Friday, December 21, 2018

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #89: Duck Hunt

Duck Hunt. It’s one of those games you forget about until you see it mentioned somewhere … like here. It’s a classic, understated game, and I was a master of it.
The version I fondly remember is not the capable but lacking NES one. It’s the arcade model, the one that prepped a whole generation of people for the upcoming FPS genre. Instead of zombies or Nazis, though, you were shooting ducks (and the occasional dog). Again, a simple game but highly addictive.

At the time I discovered this game I was working at a campground resort called Timothy Lake. In its “game room” (really an arcade) stood the intriguing game with its light gun. At first I avoided playing it because I was a Xevious and Centipede fan, and we had both. Curiosity got the best of me, though, and eventually I parted with my quarter. It was the first of many. The game was not only addictive, it was also cathartic. After a long day of renting out miniature golf clubs, nothing blew off steam like shooting pixelated ducks out of the sky. Nothing.
My addiction to this game grew so deep that I resorted to some unseemly actions to secure playing it. If we were busy at the campground, I knew that I would have to wait an hour or more after quitting time just to get a chance to play. That wasn’t flying with me, so about a half hour before I would time out I would make an “Out of Order” sign, post it on the machine, and then shove a bit of toilet paper into the barrel of the light gun just to complete the picture.
Yeah, it was that bad.
Sadly, I haven’t played this game in decades, and I wonder if it would stand the test of time. I somehow doubt it, but the memory lives on.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #90: Dungeons and Dragons Tactics

‘Tis true, warrior.  Back in the day I was an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons player.  With that in mind, it may come as a surprise that I enjoy the PSP’s Dungeons andDragons Tactics.  A surprise to those who have played it, at least.  It was, by most accounts, not a popular video game.

The game has issues.  A cumbersome menu system and an irritating camera are just two of its problems.  My biggest gripe, however, is that it takes everything that is fun in the role playing game and jettisons most of it.  No more random encounters.  No multi-classes.  In doing so, it turned the game into nothing more than a tactical battle, which is truth in advertising, I guess.  So why did I like it so much?

It’s simple.  The game came out worldwide in 2007, and I was no longer part of that crowd which enjoyed the paper-based role playing game.  When I saw this game, though, I bought it hoping it would somewhat measure up to what I grew up playing.  I knew it couldn’t replace it, but I had hopes.  It didn’t quite satisfy me, but I could recognize the skeleton of the game I once enjoyed, even if it was using a rules system that had changed since my days of being behind the DM screen.  The spells, character classes (for the most part) and monsters, however, were intact and remained fairly true to the original game.  What its manufacturer, Atari, presented was good enough that I could overlook the flaws and enjoy the game for what it was, memories be damned.

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing.  It’s hard to return to the past, as you journey there a changed person.  I kept that in mind when I made this purchase.  I knew it wouldn’t live up to those 27 hour marathon sessions with graph paper, dice, soda, Pop Tarts, stacks of manuals and lots of cursing.  I was hoping, however, that it could capture just a bit of that magic … and it did.  It may be awkward and flawed, but it tries to be a good game, and in many ways succeeds. 

Note: Seven years later I still haven’t finished it…

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #91: Captain America and the Avengers

If you were comic book fan in 1991 and wandered into an arcade (which, having lost their appeal to both addicts tired of the stale games and pedophiles who now used the Internet to troll, were slowly dying out at that point), you may have become speechless upon catching sight of Captain America and the Avengers.  For me, it was akin to discovering the pillars of Atlantis.  Why?  Because you could sink your quarters in and play as Vision, Iron Man or Hawkeye (and let’s not forget Captain America, but I’ve never been a fan).  Those were a few of my favorite Avengers!  What wasn’t to love?  Not only could you play as those characters, but you would get assistance from the likes of Wasp and Wonder Man as you fought villains like Whirlwind, Klaw, Ultron and the Grim Reaper.   Was there anything to dislike about the game?

Well, yes.

As games went, it was a simple side-scrolling basher with little in the way of variation.  Punching things or attacking with your powers over and over didn’t matter when you were Hawkeye, though.  Or Vision.  Or Iron Man.  (Again, screw Captain America.)  It could’ve been a cooking game where the object was to boil eggs and it would have been fine because you were playing as those characters.  Hell, if they threw in a playable Black Panther, Hellcat or Scarlet Witch I would’ve stolen the damn game. 

I used to play this game while waiting for my girlfriend to get off work.  It was housed in a Redding, California mall, and it was the four player model.  Sadly, it was neglected most of the time, which was lucky for me, but did mean that its days were numbered.  One day I went to play it only to find that the machine was gone and nothing was in its place.    

I haven’t seen it since those Redding days.  I know it exists for consoles, but I doubt the experience would be the same.  I am certain, however, that if this game had come along just five years earlier it would have been a huge success that would still be talked about to this day.  Instead, it is relegated to an empty memory slot in most people’s brains.  Comic book games have grown since then.  Some are incredible.  Others a step back in time to the Atari 2600 days.  This game, being as mediocre as it was, barely registers as nostalgia for most, but for me it was an oasis in the Hell that was Redding, and for that it will always be remembered.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #92: NFL

I am not a huge fan of either football or social video games, yet Nintendo’s 1989 NFL has a place on this list.  It’s not here because it’s the best football game ever made (that comes later on the list).  It’s here because of the memories I have associated with it … and it was pretty fun to play.

This was the only licensed football game for Nintendo at that time.  My friend Steve had a NES and was a huge football fan, concomitantly he had this game, and one day after work he talked me into playing it.  Though I knew little about football other than its clubs, I ended up really enjoying it.  I enjoyed choosing a team (I started out playing my favorites: Eagles, Steelers and Rams, but later, due to a self-created system we were playing under, had to play teams like the Lions and Packers), picking a play and then controlling the players.  I lost miserably to Steve, but this one session started an after- work tradition of grabbing a few drinks, going into the den, and playing a game Monday through Friday.  It was a great way to unwind and to start the weekend.

I lost nearly every game we played, and when I lost, I lost badly.  It was shocking, really.  I admit: I sucked at it.  There was one day, however, when I picked the Chiefs (I don’t remember what Steve’s team was), and trounced him solidly.  My win was amazing, almost as if I used a cheat code.  I destroyed Steve, and what I remember was not the elation of winning so easily, but his utter disbelief in what was happening to him on the screen.  If that had been the only time we played, the game would still be on the list because of that single win.  I was on fire and his only response was an open mouth and the odd sounds that emitted from it with every touchdown.

I wouldn’t buy NFL today.  There would really be no reason to do so, as there are many better football games available.  I will never forget it, though.  It may have had a simple name, but for that period in my life it was a powerful game, and it led to my decision to start buying and playing football games many years later.  Long live the Chiefs!  (Though I still don’t give a crap about them in real life.)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #93: Mortal Kombat -- Deception

Mortal Kombat:Deception is the first Mortal Kombat game I really liked.  I played the other games in the franchise and they provided a small bit of satisfaction (ripping the spine out of someone is always fun), but they also always felt as if they were lacking something.  This game changed all that, and how it did that was surprising.

It wasn’t the use of weapons, though I loved taking a blade to some of the characters.  It wasn’t the use of death traps, though watching someone land on a white-hot metal bar brought a smile to my face.  I also liked the use of koins and digging up graves to obtain things like alternative costumes and production art.  It wasn’t the storyline for the Konquest mode, either.  No, what made me love this game was the mini-games: one that was like chess and the other being a puzzle game along the lines of Tetris.  It took this from a mere fighting game to the level of an all-around gaming experience that offered a little bit of everything … and all of it was fun.

When I would grow tired of kicking the shit out of someone, I could switch gears and play one of the mini-games and have a really good time.  I even enjoyed the much maligned PSPport.  This was, hands down, a great video game that no longer fit into the “fighting game” category, though it still had that.  I can’t think of another fighting game that did anything like this and did it so well.  It was a game for all moods.

Mortal Kombat players remind me of people who like things that are “xtreme.”  You know them, too.  They are kind of dumb and think that the gross video they sought out on the Internet of the rotting corpse having sex with an Asian amputee while driving a Porsche into a tree somehow makes them cool.  They are easily entertained and believe they are edgy and transgressive.  (They aren’t.)  This game will still appeal to them, but it was the first one that had the potential to draw in other players, as well, and that is why it is on my list.  In fact, I find that the series as a whole has become stale, but this game remains its highlight.  Long live Deception.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not received this game to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #94: Star Wars -- Starfighter

You don’t see Star Wars: Starfighter on a whole lot of favorites lists, though it was released to critical acclaim.  Maybe it’s because the PS2, the system I played it on, is overrun with great games.  Perhaps it’s the fact that the game is tied in with Episode One: The Phantom Menace.  Or it could be that people just forgot about it.  Regardless, it is one of the best space shooters of all time, beat only by its sequel.

The plot doesn’t matter.  You are on various missions, which are the cut-and-dry standards of all games of this sort.  Basically, shoot things or defend things.  You’ve got space missions and ground missions and a quite a variety of ships along with different characters, but that doesn’t really matter.  What’s important is the feeling you get while playing it.  It seriously seems like you are involved in a massive space war (especially if you change the camera view on the game so that it looks like you are inside the ship you are piloting).  It’s immense and incredible.  Best Star Wars game ever, though?  Probably not these days, but when it was released it was a contender for the crown.  I know the next thing you are thinking: How are the controls?  Well …

A lot of flight simulation games are hard to control and take gamers quite some time to find a comfort level where they can actually play the game the way it was meant to be played.  That’s not the case here.  Yes, there is some trial and error, but after a mission or two you will have the hang of it and be able to relax and enjoy the destruction. 

The Star Wars franchise has had its share of bad games, which is fairly disappointing for fans.  This game, however, made up for the lost hours people spent playing those other losers.  It even made the movie it is set in seem more tolerable, and most people thought that wasn’t even possible.  One more reason it’s on the list?  Writing this makes me want to play it again, and if you remember the game I’m sure you feel much the same way.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this game to review, but clicking on a link may earn me a commission

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #95: Activision Hits Remixed

Many of the reasons why I like Activision Hits Remixed are similar to why I enjoy Atari Classics Evolved.  There is something pure about playing the classics from a time when the only storyline that really existed was in a manual and where it was wave after wave of things to shoot.  The games were simple and addictive and no company was better at that than Activision.  It always aimed high … and often succeeded.

I’m not sure what makes these classic games like Demon Attack, Pitfall, Barnstorming and Stampede “remixed,” but it could be the fact that the soundtrack is all ‘80s music.  Of course, there are a few different modes you can play them in, too, but the best way to enjoy them is not in black and white, but in their original color scheme. 

Activision not only gives us the games here (over 40 of them, actually), but also the manuals (usually kind of interesting to read) and the boxes, many of which were enticing, solid works of art.  As all Activision fans of that era know, the box art never lived up to the games inside, but you always held out hope.  Frankly, it rarely mattered because the games were just plain fun to play.

Some of the games collected here have individually made it onto my list for one reason or another.  Putting collections like this on my list almost seems like a cheat, too, but I stand by it.  Having all these games in one place in a handheld is like being a kid in a candy store.  It is overload of the best sort.  And you get to hear Wall of Voodoo while roping cattle.  How cool is that?

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this game.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #96: Atari Classics Evolved

If you saw the title of this and your immediate reaction was to groan, you’ve played the game.  You didn’t groan because it sucked, though.  You groaned because it’s hard.  Very hard.  What makes it so difficult?  Atari Classics Evolved teases.  That’s right.  Teases.  Like the girl who wants to do everything but that.  You start out with a few old Atari games (like Centipede, Pong and Missile Command) in both their original state and a new “evolved” state (3D, better graphics, etc.), but if you want to get the fifty-plus Atari 2600 games available for play and dangled in front of your pleading eyes, well, you gotta work for it.

The “work” in this case is unlocking a few achievements in every one of the core games.  There are 11 core games, each with four awards.  If you are too lazy to do the math, that’s 44 awards.  Easy, right?  Hell no!  Yeah, some are obtained with relative ease, but there are others that will have you pulling out your hair trying to obtain them.  At some point you have a brainstorm, and then everything changes.

For me, this brainstorm was about a week into playing the game.  I was trying to unlock something in Super Breakout when it occurred to me: Why am I so hell-bent on unlocking old Atari games to play on a PSP?  What the hell was I thinking?  Would Adventure or Combat really be worth it?  Of course not, but I kept playing anyway, and that’s the beauty of this game.  These are simple, quick games with plenty of replay value, but the idea of getting more games that are actually worse is somehow enough to keep you playing.  It’s the equivalent to getting gold on all the license tests in Gran Turismo in order to win a Chevette to run in the races.

If you look at some of the poorly written reviews on Amazon for the game, you’ll find a lot of people pissed that they have to work to unlock the games (or can’t find cheat codes readily available).  These people obviously don’t get it.  It’s called a “challenge,” and challenges are supposed to be “hard.”  I know these are words lacking from far too many people’s vocabulary, but there we have it.  This game is a challenge, period.  If you don’t think the reward is worth it, don’t play it … or don’t play it for the reward. 

As for me, I have yet to unlock the damn games, but I’m still trying…

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not receive this game to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time # 97: Robot Tank

What wasn’t there to love about Activision’s 1983 Battlezone “homage” Robot Tank?  You commanded (remotely) a tank and your mission was to seek out enemy tanks and blow them to bits before they could reach … Santa Clara, California!  Of course, they shot back at you, and if they hit you lost some control of your tank or if it were a direct hit, totally lost the tank.  As if that weren’t enough (and in those days, that was often all you got), this game came with changing weather conditions and a transition from day to night.  That innovation is what caused me to purchase the game in the first place.  I figured it would make tank destroying fun, and it did, but what I didn’t realize is that it would also make me very, very nervous. 

Shooting tanks is great, but when your video screen and radar goes out at night and the screen goes black periodically, you can’t help but feel a bit tense when you hear another unseen tank unleash some hell in your direction.  You could try backpedalling or turning, but you didn’t know if you are turning into or away from the shot.  You also had to take whatever shot you could in those rare moments when you could see what was on your screen and hope for the best.  Today’s military has it so much easier.

Graphically, the game was fairly minimalist.  It was Atari back in the early ‘80s, so that is a given.  The graphics, however, still served the game well, though the outskirts of Santa Clara could have been the outskirts of any town anywhere.  Since you were supposed to be remotely controlling a tank, the graphics actually made a bit of sense as you could imagine that what you saw on your television is what you would have seen if you were really commanding a robot tank back in the early ‘80s. 

I’ve played this game again recently, just to revisit it.  I have to say that while it seems less intense these days (or perhaps my nerves are deadened from years of Candoor Root abuse), it still holds up fairly well.  Granted, there are better combat games that have come along, but back then this was about as good as it got for your home console when it came to tanks blasting the snot out of each other.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I paid for this freakin' game.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #98: Kaboom!

Kaboom! was one of those games that played better than it led you to believe.  It had lackluster box cover art of a stereotypical criminal type dropping bombs off the roof of a building.  There was truth in advertising there, too, as that is what the game consisted of – a criminal dropping bombs that you had to catch in one of your three buckets.  As the game progressives the bombs drop faster and more erratically.  It was a scenario lifted directly from real life … or a cartoon.

My neighbor had this game, and I avoided playing it for quite some time despite his insistence that I would “love” it.  The game’s box turned me off that much, and even the act of watching him play it made me want to avert my eyes.  Finally, after much convincing, I gave it a reluctant whirl.  I sucked horribly at it, as to be expected, but I soon found my skill progressing.  Catching bombs became, like the activities of most Activision games of that time period (early 1980s), strangely addictive. 

The game also had a bit of subtlety which caught my attention:  When you missed a bomb, the criminal’s face changed.  That is a standard type of touch in today’s games, but back then it was not, and it was that little thing that made this game stick out in my mind.  Well, that and the fact that you weren’t doing anything to the criminal, as you would in most games.  You weren’t shooting at him.  You weren’t trying to catch him.  You were merely trying to survive the onslaught of bombs, and he had personality.

Kaboom! was a simple game with simple graphics, a simple title and a simple idea.  Sometimes simplicity is all you need to make a fun game, though.  Compare this to Desert Falcon and you’ll know what I mean.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I may earn a commission if you click on a link.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #99: Megamania

If anyone remembers the commercial for the Atari 2600’s Megamania, they most likely remember the sense of chaos it conveyed and the Tubes’ theme song.  It was crazy, man, crazy. 

The game plays like a cross between Space Invaders and Galaga, but looks nothing like them; instead of aliens coming after you, it has things like hamburgers and bow ties.   Since it was the Atari 2600 it looked like various shapes, but it was supposed to be hamburgers and bow ties.  Whatever.  It was fun either way.  What does defy logic, however, was the Activision game itself.

Shooting things from space was nothing new for video games.  The way this game was set up, though, had people shaking their heads.  You were a ship that looked like something out of Star Trek, and you were stationed at the bottom of the screen.  You could move left or right only.  It was never established that the ship was grounded, so that made little sense.  Your targets could move left to right or up and down, passing you and coming back out the top of the screen.  Galaga worked better when it came to giving the sense of flight through space.  Stars moved past your ship.  Here there is nothing but black.  That said, the game billed itself as a “space nightmare,” and nightmares lack logic, so perhaps that was all part of Activision’s ploy.

Activision, the maker of this and many other fine games, offered its traditional patch for breaking a high score, and if you reached the max cap out on points the game would freeze.  Classic Atari and Activision.  The game didn’t need a patch, however, to sell.  It was fun, furious and fast.  Each object had a different movement pattern, and you waited with eager anticipation to see what type of thing you would see next.  One of the kids in my neighborhood couldn’t play the game because it made him “nervous.”   I thought that was part of the game’s appeal.  I had my daughter, who has played many different newer games, try it recently.  I wanted to see what kind of reaction a person who never played it before would have if they were raised on a later generation of video games.  She played a few times and described it as “intense and exciting,” but then asked if we could play Oops, Prank Party.  What does that tell you?

Unlike the previous game on this list, Dark Chambers, I did factor this game into my decision to buy a classic game anthology.  I saw that it was on there, and knew it was one I had to have.  After playing it again, I can say it has lost some of its appeal, but it doesn’t tarnish my memory of it at all.  Megamania was a game I sunk a lot of time into back in the day.  I was not great at it, but it was a guilty pleasure.  As for my friend who was made nervous by it – try it now.  I guarantee it won’t make you all twitchy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

My 100 Most Favorite Video Games of All Time #100: Dark Chambers

Why the hell do I like Dark Chambers for the Atari 7800?  I’m sure if I played it now, I’d be asking myself that every step of the way.  But back in the day … man, I played this for far too long and got far too much enjoyment from it. 

The sole reason I played it so much was because I couldn’t find many games for the Atari 7800, I was a Dungeons and Dragons fan, and I loved Gauntlet.  Pretty much any one of those reasons would be enough for me to purchase the game, though.  Yes, it did rip off Gauntlet, but the draw for me was having a game like Gauntlet at home.  No creepy voice was telling me I needed food or a potion or something, and there weren’t 800 ghosts choking up the screen, but it was fun nonetheless. 

The game is usually correctly criticized for being slow and kind of pointless.  Sort of like that one uncle nobody wants at the picnic.  I can agree with that, but back in the late ‘80s a lot of games were kind of slow and pointless, and to the best of my knowledge there were no other Gauntlet rip-offs for the system.  How could you go wrong?  If you liked Gauntlet, chances were that you would like Dark Chambers, too.  That said, I don’t know of anyone who likes this game more than Gauntlet.

This game gave you a taste of an arcade hit at home.  That’s what made it cool.  That’s what made it fun.  These days it would be maddening.  Back then I couldn’t get enough of it … and I wasn’t on drugs.  And while fond memories put it on this list, I can safely say if it showed up on some greatest hits collection it is highly unlikely I would factor that into my decision on whether or not I would buy it … maybe.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Favorite 100 Video Games of All Time

Over on my movie blog, The Last Picture Blog, I started doing my favorite 100 movies of all time.  It was a fun list to do, but I actually started the video game list first.  The video game list was harder to compile, too.  When I looked over what I had, I thought, "Oh, this is an odd assortment of games."  I'm sure most of you, upon reading the complete list, will agree.

Starting next post you will be the beginning of this list.  Agree or disagree with what I wrote, I hope to hear from you.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Your Most Favorite Games of All Times

I'm quickly approaching my 100th post, and I wanted to do something on my 100 favorite games of all time.  Not the best games, but the ones I enjoyed playing the most.  I'm not even halfway through the list.  What I am curious to know, however, is what are your favorite games?  Perhaps your list (however big you'd like it) could help jog my memory.

I ask that you post them in the comment section here, perhaps with a small explanation for each game.  You can list one or 1,000.  I don't care.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

How can a game that mixes Bejeweled mechanics with elements of an RPG possibly hope to succeed?  Well, it can't.  On paper, it doesn't work.  It doesn't even sound like it could possibly work.  In fact, I'd love to read the pitch for this because nothing about screams, "Excellent idea!"

Except it does work, and it works really well.

Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords not only works, it is amazingly addictive in the way all good puzzle games are, and I can't figure out how that happened.  Not only does it work well, the game is also pretty damn deep and includes not only the required stats boosting and spell casting you would expect to find in an RPG, but dungeon building, capturing monsters and using mounts.  If you haven't played it and can't figure out how any of this would work, don't fret.  I couldn't figure it out, either, but it took a chance and bought it on the PSN and have been playing it ever since.

It's available on almost any platform you can imagine, and it got great reviews, but somehow it slipped under my decidedly broken radar.  Now that I have my hands on it, though, I can only say, "Brilliant."  It kind of makes me wonder what else is out there that I've been missing.  I doubt there's another game quite like this (though one comes to mind that isn't nearly as good), and maybe that's a good thing.  There is really only one true Tetris and a host of imitators, so for there to be one true Puzzle Quest isn't a negative.  It's a sign that capturing lightning in a bottle sometimes only happens once, though the rest of the world will try to replicate it ... no matter how poor the outcome.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I bought this game, and clicking on a link may earn me some cash.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dream Big, Slacker

I can wrap my mind around a lot of video game concepts.  Listening to a sweaty John Madden for hours on end.  Micromanaging bathroom habits for Sims.  Delving into a fantasy that is anything but final.  Getting married to an elf chick in WOW only to find out he's a stay-at-home dude.  I can, on various levels, understand that.  One thing I've never understood, though, is video games based on the Olympics.

The Olympics appeals to the broadest fan base as possible.  Many die-hard sports fans that I know find the Olympics to be boring fluff with consequences that matter not one bit in the "real" world of sports.  The games themselves are great for the networks, as they justify inflated ad rates.  With this in mind, I find it extremely puzzling that anyone plays video games based on these games.

First of all, I know these games are produced, but I don't know if anyone really buys them.  I've never seen anyone play one.  I've never heard of anyone outside a game critic who has played one.  I don't even recall seeing them available for rent at any video store.  Nobody has ever said to me, "Oh, you've got to play Vancouver 2010."  Nobody.  Ever.

Who are these games made for?  Who plays them?  Slackers looking to dream big?  "Well, I always wanted a gold medal in downhill skiing, but I'm stuck working at Wendy's and can only do it in video games because I can't get time off to train."  I seriously doubt that is the scenario at play here.  So what is it?

I imagine the companies that put these games out lose money on them.  They think, "This will be the Olympics game that puts Olympic games on the map."  And they see the profits rain in.  Or maybe they are tax write-offs, which seems far more logical.

If anyone has any insider information on this senseless craze, I'd love to hear it.  In the meantime, I'm avoiding these like I avoid corned beef hash and other senseless items.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

To The Kill -- Nazi Hunting in a New America

If there's one group even the most peace-loving, bleeding heart liberal thinks it is okay to kill, it's Nazis.  One need not look any further than video games to see this in action.  In fact, when it comes to video games, the only group to fare worse than Nazis when it comes to head and crotch shots is aliens.

The Medal of Honor series, started by Hollywood's most acclaimed Nazi hunter Steven Spielberg, is a franchise created around the joys and hopeful historic revision of Nazi hunting.  This isn't the only franchise or game where this has happened, either.  Nazi shooting is uber alles.  Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, Wolfenstein, Battlefield 1942 ... the list goes on.  Had any other group been the target of such animosity, people would be up in arms.  A franchise based around the killing of, say, the Quakers?  Congress would be holding a special session and lots of hand wringing would ensue.

There have been other groups of people targeted (no pun intended) by video games.  People from the Middle East come to mind.  When it comes to Nazis, however, it seems not only okay, but lauded.

Yes, Nazis were "bad guys."  And, yes, as a group it is historically fascinating.  I just find it odd that people aren't a little uncomfortable with this wholesale slaughter of people who really existed as entertainment.  I know that video games are fantasy, but is it really this many people's fantasy to go around collecting Nazi head shots?  Again, what if these games weren't based around killing Nazis, but instead shooting Occupy Wall Street members?  Liberal Slaughter: Tent City Terror brought to you by Rush Limbaugh?  Wouldn't that raise some sort of red flag?

Of course not.  It's Nazis.  Who gives a fuck?  They lost (or so we think).  They did horrible, awful things, unlike any other political group in the world or throughout history.  Plus, it's a matter of numbers. When the US put Asians in camps during WWII (sponsored by Nabisco), it was for that blanket known as National Security, and we didn't execute millions of them.  The Nazis are always worse.  That's why we brought them into our country and utilized them on the space program ... so we could keep an eye on them.  Right?  Right.

Eventually, and it is bound to happen, history will present us with a bigger target than Nazis.  Islamic terrorists aren't there yet, but they are working on it.  One can only wonder what will happen if 50 years from now it isn't Nazis finding themselves in the video game sniper scope, but American troops.  How well will that go over?  We may never know because as Americans we are always finding new and exciting ways of demonizing anyone but us.  History shows that, and so do video games.

Keep killing Nazis.  It's fun, exciting, and requires zero critical thinking.  Happy hunting!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

X-Men Legends

It had been a few years since I had played X-Men Legends.  It's not that I didn't like it.  On the contrary, I think it's a great game.  I just have been doing other things.  I've come back to it, though, and it's all because of my daughter.

Lately my little girl has been very interested in the X-Men.  She loves the movies and is currently reading some of my trade paperbacks.  She has a ton of questions about the muties, too.  When I asked her if she'd like to play the game, her answer was a solid, "Yes!"

And she loves it.

I kind of figured that was a given, since it is essentially a role-playing game with the player in the role of a number of different mutant heroes.  (She likes Storm and Jean Grey.)  Playing the game with her is, admittedly, even more fun than playing solo.  She hasn't played too many co-op games with me because she enjoys kicking my butt more than kicking someone else's butt, but she is learning.  Surprisingly, the game holds up, too.

Once we're done we're moving on to the sequel.  From there?  Perhaps Marvel Ultimate Alliance or the similar Justice League game.  (She actually played that a bit about two years ago and liked it, so revisiting it may be in order.)  In the meantime, though, I'm going to milk this new found love of the X-Men for all it is worth.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cleaving Skulls in Two Part Two

I few posts ago I wrote about my latest session with Dungeons and Dragons Tactics.  You can read about it here if you are so inclined.  Part of what I wrote dealt with my creation of a character based on Robert E. Howard's Conan.

Conan is dead.

It was bound to happen.  I got over zealous fighting some trolls.  Before I could get healed, I bled out all over the ground.  It happens to the best of us.  It happened to Conan. 

I'm strange when it comes to these types of role playing games.  If my character dies, I don't usually bring him back.  I won't go to the last saved game and start anew.  And while Conan was only at fifth level, I had grown quite fond of him, but I still wasn't bringing him back.  So the game has ended ... for now.

I'll go back to it at some point.  I'll make a new character and start all over again.  Maybe I'll make it past the fifth level.  Maybe I won't make it past the first.  Either way, I will never be playing Conan again.  I won't remake him.  I will be deleting the saved file.  He is, like my assassin character in the original paper and pencil game, gone to the Happy Hunting Grounds never to see the windswept plains again. 

As I watched the Game Over screen come up, only one thing really came to mind.  A troll?  Really?  Yeah.  Definitely not an ending fit for the greatest barbarian of all time.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts on Gamefly

I know a lot of people who use Netflix, myself being one of them.  I don't, however, know of anyone who uses Gamefly.  Correction: I may know one person, but I don't recall ever really hearing them talk about it.

On the surface, Gamefly seems like a really good idea.  It's the same principle as Netflix, but with videogames.  Using the service lets you try before you buy.  Most video stores have a game section, as well, and I don't really utilize that either.  And I have a pretty valid reason why.

I don't like renting games.

It's a little more complicated than that really.  Renting a game already puts pressure on the idea of getting it back to the rental agency in a timely manner.  Gamefly doesn't have late fees (that I know of), but there is still that pressure that you want to get your money's worth.  To do that, you have to rent a set number of games.  I don't want to be pressured to get a game back at a certain time.  I want to take my time with it, enjoy it at a leisurely pace.  Renting doesn't let me do that, and that's why I shy away from it.  Of course, that means I have to buy them, and that leaves me vulnerable to spending hard-earned money on a subpar game.

That has happened from time to time, though I know my tastes well enough to know whether or not I will enjoy a game, and reviews help work out issues that have nothing to do with tastes like bugs or poor controls and camera.  Because of this, I end up with games I enjoy more often than not, and if I don't or if I tire of them, I can sell them on eBay or some place like that dungeon Gamestop.

I think Gamefly works fine for plenty of people, but it isn't for me or anyone else who wants to take their time with a game.  For those who don't have the time to dig into every games reviews or the money to take a chance on a game they may not enjoy, it is actually fairly idea.  It shouldn't take too long to realize whether or not you like a game enough to want to buy it, and in that sense the company is a godsend. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the company, I'd love to hear them because my daughter has asked me about it, and I think it may be worth getting for her if only because her desire to play games is less so than mine, and she is far more fickle.  Let me know if you think it is worth it, what you pay, what problems you've had and so on. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shoot 'Em Dead Link-Style

Link's Crossbow Training was the first Wii game to use the Wii Zapper.  Was it a good game to showcase this "technology"?  Yes, though it is a little too short as far as a game goes.

This, of course, isn't your traditional Zelda game, as it is first person shooter with you as Link armed with a ... wait for it ... crossbow.  The bolts can be fired in a rapid motion and you can even set some to explode, so realism is kind of tossed to the wind.  Of course, how real can a game be that features the undead shambling around?  Exactly. 

When this first came out, the Zapper was a foreign object.  It looked kind of like a gun and handled like one, but it was really nothing more than a device for keeping the Wii Remote held steady while you shot death across the screen.  Other companies have, of course, copied this, but the original device still holds up quite well when compared to the newer models.

I will admit that I was never a big fan of Link and crew.  This game, however, has kind of made me interested in going back and giving the games (all 800 of them) another chance.  I understand this game is nothing like the others, but I think I have a newfound respect for the characters.  I'm sure the storylines will be dismal, but I am also willing to bet I may get some newfound enjoyment out of them now that I've spent some time taking down hordes of evil and blowing up  things. 
Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not get this game for free. Clicking on a link may earn me a commission, too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cleaving Skulls in Two

Back in the day I played Dungeons and Dragons.  Yep, I admit it.  Played it a lot.  Eventually I stopped.  This was before the new rules came out.  Back when it used about 800 different die.  Then, one day while shopping for PSP games, I came across Dungeons and Dragons Tactics.  I bought it.

I was hesitant to buy it, as I thought it was a bit expensive, and then when I saw the manual was quite a few pages, I really wondered what the hell I had gotten into.  After playing it a few times I put it away for about a year.  Just recently I've picked it up again, however, and I have to say that I'm taking the game much more seriously and having a really good time with it.

Usually I enjoy making up my own characters.  This time was no exception, though I made Conan.  I just thought it would be fun to do.  A barbarian based off Robert E. Howard's mastermind creation.  What could go wrong?  Absolutely nothing.  I'm enjoying the hell out of this critically panned game this time around.

Granted, the game has issues.  The camera is annoying, there are a lot of steps one must take to do simple things.  That's okay, though.  This is not meant for people whose attention spans are non-existent.  It's more zen-like, and while you may be carving zombies limb from limb, it is actually quite peaceful.

I'm not sure why the game is called Dungeons and Dragons Tactics as it could have been called just about anything else with a Dungeons and Dragons name and made more sense.  This is not some real-time strategy game, though there is that.  It is a role-playing video game through and through and those looking for something different probably felt a bit ripped off.  It does, however, remind me quite a bit of the old D&D games ... minus pizza and a lot of cursing.
Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I paid for this game, and if you click on a link, I may earn a commission.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bayshore Malls' Gamestop Creatures

Eureka, California's Bayshore Mall has had a Gamestop store for quite a few years.  Recently it moved into a bigger location within the mall, which was necessary.  Before, when it was located by the food court, any kind of shopping done at anything but the most off hours resulted in you being jostled by the unwashed masses who would rather converse amongs themselves about Call of Duty instead of watching were they were actually going.  The new location is bigger, cleaner, better lit and smells less of desperation and more like new carpet ... still.  It really is like the difference between Taster's Choice coffee and, well, any other brand of coffee.

I was in Gamestop over the weekend, looking for games for my daughter.  As always, there were the gaggle of teen boys trying to convince their parents to part with their hard-earned dough.  ("But you don't play the first one of this game."  "I know, Mom.  This is new.")  It's something these parents should get used to, as it will probably last until the kid is into his twenties.  And while I find these slacker morons annoying, it's really the sales staff that pushes my buttons.

First, is it just me, or is it that any guy over 30 who works there comes across as a bit creepy?  I'm actually tempted to take a part-time position to see if that is something they train you on.  ("Don't come across as a pedophile.  Come across as a guy who would get a teenage boy stoned to see if you could talk him into 'trying something new.'  Play up the fact that you have your own apartment.  Do not discuss that your mother helps you with rent.  Do make sure to point out you can buy alcohol and have a 'kick ass' sound system.")  I'm sure it's just me.  That stoner predatory feel isn't the most annoying thing about them, though.  It's the upsell.

I know every store employee these days is encouraged to do the upsell.  You know what it is, even if you didn't know the name.  It's when you are making a purchase and everything from batteries to warranties are thrown at you in an attempt to get you to part with even more money.  At Gamestop they even try to sell you a warranty that will fix scratched games.  "No thanks," I said.  "I keep everything in good shape.  I'm not like a lot of these idiots here."  That always results in looks of hatred from the people behind you.

The upsell is one of the more tiresome retail experiences.  It is one of those things that drives people to shop more on the Internet, and it is something that makes me dread taking a purchase to the counter.  If I need batteries, a warranty, a subscription to a game magazine or to pre-order the "next hot thing," I'll do what anyone else can do and ask.  A salesperson pushing it upon me won't suddenly trigger something in my mind like, "Shit, I do need a dozen double A batteries."  You aren't that good.  It won't work.

You know, Gamestop, that smell of despair that used to ooze from your old location?  I used to think that was the customers.  The folks who masturbated over World of Warcraft "relationships."  Now I know differently.  That's coming from the sales staff.  A more desperate group of predators (in every sense) I have yet to meet.  I imagine it won't be long before that new carpet smell is replaced, and you folks will be hunting yet again for a new location to taint.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Shooting Up Cars and Hunting Spys

It was the early '80s.  My brother and I, whenever dragged to one of Allentown, PA's various malls, would beg and plead to be taken to Chuck E. Cheese.  You know, that place where a kid can be a kid.  (Incidentally, my first date with the woman who would later become my wife, was to a Chuck E. Cheese.  I thought it would be funny.  The staff apparently wouldn't let a punk rock guy and girl without a kid in tow partake of the fun, so I, in my usual subtle manner, promised to return later and "but the place to the ground."  Excellent first date.)  If you've never stepped foot in a Chuck E. Cheese, just know it's like a kid's paradise ... but without hookers and blow.  There are arcade games everywhere.  Pizza is served by harried staff, and prizes are to be won.

My brother and I always sought out the latest arcade games.  One day, as we walked around taking in the sites, we heard the electronic Peter Gunn theme (not knowing what it was at the time).  We were drawn to it like frat boys to an unconscious girl of questionable age ("It's my first grown-up party.").  There it was.  Spy Hunter.

Could a game be more perfect?  No.  You drive around in a car and utilize various weapons to destroy other cars.  Machine guns.  Oil slicks.  Missiles.  You could even pilot a boat!  Of course, your enemies, with their weapons and spikes that shred tires, were out to get you, too.  It was perfect.  It was magic.  It was something we fought over tooth and nail.

As soon as we entered Chuck E. Cheese, we would start for the game at the speed of light.  My mom would ask, "What do you want?"  Our answer was always "pepperoni pizza," but since we were running and screaming it probably sounded more like, "arghghghghghghgh yeyeyeeyeye!"

Quarters in hand, we'd dodge kids, hoping nobody was at the game's steering wheel.  If it was empty, it was a race to see who could get their quarter in first.  Often this ended in much shoving and banging of one's head on the game.  The loser of this gladiator-style brawl would then have to wait patiently for the other to use up his supply of cars.  If you were the loser, it was okay because watching someone play the game was just as much fun as playing it.

My brother and I fought over this game many times.  Despite that, however, when I was lucky enough to locate a sit-down version of it, I clued him right in.  "It feels more real," I told him.  It didn't, but that didn't matter.  It was Spy Hunter, and for months nothing even came close to catching our attention on its level.

Did I ever go back and burn the pizza place down?  No.  But while I was in there I swore I heard that familiar music ... and for a second I was a kid again.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  Click on a link, and I may earn cash.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Extreme -- A Term I Use Loosely -- Pinball: Urban Chaos

Back in 1995 a game called Extreme Pinball came out for the PlayStation.  How pinball, which I happen to enjoy, can be extreme is anyone's guess, but here was a game based on the concept.  In 2010 the game became available on the PlayStation Network, where I got it for my PSP.  I've played a little bit on all the tables, but the Urban Chaos table, pictured here, is the one I spent the most time on.  Why?  No idea.

The load screen for the table promises lots of urban chaos.  Semis going off broken bridges into strip clubs, helicopters, fire trucks.  You know, a typical night in the big urban center.  At some point you can read about the story behind the table.  Yes, it has a story.  Why any table would need a story is beyond me, but this one tries its best to instill fear.  I can't go into too much detail, as I forgot it as soon as I read it, but I think cities are named after television networks, and there are people rioting.  It's kind of like a Dead Kennedys song, only not as good.

Nobody who plays video pinball plays for the story, however.  If they did, they would be a special kind of weirdo who not only doesn't get laid, but finds masturbating "distasteful," and instead settles for discreet "readjustments."  The rest of you play it for the virtual pinball experience, which this table kind of delivers.

The table makes it look like there is more going on then there really is.  Instead of chaos, it's more like a stroll through the city.  Four flippers, of course.  Many ramps.  Not a lot to see and do, however.  It is within the first ball, though, that you realize why it is "extreme."

You can score a lot of points quickly.  A lot.  Where some games give you a thousand points for some action, this one does ten thousand.  Looking at it with your right eye gives you a cool million.  Hit the ball with a flipper?  Five million.  I exaggerate, but you get the idea.  The extreme is in the scoring.  Oh, and a visual of a car blowing up when the game ends.

This is far from the most horrible game I've ever played, and I will admit to enjoying it despite what seems like every effort made to make sure someone couldn't enjoy it.  There are better pinball games out there (including every single real table ever made), but it makes for a nice diversion while waiting for laundry to get done.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I did not get this game for free, and if you click on a link, I may earn some cash.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Descent: Sickness at the Keyboard

Ages ago, when I got my iMac, I received a bunch of free games with it.  One of those games was the 1995, nausea-inducing Descent.  It was the first and only game that made me motion sick the first couple of times I played it.

For those who don't know, Descent is a standard first-person shooter.  Instead of a Nazi hunter or marine, you are a pilot in a spaceship.  Typically in a first-person shooter you walk through halls or through tunnels.  In this game, however, you have total freedom of movement in zero gravity.  Six degrees of movement actually, just as if you were flying a plane.

In flight simulation games you have similar movement, and it rarely causes motion sickness.  A great portion of this game (if not the entire thing -- it has been years since I've played) takes place in mines, which means there is a "correct" up and a "correct" down.  Instead of "walking" through the mines, you are "flying" through them, complete with barrel rolls, flips -- you name it.  When critics who first reviewed the game complained about how sick it made you, they weren't kidding.  They were entirely correct.

It took several go-arounds with this game before I got used to it.  I never actually suffer from motion sickness from first-person shooters or movies filmed with handheld cameras like The Blair Witch Project.  Nor does being a passenger in a car make me motion sick.  This game, however, kicked my ass.  And a lot of other people's, too.  Did that make it a bad game.  Nope.  If anything, it made it a bit more realistic.  I would expect to have the same feelings of dizziness and wanting to vomit if I really were flying a spaceship through mine tunnels at incredible speeds while doing defensive maneuvers ... at least for the first couple of times. 

If the game had sucked, I would've stopped playing then and there, but it was actually a good game.  It was unlike anything I had played up until that time, and it had plenty of action.  Blowing up spaceships was nowhere near as satisfying as pulling off a headshot to an enemy, but then again you can't fly upside down through the air to do that, either.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Brilliant Alien Rip-Off

One of the arcade games I enjoyed playing in the late 1980s was a direct rip-off of Alien.  That game was Xenophobe.

Those who played the game remembered that it was unique for its three-level split screen, which allowed for players to explore the levels on their own without having to wait for their partner to catch up.  That wasn't what drew me to the game, though.

The graphics are a bit on the cartoony side, but it works for the game.  As one of several different characters you would explore space ships, space stations and the like looking for aliens to kill.  The aliens are what drew me to the game.  Not only did they kind of look like Alien, but you had eggs that hatched, giving birth to aliens that clung to your body.  Larger aliens spit acid at you, and acid also dripped from the ceiling in spots.  How Bally Midway got away with this is unknown, but to me the influence of the famous sci-fi movie was thoroughly blatant enough that I always wondered how the company didn't get sued.

The game got great reviews and is still loved by many.  If you look it up online you'll see many references to how much it resembles Alien in many ways.  What I could not find, however, was any mention of whether or not there was ever a lawsuit.  Seeing as the sci-fi franchise has had video games released, this seems like it would inevitable, yet there is nothing.  Perhaps it is because it is obvious to anyone playing the game that this is more of a homage than an attempt to cash-in on the movies.  Afterall, there are other sci-fi franchise nods in the game (such as to Star Trek).  Maybe this is the one time were companies thought, "Well, this is pretty cool.  Let's let it go."  If so, I thank them because I'm pretty sure any lawsuit would've gotten this game yanked from arcades and store shelves and a good portion of the world would never know just how it was to play.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I was not given this game to review.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ostrich Wars: Joust

If in the '80s you were in an arcade and heard a mad pounding of buttons, it was one of two games.  If it were a furious pounding, it was Track and Field, which made players hit the dual button combo like old people at a slots tournament.  If it were a more rhythmic, controlled pounding, it was Joust, a game that featured your avatar riding on a flying ostrich while taking down enemies on buzzards.  Of course, this 1982 game also featured flying dinosaurs, lava and lava hands, floating platforms, and enemies who turned into eggs that hatched more badass enemies.  Needless to say, it was based on actual events.

I am a Joust fan, if only because of the simple, yet addictive game play.  It's not as addictive as Centipede or Tetris, but ask any player who remembers this game and the term that will often come up is "quarter sink."  Williams Electronics, the game's publishers, was unsure of how successful the game would be in the grand scheme of things. If the number of systems it's been ported to and number of cabinet types of games its been made into were any indication of success, this game would be solid gold.  Hell, it even had a pinball game made of it.  Players and critics agreed: the game was a hit.

Controlling your ostrich in the game took some getting used to.  You used a joystick to move it left and right, but had to tap a button to make its wings flap.  The more often you pushed, the higher and faster your ostrich would go.  Stop, and it would start to drop toward the lava.  It was the first time I had become aware of physics in a game, and the effect was startling.  It felt ... different.  Granted, once you played two or three times you got the hang of it, but that first time usually ended with the player reaching into his pocket for another quarter after a minute and a half.  That really did help land the game's success, too.  It was a different game, and it was one players were interested in playing.  It felt unique, and the new control mechanics sucked you in instead of ostracizing you.  (Contrast that to years later when Mortal Kombat had people turn away from the game after being destroyed by an opponent because they didn't want to take the time to learn the 8,392 button combinations.)

If you do a search, I'm sure you can find Joust for your phone, laptop or console.  Yes, the graphics are quaint and game play is simple, but it is far more enjoyable than a lot of crap out there today.  I played it again recently, and I can honestly say it has aged well.  Unlike, say, Myst.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this game to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me some golden coins.  Playing Joust may be addictive.