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.