely by a bad guy only to blow up and even more times when I shot directly through one of the little bastards with no effect. If that occasional glitch were improved then it would have gotten a little more credit in my book - but as it is I give it a 6.1. Now that I've gone back to it and escaped out the eye I probably won't hit it much but who knows, I still occasionally watch Fantastic Voyage and that flick came out way back in 1966!

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The best knight in the world, bested!

Excalibur? Anybody? OK moving on... What is the longest-standing arcade game high score record of all-time? Well, last week it was 41,336,440 on Asteroids set by 15-year-old Scott Safran back in 1982. But it’s something else now because on Monday night in Portland, Oregon, John McAllister banged out a couple thousand more points than that to capture the new Asteroids crown at 41,338,740 points. It took him 58 straight hours to hit that score – with just the occasional bathroom break where he had to just dash off and let his extra ships die while he was takin' care of business.

Twin Galaxies, the reigning authority on video game records, has to authenticate the score (which somehow takes 2 months) before it officially goes in the books but since he apparently broadcast the entire thing live over the internet it seems likely to be legit.

Here is John on a local news broadcast.

I assume every human being knows what Asteroids is but just in case you are something else it is a vector arcade game released by Atari in 1979 where you are a spaceship flying around inside an asteroid field trying to blow them to bits before they crash into you. Flying saucers also periodically make an appearance and shoot at you. In addition to your thrusters you also have a hyperspace button whose sole purpose is to make you disappear from one marginally dangerous location and reappear at a much more highly dangerous location where you explode shortly after materializing = HYPERSPACE SUCKS!

I was never all that great at Asteroids - my high score is literally about a 1000 times lower than the record - but I’ve always liked the game. It is controlled entirely by buttons, which has always held a fascination for me for some reason. Plus there are so few vector games it remains unique even with such basic gameplay. And it is excellently emulated in MAME so you don’t have to have one at your local arcade (remember those?) you can download the ROM and give it a whirl. The only regret I have with the MAME version is that it cannot properly emulate the brightness of your spacehip’s bullets – or photon torpedos - or whatever. I always liked shooting those bright blips across the screen on the real game. I definitely still bring it up on the cab every now and then for a go. I rate it an 8.8.

Twin Galaxies STILL hasn't called me to confirm my high score of 45,650!

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Holy Grail of Atari cartridges on sale

A guy from Austin is selling a copy of the Atari 2600 game Air Raid, complete with box, on eBay - and with over a week left the current bid is already up to $6,500. Air Raid is one of the rarest games for the Atari 2600 and up until now a copy with the box intact was not known to exist - but apparently it has been boxed up in this guy's garage since 1985. Click here to check out the auction. [UPDATE: It sold 4/10 for a final price of $31,600!].

Well this seemed like a good excuse for me to try out the game for myself. Of course I don't own the real cartridge (or there would be TWO of them on eBay right now) but I do own the ROM and a working copy of the emulator Stella on the arcade cab so I flipped the switch and popped in the virtual cartridge.

The game plays kind of like missile command made into a vertical shooter. You are some kind of aircraft moving left and right at the bottom of the screen and firing up at flying saucers, fighter jets, and helicopters that are attacking your city.

The enemies fly down from the top of the screen and shoot at you and the skyscrapers in your city. If their bullets hit you then you die. If their bullets hit the buildings then the buildings take damage and after about 3 or 4 hits they collapse. After the 2 or 3 buildings collapse your game is over. And your plane is apparently constantly flying to the left because the buildings keep scrolling by from left to right.

The game was actually fairly fun with halfway decent graphics and sound (for an Atari 2600 game), and unlike a lot of 2600 games it was pretty challenging – my games didn't last very long at all. I did have a few complaints though. The hit detection was kinda flaky - the flying saucer baddies went up in smoke pretty reliably but I frequently put bullets straight through the fighter jets and helicopters with no effect which was aggravating. Also, the shooting was too slow and I found myself hitting the fire button a lot and just being forced to wait for the next bullet to load up to shoot.

So while it's certainly not the best Atari game I’ve ever played, it is far from the worst. I give it 6.0 weird t-handle cartridges out of 10.

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