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.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Nightmare Creatures

The other day I decided to break out the very first game I bought for the PlayStation, Nightmare Creatures.  I enjoyed it at the time as it had monsters, amputation, black magic and violence.  Just like growing up in PA.  Anyway ...

I haven't gone far in the game this time around (I had finished it shortly after buying it), but, as expected, it doesn't feel quite the same.  I will wait to do a fuller review until I play more of it, but my initial reaction is:  This was good as an early PS game, but seems a bit simplistic now.  Of course, it is screaming out for something on the current generation of systems, but whether or not that will happen depends on how hard up for ideas studios get.

Mixing bloody violence with black magic and devil worshipping in the way this game does (in a nice nod, one character has the last name of Crowley) was a risky move back then and would be now, too.  Most people don't want children near anything that reeks of Satanism (unless, of course, it's a preschool in CA).  I don't recall there being any kind of outcry over this game, though.  Maybe it was because nobody was really paying attention.  Years later they would be concerned over the hooker killing in the Grand Theft Auto franchise and the potential killer-in-training FPS games.  Satanism, when compared to those things, seems almost quaint.  (Mix the three and watch Congress go into a tailspin.)

I will do a longer write up on this in a few weeks.  Who knows -- I could change my mind about it totally and realize that it does hold up extremely well, graphics limitations taken into consideration.  My first impression, though, is that it plays more for the nostalgia factor than as good game.