Category: Reviews

Hoyle Casino: Gambling on the go.

For a long while, I was fascinated by casino video games. Maybe since I was too young to actually play at a casino that I wanted to simulate the casino experience without losing loads of money in the process. It’s a shame that nowadays casinos are inundated with digital slots and video poker machines, with maybe a blackjack and craps table here and there. Damn kids don’t know what they’re missing.

During my teenage years, I was playing one of these casino games, back when I had just gotten the fancy new Game Boy Advance. Though, it was a Game Boy Color game…

Probably the best quality picture I could find. If my box wasn't crushed to hell, I'd just scan mine in.

Probably the best quality picture I could find. If my box wasn’t crushed to hell, I’d just scan mine in.

Hoyle Casino is a game sponsored by the Hoyle game company, which primarily was known as a card company though these days they’ve branched out to publishing digital games based on shows like Ice Road Truckers. This game is also unique because it was one of the few games Sierra published for the GBC, the others being Hoyle Card Games and a version of 3D Ultra Pinball: Thrillride. The game came to other systems, but today I’m looking at the portable release.

Pulsar Interactive worked on this, and they were mostly known for Game Boy games like Barbie Fashion Pack, as well as assisting in Quest for Glory V and Blood & Magic, as well as IBM’s Manage This!, which is not a video game but they were more than proud to feature it on their website.

I figured I played this a bunch because of the aforementioned fascination with casino games. Plus since it was on a portable and this was before everybody had smartphones, it was a great time waster when you had nothing to do, which was fairly common in my high school years.

Now, my gold standard for casino games is Nintendo’s Vegas Stakes – both the original SNES version and it’s Game Boy counterpart – so let’s see if Hoyle Casino is good enough to dethrone the king of casino video games.

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Mountain Dew Game Fuel: Press X to Chug Edition.

Hey, it’s that time again. That time where a certain beverage advertises a certain video game. Just in time for it’s release…

Shamelessly stolen from a Mountain Dew Wiki. Yes, That Exists.

Shamelessly stolen from a Mountain Dew Wiki. Yes, That Exists.

Yep, Mountain Dew Game Fuel makes its return. I’ve written about these in years past (here are my reviews of the 2012 and 2013 flavors), and I had totally forgotten that they were doing it again until very recently. Reviewing Game Fuel has become a tradition on this site, and I would be remiss if I forgot to cover this year’s model.

This year, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is our big sponsor, after Microsoft got dibs last year, forcing Activision to settle with Monster Energy cans with Call of Duty: Ghostbusters instead. You can read about that, and my virgin experience with Monster Energy here.

Something old, something new. It seems to be Mountain Dew's MO these days.

Something old, something new. It seems to be Mountain Dew’s MO these days.

So we have two flavors this time round: Citrus Cherry and Lemonade. I’ll make it quick on the Citrus Cherry, since it’s the same flavor as previous years: It tastes like Mountain Dew mixed in with a cherry tinge and gives a citrus punch that’s unexpected. I used to drink Squirt religiously, but I can barely tolerate drinking a glass of Citrus Cherry because of the citrus kick.

Because one should always taste test their drinks in a small glass. It's for maximum fancy.

Because one should always taste test their drinks in a small glass. It’s for maximum fancy.

As for Lemonade, it tastes like fizzy lemonade. It’s like having Tropicana lemonade if it was mixed with carbonated water instead of regular water, complete with the weird lemonade aftertaste that branded lemonade has. Certainly better than the Electrifying Berry of last year’s. I wish this was a regular flavor, it would be the only Mountain Dew-related flavor I’d actually drink!

Alas, Kevin Spacey’s visage does not make an appearance on the bottles, which is quite a shame. I would’ve been proud to say I owned a bottle of Mountain Dew with the star from House of Cards, but I guess he doesn’t sell soda compared to MILITARY DUDE WITH A STERN MILITARY FACE! OORAH!

I shouldn't be surprised this kind of promotion exists, but it makes me laugh every single time.

I shouldn’t be surprised this kind of promotion exists, but it makes me laugh every single time.

This year, they brought back the “DewXP” concept where you can input codes to give you free XP or bonus goodies in Advanced Warfare‘s multiplayer mode, now called “FUEL UP FOR BATTLE.” I’m going to guess that you’ll likely get free emblems, gun skins or other things you can customize, all with the appropriate Mountain Dew and Doritos branding.

Forgive me if I seem ignorant of what you can get out of the Fuel Up for Battle thing. Since I stopped following Call of Duty religiously not long after Black Ops, I couldn’t tell you what the multiplayer has, except it probably has XP, point streaks, weapon attachments, 10 game modes that everybody ignores except for Team Deathmatch and Search & Destroy; and 20 levels of Prestige for the hardcore players. It hasn’t changed much since Modern Warfare‘s multiplayer back in 2007. You play one of them, you played them all.

I wish I could be interested in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, but it just seems like a mish-mash of Black Ops II and Crysis 2 with a pinch of Kevin Spacey for added flavor. Since Call of Duty games come out every year and I can’t really afford games at full price, putting down $60 on a video game plus the game’s DLC and a subscription to Xbox Live or PlayStation Network seems like a ridiculous preposition to me. (I know the game is also coming to PC, but I have little faith of it being a good version, especially since how bad the PC version of Ghosts was.)

It doesn't help that stuff like *this* exists in the game. This beats Ace Combat Assault Horizon for "most ridiculous quick-time event ever".

It doesn’t help that stuff like *this* exists. I could see what they were going for here, but these are just as ridiculous as the ones in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon.

Oh well, I can still drink these special flavors of Mtn Dew and write about them. It looks like Game Fuel is here to stay, complete with the gamer stereotype of chugging Dew and gobbling Doritos while you get that sweet XP. See you guys in 2015 when we do this once again with some other video game. Here’s hoping that Citrus Cherry doesn’t come back along with it.

Kiss Psycho Circus: Glam rock meets the paranormal.

I am not a fan of Kiss. I only know a few of their songs, mostly because they appeared in Rock Band. I watched that Behind the Music episode they did once, at least. Besides that, all I know about them is they want to Rock and Roll All Nite and have a wonderful time, they made a bizarre ’70s live-action special, and then there was that period in the ’80s where they took off the makeup and were like every other hair metal band of the era. They have a couple good songs, at least.

Naturally, with how popular Kiss was, along with Gene Simmons’ shrewd business tactics, there has to be a video game about them. Enter Kiss Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child.

This is one of four different covers. I guess they hoped people would buy all four in a way to recuperate the development cost?

This is one of four different covers. I guess they hoped people would buy all four in a way to recuperate the development cost?

Kiss Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child is a video game adaption of the Psycho Circus comic book series by Image Comics and Todd MacFarlane Productions. The comic involved the band members becoming supernatural beings and saving the universe as part of the Four-Who-Are-One (I wish I was making that up). The video game borrows elements from the comic, but has a wholly different story.

Instead of playing as the band members, you play as members of a Kiss tribute band, who get teleported to a special world ran by this gypsy named Madame Raven. She tells you about this big bad called “The Nightmare Child,” and your band are the chosen ones to stop them. Separated by the Hall of Mirrors, each band member goes through each world as they grab each of the six pieces that form the respective Elder.

I hope you love mystical dialog that barely makes any sense!

I hope you love mystical dialog that barely makes any sense!

After writing that paragraph, most of which I consulted the manual to understand this bizarre-ass story, I can say with authority that this story is so god damn ridiculous that it’s not worth knowing. Then again, with this being co-opted by a band known for wearing silly outfits and the guy who created freakin’ Spawn, I’m not expecting Half-Life levels of storytelling here.

Here's a goofy little easter egg: The statue is holding the logo of developer Third Law Interactive.

Here’s a silly little easter egg: The statue is holding the logo of developer Third Law Interactive.

This game was developed by Third Law Interactive, founded by one of the original members of the Daikatana development team, so already we’re off to a shaky start. They didn’t do a whole lot of notable stuff, my brief search found out they worked on an Aliens vs. Predator 2 expansion and added stuff to the Game of the Year edition of No One Lives Forever. So we’re looking at a small studio with not much notability, which is worrying.

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Conquered: Far Cry 3.

Alternate title: Jason Brody’s transformation from party animal to jungle psychopath.

Man, the Far Cry games have gone through this weird identity crisis over the years. The first game was a mostly linear, extremely difficult action game with aliens, Far Cry Instincts made your character become a mutated alien with superpowers, and Far Cry 2 was a promising game with too many stupid mechanics and probably the dumbest story to come out of a big-budget action game. To this day, I still don’t understand why people praise Far Cry 2 to the high heavens.

But Far Cry 3 has nothing to do with the others. Seems to be par for the course for Ubisoft: Instead of making a cohesive story/saga with the series, just make them like Call of Duty games where they’re mostly standalone and different, with the only similarity being a jungle theme. It seems to be working for them.

Far Cry 3 was one of my many purchases during the Steam Summer Sale this year (along with Tomb RaiderDark Souls, the BioShock trilogy…), and I bought it knowing that after the disappointment of Far Cry 2 that it could only get better from here.

Warning: Minor plot spoilers within.

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A look back at Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons.

So, Sega recently announced a new Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon titled Sonic Boom, which comes with a video game tie-in. This was buzzing around the internet for the past couple of days, most notably because everybody couldn’t stop complaining about everybody’s character redesigns.

It’s like Tails is going “Man, what is with these people complaining about us?”

I lost interest in Sonic years ago, the last game I played was Sonic Generations and that was not a fun game for me. Before that, the last games I played were Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Battle and Sonic Rush. So I’m not an authority on Sonic or anything.

After the announcement, I realized that this will be the fifth cartoon featuring that blue hedgehog. So I decided to watch a few episodes of the previous cartoon series: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Underground and Sonic X; and write a bit about them. This will be a fun time indeed. So let’s take a travel through time, and look back at Sonic’s cartoon past.

Took me an hour in GIMP. Put more effort into this than I normally do.

Took me an hour in GIMP. Put more effort into this than I normally do.

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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, on the Game Boy Color.

Today, I thought that it’d be interesting to dabble more into my game library, as I have a fair share of games that I’ve gotten or bought over the years. Plus, it’s been a while since I talked about a game on the site, I’m long overdue for this.

Ah, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. An awesome skateboarding game that was fun even if you couldn’t do sick tricks on a real skateboard. A long-standing franchise that eventually got the usual Activision treatment of “pump these games out until they stop making us money,” and now pretty much lives on through nostalgic memories of the early games and the occasional new Tony Hawk game that they trot out just to prove the franchise is not dead. Though, the less we talk about Tony Hawk Ride, the better.

I do remember playing the first two games at some point, but since I wasn’t big into skateboarding I missed out on the later games. Thanks to watching Tony Hawk’s Underground speed runs and Giant Bomb playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 online a few years back, it’s fueled my interest into the franchise now, and I’m kicking myself for missing out when it was king.

Let’s go back a bit and talk about the original game. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out on a bunch of platforms, like the Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. But I wasn’t expecting the first game on this system:

Yes. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the Game Boy Color. That’s not the weird part, though, this is the weird part:

This game was made by Natsume. The Harvest Moon guys. I can’t think of a weirder choice for a developer of a portable Tony Hawk game. Honestly, I didn’t even know they made games beside Harvest Moon until I had played this one.

I don’t even remember how I got this game, I think a neighbor had a copy of it years ago and just gave it to me. The only other thing I remember about this game is that I wrote a scathing user review of this on GameSpot. You can probably find it if you look around there, but I’d rather not remember it, much like most of my past writing.

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Mountain Dew Game Fuel: Xbox One Edition.

Guess what’s back? I’ll give you three guesses, first two don’t count.

Yes, returning for the fifth time, Mountain Dew and Doritos collaborate with a video game company for a limited edition soda. This time around, Microsoft comes back to the well for the third time, advertising the forthcoming Xbox One with Mountain Dew Game Fuel. This time, we’re given not one, but two flavors of the wonderful special edition drink. This is the third year in a row that the specialty drink has been available, which quashes my previous theory that they’d only push this out every other year, as they did in the past. Looks like this might be a yearly thing now.

While I was at PAX, Mtn Dew was fairly prominent at the show. Spread around the convention hall were QR codes that you could scan in to redeem points, either for small prizes like Game Fuel or to win a chance to get an Xbox One early. Alas, while I did scan codes like a goof, I did not redeem a single point, which probably screwed me out of getting Game Fuel three months early. So I got this stuff at a 7-Eleven like an ordinary person who buys promotional drinks advertising video games.

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Monster Energy featuring Call of Duty: Ghosts.

Lately I’ve noticed how much video games are penetrating our food and drink. Last year I had covered Mountain Dew Game Fuel, which made its triumphant return. While I haven’t found this year’s model of Game Fuel yet, I found something just as interesting:

Monster Energy has decided to team up with Infinity Ward and Activision to advertise Call of Duty: Ghosts on cans of Monster. Ah yes, Call of Duty: Ghost Dad, the tenth major installment in the Call of Duty franchise. Unfortunately my interest in Call of Duty waned years ago, mostly in part due to how over-the-top Modern Warfare 2 got, along with releasing a new game every year just made me fall behind. (I still haven’t played Black Ops II.) Thus, I am not at all hyped for Call of Duty: Ghosts of Sparta.

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From the Archive: Late to the Party: Red Dead Redemption.

I had written this shortly after I finished the main campaign of Red Dead Redemption in mid-2011. I was intending to post it as a community blog on Destructoid, but I didn’t get around to it for whatever reason. As I was sifting through my past writings, I found this one and decide to post it here. I only changed minor grammar and spelling errors, and changed the formatted BBCode back to HTML.


So, I wrote a blog back in January on how I’ve always been behind on video games. Thankfully, I’ve gotten better this year at trying to keep up, but I can’t afford every single game at launch. Because of this, I end up getting games long after their release date, sometimes end up playing them much later after that. Since L.A. Noire just came out a week ago, I think it’s topical that I write about another Rockstar-published game that came out last year. This, my friends, is me being late to the party on Red Dead Redemption.

Rdr_cover

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Chaser: The Total Recall game we should’ve got.

One thing I’ve been trying to do this year is to tackle my long, burgeoning backlog. I’m limiting this to mostly current generation stuff like the 360, PS3, PC and Wii. But only because I wasn’t really up to digging out my Xbox to play Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and or play through the gauntlet that is Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4. If I tried to finish everything I owned, I’d be left with a task that would be impossible to finish in my lifetime.

I’ve been making a slight dent at that backlog in recent months, tackling Borderlands and all its DLC, Saints Row: The Third (which is good timing considering Saints Row IV hits later this year), F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin and Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. Lots of shootybangs, basically.

BADASS SPACE MARINE COVER

So it makes sense my most recent completion was this little-known budget FPS called Chaser. A first-person shooter that was developed by Slovakian developer Cauldron and published by JoWood Productions in 2004. I had heard of the game in the past thanks to owning a PC Gamer demo disc that had a demo of the game’s multiplayer. While the demo wasn’t amazing by any stretch, it did seem like an interesting shooter that I might play someday.

Fast forward to 2012, when I see the game on a Steam daily deal for $2.50, which got reduced even further to $1.24. I have a soft spot for bargains, and when a game hits that “$2 or less” threshold, it’s an instant impulse purchase. Then it sat on my Steam backlog until very recently, when I had decided to try it shortly after beating Redneck Rampage, wanting an “old-school” FPS fix of a different kind.

Douglas Quaid John Chaser in an unusual predicament.

You play as John Chaser, an amnesiac stuck on a spaceship being hunted down, with no memories of what happened prior. You eventually make it to Earth and become acquaintances with members of “The Family,” as you try to do missions to find out who you are and what happened. Eventually you find the truth, befriend a few people along the way, and find out you were doing a mission on Mars. So you get your ass to Mars, go to the Hilton and flash the Brubaker ID at the desk.

Obligatory sewer level screenshot.

Okay, I know a Total Recall reference sounds dumb here, but Cauldron clearly was looking at the Schwarzenegger sci-fi classic for inspiration: From the amnesiac main character, to befriending people who would later be enemies, being chased through a spaceport, even having to go through murky Mars caves to find the truth. This is the closest we’ll get to a “Total Recall: The Video Game” that isn’t that terrible NES game from many years ago.

Let’s be honest here, shooting a bunch of dudes is better than punching similar-looking monsters and dodging glory holes.

The game is not perfect, though. Being made by a game studio where English is not their primary language, there’s that weird case of “eurojank” to Chaser‘s design. Voice acting is a very mixed bag, leading to awkward line deliveries and unusual word usage. Subtitles don’t always match what’s spoken. Jumping physics seemed a bit off, where I was more likely to miss a platform than land on it. There are many points where it wasn’t clear where I needed to go next, which lead me to walking around a lot and frequently backtracking, among other problems that are common to unpolished shooters.

Cauldron’s CloakNT Engine makes for large, expansive levels. Impressive for a game released in 2004, however it makes later stages like the last few levels drag on considerably.

Chaser is not just a rough unpolished game, it’s also very difficult. On Normal difficulty, it didn’t take much for the bad guys to whittle my full health and armor down to zero pretty quick. Enemies occasionally drop medkits and armor, but I ended up losing that as quickly as I got it. This even applies to fall damage — later stages have you dropping down on pipes, taking off small bits of your health as you descend, making it pretty easy to miss a jump and easily crater, forcing you to quick save repeatedly.

This is cruel irony.

Lately I’ve been trying to avoid playing games on harder difficulties, but Chaser was incredibly difficult to play on Normal, leaving me to go through the remaining 2/3s of the game on Easy just to get through it. Even on Easy difficulty, some of the later stages still kicked my ass, with enemies having grenade launchers that one shot me even with near-full health and armor. The quick save key became my best friend.

Even the game’s ending is especially bleak. I won’t spoil it, but I was honestly expecting a much different outcome, and playing a shooter with a downer ending, especially the long journey it took me to get there, is disappointing. I would preferred a choice, like in Singularity, another game I played fairly recently.

That isn’t to say this game is bad per se, it’s just difficult because it was clearly made in a different mindset than most first-person shooters today. Chaser hearkens back to the late ’90s-early 2000s era of first-person shooter design: reflexes, speed, exploration, backtracking, rationing items, and quick saving often to make progress. The average player today would likely have a very difficult time playing through Chaser if they’re used to the Call of Duty style of game play.

Despite that challenge, I enjoyed the varied level design — from space stations, to cities, to the Russian tundra, even the redness of Mars looked pretty neat. The soundtrack was good, reminding of MOD tracker music that was popular in Unreal Tournament and Deus Ex. There’s a bit of charm to Chaser that I had a soft spot for, despite it’s ridiculous length and punishing difficulty.

It’s on Steam at an affordable price of $5, though it does go on sale occasionally. It’s worth checking out if you want some early 2000s eurojank in your life. Just remember that it’s gonna kick your ass, but stick with it. Despite that eurojank, it’s not a bad shooter. I’ve played worse shooters out there. Much worse.

Some screenshots taken from the Steam store page and Mobygames.

(Update 8/20/2019: Updated the post with a few changes here and there.)