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About GameSetWatch

GameSetWatch.com is the alt.video game weblog and sister site of Gamasutra.com. It is dedicated to collecting curious links and media for offbeat and oft-ignored games from consoles old and new, as well as from the digital download, iOS, and indie spaces.

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Archive For March, 2006

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Fox Hunt

March 31, 2006 3:10 PM | Danny Cowan

foxhunt1.jpg['Bastards of 32-Bit' is a weekly column by Danny Cowan that focuses on overlooked, underrated, and inexplicable titles from the era of the PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64. This week's column covers Capcom's PlayStation title Fox Hunt, which debuted in September 1996 in North America.]

We don't need a spy, just...a guy.

We can look back and laugh now, but for whatever reason, full-motion video was at one time thought of as the future of gaming. Though it had its roots in the 1980s with arcade games like Dragon's Lair, FMV-based gameplay experienced a revival of sorts in the 90s, with the advent of the Sega CD and the release of infamous titles like Night Trap and Sewer Shark.

The trend continued on through the introduction of the Sony PlayStation. Early releases for the console included upgraded ports of FMV-based shooters like Novastorm and Starblade Alpha, and many titles persisted in the inclusion of live-action video cutscenes. To the horror of gamers burned by consoles like the Sega CD and the Philips CD-i, it seemed like FMV would never die.

Then, along came Fox Hunt.

foxhunt2.jpgSo good it'll save your life!

Despite FMV's bad reputation, Fox Hunt had a lot going for it. Developed by Capcom (yes, that Capcom!) for the Sony PlayStation, Fox Hunt was filmed with a budget of five million dollars, a huge amount in comparison to the money spent on the campy Digital Pictures FMV games of old. It's this budget that gave Fox Hunt its star power -- the game features actors George Lazenby and Rob Lowe in major roles -- and secured a soundtrack full of popular licensed music.

As a game, Fox Hunt was to be a multi-genre epic consisting of item collecting, puzzle solving, and shooting segments -- practically every gameplay element ever attempted in its FMV predecessors, except for perhaps Night Trap's vampire-trapping mechanic. If ever an FMV game could succeed and win over the bitter hearts of former Sega CD owners, it would be Fox Hunt.

from Fox Hunt to The West WingI'M HUNGRY

Naturally, Fox Hunt turned out to be one of the worst games of all time. Despite its promise, the game managed to cram the worst parts of every single FMV title ever made into one unplayable nightmare. The plot makes little sense. The puzzles make less sense. The shooting segments are almost impossible to play thanks to terrible controls, and otherwise talented actors are wasted in their brief appearances.

This is to say nothing of the full-motion video itself, which is three hours of the stupidest thing you will ever watch. Your jaw will go slack as you see your character clap his hands and laugh while he navigates a hospital maze in a rocket-powered wheelchair. You'll witness multiple "pull my finger" gags, one of which features the shocking twist of your character burping...and then farting! It's almost a shame that Fox Hunt is considered to be one of the rarest PlayStation games to ever be released, but then, this is probably for the best.

Despite -- or perhaps because of -- its flaws, Fox Hunt remains a significant piece of gaming history. As one of the last games of its kind to be released for any console, it can be assumed that Fox Hunt's failure was what finally put an end to FMV-based gameplay for good. For this, we can all be grateful. Thank you, Fox Hunt.

[Danny Cowan is a freelance writer hailing from Austin, Texas. He has contributed feature articles to Lost Levels Online and 1up.com, and his writing appears monthly in Hardcore Gamer Magazine.]

Aidez Moi Dans Le War On Terror

March 31, 2006 10:44 AM | Simon Carless

wont.jpg We covered our delight/dismay about a PC game called 'The War On Terror' a few weeks back, and now, OGJ's bete noire Kieron Gillen has conducted a review of it for Eurogamer.

In the review, some of the politics of said title are made a little clearer: "Despite its 'torn from the headlines' name, it's not particularly weighted in the real world. It offers three sides to play on and a campaign of each to play through. That is, the World Forces (i.e. America and chums), The Order (i.e. non-threateningly unspecific group of Terrorists) and China (i.e. China)."

Unfortunately, the end result for the game is comments like this :"Then you start seeing past the programming faults and realise no-one in the design team had a clue either. The camera wobbles around aimlessly, with a tap of the cursor when fully zoomed out making it lurch far too much to be vaguely controllable", and a 2/10 score. Still, as one of the commenters points out: "Why does Eurogamer hate freedom?" Guys, didn't you hear 'we' won already?

Sound Games Are Poked, Prodded

March 31, 2006 6:12 AM | Simon Carless

blank.jpg Over at the Inverted Castle weblog, the 'video game blog necessary for 200% completion', they've been taking a look at audio-only games designed for the blind.

As the blog explains: "The first of these “audio only” games I discovered was Sonic Invaders, which plays sort of like an auditory version of Missile Command; X,C,V,Space,N,M, and < control your 180° array of guns, and as you hear incoming ships on your headphones you hit the key corresponding to the ship’s angle to fire at it. Later ships shoot back, and you need to hit B at the right time to raise your shield and deflect their shots."

Actually, a commenter on the blog post also points out some interesting legacy audio titles for consoles, noting: "Kenji Eno/Warp had some sound only games. One for the Saturn (called Real Sound - Kaze no Regret) and one for the Dreamcast (Real Sound 2 - which may never have been released)." Are there any other classic audio-only titles we're missing?

Grumpy Gamers Get Decisive, Dammit

March 31, 2006 12:17 AM | Simon Carless

lore.jpg The actually rather amusing Lore Sjoberg has a new column up over at Wired News, in which he burbles, in his own hirsute way: "Astonishingly enough, nobody asked me what I wanted to see in a next-generation video-game system. If only I had some sort of public forum in which to express my opinions."

There follows a number of things he felt that GDC and the game industry needs to address RIGHT THIS SECOND, but I'm afraid that Lore and GSW conflict in a major way on his distate for rhythm mini-games ("Long gone are the days in which all it took was a rapping dog and a catchy beat to grab my interest for hours on end"? Sjoberg, you gotta believe!).

But we are, at least, in line with his wish for more puzzle-adventure games ("If we can spare a few billion to make sure farina farmers don't go out of business, then by God we can spare some money to make sure we get a Monkey Island game every other year.") We think we know another Grumpy Gamer who would just adore that idea.

Gospel - The Game Of Champions?

March 30, 2006 8:38 PM | Simon Carless

treee.jpg Christian games are a favorite subject here at GSW, so we note with glee the press release announcing the new Gospel Champions PC game series from Silver Burdett Ginn Religion (which sounds like a liquor company, if ever we heard it!) and Third Day Games, Inc.

Apparently: "The new Gospel Champions series takes children back to biblical times by recreating Gospel stories in a state-of-the-art game that intertwines action/adventure gameplay with sequenced elements of Bible stories."

The gameplay is explained simply: "Children control their Zack or Mary Martha character to avoid adversaries and solve puzzles that lead them to an animation of each part of the story. Once they have found all the story elements, they then perform tasks related to the story. For example, they might bring five sick people to Jesus to be healed or help Zacchaeus pay back those he cheated." You also have to get people to come down from trees.

The official Gospel Champions website has more info, including preview screenshots for the missions, which include collecting bonus tokens to find out about the 'Saint Of The Month'. We kid you not.

Game Ads A-Go-Go: Proof that Video Game Companies Want You to Die

March 30, 2006 3:42 PM |

vcg_logo_gsw.jpg['Game Ads A-Go-Go' is a weekly column by Vintage Computing and Gaming's RedWolf that showcases good, bad, strange, funny, and interesting classic video game-related advertisements, most of which are taken from his massive classic game magazine collection.]

At some point in the early nineties it became wildly fashionable for video game publishers to threaten your bodily health. Everything was "In Your Face!" and "Attitude!" and "Play it Loud!" which is exactly why I played it quietly. Unlike my other gaming brethren, I didn't want to die. And that, my friends, is why I am still here to bring you these next three examples of shameless attempts on gamers' lives.

"Kills Gamers Dead"

toxickonami_large.jpg

What at first seems to be a wonderful, helpful product from Konami turns out instead to be a deadly poison. As we saw last week, Konami clearly wants you to die. So they have no shame in putting out liquid video games with "toxic levels of excitement." That means, in plain terms, that they are trying to poison you to death. Their games also make you urinate uncontrollably ("32 Bladder Loosening oz."), but not because they're laced with diuretics. No -- it's just because you die.

This is Exactly Why I Don't Play Hockey

brethull_large.jpg

The ad doesn't spell it out explicitly, per se, but the game is actually about emergency dental surgery. Brett Hull, D.D.S. is a master in the field, and he wants to show you a few pointers on the trade (note the novocaine reference in the fine print). But he has a dark secret that you must discover over the course of your adventure: It turns out that the mad doctor gets his patients through rigged hockey games in which extremely pale Polish mobsters are dressed up as inconspicuous hockey players and paid to knock out your teeth.

Ok, you got me; I made most of that up. But I didn't make up the part about the Accolade-sponsored hockey player thugs that come to your house and knock out your teeth (while killing you) if you play this game. Apparently it's a great game, though -- you might just want to risk it. At the bottom, the ad proudly proclaims, "Any more realistic and you wouldn't want to play it." Presumably because, if it were any more realistic, you'd actually be playing hockey and there'd be no point. So right there, in ink, is concrete proof that the pinnacle of digital hockey simulation was achieved in 1995 with the game Brett Hull Hockey 95. Ever since, hockey game publishers have been working towards their inevitable extinction.

Push Your Friend Over The Edge (Really)

brainwash_large.jpg

So far we've seen that most video game companies don't pussyfoot around when it comes to murder; they just want to come out and kill you directly. But STD (the inventor of sexually transmitted diseases) and InterAct take a more subtle approach -- they want you to do the dirty deed yourself. Using the innocent-looking "Handy Boy" device shown in the lower right portion of the ad, they slowly and continuously brainwash you over a period of three to four weeks. You don't think anything is wrong at first and keep playing Tetris until 4 AM every morning. But one day, an arbitrary InterAct employee nonchalantly flips a tiny black switch in their corporate headquarters. You black out, and the next thing you know you're at a dangerous construction site pushing your best friend to his death in a wheelbarrow like a murderous zombie. Meanwhile, your other friend, who is not yet done with his murder training, just starts freestylin' off to the side -- rapping about your nasty grandma and how he rode the bus that day -- somehow adding a stomach-twisting Reservoir Dogs-style senselessness to the brutal-yet-carefree peer-on-peer violence.

I'm not sure how many of these Rube Goldberg murders InterAct pulled off, but in a twisted way I have to admire the sadistic ingenuity of their plan. Why they would advertise it and ruin the complex scheme, I don't know. Somehow, evil geniuses cannot resist bragging about the brilliance of their work, and as we well know, it always brings their downfall in the end.

...Except in the U.S., of course, when that end meets teenagers, who, (apparently) according to thorough focus group studies in the mid-1990s, thought life-threatening game companies were cool. It seems they were just giving gamers exactly what they wanted all along.

blowear_large.jpg

[RedWolf is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Vintage Computing and Gaming, a regularly updated "blogazine" that covers collecting, playing, and hacking vintage computing and gaming devices. He has been collecting vintage computers and game systems for over 13 years. Check out the new VC&G Forum!]

Experimental Gameplay Project Gets Competitive

March 30, 2006 10:38 AM | Simon Carless

towerofgoo.gif The excellent casual/Flash site JayIsGames has some new info on an Experimental Gameplay Competition, gleaned at last week's GDC in San Jose.

The original Project spawned a much-trafficked Gamasutra feature and a GDC talk (here's the slides), and the main protagonists are now part of the game industry, so, as Jay notes, "...the Experimental Gameplay Project has been so successful they are opening up the fun to anyone who wants to get involved! They are holding a 2-week game design competition to build a game based on the theme they will announce on April 1st at the Experimental Gameplay website."

As a result of this, "the top 5 competitors will receive an interview with THQ’s Heavy Iron Studios. One will be selected for a paid summer internship with the company." What a great prize for those looking to get into the biz. Personally, we're hoping all of the entered games could be as good as Tower Of Goo, but somehow we reckon that's wishful thinking.

GameVideos Is A Bouncing Baby Website

March 30, 2006 5:41 AM | Simon Carless

gamevids.jpg Looks like there's been a happy delivery over in the Ziff Davis offices, since game video site GameVideos.com is now live, in the customary 'Beta' format.

Thus far, we like the range of videos, including speed runs, that the site seems to promise, though we can't work out how to link into individual videos, and there are a few sound-enabled ads that are driving us a little batty - we hear they're working on it, though, and it's cool to see The 1UP Show get a suitable home.

We still dig the recently launched Eurogamer.tv's technology the best, in terms of smooth Flash-converted movies playing at high res without having to worry about having third-party movie codecs installed, though. But with user-contributed content and an easily navigable interface, we're pretty excited about GameVideos, too, quite apart from GameTrailers and the scads of other content sites with extra video all over them - let the battle commence.

Alt.Publishers - Here, There, And Everywhere

March 30, 2006 12:12 AM | Simon Carless

caves.jpg The indie, miniature, or otherwise 'niche' publisher is certainly starting to flourish in these 'end times' (joke!), and since a few have appeared over the past few days, weeks, and months, we thought we'd give them some brief shout-outs.

- Most obviously, you may have heard of Cinemaware Marquee, which is a slightly odd use of the classic 'It Came From The Desert' developer/publisher's name to brand 'indie'-style U.S. retail debuts for a number of interesting European-sourced PC titles, including Space Rangers 2 (though, according to several threads, it has the decidedly controversial StarForce copy protection on it), the wacky Neighbors From Hell, and a neat maritime-sim 3-pack.

- Also newly formed is Bay Area publisher Graffiti Entertainment, part of larger firm Signature Devices, and notable because it has signed South American GBA RPG Mazes Of Fate, a good-looking first-person dungeon crawler that is "the first Latin American game ever [officially] done for a Nintendo console."

- Finally, and somewhat controversially, there's mini-publisher Variant Interactive, who have set up with some grand plans, mentioning PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Live Arcade debuts for some of its indie titles, including a claimed 2007 PSP release for a conversion of Cave Story, Pixel's beloved 'dojin' game. However, a stormy thread over at GAF alleges that "Pixel did not agree to give them any source code but didn't mind what they were doing under the assumption that it was going to be a freeware project." No confirmation to this, but we'd still love to see a souped-up Cave Story on handhelds.

GameSetQ: The Publisher Bankruptcy Sweepstakes?

March 29, 2006 5:40 PM | Simon Carless

bfish.gif Firstly, thanks to all of you for replying to the first ever GameSetQ, on Brain Age and your parents - a wide-ranging set of remarks concluded that, well, 'parents just don't understand', as far as them specifically buying a Nintendo DS to play the game. We'll see, eh?

Now, another timely question, spurred on by the continuing woes of publisher Infogrames and Atari, which have sold off a lot of their core assets as they struggle under long-term debt issues. They're not the only game publisher struggling a bit, either - Midway, while investing heavily in next-gen, is due to lose $66 million in 2006, after a $112.8 loss in 2005, and Majesco's fall from grace has been notable. So we're asking, simply:

"In 5 years time, which major game publishers will no longer exist as standalone entities, either because they are bankrupt, or because they've been acquired by other bigger fish, who've assumed control of their IP and management?"

You can be specific as to who you think might bust out, or just name the companies you think won't be around any more for whatever reason. And in 5 years time, we'll all dig out this thread and laugh.

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