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2:00 PM on 09.21.2010

Review: Tales of Elastic Boy - Mission 1

When I first saw the trailer for Tales of Elastic Boy, my mind jumped to LocoRoco. With his rounded body and rabbit-ear antennae, the main character was a dead ringer for a bubbly, bouncy LocoRoco. With a fascination for one ...

Tony Ponce


Updated! Panel details revealed:

Hironobu Sakaguchi Reflection: Past, Present, Future of RPGs

The father of Final Fantasy, Hironobu Sakaguchi, has announced his PAX Prime 2014 panel where he will discuss his history developing role-playing games, along with revealing more about his new RPG, Terra Battle. Find out more info at PAX Prime website.




4:00 PM on 08.22.2010

Off-Brand Games: Tube Slider

[Many video games build upon the concepts and mechanics of their forerunners. Off-Brand Games examines those that draw just a little too much... inspiration.] Know what sucks about the Wii? Shut your whore mouths befor...

Tony Ponce



Off-Brand Games: High Seas Havoc photo
Off-Brand Games: High Seas Havoc
by Tony Ponce

[Many video games build upon the concepts and mechanics of their forerunners. Off-Brand Games examines those that draw just a little too much... inspiration.]

There's an art to deception. Have you ever gone to a fitness club on the promise of a free two-week membership only to be given the ol' bait-and-switch? You have to sign up for at least a month in order to get those free weeks, or you have to sit through some inane marketing presentation. All you wanna do is get out of that place as fast as you can, find a Taco Bell or a Wendy's, and cram your gullet with about a billion thingies off the dollar menu.

Consider a video game example -- who thought Brütal Legend would be an RTS? No, we wanted a heavy metal-themed hack-and-slash with hilarious Jack Black one-liners interspersed throughout. I could say something here about assumptions and how people who "assume" make an "ass" out of "u" and "me," but let's be real. When something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, you're gonna be pretty miffed when it turns out to be a kangaroo.

Ironically, the whole goal of these "Off-Brand" articles is to potentially discover games that rise above those initial assumptions. Then again, there are times when I don't want to be surprised, as is the case with High Seas Havoc. God, why couldn't it have been just like Sonic the Hedgehog?

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Review: Soul of Darkness photo
Review: Soul of Darkness
by Tony Ponce

If gaming were a religion, it would vary in practice and observance from person to person. In my case, I'd model it closely to the faith with which I have the most experience, Catholicism. I'd recognize my own Holy Trinity of Gaming -- the triumvirate of Mega Man, Contra, and Castlevania, three distinct franchises that encapsulate all the values I hold dear.

So strong is my reverence that that it trickles down and extends to all the other games that have been directly inspired by the Trinity. I've kinda made it my mission to seek out these disciples and judge whether they are true prophets or self-serving pretenders. There's really a fine line between hat tipping and straight-up ripping off.

Soul of Darkness caught my attention when it appeared on DSiWare last week. A Castlevania-lite for five bucks was too good of a deal to pass up, any game preaching from the Book of Belmont deserved at least a minute of attention. Too bad it ended before its minute was up.

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Off-Brand Games: Ruff Trigger: The Vanocore Conspiracy photo
Off-Brand Games: Ruff Trigger: The Vanocore Conspiracy
by Tony Ponce

[Many video games build upon the concepts and mechanics of their forerunners. Off-Brand Games examines those that draw just a little too much... inspiration.]

I played the original Ratchet & Clank for the first time the other week and can easily see the parallels between it and the Jak series. Both star a traditional comedy duo, feature a cache of fantastic and inventive weapons, and even share engine assets. Insomniac and Naughty Dog have made no secret that they were in bed with one another, resulting in a pair of franchises that was the vanguard of the PS2's platforming library.

Something else to note is how these games showcase Western platforming design philosophies. Western developers dedicate a lot of focus to smooth animations and slapstick, sharing more in common with Saturday-morning cartoons than Super Mario Bros. Just look at the third pillar of the PS2's platforming foundation, Sly Cooper. I can't be the only one catching a SWAT Kats vibe from that game's art.

See, I'm a very Japan-centric gamer, but I'm not opposed to Western efforts that effectively bottle the spirit of childhood whimsy. What I oppose is the slop that rapes those childhood sentiments in a forced bid towards edginess. The Jak series crossed this line after the first game, and it's a testament to the skilled developers at Naughty Dog that the sequels managed to rise above those shortcomings.

Ruff Trigger does not.

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Off-Brand Games: Neutopia photo
Off-Brand Games: Neutopia
by Tony Ponce

[Many video games build upon the concepts and mechanics of their forerunners. Off-Brand Games examines those that draw just a little too much... inspiration.]

Take a look at this. Now, take a look at this. Does anyone remember seeing these commercials on TV when they originally aired? No, you did not. Don't lie. You didn't see squat.

Let's cut right to it -- no one cared about the TurboGrafx-16. No one cared about the Master System either, for that matter. With Nintendo holding 90% US market share, those other guys were fighting for table scraps and no one gave a flying fudge.

Oh, but that didn't stop the mudslinging! Here's a commercial comparing China Warrior and Kung Fu. Ooooh, I wanna play China Warrior now! Are you kiddin'? Hot damn! What else ya got? You can't out-Nintendo Nintendo but Hudson tried anyway. If there was a game that looked kinda spiffy on the NES, the bee people answered with a color-enhanced alternative. Such was the case with Neutopia. If the games were über enough, they thought, all the kiddies would up and switch camp!

And now TurboGrafx games are on the Virtual Console. Boom. 

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4:00 PM on 05.08.2010

Off-Brand Games: The Simpsons Road Rage

[Many video games build upon the concepts and mechanics of their forerunners. Off-Brand Games examines those that draw just a little too much... inspiration.] The Simpsons is an institution. Its relevancy over the years cou...

Tony Ponce

4:00 PM on 04.17.2010

Off-Brand Games: Robopon

[Many video games build upon the concepts and mechanics of their forerunners. Off-Brand Games examines those that draw just a little too much... inspiration.] Pokémania has swept the nation once again with the recent ...

Tony Ponce

4:00 PM on 03.11.2010

Off-Brand Games: Fighter's History

[Many video games build upon the concepts and mechanics of their forerunners. Off-Brand Games examines those that draw just a little too much... inspiration.] I can't do fighting games. I just can't. How do you people m...

Tony Ponce

1:00 PM on 11.14.2009

Off-Brand Games: Chex Quest

[Community blogger megaStryke likes to play old games that ripped off other games for his Off Brand Games feature. -- CTZ] It wasn't that long ago when just about every item on store shelves came packed with some cheap promot...

Tony Ponce

7:00 PM on 07.31.2009

Off-Brand Games: Power Blazer

[Editor's note: megaStryke started a brand new C Blog series games that mimic other games. More details on the introduction post on the series. Also, his rating system is hilarious. -- CTZ] For my inaugural foray into intera...

Tony Ponce