I spent hours as a child watching my father play ToeJam & Earl or, as my mother appropriately called the game, Burp & Fart.
When I was five, this Sega Genesis classic made absolutely no sense. Who was Earl and why does he look like a potato crossed with a pear? And what exactly is ToeJam? My mother told me it was the sweat between your toes, so why is this skinny alien looking dude with a chain around his neck named after sweaty feet?
Even though I was confused, there was one thing I understood; ToeJam & Earl's co-op mode was utterly fantastic and away ahead of its time. It allowed two players to work through the entire game in tandem. When they separated to different areas of the game's map, the screen split into two segments, giving each player their own small screen.
The game's side scrolling Sega Genesis sequel, Toejam & Earl II in Panic On Funkotron was utterly terrible and was trying to cash in on the side scroller craze that was present during that era in gaming. The 2002 remake for the Xbox called ToeJam & Earl III: Mission To Earth was also really bad. Although the graphical update was great, it seemed like it was trying too hard to jump on the hip-hop band wagon. The entire game's concept was forced, over complicated and generally uninspired.
The beauty of a lot of older games comes from their simplicity. With ToeJam & Earl, the concept was basic. Toejam and Earl's spaceship crashed on earth and broke into multiple fragments that are now scattered across the planet's surface. Your goal is to avoid crazed earthlings, find your spaceship parts (the giant speakers are obviously an integral part of your ship), and return to planet Funkotron.
A remake doesn't need to be anymore complicated than this. Just update the graphics, throw in some analog controls, maybe some new features (like new weapons and enemies) and you have a perfect downloadable arcade title. The burgeoning online indie game scene is the perfect marketplace for a relatively low cost title like this.
ToeJam & Earl's quirky nature is what made the title so endearing. That and the fact that every single one of the game's enemies were parodies that made fun of different aspects of American popular culture. My personal favourite was Dr. Feel Good, the doctor that runs around earth stabbing you with a needle and cackling like a maniac.
The crazed mother with the crying baby in her shopping cart was also a formidable enemy, as was the insane ice cream truck driver. The fact that you travelled from level to level by entering an elevator was also ridiculous.
I understand that this sort of game doesn't have mass appeal any more. ToeJam & Earl is bizarre, ridiculous and one giant parody of early 90s/late 80s hip-hop culture. This isn't exactly the kind of game that ships millions of units, but that doesn't mean a remake with slick HD graphics wouldn't fit perfectly on Xbox Live Arcade or PlayStation Network. The title was a true sleeper hit and fans would surely be intrigued.
Any other Genesis or Super-NES-era games that you think deserve an HD update?
Follow Patrick OíRourke on Twitter: @Patrick_ORourke.
As a small child I dreamed of reviewing games as my full-time job. Literally, I actually had dreams about being an adult and reviewing games as a career on multiple occasions. Unlike most little boys, becoming a policeman or firefighter wasnít even on my radar.
Today, Iím still trying to achieve this goal. Iíve made tremendous progress over the last year or so and Iím lucky enough to be in the position where I can now receive review titles from a number of different publishers and video game manufacturers. Lately, Iíve been reviewing titles like crazy and itís a dream come true.
However, Iím quickly starting to realize something; playing a game simply for review purposes and not because I want to enjoy the experience itís offering, takes a lot of the fun out of playing video games.
It might sound like Iím complaining and I guess I really am in some ways. Donít mistake that for me being ungrateful though. Iím thankful for every single game a publisher or PR rep sends out to me. Even now, sometimes getting my hands on games from certain companies takes a little convincing as Iím still relatively new to the industry and the local Toronto gaming scene.
I guess my 8-year-old self thought reviewing games would be slightly more fun. I didnít realize that sometimes I might have to play through a game I wasnít that excited about in a relatively short period of time. Reviewing games is still a blast and I really enjoy it, but on occasions when I donít feel like playing a particular game that I need to review because Iíd rather play a different title (even though I need to get a review finished in a few day) straight up sucks.
This happened a lot when Mass Effect 3 was first released. I had a barrage of titles to review, but all I really wanted to do was see the ending to Shepardís epic space-opera story. Iím not saying the games pictured in the header image of this story are terrible video games. In fact, for the most part, theyíre pretty awesome. Right now though, Iíd just rather be playing Mass Effect 3 than any other video game.
The fact that this isnít my full-time job is also a factor. I have work, school, a life outside the realm of gaming, and a girlfriend to entertain. Sometimes there just really isnít as much time for gaming in the average day as Iíd like. I also freelance for a variety of different publications now, and still have to hold down the fort as GameJudgmentís Editor-In-Chief. Iím not complaining. Iím happy and I love what Iím doing, but I wish there were more hours in the day for gaming.
This is why when I purchased Mass Effect 3, I made the conscious decision not to review the game. I didnít want to rush through Shepardís final journey. I wanted to take my time and enjoy the experience. It may take me awhile to reach the gameís apparently terrible ending, but thatís okay with me. With some video games, I feel like itís more about the journey to complete them than actually finishing them, and that brings the highest sense of satisfaction.
As a reviewer, I think itís important that you donít end up writing something about every single game you play. Itís crucial that sometimes you just play a video game simply for the sake of enjoyment and for no other reason but that.
It helps you remember why you enjoy playing video games so much in the first place.
Remember the Road Rash franchise, EAís violent motorcycle racing series? Well, I think itís exactly what the gaming industry needs right now. Itís time for a re-imagining of Electronic Artís classic franchise.
I remember playing the original Road Rash 2 on the Sega Genesis with friends. It was a great mutiplayer game that let you beat each other with baseball bats and chains while driving a motorcycle through traffic at deadly speeds. If any of the early 16-bit Road Rash titles were released on some sort of online store (with new online multiplayer options included of course), Iíd definitely purchase the game.
Road Rash 64 on the other hand? I didnít really like it, that sense of speed and chaos seemed to be missing from the Nintendo 64 remake. I donít remember a whole lot about the game, just that the graphics were relatively simple in order to ensure a smooth frame rate. Still, I didnít feel that sense of speed and urgency that was present in later titles.
Graphically, Road Rash 64 looks terrible by today's standards.
I also vaguely remember playing a relatively solid PC version of the series dubbed Road Rash 3D (it was also released on the original PlayStation).
According to Destructoid, EA Warrington was at one point developing a Road Rash title. Below, marvel at itís exceeding potential. Why on earth was this game cancelled?
I feel that a current generation remake has the potential to be awesome if done correctly. Online multiplayer is a must, as is sticking to the seriesí roots. We donít need an open world Grand Theft Auto-like remake, a simple point to point race would suffice. Iíd also like to see the game be relatively simple and somewhat realistic, as realistic as beating the crap out of each other on motorcycles can be.
The title doesnít need crazy power ups and ridiculous nitro boosts. Throw in classic weapons, the chain, a baseball bat and maybe add a few creative new ones like a taser or something (the taser probably isnít that great an idea in actuality, but you get the point). Police chases are also a must; they were my favourite part of the older Road Rash titles. I also donít think the game needs a plot line like Need For Speed The Run. A straight up arcade title would feel more like the original games.
The gaming industry has a habit of trying to improve remakes a little too much. Thereís nothing wrong with the Road Rash formula. Iím sure beating the crap out of your friends on a high speed motorcycle while weaving through on coming traffic and dodging the police, is just as thrilling as it was all those years ago. So, EA, if youíre reading this (which I know you definitely arenít), make another Road Rash. A revitalized title in the franchise is long overdue.
Thereís never been a video game franchise quite like Mass Effect, a series that truly embodies narrative perfection and has laid new ground for all future video games.
Sometimes, Gamer Woes isnít just about something thatís pissing me off in the world of gaming that given week. Occasionally, I try to focus on more positive aspects of my favourite pastime (This brings to question why the column is called Gamer Woes in the first place, so we might change that in the near future).
With Mass Effect 3′s launch this week, itís hard not to rave about BioWareís vision of a three game epic sci-fi tale, finally coming to fruition.
I recently wrote a piece about Tom Bisselís Extra lives: Why Video Games Matter, a non-fiction book that tackles video games from a personal perspective. Bissel believes that video games offer an unprecedented form of interactive entertainment, but that they need time to mature. If Mass Effect 2 and 3 came out while Bissel was writing it would have changed the tone of his book. BioWare has epitomized his vision.
Never before has a game series tried to emotionally involve the player at such a deep level as Mass Effect. The cinematic cut scenes, the heavy emphasis on character involvement and dialogue tree selection, even the fact that youíre encouraged to get to know your crew, all combine to create an unparalleled interactive narrative experience. To me, the Mass Effect franchise boils down to this: itís a deeply involving choose your own adventure novel making no two player experiences alike.
I understand that their are flaws in the Mass Effect experience. Some gamers long for the complicated menus and customization that Mass Effect 1 offered. Since EAís involvement in the series, itís become increasingly simplified in an effort to reach a wider audience and wrangle in the first person shooter demographic. Contrary to how most people feel, I actually like how the franchise has evolved and simplified itself.
As Iíve gotten older, I have less time on my hands and consequently want to spend less time fiddling around in menus when Iím playing video games Ė I just want to play the game. I totally get where hardcore fans are coming from, I do miss the armor customization from the first Mass Effect quite a bit. I know thereís a simple version of it in Mass Effect 2 and 3, but itís not the same as in the first game. Also, EAís large coffers seem to have given Bioware the ability to secure top notch voice talent, and the gameís voice acting is one of the main reasons why itís so engrossing in the first place.
The feature that most amazes me is that decisions I made in the original Mass Effect Ė four and a half years ago! Ė affected not only the outcome of my play through of Mass Effect 2, but even Mass Effect 3. When Bioware mentioned that they were planning on implementing this feature years ago, I didnít believe it at all. I figured it was just a Peter Molyneux style pipe dream. (On a side note, looking back, I really donít know why I saved Kaiden Alenko. Today, he seems like a giant asshole. But five years ago? I guess I thought he was cool or something.)
I know the entire face import fiasco has caused a bit of a stir in the gaming community. Itís almost like Bioware is punishing their longtime fans for playing the original Mass Effect. For me, this really wasnít much of an issue, I was more concerned with the decisions my character made over the course of the two games, not his actual appearance. This is mainly because my Shepard looked rather ridiculous after being imported into Mass Effect 2. For some reason his hair started growing into his forehead, not exactly the look of the savior of the entire galaxy.
So thatís enough of me raving about the series, but I wanted to share why I feel that the Mass Effect franchise is one of the most important video game series of the last 10 years. It shows the potential video games have for creating a deeply engrossing narrative and has furthered the medium in unprecedented ways. Mark my words, Mass Effect will be the go-to example of video game series story development for years to come.
I was a little confused when Pokemon Black and White 2 was announced last week for the Nintendo DS. Why isnít the game coming to the 3DS?
It might come as a surprise to some people out there, but Iím actually a big fan of the Pokemon franchise and thatís not just nostalgia talking. Iíve grown up playing the series and I do have a sentimental attachment to it, but thatís not the only reason why I still enjoy Pokemon at the age of 23. If you can get passed the cuteness of the series, youíll discover that itís a deeply addictive, extremely entertaining franchise. Sure, the newer Pokemon are a little ridiculous looking (what the hell is this genie looking creature?), but the games are still reasonably entertaining and offer up a solid experience.
So back to my point; the 3DS has been out for a year. Itís doing great in both Japan and North America and has a growing library of amazing games. Why release Pokemon Black and White 2 on an almost eight-year-old handheld? From Nintendoís financial perspective, I understand the decision. The DS has an install-base of 151 million, a number nobody can scoff at.
With all those consoles out there, it makes sense to release a title as huge as a Pokemon game on the console with the most potential buyers. The 3DS has sold 15 million units since itís release almost a year and a half ago. Itís out-pacing the DSí sales during that time period, but thatís still a small number when you compare it to the DSí humongous base.
So thatís the financial argument from Nintendoís perspective, but as a fan, Iíd much rather see a new Pokemon title on the 3DS. Nintendo already pissed off early adopters of the 3DS last year with a much needed price drop (although the ambassador program did a pretty good job of rectifying the situation). I imagine the announcement of Pokemon Black and White 2 on the DS annoyed quite a few gamers who purchased the console soley for a new 3D Pokemon title.
I understand that the 3DS has the ability to play DS games, but a new title, specifically designed for the 3DS, that actually takes advantage of the consoles unique features, should be coming out at this point. Imagine the cool Spotpass and Streetpass features that Gamefreak could come up with? Trading Pokemon when you walk past another 3DS owner with the feature enabled, downloading new Pokemon automatically, the possibilities are almost limitless.
I know that a 3DS-specific Pokemon game will eventually be released at some point. Itís totally inevitable Ė sort of how a dual joystick redesign of the 3DS is bound to happen too Ė but at this stage of the 3DSí life span the game should have already been announced. Obviously Pokemon Black and White 2 will play on the 3DS, but releasing it on an older console doesnít really show that the big N has confidence in their new handheld. Also, I have a feeling that a direct sequel to the original Pokemon Black and White might confuse the franchiseís fans.
And what about Pokemon Grey? Usually, after the release of a major Pokemon title, a third improved game comes out a year or so later (Pokemon Yellow and Crystal are perfect examples). In the end, I know Pokemon Black and White 2 will sell an insane amount of copies regardless of what console it is release on. But if Nintendo wants to move more 3DS units, the game really should be coming out on the 3DS.
Either way, I canít wait to try to catch emí all again and since I skipped the first Pokemon Black and White, itís been awhile.
Now that Sonyís extremely powerful handheld, the PlayStation Vita, has made its way to North America, gamers everywhere are asking the same question Ė will the PlayStation Vita be successful?
The market has changed drastically since the launch of the PSP. Smartphones didnít really exist and neither did the robust app store we all have access to today. Consumer expectations are also different and weíre conditioned to expect downloadable games to be priced somewhere between $1 and $10.
The 3DS has shown that thereís still a market out there for dedicated gaming handhelds. I was extremely skeptacle about the 3DSís future a few months ago, but the handheld has rebounded and is selling amazingly well. Itís even breaking sales records in Japan as the PlayStation Vistaís sales remain stagnant overseas.
The key to the 3DSís resurection was an influx of great games and a substantial price drop. In todayís market, itís obviously difficult to sell a device for over $200 that solely plays video games, and Nintendo quickly learned that. I totally understand that the Vita is a multifaceted device, it can browse the internet, watch movies and utilize social media (it can also do tons of other things). Basically, it has all the capabilities that laptops or tablets have. But unfortunately, I donít think this is really the general publicís perception of the device.
Many people will probably disagree, but I think most gamers will purchase a PlayStation Vita almost solely to play video games. Sure, all the other features are cool, but will people actually use them? Remember the PSP? Browsing the internet or even doing anything that wasnít strictly gaming related was cumbersome.
The Vita has an extremely solid initial line up of games, probably the best of any system launch Iíve seen in a very long time and Sony needs to emphasize this. Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Super Stardust Delta and Rayman Origins are among the most promising looking titles on the handheld. They need to move units through great games, thatís how you compete with the iPhone, not by trying to match the average smartphoneís set of features and capabilities. The PlayStation Vita offers a unique experience that smartphones canít possibly attempt to match. This is why gamers will purchase it.
I, personally, havenít had hands on time with the PlayStation Vita, so this is mostly just speculation (Iíll be receiving the handheld for review in a few weeks). I hope to receive a review copy of the PlayStation Vita at some point in the very near future. I own a smartphone to browse the internet on the go, I have a laptop to use as a computer and if I want to tweet, Iím going to use my smartphone. If I was buying a PlayStation Vita, Iíd be purchasing it solely for playing video games. I really donít even understand why thereís a 3G model of the Vita. If I really want to game online on the go, Iíd just tether it to my smartphone.
For me, price is the biggest obstacle when considering purchasing a Vita. $250 is a lot of money for a student, hell, itís a lot of money for anyone to spend on a handheld device, period. In order for the Vita to be succesful, a quick price drop is in order, but then Sony also runs the risk of angering fans that bought the device on day one. I donít want to see the system share the same fate as the PSP. I canít even remember the last great title released for Sonyís aging handheld.
I realize that the Vita has only been out for a few days and that it will be months until weíre able to tell how well it has sold, but these are my predictions. Itís also a Sony product, so itís not like the handheld is going to die out any time soon. Maintaining developer support and thwarting pirates are also important for the Vita to be successful.
The PlayStation Vita seems like an amazing device and Iím truly excited to see how developers utilize its unique features (the gameplay options for its back touch screen seem almost endless).
I just have a feeling that it might suffer the same fate as the PSP. What do you think? Let me know in the comments section.