Archive for May, 2007


Monday, May 21st, 2007

Pitfall Harry is on a mission: He has three lives and twenty minutes to collect 32 treasures strewn throughout a mysterious jungle. Will you help him achieve this goal?

Will you?

Pitfall! has 255 screens laid out in a gigantic straight line, each one unique, 32 of which have treasure. He can run and scroll the screen to the right or the left in search for the treasures. The sheer scope of the game was quite a feat for the time. Each screen has some combination of a vine (for swinging, and yelling like Tarzan), logs (rolling or stationary) that impair your movement and steal points somehow, a stationary lake that may or may not have crocodiles (you can jump on their heads when their mouths are closed, otherwise they eat you), a lake that will open and close you can drown in, a tar pit that’s either stationary or opens and closes that you can drown in, a ladder (or holes) that lead to an underground area that may or may not have a Deadly Scorpion in it. Whew! Like I said, the game was crazy-detailed for a game on the Atari 2600.

Sadly, although I played the game for months on end, I was never able to get all 32 treasures. It somehow never occurred to me to make or use a map. I was, however able to run to the right for the entire twenty minutes without losing a life. That has to account for something, right?


Sunday, May 20th, 2007

As a concept, Dance Dance Revolution is pretty simple: stomp on arrows in time with the music. And it would seem that this would be an easy concept not only to imitate and (questionably) improve, but to clone. And clone, they did.

Stepmania is, at its heart, a DDR compatible program that does a very good job of mimicking all of its features and adds a few new ones (that I pretty much couldn’t care less about).

What is kind of neat is that there is a gigantic selection of songs that fans have converted into the proper format. Unfortunately, about 90 percent of these songs are either poorly done (like scrolling so fast that you miss the arrow before you can see what it is), or have button combinations that would be impossible to pull off if you were using an actual foot-pad (like hitting three arrows at once). Of course people have also recreated the levels from the real DDR machines, which I suspect was the main impetus for the creation of this game, but I’m paranoid that way.

Pump it Up: Premiere

Saturday, May 19th, 2007

I cut my arcade pseudo-dancing teeth on Dance Dance Revolution, it was the first game of its kind that I played, and it’s the one that I have the most experience with. Like anything that’s remotely popular, this game has spawned imitators that have tried to expand and improve upon DDR’s formula of stomping on arrows in time to a silly song. One of the apparently more popular ones is the Pump it Up series, and recently I had a chance to play one of the games in the series: Pump it Up: Premiere.

Pump it Up: Premiere stays pretty close to the system introduced in DDR: arrows scroll up from the bottom of the screen and when they cross the line at the top of the screen, you have to stomp on the corresponding arrow on your footpad, in time with the music, of course.

Where the game diverges slightly, other than the almost unilaterally terrible selection of songs, is that the arrows are not the up, down, left, and right found in DDR, but they are in the four corners, up-left, up-right, down-left, and down-right, with a 5th button in the center. My understanding is that this helps people ‘be more expressive’ when they’re pseudo-dancing. I didn’t notice myself expressing myself more, but I did feel like I was a little more bow-legged than normal trying to stretch my legs to the four corners of the pad. I also noticed that since I was ‘trained’ on DDR that I couldn’t find the arrows most of the time, so I missed the steps quite a lot, and managed to fail after only one song.

I haven’t yet decided if I want to try and pay another dollar to play one more song, the price to entertainment time ratio was a little low for my taste. Well, that and the terrible covers of terrible songs.

Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix

Friday, May 18th, 2007

I had always liked the Dance Dance Revolution series well enough, but since I didn’t own any of the systems that it came out on, I was restricted to playing it in the arcades, and at $1.00 or so a pop, I didn’t play very often. Well, and the crowds, I hate flailing around in time to techno music in front of a crowd.

I was pretty jazzed to find out that Konami had finally acquiesced and brought out a version of this franchise for the Game Cube starring characters from the Mario universe, so I could finally take part in the ‘DDR Workout Program’ that I’ve heard so much about.

For the sheltered few that may not know, Dance Dance Revolution games are rhythm/dancing games. Some goofy song plays and arrows (up, down, left, right, or some combination of them) scroll up from the bottom of the screen. They cross a silhouette at the top of the screen, and it’s your job to press the corresponding arrows on the giant dance pad at your feet, in time with the music of course.

It also just wouldn’t be a Mario game unless there was some goofy story involved. It’s kind of a nice change of pace to hold the stages together, rather than the other versions of DDR that just kind of throw some songs at you with nothing to really hold them together. They also like to break up the action with a couple of Mario Party style mini-games.

I only had a couple of complaints about this game. The songs were overall pretty well done, especially the remixes of the Mario series songs, but there just weren’t enough of them. There are less than two dozen songs in the game and half of those are techno remixes of public domain songs. And, yes, a techno-remix of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star is just as good as it sounds.

I also found it odd that while two people can play the game, it requires two pads to do so appropriately. Not too big of a deal until you find out that they only sell extra pads through Nintendo’s online store, which just seemed weird to me.

The game also was pretty short. I managed to play through the entire game and unlock all of the songs in two playthroughs, which took about two hours. A little disappointing for a $50 game.

But other than those relatively minor things, it’s a solid game, and certainly worth playing at least once.

Kirby’s Avalanche

Thursday, May 17th, 2007

I only bought Kirby’s Avalanche because it was compatible with the Super Nintendo XBand, and I was aching for a new game to play on it (but that’s another article). Mostly, I bought it because I managed to find a copy for around $20.

Kirby’s Avalanche is one of the many games in the ’sort things that fall from the sky’ puzzle sub-genre. This time, you’re sorting little blobs of colored jelly (they’re called ‘Puyos’ in the games that this is based off of). Blobs of the same color glom on to each other, and when four or more of them stick together they disappear. Depending on which mode you’re playing you have either one or two goals. The first goal is to continuously clear the screen so that it does not fill all the way up, if the third column from the left fills up, then it’s game over. By way of strategic blob-laying you can create chains of clears for Super Bonus Points ™. In two player mode, and in the Inexplicable-Story Mode, creating these chains will cause ‘garbage blobs’ to rain on your opponent. Your goal is to make their third column from the left fill up so that they lose.

With enough practice you will be able to make monster chains before your opponent can think, which makes the games go by quicker, and ensures that nobody will want to play with you anymore.

Moon Patrol

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

Lots of video games from the 80’s were set on or around the Moon, probably because it’s reasonably familiar, yet still just out of reach for most of us. I suppose, then, that developers looked to the near(ish) future and wondered what it would be like to live, work, or play on the Moon. Unfortunately, thus far it doesn’t appear that any of them has been particularly accurate.

I have recently learned, just minutes before writing this entry, that the pilot of the Lunar Buggy (that’s you!) is a Lunar Cop that works to keep the citizens of Luna City safe from Lunar thugs by going on Lunar Patrols in Sector 9 (home of some pretty tough customers!).

The top of the screen shows your progress, it looks like a zoomed-out view of the playfield, which is to say that it’s a line with a dot on it, I believe that these are called ‘mini-maps’ these days. On your patrol, you just drive in a straight line, from markers on the ground that are labeled from ‘A’ to ‘Z’, with checkpoints every so often. Littering the landscape are craters and rocks, and if you collide with either one, your buggy explodes. But don’t worry, you’ve come prepared.

Your buggy can jump over the craters and the rocks and can shoot the rocks (shooting the craters does very little good). You can also shoot straight up as well as straight-ahead, which comes in handy since the tough customers I mentioned before attack you from above… In their Lunar Space Ships.

So you have to get to the end of your patrol while:

  • Jumping over craters
  • Jumping over or shooting rocks
  • Shooting down spaceships and
  • Avoiding fire from enemy spaceships

Quite a series of activities that they packed into a game with a two-way joystick and two buttons, quite a feat for 1982. As you can imagine, it’s got a fairly steep learning curve. I could hardly manage to finish one patrol.

Do! Run Run

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

Do! Run Run is the last original game of the Mr. Do! legacy, and perhaps is the most complex (although that’s not really saying much). I also found it to be tied for the worst game in the series, tied with Wild Ride. The best, incidentally, stands at Castle.

Mr. Do! finds himself on a multi-tiered playfield covered with dots and populated by monsters. Mr. Do! now has the ability to draw a line behind him, and if he completely encloses a group of dots within his lines, they turn into cherries. Cherries are worth more points, and facilitate regeneration of Mr. Do!’s ball. A ball which hasn’t been seen since the first game. You can use the ball or the precariously balanced logs to blow up or squish the monsters on the playfield respectively.

The problem I had with this game is that it tried to be too many things. Is it Pac-Man? Is it Qix? I don’t know, but I found it to be a mishmash of previously-explored game ideas that doesn’t really work.

Mr. Do’s Wild Ride

Monday, May 14th, 2007

I don’t think I’m going to pretend to understand the Mr. Do universe any more. Mr. Do, after both picking cherries underground and ridding his seven-story castle of monsters, makes his way to a series of roller-coasters. Roller Coasters with cherries and ladders. Functional roller coasters that Mr. Do must navigate and collect the cherries scattered about, all while trying to get to the exit (at the top of the coaster, of course) without getting squished by the cars.

I now understand that you don’t have to collect all the cherries to finish the course, which would have made the game slightly easier for my novice hands to make progress. Heck, this knowledge might have given me incentive to play this game more than once, but I seriously doubt it.

Metroid II: The Return of Samus

Sunday, May 13th, 2007

When it comes to playing video games, my Mom is the epitome of a casual player. She loves the kinds of games that she can just pick up and play for a few minutes in between the few thousand things that she has to do every day. So I was a little surprised when she spent just about as much time with my Game Boy as I did on the Christmas Morning that I got it. But I was even more surprised later on when she decided to play through my copy of Metroid II.

I don’t really remember why or when she decided that she wanted to play it, but it was shortly after I got the issue of Nintendo Power that featured maps to the whole game. I would sit with the magazine splayed open and take on the function of Navigator while she would play the actual game. We spent many afternoons that summer with this setup, and she would eventually make it through the whole game.

So, the game itself? Well, it picks up where the original Metroid game left off: You’re intergalactic bounty-hunter Samus Aran, who travels to planet SR-388 to rid the universe of the Metroids for good. You navigate the twisty passages, all alike, finding upgrades to your weapons and bounty-hunter suit, and killing the remaining Metroids, which are inexplicably mutating into various dangerous forms.

It’s a very good game, and totally Mom-approved.

Mr. Do’s Castle

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Mr. Do, after dispensing with his lucrative underground cherry-picking career, apparently decided to retire to his luxurious castle. A luxurious castle that is inexplicably filled with the same Mini-Dinos as his underground adventure. Mini-Dinos that have managed to grow horns and are now called ‘unicorns’. But, I’ve gone off on a secant. Mr. Do’s goal is to apparently rid his castle of these unicorns.

How? Excellent question.

He’s traded his power ball for a hammer, but that alone won’t do the job, each time you whack a unicorn, it just stumbles back slightly. Each floor has sections that will collapse if struck with the hammer. Squish a unicorn with the falling floor section, and it’s gone for good (well, until the next level). Of course, if you miss, there is a hole in the floor that you can try and lure the unicorns into, and they’ll be stuck for a few seconds, flailing around in the hole until they repair the floor. This gives you time to dodge, avoid and then squish them. Once you squish all the unicorns you get to go on to the next level where the unicorns come back, faster and more aggressive.

This was actually the first Mr. Do game that I’ve ever played, and the only one that I’ve ever managed to find in an actual arcade. I still find it to be the most fun game in the series. It’s got a catchy tune and some oddly compelling gameplay. Totally worth the quarter.