&t Phil on Games <$BlogMetaData$;

Monday, March 4, 2013

Transformers... roll out!

I finally got around to playing Transformers: War for Cybertron, and am kicking myself for waiting so long to play it. As a kid, I was a HUGE fan of the cartoon, and the last three movies, while a departure from the universe the cartoon established, are guilty pleasures of mine.  The game somehow manages to mash the cartoon and movie universes together and find its own footing.

Visually and audibly, the team has pulled off some amazing level and character design. The entire game manages to have a unique look that is noticeably darker in tone than the other takes on the franchise, but is still instantly recognizable as a Transformers product.  I’m about ¾ of the way through, and there have been multiple times that I've been blown away by what I've seen. The use of scale is pulled off without a hitch, making you feel like you’re a totally huge, bad-ass robot that’s going around blowing stuff up… and then they introduce Omega Supreme, who flips the script on you and instantly makes you feel like a little ant trying to stop the inevitable boot from squashing you. And the voice acting is top notch, complimenting a script that you just know the voice actors had a ton of fun bringing to life as you hear them execute their lines flawlessly.

The gameplay doesn't do anything new or amazing, but it is solid and simple fun. Run, jump, aim, shoot, and repeat. Oh yeah, and transform to drive or fly around! I think the inclusion of the ability to play as different Transformers is somewhat needless unless you are playing together with a friend (which I haven’t been), but it doesn't detract from single player experience in any way that I've noticed. If I had one complaint, it’s that I still have no idea why I’m collecting little bits of glowing shards from defeated enemies; it was either never explained to the player, and /or isn't obvious enough what the benefit of doing so is. Again, it doesn't really hurt anything, but makes me wonder why this was included at all, beyond the fact that other games have a similar “feature”.

So I chalk this game up to a very good purchase, especially since I got it a few months ago during a sale on Steam for $5! I’m really looking forward to playing the other two titles, even though I heard the second title isn’t quite up to snuff compared to the 1st and 3rd. With giant robots fighting each other to the death, you can’t go terribly wrong, right?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Passion Fuel

We received the following message through customer support today.


Hi guys. I just wanted to tell you how much I've enjoyed playing your game Yard Sale: Hidden Treasures. It only took me 10 minutes after playing it to realize how cool the concept of taking 3 or 4 different other games and were genius enough to make it work. I love this game and can't stop playing it. You could actually say, I'm addicted to it  Matter o'fact, I got my wife playing it now right along with me and she HATES facebook games. That should tell you something right there. "2 thumbs up" to all who were in the making of this wonderful game.

Thank you guys. Keep those upgrades coming.

~Mr.Brian A Henderson

These messages are what making games is all about. Fans are passion fuel!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You're a baseball star!

To blow off some steam last night, I dug through my Neo Geo collection on HyperSpin and played my first game of Baseball Stars 2 since I was in an arcade (that means a VERY long time ago). I have fond memories of this over the top interpretation of baseball, and am pleased to say the game has aged very well. The presentation is top notch; if your pitcher is getting tired, you see a close up of his facial expressions changing. Get an awesome double play and watch the player who made the last catch casually spit his chew on the ground and grind it with his foot. The batters and pitchers all have multiple stances and swing styles, presented in a fun cartoon style.

Mechanically, the only thing I found frustrating was the lack of precise control over the pitching, which usually resulted in a very offensive-heavy game of big hits, though it is pleasantly complimented by dramatic defensive plays shown via "action packed" close ups of players diving to catch the ball one handed, or jumping over a sliding runner while hurling the ball to the next player in an effort to get that next out.

For the most part, today's sports games are overly focused on statistics and realistic presentation, which keeps Baseball Stars 2 feeling fresh, delivering a unique baseball experience that, so far, has had no direct or spiritual successor on today's powerful gaming hardware.

Oh, and after a scoreless game and a dramatic 9th inning with a few homeruns on both sides to tie it up, I finally pulled out a win in the 11th inning!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sega CD & Silpheed

Minor update to my HyperSpin project; I now have the Sega Genesis and Sega 32X fully working within HyperSpin! I was never a huge Genesis fan, but there are some gems in there that I do have fond memories of. Now I'm working on getting the Sega CD fully working. It's a bit more complicated, but I have it mostly figured out, and now I'm trying to fill the library up with functioning games.

The first one I had to get working was a cult classic spaceship shooter called "Silpheed". The gameplay is still fun, even though the graphics don't hold up by today's standards. But WOW, Star Fox doesn't have anything on this game if you want to compare two titles from the same generation! Both were among the first mainstream shooters for the consoles that were built around 3D polygons instead of 2D sprites, but Silpheed is just so... epic. I spent countless hours playing this game when I was a teenager, and playing it again brought back that same rush of awesomeness I felt back then, with a touch of nostalgia glazed over the top. Granted, Star Fox had true 3D gameplay, where Silpheed used 3D graphics while still ultimately keeping the player grounded in a 2D plane like a traditional shoot-em up. But with the "amazing" power of the 1x speed CD-ROM drive strapped under, or to the side of, your Sega Genesis, Silpheed delivered comparably fantastic audio, and the scope of the action that occurs on screen was impressive. The only thing that I think Star Fox had a leg up on in overall gameplay was the branching paths that added some good replay value, which Silpheed is somewhat lacking once you run through the whole game once.

Next up on my Sega CD plate is Star Wars: Rebel Assault. It will be interesting to see how that game has held up.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

HyperSpin Project: Atari 2600 (and Spiderman!)

Continuing work on my HyperSpin project, I finally completed implementation of all the Atari 2600 games. I fired up Pitfall 2, River Raid, Dark Chambers, Gyruss, and several others. Countless hours of my childhood were spent playing these games, and I consider it to have the largest impact in shaping my obsession with video games as an adult. There are so many memories packed into these games; I wish kids today could appreciate these gems despite the graphics being ugly as sin (don't get me wrong, a lot of the games back then were really terrible too).

There are still a ton of games with relevant gameplay lessons on the 2600, especially with the rise of the "quick snack" games on our smartphones. Most of these games were only controlled with a single stick and one button, and still manage to deliver a fun experience. I would argue that the Atari 2600 version of Superman is still the best video game representation of the character to date!

...........One more commercial, because this one is a gem!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Shooters Haven't Changed Since MERCS

Working on my computer again last night, I took the time out to fire up another one of my old favorite arcade games that I had never passed before, MERCS! I have fond memories of playing this game with friends at a summer school I went to at Mission College in Santa Clara, CA when I was in middle school. Lunchtime was all about pumping quarters into this game with my friends.

Playing it through, I started out thinking, "Wow, this would be cool if someone remade this." Then, after playing deeper into the game, I realized that most modern shooter games like Call of Duty and Medal of Honor are essentially remakes of MERCS. They might look different on the surface, but they are basically the same gameplay structure.

1. Multiple weapons and powering up those weapons: The more you play MERCS, you get power-ups that increase the effectiveness of your weapon, and you get multiple chances in each level to choose a different type of weapon while retaining your power-up.

2. Drive and shoot from vehicles or gun emplacements: MERCS has multiple instances where the user can jump into a vehicle or man a gun emplacement to cause massive amounts of destruction.

3. Guided levels: MERCS has a specific path that it forces you down for each level, but lets you run around a bit within those boundaries to choose how you want to complete each level (admittedly, not to the same degree as a modern shooter, but the idea is there).

4. Trains and Elevators: In a few instances, MERCS places you on what is essentially a moving platform that takes you along for a ride, and forces you to shoot the enemies that pass by.

5. Themes for levels: Jungle/river, industrial, mountain, desert, blah blah blah

So in reality, I've been playing various, prettier versions of MERCS for the past 23 years (the original was released in 1990). I'm not sure what to make of that... part of me wants to chastise the gaming industry in general for not really pushing the boundaries of action games for more than two decades, but that wouldn't be entirely true. Also, I didn't really notice or care until last night, so is it really that huge of a deal?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Pinnacle of 2D Shoot'em Ups

Continuing work on my "ultimate gaming machine", with my classic arcade and console games emulated through HyperSpin (see my previous post), I took time away from continued set up to finally beat one of my all-time favorite games, Metal Slug!

Even by today's standards, the action is over the top, being a cartoon style homage to every '80's action film and side-scrolling action game of the past. I have no clue what the plot is, other than there is someone very bad out there with an army to back him up and a bunch of POW's that must be rescued. And every now and then you get to shoot a flamethrower or drive a tank.

The game is amazingly difficult if you are attempting to play it through without using a "continue", but luckily I don't care about that, and have unlimited "continues" since emulation frees me from being a slave to the number of quarters I have left in my pocket. If there is any fault to this game, it's that the difficulty becomes so unfair toward the end of the third level that it's obvious the game was designed to eat as many quarters as possible back when it ruled the arcades. The last level is especially guilty of this... I must have died every 2 minutes.

In the end though, I got to shoot a bunch of bad guys, rescue some bearded prisoners of war, drive a tank, and blow up a lot of structures. Good times. The art style and huge amount of animations for all of the characters helps to make Metal Slug something truly special. I plan on playing through the 5 sequels to get a better idea of how the series has evolved, and complete one of the finest shooter franchises in the history of video games.