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Backbone Entertainment


Streets of Rage, ESWAT art for reboots that never were

SEGA hates us
May 07
// Jim Sterling
Backbone Entertainment once pitched a reboot of Streets of Rage to SEGA, which SEGA apparently rejected, because SEGA hates everybody. Artist Arvin Bautista is keeping the dream alive, however, by sharing concept art cre...

Review: The Simpsons Arcade Game

Feb 03 // Jim Sterling
The Simpsons Arcade Game (PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade [reviewed])Developer: Konami, Backbone EntertainmentPublisher: KonamiReleased: February 3, 2012 (XBLA) / February 7, 2012 (PSN)MSRP: 800 Microsoft Points (XBLA) / $9.99 (PSN) The Simpsons Arcade first hit bowling alleys and leisure centers in 1991, back before the TV show got legitimately funny. The highly contrived plot sees Maggie replace her pacifier with a diamond, which Waylon Smithers is trying to steal for Mr. Burns because of reasons. Rather than remove the diamond, Smithers decides to steal an entire baby, prompting the rest of the Simpsons clan to give chase.  Part of the joy of The Simpsons Arcade is in just how ridiculous it is. When we were children, nobody considered the implications of a bespectacled man (wearing an inexplicable cape) joyfully kidnapping a child, or the randomness of Mr. Burns having an entire army of goons that try to kill a whole family -- including an eight-year-old girl -- for want of a diamond that he could likely have easily afforded. In fact, with the amount of money he wasted on trying to actively murder one of his employees, Mr. Burns could have bought the diamond outright for a lot less.  Not to mention the fact that both Smithers and Mr. Burns sound like Peter Lorre as opposed to themselves. Oh, and Marge's weapon -- a vacuum cleaner -- looks woefully sexist in a modern light. It's a true highlight of this game to examine just how insane it actually is, despite us all taking it for granted back in the day.  Using the same engine as TMNT, Konami's classic coin guzzler is a straightforward, simplistic beat-em-up, and some players may be surprised by just how rudimentary the action is. Playing as either Bart, Lisa, Homer or Marge (who is still the best character, thanks to the reach of her vacuum), the only real commands are walking, jumping, and hitting. Pressing jump followed by attack creates a diagonal kick, while pressing the two buttons together causes a more powerful maneuver. If two players attack together, they can perform team attacks. There are also rare weapon drops, such as a slingshot or bowling ball, and a few trash cans to pick up and fling, but otherwise the eight stages consist of walking, punching, and getting punched a lot.  It almost seems redundant to say that a twenty-year-old game has aged, but it's a warning players need to be reminded of. This was a game designed around killing the player as cheaply as possible in order for an arcade machine to grow fat on quarters, so the simplistic combat is married to frustratingly overwhelming odds that were designed to test patience and pockets instead of skill.  To counteract this on a console, Konami has allowed players to customize their own virtual credits. The default is forty, which is more than enough to beat the game, and a team of players can either share a single credit pool or have their own. There are also difficulty settings and a one-life survival mode, and a stage select screen is added as new levels are unlocked.  Other extras include sound tests and character screens, as well as the ability to unlock a Japanese ROM of the game once the American version has been beaten. There are also options to smooth over the traditionally blocky graphics and toggle the screen size, though I much prefer the defaults. The game is nicely presented in a virtual arcade cabinet, which looks better than the screenshots in this review imply, and you can choose to remove it if you wish. Once you add online play and leaderboards into the mix, you've gotten a definitive version of a game still beloved by many gamers who fondly remember it.  Fondly remembering The Simpsons Arcade is the caveat, though, as nostalgia is a key component to enjoyment. Objectively, by today's standards, The Simpsons Arcade is not very good. It's a brainless button-masher that is beaten through sheer attrition, and is so numbingly repetitive that one's thumb will feel arthritic despite the incredibly short length. To anybody playing this game for the first time, it's not going to be looked upon favorably in the least.  However, Konami didn't release it for people new to the game. This is for those who lost their pocket money trying to get past that infuriating Krusty balloon, who made it all the way to Smithers before being obliterated by one of his thousand bombs, and who still remember Princess Kashmir as a legitimate Simpsons reference. For them, this is a loving HD re-release of a game that's very dear to their hearts. For such people, playing The Simpsons Arcade is a joy that no amount of aging can quite take away. 

Any gamer of a certain age will be able to bore you extensively talking about two particular arcade games: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons. The classic TMNT game arrived on Xbox Live Arcade years ago, but as wit...


The Simpsons Arcade likely coming to consoles

Nov 09
// Jim Sterling
The Simpsons arcade game is considered by many to be a true beat 'em up classic, and while most of that is due to blind nostalgia, it's still a neat little button masher. Sadly, it's never come to consoles, but the Australian...

Preview: Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon

Aug 29 // Conrad Zimmerman
Ugly Americans: Apocalypsegeddon [Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network]Developer: Backbone Entertainment Publisher: 345 GamesTo be released: August 30, 2011 (PSN) / August 31, 2011 (XBLA)  Featuring a story penned by the writing staff of the show, Ugly Americans sees the city of New York on the verge of the Apocalypse when a demon rock star plays the city. With only the Department of Integration to save the world, players can choose to fight as Mark, Callie, Leonard or Grimes. Making each character unique seems to have been a major goal in the game, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses from base performance to weapon skills and special attacks. Characters can be improved over time by spending experience points earned in the stages on six stats, but there's no making Grimes fast or gifting Leonard with good taste (his in-game dialog is shockingly crude at times) as stat caps remain in line with the base ratings.  Ugly Americans also features a lot of weapons. Armed with a gun which turns any common item into a deadly projectile, you'll find all kinds of crap to shoot, from baseballs to demon genitals. Every type of ammunition has its own firing pattern and damage level and characters have an affinity for specific types of ammo, granting bonus effects when you use them, such as slowing enemies down or increasing damage. It makes for a fair bit of depth. It's fun to experiment with the various weapon types, though the weapons preferred by characters generally seem to be the best choice when playing them. And since those weapons accentuate the traits of the individual characters, they do feel quite different. And there are many enemies to kill with decent variety. Zombies will make up the bulk of your targets but a few types of of manbird and demon mix things up. The strategy for dealing with enemies seems to consist of walking backwards and holding the shoot button until everything is dead or your special meter fills up and lets you make everything dead. The game supports up to four players in local or online co-op and playing with other people feels like the way to go. The game felt downright brutal when I was playing alone but teaming up with one or two people really lightened the load. And with abandoned babies and missing case files to collect, there's something to be earned by playing stages you may have already completed with a new group of friends. In terms of visual design, it looks a lot like the show. Backbone has done a pretty good job of rendering the show's characters to give them some depth without utterly destroying their appearance. Of course, if you think the show is unattractive you're not going to be impressed by this either. It feels like Ugly Americans is going to make for a decent couch game to play with a couple of friends and a few beers. Like the show, it's crude in a number of ways but there's a hidden charm with a bit of cleverness that does distinguish it. You can check it out for yourself tomorrow on PSN and August 31st on Xbox Live Arcade.

When word first broke that Comedy Central was producing a game based on Ugly Americans, their animated series about a New York City filled with co-habitating humans, demons and other creatures, I had a hard time coming to gri...

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