Thursday, November 29, 2012

FTW: Skrillex Quest and Dikembe Mutombo's 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World

Recently it has come to my attention that there exist [at least] two rather interesting games on the web. They're both pretty unique and are worth passing on.

The first is the trippy and hilarious game by Old Spice, that company with the ridiculous commercials. The game is kind of like that only even crazier, and it's called Dikembe Mutombo's 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World, named after and based on the supposed end of the world predicted by the end of the Mayan calendar. Each week, a new minigame/level is made available in this game, leading up to the end of the world on December 21, 2012. It's not really super fun, but it's worth checking out for the ridiculous cutscenes. Play it here!

The second game is called Skrillex Quest. It's a game obviously inspired by the original Zelda and it tells the story of the people inside the game as their world is overrun by glitches caused by dust in the cartridge. The glitch effects are pretty neat and very similar to the graphical glitches that sometimes happened in NES games. The goal is to collect keys and items and basically just explore and fight glitch blocks. It's got simple 3D graphics and the main character looks like the girl from Swords & Sworcery. The Skrillex part of the game comes in as the soundtrack; and the unique electronic style matches the glitched game setting quite well. Check this one out here The original site is down, but you can still play it here!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Firefly: The Game Collection

Quick! Name two cool things! If you said anything other than "video games and Firefly" you didn't choose the best possible answer and, as your teachers will tell you, that's as good as wrong. So what could be better than a Firefly video game? I'll tell you what: a game for each of the main characters. 

Here's how I imagine they'd turn out:

Rim Runner with Malcolm Reynolds
Source game: Escape Velocity Nova
In Mal's game, no one can take the sky from you. You'll captain your own ship and explore the galaxy as you see fit. You're free to hire and dismiss crew members, upgrade your ship, and travel to various planets to take on jobs from disreputable folk. Of course, you'll have to carefully consider what you can afford, how much fuel a trip will require, and how many risks you're willing to take to get the job done. Just make sure you don't get boarded by the Alliance with illegal contraband on board!

Heroes of the Unification War with Zoe Washburne
Experience the Unification War from the perspective of the Independents in this exciting and gritty FPS starring Zoe Washburne. Forget about the glorified violence of Call of Duty; Heroes of the Unification War will show you the horrors of war as well as honor and bravery in the face of certain defeat. War is hell, and this game will make sure you know it. You aren't on the winning side, but that doesn't mean you're on the wrong side.

Wash's Flight Simulator of Awesomeness with Hoban Washburne
Source game: Evochron Mercenary
Designed by Wash himself, Wash's Flight Simulator of Awesomeness realistically recreates the experience of piloting a variety of spacecraft. The gameplay is difficult to learn, but rewarding when mastered. But what really sets this game apart is that you will be sent back to prehistoric times and must navigate the earth while dodging ferocious dinosaurs. Actually, there are dinosaurs in space too, because that sounds like it'd be awesome. And asteroids shaped like Easter Island heads that shoot fireballs! And your ship can transform into a robot and kick enemies in the face!

The Art of Love with Inara Serra
A companion chooses her clients, and so can you in the hot and steamy Art of Love. Sources involved in the development of this game inform me that this is "totally not a porn game" and that it "absolutely has artistic and cultural value". In it, you can court and make love to a wide variety of clients. With the money you earn, you can buy decorations for your shuttle, clothes, and lessons to learn new "moves". But honestly, there's nothing wrong with it. I mean, sure it might be targeted at mature audiences, and yeah, I guess there's some nudity, but there's still like 15% of the game that's not that stuff. So it's definitely not porn. For sure.

The Hero of Canton with Jayne Cobb
Source game: Metal Slug
Violence! Guns! Explosions! In The Hero of Canton, you'll have a huge arsenal at your disposal to decimate your enemies. There doesn't need to be a reason; just run through the levels destroying everything in sight. On the rare occasion that you aren't acting as a one-man army, you'll be free to betray your comrades at your earliest and most profitable convenience and continue on without being hindered. With the money collected from your defeated enemies, you can buy even more weapons. Before long, you'll be a human tank and able to challenge the Alliance or just anyone who looks at you funny.

Reactor Repair with Kaylee Frye
Source game: Cogs
Fixing a space craft's engine isn't easy, but when you're Kaylee it's not so bad. In Reactor Repair you'll be racing to repair engines, reactors, electrical wiring, and more using quick thinking and your knowledge of engineering. Compete with your friends to finish in the most efficient way and see how you rank on online scoreboards. By completing these mechanical puzzles you'll earn money so that you can save up for new machines (some assembly required) and that pretty dress you always wanted. Between stages, you'll also be able to converse with your exciting crew members: a beautiful companion, a cool captain, a handsome doctor, and more!

Operating from the Heart with Dr. Simon Tam
Source game: Trauma Center
As Dr. Simon Tam, you'll be responsible for operating on your injured crew mates as they return from their missions. Treat bullet wounds, laser burns, bone fractures, and even brain damage as you struggle to keep everyone alive. But the game doesn't end there! You'll also be able to build your relationship with Kaylee, the ship's mechanic. It's no secret: she likes you and you like her; but it's up to you to say the right things and not screw it up - a hard task when every conversation choice that comes to mind turns out to be awkward and/or insulting.

Problematic Safari with River Tam
Source game: Viva Pinata
Good day, Mr. Fox. Are you well? How about you, Lady Peacock? Won't you come with me to join our friends down by the river? We'll sing and dance and drink tea and play games all day long! But... what's wrong Lady Peacock? You don't seem well. ... Stop! Don't say that! They'll hear you! No... no... they're already coming! The hands of blue... they'll come and... take it out... put it in a bottle... like lemons squeezed in your eyes and... no... I'll just close my eyes and make it stop. 
Thanks for holding my hand Mr. Fox. I think I'd better just rest for today.

Book with Derrial Book
Source game: Planescape Torment
How does a shepherd have ties with the Alliance? Why does he know so much about the galaxy's underworld and weapons? If you read "Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale" you only know part of the story. The life of Derrial Book could fill a book, which makes it perfectly suited for the format of an RPG. You wanted answers and here they are, ready for you to discover, as you watch Book's dark life unfold and experience it as he did. It's an emotional and exciting tale of redemption that you won't want to miss.

What do you think? Would you have made them differently? Post your ideas in the comments!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

FTW: Super Mario 64 - 70 Star World Record Speed Run

I don't always post twice in one day, but when I do, I post videos and/or news while it's hot. This is both a video and hot news. Well, fairly hot news. I guess. 

Anyway! Siglemic, holder of the world records for speed running Super Mario 64 with 120 stars and 70 stars, has just achieved a new record for the 70 star run of 49:09. This was performed without assistance and not on an emulator. If you haven't seen a speed run before, Super Mario 64 is a great game to start with as the acrobatics, skill, glitches, and planning required will blow your mind. Check it out:
Update: Also check out Siglemic's 120 star world record of 1:44:01

Update: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker world record was also beaten today by Cosmo, clocking in at 4:40:15, which beat the previous record of 4:42:03. Check him out on and on his Youtube channel.

I suck at Street Fighter

In theory, I like fighting games. In practice, I'm pretty bad at them. For most, the combos and attacks are too complicated and unintuitive for me to bother memorizing. Even when I do get the hang of performing basic attacks, grabs, and blocks, I find that I still lose to button mashing and do better with button mashing myself. It's [probably] no fault of the game's, so I'll take the blame for my failure.

Out of all the traditional fighting games I've played (i.e. not Smash Bros.), Street Fighter seemed like the easiest to learn. I did training and arcade mode and, well, it wasn't too pretty...

Monday, November 19, 2012


The Buddhists have a lot of things right. The three marks of existence which are part of basic Buddhist doctrine are that life is suffering (or at least unsatisfying), all things are impermanent (or at least always changing), and that the "self" isn't really the "self". Ok, so maybe non-Self doctrine is a bit of a leap, but the other two at least should seem obvious to anyone paying attention. Japanese Buddhists in particular even learned to appreciate impermanence as something that gives beauty and incorporate it into their art.

I, on the other hand, have not. 

I find impermanence depressing and if I see something beautiful, I want it to be preserved for as close to forever as possible. Sure, I know that eventually the universe will fade and/or God will return and end it, but in the mean time, I hate for cool stuff to disappear into history, unable to be experienced or known ever again. Rather than making me appreciate it more, I feel pressured to enjoy it before it's gone.

In this age of the internet and increasingly affordable data storage, it's easy for things to be saved. But it's also easy to create more digital content, and not all of it gets saved. There are sites like the Wayback Machine that let you view websites as they used to be, but you can't expect a tool like this to save every image and every video from every server so that you can view every website's progress and eventual demise through history. Sure, you may be able to see what Google looked like, but good luck finding that Geocities page you and your friends thought was funny that one time. With games, many can be preserved through emulation. But that doesn't preserve the full experience of playing the game on its original console. Eventually, it will be hard to find a TV old enough to have the hookups for an old console and it'll be hard to find a working console, game, and controller as well. Or consider the day when AA batteries are no longer readily available. Classic games that use internal batteries for saving have already become a problem for retro gamers. YouTube is another way that games can be partially preserved, but once again, they leave out the biggest aspect of gaming: interactivity; and YouTube itself is impermanent.
Tales of Eternia Online is one game I'll never be able to play.
Its official service was only active from 2006 to 2007.

Not being able to play original games on original consoles is one thing, but the problem of impermanence escalates when it comes to limited time services. This includes betas that close (though you probably wouldn't want to play in beta again anyway) or how playing certain games online used to be different before they patched something. But more drastically, it's when online communities die and the server is taken offline. Eventually, you won't be able to play online in the games you're currently playing; and in the grand scheme of things, it won't be very long before that happens. Already this has happened to plenty of games and there are MMOs whose worlds will never be explored again. Good luck trying to print more Pokemon Snap stickers at your local Blockbuster. I'm sure many of the Wii channels will cease to be updated now that the Wii U is coming out (not that many people use the Everybody Votes Channel much anyway). And ordering a custom sweater designed in Super Mario Sweater for Famicom? Forget about it. Just be glad someone managed to preserve BS The Legend of Zelda from its limited broadcast on the Japanese Satellaview.

But what does this mean for you as a gamer? It means you had better enjoy your games while they last, especially modern online ones which rely on some company's private server. Or, if you prefer, rather than feeling pressured to enjoy them, you can feel privileged to be enjoying them in their prime. Yours was the generation that read Nintendo Power along with major releases, played Halo online, and participated in downloadable tournaments in Mario Kart Wii. Already you have experienced things that your children never will.

So here's to impermanent gaming. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bug Too! - Only Slightly More Fun Than Real Bugs

I've played a Sega Saturn probably less than five times in my life and as far as I can remember, I have never played Bug Too! before (though my neighbor across the street might've had it now that I think about it). Well in any case, I've played [some of] it now and I'm here to tell you what I think! I'll also refrain from using exclamation points from now on whenever possible, even though the game's title does unnecessarily contain one.

Basically, it's a 3D platformer akin to Crash Bandicoot. You play as a bug starring in a series of movies. Each movie makes up a world and contains a few levels with bosses at the end of them. As you progress through each level, you can collect diamonds and other trinkets to increase your score which determines how much money the movie earns. I've yet to discover why making a high grossing movie matters or, really, how the levels being movie sets really affects the gameplay at all.

The walkable path was hard enough to see as it was;
then they added fog.
As a kid, I might have been excited to explore any 3D game world, but playing this game now, I can't help but wonder at some of the design choices. Rather than being able to run around freely in the 3D environment, your character will often be confined to a 2D plane and can only change direction at specific junctions. On the one hand, this keeps you from falling off the sides, but on the other hand it severely limits your mobility and is not implemented well. You will frequently encounter areas where you'll want to jump down from a ledge but find that you can't due to an invisible wall. Seriously, there are invisible walls everywhere. In one early puzzle, you have to push a lever to rotate a cube further on. In any normal game, any surface of the cube would allow you to walk on it and get to any adjacent area, but in Bug Too! you'll only be able to walk on the parts that have a slightly different colored path. 

To make matters worse, you can walk up and down walls, which would be cool normally, but as with moving anywhere in this game, you'll only be able to do it if the game wants you to. The puzzles and platforming aren't exactly difficult; they just waste your time by making you run back and forth. Then there's the first boss which, unlike most enemies up to that point, hurts you when you jump on it and can only be damaged by a new move you only acquire for the first time during the fight (as far as I could tell).

When it comes to the graphics and audio, Bug Too! is hit or miss. The graphics aren't too bad as a whole, but the lack of visual cues for where you can and can't go is a huge oversight. The music also isn't bad, but it inexplicably fades out rather than smoothly looping like any other game's music. The characters also talk and say one-liners every now and then, which I guess you could count as a positive if you're feeling generous. 

In spite of all my criticisms, Bug Too! isn't a terrible game. It's just not a very good game. When it was new, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it as I would have any 3D platforming game. Even now, there's some fun to be had here. It's just that there are so many faults that you may as well play one of the many better alternatives.

Check out my partial Let's Play series below:

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Dying to play my LittleBigPlanet 2 level

I love LittleBigPlanet. It's fun platforming, it's got character, the soundtrack is great, and most importantly, you can create almost any kind of stage or game that you can imagine. In fact, there are so many great custom stages available to play that I kind of get overwhelmed by it. I mean, there's no way I can possibly play all the great levels people have made, so I usually just don't even try and decide to play something else entirely. It just wouldn't be fair to play only some of the amazing custom levels.

Well, anyway, if you're not like me and don't get overwhelmed by the plethora of levels, maybe you'll consider checking out the level I made. It requires you to use the spawn gates in new ways in order to finish. Add it to your queue at!

Monday, November 5, 2012

5 N64 Games You Might Not Have Played but Should

I hate to make assumptions and say you haven't played these games, but I find it to be the case that people often haven't. There were quite a few good games for N64 so a few were bound to get lost in the mix. These are just some of the ones that I played that I don't hear getting talked about very much. If you've already played them all, good for you, you win the prize.

5. Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness
The ghosts sometimes dress for the stage.
This was one of the few games I owned and played for Playstation but it was also out for Nintendo 64. I hardly remember it, but I know that I spent a good deal of time on it and that there always seemed to be another level to unlock that required me to go back and find more stuff in previous levels. That might sound like a pain, but that was the sort of thing I liked and it offered a good deal of replay value. The levels basically consisted of classic Pac-Man style mazes with dots and ghosts, where you had to get a certain number of dots to get to the next area; and also segments with block-pushing puzzles and other obstacles. The things you needed to go back for were additional stars awarded for collecting all the dots, finding all the fruit, getting a high enough score, and finishing under a certain time. These levels weren't short either, and I remember spending a considerable amount of time exploring each one in search of fruit and dots.

4. Space Station Silicon Valley
This game is probably one of the most unique games you'll ever play. Your character is a microchip and your setting is a space station filled with robot animals. Your goal varies by stage, but involves skill and puzzle solving as you take control of the robot animals and use their varied abilities to access new areas and deactivate (kill) the other animals so you can take control of them when you need them. 
You are the little black thing floating between the sheep and dog.
There is a wide variety of animals to control, including farting rats, hyenas that attack with contagious laughter, and a polar bear on treads which drops poo-shaped mines and launches cannon balls from its nose. It's always fun when you manage to fell one of these mighty beasts and use it for yourself, but there are also times when you must abandon the lumbering tanks for an agile mouse to get into a small space or a defenseless sheep so you can glide across chasms. It gets fairly challenging too; in fact, I guarantee that you can't beat it because there's a glitch that prevents it. Unfortunately, as great as this game is, there is a game-breaking glitch that prevents you from playing the final level. Still, the game is definitely worth playing.

3. Sin and Punishment
Don't you wish Star Fox 64 had a sequel for N64? Well, it pretty much does in the form of Sin and Punishment. This game was only released in Japan but is now available on Wii Virtual Console and it's well worth checking out (along with its sequel, also for Wii). It plays a lot like Star Fox, except you move your character independently from the aiming reticle, so you have to pay attention to both not getting hit and to where you're shooting. There's a lot to shoot too, so building combos and destroying groups of enemies in one shot in pursuit of a high score is an added layer of depth. Also, you'll need to keep a lookout for larger incoming projectiles which you can bat back at enemies with your sword. It's epic, frantic, and quite difficult, but it's very fun. Even though it's a Japanese game, the cutscenes are voice acted in English with Japanese subtitles. Of course, the story doesn't make any freaking sense, but at least it feels epic. Admittedly, the graphics are pretty crappy, but once you're playing it you'll hardly notice. Fans of Star Fox or arcade-style shooters definitely should check this one out.

2. Blast Corps
This is another unique game and it's by Rare in their prime, so that ought to tell you something. The gist of this game is that there's a truck stuck going on a designated path with a nuke on it and if it hits anything, it explodes. Of course, the only logical thing to do in a scenario like this is to destroy all the buildings and obstacles in the way, so that's exactly what you do. You do this by using a variety of vehicles which range from bulldozers to flying robots and destroy all the buildings that would get in the truck's way. The buildings can be destroyed in chunks too so it's pretty satisfying to watch them fall apart in pieces. That in itself is fun, but for completionists, each level also has little lights to find and turn on, an award for destroying every building (proving the plot was just a half-formed excuse for destruction), an award for finding all the survivors, and sometimes hidden satellite dishes that unlock new levels and challenges. Exploring the levels for every little thing was probably my favorite part, especially since that included destroying every little thing as well. If you do well enough, you can even continue your destruction on the moon.

1. Rocket: Robot on Wheels
On a console with lots of great adventure games like Super Mario 64, Banjo-Kazooie, and Donkey Kong 64, it's hard to play them all. But Rocket: Robot on Wheels holds its own with the best of them. Like other games from its genre, Rocket has you collecting various objects in order to open up the next area so that you can find more of those objects. The main hub is located in an amusement park and each level is similarly unique, not just recycling the usual fire level, water level, forest level formula. It's filled with clever ideas that require exploration, puzzle solving, and platforming and it's fun throughout. In particular, I recall a part where you build and ride a roller coaster and another part where you have to dip yourself in paint in a certain order to disguise yourself. 

Where Banjo-Kazooie had you transforming into different creatures and objects, Rocket gets his different abilities by plugging into a variety of vehicles. Also of note, is Rocket's tractor beam, which lets you pick up objects and have them float along with you. It can also act as a grappling beam which you can use to swing from tether points like in Metroid. What's neat, though, is that the objects you pick up behave with believable physics and tumble realistically when dropped or thrown. It isn't so amazing now, but for an N64 game, that was really cool. If, like me, adventure games were your favorite thing to play on N64, you'll definitely want to play this one. Why, oh why, are there hardly any good adventure games any more? :( 

What did I miss? Let me know in the comments! I know Bomberman: Second Attack was one I always wanted to play but couldn't find, so perhaps that also belongs on this list as well.
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