Sunday, January 30, 2011


I'm afraid I'm not politically informed enough to be able to intelligently discuss Hosni Mubarak and the revolutionary demonstrations taking place in Egypt. But Egypt was in all the news, so I grabbed that thread and wove it into a much more trival discussion of the old arcade game Tutankham.

Konami created Tutankham in 1982 (and licensed it to Stern for the U.S. release). The game was originally to be entitled the more historically accurate 'Tutankhamon', but when the developers decided to change from a horizontal monitor to a vertical one they had to lop off the '-ON' to allow the title to fit on the narrower screen width. Why couldn't they have just reduced the font size of the title graphic? I dunno.

Even though I never saw the game in any of the arcades back in those days I was very aware of its existence due to a nice ad for the Atari VCS (Atari 2600) version that often appeared on the back cover of several of the comic books I was reading at the time.

In fact, I didn't even realize this was a port of an arcade game until I stumbled onto it in MAME a couple of years ago. I always just thought it was some Atari game. Here is an amusing old commercial for the Atari port.

In Tutankham you wander around the maze of King Tut's tomb trying to find as much treasure as you can while avoiding the bats, snakes, and monsters that are trying to kill you. In addition to your agile maneuvering you are equipped with a laser gun with which to shoot the creepy crawlies down. Don't ask me why they went with a laser instead of the more historically conventional handgun - cooler visual and sound effect I suppose. Also, for some reason you can only shoot to the left and right - not up and down. This little detail makes absolutely no sense and quite annoyed me at first, but it introduces a little more strategy into the game since you are basically helpless when you go up or down vertical tunnels, so I warmed up to it.

To complete a level you have to find the key or keys needed to open a large door at the end of the level and then you move on to the next maze. You also get bonus points depending on how quickly you are able to complete the level. Here is a little video of the gameplay.

Oh - and I almost forgot the secret weapon. Just like I always forget to use it in the game which pisses me off every time. You have a flash bomb that you can use once per level or once per life that destroys all creature on the screen. Don't let them go to waste!

I may not have been aware of this arcade game growing up, but a lot of other people out there apparently consider it a classic. It's one of the 6 arcade games featured in the famous 1982 Life Magazine photograph of the 'video game world champions' with the 5 others being the more universally recognized arcade classics Tempest, Defender, Ms. Pac-Man, Centipede, and Donkey Kong.

I finally got a chance to play the actual arcade game last October at the Houston Area Arcade Group Arcade Expo and although it didn't grab me at first, it did grow on me. The game is quite challenging but enjoyable. And I like the Robotron-esque dual-joystick controls.

In addition to the Atari 2600, Tutankham was also ported to the Colecovision and the Intellivision. There was also a prototype created for the Odyssey 2 that was not published. Computer ports were also released for the Atari 800, Commodore VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, Tandy Color Computer, and TI-99/4A. As if that weren't enough it was also released in 1983 as two different handheld LCD games and more recently for the Nintendo DS and in Game Room on Xbox LIVE and Games for Windows - LIVE.

So, if you'd like to check it out I would recommend trying it on MAME with some sort of dual joystick controller if possible, but as you can see there are a number of ports you can try too. In particular I was impressed by the Colecovision port - now THAT was a great system for arcade ports back in the day.

Oh - and if you want to own a real one check out the eBay auction for one for $550.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Custer's Revenge

Earlier today I was reading an old copy of Videogaming and Computer Gaming Illustrated from 1983 that was discussing the uproar surrounding the then-contemporary game Custer's Revenge. If you've been around the video games scene for a long time you've probably heard about this notorious game for the Atari 2600. Even though the game is terrible it is noteworthy for the controversial splash it made so I thought I would do a post on it.

Right off the bat I do have to begrudgingly award the game an extra point for the hot babe on the box - she looks a lot like Salma Hayek - and I have always been a sucker for Salma Hayek. Salma, if you are reading this - call me. But I digress.

Custer's Revenge was released in October 1982 by the Los Angeles company American Multiple Industries (AMI) under the brand name Mystique / Swedish Erotica for the Atari 2600. In the game you play as General George Armstrong Custer who, in accordance with 7th cavalry regulations and the battlefield custom of the time, is completely nude except for a hat, hot pink scarf, and cowboy boots. He is also sporting a foot and a half long bitmapped erection. Sorry - but there is just no ignoring that monster once you see the screenshot.


Custer's goal is to make his way across a dusty plain, avoid being killed by arrows, and hook up with a lovely Native American maiden on the other side of the screen who has a 2D rack so big it makes Lara Croft look flat-chested.

If you are able to successfully navigate your way through the arrows (and attacking cactus on if you play games 3 or 4) you are able to begin peace talks with the lovely lady by rapidly hitting the joystick fire button to "score". And that is all there is to it.

The game was immediately met with outrage from womens' rights groups and Native American groups as well as critics of the video game industry in general. Protests were staged outside of electronics shows where the game was being demonstrated.

The depiction of the sexual act was inflammatory enough but the artwork with the Native American girl tied up and the use of the word "revenge" in the game's name seemed to indicate that the sex was rather non-consensual - although AMI president Stuart Keston insisted that both parties were indeed consenting adults. In fact, Keston was so comfortable with the content that he said he let his 11-year-old son play the game. "There's no violence or venereal disease - we have entertainment in mind."

I've played the game on the Stella emulator out of curiosity and I can say for a fact that the game sucks. Not because of the alleged depiction of rape but simply because the game is just no fun. But as is often the case, the negative press given to the game back in the early 80's actually increased sales and AMI reportedly ended up selling 80,000 copies of the game.

And if YOU want to own one of those copies for yourself you can get a sealed version of this conversation piece off of eBay for just a little over what it was going for in 1982 at

Oh - and I also just found out that a Brazillian company called Mysticca actually made a remake of the game in 2008. I haven't actually tried it myself so I can't vouch for it at all - but if you want to check it out you can download it from

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Goblin War Machine

I just discovered (thanks to a review on Botchweed) the Goblin War Machine - a free flash game from indie developer Big Block Games.  The grayscale 2D graphics and physics-based destruction gameplay reminded me of Limbo which I rather enjoyed and of course I've recently been in "destroy everything in sight with a wry smile" mode from playing Pain, so I checked it out.

In Big Block's own words: "Smash! Crash! Drive, destroy! The Goblin Horde is on the rampage. Outfit your War Machine for maximum devastation, and plow straight through the nearest human village. Just don't expect those pesky humans to take it lying down..."

You start off the game with the standard war machine but for every villager you crush, shoot, or otherwise dispatch, you get a skull and after you complete each level you can use the skulls as currency to purchase and install upgrades to your war machine to further maximize your killing efficiency. And although it is ridicuously easy to cruise through these levels I can confirm that if you waste too much time hanging around the little villagers can indeed destroy you. And at the end of each level a darkly humorous little narrative pops up to let you know how many villagers were left alive i.e. how well you performed. The game features achievements, unlockable levels as you go along, and progress saves online.

Like most online flash games that I've seen the game is EXTREMELY simple so it is easy to pull up and play online for a few minutes of mindless fun. Won't be something you'll play for hours - but I wouldn't expect a free flash game to be in that category. I enjoyed it for what it is. And did I mention it is 100% free??  How can you complain with a price tag like that? Check it out on Big Block Games' website.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Elvira - Mistress of the Dark (and Pain for the PS3)

Las Saturday night around 2:00 AM or so I was flipping through the channels and I happened across Elvira, Mistress of the Dark hosting "Elvira's Movie Macabre".  Does anyone else remember Elvira? She looked pretty much the exact same as I remember her from 25-30 years ago. I'd never seen the movie she was hosting - the Werewolf of Washington - but it starred Dean Stockwell (from Quantum Leap and more recently Battlestar Galactica) as a White House press secretary who gets bitten by a werewolf in Hungary and then brings some good old fashioned wolfman terror back with him to D.C.. Classic B-grade horror flick with a bit of political/social satire mixed in for good measure (it was released in 1973 in the middle of the Watergate scandal).

The movie was so bad it was good. It reminded me of how much I used to enjoy watching these old, and often cheesy, horror flicks. And I liked Elvira's periodic comic relief during the movie too - so I decided to start catching the show. But anyway what's the gaming angle here?  While wandering around her website I came across this video that informed me she was a downloadable character in a downloadable PS3 game called Pain.

Seemed an oddly dated choice for a playable character and the game itself is a bit off the beaten path too. I quite enjoyed a somewhat similar concept on a level in Trials HD for the 360 and of course I am always looking for a good sign from the cosmos telling me try a game completely out of the blue so I downloaded Pain, along with the Elvira playable character of course, and gave it a go.

The main part of the game is called PAINDEMONIUM where you basically launch yourself with a giant adjustable slingshot into a downtown city (or other downloadable environments) and try to wreak as much havok as you can by smashing your body into various objects, people, and animals for points. You can strike various poses in the sky for style points or to squeeze through tight spaces and you can also grab things to either hang/swing from them or to throw them at other things. Normal movement after you launch is determined by the Havok physics engine, but you can control your direction somewhat in mid-air and you get something called "OOCH" that let's you muscle your body one direction or without having to hit anything. The ooch meter refills after a few seconds as long as you keep moving. Once per turn if you shake the controller it powers up "Super Ooch", its stronger cousin. Once your momentem has stopped, your ooch is spent, and your limp body has come to a hault following whatever mayhem you have wrought a timer starts and if you don't move in 15 seconds that turn is over. At that point you have to hope a car runs over you and drags you down the street or a giant doughnut rolls into you and knocks you into a crate full of explosives - both of which are distinct possibilities - and if you can get some motion again the timer starts over.

I found the dialogue and sound effects to be pretty amusing too. Sophomoric humor to be sure but it worked for me. Oh and there are a lot of other downloadable characters too - I've got my eye on you George Takei - Ohhh my!

And that's about the size of it. Yeah, not the most cerebral game in the world but for a $10 downloadable game I find it pretty entertaining. And it is actually quite amazing how much various destructive content the guys at Idol Minds included in this thing. There are other oddball levels and features too that like 1) MIME TOSS - you have to grab a mime in mid-air and fling him into panes of glass to see how quickly you can smash them all, 2) FUN WITH EXPLOSIVES - where you try to cause as many explosions in 3 launches as possible, 3) PAIN BOWLING - bowling except you are the bowling ball and things are exploding around you to screw up your throw, and 4) SPANK THE MONKEY where monkeys keep popping up everywhere and you have to nail them as fast as you can.

There are several other modules you can buy if you like although I won't be doing that. There is an online and local multiplayer mode too, but I already feel like I've written way too much about this brainless little game which I am little embarrassed to admit I enjoy for some brief quick hit fun.

Oh plus I dig the theme song which I can only assume is entitled Pain. The only lyrics are "P-A-I-N, P-A-I-N PAIN!". [Updated 5/9/2011] I just found the song for download HERE.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mario Saves the Princess

Qickie mini-post here.  As loathe as I am to further promote the overexposure of Mario I found this little video that Seth MacFarlane (of Family Guy and American Dad) made about when Mario saves Princess Peach and found it pretty amusing. Apparently it's been around for 2-3 years so maybe everyone else but me has already seen it but hey it was new to me!

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Your Mom is Going to Medium Disapprove of Dead Space 2

Well Dead Space 2 is set to drop on January 25 and I will definitely be getting it as I thoroughly enjoyed the first one. You may have heard about EA's Dead Space 2 commercial that was televised during Saturday's playoff game between the Packers and Falcons. In it EA served up some self-created controversy by inviting a panel of mothers in to provide their feedback on a "new video game" while they privately recorded the whole thing on hidden cameras for the commercial. Then they showed the moms the goriest parts of Dead Space 2. My favorite quote from one of the mothers was "It's not a game. It's a dangerous mind-numbing, mind-altering, demonic weapon!"

Apparently it did cause somewhat of a controversey as the usual spectrum of knuckleheads chimed in on the internet with their diametrically opposed and unwavering opinions. I don't care about that nonsense, I just wanted to point out one particular mom who, although she ultimately didn't approve of the game, had fun with it and was very nice and actually rather comical in her response, as opposed to some of the more rigid mothers who were simply sickened and outraged by this filth.

I present to you participant #0124:

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Arcade Blast in Garrison, Texas

A rather belated yet still quite cheerful happy new year to all!  As I’ve mentioned on here before, I am a bit of an arcade freak, so for my first post of 2011 I'd like to give a shout out to a tiny town arcade that I discovered at the very end of 2010 - Arcade Blast in Garrison, Texas.

The day before New Year’s Eve Mrs. MP and I and the Onions were heading to the small East Texas towns of Jefferson and Marshall to wander through some antique shops, check out Christmas lights, and basically just kick back and enjoy the small-town charm. As we were driving on highway 59 about 18 miles northeast of Nacogdoches, we passed through the tiny town of Garrison and I noticed a sign out of the corner of my eye “Arcade Blast Old Fashioned Soda Fountain”. Hmmm… I thought to myself, that looks intriguing, but it’s getting kinda late and we don’t really have time to – WAIT THERE’S A GIANT MONKEY OUT FRONT WEARING A T-SHIRT! Brakes locked, tires screeched, and an acrid cloud of smoke billowed out from beneath the car (please scratch scratch n’ sniff #2 here) as we skid to a halt in the parking lot to check it out.

The arcade was inside an old building that I can only assume is/was a Farmer's Supply Store based on the sign. It was a bit like a small town general store inside with some miscellaneous odds and ends for sale - except things appeared a bit disorganized and there was a lot of open space so perhaps they had only recently opened and were still getting things in place. Or maybe that's just how they roll. Either way is fine by me but the place might benefit from a little work inside. Not work on the actual building itself though - I like when new places move into older buildings and leave that old feel in place. New buildings are boring.

We were the only ones in the place and the guy that was working there was very friendly. They had a cool old-fashioned bar to sit at and eat ice cream, pizza, and various other food items - none of which I had time to try and so cannot really comment on. I also noticed an assortment of other interesting items such as a theater-style popcorn machine, an air hockey table, a big screen TV, and a jukebox - which I presume worked but have no idea (see aforementioned lack of time). But of course the tie-in here is the arcade cabs - of which they had the following 10:

Ms. Pac-Man (1981)
After Burner (1987)
Vindicators (1988)
Neo-Geo MVS 4 slot (1989) - Bomberman Panic Bomber (1994), 3-Count Bout (1993), and 2 others I can't recall
Revolution X (1994) - Out of order
Die Hard (1996)
Egg Venture (1997) - No sound
San Francisco Rush the Rock - Alcatraz Edition (1997)
Pac-Man / Ms. Pac-Man / Galaga 25th Anniversary (2005)
Global Arcade Classics (2010) - Multicade with 80 games

Not a bad little selection for a little joint in a bump on the road - according to the 2000 US Census the town of Garrison is just under 2 square miles and has a population of 844. They still have a lot of unused space too so hopefully they will add more old arcade games to their inventory. We played a few quick games of Vindicators which is a nice little co-op tank game that I played once before in 1984 (arcade in Missouri), Bomberman Panic Bomber which is a split-screen Tetris-ish puzzle game (except with bombs) that I had never played before but was kinda fun except supposedly Onion's controller was a little messed up (that was his story anyway), and Egg Venture which is a light-gun shooter where you basically see who can shoot the most "bad eggs" while shooting the fewest "good eggs" - apparently all the bad eggs had experienced ocular misfortunes because they were all sporting eyepatches, which was quite fortunate otherwise you wouldn't be able to tell the damn things apart. I'm normally not much on light gun games but I rather enjoyed this one - very simplistic but fun with the 2-player simultaneous competition a-la Big Buck Hunter. Unfortunately the game didn't have any sound so they need to fix that.

All in all I thought it was a nice little joint. Not a target destination, but definitely a nice rest stop on a Highway 59 road trip. So if you happen to be driving on 59 just north of Nacogdoches be sure to stop by, have a root beer float and play a few games to help these guys stay in business. Just don't blink when you pass through Garrison or you might just miss it.

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