I spent so many quarters on this game.
I regret nothing!
Man, the best was when you’d find a full sit-down cabinet. That was the stuff.
I spent so many quarters on this game.
I regret nothing!
Man, the best was when you’d find a full sit-down cabinet. That was the stuff.
Viscera Cleanup Detail by RuneStorm is one of those computer games that makes you ask, “why would anyone play this?” Yet strangely enough, it works.
From the early days of Doom and Wolfenstein to today’s Far Cry and Halo, computer gamers have been splattering the guts of bad guys across virtual maps for decades. Viscera Cleanup Detail isn’t about saving the universe or surviving the apocalypse, it’s about what comes afterwards.
Namely, cleaning up.
Essentially, this is a first person puzzle game. You enter a gore-splashed environment armed with a mop, rubber gloves, and a mandate to get the place cleaned up. It’s up to you to search through whatever location you’re working in and clean up all the blood and gore you can find. Every body part and hazardous object needs to be incinerated, every splash of goop must be mopped up, and along the way you may find an interesting object or two to take home after your shift.
Clearly this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s a goofy concept, as much a novelty as anything else, yet it is strangely hypnotic. It doesn’t provide any kind of gripping experience or captivating game play, but it’s fun when you just want a distraction and I’ve been surprised to look up and realize I’ve spent two hours cleaning up virtual body parts.
It’s kind of like playing Minesweeper or Solitaire, with ludicrous gibs.
The game offers plenty of maps to play on, including Santa’s Workshop and a map inspired by the club scene in Kill Bill. I recommend that last one, as it adds snarky commentary by your character as you clean. There is even a multi-player mode, which I haven’t tried but the concept amuses me to no end.
If you’re looking for something quirky and unusual, it’s worth a look. You can find it on Steam.
Lately I’ve been replaying several of my old video games, both from my original copies or thanks to the digital crack that is Good Old Games. A lot of these games hold up well, despite their dated graphics, and many have innovative game play that has surprisingly never shown up in later games. It’s a common geek lament that these days there is nothing new, that everything seems to be remakes and re-imaginings, well for today’s post I’m going to give in and go with that trend. As such, here is my list of games that really need to have a new installment.
Crimson Skies: Originally a board game by FASA, Crimson Skies was released for the PC by Microsoft in 2000, and it is my all time favorite air combat game. Yes, even more than X-Wing and Tie Fighter. The game featured all the wonderful alternate 30’s Diesel Punk aesthetics, a fun pulp soundtrack, and fantastic environments. The storyline was ripped straight from classic air adventure serials and offered a variety of challenges, from taking on heavily armed zeppelins to plucking kidnapped scientists off the top of a speeding train. The controls were more than arcade level in simplicity but far from a realistic air simulator, which hit the sweet spot for complexity vs simplicity. This encouraged not just dog fighting, but barnstorming stunts, which was further encouraged by the imaginative level designs. Another fun addition was that occasionally when you would buzz through a tight spot, such as the “O” in the Hollywood sign or zipping through a tight tunnel in a jungle island, you’d hear a “click”. Then a picture of your maneuver would be added to your pilot’s scrapbook.
The multi-player was, sadly, bound to Microsoft’s proprietary service. So I never did much with it, but you could always fire up an on-demand duel with a variety of bots, challenges, and maps to play on, and some of the maps were wonderfully large and fun. The New York City map in particular was amazingly large and nothing beat screaming down through the concrete jungle of Manhattan, guns blazing, then whipping out over the bay.
Sadly the original game’s graphics don’t work well with new video cards, necessitating the use of software rendering. This reduces the graphical quality to looking like something from 1990 instead of 2000. A sequel was made, Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, but it was an X-Box exclusive title and never ported to the PC. But with it’s fantastic game play and sense of high adventure, I still dream of a new release for the PC so I can once more fly the unfriendly skies of air pirates and robber barons.
Star Wars: The Dark Forces series: The Dark Forces series for Star Wars consisted of four games. The first was the titular Dark Forces, released in 1995. The first game introduced Kyle Katarn, a mercenary soldier working for the rebellion to uncover the Empire’s “Dark Trooper” program and shut it down. It was a solid, if standard, first person shooter that was fun, but nothing groundbreaking. A sequel came out in 1997 called Jedi Knight, in which Kyle comes to terms with his own force abilities and is forced to become a Jedi in order to stop the rise of a new Sith lord. In terms of both game play and story, this game was not very good.
But it is the third and fourth games, Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy, where the series really shines. Released in 2002 and 2003 respectively, these continue the story of Kyle Katarn and are the first games to really allow the player to feel like a Jedi. The game again mixes between first and third person, and adds in an array of force powers and a sophisticated lightsaber fighting system. These games had it all; the story, the voice acting, the imaginative settings, and most importantly the game play. You’ll soon be doing force powered flips and rolls, using force push, pull, and if so inclined channel the dark side and force choke your foes. Best of all, the lightsaber fighting is excellent. The games featured other exciting elements, such as an extended level in Jedi Academy where you are whipping through canyons in your speeder bike, lightsaber in hand, and engaging in high speed battles with other bikers.
The multi-player and mod community were prolific, cranking out new skins, maps, and game modes, and in its heyday it was easy to jump online and engage in epic duels. I recently loaded up Jedi Academy and was delighted to find that there are still a number of dueling servers up, running, and with a decent population of saber swingers.
No Star Wars game since then has given me the feel of being a Jedi as well as Jedi Outcast and Jedi Academy and with all the excitement about the new movie, the time is right to revisit the Dark Forces series.
Stranglehold: Released in 2007, Stranglehold is the video game sequel to my favorite Hong Kong movie, Hard Boiled. You play as Tequila, the Hong Kong cop-on-the-edge, voiced by the amazing Chow Yun-Fat himself. The story is a beautiful distillation of the Hong Kong genre, featuring cop killing Triads, mob wars, treacherous friends, emotional conflicts, and bullets. Lots of bullets.
This game is a love letter to all things Kung Fu Action, from exotic locations to highly destructible environments. As Tequila blazes his way through the levels, he builds up power that will let him use special maneuvers that let him dispatch enemies in even more spectacular manners, often accompanied by doves flying by (a staple of John Woo movies ever since The Killer). The player builds up greater levels of power by killing bad guys in more exciting ways, such as rolling by on a cart with both guns blazing, shooting signs or gantries to drop heavy objects on them, or hitting propane cans to cause fiery explosions. The game is a third person cover shooter, but you can’t sit anywhere for too long as gunfire will quickly reduce your cover to rubble.
My favorite level involves a night club with a jazz combo playing on a stage in the middle. When the Triads come pouring in the musicians look up in surprise, until the gang leader shouts, “Who told you to stop playing?” From there the band kicks up a fast paced number as the bullets start flying. The mission goals flash on the screen letting you know that not only do you have to kill all the gangsters, but at least one member of the band needs to survive. As you dive across the tables and duck around corners, occasionally you’ll hear one of the music channels drop out as a musician takes a bullet. This means not only do you need to survive, but you need to control the position of the gunfight to keep the band from getting caught in the crossfire.
Also, grenades are not a good idea for this level. Trust me on this.
There are a lot of first and third person shooters on the market, but this is the only one that’s ever tried to capture the atmosphere of Asian crime movies, and it’s high time someone revisits the idea.
Quite a while ago I blogged about the tech demo for an iPad game called Framed.
The game did release but it wasn’t until recently that I picked it up. I am pleased to say that it lives up to all my hopes from the tech demo.
Framed puts you in control of a series of comic panel frames, where you help a noir story play out by moving the panels around to help the spies evade the police. For example, the default panels will have the spy run into a guard, but by changing the order or orientation of things the spy instead comes up behind the guards and knocks him out.
The story is told through the action, as you help the male spy escape with a briefcase, until eventually the female spy steals it from him and you switch to her. This goes back and forth for a while and all the time you are pursued by the mysterious inspector. The artwork is done in an evocative shadow puppet style, which is something I always enjoy, and the animation is crisp. The music adds to the ambiance and the story is clever and witty.
Best of all the interface is innovative. One of my complaints with iOS games is how few of them are designed specifically to take advantage of a touch screen to do something unique, something you can’t do on a PC or game console. Framed does this in spades.
Framed is $4.99 on iTunes.
“We have nothing to fear Autobots, the slugs will recognize us as friends.”
-Optimus Prime, Transformers: War for Cybertron
Only Peter Cullen can deliver a line like that and make it cool.
Well, so much for my November plans.
A major work project that had been delayed was unexpectedly summoned back into being, breaking its chains like an Elder God and dragging me into shadows. So while I’m dancing to the pipes of my insane corporate masters my other plans are on hold.
However, I do have some fun stuff to look at this week. Red Level Games has released Dragon, an open world game where you get to play as a fire breathing dragon, flying over the landscape and unleashing your wrath on the world. Eventually the game will allow for co-op and PVP with other dragons. It would be epic if they could do a licensing deal with Wizards of the Coast so we could get dragons with the various breath weapons. I’d be all over playing a lightning breathing blue dragon. But the chance to play a dragon in an open world game sounds pretty darn awesome.
Here’s the trailer for the game. It doesn’t look like much yet, but they’re clear that the game is still in early development.
Although I do have a minor rant. Remember when “early access” was called “beta testing” and you didn’t pay to troubleshoot other people’s products? Although I suppose this is the same mindset as Kickstarter, where you’re more of a backer than a customer. Heck, it probably has a better record on deliveries than Kickstarter.
The times, they are a-changing.
I love the idea of playing a dragon and will keep an eye on this product, though I’m not ready to deplete my hoard on it just yet.
This does remind me of another game that let you play as a dragon.
They have shut up and taken my money.
I now have the Sentinels of the Multiverse app for my iPad and it is excellent. I don’t have a lot of experience with board-to-iPad conversions for games, but I have a great deal of experience with Sentinels of the Multiverse, and this conversion feels great.
The graphics are straight from the game, the music is good without being obtrusive and the sound effects are nice. The interface does a good job of keeping track of everything that happens in a Sentinels game and thankfully they made sure you can double tap cards at just about any time to review them. This is particularly handy because some cards put into play vanish from the screen a little too fast to read, so being able to review them is essential. One particularly clever addition is that with each phase of the game it reconfigures the screen by “turning the page” giving it even more of a comic book feel. Another nice touch is that the pictures of the heroes and villains show increasing amounts of battle damage as the game progresses.
Currently the game encompasses all the heroes, villains, and environments of the base game. The app also has an impressive encyclopedia of the characters which includes the ability to look at all the cards in their deck. Given the wide range of powers the heroes and villains have in Sentinels it’s impressive how well the application handles everything. It also has a randomizer allowing a mix-and-match of villains, heroes, and environments. Although for someone not familiar with the game this may provide unexpectedly difficult or exceptionally easy battles. For example, three heroes matched against Citizen Dawn have little hope, while six heroes vs Baron Blade will be overkill. However the randomizer isn’t locked in and you can modify the results before launching the game.
No word yet on if they will expand the game to include the expansion sets, though I would be surprised if we don’t see them coming down the pipe.
If you are a fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse and have either an iPad or Android tablet I can’t recommend the game highly enough. The only thing I can’t vouch for is how accessible the game is for people who aren’t already familiar with the card game. There is a tutorial and Sentinels isn’t a very complex game, but there are some nuances that are easier to understand when looking at a real manual. Someone new to the game will have a harder time picking up what is going on even with the tutorial.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more justice to dish out!
Or rather I will have justice to dish out, once my battery recharges.
SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!!
I’m not a Sentinels’ addict. I can quit any time I want to.
I just don’t want to.
I recently finished reading Ernest Cline’s novel, Ready Player One.
It is a delightful book that is a love letter to everything geekish from the 70’s and 80’s. I highly recommend it to anyone reading my blog, but this post isn’t about the book itself. Instead it’s about video games.
Specifically early video games that stuck a chord with my role playing gamer’s soul and have stayed with me ever since. These games inspired my imagination in the same way that sitting at a table with a character sheet, dice, and lead miniatures still does. These are not computer role playing games, instead these are games that hit the same emotional triggers without attempting to simulate Dungeons & Dragons. These games do have common threads, most notably mazes, exploration, and evocative imagery.
In no particular order:
1) Joust – Joust is an arcade platform game from 1982. The game is for one or two players who can chose to either compete or work together. Players are knights in full armor, wielding lances, and mounted on a flying ostrich or stork depending on which player you are. Controls consist of a joystick for left and right movement and a “flap” button for flight. Using these controls you guide your knight around the screen and fight evil knights who ride buzzards. If your lance hits higher than their lance, you destroy the knight and release an egg. If you don’t capture the egg fast enough it hatches, revealing a more powerful knight who will mount a new buzzard and join the battle. The battle is fought on rock platforms hovering over two lakes of lava. Flying too close to the lava will cause a demonic arm to reach up and catch your mount, forcing you to flap as fast as possible to break free or be drug down to a fiery doom. If a round takes too long a nearly invulnerable pterodactyl flies onto the screen, hunting the players.
There is no story to the game and no ending. Like most early arcade games the challenge is to see how long you can last and how high a score you can build up. What captures my imagination about Joust is the surreal imagery. Flying mounts are nothing new to fantasy, but Joust adds a unique twist by its choice of birds. Knights flying on flightless birds is something far removed from J.R.R. Tolkien or Anne McCaffrey, it’s more in line with Lord Dunsany’s imagination.
Ideas from Joust have rolled around in my head since the first time I put a quarter into the machine, though I’ve never put them directly to use in a gaming universe. Though occasionally a bird mounted adventurer has shown up and an evil order of buzzard-riding knights has been included in a few world designs that never made it to the table.
2) Berzerk – An arcade game released in 1980, Berzerk is a science fiction game where the player is navigating through an endless maze of electrified walls and killer robots. Once again there is no story and no ending to the game, but the stark imagery evokes a sense of exploration and tension. The game also boasts sound effects that were impressive for the time period, including voice clips that sounded like the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica that would frequently taunt you, especially if you leave a map before destroying all the robots.
Berzerk is a simple game, even by the standards of 1980, but it connected with some themes that were common in a lot of 70’s science fiction. It’s a fatalistic struggle pitting a runner against endless legions of implacable robots, running through deadly corridors in a vain attempt to find a way out.
3) Wizard of Wor – Hitting the arcade in 1981, Wizard of Wor is another maze game, this time fusing science fiction and fantasy. Like Joust, the game is for one or two players who can work together or against each other. The players control what appear to be space marines armed with laser rifles who enter the wizard’s maze. The maze is filled with monsters who can turn invisible and shoot energy bolts. If the players do well they are faced with the insect-like Worlock, who attempts to kill them or escape the maze, and then the Wizard of Wor himself will appear. The Wizard moves quickly and teleports at random, making him a dangerous enemy.
Unlike Berzerk, the maps of Wizard of Wor are self-contained and there is less of the fatalistic tension involved. Instead this game feels like you’ve been drawn into a tournament, each maze being a challenge issued by the Wizard to test your skill.
4) Mountain King – Jumping from the arcade to the consoles we have Mountain King, released in 1983 by CBS Electronics for the Atari 2600.
The Atari 2600 is, to say the least, a limited console. Ground breaking when it first came out, competitors like Intelivision and Colecovision quickly outpaced it in terms of technology. Still the Atari console dominated the market for years due in no small part to the proliferation of games available to it. The best of these are able to push the Atari to impressive levels, providing games with more depth than one would expect possible.
Mountain King is such a game.
You control an explorer equipped with a flashlight and impressive jumping powers who is delving into a vast series of caverns. Your objective is to collect 1000 points worth of diamonds, which come from small but plentiful deposits in the walls or hidden treasure chests that are only revealed by your flashlight. Once you have enough diamonds you will hear the faint sounds of Hall of the Mountain King playing. The music gets louder as you approach the Flame Spirit, a flickering fire placed randomly in the caverns that you need to look sharply to spot.
Having collected the Flame Spirit you need to go to the temple hidden near the bottom of the map and give the Flame Spirit to the Skull Spirit. This lets you climb up and collect the Crown, which triggers a more elaborate and faster paced rendition of Hall of the Mountain King to begin. You now have to race all the way to the top of the highest mountain where the Eternal Flame is, all the while dodging the Cave Bats. If you are caught by the Cave Bats or if the music ends before you reach the Eternal Flame, the Crown is returned to the temple.
Oh, and there’s a very loud giant spider on the lowest level of the caves that will web you up, then return and eat you if you don’t break out fast enough.
All this in an Atari 2600 game. I really hope the programmer got a bonus.
Despite the limited graphics the scope and nature of the game makes you want to explore the world. The hidden objects and haunting music convey the same emotions that a role playing game evokes when dungeon delvers venture into lost and lonely underworlds. Thoughts of Tolkien’s Moria and the great spider Shelob come easily to mind.
Mountain King also has either a bug or Easter Egg that can be stumbled on while exploring, where by using the right combination of jumps you can fly high into the sky and discover a realm of shifting ladders. Once there you can walk and climb around until you decide to leave or, more likely, the ladders vanish beneath you, sending you falling back to the ground.
5) Adventure – I have spoken of my love for Adventure in the past and rather than rehash it here I will encourage you to read my post in the archives. Adventure holds a special place in my heart for many reasons, not the least of which is how the game offered more pure exploration challenges than other games of its era.
While it did have a basic narrative, told through the game manual rather than in-game, the story is so simple that it leaves plenty of room for our imaginations to spin further tales. The hidden White Castle was the most compelling mystery to me. The Black Castle represented evil and the Gold Castle good, but what did the White castle represent? Why was it hidden beyond the dark Catacombs? And in the sealed room there is a doorway with no opening on the other side. This was probably a glitch, tied to further rooms that never made it into the final design, but to my imagination it was a portal to somewhere else, perhaps a dimension where the builders of the White Castle fled long ago. Or where they were banished to.
6) Advanced Dungeons & Dragons – Released in 1982 for the Intellivision game console, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was the first video game to bear the official seal from TSR. Given that exalted status you might think that the game would do a decent job at emulating the mechanics of AD&D, but you would be wrong.
By 1982 there were already several computer games that attempted to emulate the tabletop D&D experience, such as Telengard and Moria. These games featured statistics, spells, and inventory elements that are still staples in computer RPGs to this day. Conversely Intellivision’s game took a more arcade-style approach. Players control an archer wandering through a world of forests, rivers, defensive walls, and dungeon-filled mountains.
Entering the dungeons puts the archer in a randomly generated maze that reveals itself through exploration. Sometimes you’ll hear a nearby monster but it won’t awaken until you uncover its lair, which gives the game a “Fog of War” mechanic and adds to the sense of discovery and tension. Items can be recovered from the dungeons that will aid you in getting around the game world such as keys for the gates, axes for the forests, and more arrows for your bow. Your ultimate goal is to reach Cloudy Mountain, where the pieces of a crown are guarded by winged dragons.
Much like Adventure, Advanced D&D is a game about exploration more than participating in the designer’s story.
These games have a common simplicity about them, both aesthetically and in presentation, and most involve exploration. Even when there is a narrative the story is little more than a framework and there are still plenty of mysteries to ponder. What happened to the Mountain King? Why are you facing the Wizard of Wor? Why are knights riding birds and jousting over lava? These questions have no answers.
Or it would be more accurate to say that they have many answers, because we come up with our own stories.
These games provide a spark to kindle our imaginations and let our dreams run wild. It’s this quality that sets these games apart, both from other games of their era as well as later games that do incorporate a complete narrative. That’s not to say it makes these games better, but there is a different nostalgic connection to these games because the stories are, in the immortal words of TSR, products of your imagination.
Remember the tech demo for Super Hot?
I missed seeing that they’d launched a Kickstarter for a full blown game. However, plenty of people were more attentive and they nailed their goal in less than a day! It’s all stretch goals from here.
Congratulations to them and I’m looking forward to seeing the final product. It’s great to see something unique coming to the shooter genre.
“SUPERHOT is a unique, stylized FPS game where the time moves only when you move. With this simple mechanic we’ve been able to create gameplay that’s not all about reflexes – the player’s main weapon is careful aiming and smart planning – while not compromising on the dynamic feeling of the game.”
“You’re not hiding behind cover – you’re dodging bullets flying past you like in The Matrix. You’re not waiting to reload a gun – you’re picking the next firearm from the hands of your fallen foes. You’re not waiting until your wounds heal – in SUPERHOT a single bullet means death. However, there are no reload screens – you’re instantly back in the middle of the action. “
Oh, one more thing while I’m thinking about it…
Holy chrome! You get to cut bullets in half with a sword?!