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.