Archive for June, 2008

Spy Hunter

Monday, June 30th, 2008

If there’s one thing that the spies have that’s really cool is access to the cool cars. So you take just that aspect of spydom and make a game about it, and you will get something like Spy Hunter.

Spy Hunter is about driving a vehicle down the course as quickly and accurately as you can. While dispatching enemy cars before they can do the same to you, and sparing innocent lives whenever possible. To do this you have some heavy weaponry at your disposal to compliment your super sweet spymobile.

You start out with a machine gun that never runs out of bullets, which is pretty awesome, but occasionally a weaponry truck will come down the road and give you some kind of other different kind of awesome. Like an oil slick, or a missile launcher, or a smoke screen. All designed to take cars that are being driven by not you off the road. Any time you do that you get some points, unless of course you blow up some innocent car. Then you’re barred from scoring points for a while, so don’t do that.

But if you get tired of driving the super awesome car, you can take a turn at the super awesome boat. The boat is pretty much just like the car except that it rides in the water (duh) and the waterways are a lot more constrictive. But other than that? Still awesome.

One of the troubles with this game is that you can go really really fast, but to do that you’re going to have to get closer and closer to the top of the screen, which means that you’re going to have almost no time to react to anything. And that means that you’re going to crash a whole lot. But that’s OK, kind of, because you have 999 game seconds to play the game with unlimited lives. Pretty awesome, eh? Until the timer runs out and then your lives become extremely limited, and then the game gets far tougher.

Unless you do what I did one time. In the boat level I somehow managed to get the boat maneuvered so far over to the side of the screen that it was actually straddling both the left and sides at once. That meant two things: 1. I suddenly had a super awesome Land Boat(tm) and 2. I was completely untouchable and indestructible.

Which is kind of cool for a while, since you can actually put the controller down and be successful at the game, but that does get kind of boring after a while, even if it’s the easiest thing in the world to continue, once you’ve managed to do it. But I eventually wanted my NES back so I could play something else. So after a couple of hours I maneuvered the boat back on course and finished up my game and put something else in that was a little more interactive.

Contra III: The Alien Wars

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

I think I played the original Contra game so much because the developers were kind enough to include a magic code that gave me enough lives to be able to finish the game without too much trouble. But that also had the side effect that I got reasonably good at the thing. A sequel did come out a bit later that I didn’t actually spend much time with at all, for some reason, but then a sequel to that came out for the then newfangled Super NES, and I decided to give it a shot.

I don’t really know how Contra III fits in with the whole Contra timeline, I thought I remembered blowing up the queen alien’s heart at the end of the original game, several dozen times, in fact. But, maybe the events in Super C, the one I didn’t actually bother with, actually explain things… but I wouldn’t count on that.

But, in this game the aliens are alive, well, and are decimating the planet. So you have to take control of your shirtless musclebound hero-type guys and walk headlong into the gaping maw of the alien army invasion. Of course your Enmuscled Toughguy(tm) perishes if he’s so much as grazed by pretty much anything, so you have to use your fantastically honed reflexes to guide him unerringly toward the end of the stage. The only tools at your disposal, other than acrobatics, are the various forms of heavy artillery that just kind of float into view every once in a while. Which is actually pretty much the same as the first game, but this time you can hold two of the SuperGuns at the same time, and can switch back and forth between them as the situation dictates, which is actually pretty awesome.

I didn’t actually find this game too much harder than the old NES game that I cut my Contra teeth on, but I had a whole lot more trouble with it, and I’m pretty sure that it’s because there was no way to get a ludicrous amount of lives to kind of nullify the challenge a bit. The most you can start with is seven. Combine that with a limited amount of continues and the game suddenly gets a little bit tougher.

On my rental, though, I did manage to plow through the game on Easy mode, only to be greeted with an invitation to try a tougher difficulty level. Kind of a letdown, but OK. So I tried my hand at the next tougher difficulty and immediately got my head handed to me. And then, before I really got started on ‘Normal’, my time with the game was up. Though I understand now that I would have had to have bested the game on ‘Hard’ to fight the real end boss and see the actual real ending, so I’m not too broken up about it.

Mystery Quest

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

Mystery Quest is one of the few games that I would buy secondhand that I actually had the manual to. And, even though I’ve gotten rid of the game and its manual at this point, at the time I had some idea of what was going on.

Hao, some magician’s apprentice, has to go out into the world and find four treasures that are hidden in four castles throughout the land. The thing is, though, that the castles themselves are also hidden. Compounding the issue is that Hao is pretty fragile. He can’t swim, diving into deep water is instantly fatal and touching shallow water hurts him. He also steadily loses his vitality (unless he finds some magic item). But it’s OK. He has magic bubbles to defend himself with. Combined with his razor-sharp intellect, there’s no end to what he can do!

Eh, I may have overstated that a bit.

I actually invested a lot of time into this game. I got pretty adept at finding the hidden castles and the treasures within, only to be greeted with a screen of failure each time I did so. I couldn’t understand it, why am I getting the bad ending for doing what I’m supposed to do? I even beat it three times in a row to see if there was another different ending to be had. And you know what I found out? There wasn’t. So I ended up trading this game off for some other NES game or other and hadn’t given it a second thought until today.

Today, I find out that if you want to see the ‘real ending’ for this game you have to beat it four times in a row. Four! One more than the three that I did previously. Do you have any idea what this means? It means that I’m probably never going to know how the game ends properly now. Because I can’t find evidence of the alleged ‘good ending’ anywhere on the Internet. I’m actually beginning to wonder if there actually is a good ending, and that the game is really just a giant joke on NES players. One that you can’t actually win, no matter how hard you try.

That’d be low.

And it would make me jealous that I didn’t think of it first.

Super Mario Bros.

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Super Mario Bros. is the game that put millions of NES systems into homes and really made the Mario brothers household names. I understand that the game has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of forty million copies. Forty million! If I got one copy of the game per second, it’d take me just over 463 days to get that many. Not to mention the pile of cartridges in my back yard might be visible from space.

But do I really need to talk about a game with the kind of ubiquity that Super Mario Bros. enjoys? Absolutely!

Super Mario Bros. set the story for most of the Mario games to come after it. The princess is kidnapped by Bowser and the Mario brothers have to go rescue her. They do this by running (and sometimes swimming) to the right and utilizing their now world-famous jumping ability, and any powerups they can find along the way.

I’m going to assume that you’re familiar enough with this game, so I’m not going to feel any great need to go into too much detail about it.

But a lot of people regard this game as somewhat of a classic. You can hum a few bars of the main theme song and lots of people will immediately know what you’re singing, and probably sing along. Or they’ll tell you about how much fun that they had with the game. But if this game was released today, would it have the same status that it holds now? Would people have fawned over it and held it in such high regard.

I don’t think so.

But it was a very important game, and I think it’s aged pretty well. The gameplay still holds up. If you’ve never played the game before, it’s tough, but beatable. And, in fact, most times that your progress is impeded you can see where you screwed up, and are that much wiser for the next go ’round. Which means that when you start from the beginning of the game each time you get just a little further and a little further until you finish the game! Only to find out that there’s a bonus mode waiting for you where the game’s tougher and the enemies move faster, which is still fiendishly clever. And you don’t really get anything for clearing the harder mode other than the sense of accomplishment that you did it, but what do you want from an over-20-year-old game?

I think it’s probably out of cookies by now.

WCW vs NWO World Tour

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Since I do enjoy the Wrestling Arts, I give the occasional game that tries to recreate the experience a try, but they all typically have the same problem: you and someone else have to mash buttons as fast as you can, and the person that mashes them the fastest gets to do his move. Which makes marathon play sessions rather uncomfortable. But this one’s different, it features one of the most entertaining referees I’d ever seen, the late Mark Curtis.

There was an updated roster to reflect whatever flavors were popular around the time that the game came out, plus a ton of wrestlers from some overseas promotions that I’d never heard of before. Which actually leads me to believe that the whole game was originally full of non WCW wrestlers, but that the developers just kind of reworked some of them to look like the wrestlers from this side of the pond, but kind of ran out of wrestlers after a couple dozen.

I would only play this game one time, a friend had rented it and decided that I just had to play it. So we made time with two other guys and had at it for a couple of hours… with the game. And after a few hours, once our arms started to get sore, we packed it in. And I haven’t had anything to do with this game since, it was just kind of unremarkable.

Killer Instinct 2

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The story in the first Killer Instinct game was a little ludicrous, but I’m willing to overlook that because the game was actually kind of fun to play. But if you’re going to make a sequel to a game with a storyline that borders on insanity, it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s going to also be a little bit kooky as well.

See, once Eyedol, the two headed demon-thing that was the boss of the first game, was defeated a hole was ripped in the universe that sent Ultratech, the fantastical company behind the first tournament, and several of the combatants back in time. There, as it happens, another tournament is put on where the fighters have to defeat Gargos, some other demon that had been masquerading as the spirit that guided Jago in whatever discipline of martial arts he studies, and manipulated the tournament to free himself from some prison or other.

Or something like that.

Honestly, the story to this game doesn’t matter so much, and it doesn’t really explain why there’s heliports and medieval castles and a pirate ship in the far-flung past. So try to not think about it so much.

But, apparently, in the past the graphics are better, the music sounds better, the combos get a little more brutal, and the women characters’ breasts animate more realistically. Which is real important if you’re gearing a game to teenage boys.

But, really, it’s the same old game, just polished to a fine luster. It’s really, in my humble opinion, superior to the old game in just about every conceivable way. Some people will say that they like the plasticy look of the characters in the old game, but those people wouldn’t know good graphics if they bit them in the face.

I would end up playing this game easily as much as I played the first one, probably more. That shouldn’t be too big of a surprise, since I liked the first one so much, and this was the logical next step for the franchise. I played it so much that I was actually passably good at it, but the most memorable moment I have with the game actually happened to a friend.

There’s this character featured in the video above, Jago. It seems that he has a move that allows him to store a portion of his lifebar in kind of a ‘reserve pocket’. Once he goes down for the second time, and when most of his opponents think they might have won, he gets up with his sliver of reserved health for a last-ditch salvo. My friend did that particular maneuver in a match with an opponent who matched his skills fairly closely, but was unfamiliar with said move. So once opponent guy thought he won, he took his hands off the controller, and then my friend’s Jago stood up and then laid down some hurt.

Needless to say, opponent guy was a little miffed.

It was at that point that friend guy started to get a bit nervous. He told me later that he thought the guy was going to start a fistfight with him over it. Thankfully, he cooled off enough that he didn’t actually make any fist-cranial interactions, but friend-guy decided to not use that particular maneuver with his favorite character again. Unless he was playing with people that he actually knew personally. Which I thought was a particularly well thought-out course of action.

PaRappa the Rapper

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

PaRappa is a two-dimensional dog-like thing in a three-dimensional world with a problem. He’s got a date with some two-dimensional flower-thing. But he doesn’t have any money. Or a car. Or a cake. So what does he do? He sings a lot of songs of course!

Now it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for him to just belt out a song and get a driver’s license or whatever. What he has to do is find a teacher who sings a song to him in little snippets that he has sing back to them with style and panache. Doing that will somehow give him the skills to cut in line to use a port-a-potty, along with the other nearly insane tasks you have to make him do.

I guess the ridiculous story kind of makes sense in its own universe, but that doesn’t really make much less insane.

I’ll admit, though, that I was pretty awful at this game. Mostly because I only played the store demo and then played it one time on my sister’s PlayStation. I’ll attribute the fact that I was pretty awful to my lack of familiarity with the PlayStation buttons. The controller sure felt like a Super NES controller, and I was real familiar with those, but the PlayStation controller is not a Super NES controller. Instead of A, B, X, and Y, we get a circle, a cross, a square, and a triangle. And I never could remember which ones were where. So after I failed spectacularly at the first couple of stages, I just decided to let my sister play through the game while I watched.

Which is way less creepy than I just made it sound.

Wii Sports

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Wii Sports is the game that is packaged in with the Wii, and the impression that I get is that it’s just kind of there to teach you how to use the remote. You just kind of take your Miis and thrust them into a few different sporting events, simplified so much that pretty much anyone can play them and do reasonably OK at them.

Like Baseball. One person tosses the ball by swinging the remote, and the other swings the bat by… swinging… the remote. The goal is to swing for the fences and get a home run, a home run = one point, otherwise it’s an out. After so many outs, you and your opponent switch sides, and the person with the most points wins.

Or Bowling. You kind of swing your remote like you would a bowling ball and then your ball gets tossed down the alley and knocks down the pins. Whoever knocks down the most is the winner. Easy.

Or Golf. You just kind of swing your remote like a golf club while trying to to thwack a tiny ball in such a way that it goes into a slightly less tiny hole that’s several hundred feet away. I didn’t really play this one that much.

And then there’s Boxing. You hold your Remote and the Nunchuk in your hands and swing them kind of like you’re actually trying to punch the guy on the screen.

And that’s it! Four mini games made to familiarize yourself with the crazy new-fangled controls that the Wii brings to the table.

This is the game that most people think about when they think of the Wii, and it’s the game that I always see when I see some kind of news story or other where they talk about some retirement home or something using the Wii as a rehabilitation tool. And that’s not too surprising, really. The games are extremely simplified, but need you to perform a range of motions to pull them off successfully, which kind of makes it a no-brainer for that kind of environment.

But I think that a lot of places that get this game get it with the Wii, and then use it for its rehabilitation powers, and then don’t get any other games for it. Which is good in a way, but kind of not good in others. There’s more than one game for the system, and some of them are actually passably good.


Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I was a paperboy in my neighborhood for the better part of a year, and while I certainly weathered my fair share of hazards, there was nothing that quite compared to what I saw in the video game adaptation of my boyhood profession.

In the video game version of Paperboy you took control of some paperboy riding his bike on his route, and you have to deliver papers to your customers. And his route is just a straight, couple-of-blocks long street. Sounds pretty easy, right.

You don’t know how wrong you are.

Somehow this neighborhood is full of people, animals, and the occasional lawn mower all bent on keeping you from delivering the papers to your customers. Colliding with anything that’s not a bundle of papers (more on that in a second) and you’ll lose one of your chances. But you’re not completely defenseless, you can use your arsenal of tightly-rolled papers as weapons, refilling as you find paper bundles inexplicably strewn all over your street. Just make sure that you keep enough for your customers, they each need a paper on their doorstep, too. It’s actually a whole lot to think about.

You can also use your papers to break the windows and cause general destruction in the yards of the non-subscribers (hey, they’re not your customers, screw ‘em). If you do well, and you get papers to all your customers, then some of the non-subscribers will subscribe to the paper, but if you miss a few, you might lose a few customers, which means you get more windows to break. Kind of a win-win, really.

Of course, you also get to do this ‘training course’ at the end of each day’s route that’s, I guess, there to help you to hone your skills when you’re out doing your deliveries, but I just found that it was a way to liberate me from my quarters.

So, in short: this game is harder than a real paper route, and a little less lucrative.


Saturday, June 21st, 2008

A while back a friend of mine invited me over because he has this rad to the max video game that he was just dying to show me.

Said game, Castlequest was a game about exploring around a giant castle. All throughout the castle is a series of color-coded locked doors and you have to find the correctly-colored key to unlock the correct door, the catch is, though, that you don’t want to necessarily unlock all the doors you find willy-nilly. If you do, you’ll probably run out of keys, and if you run out of keys, you’re pretty well stuck with an unsolvable game.

Not only that, but there’s tons of stuff in this mysterious castle that’s instantly fatal to your guy in spite of the fabulous enfeathered fedora he’s sporting. Which means that, even though you start the game with what appears to be a generous allotment of 50 lives, it’s not going to be nearly enough to get through this mess.

This is one of those games where it should have dawned on me to make a map of some sort to make sure that I unraveled the mysteries of the castle. That I could decipher the precise sequence that I’d have to collect keys and unlock doors in. Perhaps then I’d have been able to finish this monstrosity of a game. But I was young, and lazy, and didn’t actually own the game or anything. So instead of actually making a map, I just kind of never really played this game again. And, really, I’d consider that breaking even.