Archive for September, 2007

Deja Vu

Sunday, September 30th, 2007

You play a game like Shadowgate and you might think: “That was fun, but I’d like to play more games like this. A game where I don’t know what’s going on, but have to unravel a mystery.” Well, you’d be in luck because there is such a game. Deja Vu.

The game is presented through the eyes of a detective who wakes up in a bathroom stall, drugged and with amnesia. Turns out that he’s been framed for murder, and he has to figure out who he is and who really committed the murder all before the police put him away for life.

You essentially go around the city, collecting evidence, using drugs to facilitate confessions, and generally detective-ing around, gathering the clues, and destroying the planted evidence. It’s pretty fun if you’ve ever wanted to put yourself in the shoes of a hardboiled detective. The only problem? You can’t destroy the good evidence, only the bad. See, to win the game you have to collect all the evidence and dispose of the bits that incriminate you in the sewer. If you try throwing something away that you’re not supposed to, the game won’t let you. So, once you throw away everything that the game will let you, you go to the police station and you win!

It’s a bit ham-fisted for a solution, but rather fool-proof, I suppose.

Yeti Penguin Toss

Saturday, September 29th, 2007

It amazes me that simple, stupid games can get to be as popular as they do. Take this game, for example, you have a yeti with a bat, hitting penguins that jump off a cliff. The goal is to get them to go as far as you can. It’s all timing, you can’t really pick the trajectory you hit the penguin at, and once you hit it, it’s all up to Lady Physics to see how far it’ll go.

I played this game for about 10 minutes in a moment of weakness, and didn’t give it a second thought, until I found out that the games are going to be sometime soon retooled and relaunched for the mobile phone market.

Why pay to play a game on your phone that you can play on the Internet for free? I don’t know. I also don’t know why anyone would want to play this game more than about twice.

Porrasturvat – Stair Dismount

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Short and sweet today, here’s an article I wrote up in 2002 about a game that’s still way more fun than it ought to be.

According to the game’s readme, the premise of the game goes like this… “The legendary superhero Spector has found, to his shock, that he cannot write off all the damage he has caused to the city out of his taxes unless he proves that he has sustained significant damage in the process himself! Now it’s up to you to ‘help’ him with this little detail..”

So what does that mean? Essentially it means that you now have a person standing at the top of some stairs just waiting for someone to shove him off. You score points based on the amount and kind of damage you do, with neck damage worth the most. The game keeps track of high scores and can send them to the author’s web-site so you can see how you stack up against other Porrasturvat players.

This game is pretty fun for a while. It’s (probably) not the kind of game you’ll spend hours at a time on, but it’s an awesome time waster.

KISS Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

It is not physically possible for me to walk by a game that costs less than a dollar and not get it. Especially if it’s new and I don’t already have a copy. There are days where I do wish that I didn’t have this problem, though. The day I bought a game based on the band KISS was one of those days.

What this game is about, I have no earthly idea. I couldn’t make heads or tails of it. But there are these guys, not actually band members, who have to run around generic scummy city areas, killing aliens and collecting pieces of KISS armor (those outfits that the band members wear on stage). Other than playing dress-up with your guy, what does KISS have to do with this game? Well, if you walk up to a jukebox you can hear a few seconds of one of the band’s songs.

This game is so bland, so boring, and so empty that after the initial action, I wandered around after about two hours before I finally found the stupid piece of armor that I was looking for. So I never managed to figure out what was going on in this game or why I should care, so I quit caring and excised this thing from my Dreamcast for good.

Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

It’s a classic tale, really. Knight in shining armor and his betrothed are about to get married when she (and everyone else around) is killed by the hordes of demons that invade. So the gallant knight rushes off to thwart the evil.

Arthur, the knight, must run toward the right (and sometimes the up and the left) and massacre everything in his path using anything he can find. Treasure chests sprout up from the ground all over the place. Though they’re just as likely to contain some form of Demon Death(tm) as they are to contain a powerup.

And you’ll need those powerups. This game sends enemies swarming you from every direction, and Arthur just isn’t that maneuverable. He can move left and right, jump a bit, and fire left, right, or up, and that’s it. It’s pretty annoying, too, because if Arthur gets hit by anything, no matter how insignificant, his armor comes flying off. If he takes another hit before finding some replacement armor (which is pretty scarce), he’s reduced to a pile of bones. Add to the mix enemies that are placed exactly where you need to jump, wind that blows you around, and enemies besieging you from all sides and you have a game in which the difficulty borderlines on psychotic. This game has a rep, and it’s deserved.

It’s certainly possible to finish this game, but you’re going to spend way too much time trying to do it. The best part? After you spend hours and hours getting to the end, you have to finish the game a second time to get the ‘real ending’.

You shouldn’t play this game unless you like a stiff challenge. You’re not going to finish it without a ludicrous amount of effort that would be better spent elsewhere.

Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

It’s no greatly-held secret that I’m a pretty die-hard Nintendo fan. So I had to jump and get Nintendo’s very own version of a game that had up until this point had only appeared on consoles I don’t have, and in arcades, which I also don’t have.

DDR Mario Mix is pretty standard as Dancing games go. Arrows work their way up from the bottom of the screen and cross other arrows at the top of the screen, to the beat of the music. You have to stomp on the corresponding arrows on your dance mat (here called the ‘action pad’). But this Nintendo version differs by adding some story and some minigames. The story? Doesn’t matter. You just pick Mario or Luigi and have to use the power of dance to save the day.

There are two kinds of songs in this game: remixes of songs from past Mario games, which sound great, and public domain songs that sound pretty good, but are a bizarre juxtaposition. You have the main theme from Super Mario Bros. 2, and you have some Tchaikovsky. Even with the music mix padded out with freebie public-domain songs, you still only get 29 songs total (30 if you count the end credits, which I don’t). I was able to play through the game twice and unlock everything in under 2 hours.

Perhaps most puzzling about this game is that DDR is best when played against an actual person. The game comes with one mat. If you want to buy another mat you have to either go get another copy of the game or order a mat from Nintendo’s online store, which I’m sure most people don’t even know exists.

This game isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it just left me wanting more. Which has yet to materialize.

Bubsy: Claws Encounters of the Furred Kind

Monday, September 24th, 2007

I guess that Bubsy the Bobcat was supposed to be Accolade’s version of Sonic the Hedgehog. Bubsy is a bobcat with attitude, evidenced by the white shirt with the giant red exclamation point on it that he always wears.

The only Bubsy game that I ever played was the debut game for the Super NES, and it was clearly inspired by the Sonic series. Bubsy runs fast, collects things, and has an evil mastermind to defeat.

The story was pretty typical for a video game: aliens have invaded and are stealing the world’s supply of yarn. Bubsy’s a cat, cats love yarn. Bubsy goes out to save the day. Unfortunately, this game suffered from some pretty serious design flaws that made it ridiculously frustrating.

The levels in this game are freaking enormous. You have to go in the general direction of ‘to the right’ collecting the insane amount of yarn on the way (hundreds per level). Problems become apparent once you dive in. Since Bubsy runs real fast, he gets KOd a lot by things that he can’t see. Or rather, things you can’t see fast enough to react to. Add in the jumps where you’re essentially jumping off a multi-screen high platform to an unseen destination with only the trail of pickups to guide you. You’re going to die. A lot.

You’ll notice that at the beginning of each stage, ol’ Bubs will say some snarky phrase. For the first few levels he says, “What could possibly go wrong?” You’re going to hear this phrase no less than two hundred times as you muddle your way through the game, dieing at every opportunity. It’ll drive you to the brink of madness.

And, what do you get if you suffer through the entire game, memorizing stage layouts and sacrificing several thousand bobcats to defeat the invading aliens? You get the most unsatisfying ending I’ve ever seen for the amount of effort involved.

Do. Not. Bother.

Mowin’ Maniac

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

Part of the After Dark Games collection, Mowin Maniac is another one of Berkely’s screen savers that was transformed into a game and thrown into a compilation. This one… not that good.

I never had the screen saver of Mowin’ Maniac, but the gist was that a crazy guy on a crazy lawn mower would zoom across your screen, cutting down the growing flora. How do you transform that into a game? By taking control of the mower, of course.

Mowin’ Maniac

Your goal, obviously, is to mow all of the grass without getting caught by the creatures native to the yard (from yard workers with rakes, to zombies with… zombie parts). Anything that’s not grass (walls, tombstones, and the like) slow you down. Gas cans speed you up (and let you temporarily incapacitate your enemies). Get caught and you lose a life. Lose all your lives, and then you go play a game that’s actually fun, like Bad Dog 911.


Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

I’m a sucker for console role playing games. Give me a good one and I’ll be dead to the world for a few weeks. And when I played Earthbound? I was dead to the world for months.

Why did I like the game so much? It’s hard to say. At first glance it appears to be pretty atypical as far as role playing games go. It’s set in the 90’s instead of some medieval period, the graphics are far from stellar, and

The game starts when Ness, a kid with psychic abilities, is awakened by a meteor crashing down near his house. He goes to investigate, and is befriended by a bee sent from the future who tells him that he’s destined to save the world. He’s then accosted by a robot who was sent back to deal with Ness and the bee.

Then it gets weird.

In your quest to guide Ness to save the world, you’ll encounter street gangs, zombies, aliens, dinosaurs, sea monsters, monkeys, and… ambulatory cups of coffee. Most of these bent by the will of Giygas, the ill-defined evil entity and antagonist of the game. Of course, in typical role playing game fashion, you have to defeat them all, and do a little time traveling to win.

I suppose what I like about this game is that it’s exceptionally well written, and never takes itself too seriously. Sure, there’s a world to save, but no reason to not throw in a gag every now and then. Check out the dialog at about 4:30 in the following clip.

So what we end up with is a game that’s almost completely incomprehensible, yet makes a strange amount of sense in its own universe, and it still manages to somehow mostly come together in the end. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this game to anyone, but you can’t find it. It enjoyed exactly one release here in the US, and all other sequels haven’t made it over here for some reason, likely because of dismal sales of the original, despite a fairly vocal fanbase. Which is a real shame.

And, no, my copy is not for sale.

Night Driver

Friday, September 21st, 2007

1976 was a simpler time for video games. You, as a developer, could take any activity, no matter how humdrum, and turn it into a game. Let’s take driving a car down a dark road at night, for example. Not that fun in real life, but what if you had a fast car, and it didn’t really matter if you hit anything? Well, then you have the makings of a game that would barely make it as a Flash game today.

Since it’s perpetually night, you can’t actually see the road, but you can see the reflective road boundary markers. You’re going to want to stay between them. You also can see the tail lights of the cars in front of you. You’re going to want to not actually hit them. And that’s it! Stay on the road, don’t crash, get a high score, and you’re a winner! I can guarantee that you won’t get bored with this game after 30 seconds.*

*Not guaranteed.