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Archive For January, 2007

Goonies, Goonies, Video Game Goonies!

January 23, 2007 5:51 AM | Simon Carless

- Another Hardcore Gaming 101 feature of note, they've done a really fun rundown on The Goonies games, noting: "There were a handful video games made around the time of the movie in the mid 80s. Four different games, to be precise, which is rather astounding consider they're only based a single movie."

What's more: "Three of these versions were created by a fledgling Japanese company called Konami, who had yet to flesh out their soon-to-be-popular Castlevania and Contra franchises, but still possessed some pretty interesting game ideas. Nearly all of them featured some rendition of Cyndi Lauper "Goonies R Good Enough", which naturally is awesome to hear in old school PSG synth."

Wow, and there's some obscurity near the bottom: "Despite not technically being a Konami property, the Goonies make an appearance in Wai Wai World, a 1987 Famicom game featuring characters and levels based off various Konami titles. The Goonies stage starts off on a pirate ship and eventually weaves its way through an underground maze, filled with evil squids and what appear to be Metroids... Other games represented include Castlevania, Life Force, Twinbee, Getsufuu Maden, Goemon and King Kong."

COLUMN: 'Beyond Tetris' - The MIT Mystery Hunt (Part II)

January 23, 2007 12:14 AM |

["Beyond Tetris" is a column from Tony "Tablesaw" Delgado about puzzle games that transcend mere abstract action and instead plunge deep into the heart of problem-solving. Today is the conclusion of a two-part article on one of the most grueling puzzle marathons available, the MIT Mystery Hunt.]

(In Part I, I gave a brief overview of the MIT Mystery Hunt, written while I was still in the middle of helping to run it. Since then, Dr. Awkward won at 2:14 a.m. Sunday morning, and the puzzles were made available. And now, the rest of the article, about the 2007 Mystery Hunt itself.)

Welcome to Other-People.com

To open this year's Hunt, teams gathered in Lobby 7 to watch a badly planned introduction. But before teams could be roped into tedious groupwork, Michael Fauntleroy, a dashing man with infomercial panache, told them there was an easier way. By signing a simple contract, all teams would be able to find the location of the hidden coin after solving only five puzzles. And sure enough, the teams were given access to a set of five relatively easy puzzles that led to a location on campus.

But when they arrived, Fauntleroy was there to tell them the truth. The contract that they'd signed only told them to the location of the coin (safe inside his own pocket); it didn't give them the right to take it. And in return, each team had bargained its collective soul, which now belonged to Mr. Michael Fauntleroy (M.F.) Stopheles. They were working for Hell now, and so they had to complete M.F. Stopheles's infernal instructional videos to become "really, really evil," find their way into Hell proper, and maybe have a slight chance of becoming as evil as the Devil himself.

They were then given their first video course, and a link to the Hunt's real puzzles on the website of Hell: http://www.other-people.com.

By watching the instructional videos and solving the puzzles, teams would learn what really, really evil actions they would have to perform to prove their worthiness to the minions of Hell. For example, after the course that taught teams "How to Succeed at the Performing Arts by Being Really Really Evil," they were given the instruction to "Create a bad sequel to Wordplay." (Wordplay, of course, is last year's documentary about another yearly puzzle event, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Several of the major and minor characters in the film also attend the Mystery Hunt every year.) The "Writing" round told teams to "Almost plagiarize Dan Brown work," and the "Mass Manipulation" round asked teams to create an Illuminati card for the current president of MIT.

Adding to the theme was a schedule of special "sin events," each thematically tied to one of the seven deadly sins, where team members would take part in a real-time puzzle event. At Lust, "dominants" given cheesy pick-up lines had to find "submissives" who'd been given irreverent responses. ("Baby, you take my breath away." "Finally, somebody else into erotic asphyxiation!") At Sloth, solvers had to lie down in a dark room at 4 a.m. and listen to someone spell "somnambulist" very, very slowly in between a bad MIDI version of "Rock a Bye Baby."

On Children Of Men's Semi-Evocation Of Half-Life 2

January 22, 2007 6:41 PM | Simon Carless

- You know, when Jeremy 'Toastyfrog' Parish stops writing about pleasingly frivolous, often Servbot-related things, he can also turn a mean critical eye to today's games, and his recent Gamespite.net post about new movie Children Of Men is a wonderful example.

He notes of the stark, Clive Owen-starring film: "All throughout Children, I was dogged by a single nagging thought: I hope Valve is taking notes, because this movie is basically crib notes for Half-Life 3. Or HL4, if those Episodes are really supposed to be HL3. Whatever. The point here is that Alfonso Cuarón basically created a big-screen rendition of the world seen in Half-Life 2."

How so? Parish notes that it's "...a dystopic future in which humanity has succumbed to an outside force, venturing beyond the confines of a few fascist-run cities is deadly, an underground resistance with a meaningfully Greek symbol has arisen, and no one can have children -- but actually made it interesting. Convincing, even. Sure, the agent of humanity's downfall is different; it's aliens in one case, a flu pandemic in another. But the results are the same."

In some ways, his conclusion is a little depressing: "Games just don't feel dangerous. Even though you're actually more involved in the events of a game, Children was far more harrowing. The hero and his companions seemed vulnerable at every moment. You know how Gordon Freeman's supposed to be this everyman, a nerdy physicist who manages to battle his way through improbable odds through sheer adrenaline-fueled luck? Children's Theo actually is." And heck, HL2 is one of the _more_ nuanced games out there. But... things can only get better?

Gadget Trial - Advance Wars + Anime = ?

January 22, 2007 1:39 PM | Simon Carless

- Thanks to a cavernously large Fort90 update at some point last week, we were alerted to the existence of Gadget Trial, a Japanese-created PC indie dojin-ish game "that apparently mixes Advance Wars with anime girls."

Originally discovered via SelectButton (which has been getting all kinds of hyper-intelligent whiny fanboy postmodern in a GOOD way of late with Barkley's Shut Up And Jam Gaiden RPG game and a The Wire vs. the game biz rant), Fort90 notes of this particular title: "I know… At least its a bit more original than all the idol simulators that are glutting the doujin market. Anyway, here’s the trailer, which has been described by one person over at Select Button as “surprisingly dark”, whatever that means."

He continues: "Anyway, for those that are interested by such a premise, an English patch was recently released." There's also a handy FAQ on that page which explains: "Gadget Trial is a turn-based military strategy game by Studio Kogado's Team Kumasan... Gadget Trial is suitable for all ages and contains nothing that couldn't be shown on saturday morning TV."

@ Play: Mapping the Infinite Cavern

January 22, 2007 8:31 AM |

Roguelike column thumbnail ['@ Play' is a bi-weekly column by John Harris which discusses the history, present and future of the Roguelike dungeon exploring genre.]

It is well known, among those who know of the genre at all (honestly if I see someone misidentify dungeon crawlers with roguelikes one more time I think I might break my tether and start trampling circus handlers*), that roguelike games have random dungeons, but it is not often that this is elaborated upon beyond just the statement. What does it mean to have a "random" dungeon? The meaning of this term is not as obvious as it first appears.

When people talk about a dungeon being "random," they rarely mean truly chaotic, but instead that the layout of rooms and passages, and their contents, are unpredictable enough between games that the player can be surprised to discover what lies in wait for him. This actually demands, not pure, nonsensical randomness, but a well-honed generation algorithm that can turn the output of the random number generator into something consistent and explorable.

GameSetQ: The GameSetWatch Of Music/Movies/Books/Etc Is?

January 22, 2007 3:23 AM | Simon Carless

- We're not vain enough to claim that GSW is the 'best' of game weblogs, but we do know we go off the beaten track, and cover a lot of alternative material that other game blogs don't touch. So, we got to thinking - what are the GSW equivalents in other media? Here are a couple we can suggest:

- In film, TwitchFilm is absolutely a favorite for offbeat, generally foreign (Japanese, Korean, Eastern European, Russian) film tips, though it also includes some of the U.S. indie flicks and even a good selection of UK-specific comedy news at times. If you want to know about major Malaysian film releases for 2007 (pictured!), for example, Twitch is your site. Most enjoyable.

- In comics, a site we're totally in lurve with is Dirk Deppey's Journalista, the official news weblog of The Comics Journal. Oddly, it just operates on one absolutely gigantic daily post, but it covers everything from the indies to the big guys, with plenty of detail for foreign comics scenes, manga, archival pieces, obscurity, and a lot more - plus some fun invective at times. Plenty of erudition here.

- In music - oddly enough, we don't really subscribe to the RSS feeds of many major music sites, but it sounds like Stereogum probably has the right blend of tastemaking and lack of excessive music snobbery to make it the kind of site that isn't afraid to wander out there, somewhere. Oo, they have info on the latest Chemical Bros experimental track, for starters. Must... set up... feed.

Anyhow, you may disagree with these picks! You may also know other genres of creative endeavor (for example - books, television, theater, music video, spoon playing) which also have blogs covering them in slightly alternative ways! If you do either of the above, please post in the comments, and if we get enough good suggestions, we'll do another post with a 'recommended' list. It's like having a twin town in another country, sorta?

Scaling The Supernatural Olympics

January 21, 2007 10:12 PM | Simon Carless

- This one's a little wacky, and I can't quite recall how I found it, but I'm going to run with it - the very very odd Ulillillia.us has a page devoted to the multiple games the author is working on, including "my 2D high-speed action game, The Supernatural Olympics, and my 3D high-speed platform game, George Game 13."

As for 'The Supernatural Olympics', it's explained of the 2D construction-kit made game: "Ever wonder what it's like to go the speed of sound or cruise the stratosphere? The Supernatural Olympics is a high-speed action game that allows you to do both!" And there's probably almost 10,000 words just in _this_ part of the extremely 'focused' site, such as the super-detailed FAQ, which even discusses ESRB rating. (Try the 'About Me' page to get a further idea of the author's detail-oriented attitude. It's fascinating.)

Regarding future concepts, well, let's just say he has plenty of ideas: "I have three additional worlds thought of at the moment. Adding new worlds allows for more challenges. Worlds, however, take an extremely long time to make, close to even two whole months, likely more from having to redo things due to improved techniques. The first world I plan on implementing next is one with water. Thing is, when using the flash attack in water, the effect is seriously amplified. Rather than 100 mph in a given direction, it's the 4th root of the density difference compared to air (thus around 550 mph in any direction). I have such a world planned and well-envisioned. Another world is the endless mudlake dream, one that would take just a two to three weeks to do due to its simplicity. A third world is one of the arctic with snow and ice, even ice water. With 100 times the motive than neutral, there's a very high certainty I'll implement such a feature."

Arcade Flyers Explores Capcom's Secret Files

January 21, 2007 5:15 PM | Simon Carless

- Thanks to James for passing on the following handy tip: "I just stumbled across something neat that seems to have flown under quite a few radars in October - Arcadeflyers.com has scanned a bunch of really interesting Capcom design booklets, the "Secret Files" series."

He continues: "The covers are all neat pastiches of other kinds of products - Power Stone chocolate, a Skullomania action figure and a Lego Strider II playset! The X-Men Vs Streetfighter one even mentions the Archie vs The Punisher crossover on one of its text pages."

Looks like the first set of Secret Files brochures (which are really mini-promotional magazines for each arcade game - were they given away in Japanese arcades or with Arcadia or similar?) were put up on Arcadeflyers back in 2003 or so, but the new ones only just arrived a couple of months back. Wonder if there are any newer unscanned ones since Strider II, which was back in 1999?

'Might Have Been' - Bucky O'Hare

January 21, 2007 12:15 PM |

From the writer of all those GI Joe comics.[“Might Have Been” is a bi-weekly column by Todd Ciolek that explores the ways in which promising games, characters, and concepts failed. This week’s edition looks at Konami's Bucky O'Hare, released for the NES and arcade in 1992.]

For the discerning, irony-fed geeks of today, it might be hard to understand what Konami ever saw in Bucky O’Hare. A line of early-'90s cartoons and action figures, it revolved around a garish vision of intergalactic wars between huge-eyed animal people in an alternate dimension, and it barely lasted a year on the market. Why would a major game developer even bother?

But while it’s now a blip on whatever radar tracks old toy-commercial franchises, the Bucky O’Hare of 1991 had a lot going for it: a line of crude plastic figures, a comic book, plenty of merchandise, and a syndicated TV show. That was reason enough for Konami to turn it into not just one game, but two: an arcade side-scroller and an NES action game. Both faded quickly, yet they were hardly throwaway efforts on Konami's part.

Bucky travels to the arctic to investigate Neal Adams' insane hollow-earth theories.Where no ordinary rabbit would dare

Though the arcade game deserves some examination of its own, the NES game proves the more intriguing study. A rebel space captain and bile-green rabbit fighting the surprisingly goofy Toad Empire, Bucky’s tasked with visiting four different planets to rescue four members of his crew: cyclopean robot Blinky, psychic catgirl Jenny, the four-armed gunner Deadeye Duck, and the annoying, dimension-hopping, shoehorned-in human kid: a laser-toting nerd named Willy DuWitt.

Once rescued, the other four characters are all playable at any time, and each gets a unique ability, from psychic homing shots to ice-melting gunfire. Bucky fans might’ve noticed the absence of the hulking Bruiser Baboon, who was in the cartoon but not the original comic book. Perhaps his sprite would've been too large.

Surprisingly, the game doesn’t really pursue the atmosphere of Bucky O’Hare, with not even a synthesized 8-bit title arrangement of the cartoon’s obnoxious, catchy theme song. The game is perhaps all the better for that. If the four worlds and the later stages reveal the typical action-platform standards of fire, ice, forest, desert, and mechanized enemy fortress, players will find that each sub-stage has its own unique conceit, including mine-cart rides, ice-block puzzles, and a chase through a fleet of frog-faced imperial bombers. Not all the ideas are its own, but Bucky steals from good sources: the Red Planet has the heroes outrunning quick-flowing lava much like the lasers from Mega Man 2’s Quick Man level, while the Blue Planet includes a snake-riding sequence straight out of Battletoads.

GameSetLinks: Rampant Sunday Miscellany

January 21, 2007 7:14 AM | Simon Carless

- Having finally got round to doing the first half of a massive Bloglines crawl, here are some of the most interesting random gaming links I ran into, as pasted all over the blogosphere over the past few days:

- Posty at Shoot The Core has spotted a new PlayStation 2 shooter - "Ocean Commander from BigFishGames will be reaching a whole new audience of shmuppers this May thanks to Phoenix Games. Phoenix is a European Budget game publisher, which means this game probably won't be ported to the US, and will also be dirt cheap." Interesting! Phoenix also do the recently NeoGAF obsessed-over White Van Racer, among other ultra-budget oddities, of course.

- Treyarch exec. producer Stuart Roch (who is currently working on the Activision Bond game, his LinkedIn profile says!) has posted his favorite games of 2006 on his blog, and they're perky and interestingly categorized, so I pass them out. For one, 'Best Game Nobody Played' was Condemned ("OK, of course I am inferring here that Condemned was “sell-through challenged,” but I think through my straw poll of speaking to one person or another that not many people played Condemned. Like many Monolith titles over recent years, I think you have a case of a great game here that just didn’t generate buzz for one reason or another.") And he liked Saints Row, too.

- An extremely miscellaneous post at the Dreamcast Junkyward is interesting to me because of his pic of a third-party 'Uno' joypad for the DC that I'd never seen before - "One last Dreamcast thing I did actually pick up was a fighting controller for $15. It's third party, but the only time I had seen a controller like this for the DC was one released in Japan by ASCII, which sells for a lotta money. This one is pretty much the same thing, but a lot cheaper. Score!" I own the ASCII Dreamcast pad, and it's _excellent_ for fighters.

- Finally, there's a preview of Pocketwatch Games' PC indie title Venture Arctic over at GameTunnel, and the ecosystem simulator sequel to 2006 IGF finalist Venture Africa is looking agreeably sharp, also sporting some really _alternative_ gameplay mechanisms: "In Venture Arctic, inhabitants pass on after their material form has ceased functioning, one way or another. Each inhabitant comes back in a spirit form that players can capture and re-use to further change or alter the ecosystem." Sorta Sim Safari meets Ghostbusters, then!

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