Archive for the ‘Virtual Boy’ Category

Red Alarm

Friday, November 9th, 2007

I thought the Virtual Boy was kind of neat, but I suppose folks just couldn’t wrap their heads around a system that took batteries but wasn’t portable. It was kind of cumbersome to use, and gave folks that didn’t know how to set it up properly eye strain. You also couldn’t really get a sense of the pseudo 3D the system could do from the screenshots, which, at the time, was pretty impressive despite its cumbersomeness.

Due to these factors, there weren’t a lot of games for the system, and of the games that did come out, several of them didn’t really do the 3D very well. Games like Red Alarm.

Red Alarmis a pretty generic shooting game. You take a ship through various areas, blowing up anything that moves. It’s pretty unremarkable, really. However, you’ll notice quite a flaw pretty quickly: everything is made of wireframes. Which is to say that everything looks like it’s made from straightened paperclips.

It could be due to the way my brain works, but since I could see through absolutely every structure in the game, I had a really hard time telling where the solid surfaces were and where the open areas were. In a game where you fly through cave-like structures, this becomes pretty important. I spent more time flying into walls that looked like they had tunnels in them than I did actually playing the thing. And as fun as it is to recreate what happens when a housefly gets stuck behind a window, I can immediately think of several dozen things are more fun.

Mario Clash

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

As I’ve mentioned before I have a Virtual Boy and didn’t hate it. I talked about Mario Bros. yesterday so I could talk about Mario Clash today.

Mario Clash is almost completely identical to Mario Bros. with one major difference: the game is in pseudo 3D (no big surprise here). The game is mostly the same: various vermin come out of the pipes and you have to hit them to flip them over and kick them while they’re down. This game, though, introduces a foreground and a background and a new play mechanic, the ability to pick up and throw shells.

You can throw the shells left and/or right like in a boring, not 3D game or you can throw them from the foreground to the background and vice versa. This makes the game slightly tougher since you have to have not only a good sense of timing, but a sense of timing in 3D space. Other than that, it’s basically the same game. Not quite a sequel, but still a good way to waste a couple of minutes.

Wario Land

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Yes, I actually own a Virtual Boy. I even bought a few games for the thing. Most of them weren’t too bad, and Wario Land was actually pretty good.

The Wario Land series is kind of like the Super Mario Bros. series with a couple of differences, primarily that Wario isn’t adventuring to achieve some greater good like rescuing princesses or defeating giant spiky-shelled turtles, he wants to get money and treasure. Fair enough.

The story in Wario Land is pretty much irrelevant. You start out in a cave and must work your way across the stage, then up an elevator, then across a stage, then up an elevator. Mix in a couple of boss fights, and that’s pretty well it. What I found weird was that all the stages are laid end-to-end through the entire game, meaning that if you saved while on the last stage and wanted to go back to the first stage to pick up something you missed, you could, but you’d have to go through the entire game backward. It makes some kind of sense, but it’s still a little tedious. Especially once you start trying to collect the hidden treasures. Yeah, there are hidden treasures, one per stage, and you’ll want them all if you want to see the real ending. Awesome.

The thing about the Virtual Boy, the ‘hook’ if you will, was that it could do pseudo 3-D. It used two screens to provide slightly different views to each eye, tricking your eyes into thinking that they were looking at a 3-D image. It was a whole lot like looking at slides through a Viewmaster, except everything was shades of red on a black background. This is why screenshots of Virtual Boy games don’t do them justice. You can only get a feel for the depth by actually playing the games on the actual hardware.

Wario Land uses this pseudo 3-D to make the action happen on two different planes. You can think of each level taking place on a city street. You can walk along the sidewalks leap across to the sidewalk on the other side of the street at particular points, but you can’t actually walk in the street itself. Wario Land uses this to the fullest. You have to use both ’sides of the street’ to solve several of the stages, enemies will pop out of the background, gigantic spiky balls will swing into and out of the foreground. You even have to leap back and forth to fight the last boss of the game. It’s all done really well.

If this had been the pack-in game instead of Mario’s Tennis, would the system have sold better and not have died a premature death? Eh, no, probably not. As good as this game is, it doesn’t overcome the huge flaws in the design of the Virtual Boy: It takes batteries, but needs to be used on a table or other flat stationary surface. It eats six Double-A batteries almost as fast as the Game Gear. It apparently gave some people headaches (although I wonder how many of those resulted from people didn’t know how to properly adjust the focus and IPD). That’s not really a recipe for success.