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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 May, 2006

Mr. James Demands That The Flogging Continues

May 26, 2006 3:48 PM | Simon Carless

doracleaver.jpg Several smartypants are pointing out that Three Rings CEO Daniel James, the creator of Yohoho! Puzzle Pirates, and a jaunty piratical hat-wearing presence at any conference or gathering you care to mention related to the game industry, has started a weblog, 'The Flogging Will Continue'.

The latest post, 'Burning Flipside, and the relevance of Burning Man to MMOs' has some interesting discussion on the future of MMOs and recreation. James comments, comparing the Burning Man experience to 'the Vegas experience': "The analogical contrast between Second Life and expensive content-driven theme-park MMOs like World of Warcraft is obvious."

He argues: "If humanity has a future (i.e. if we don’t blow ourselves up, or devour ourselves in green or grey goo), then I believe we’ll largely live lives of leisure. How will fill that leisure time will be profoundly important. As a creator of leisure, a builder of (virtual) leisure cities, I would much rather people spent most of their time at a virtual Burning Man than Vegas. That said, Puzzle Pirates is more Vegas than Burning Man. Heck, we’ve even got Poker. Clearly I have some work to do!" [Via Broken Toys.]

COLUMN: 'Bastards of 32-Bit' - Um Jammer Lammy

May 26, 2006 12:42 PM | Danny Cowan

lammy1.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 Um Jammer Lammy for the Sony PlayStation, developed by NaNaOn-Sha, published by Sony Computer Entertainment America and released in the United States in July 1999.]

It's a bit of a rush and a bit of a dash!

While most video game genres expand over time and continue to offer new twists and complexities to old formulas, such is not the case for the rhythm genre. What began with story-based, character-driven titles like Parappa the Rapper soon gave way to more simplistic, arcade-friendly fare such as Beatmania and Dance Dance Revolution, both of which refined the mechanics of music-based gameplay, yet eliminated many of the more complex elements that once characterized the genre.

This move can be seen as beneficial to the genre, as early rhythm games were often criticized as being too short, and for possessing too little depth. Modern games in Konami's Bemani series, on the other hand, are almost infinitely replayable due to their lack of specific goals or finite storylines. For all the advancements the genre has seen, however, there's a certain charm present in older music-based games that modern titles seem to lack. Um Jammer Lammy may not have the length and depth that Bemani fans crave, but it possesses wit and charm in spades.

lammy2.jpgThere's no foolin' around with deers.

Um Jammer Lammy stars a would-be rockstar lamb named Lammy, and you're in charge of helping her get to her big concert on time. Along the way, you'll have to help Lammy put out fires, land an airplane, and escape from the clutches of hell itself...using only the power of her mind. Heavy stuff! Gameplay is cue-based, with timed button presses simulating the playing of a guitar in accompaniment to various call-and-response sequences. If this formula sounds familiar, the similarities to Parappa the Rapper are beyond coincidence; Lammy takes place in the same universe as Parappa, and features many of the same characters.

Um Jammer Lammy never garnered the recognition and critical praise that Parappa did, however. This is somewhat puzzling, as Lammy's soundtrack is one of the best to ever be featured in a video game, and easily bests the music found in Parappa and its sequel. Gameplay in Lammy also has much more variety to it; unlike Parappa, two-player cooperative and competitive modes give the game life beyond the completion of its story mode, and there are several optional goals to achieve both in single-player stages and when playing against a computer-controlled opponent. One of the game's best features comes upon the completion of the story mode: an entirely new set of stages that star Parappa as the main character! These stages -- which feature all-new music and rap-based challenges -- prove to be an inclusion that doubles the game's length.

If I'm dead, then the game's over! What a STUPID game!I thought milk was pink!

The game is still a short-lived experience in comparison to modern rhythm titles, but what Lammy lacks in replay factor it more than makes up for in sheer weirdness. Make no mistake, this is one bizarre game. In the third level, a caterpillar vomits uncontrollably while it urges you to put children to sleep by strumming them like guitars. For landing a plane, you're given a set of false teeth, which add a wah-wah pedal effect to your guitar when you equip them. The game's strangest moment, however, was censored out of the United States release -- in short, Lammy trips on a banana peel, dies, and goes to hell, where she has to battle an evil J-Pop idol for her mortal soul.

You won't find moments like this in Dance Dance Revolution, that's for sure. Story-based rhythm games may have never achieved the popularity of their Bemani successors, but titles like Gitaroo Man Lives! prove that the subgenre isn't dead yet. One can only hope that a Lammy sequel isn't far behind.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: If you're a fan of music games in general and NaNaOn-Sha in particular, you might want to check out the recent Gaijin Restoration column on 'Vib Ribbon', another classic rhythm game for PS1 from Masaya Matsuura and friends!]

[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.]

Dead In Iraq's America's Army Feedback

May 26, 2006 10:49 AM | Simon Carless

protest.jpg Over at the War & Video Games blog, there's an informative post on the 'deadiniraq' art project, which, as is handily explained, was created by Joseph DeLappe: "He's been logging onto America's Army under the name dead-in-iraq, and choosing not to fight. Instead, he just types in the names of American military casualties."

Blogger Ed Halter has compiled some of the more eye-opening reactions to this virtual protest, for example: "Don't be surprised if there's a book deal in this. "My Noble Online Protest", by Joseph "surrender-monkey" DeLappe, coming soon to a B&N near you", or, indeed: "Couldn't he do something more original than name all the dead?"

There's also an excellent GameSpy article on the concept, noting: "One of the reasons DeLappe has specifically targeted America's Army is because he has some personal issues with the game itself. During our interview, he calls it "a tax-payer funded propaganda and recruiting and advertising tool for the Army."" Which... it is?

Extreme Hunting 2 Takes Sega Over The Edge?

May 26, 2006 6:45 AM |

extreme.jpg You knew about Virtua Fighter and that tennis one, sure. But did you know about EXTREME HUNTING 2: TOURNAMENT EDITION? Well, it's made by Sega Amusements USA, which is based in Elk Grove Village, IL - won't be too many more elk there for long! But anyway, it strongly appears to be an atomiswave game (just look at them robust screens), and is a tournament edition, meaning you can be ranked against other people who wear hats and plaid in public, should you so choose.

Check out some movies, where you'll find you can injure a bear then try to shoot it as it escapes! Then you can shoot fish in the water! Or even poorly animated squirrels! All the while listening to twangy, poorly constructed hillbilly music (and I know my hillbilly music, I worked at a folk music club). But don't forget, there are also frightening mystery animals - will it be a vicious bunny? Possibly a rabid duck? Maybe even a diabolical titmouse! You've got to play to find out!

extreme2.jpg The game was announced some time ago, but should be coming out in 'early summer, 2006.' which sounds a lot like now! You might think I was joking with the whole demonic animals thing, but just check out this quote from the tips section: "Keep a look out for the MONSTER ANIMALS, or the largest animals in the spot." The bold and caps are their own. Those frightening animals, wandering around in their natural habitat - frankly they're just asking for it! So, just wait til it comes out, then you can slouch behind a man with a red, impatiantly waiting for your turn. Will that man ever finish? The khaki pants brigade can't be kept waiting around! [X-post from IC.]

Vectrex Plus Synth Cart Plus 2600 Equals Musical Insanity

May 26, 2006 6:12 AM | Simon Carless

vek.jpg Somewhere round the edges of art, retro gaming, and music, there lies Sebastian Tomczak and his multitude of circuit hacking projects, the latest of which performed an insanely detailed Vectrex/Atari 2600 symphony at an event in Australia the other day.

Our minds boggle at what was going on, but to try to explain it in less than three pages: "The idea behind Black Dog White Dog is to have a 'visual score' written on the Vectrex Logo program...The Vectrex is then filmed via a video camera, which is on its side to compensate for the machine's unique screen dimensions."

But wait, there's more: "Connected to the TV was a set of twenty-four light dependent resistors (whose resistance lowers the more light is presented to them), each replacing certain buttons in one of four 'recreated' Atari 2600 CX50 control pads. These four matrix sets where plugged into two Atari 2600's each running a copy of Paul Slocum's Synthcart."

So basically, the Vectrex's visual output was controlling Atari 2600 music through light sensitivity, and: "Both Ataris had had a direct audio modification performed on them. The audio from the left Atari was played directly through a Marshall guitar amp. The right Atari was through a Behringer bass amp." Wow. Check out Little Scale and the Milkcrate homepage for more on the many and varied circuitbending projects on display here. [via Xir!]

GameTap Updates On June Madness

May 26, 2006 2:06 AM | Simon Carless

gtap.jpg Holy canole, is it a GameTap time of the month again? We got an email from the 'all you can eat' subscription gaming service (which we still heart) with its schedule for new game additions over the next month, so thought we'd pass them on.

Today, the 25th, looks like we're getting MegaRace 3 ("Strap yourself in for this fast and futuristic combat racer"!), an amusing sequel to the over the top '90s franchise - as well as the Neo Geo MVS version (we think!) of Bust-A-Move, aka Puzzle Bobble - always fun.

Then, appearing on June 1st, we have Super BurgerTime ("It's rarely been seen but it's finally here...the 1990 sequel to BurgerTime!"), and June 8th sees Rolling Thunder 2 & 3 ("The SEGA Genesis presents two follow-ups to the spy classic, Rolling Thunder.") - certainly some neat obscurities popping out from the underbrush here.

Finally, June 15th has Legendary Wings ("Hey, Capcom, you got your vertically-scrolling shooter in my side-scrolling shooter!"), and June 22nd: "Sports Week: Football, bowling, wrestling...not to mention a few other heavy hitters." Oo, should be some nice Neo Geo and arcade titles showing up in there, we'd imagine. [UPDATE: Matt from Turner mentions in comments: "The "Sports Week" content was moved to July so we could celebrate Sonic's 15th birthday on June 23!" Hurrah!]

IGDA Scholars Talk GDC Experiences

May 25, 2006 10:31 PM | Simon Carless

wrightpee.JPG In a rather touching post, the International Game Developers Association has collected a multitude of reports from GDC 2006 student scholarship winners, who each won a pass to GDC and a professional game developer mentor to help guide them.

Elizabeth M. Chung of Pennsylvania State University gives an idea of the general fun level of GDC [yes, yes, run by CMP, who also runs GameSetWatch, but no shilling here, it's a great conf!]: "You spend literally every waking moment of your time devoted to discussion with others about games, meeting exciting people in the industry, seeing the new games that are in the making, and enveloping yourself with the most creative people on the planet." Yay!

But actually, our favorite feedback is from Eric Peter Foster of the University of Advancing Technology, who goes completely against the grain and calls out Will Wright on his GDC 2006 speech: "He is a good speaker, however it did seem a little long, and it dragged on a bit... I think in the future, unless he talks about something more interesting to me, I will go to another session if there is a good one going on." Rawk! [Oh, and ta to Joystiq for P-A screenshot swipe!]

Game Ads A-Go-Go: Visual Hyperbole

May 25, 2006 5:29 PM |

vcg_logo_gsw.jpg['Game Ads A-Go-Go' is a bi-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.]

Welcome back to another extremely whimsically over-analytical edition of Game Ads A-Go-Go! I'm actually finally almost done moving, so I have more time this week to write total pap. In this episode, we'll be focusing on what I like to call "visual hyperbole." Hyperbole (pronounced hi-per-bo-lee), for those who don't know, essentially means "extreme exaggeration." There are many examples of visual hyperbole in video game ads of yore since the advertisers typically want to get their point across in the most dramatic way possible. Let's take a look at a few.

All Hail The Great Shodown

shodown_large.jpg

Somewhere in the South Pacific there lives a race of tiny people in baseball caps that worships a god known as Shodown. The mighty Shodown, in an impressive display for his peoples, regularly manifests himself as a colorful upright wooden cabinet in a local cave. Every week the people of the village gather around Shodown to beg for mercy and forgiveness:

"Oh Great Shodown, we have worshiped you plenty. We have given you trinkets of rock and bone. Why, oh why have you not watered our crops this season?"

Normally, Shodown only responds to their pleas with swirling lights and sound. But one week, Shodown finally replied:

"Trinkets of rock and bone are not enough to satisfy the great Shodown. I require a much greater sacrifice: that of a large metal disc with a picture of a man's head impressed upon it!"

Puzzled by their god's request, the people went to their village's greatest minds: blacksmiths with years of experience in crafting odd metallic things. It took all of the village's blacksmiths working together for seven days and seven nights to craft the perfect metal disc for Shodown. Soon after, the people took the disc to Shodown and deposited it into a slot in the front of Shodown's cabinet. Another week passed, and the people returned, saying:

"Shodown, we have worshiped you plenty. We have given you the sacrifice you requested. Why, oh why have you not watered our crops this season?"

The great booming voice of Shodown replied:

"Last year, one disc was plentiful for Shodown. This year you must deposit four discs before I water your crops."

---

Folk tales aside, there is something else you should know about this ad. Look in the print at the bottom and you'll find this:

yodudeability.jpg

The Best Rack in Town

bestrack_large.jpg

"Finally, there's a video pool game that actually 'feels' like real billiards."

I'm completely confused. First, this ad tells us to "chalk up" (Dude), then it tells us not to ("Do not try this at home" in the fine print), then they throw in a couple crude references to breasts, and then they finally reveal that all this hullabaloo is actually about a video pool game, and that we're not actually supposed to use our fingers as pool cues. Talk about mixed messages. Am I supposed to play with my fingers? Not play with my fingers? Chalk my fingers? Chalk the cartridge? Grope the billiard balls?

I think we're just better off skipping this game and playing a different one.

Be Careful What You Wish For

tecmobaseball_large.jpg

The other night I was in a similar situation as the young fellow pictured in this ad. I was sitting in my living room playing a crappy baseball game on my Intellivision, when I off-handedly remarked to my friend that someone should make a more realistic baseball game. Just then, a baseball hurled through my living room window, completely shattering the glass and hitting me in the head. My friend walked away with a few small glass shards in the arm, but I was knocked unconscious for a couple hours. When I awoke, a stunning revelation hit me: someone already has made a more realistic baseball game. It's called Baseball and people play it all the time. Then I jumped up, grabbed my shotgun, did a dramatic roll on the floor, popped up in front of the window and blasted the kid outside who threw the baseball at me.

Shortly afterward, in the police car, I realized that I had a problem with distinguishing video games from reality.

[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.]

Toronto Game Jam Jams Games Out Of Toronto

May 25, 2006 4:44 PM | Simon Carless

kalish.gif We've just spotted that the results of the Toronto Indie Game Jam are online, including ten downloadable titles and seven games that 'didn't quite make it' to a workable stage just yet - and the selection looks very cool indeed.

All created over a three day period, one of the initial highlights is definitely Kalishnikitty ("Graphically stunning. An animated cat! Parallax scrolling! Photo realisitc explosions! They owe it all to version control. Be sure to play until the end...")

But also well worth messing with is Glucose Maximus, in which "The goal is to feed the kids running towards the ice cream vendor. There are medic and ammo resupplying kids that will help you, don't kill them!" Niiice jam, guys!

Bang Howdy! Gets Public Beta Spittoon

May 25, 2006 10:48 AM | Simon Carless

bhowdy.jpg Good news, everybody! Three Rings, the creators of the excellent casual MMO Puzzle Pirates, have announced the public beta for Bang! Howdy, a multiplayer online tactical strategy game for the PC, in which "players face off in the steam-powered Wild West, using casual strategy game mechanics in a variety of gameplay modes."

The game, which has a Beta blog and is "a hybrid between turn-based and real-time strategy gameplay, and is played in short fast-paced rounds", looks very neat indeed - and it's going to be 'play for free, pay for items' when it launches, just like a whole bunch of Korean titles like Kart Rider that have been super-successful.

Also, damn, it's steampunk, and has a great press release quote: "We been diggin' away in the mines for a good long while and we can finally report that there's gold in them thar hills," said Michael Bayne, director of "Bang! Howdy" and Three Rings' CTO. "Hitch up yer wagons and get ready to ride, because yer not gonna want to miss out on all the fun."

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