I participated in a Secret Santa event on another videogame message board for the second time this past Christmas, and decided to make the little guy above as part of my gift. Glue, cardboard, some scrap mat board my sister had left over, glitter glue, paint, marker, colored pencil, etc. I made the box and lid, and the hat came from a cheap stuffed animal. But what was in the box?
I had the ghost mushroom ball in the gift box, and sent the others along in another parcel in the shipping box. My giftee was pleased. I think he's using the Chozo to hold condoms now.
As for the gifts I received, one of them was The Chipmunk Adventure on DVD, chosen right off my Amazon wishlist. I finally got around to watching it last week and oh my God I felt like I was 3 again. It was the first movie I ever saw in a theater, and probably that I ever saw period. I don't think there's any single thing that takes me back as vividly as this movie, not even a videogame (although there is a fake videogame in the movie that I've always wanted to play.) Anyway, it had been somewhere around 7-10 years since I'd last seen it on TV on the Disney Channel, and I'd forgotten a few things, most notably a song the Chipettes sing to a bunch of snakes they need to get past to recover their stolen dolls...
Um, wow. I was a bit taken aback. It's a catchy song, but I never picked up on the lyrics when I watched it before.* I thought to myself that this would never, ever fly in a cartoon made today, but then I remembered Bratz. So much for that theory! What probably wouldn't make the cut is a mildly un-PC depiction of some unnamed South Pacific/Amazonian tribe that captures the Chipmunks, leading to the famous "Wooly Bully" sequence.
In a move that can only be called "fucking wonderful," the DVD comes with the soundtrack. If you haven't seen this movie or heard the songs from it and you are Chad Concelmo, please, by all means, do it. And show it to the children in your family, too.
*No wonder my generation is so fucked up, our first crushes were Jeanette and Gadget.
So hey, hi there, I'm going to make a sincere attempt to write more this year. After starting at the end of 2007 and then making the front page I kind of.... stopped, with a few BS updates throughout 2008. I have no good excuse for this, and resolved to pick it back up after meeting a few Dtoiders at Comic Con and seeing just how awesome everyone is in person. Then I failed. Then Y0jimb0 wrote a lamentation about people failing and complaining that everyone was failing. Then something happened last week, and there was some more failure. Then Necros wrote an impassioned battlecry to combat the failure. And so it goes.
Point being, I now feel sufficiently guilty about being one of the people who sort of dropped out of things after a short period of fervent activity. It's like I was playing an RPG, then put it down at some point, and the longer I was away the harder I felt it was to come back and do anything. Or maybe I was just lazy. I've gotten a lot out of this place and it's fun to participate. There seemed to be a number of people who actually enjoyed what I wrote and I feel like a douche for leaving them hanging. Anyway, this is getting to be too much of a sappy-explanatory-compliment-fishing-whatever post, but I just wanted to say I'm going to really try to pick up where I left off a year ago. Destructoid's been good to me. Also, cocks.
The primary goal of Dig Dug is to clear the screen of all the enemies, dispatching them with your air pump in a manner that makes the loins of certain people on deviantART quiver at the thought, or via the slightly more cerebral method of dropping boulders upon them. This is how you move from level to level and score the most points, and this progression provides ample feedback to point out the primary goal to the player even in the absence of proper documentation.
The secondary goal is to clear as much dirt from the screen as possible.
A minimal amount of points are awarded for digging through a section of dirt. There's no special reward for clearing a lot of dirt other than the marginal point award for clearing yet another section. It's comparable to playing pinball and caroming a ball off of some otherwise barren surface that still rewards the player with the chime of a bell and some paltry amount of points: a slight nod to an incidental action that serves doubly as a minor reward and as negative feedback, telling the player "Yes, good, you're doing something necessary, but don't expect to get anywhere on that alone." My comparison starts to fall apart here, though, for while I haven't ever played a game of pinball and attempted to shoot the ball repeatedly off of surfaces with no targets upon them, I've played at least a few games of Dig Dug where I largely ignored the main goal in favor of digging up the screen as much as possible. I haven't done a scientific study, or even an unscientific one, but I wager that a lot of gamers have done the same thing.
As I mentioned, the game doesn't do much to prompt you to do this by design. In fact it slightly discourages it, as in addition to the low points awarded you also waste a lot of time if you dig around and ignore the enemies as they tend to surround you and (if I recall correctly) get faster as time wears on. So I suppose I lied when I said this was the secondary goal, as the game itself could scarcely be less concerned with it. Again, though, I'd wager you didn't disagree with me when I said it was a goal. Why?
To me, it seems there's just something inherently compelling about seeing this wall of stuff and tearing through as much of it as possible and beyond what is strictly necessary, regardless of whether the game provides a clear incentive to do so or not. (My sister refers to this feeling as "yumminess.") And there are numerous examples in games of an environment filled with some substance just begging to be cleared:
The Super Mario Bros. series
Oh, how I love to smash bricks! Super Mario World sort of took the piss out of things a bit by making a hit from below simply cause the ubiquitous fodder blocks to spin momentarily, but spin jumps still destroyed them, and the designers gave us a whole level dedicated to smashing them. Super Mario Bros. 2's sand-digging sections are a mixed bag, being incredibly fun when one is playing as Toad and a godawful chore as Toadstool. Choose wisely.
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
Yoshi's Island gets a special nod because my sister particularly enjoys smashing through the soft dirt with eggs and jumps and buttstomps in a quest to obliterate it all. There's also a spikey material that can be destroyed with eggs, though rather than travel through the stuff unabated the eggs ricochet off of this substance.
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
I seem to remember that cement wall in Level E being longer. Regardless, this is another game I played early on where I recognized the enjoyment I got from simply tearing down that wall with the hammer.
I'm slightly dismayed no one wrote about this game in December. Since I'm already terribly late in writing this post, maybe I'll go ahead and write another after I'm finished. Anyway, Level 19 of Bangai-O is entirely devoted to plowing through a giant, contiguous mass of stuff. I would like to thank Treasure for all but conclusively demonstrating with this level what I'm trying to get at and confirming that my sister and I are not weird, or at least are not alone in our weird compulsiveness.
Plenty more examples exist, but you get the idea by now. There are some games that have destruction of massive amounts of enemies or even the environment as their entire theme, but apart from that this special microcosm of obsessive annihilation can be found in many games, to the point that it's obvious designers recognize and exploit it, often by providing other rewards such has hidden power-ups to the thorough player or building a level around the concept. But, as in Dig Dug, the compulsion to destroy these masses of substance is often enough its own reward, and a pretty satisfying one.
From back, left to right:
-Super Scope in box with Super Scope 6 (no manuals)
-Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence
-Kirby Super Star
-Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose (with box)
-Metal Combat: Falcon's Revenge
-Gradius III & IV
-Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World
-Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: The Fighting Edition
-Mega Man V (Game Boy)
-Mega Man Xtreme (Game Boy Color)
-Mega Man & Bass [flashed]
-G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor
-T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage
-Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: The Manhattan Project
-Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA (with manual)
-Garou: Mark of the Wolves
I averaged about 8-9 bucks per game, including the Super Scope. My jaw dropped when I saw Mega Man V for $10 and Space Megaforce for $5, and Subsistence at $15 was a must buy. It should be noted that roughly half of these came from someone else's collection on a forum I frequent, as he was getting rid of practically everything for older systems for a pittance. The other half were found at the same place I got a Dreamcast arcade stick for $20 in the box and Super Street Fighter II X for Matching Service for $10.
Released two months ago on WiiWare, Toki Tori is a remake of a Game Boy Color game that came out late in the system's lifespan. As was the situation with system stablemate Shantae, also published by Capcom at the time, the game was largely ignored as everyone's attention had shifted by then to the shiny new Game Boy Advance. I was among those who had little clue of the game's existence, which would have been a shame if not for this excellent remake.
Toki Tori is a puzzle-action game, much in the same vein as the Adventures of Lolo/Eggerland series, or Lode Runner. The eponymous player character is a fuzzy yellow chick who must traverse more than 70 stages spread across 4 themed worlds with the goal of rescuing his still egg-encased siblings. Each stage has a number of eggs, all of which must be collected, and collection of the final egg completes the stage. There are a number of obstacles in the way, including enemies and the layout of a stage initially rendering certain eggs inaccessible. To deal with these challenges, Toki Tori is given certain tools. These vary from level to level, both in which tools are available and how many times each may be used, but unlike in Adventures of Lolo all tools are given to the player at the beginning of a stage. The first tool encountered is the bridge, which allows Toki to place a small section of bridge across a gap while standing next to it, thus allowing Toki to cross without falling. Other tools introduced later include the stone that Toki can use to create a large immovable stone block, a limited teleport that can transport Toki in one of four directions at a set distance, and the freeze gun that stops enemies in place and turns them into ice blocks. The tools are introduced one at a time in simple tutorial levels just before the first level in which they are used, preceded by brief instructions on how to use the tool, and they can be replayed at any time. While most tools appear throughout the game, each of the four worlds also has it's own unique tool.
The core of the gameplay is figuring out how to use the tools to collect all of the eggs. At first this is relatively simple, with a small number of tools in small stages with limited opportunities to use them, but as the completed stages pile up things naturally get more complicated. Level design quickly becomes quite clever, forcing the player to think quite a bit about how to use the tools, both when and where, and in what order to collect the eggs; poor planning will often leave Toki stuck with no way to continue the puzzle, and force the player to restart the level. Each world has a unique enemy, but all behave in exactly the same way, walking left and right, only stopping and turning when there's a wall or an egg in their way. In general, there aren't very many stages where dealing with enemies is a frantic affair (contrast once again with Adventures of Lolo or Lode Runner,) though there are a couple that put enemy management in the spotlight for a change of pace. Indeed, Toki Tori on WiiWare is a pretty laid back, leisurely puzzle game, perhaps moreso than the Game Boy Color original, which apparently had a time limit on each stage that has been eliminated for the remake, and for the better. By pressing the minus button, the player can pause the action a view the stage as a whole to plan a route, but the relative complexity of later stages makes trial and error almost imperative, and this is where much of the challenge and addictive satisfaction in solving the puzzles lies. A strict time limit would potentially serve only to make stages more frustrating- imagine a situation where you make it about halfway through the puzzle, but come to a point where you need to assess the situation, but time runs out. Now you have to complete the early part of the puzzle again, and when you reach the point where you were stuck you've forgotten what you considered previously. Perhaps this happens a few times, with each attempt giving you a bit more time to think before the timer kills you again, until you finally complete the puzzle. I can see merit in requiring the player to think quickly, but the reward to the player is far outweighed by potential frustration. In the end, a timer would serve as an artificial way to lengthen a stage without really changing the dynamic of the puzzle solving, an unnecessary roadblock to the primary joy of solving the puzzles.
I just spent an awful lot of time talking about a mechanic that isn't in the game, which seems kind of stupid for a review, but I want to emphasize the ways in which Toki Tori serves to reduce frustration. One nice thing that wouldn't be noticed unless it wasn't there is the painlessness of restarting a puzzle when you know you're stuck, or get killed by an enemy or obstacle. A quick trip to the pause menu and selecting "restart" quickly resets the level to the beginning with no penalty and no insufferable loading or unskippable cutscene that's cute the first time you see it but grows tiresome almost immediately. Another good addition is the Wild Card. The main stages progress in a linear fashion, and must be completed in order. However, if the player is stuck on one puzzle and tired of trying to figure it out, the Wild Card can be played on that stage to skip it and allow the player to attempt the next level. There's only one Wild Card, but it can be reobtained by going back to the level it was used on and clearing the puzzle normally, at which point it can be used again. There are some stages that the Wild Card cannot be used on, and these are the "Hard" stages in each world, but this fact doesn't serve to undermine the whole point of the Wild Card. As I said, the main stages progress linearly, with about 7-10 of these in each world. Upon clearing all the stages in a world, the next world is unlocked, along with the hard stages in the previous world. These are available to play in any order and do not need to be completed to unlock any more stages, effectively making them bonus levels. It's a fantastic method of structuring the game, providing a nice sense of progression and leaving the more difficult, potentially game-stopping frustrating sections as secondary content that can be accessed at will. All of these things together serve to highlight the game's best points without anything getting in the way.
Speaking of good points, Toki Tori's presentation is very nice. Visually, there's nothing spectacular, but nothing needs to be. The graphics are crisp, colorful, and clean, with each world having its own visual theme. Aside from Toki and the enemies, there's not a lot of animation, but Toki has a lot of frames for his movements, and both he and the enemies move quite smoothly. The high point of the game is probably the music, with an appropriately bouncy main theme on the main screen and menu, and unique pieces for each of the four worlds that fits them nicely, the castle and underwater themes being highlights. As for controls, the game provides two options, either the remote and nunchuk or remote only. Using the remote only, movement is handled by pointing at a spot on the screen and pressing A, switching between tools by pressing left and right on the D-pad, and using items with the B trigger. I tend to play with the nunchuk, which leaves all the remote functions intact but allows you to move using the control stick, cycle through the tools by pressing C, and using them with Z. The only minor annoyances with the controls are a lack of Classic Controller/Gamecube controller support, and the need to point at the screen to handle menu choices.
My only real substantial criticism of Toki Tori is that it screams for a level editor and yet has none. A solid number of great levels are in the game, enough that I haven't yet finished it; however, I know the day will come when I'll crave more, with no way of satisfying my urge. I remain hopeful, though, as being a downloadable game the potential to patch in a level editor, for free or otherwise, is there, along with the possibility of downloadable levels. Should those dreams be dashed, I suppose that's what sequels are for. This one disappointment aside, Toki Tori is a wonderful game worthy of your 1000 Wii points (or 9000, for Europeans.) If you've already downloaded both Adventures of Lolo games on the Virtual Console and are suffering withdrawals while waiting for the third game to finally make an appearance, download posthaste. Those looking for unequivocally the best game on WiiWare right now, get it.
Some weeks ago Hamza linked to a couple of YTMNDs in his weekly feature that had images of real life scenes manipulated to include sprites of video game characters, as if they had leaped from the games into real environments similar to the ones they called home in their game worlds. On another forum I visit, someone started a thread off with a link to a blog post containing these images, and challenged people to make images of their own (wallpaper sized, if possible.) So far, I've made three images, and while they aren't standard wallpaper sizes they're close enough that you can make your own from them. I have the Super Metroid one as my wallpaper currently on a 1280x800 laptop display, and it isn't horribly distorted. I didn't do anything too fancy, as I'm still learning the ropes of Paint.NET, but I was reasonably happy with the results and my fellow forum dwellers seemed to enjoy them. I hope you will, too.
I think I'll do a StarTropics one next, but I can't find the sprites I want. Looks like I might have to not download not a ROM of the game and not take screenshots to not get what I don't want.