It’s Flicky Time

September 16th, 2010

(The Flicky lack-of-updates apology broadcast system is TM and (c) Kevin Gifford of Magweasel Enterprises.)

Hello! Apologies for the month-and-a-half of no updates here. One thing that I’ve noticed is that I’m less motivated to write during the summer, when the temperature breaks 100 degrees Fahrenheit down here in Texas.

I’m also much, much less motivated to do so without a working air conditioner. This was not a good month.

I’ve still got a lot to talk about here, though, and now that I’ve got a new air conditioner and indoor temperatures have dropped below 80 degrees, I can finish up some stuff I’ve had brewing. Thanks for your patience!

Super Pitfall II

August 9th, 2010

Do you like roms? I like roms. Have a rom. It’s Activision’s unreleased Super Pitfall II.

Super Pitfall II was a planned localization of Atlantis no Nazo, a Sunsoft-developed platformer that, thankfully, is completely unrelated to the original (and god-awful) Super Pitfall.

Atlantis no Nazo is kind of awesome. It has terrible controls, and any expert playthrough you watch will be mostly inexplicable, but once you get a sense of how the game’s logic works, it’s actually a whole lot of fun to play.

It’s also really weird and mysterious, which is what I love most about it. Atlantis no Nazo is full of hidden secrets, balance-breaking power-ups, and obscure warp zones. Some of the game’s biggest secrets require you to commit suicide, explore outside of the screen’s borders, or chuck bombs at nondescript background tiles.

It’s not for everyone, sure, but I like it a lot. The changes made to the unreleased North American version make the whole thing even more interesting.

Read the rest of this entry »

Duck Hunt

July 28th, 2010

I was around four, maybe five years old when Dad took me along on a trip to look at stereo equipment at the local Federated. In the middle of the store, there was a Nintendo Entertainment System set up with a Zapper and a copy of Duck Hunt.

While Dad browsed, I spent a solid hour killing 8-bit ducks. I’d never seen anything like it before; it was the first video game I’d ever played. By the time Dad was ready to leave, I knew that I had to have an NES immediately.

I had to be dragged out of the store, screaming in full-on temper tantrum mode by the time I was in the parking lot. I still remember Dad telling me that Mom would “skin us both alive” if he bought an NES that day. People stared as I was shoved, kicking and crying, into Dad’s station wagon. I sulked the entire ride home.

That Christmas, Santa brought me a Deluxe Edition Nintendo Entertainment System set, complete with R.O.B., Gyromite, and Duck Hunt. Life was better than it had ever been.

Duck Hunt played a vital role in my personal development. Years later, video games are still very much a part of my life and career.

Duck Hunt also serves to illustrate why the iPhone is the worst thing to ever happen to mankind.

Duck Hunt: The Game ($2.99)

Duck Hunt was also released as an arcade game in 1984 as Vs. Duck Hunt, and is included in the Play Choice-10 arcade console.

The game has one mode:

* One Duck – In each round, there are 10 ducks for the player to shoot down. Only one duck appears on screen at a time, and the player has three shots to hit it.

In the first mode, a dog retrieves the ducks a player shoots, and laughs at the player if both of the birds on screen escape (and if the player fails to advance to the next level).

The dog being shot in Vs. Duck Hunt.

Congratulations. You invented Duck Hunt. That was really forward-thinking of you, to release the game in 1984 so that you could sell it as a $2.99 iPhone app 26 years later.

Duck Hunting ($0.99)

Its time to duck hunt with Duck Hunting!

Become a duck hunter and try to get as many points as possible by shooting ducks!

Now THIS looks more like an iPhone game. Ever seen what it looks like when a programmer tries to draw? If not, now you have.

Read the rest of this entry »

Look At This Nickelback

July 14th, 2010

Nickelback’s “Photograph” was released as downloadable content for Rock Band 2 recently, bringing a bit of personal history full circle. Much like how the heart-wrenching lyrics of “Photograph” reflect on wasted youth, I would like to take this moment to examine how the song made itself an unforgettable part of my life.

Back in 2007, I was assigned a review for Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol — the latest entry in Konami’s singing franchise, and the first to carry the American Idol license.

Reviewing any karaoke game is always a challenge, since any given reviewer is only going to know how to sing about half of the songs included on the disc. So I worked my way through the setlist, listening to some songs for the very first time and learning how to sing them on the spot.

One track stuck out — Nickelback’s “Photograph.” It seemed to come up more often than any other song in the single-player career mode, and when I’d finally completed the game, I was encouraged to sing a final encore. The song it picked for me was, of course, “Photograph.”

After singing it so many times in a row, the lyrics stopped mattering entirely, and at one point I managed to get a perfect score on the song just by deliriously singing the word “Nickelback” over and over.

Look at this Nickelback
Every time I do, it Nickelbacks
And the Nickelback did Nickelback
Nickel Nickelback the Nickelback!

What made this particularly memorable was the custom character I’d created for the game using a feature that allows players to capture their own faces with an EyeToy camera. This was, actually, a pretty neat concept. Players represent themselves in current-generation games with Xbox 360 Avatars and Miis; putting their actual faces on in-game characters was an unusually forward-thinking idea back in 2005.

So why hasn’t this feature been used in any game since? Well, it might be because it makes you look like a muppet burn victim.

Imagine this guy — this monster — singing along to “Photograph” using only variations on the word “Nickelback,” and you’ll understand why I love this song so much, even though it is actually quite terrible.

To its credit, though, Karaoke Revolution Presents: American Idol at least gave me an outlet for my secret furry fetishism.

Last weekend, thanks to Rock Band 2, I sang a cover of “Photograph” that lay dormant for three years — this time with a backing band. It was every bit as wonderful an experience as I’d hoped.

Every Nickelback was backin’ at the backdoooor
Then it Nickelbacked and Nickelbacked and backed some mooooore

I then followed up with similarly stirring renditions of the Spin Doctors’ “Two Princes” and Smashmouth’s “All Star” shortly before passing out.

Dog Police, Part 2

June 25th, 2010

Upon further inspection, I’ve discovered that the entire album featuring the single “Dog Police” — which, you’ll remember, is called Dog Police, and is performed by the band Dog Police — is available for purchase from Amazon.

I can’t quite make myself commit to a purchase, but the samples Amazon provides are nothing short of incredible. It’s like Mark E. Smith kidnapped Thomas Dolby and forced him to make music for robots.

Sample lyric: “Is he a lawyer or a coroner? Stirrin’ eggs, pokin’ meat. Makin’ sure it’s hot, for us to eat.”

Also: “I’ve got this passion for the doggie fashion (He’s got the passion for the doggie fashion)”

I’m mainly posting this to confirm my own sanity, since nobody seems to have any record of the Dog Police TV pilot existing, and all of these songs could very well be the product of my own imagination. Surely someone else can hear them too?

Anyway, I promise to make this my last Dog Police-related post unless there is a significant new development. Maybe I should get the Fish Police on the case. Or Poochinski.

The Horror of 3-D Bomberman

June 22nd, 2010

Over at Magweasel, Kevin Gifford posted up a neat video of the world’s very first Bomberman game (titled “Bomber Man”) for the MSX and PC-8801 home computer system.

Load up that video, and skip to the four-minute mark.

What you see is an MSX and Sharp X1 sequel called 3-D Bomberman. As Gifford notes — and I assure you he is not exaggerating — the game is god damn terrifying.

Imagine that you’re a Japanese kid in the early 1980s. You’ve saved up enough allowance money to buy a sequel to one of your favorite games, Bomber Man. You pay your 4,000 yen or whatever through mail order, and six to eight weeks later, it arrives in the mail late in the afternoon.

Your parents are insistent that you finish your homework before playing the game. But you’re so far behind on your work — possibly because you’ve spent the past six to eight weeks daydreaming in class about 3-D Bomberman — that it ends up taking you the rest of the day to complete your math worksheets. By the time you’re finished, you’ve already eaten dinner and it’s time for bed.

Late at night, unable to sleep, you sneak out of bed and quietly boot up your MSX to play 3-D Bomberman.

Instantly, your anticipation turns to dread. The spartan graphics and minimalist sound effects conspire to make you feel terror like you’ve never felt before in your young life.

The game’s mechanics are foreign and confusing. Walls surround you at every turn. You run through a long hallway, only to be trapped in a corner at the end. You place a bomb to destroy the wall and run several paces back, aware that any mistake will bring your life to a quick end.

Your computer monitor provides the only light in your room. The game’s inescapable mazes are all that you can see. Outside, the crickets have stopped chirping. You sense something is wrong. In the game, you hear a faint beeping noise, and then —

You are dead.

How Dog Police Changed Gaming Forever

June 19th, 2010

“80’s video about the dog police,” this video’s description reads. “pure gold.”

I agree. Since I was informed of its existence a couple of years back, I’ve tried to introduce as many people as possible to the glory that is the song “Dog Police,” by the band Dog Police, off the album Dog Police.

Results have been mixed. Some people have loved it. Some have reacted to it by simply screaming for three minutes. Still others forget it exists until months later, when the chorus suddenly lodges itself in their heads while they’re mowing the lawn, after which it proceeds to loop morning, noon, and night for many days straight.

The Dog Police are wondrous creatures, for sure. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I found out that they were the stars of a television pilot featuring goddamn Adam Sandler of all people.

Yes, the song’s in there too, in slightly modified form. Why the change? Well, a helpful YouTube comment (something that by all means should not exist) points out that the original Dog Police lyrics totally rip off The Electric Company’s “Spider-Man.” And…well, yeah. Actually, they do.

(It’s worth noting that the television adaptation takes liberties with long-established Dog Police canon by giving the Dog Police psychic powers. Also, they’re from outer space. The Dog Police themselves have since described the show as taking place in an alternate universe, explaining any discrepancies.)

But I’m getting off track. My point in all this? Listen to the voice they gave the narrator, Bowser, and tell me if it doesn’t sound a little familiar.

Now consider that Bowser is a dog detective with a voice similar to Sam Spade’s. He wears a coat, a tie, and a jaunty hat.

I’m just saying, is all.

Sam & Max creator Steve Purcell claims that he came up with the characters in his childhood, but these memories could very well have been secretly implanted by the Dog Police. This is the truth I choose to believe, anyway. It’s unknown what role McGruff the Crime Dog plays in the conspiracy, as he and the Dog Police came into existence at almost the exact same time. Hmm.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Dog Police, check your local library, or buy the MP3 single from Amazon. Trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Geometry Wars and the Secret Nazis

June 16th, 2010

I ran into a somewhat, ah, unique problem while writing up an article about Geometry Wars: Touch being released for the iPhone today. The screenshot above, cropped slightly, is what you see when you pull the game up in the App Store.

When it’s automatically resized using the “medium” setting in WordPress, though, you end up with this:

I chose to use a different screenshot.

Bears on the Down Low

June 11th, 2010

As a big fan of sex slang, it always makes me happy when I see something like this happen.

This is why it’s a good idea to search the Internet for your proposed company name before committing to anything. Not only will you easily be able to find out if the name is already taken, but you might also avoid naming yourself after something like this. That’s the very first Google search result for the phrase, by the way.

Frankly, these bears aren’t even very good at keeping it on the down low.

Related: a few months back, this banner ad made my day.

Next time you have a zombie problem, well, now you know how to fix it.

iPhone Game of the Day: Cassandra’s Journey: Legacy of Nostradamus

June 7th, 2010

“Avallon Alliance, today proudly announce a great update to adventure and puzzle game ‘Cassandra’s Journey: Legacy of Nostradamus HD’. It is available for purchase and update at the AppStore for iPad. ‘Cassandra’s Journey: The Legacy of Nostradamus HD’ is your ticket to the world of magic and adventures. Rich world of magical trinkets looks even more splendid on iPad!

Cassandra would like to follow in her grandmother’s fortune-telling footsteps and with the spirit of mysterious Nostradamus takes a trip, searching for the lost Ring. They meet diverse characters, visit beautiful locations, accomplish a lot of tasks and gradually find a surprising solution to the main riddle. Adventures take place in middle-ages and present time.”

It’s getting to the point where I can glance at an e-mail subject line and instantly identify a hidden object game, saving me the time it would take to read further. This particular app isn’t just a hidden object game, though! It’s also a match-three puzzler.

Give me two minutes and I bet I could come up some really good titles for hidden object games. Here goes:

  • Egypt Mystery: Legend of the Pharaoh
  • Aztec Legends: Journey of Fate
  • Secret Societies: Mystical Wonders
  • Lindsay’s Quest: Lands Beyond Time
  • Wonders of Power: Gem Incantations
  • Monster Kingdom: Jewel Summoner (oh wait)
  • Ethereal Place: Noun of Historical Figure
  • Waterfall Village: Kelsey’s Misty Travels

Oop, time’s up. Please contact me if you’d like to license any of these titles for your hidden object game for grandmas.