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11:39 PM on 06.21.2009

Rocket Riot Is Frigging Amazing!

Honestly, I was starting to get the fear come over me over the past few weeks that I was becoming the “jaded gamer” stereotype. This was mainly due to my complete and utter indifference to the items that were being displayed and promoted at E3. I mean, outside of Scribblenauts, I just found it very difficult to get excited over anything. Natal looked kinda cool and so did the Sony motion controller, but I really wasn’t too into either of them. So after seeing all of this, I started thinking to myself, “If this is the direction that gaming is going over the next few years, do I really want to be a part of it.”

Well, as long as there are games being made like Rocket Riot, I don’t think I have to worry.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any illusions that Rocket Riot is going to be the second coming as far as gaming is concerned, but the game is a fucking blast to play and is probably one of the best competitive multiplayer 2D based games that I have played in a long time.

Ultimately, the game is just fun.

It’s a very simple game, I guess the best way I could put it is if Worms, Smash TV and Bangai-O had a kid and it came out in 8-bit. You are a little man with no legs and a jet pack blowing the hell out of everything that moves. The left stick moves the player around the 2D arena and the right stick aims the rockets which are your main weapon. The weapon does not fire until you let go of the stick and it returns to the center position. The longer the user holds the stick in any direction, the rocket’s distance increases. You can play up to 8 players online and there are several different game types to choose from. The levels are completely deformable and there are various powerups and “viruses” that the player can pick up that will decrease their performance.

I have mainly played the single-player portion of the game and I have made it to level 68 out of 80. So far, the challenge has been nicely passed, although it seems as if the difficulty is reaching to the point in which I would have an easier time surviving Armageddon. The sheer amount of insanity that is on screen is amazing. It seems as if there can be up to 30-40 characters on screen at once, possibly more. So add them, their rockets and the tons of bit pieces that explode whenever your rocket hits the terrain, then you can get an idea of the insanity.

The multiplayer over XBL is only competitive and I have played the Deathmatch and Rugby variants of the games. Although Deathmatch is the kind of kill-em-all insanity that you have come to expect, the Rugby game is just tons of fun. You can play up to four players on each team and you rush to the middle of the screen to get the ball. Once picked up, the player must shoot the ball through the opponent’s uprights, or fly through the uprights. Avoiding the other team the entire time this is happening.

So yeah, I know it’s been touched on by a few people already. Topher talked about it a bit on the RFgo podcast and I believe that it was one of the games played for FNF, but seriously, I cannot recommend this game enough. It’s ten bucks and oozes quality. So, if you were like me and skipped out on Ghostbuster’s because you can’t justify spending $60 on a game at the moment, download the demo and definitely check this game out.

“And as a side note, if there is anyone in the San Francisco Bay Area that would want to play this game via system link, let me know. I wouldn’t mind getting some people together and hosting a game.”   read

3:16 AM on 05.29.2009

Gamerpass: Space Giraffe

Its been almost two years since the release of Space Giraffe on the Xbox 360 and I have been thinking a lot about the game lately. I don't think I have loved a game so much that had such a polarizing reaction from the hardcore gamer set. Putting aside the drama that surrounded the sales numbers and Jeff Minter's apparently drunken Frogger-related ramblings, I found there to be quite an amazing arcade-like experience. With that stated, the game definitely did not start out that way.

In the interest of full disclosure, my brother and I used to go to our cousins house every other week when we were around five to ten years old. Every time we would go over there, we would go across to the street to a neighbors house and play their Tempest machine. My brother was the better one out of the two of us, as he was able to flip the machine several times before we stopped playing the game and moved on to other machines, but back in the 80's, owning your own arcade machine was almost unheard of. I mean... only rich people like the kid from Sliver Spoons had enough money to buy arcade machines for their living room.

A few years later, Tempest 2000 came out for the Atari Jaguar and that rekindled our love for the game due to how amazing it looked and sounded. The music, power ups and the then impressive 3D graphics made the game to be what I consider to be one of the best revamps of a classic video game at that time. Sure, looking back, the frame rate struggled a bit and there was no spinner control, but the presentation was amazing for its time. With all of the praise that I give the title, it still was not enough to make me buy the system until about two years ago for twenty-five bucks. We just rented the system and the game from our local video game store and blasted through the game, almost playing it non-stop for a full week. I ended up buying the DOS version of the game once it was released and it was definitely worth it.

I skipped Tempest 3000. For any person who dare criticizes me for this, let me ask you a question... do you know anyone with a NUON? By the time the game was released, I was in college and the game rental shop I went to in Junior High was closed. Anyway, I doubt they would have stocked NUON based DVD players.

So once I heard that Llamasoft was going to release a “spiritual successor” to Tempest 3000, I got excited. There is no way that this game is going to be horrible since this man has done such an amazing job revamping a then 12 year old game to be this amazing piece of software.

Well, it turned out to be a great game, but not in the way that I usually come to expect.

When I first started playing the game, I played through the tutorial and even though it told me things about some of the objectives, it really didn't do a good job of stressing how important various parts of the game were. There was also the problem that there so much going on with the game due to the background visuals, that core gameplay elements such as the Power Zone were difficult for me to grasp, or flew completely over my head.

So, I jumped in and started to play the game like Tempest. As anyone who has played this game knows, if you do this in the game, the game will give you low scores and generally insult you as you finish a level. As I progressed further into the game, the psychedelic backgrounds started to wear on me. What I though was initially cool and fit the theme for the game turned into a massive headache as far as gameplay is concerned. The sound design was amateur, with phones ringing and cows mooing for no apparent reason. The music was okay, not as memorable at the Tempest 2000 soundtrack, but it wasn't horrible and it fit the game's theme of psychedelic insanity.

So after playing the game for about an hour, I left it a little disappointed. I didn't come back to it for a few days and still couldn't get into it. The backgrounds were just too much and I didn't want to play it again. It wasn't fun being firmly on the bottom of the top scores list and it was really getting hard for me to feign interest in the game. So, with all of this said and done, I was ready to completely write the game off....

Then I looked it up on GameFAQS, read an FAQ, some forums and figured out that the in-game tutorial was complete shit.

Seriously, the game did not turn out to be all that difficult. The psy backgrounds are a distraction, but once a few tricks are learned, you can figure out the game structure and actually do very well with a little bit of practice. From the information that I picked up, I was able to deconstruct the game a little more and actually started to do thing that I normally wouldn't do in a video game, such as identifying the enemies strictly by color as opposed to visual shape, using sound cues to identify different types of enemies as they were coming onto the web. Hell, I was even able to trick the visualizer a bit by plugging in my iPod and using the custom playback option to play a blank mp3 track so I could play with minimal visualizer interference. I consider that to be cheating a bit, but it does help out if you honestly don't know what you are doing. Also, getting a decent explanation on how the Power Zone works is invaluable to the game. I don't know why this was not stressed in the tutorial, but it is the key to getting high scores in the game.

I read somewhere that the reason Jeff Minter was so vague with the rules was that he wanted the user to figure the gameplay out as they went along in the game. Now, I can see this angle of thought if this was an actual physical arcade release in which friends could gather around and compare notes and gameplay styles, but that kind of thinking doesn't work too well with home based games. Also, since the majority of multiplayer games are played over the internet nowadays, those kinds of opportunities that were afforded to arcade players during the 80's and 90's are few and far between.

But I have to say the best thing about the game was the constant addition of obstacles. It seems as if every ten levels or so, the game will start throwing more and more varied challenges your way at a very welcome and consistent pace. It was perfect, since it seems like it takes anywhere from one to three minutes for each level. At the midway point, just as soon as you are starting to get into a groove with the gameplay, enemies are introduced that are actually able to spin the web that you are on. The game also has one of the most sadistic tributes to the Commodore 64 that I have ever seen,"the achievement given is well earned".

Now, it's been hard to find people who are into this kind of insanity in a game, but this is one of the few game that if I know somebody has played through it, it can definitely be seen as a notch on their gamerpass. This ranks up there as far as accomplishments along with beating R-Type with one quarter. The few people that I have found that like the game, look at it with just as much respect and admiration as I do. There was a PC version of this released not too long ago with the backgrounds toned down and a very clear Power Zone meter on the bottom of the screen, but it costs $20 as compared to $5 on Xbox LIVE. Both are actually deals when you consider that the majority of Pop Cap games go for $20 on PC as well.   read

1:48 AM on 05.21.2009

Why wasn't I aware: Osman

Let’s travel back to 1989 for a moment. For those of us who grew up during the late 80’s and played a lot of video games, it is really hard to forget playing Strider. Released in American arcades and on the NES in 1989, Strider was everything that an 11 year-old boy who was constantly picked on by his peers would want in a video game… a complete badass with a huge laser sword-thing that just casually walked around in various locations around the world, cutting anyone who was unfortunate enough to be born in Russia or Africa in half. Although the NES and Arcade version were completely different games as far as level structure and gameplay were concerned, they were both amazing experiences and the aesthetic design of Strider Hiyru is tough to match even to this day.

After the Nintendo port and the Genesis port was released, we really didn’t see much of Strider until the official sequel hit stateside about eleven years later in 2000. That is an awful long time in between installments. Yeah, I guess I could include Strider Returns, but upon seeing the screenshots and universally horrible reviews that followed its release, I wisely skipped playing the game until recently on an emulator. The thirty minutes that I spent playing the ROM on an emulator made me thankful that I never spent any real money on it, and this is coming from a person who owns the arcade boards for both of the arcade releases.

I was geeking out on the internet about six months ago and I read up on a Hardcore Gaming 101 article about a title that was released in 1996 entitled Osman, (Cannon Dancer in Japan).It summed up that sometime during the 90’s, the designer left Capcom to create games for Mitchell Corp along with a few others. The reasons why were pure speculation, but it was very obvious after playing this title that he probably wanted to make another Strider, but the powers that be wouldn’t let him.

Simply put, this title is Strider II with a different character, and I am very disappointed that I did not find out about this game until recently.

The story is a bit sparse, so I am going to tell you what I think is happening in the game. It all starts when the main character that looks like a cross between Gambit and a Humboldt hippie is at a Psytrance rave. While he was rolling his damn brains out, he is hit in the back of the head with a sock full of screw bolts and quarters. When he awakes, his captors train him to be the most ruthless badass that there ever was, but refuse to give him any clothes other than the exact same spandex top and baggy hippie pants that he was found wearing, just so he knows that he will always their slave.

Years pass, his training improves to the point in which he can totally leap entire buildings while doing about 10 flips per jump, make people explode just by kicking and punching them and he can create shadow clones of himself. Once he has mastered this, he finally meets his captors, who send him out on a mission to kill “Abdullah the Slaver”… and you use this as an excuse to kill anything that moves.

So okay, maybe that isn’t the real story. But upon seeing the visuals of the game, you’d be hard pressed not to think that it wasn’t inspired by Alex Gray or the rave culture of the early and mid 90’s. I guess you could call it psychedelic or spiritual inspired, but it doesn’t seem to fit very well. Especially due to the amount of violence that is in the game. Although your character does not have a flachion like in the Strider game, he can punch and kick every bit as fast and this has a habit of making your foes explode into a bloody mess. The game is much more graphic than Strider ever was, but the gore is fleeting and the animation in the game is amazing. Screenshots cannot do this game justice, this game has to be played to really appreciate the animation and the amount of sheer insanity that happens on screen at any given time.

The stages are pure Strider as well. The game is a straight platform action game with lots of mini-bosses scattered about to keep the action interesting. There are also a lot of little touches that they threw in that I thought was nice, such as the destructible future sport cars and huge stages that drastically change mid-level. The game even has its own version of the anti-grav battle that was during the Balrog battle in Strider. The variety in the levels is great and there are a ton of little nods to its unofficial prequel all over the game. Unfortunately, the music is pretty forgettable. Although the main theme from the first level pops into my head from time to time, you won’t even bother the rest of the soundtrack.

Even with all of the bad things that I wrote about the game and its art direction, I really like Osman and I definitely think that it is worth seeking out if you are a fan of the Strider series, or 2D action games in general. There is a lot of great gameplay to be had here and a playthrough will take about 20-30 minutes. Although the game did have an arcade release, I never seen one personally and I’m unsure if it made it to the states. I had to get the ROM file and use MAME to play the game, so the legality is dubious at best. Still, it is definitely worth seeking out if you are looking to scratch that Strider itch.


8:58 AM on 05.20.2009

First Impressions: Punch-Out!

Yesterday, I went to Best Buy my first retail game since Street Fighter IV and I had three franchise revivals to choose from: Bionic Commando, UFC and Punch-Out. Now, I had played the demos for BC and UFC and thought that they both were worthy candidates for purchase, I checked MetaCritic and Punch-Out had the best score. That, mixed with the fact that I loved the Punch-Out titles as a kid swayed me away from picking up the other two titles. So I picked up the game and ended up at a friends house in which we played the game non-stop for three hours.

Nostalgia can be a pain in this industry. Although there have been countless IP revivals that have broken out of the shadows of their original games to be great stand-alone titles, it also allows the user to be more forgiving when a title does not quite live up to the expectations that its predecessor has placed upon it. If there is any company that has the formula down for successful IP revivals, it must be Nintendo. I don't think I have ever played a horrible Metroid, Mario or Zelda title and I think that it's fair to state the same about the Punch-Out! Series.

We started the session playing multi-player for about thirty minutes and were thrown off by the pacing. Although the screen was split and I had a pretty easy time adapting to the controls, it just seemed really slow. The multi-player recovery and attack system was just too sluggish to make it even remotely interesting. That mixed with the fact that there is no variety with the fighters made the mode feel as if it was just tacked on as an afterthought. Anyway, I didn't buy the game for the multi-player, I bought it so I can make Von Kaiser and Bald Bull, “the only Turkish person in video games that I am aware of”, my bitch again.

There rest of the time spent with the game was acquiring the titles through the story mode, passing the controller off to my friend after every other fight. This is where the nostalgia kicked in. I think a lot of gamers over the age of 27 have some really vivid memories of playing through Mike Tyson's Punch-Out with their friends and devising plans on how to take out the next boxer. The way that we were talking about the plans to take out the next boxer was almost like if we had taken a time machine to when I was nine years old and all of my friends were gathered around the television trying to figure out for the life of us how in the hell was it possible to beat Mike Tyson.

The complaints that I have are minor, and probably are not an issue for 99% of the people out there, but since when did Glass Joe have any muscle tone? Why doesn't King Hippo bark and hop to the middle of the ring when he starts his fight? There were little semantic issues that I picked apart in my head while we fought our way to Mr. Sandman, “which is a far better choice for a final fighter than Mr. Dream was when they took Mike Tyson out of the original NES version of the game”. All of these complaints fall by the wayside when you actually start playing the game, as the gameplay is pure, classic Punch-Out save for the ability to perform a different super punch depending on how many stars the player has acquired. When playing with the Wii Remote turned to its side like an NES controller, it plays exactly as you remember. I tried the Wii Remote and Numchuk combo for a quick minute to get a feel for the responsiveness, but wasn't too impressed, so I just stuck with what worked.

Which leads to my only real complaint about the game, which would be the inability to use a classic controller or a Gamecube controller while fighting. The D-Pad on the Wii Remote is a little small for adult hands and having the option to use a bigger pad or an analog stick would have been amazing. This issue turned me into “that guy” on a few occasions. You know, “that guy” who makes excuses for ducking when he really should have blocked... I am convinced that if I had a larger D-Pad with a more defined imprint on the controller, more close calls would have turned out in my favor.

Anyway, I am still not done with the title,as I understand that the Title Defense mode adds a lot of replayability to the title and changes the boxers and their play style dramatically. I'm probably going to jump into that after work today or later on in the week, but so far, I can say that the game exceeded my expectations and does not tarnish the reputation of the series one bit. Currently, I am believing the hype. Any game nowadays that sucks me into playing it for several hours during my first sitting is impressive and I am really looking forward to finishing the game. I'll write more once I've completed the single player.   read

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