Archive for June, 2007

Space Channel 5

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

Rhythm games just seem to get weirder and weirder. Case in point: Space Channel 5. This is a game about ratings. You play the part of eye-candy reporter Ulala as she investigates some weird alien phenomenon that is forcing people to mindlessly dance. How does she combat this? Why, with the power of dance, of course!

Each stage has a distinctive sound track that plays throughout. As you make your way through the stage, you will be stopped periodically by people and aliens that will do a few dance moves. You have to mimic these moves to set the hypnotized people free and defeat the aliens. You also have an approval rating that is based on how well you dance (you work for a TV Station, remember?). Miss too many steps (lose too many viewers) and you have the plug pulled on your show.

If you do play this game, be sure to keep a look out for ‘Space Michael’. Some famous singer/dancer/songwriter managed to record some ‘Woo’s and a ‘Thank you, Ulala!’ specifically for this game.

Crazy Taxi

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

I think Crazy Taxi might be my favorite driving game to come out in recent memory, even though on the surface it looks a little dull.

Crazy Taxi tasks you, as one of four cabbies, with picking up customers and taking them to their destinations withing the time limit. You get them there quickly and you get bonus seconds added to your clock and money added to your bankroll. How you get the customers to their destinations, though, that’s where the fun starts.

Your cab is unique in that it’s got the amazing ability to accelerate from zero to top speed in under 5 seconds, can stop on a dime, can drift around corners, and is completely indestructible. If you give your customers an exciting experience, they’ll give you tips. How do you make it exciting? Near misses going through traffic, jumping and getting ‘big air’, and drifting around curves. Each successive tip increases your multiplier, which increases the tips you can get, while crashing will reset your counter. So you’re encouraged to drive extremely aggressively, but not hit anything. It’s quite the challenge, especially with congested streets, and cars that always seem to right in the optimal path of your car. Set all of this mayhem with a soundtrack by The Offspring and Bad Religion and you have the makings of quite a game.

Your reward for playing well, other than a high score, is that each successful fare adds precious seconds to your timer, allowing you the ability to play longer. The better you get at the game, the longer you can play it, which is quite the anomaly for an arcade game.

Dr. Mario

Monday, June 18th, 2007

Apparently, Mario is something of a Renaissance man. He’s a plumber, a referee, a go kart driver, a golfer, a tennis player, and perhaps most shockingly, a doctor.

Not just any doctor, Mario has the daunting task of ridding various bottles of infestations of red, blue, and yellow viruses. It’s an epidemic, to be sure. Mario, Dr. Mario, has developed Megavitamins that can dispatch these nefarious creatures, but only if you can line up some combination of four ‘units’. Each virus and pill half constitutes a unit, and if four of a single color line up, then they disappear. Complicating matters is that each half of the pills can be any one of the three colors. Your goal, as is the case with pretty much every puzzle game is to sort the pills in such a way that they align with the viruses and make them ‘disappear’. Make all of the viruses disappear and you go to the next bottle, more densely packed with the little boogers.

If it was me, I’d have just poured bleach into the bottles, but that probably wouldn’t have been as much fun.

The Ripping Friends

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

This review originally appeared on this site in June of 2005. I’ve brought it back from the dead to haunt your dreams once more.

I hate to spoil the review this early on, but The Ripping Friends sucks. If you are unfortunate enough to acquire a copy of this game, I advise you to put in the ‘Unlock Everything’ code (Right, L, Up, Down, B, Left, Left, Right, Left), play each level of the game for a few minutes and then either burn the game down or pass it along to one of your friends/relatives like that fruitcake nobody seems to want.

This game is based on the short-lived animated series of the same name, and about the same grade. In the videogame adventure you take one of the four brothers on several (six) missions to save the city/world/solar system from some of the baddies in the show. Typical stuff.

There’s very little that I can say good about this game, so let’s start off with what I found to be… well… not so good with it:

The game sounds terrible. The majority of the people in the game (including your characters) have the same generic “AAHH!” sound when you kill them. The music is catchy in the way where it sticks in your head and just won’t leave. It makes me want to turn up everything else in the house in the hopes that something else will get stuck in there and drive out the horrible sounds this game makes my Game Boy emit.

The game itself is tedium defined. Playing this game is as simple as staying in one room (area, whatever) while waves of enemies come at you (usually only a few at a time) until you’ve defeated enough so that the doors open and you can look around the labyrinthine levels to try and figure out where to go next. You do have a radar at your disposal, and it helpfully points to the direction of the nearest enemy for you to go and dispatch. If said enemy is on another screen, however, the radar quickly loses any effectiveness it might have otherwise had.

You can only have a maximum of 3 lives in this game. Now, I’m not saying that there aren’t any extra lives in this game, because they’re just about everywhere. You are only allowed to pick one up, though, if you’ve got less than three lives left.

Game over! Finally!The ‘Combo’ system is alluded to in the instruction manual a few times, but is never actually explained. Anywhere. Supposedly there is a way to induce a manly amount of pain on the unsuspecting hordes of similarly dressed clones, but the most I could manage was two hits in a row. Fighting the majority of the enemies (except for the bosses) goes something like this: Punch once, enemy falls down for 2 seconds, enemy gets up and is invincible for 2 seconds, punch enemy and he falls down for 2 seconds, etc., etc. This game might have been slightly less unbearable had I been able to plow through more than 3 enemies every 5 minutes.

The four Ripping Friends are identical as far as I could tell except for two things: they look different from each other, and they each have different ’special’ moves. The only special move really worth anything is Chunk’s, since it restores some of his health. You can pull off your special move after you fill up your ‘manliness meter’ by doing the alleged combos alluded to earlier, or just holding the ‘B’ button down for about 5 seconds.

The best thing about this game is that it came with a free Ripping Friends poster. Sure the show was bad and the game was on par with the show, but you get a double-sided poster in the box!

Game Name: The Ripping Friends
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Purchased from: EB Games
Amount of money I wasted on it: $4.99
One word summary: Pitiful

Salt Lake 2002

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

This review originally appeared on this site in August of 2005, now revived for your reading pleasure.

Surely that had to be a typo. I can get a copy of an official video game of the Olympics for a mere $1.99? A game that features Men’s Snowboard Parallel Giant Slalom, Women’s Freestyle Skiing Aerials, Men’s Two-man Bobsleigh, Ladies’ Alpine Skiing Slalom, Men’s Ski Jumping K120 Individual, and Men’s Alpine Skiing Downhill? Snatch that up!

Let’s take a look at the system requirements for this game:

  • 450 MHz Pentium III or equivalent
  • Windows 95/98/Me/XP
  • 128MB RAM
  • 100% DirectX 8.0a-Compatible 16MB 3D accelerated card
  • Windows 98/Me/XP-compatible sound card (100% DirectX 8.0a-compatible)
  • 4X CD-ROM Drive
  • 300MB Hard Disk Space
  • 100% Windows-compatible mouse and keyboard

I’ve got all of those wrapped up and then some, so I plunked down my two bucks and headed home. The manual talks for thirty-odd pages telling me how awesome this game is. On page 9, for example, it says that:

There are five options [for difficulty]:

  • Beginner
  • Novice
  • Intermediate
  • Expert
  • Legend

Note: It’s best to start with Beginner difficulty before working up to Legend.

I also learned that out of the 84 countries that competed in the 2002 Winter Olympics that I could choose to represent any one of the 16 that the developers thought were important enough to include. I thought that was nice of them.

Once I installed the game, I came to a perplexing problem. Although my machine exceeded all of the requirements, the game refused to run no matter what options I chose. I thought that since the game’s three years old there could be a patch. I checked. No patch. Well, maybe there’s a known issue. Turns out I get this page which says my video card (a GeForceFX) came out after the game did, and as a result, the game won’t run and will never run on my machine unless I downgrade the video card. The only other computer I have in the compound that has a CD-ROM drive is an old laptop that doesn’t have DirectX 8.0a drivers for its hardware. So, I just shelled out two dollars for a box, an instruction pamphlet, a couple of Eidos catalogs, and a coaster.

And it’s still better than that N*Sync game I bought.

Game Name: Salt Lake 2002
Platform: PC
Purchased from: EBGames
Amount of money I wasted on it: $1.99
One word summary: Paperweight

Vegas Stakes

Friday, June 15th, 2007

Vegas Stakes is merely one in a previously inexplicably large genre of Las Vegas Casino games. The draw of which is that you get to experience all the fun of Casino games without actually spending any of your dollars. Except the dollars you spent on the purchase price, of course.

Vegas Stakes has a story, but it’s pretty vacuous. You and your friends are driving to Las Vegas to ’strike it rich’ by playing the casinos. By making smart bets, and playing the games well, you will add to your bankroll and eventually become a ‘high-roller’. Play the games poorly, and you’ll be playing in the dives for $2.00 minimums right before you’re sent home with empty pockets and unfulfilled dreams.

Maybe it’s not that dramatic.

You will, however, get to play some of the classic casino games like Blackjack, Roulette, Slots, and 5 Card Stud Poker. You also get the chance to play Craps, which I never could figure out. The game had a help system that can only be described as ‘existent’.

Craps aside, this game was pretty nice in that it supported the Super NES mouse, you know, the one that came with Mario Paint. In fact, I understand that if you had four mice and a multi-tap you could all four use mice at the same time, with different pointers. This was quite a feat for the Super NES, today’s computers can’t even do that, well, not easily.

If you like pretending that you’re playing these casino games, then this might be for you. You get to bet your fake money and hopefully get great piles of fake money in return. There are certainly worse video casino games out there, and it’s almost certainly less expensive than going to a real casino. I hear those things are difficult to take money from.


Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Zoop, I hate Zoop. It’s terrible in almost every way that matters, it even managed to be bad in ways I had never conceived.

Rather than write something new about it, here’s some impressions from 2002.

Zoop is not your typical puzzle game. Viacom decided to deviate from the classic puzzle game formula: stuff falls from the sky and you have to arrange it in one (or more) piles.

I would love to try and explain how you play this game, but the words to adequately describe the experience do not exist. Let’s just say this, you shoot colors from your triangle and similarly colored “things” disappear.

Sounds fun. And for the first two or three levels it is. Unfortunately, there are (according to the manual) somewhere around 100 levels.

The thought of 100 levels with that musical score is enough to keep me up at night. As far as I can tell, there are two variations of the same theme: when the game is on, and when the game is off.

Zoop was released for just about any system you could think of. Apparently Viacom thought that if they released a crappy game for 3 dozen systems, they might be able to recoup the $15 they spent making it.

I fished this out of the bargain bin for $10. If I had it to do over again, I’d talk that clerk at Kay-Bee down to $5. Don’t go out of your way to find this game. If you do find it, don’t bother playing it, trust me, it’s not an experience that will significantly alter your life, at least, not in a good way.

Road Runner Death Valley Ralley

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

In the 90s you could hardly turn on a television without seeing a commercial about Sonic the Hedgehog, the standard bearer for the Genesis. His main claim to fame? He moved real fast. The competition, the Super NES just couldn’t keep up, so they said.

So one day someone at Sunsoft decided to make a video game starring a cartoon character who is also known for excessive speed, the Road Runner (of Warner Bros. fame), and put it on the system that, if the advertising was to be believed, just couldn’t make him as fast as he should go.

If that’s the case, then some system engineer must have worked some kind of voodoo, because the Road Runner can go quite fast.

The story to the game is a relatively tepid affair, and doesn’t stray from its cartoon roots: Wile E. Coyote wants to catch and eat the Road Runner. It’s your job to ensure that experiences comic failure by evading capture and sabotage.

The Road Runner uses the fantastic power of Birdseed to power his fantastic extreme speed. He can run forward, back, up, down, and jump all over the roads (and the road-like structures) to get to the end of the, with the coyote always in some kind of pursuit. Each set of levels will culminate in a large machine needing to be dismantled/sabotaged in some way by you, which will fail, the coyote will get hurt, and the Fat Lady will come out and attempt to sing (har, har). The coyote stops her, and you go on to the next themed area.

You will notice, pretty much right away, that this game is HARD. This is partly due to the limited amount of lives you get, but also is a side effect of the collision detection between the Road Runner and the platforms. It’s tough to explain, but the gist of it is that when he jumps, he spreads out his legs so that he looks quite like a hyphen, but he will go right through a platform unless the center of his body touches it. So, even though his feet touch the platform, you go right through it. Fun!

Hit detection issues aside, the game is kind of fun, but brutally hard. I did manage to finish it a few times, but that was after months of playing from the minute I got home from school until dinner time (I did homework at school, don’t worry).

Crime Fighters

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Crime Fighters is nothing more than a street fight. A several levels long street fight, but a street fight nonetheless. You and your team of identical brothers (save for differing pants color) must go along and beat up a bunch of generic thugs until they’re dead.

It’s a touch violent.

You have at your disposal the ability to punch and kick your enemies until they fall down and then kick them some more. Occasionally your character will be kicked in a very tender area, with the appropriate ringing sound, or smacked around by one of the weapons that the thugs decide to bring to the party: lead pipes, switchblades, and pistols. You can punch the Bad Guys and they’ll drop the toys for you to use, although when you get punched and drop whatever you’ve picked up it disappears as soon as it hits the ground.

Each stage ends with an disproportionately deadly boss character who will bash you repeatedly, often resulting in the death of several of your quarters. You then go to the next stage for some more carnage.

The game is pretty fun, hardcore cartoony violence aside, until the very end. At the end of the game you get to fight all the boss characters from all the stages again, all at the same time. That stage hurts. A lot. If you plan on playing the game, I’d suggest bringing lots of quarters. That or a posse.

Space Invaders

Monday, June 11th, 2007

When I think back to the dawn of mainstream video games, I can’t help but think that they were largely terrible, and then I’m amazed that the industry wasn’t killed off before it was really born. I’m especially dumbfounded at some of the games that achieve ‘classic’ status merely by being old.

Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh. I could be looking back at some of these games with my Curmudgeon Goggles, since I didn’t really like some of these games when they were new. A perfect example is Space Invaders.

Space Invaders features you in a ship protecting the planet (presumably Earth) from throngs of invaders, ostensibly from Space. The invaders are in tight formation and will move slowly in one direction until one of the ships on the edge hits the side of the screen, then the entire formation will drop down slightly and go the other way. This continues until: all the alien ships are destroyed, the alien ships touch down, or you run out of ships. If you destroy all of their ships, they reappear faster and deadlier. If they manage to touch down, they kill us all. If you run out of spare ships, the aliens will touch down and kill us all.

There are four weird little shield-things that will soak up some shots from either you or the aliens, and UFOs occasionally scoot by that you can try to shoot for bonus points, but I just couldn’t get into it. Even when it was relatively new, I couldn’t get into it, and I typically skip right over it when it’s included in some classic game compilation or other.