Archive for April, 2010

Wizard Week: The Sorceress Strikes

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Sandwich Islands Publishing had a problem. It needed a new character to represent its upcoming line of Super Nintendo Entertainment System strategy guides. Its stalwart wizard mascot, sadly, was not ideal for the job.

Why? Well, in short, the Genesis was an incredibly masculine console. Its limited color palette resulted in games that had a rugged, manly aesthetic. If the Sega Genesis was a beard, it would be the most majestic beard of them all: a wizard’s beard. SIP knew this, and designed its covers accordingly.

The SNES, by comparison, was a passionate, fertile system, brimming with feminine wile and charm. Developers were given free reign over a dazzling spectrum of colors, and Mode 7 technology ensured elegant rotation and scaling effects.

Sandwich Islands Publishing needed a female lead to serve as the physical embodiment of 1991’s juiciest Super Nintendo secrets.

Wizard: Well…
Dragon: No
What’s that growth on her shoulder? I think it’s a raven.

Let’s get this out of the way first: she’s no wizard. Sadly, wizards don’t really have a female equivalent. Witches are the closest physical match, but witches aren’t exactly strategy guide cover material. Wizards suggest wisdom and mastery; witches bring to mind lunatic buffoonery.

While it makes sense that SIP would choose a sorceress as its cover girl, the series is off to a rocky start in terms of cover content — there are three different animal classes on display here, and yet no dragon.

But look at that strategy lineup! Street Fighter II! Super Mario World! The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past! Despite some questionable filler material (anyone need a walkthrough for Hole-in-One Golf? Or Super Off Road? Or Hook?), the strategy offerings here are strong enough to sell the book on their own merits, despite the loss of our beloved wizard and his dragon.

Rating: Tentative Approval


Wizard Week Gaiden: Bantam…Bluh…Huh?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

While the 16-bit strategy guide wars raged between Prima and Sandwich Islands Publishing, Bantam Books wanted its own slice of that sweet pie. Bantam started off by publishing guides covering 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System games, then produced one volume for Game Boy games. Then they stopped making video game strategy guides.

I’m not quite sure how to approach these. Um.

Wizard: No
Dragon: No
Dapper zootsuited runaway sailor fox/wolf thing: Sure enough



Wizard Week: Wizards at War

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets, huh? Oh, real mature. Do those jerks at Sandwich Islands Publishing seriously think they can get away with this? We’ll show them a thing or two. We’ll make a sequel to Sega Genesis Secrets…with the exact same cover!

Well, it’s not the exact same cover. It seems to take place a few seconds after the events shown in the first volume — the warrior looks a little more exhausted, and the Amazon has finally made up her mind to attack the dragon. Otherwise, the art tells the same, tired story as before. Why should anyone expect the book’s contents to be up-to-date with the latest hints and tips for killer Sega Genesis games?

The third volume, on the other hand, skips over the rest of the battle and focuses on the thrilling aftermath of our heroes looking at a dead dragon. What happened? Who killed the dragon? Given that the pair was given two entire strategy guide covers to kill a dragon but failed to do so, someone else — say, a wizard — probably swept in and saved the day.

Dragon: Do snakes count as dragons?
No: Then no, there’s no dragon.

While Prima was screwing around with its “dragon / dragon / dead dragon” saga, Sandwich Islands Publishing retaliated by taking its wizard mascot into outer goddamned space. At this point in the Prima trilogy, Sandwich could’ve responded with a painting of a wizard squatting on a toilet and still emerged the victor. But a cover featuring a future wizard? That’s just raw as hell.

This new direction actually hurt the Awesome brand, in the long run. Taking the wizard into space would have been a natural conclusion for the series, but Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets still had three more volumes to go at this point. Where do you go from here? How can you follow up on a wizard in space?

The short answer: you can’t. A future space wizard would normally earn a perfect score on my review scale, but Sandwich Islands Publishing’s poor timing softens the intended impact.

Rating: 9.98 out of 10


Wizard Week: Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets

Monday, April 26th, 2010

You’ve got competition. The biggest name in the strategy guide biz — Prima Games –  has rushed its own Sega Genesis Secrets to the market, beating you in your quest to reveal gaming’s hottest strategies to the public. You now face a problem: how are people going to know that your secrets are better than their secrets?

Well, you can start by calling your book AWESOME Sega Genesis Secrets.

Wizard: Yes
Dragon: Yes
Is that…another dragon?: YES!

Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets is actually pretty great. Whereas Prima’s Non-Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets wasted your time with bullshit strategies for bullshit games like Whip Rush and Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf, Sandwich Island Publishing’s Awesome guide delivers secrets for games that people might actually want to play — Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Strider, to name a few. It even has full maps for Shining in the Darkness (a godsend, back in 1991) and strategies for lesser-known greats like Toejam & Earl.

More importantly, though, Awesome Sega Genesis Secrets started the early ’90s trend of putting wizards front-and-center on the covers of video game strategy guides. Never mind that wizards are not actually found in most video games — gamers know that if any book features a wizard or a dragon on the cover, it’s probably worth reading.

Wizard review: This wizard is pretty sweet, as far as wizards go. His hair, in particular, goes above and beyond the call of duty by growing out from his eyebrows, accenting the cobweb-like wisps that flow from behind his robe.

Otherwise, how goddamned garish is this cover? Hot pink and cyan are the dominant colors here, and the words in the title look like they were glued together at the very last possible second before going to print. It’s as if the designer forgot to include the word “Sega” in his first draft. And “Secrets.”

The artist attempted to distract from these flaws by flipping and duplicating the dragon in the wizard’s crystal ball, and while the addition of more dragons is always appreciated, the design and color scheme ultimately result in a decidedly non-visceral experience.

Rating: 6.75 out of 10

TOMORROW: Prima’s counterattack!!

Wizard Week Prelude: Sega Genesis Secrets

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

Wizard: No
Dragon: Yes
Instant mastery for all players: Yes

Kicking off Wizard Week (I’ll explain later), here we have…a strategy guide with no wizards on the cover. Don’t worry. I’ll get to the good stuff soon.

This well-worn guide is oddly memorable for me, for several reasons. It also serves as a prototype of sorts for what’s to come later this week. For now, note the cover’s fantasy setting and conspicuous lack of wizards, which I assure you will be addressed shortly.

Read on for more incredible artwork and stunning strategies.



Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

I had lots of prototypes and unreleased stuff I wanted to talk about on this site eventually, but before I could get around to any of them, my good buddy Frank Cifaldi discovered the holy mother of them all — Bio Force Ape.

Frank and the Retronauts crew at 1UP played through the game — live and in full — in an episode of Game Night earlier this week, which you can now watch in slightly abridged form:

Part 1, in which Jeremy Parish wrestles with an ape
Part 2, featuring the best enemy character in history at 6:40
Part 3, in which the game takes a sadistic turn
Part 4, edited to remove ten minutes of monkeys falling off conveyor belts

Frank and company do a good job of explaining the game’s insane history, so I won’t bother prefacing it. Just know that this is something that you need to watch, if you’re at all interested in bizarre unreleased video games, stories of triumph against impossible odds, or mangaroos.

Fisher-Price Thinks Your Children Are Speical

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

I report news about iPhone games. I report news about educational games. When the two meet, it normally brings me great joy. Except when this happens.

Fisher-Price: See ‘n Say

“Oh wow,” I thought to myself, at first. “They’re not dumbing it down for kids. They’re using real scientific terms and everything.” Then I actually tried to look up a definition for “speical,” and I felt really dumb for the rest of the day.

Fisher-Price: Chatter Telephone

To my credit, though, I never thought that Pete the police officer’s salty language was at all appropriate for children.

Sonic and the Unexplored Passages

Monday, April 19th, 2010

This strategy guide deserves a spot on my bookshelf because 1) it’s a reminder that, at some point in time, a publisher thought it was necessary to dedicate an entire book to secrets and strategies for Sega CD games and 2) this:


Freelance Chronicles: An Introduction

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

[Source: Hardcore Gamer Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 4]

This is the very first video game review I wrote for money. If I ever get all uppity with you about how great a writer I am (note: this will never happen), feel free to remind me that I kicked off my freelance writing career with the word “frenetic.”

I also said that first-person shooting was a stagnant genre, which is pretty funny. I guess it didn’t take much to impress me back then, considering that Darkwatch was Halo with vampire cowboys. Or maybe I just didn’t know what the hell I was talking about.

How to Make an iPhone Game

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Want to make your very own iPhone game? It’s easy! Here’s how.

Step 1: Look at Doodle Jump.
Step 2: Make Doodle Jump.
Step 3 (optional): Add your own characters for a fun personal touch.

Here’s an example!

Move the Pokemon left and right by tilting the iphone, so it continues its journey into the skies by landing on the net and reach new heights! Also get bonus points on your journey by catching the pokeball. A very simple fun filled game which can kill hours easily without boring you.

[Note: For some reason, this game was removed from the App Store shortly after its release and is no longer available for sale. It was replaced with the following.]