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February 4, 2006

Get Dotted Out Ice Climbing, Balloon Fighting

iceballoon.jpg We're not bored of Tomy's Japanese Dots library of pin-toys yet (you may remember the previously referenced limited-edition YMCK pixel toys from the company), and U.S. import store NCSX has just got in the Series 3 set of Ice Climber and Balloon Fight pin-toys, yum.

As the jovial NCSX folks explain of the two new classic NES game-themed sets: "Unlike the earlier Dots sets which featured 2 boards, 2 mounts, and 520 pins to create classic video game characters, Series 3 sets feature 4 boards, 4 mounts, and 650 pins to create heroes, enemies, and entire scenes as shown on the front cover of the Dots sets. With 4 boards to bind together, larger gaming scenes may be designed or the Dots may also be repurposed to create messages and/or daily mantras to follow."

One of the coolest things about the toys is that you can create multiple variations, as pictured on the back of the Series 1 sets, which include Mario, Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Dig-Dug. In the new Series 3, we especially like the Balloon Fight kit, which "shows a balloon-lofted warrior about to receive a kiss from a blue-toothed beast from the deep", though the Ice Climber version in which "a pink parka wearing Eskimo [is] swinging a mallet at an unsuspecting blue parka wearing Eskimo" is also ubercute.

Namco's GDC Counter-Strike Neo Revelations

csneo.jpg You may have previously heard about Namco's attempts to move Valve's Counter-Strike into Japanese arcades and LAN centers in the form of the distinctly localized Counter-Strike Neo.

This alone is rather great, but a newly announced Game Developers Conference 2006 lecture has even better, since it has Namco's Kouichirou Taninami discussing 'The Localization of Counter Strike in Japan'. The description explains: "Counter Strike is the most popular online action game in Europe and the US. Popularizing this title with the Japanese gaming community was a great risk, considering estimates of active Counter Strike players in Japan total a mere 2000."

So what did Namco do about it? "Probably the most influential step in achieving this goal was to create gaming centers called LEDzones. These are essentially gaming cafes where gamers are networked and play in a plush, unique environment. This lecture addresses two topics: how Namco remodeled Counter Strike to make it more attractive to the Japanese gamer and how Namco approached the Japanese online gaming community." This should be a fascinating session at GDC, yay.

Unlikely Game IP Theater Presents: Archie Andrews

archie.gifWe recently spotted something pretty unlikely: a new video game starring Archie "Archie" Andrews, star of Archie Comics and lead in rock band The Archies ("Sunshine lollipops and rainbows," etc.). It's a mobile game called Archie News Paper Boy, and it comes to you from Bombay, India-based Nazara.

"Archie takes up the paper boy job in order to make some extra money for taking veronica out for a date on weekend," says the game's official website. "Help him to deliver the paper, by showing him the proper road as he can move across to the houses either vertically or horizontally or diagonally."

The title screen is shown on the upper-left, there, but we're not entirely sure who the dark-haired kid on the bike is. We think it might be Elvis, or maybe The Punisher. In any case, we're fairly certain that this is the first game to use the Archie IP, which is kind of significant. Feel free to correct us if we're wrong.

Poking around the site a bit reveals all sorts of other fun stuff, including Skid City (has nothing to do with underpants), Dilton's Crazy Atoms (more autistic than actually crazy), and Poker Addict, the sad sad tale of a man whose gambling addiction is separating him from his hopes and dreams...and, soon, his wife. Or maybe it's just a standard poker game, we haven't actually looked.

Super Giana Brothers - Goomba-ing Up The Works?

ggs.gif Famed Wired.com blogger and karaoke legend Chris Kohler has penned a new 1UP feature discussing 'Retro Rip-Offs', or plagiarism in the game industry, and it's got some fun sassiness in it.

Kohler smartly points out in his intro: "This could easily be a piece on how popular, innovative games invariably spawn a succession of imitators. But not only is that rather old-hat as far as video game feature-writing is concerned, it would be a piece on genre creation, not plagiarism", going on to explain: "No, this is about serious plagiarism, the sort of copyright-infringement stuff that makes the lawyers come running."

That plagiarism includes such goodness as the classic German platformer Great Giana Sisters, absolutely nothing like Super Mario Bros, for which he notes: "There were eight worlds of four levels each. Level 1 was above ground, and the opening cluster of bricks mimicked SMB's. The first enemy was an owl that looked suspiciously like a Goomba. Level 2 was underground. Level 3 was on a series of platforms that crossed a vast chasm. Level 4 was the boss' lair. Sounding familiar?" Luckily, Great Giana Sisters has been resurrected for the GP32, Dreamcast and Windows in the form of 'Giana's Return' - but it's all very non-commercial, so they may be safe this time.

February 3, 2006

Free Friday Freeware Indie Bonanza Fridays

seik.png Since it's Friday, and we love free stuff, you might want to check out a Grand Text Auto article referencing a cornucopia of PC freeware.

As the intro explains: "Raigan Burns, one half of the N team whom we briefly met at Slamdance, sends us this list of freeware games he recommends, culled from looking at hundreds of freeware titles. Several of the stickman titles in the list were inspiration for N, which won the Audience award at both IGF05 and Slamdance06."

There are far too many obscuro good choices to reference individually, but here's a couple of highlights: "Ikiki: this guy has made several really cool, weird platforming games.. here’s one. others (Google them) are called "bimboman", "teppoman", "teppodon", and "100ponknock"") Also: "Helix Games: cool freeware platformers, "jumper two" and "dim" are two you should definitely check out [on their official website.]" Lots of great, actually obscure stuff here.

The Return Of The Sega Pico

It's true! Has a touch panel and everything! Well...it's mostly true. Longtime friend Vander Fujisaki pointed us to a Game Watch article with further details. The system, called the Beena, is made by Sega Toys, and is basically the Pico reborn, though while the cartridges are the same size, the Pico carts won't work with the new unit. It actually says 'advanced Pico' just above the Beena logo. Take another look at that last image - touch panel...'training game'...sign of the times!

The graphics do look a bit sharper now, but I'd imagine it's the same architecture. The lineup currently boasts the normal japanese childrens licenses, such as Anpanman, Doraemon, and now Mushiking, of course. The big shocker for me is seeing Pokemon in there. A Nintendo game for a Sega console. That's progress!

While it's primarily postioned as an educational tool, some of these do look profoundly game-like, which is damn exciting, even though it shouldn't be. It's been endorsed by educators as a tool for intellectual and moral (!) training. But I can't help but get excited by the prospect of actual games on this thing, though I'm sure that won't be happening any time soon. There's a car game which teaches safe driving, and has a rumble function...that's pretty close! beena2.jpg

Differences from the Pico include: ability to play without a TV, use of a second pen for two players, data saving, score ranking, and playtime can be set by a parent to an alloted slot. Other exciting things: it uses a battery to keep the time. If light strikes the innards of the Beena (ie if the cart isn't set right) it won't operate properly. Demons! The unit costs 13,440 yen, and carts are quite expensive, ranging from 4,000-7,000 yen. anyway, it's all very exciting. Long live Sega.

DARPA, Gaming, And 'Social Puppets'

gesture.jpg The University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (phew!) has posted an intriguing 'serious games'-related news story discussing "a set of ISI- created videogames called "Tactical Language and Culture" that the armed forces now use to teach language and customs to soldiers quickly."

According to the piece, "Hundreds of soldiers have trained with "Tactical Iraqi," while a "Tactical Pashto" is being readied for Afghanistan", as "a learner controls a figure representing themselves, who interacts with other characters who are animated by artificial intelligence", in work that has been "financed by DARPA, and carried on at ISI's Center for Advanced Research in Technology for Education (CARTE)."

ISI's Lewis Johnson explains the reasoning behind the U.S. Government-funded project further, commentingr: "Nonverbal gestures can sometimes be a source of confusion, since people in different cultures tend to employ different gestures. So we believe that it is important to include nonverbal communication in Tactical Language and Culture, both to promote verbal learning and to train people to communicate effectively face to face with people in other cultures."

Geometry Wars - Let Them Eat Cakebread!

geomw.jpg The consistently rather wonderful Eurogamer has just added an interview with Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved creator Stephen Cakebread, dealing with the tragic addiction of this Xbox 360 Live 'killer app'.

The intro sets the stage deliciously: "Eyes around The Beehive widen and brows furrow in incredulity. I'm suddenly instructed to tell everyone at the table what I've just said to one half. I clear my throat. "The worldwide high score for Geometry Wars is 12.8 million." Nobody says anything. Everyone just thinks about it. "Terrifying," says someone, eventually." [Check out this Google Video of K4rn4ge's 7 million score for some eye-opening action.]

In the course of the piece, there's some excellent technical bollocks ("the 360 version's underlying game grid is a system of 60,000 points poised in a delicate gravitational balance that reacts beautifully when struck by shockwaves; it runs on the 360's second core along with the audio system"), and some irony-filled 'creator outscored' sass (Cakebread's top score is "2.1 million, which I originally thought was pretty good... but I've since been put to shame by all the people who've scored five times that!") So skim the article quickly, and go play it the Geometry disease again before the high wears off.

Taggy Web Games

tagman.gifTagMan is a web-based version of the folk-game Hangman. This seems completely unremarkable until you consider the game's near-endless supply of words consists of the most popular tags harvested from Technorati, Del.icio.us, Squidoo, or Flickr.

Fastr is a guessing game using Flickr images. The object of the game is to review ten images and decide what tag they all have in common. You can compete against other live players--the fastest guessers score the most points.

TagMan and Fastr represent an ingenious use of freely-available people-power, perhaps inspired by The ESP Game, a Carnegie Mellon University project launched in 2003. The ESP Game actually helps to build a growing (and increasingly-accurate) database of labelled images through its game-play, which involves two players who can't communicate with each other choosing matching labels for the same image.

February 2, 2006

Digging Into Game 2.0's List O' Glory

game-on.jpg You may have spotted GSW's older brother Gamasutra's new story about the Game 2.0 video game museum exhibition returning to Chicago, complete with 20 new game titles, so we thought it might be nice to offer some extra details about Game On, which some of the GSW folks visited when it was at the San Jose Tech Museum recently.

For starters, the full game list [PDF link] is exceptionally cool, since it makes it clear what an expansive, well-thought out exhibition it is. We particularly like the "Level 2: Top Ten Most Wanted" game and console combinations - starred games are new to Chicago: "Tennis* – Magnovox Odyssey (1972), Freeway – Atari 2600 (1977), One on One*– Commodore 64 (1982), Deathchase 3D* – Sinclair Spectrum (1982), Mario Bros. -- Nintendo Famicon (NES) (1983), MSX game collection – Spectravideo SV1-318 (1984), Lemmings – Commodore Amiga (1987), Fighting Street– NEC PC Engine (1987), Tetris – Nintendo Gameboy (1989), Ridge Racer- Sony Playstation (1994)."

Originally started in 2002 in England, and still sporting a significantly and intriguingly Euro-centric game line-up in places, the UK Barbican's Game On site explains the recent past and imminent future for the exhibit: "The US launch of Game On begun at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (4 March - 5 September 2005) where numbers exceeded 127,000 visitors and has just closed at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose (30 September 2005 - 2 January 2006) with 105,154 visitors. It will hereafter return to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (1 February - 27 April 2006), before travelling to the Pacific Science Centre, Seattle (26 May - 4 September 2006). We are pleased to announce the return of Game On to England at the Science Museum, London (1 December 2006 - 1 May 2007)." Go catch the exhibit - you won't regret it.

PSP Gets 'Lift' With Japanese Ad

pspb.jpg Here's an amazing ad (hi-res JPG link, thanks IC!) from a company called HMP, advertising the PSP idol porn they've been releasing in Japan. Check it out for yourself - but it basically says - in the office toilet - while waiting to meet people - in the park (just don't show it to the kids, it says!) - while fishing for tuna - while skydiving - while being stupid. You can have a boner anywhere, with your PSP!

The ad below, which you'll see if you click the image, shows a woman saying "I'll be with you anywhere." (The phrase she uses is "Dokodemo issho," which is also the title of Sony's popular all-ages casual adventure franchise starring Toro the white cat. Hoho!) Then - with UMD, you can have an "adult life" anywhere. Must've been a fun campaign. Thanks to sub J for the image.

On Square Enix's Localization Dream Team

honeywood.jpg Edge Online has posted an excellent interview with Square Enix head of localization Richard Mark Honeywood, in an extended version of a chat that appeared in an Edge Magazine article.

One of the most interesting parts of the interview discusses non-voice changes to Square Enix titles - Honeywood points out: "For example, see the scene in The Bouncer where Koh is infiltrating Mikado’s office in disguise and has to do gestures so as not to get caught. We redid the motion-capture so that the mime of an alarm clock and the ‘okay’ sign made sense in both audiences. You can see it if you switch between Japanese and English voice modes in the Japanese or US release of the game."

Honeywood is also eloquent on which other company's localization teams he enjoys, noting: "Outside of my own company, I personally like a lot of Nintendo’s work, as they also have grasped the idea of localisation not being mere translation and go to lengths to cater their games for each audience. For instance, Mario & Luigi RPG was a lot funnier for me in English than it was in Japanese, and the replacing of strange Japanese items and concepts with strange Western ones in Animal Crossing is the type of localisation I admire." Yay!

Maria Wouldn't Let Me Go To Bed

jsw.jpg The German-based retro crazies at RedKeyRedDoor have put up a very informative new post pointing out a bunch of Sinclair ZX Spectrum game walkthrough videos currently available on Google Video.

Here's the rundown: "Want to see your favourite Speccy games done to completion, but can't be bothered to faff about with all that emulator nonsense? Heroic internet person 'Daren' is busy stuffing Google Video with complete video walkthroughs of Spectrum games -- so you can sit back and watch Sabreman reunite the Sabre Wulf amulet, Eric rescue his report in Skool Daze, and Willy get past Maria in Jet Set Willy."

Wow, color us impressed - everything else on Google Video has just been passe so far, but a complete Jet Set Willy video walkthrough? We weren't expecting that under the Banyan Tree.

All Aboard The Game Nerd Boat!

grandeur.jpg John Nordlinger over at Microsoft Research passed GSW a rather fun Forbes.com story on his division's recent Royal Caribbean cruise conference, which was held "to figure out how to bring computer games into the classroom."

The Forbes piece makes an excellent summary of Microsoft's chief concerns and desired actions on computer science education, as recently aired at a Serious Games Summit 2005 lecture, and described here too: "Computer science has seen a steep decline in undergraduate enrollment over the past few years, with some statistics showing average drops of 30% a year. Reasons for this decline are unclear, but some academics are beginning to believe that computer games might just be the best way to reverse the trend."

Oh, and here's a cute quote to end on: "After Microsoft's [Dave] Luehmann praised the technical sophistication of three new Xbox 360 games (Mass Effect, Too Human, and Gears of War), a silver-haired professor raised his hand and commented: 'You just showed us three very sophisticated and very violent games, and I'm sure they're good for something--though I don't really know what that is--but what I want to know is, when will you make a videogame that's really useful? When will you make a videogame that's going to teach my students chemistry?'". Hopefully, this is what serious games are striving toward even now, even if they don't have AAA console game budgets to do so just yet.

February 1, 2006

Encyclopedic Knowledge Of Game Machines

gamemachines.jpg Over at Insert Credit, fellow GSW editor BrandonS has posted a mini-review of 'The Encyclopedia of Game Machines' book, a spectacularly complete history of video game devices subtitled 'Consoles, Handhelds & Home Computers 1972-2005', originally written in German and recently translated into English.

Brandon comments contentedly of the textbook, which has an official website with more information: "This book was written by a German, so there is a heavy bent towards gaming computers. This will be a good thing or a vaguely non-exciting thing, depending on your taste. For me, who didn’t grow up with these things, and didn’t have a computer of my own until 1999, it’s interesting to see where Europe is coming from."

Although relatively little promoted to date, the conclusion from the IC folks for 'The Encyclopedia of Game Machines' is decidedly positive: "One thing that the book does remarkably well is tone. The tone is consistent throughout, and number of pages aside, you’ll see the GP32 and the Wonderswan spoken of as true valued members of our video game community. It truly shows that this was written by a hardware fetishist who appreciates each console based on its unique merits."

Casual Fantasia With Plantasia

plantasia.jpg Another official PlayFirst press release revealed the latest game from the high-production value casual game publisher, and it's another great-looking gameLab-developed title, following on from Diner Dash and the previously GSW-mentioned Egg Vs. Chicken.

This time, the game is named Plantasia, and it "immerses players in a magical world of gardening delight where flowers come to life, enchanted gardens grow, and love blooms."

That's a pretty abstract explanation for a game that presumably has a specific genre, so we downloaded it and found out that it's actually a super-fun resource-juggling action title involving planting and harvesting flowers, and it's got a lot of Diner Dash-style multitasking in it. Go check it. Oh, and you've got to love a title which has an official feature bullet point explaining: "Easier than gardening at home." What if we keep cacti, huh?

Barry Hatter Kicked Aside For Billy The Wizard?!

billywiz.jpg We here at GSW have pretty much never been more delighted than when finding out about 'Barry Hatter: The Sorceror's Broomstick' for PlayStation 2 back in December, a game that had absolutely nothing to do with Harry Potter, do you hear?

But now, tragedy! The Metro3D site reveals a drastic change of name for the title - it's now called 'Billy the Wizard: Rocket Broomstick Racing', and has just debuted for PS2 and PC in Europe. Though you still have to "Fight for magical supremacy in the thrilling ‘Orb Domination’ levels... [and] swipe the orbs from your opponents to claim a breath-taking victory", so that's alright, then. (Oh, and a recent Gamasutra story explains the partial resurrection of M3D, for the confused.)

Wait, but there's more low-budget hilarity from the Metro3D folks - the blurb for Living World Racing has perhaps the best first line for a product description ever. "One of the UK’s hottest developers, Data Design Interactive has once again partnered with Rolf C. Hagen Inc. the world's largest privately run pet accessory manufacturer..." Wow, Data Design and Rolf? Say no more.

Tengai Makyou's American Vacation

jpmap.jpg Japan-based video game translator and long-time Ziff Davis contributor Andrew Vestal has added a highly amusing weblog entry to his site - a scanned version of the North American map from the Japanese Sega Saturn RPG Tengai Makyou: Daishi no Mokushiroku (The 4th Apocalypse).

According to Vestal: "This is a Saturn RPG famed for its historical parody humor; the first three games take place in Japan, but the fourth is set in America... This map is basically what would happen if you got a bunch of Japanese guys in a room, got them drunk, and then asked them to draw what they could remember about America on a bar napkin." And he's right, dagnabbit.

However, new GamesRadar senior editor Christian 'Ferricide' Nutt turns up in the comments to provide a little more useful context: "It’s worth noting that the “japan” of the first 3 (and spinoffs, and presumably the new) games in the series is based on the (fictional?) 1800s writings of a westerner called PH chada (or something — only seen it in katakana) who knew absolutely f*ck all about japan. the “japan” of tengai makyou is called “zipang” in fact." Ah, so the map is intentionally awful? We're unintentionally confused, at this point.

[UPDATE: Commenter El and the HG101 Tengai guide help clarify that: "Of course, P.H. Chada doesn't actually exist. It's merely a pseudonym for the entire development team." But he exists in our hearts?]

January 31, 2006

The Fun Motion Of Solid Balance

balance.jpg The super-fun game physics weblog Fun Motion has just added a profile of PC indie physics title Solid Balance, explaining of the title: "It’s a physics game that replicates something we all probably did in our childhood: stack boxes. The goal of each level is to stack an ever-increasing number of boxes and other objects without tipping everything over."

The Fun Motion chaps comment of the game, which has a 1-level demo available on its official site, that, even though "the behavior of the blocks is a little weird" at times: "All told, Solid Balance is a good implementation of a stacking physics game. More variety would certainly be appreciated, but for roughly $10 USD the game delivers adequately at that price point... It’s relaxing fun and certainly much easier to clean up after than stacking real blocks." But we like throwing our toys out of our playpen!

Animal Crossing Told In Miniatures

acgenki.jpgGenki Videogames, a new small import shop in the UK, has put up a little Animal Crossing story using the Animal Crossing toys/playsets, and a rapidly defrosting refrigerator (or so I've heard). Quite cute, and not in any way offensive (unlike this guy).

It tells the rather endearing tale of a snowman who gets caught in the heat. I did expect this to have something of a humorous bent, but (rather humorously!) it reads more like a fanfi. To wit: "A few of the old boys were down by the lake. Captain was happily rowing away on his boating trips, singing songs of some old maiden in some far away town. KK was playing the blues, strumming his acoustic guitar whilst starring into the deep blue abyss with a rather melancholic look on his whiskered face."

Jordan Mechner's Documentary Side

mechner.jpgYou probably know Jordan Mechner from his creation of the Prince Of Persia series, and you might also remember his later, cult classic The Last Express. But a new interview with Mechner on LAist reveals his latest non-game project, the new documentary short Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story.

Mechner discusses the doc, which is "a look at how the community of Chavez Ravine was destroyed and eventually replaced by Dodger Stadium", and comes with music by Ry Cooder, and also discusses the in-production Prince of Persia movie ("John August and I brought the project to Jerry Bruckheimer and Walt Disney Pictures, who hired me to adapt the screenplay. I'm also an exec producer on the movie along with John, Mike Stenson and Chad Oman. Jerry Bruckheimer is the Producer with a capital P".)

Finally, the interview also discusses the differences between film and games, with some interesting comments ("One of the biggest traps for a screenwriter/game designer is to overestimate the importance of the writing, as compared to other aspects of the game designer's job. You have to remember you're making a game, not a movie.") Wonder what the game writers think of that?

The Brave New World Of Digital Distribution

digi.jpg Over at 1UP, Gamasutra news editor Nich Maragos contributes an article on digital delivery of games, an extremely hot topic nowadays, and cannily starts by noting: "The digital revolution, far from the violent and bloody overthrow the word implies, has been a long, slow, creeping process of change."

Maragos goes on to check out Valve's Steam content distribution system ("For titles with little chance of success in the Darwinian (no pun intended) world of retail, Steam is more and more an attractive alternative"), and also discusses Xbox 360 Live Arcade, particularly mentioning the re-releases of classic games ("Digital downloads of cheap, legal emulated games could fill a niche that no retail channel has yet been able to provide, and ensure that yesterday's generation of seminal games isn't gone forever.") Fun stuff.

January 30, 2006

2005 Razzies Celebrate Game-Related Movie Horror

razzie.jpg Unfortunately, there's no equivalent for the game industry right now (though maybe GSW should do something about that!), but there is some significant game relevance to this year's Razzie Awards, of which it's explained: "To hear Hollywood tell it, 2005 was a total disaster... but one Tinsel Town group perversely ranks the year that was as The Berry Best Ever: The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. The hardest part for GRAF members this year was keeping their [worst of] list to just five nominees in each of 10 categories."

Lucky video game-related nominees naturally include German wunderkind Uwe Boll, nominated for Worst Director for the absolutely terrible Infogrames/Atari game adaptation Alone In The Dark (2.2 out of 10 on IMDB!) Boll spread the love around to his cast, too, with Tara Reid nominated for Worst Actress for her performance as a "genius anthropologist" in the movie. But another game to film adaptation also sneaked in there, with The Rock also grabbing a much coveted Worst Actor nomination for his gruntin' performance in the movie version of Doom.

Congrats to all game-related nominees! You can find out who wins in March, since: "This year's Razzie ceremonies will be held the now-traditional 24 hours BEFORE That Other Award Show: 7:30pm PST, Saturday, March 4 at the historic Ivar Theatre in Hollywood."

EQII For College Credit? Gank Away!

megan.jpg Rather amusing EverQuest II-related weblog Aggro Me has a new post up discussing a group of students 'playing Everquest II for college credit'.

According to a post on the official EQII forums, "Hailing from Trinity University in Southern Texas, Professor Aaron Delwiche and his band of merry undergraduate students from the upper division seminar Communications 3344, 'The Ethnography of On-line Role Playing Games'" have joined up with the Vindicators clan, which, incidentally, is run by seminal text adventure creator Scott Adams.

There are a number of student weblogs documenting the experience, and some of the first entries showcase the learning curve: "Perhaps there is a guide for shortcut keys, but I could never find it. It's probably easier to search for that on Google than within the game itself... By the end of the first day I sincerely wondered why anyone would put a significant amount of time into playing games like this." But, fret not: "My outlook improved after a second day of playing, however. Being in a group is more fun and more rewarding than playing by yourself, especially if you're new to the game."

PC Pinball Controllers Get Retro

wizzard.jpg We posted about pinball a few days back, and in the process spotted something that's up for auction on eBay even as we speak - the Thrustmaster Wizzard Pinball Controller for the PC (albeit Windows 3.X/Windows 95, apparently).

Not sure if it's Windows XP-compatible, but an older review at pinball site LastBandit notes: " It's still not like the real thing (maybe try standing up at your desk and leaning yourself into the keyboard ends, drink and ashtray nearby) but it adds to the feel of playing pinball on a computer... I am disappointed in the lack of support this controller has received from pinball game manufacturers." So it'll probably only work for about 3 late-'90s games unless it has easily configurable drivers, doh - anyone got one and can tell us?

But wait - it gets better! Not only was there a Thrustmaster pinball controller, but there's also the Philips Virtual Pinball controller for PC, "a pinball controller which you place on your desk and then stand right-up in front of, you can then nudge, slam or tap the flipper buttons." Bulky and bizarre looking, and even sporting built-in tilt sensors, RetroBlast points out one recently for sale on eBay.

ModDB Picks Mods Of The Year

moty.jpg Earlier this week, the excellent modding site ModDB went ahead and announced the winners of its Mod Of The Year Awards, ranking some of the best indie-developed total conversion and other mods for PC titles such as Half-Life 2, Unreal Tournament, and Doom 3.

We won't spoil the overall winner (go check it out yourself!), but some of the Editor's Choice picks are plenty of fun - overall choice goes to student mod (and also IGF Mod Competition finalist) Eclipse, of which it's mentioned: "A group of talented Guildhall students... came together to build the best game they could in five months... This third person mod utilizes an interesting form of combat in which you use telekinesis to lift objects and throw them at your foes. While it may not be a long game, it comes with gorgeous visuals, excellent level desgin and even an original soundtrack."

Also picked as Editor's Choice for an unreleased mod is Max Payne 2 mod Hall Of Mirrors, of which it's raved: "Have you seen this trailer? In the immortal words of Starsky and Hutch - DO IT! Slowmo, Matrix-like scenes with tons of bad guys, big moves (flips and stuff)... I damn near wet my pants in anticipation for this mod. Hall of Mirrors is a Total conversion of Max Payne 2 that allows you to live out the journey of Cleric John Preston." So there. [Via EA.]

January 29, 2006

Everybody's Super Jacques-ic Racing!

srally.jpg UK Resistance (which used to be exclusively a Sega Saturn fansite, lest we forget!), has put up a new post linking to Richard Jacques' sole Sega Rally 2006 music track, named 'Hand-Breaks'.

For those not in the know, Jacques, while having moved on since then, was the in-house musician at Sega UK in the mid-late '90s, hence a set of credits that include contributions to a number of great Sega titles - the Sonic R soundtrack is particularly beloved among fans of well-produced, too darn catchy game-pop.

As for Sega Rally 2006 itself, handily reviewed by Eurogamer, it appears to be a vaguely OK PS2 racing game with a wonderful port of the original Sega Rally attached, the real news for fans out there. Yum. (Oh, and since we're on the subject of Sega Rally - have you seen the Sega Rally papercraft? Fun!)

Artgames, Pong Games, All Very European

pongm.jpg The art pranksters at WWMnA have been off visiting the 'Artgames. Structural analogies of art and game' exhibition in Aachen, Germany. There's certainly some fun game-related stuff there, including the ever-popular PainStation (for the confused: 2-player Pong which mechanically whips you if you lose), which now has exchangable whips, plus some enhanced Pong-styled gameplay, woo!

But talking of Pong, WWMnA also points out Pong Mythos, which is an entire exhibition "about one ball, two bats, a playing field and our situation in a digital world", and opens in Stuttgart next month, before making a stop at the gigantic consumer/trade Game Convention (think - a European E3!) in Leipzig later this year.

The full list of exhibits is pretty awe-inspiring, and includes Mathilde P's piece, featuring stationary bicycles that control a game of Pong by pedaling, the excellent electro-mechanical conversion of Pong by Niklas Roy, and even the ASCII Art Ensemble piece, "a gallery installation of a Pong Arcade running a continuous loop of the ASCII version of Deep Throat." Riight.

Phoenix Wright, Attorney At Laaaaaw

phoenix.jpg You know Phoenix Wright, right? But do you _really_ know Phoenix Wright? Well, an exhaustive feature on Capcom's Phoenix Wright game series over at Hardcore Gaming 101 will make sure that you know your DS-based habeas corpus from your Harvey Birdman.

Or actually, maybe not, as the HG101 author notes: "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney is often classified as a "lawyer sim", but that's not entirely true. Phoenix is a defense attorney whose job it is to defend witnesses on trumped-up murder charges. But thankfully, you don't need any prior legal knowledge, because the game world kind of makes up its own rules anyway. "

Although, as it's pointed out: "The only problem with the Phoenix Wright games are their linearity - there are almost never instances where the game deviates from the set path, so they hardly provide any replay value. This can get frustrating in the event that you lose a case, since you need to start from the beginning of the chapter", well... (EDIT: commenter MJS points out 'Actually, you can save at any time by hitting start', so... objection overruled?) [Via SiliconEra.]

ATEI Arcade Show Grabs Crisis, Fist, Resurrection

tek5.jpg UK game-ish site Noooz has expanded its normal linklog coverage to present impressions from the 2006 ATEI arcade show, which was held in London this week, and there are plenty of handy impressions of new arcade titles (plus more to come) from hardened arcade veterans.

The first instalment checks out Time Crisis 4 ("F*cking awesome. Right now, there are two GREAT gun games in the arcades. One is Sega's Ghost Squad, the other is Namco's Time Crisis 4"), plus the new Fist Of The North Star fighter ("Watching the game, it looks like a Guilty Gear clone. Playing it tells another story. Firstly, it's a good game. So you can relax"), as well as Tekken 5: Dark Resurrection ("All who played it gave it a favourable response, as proven by the nasty scuff that appeared in the hand resting area by the joysticks (it smelt too).")

Oh, and also - it's rumor time, thanks to a Namco representative that Noooz talked to at ATEI who claimed "that Time Crisis 4 is currently aiming to be a European launch title for PS3 and current talk within the company is that it will hit around March 2007 and be format exclusive." Please apply pinch of salt now, although that really doesn't sound unlikely.

If you enjoy reading GameSetWatch.com, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb Game Network sites:

Gamasutra (the 'art and business of games'.)

Game Career Guide (for student game developers.)

Indie Games (for independent game players/developers.)

Finger Gaming (news, reviews, and analysis on iPhone and iPod Touch games.)

GamerBytes (for the latest console digital download news.)

Worlds In Motion (discussing the business of online worlds.)

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