Category: Video games and pop culture

Pac-Man Spinoff Games: The Card Game and Two Challenging Puzzles.

While I do like writing about video games themselves, I also like blogging about some of the more obscure, lesser-known video game products that aren’t as well known. Before I got fascinated by video games, I was really fascinated by board games. Still got a massive collection, even. So I’m gonna talk about two interesting video game board game spinoffs, featuring a notable pill-chomping hero.

pacmangameslogo

I keep saying it, and it bears repeating: I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

Board games based on video games were once an interesting art form. People would take classic games like Super Mario Bros. or The Legend of Zelda and try to adapt them to a board game format. Most of the time they really had to stretch what kind of game they could make out of the source material. Others were designed much like old games based on TV shows, movies, or even personalities like Dr. Ruth and Lucille Ball.

Alas, that’s all disappeared in the modern age in exchange for reskins of Monopoly, Risk and Yahtzee with Pokemon or Metal Gear Solid slapped onto it. I blame USAopoly for homogenizing the licensed board games market.

Actual picture of a Monopoly section at a board game store in a mall. 90% of these looked the same, from the materials inside to the back of the box!

Actual picture I took of a Monopoly section at a board game store. 90% of these looked the same, from the materials inside to the back of the box!

Let’s go back to the past, and talk about a little pellet chomper named Pac-Man. Back when Buckner and Garcia were exclaiming they had “Pac-Man Fever,” and before this beloved character was not being slapped into crappy cartoons written by ex-Tiny Toon Adventures writers, Pac-Man was super-popular in the United States. This was mostly in part because of Midway’s very aggressive marketing, who were the rightsholders for Pac-Man in the US before Namco took back the rights.

I could cover the Pac-Man board game by Milton Bradley in 1980, but it’s been done to death. It plays much like the arcade game, where multiple Pac-Men could gobble dots for points while being avoided by the ghosts. It’s like Hungry Hungry Hippos, but with a board and actual strategy attached to it. They also made a board game for Ms. Pac-Man, but replaced the power pellets with a die roll, and had only one player take control of Ms. Pac-Man, swapping control to another player when an enemy ghost captured her. Also, the easily losable marbles were replaced with much more sensible chips.

There’s not a whole lot to say about the Pac-Man board games, they’re simple conversions of the arcade game. But the Pac-Man game train didn’t stop there. Enter Pac-Man: The Card Game, and Pac-Man: TWO CHALLENGING PUZZLES!

That’s how the packaging calls it, capital letters and all.

Released around 1980-82, both of these were released to further capitalize on the Pac-Man gravy train. I snagged both of these a long time ago, back when I was using eBay like a madman and buying things left and right. I kinda miss those days, that’s where a fair share of my games collection came from, as well as other obscure stuff I own, like a Wheel of Fortune play-along TV handheld from the late ’80s.

Continue reading…

A look back at Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons.

So, as of this writing in 2014, Sega recently announced a new Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon titled Sonic Boom, complete with the common video game tie-ins. 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.

Tails going “Have you *seen* what these jerks on the internet have said about us??”

After that announcement, I realized that this will be the fifth cartoon featuring that blue hedgehog in the past 23 years. So for this particular post, I decided to watch a handful of episodes of the previous iterations of Sonic in cartoon form: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Underground and Sonic X.

As a fair share of cartoons back then really didn’t have season-long story arcs, I figured a sampling of each series was good enough. This also gives me a chance to experience my vague memories of two of the series, and whether or not they held up.

I will say upfront that I am not an authority on Sonic the Hedgehog. I was a big Nintendo kid until about the mid-2000s, and while I had a Genesis and played Sonic in its heyday, it never really grabbed me until years later. The most recent Sonic game I played was Sonic Generations, and despite fan praise, It wasn’t really that fun to me. Before that, it was Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Battle and Sonic Rush, all games that I never really finished and found too frustrating in spots to complete.

While I’m not one of those people who goes “maybe Sonic was never good,” I am going at this with a more critical eye than someone who praises the blue blur to the high heavens. But enough about that, let’s take a travel through time and look back at Sonic’s cartoon past.

This took me about an hour to make. Reminder that I am a writer, not a graphic designer.

Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

Originally airing in syndication from 1993-94, this was DiC’s first animated Sonic cartoon, and the one that I remember a watching a lot when I was younger.

Running for 65 episodes, the storyline for each episode was similar: Robotnik would hatch a scheme, get his minions Scratch and Grounder – based on characters from the actual games – to fool Sonic into falling for said schemes, Sonic stopping Robotnik’s plans, and Robotnik screaming in anger at his failed plan. Every time. You could make a supercut of Robotnik going “I HATE THAT HEDGEHOG!”, he says it a lot throughout the series.

Oh yeah, Sonic also was a master costumer.

 

Jaleel White, better known as Steve Urkel on Family Matters, was the voice of Sonic for Adventures, as well as the two cartoons that followed. Robotnik was voiced by noted blues singer Long John Baldry (1941-2005), whose cries of hating that hedgehog and general dramatic demeanor gave Robotnik that cartoon villain attitude which perfectly worked with the rest of the show. Naturally since this came out after Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Tails (voiced by Christopher S. Welch) joins Sonic on these shenanigans.

Since there was only a handful of regular characters, a bunch of the plots would involve guest characters that would come and go. While there were some repeat visitors, often they would only appear for a single episode. There’s one episode I remember featuring a country singer named Catty Carlisle, which is one of those “only adults will get this reference” things I mentioned earlier.

Oh Robotnik, you fat, lovable goof.

Adventures had lots of goofy cartoon antics, jokes, and other silly things that fit right in line with old Looney Tunes cartoons. It’s clearly meant for kids, though it had its moments where adults may find the jokes and more obscure references enjoyable. Like, there’s a handful of scenes has Robotnik’s naked or in a bikini. It’s all goofy stuff.

After every episode, there’s the rather… infamous Sonic Says segments. Basically Sonic and Tails are giving kids life lessons. This was before it was required for American television to plan at least three hours of programming a week to educational content, so they probably thought ahead on these.

I wish I could say these were entertaining, but they’re not. They come off as a rip off of stuff like the famous PSAs for G.I. Joe, or the “Planeteer Alerts” from Captain Planet and the Planeteers. They’re just silly commonplace stuff that a parent should be telling you about, not some blue hedgehog.

It gets even weirder. Some of these “Sonic Says” bits have gained viral video status such as one where Sonic talks about sexual harassment. I am not making this up, I swear. You need to see it to believe it.

Out of all the Sonic cartoons, this one is the best. It’s cheesy in a typical kids cartoon sort of way, though not incredibly stupid and surreal all the time like Spongebob Squarepants tends to be. Despite the weird “Sonic Says” PSAs at the end of every episode, the show is still entertaining and goofy to this day. Though, it is something you can really only watch one or two episodes of before you get sick of it.

Continue reading…

Video Games according to Life: A Civil War.

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of those “Video Games according to TV Shows/Movies” posts. Previously, I looked at David Caruso chewing the scenery and giving us the most meme-worthy quotes as I checked out CSI: Miami‘s Urban Hellraisers episode. (You can check that out here.)

As we bring the series out of moth balls, we look at another TV show that depicted video games in the silliest way possible. This time, it’s a short-lived crime drama that while had an interesting premise, was the wrong place at the wrong time.

Again, I’m not a graphic designer. Leave your complaints about this at the door.

This time, our featured show is Life, a short-lived police procedural that aired on NBC from 2007-09. Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews, a former cop who was imprisoned for 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Now hired as a police detective, Crews must solve crimes while trying to solve the mystery of who actually caused the crime he was imprisoned for. It’s like Monk, but instead of an obsessive-compulsive man, we have an eccentric ex-con.

As opposed to Urban Hellraisers, which I watched without watching any prior episode of CSI: Miami, I actually did watch Life‘s pilot to understand the show’s premise. The acting is solid, Lewis does a fine job showing off Crews’ personality traits. Though, if you decide to watch the series for yourself, expect to see a lot of “technology has changed since he was in prison” jokes. Like in the first episode, I saw him fumble with both trying to use a cell phone and trying to comprehend how he’s answering phone calls from his new car.

The episode in question is titled “A Civil War,” from the show’s first season. The episode starts with two Persian-American employees of a gas station killed and stored in a refrigerator, with “GO HOME” splashed on the windows in motor oil. Crews tries to find out who caused it, finding out it’s a hate crime by three perpetrators. Later on in the investigation, they find out there’s a third person, Amir Darvashi (Oren Dayan) who was kidnapped being held for ransom, and they ask for help from the gas station’s owner, Mary Ann Farmer (Sarah Clarke).

I'm sorry, but after watching so much 24, it's hard to see her as anything but a psychopath that might kill anybody at any moment, even in a show like this.

I’m sorry, but after watching so much 24, it’s hard to see Sarah Clarke as anyone but a psychopath that might kill everyone at any moment, even in a show like this.

Continue reading…

Music from the Xbox video game NHL Rivals 2004: A soundtrack review.

It’s really fascinating how popular licensed music in sports video games have become. For a good while in the 2000s, there was a sense of hype if your song got into the next Madden NFL or NBA 2K title. Nowadays we tend to gloss over it, being just another thing about these games that exist. They’re not particularly exciting these days, unless you’re like me and like cataloging every time Snoop Dogg’s been in something.

While EA and 2K Sports have become the big-name players for sports games these days, there are many companies willing to throw their hat in the ring and try to carve their own niche. For example: Sony with their MLB The Show series are considered by many to be the gold standard for baseball video games. Other times, some of this competition falls flat and ends up in the annals of obscurity, like the many times Midway tried to re-invent the wheel by making stuff like NHL Hitz. This time, we’re gonna briefly talk about Microsoft’s failed attempt at a sports video game brand called “XSN Sports.”

In 2003, Microsoft tried to make their own sports brand to rival then-competitors EA and Sega. They introduced XSN Sports as their flagship sports game brand, to make sports games for their exclusive Xbox console, much akin to what their competitors were doing. Under the XSN Sports banner, Microsoft’s sport-focused games featured tournaments and leagues that players could make in-game to share on the respective XSNSports.com website.

Microsoft’s sports games debut included XSN Sports titles like NFL Fever 2004, Links 2004, and Rallisport Challenge 2. Sadly, they couldn’t make a dent in the competition, and the XSN Sports brand was folded one year later, with only Amped and Rallisport Challenge lasting beyond the brand. The XSN service itself was later shut down in 2006, presumably to shift focus onto the then-new Xbox 360.

As a promotional tie-in for these games, they released a soundtrack, under the “XSN Sports Soundtrack CD Series,” featuring various songs that come from the game’s soundtrack. NHL Rivals 2004 was the featured soundtrack for Volume 1, and what turns out to be the only volume, as there was no Volume 2 that I could find online.

The soundtrack CD also comes with a bonus DVD, featuring some NHL highlights from the 2002-03 NHL season, some Wayne Gretzky promo videos, and some DVD-ROM exclusive features. Not much to say about all this, as my experience with hockey games begin and end at Blades of Steel.

I guess this looked good for 2003. The expression on his face is quite off-putting, though…

The main reason I’m covering this is primarily because of the track listing. Outside of two tracks, the rest of the album is… rather off-putting. Stuff like Boston’s “Long Time” (apparently the “Foreplay” half wasn’t available despite being the better part of the two), Joe Walsh’s “Rocky Mountain Way,” REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You.”

As someone who has only been to one or two hockey games ever in their life, these songs seem rather out of place for a hockey game. Most of them are too slow, not evoking the fast-paced nature of ice hockey, or missing the sort of jock jam enthusiasm that you kind of need at a sporting event.

But what about those two interesting songs, you may ask? Well, they may not be that interesting, but they are to me, at least.

Continue reading…

A look back at Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed.

It’s 2013 as of this writing, which means it’s time for the next Xbox to be revealed. The third generation of Xbox is a rather confusing name: It’s called the Xbox One, it’s heavy on TV, media features, and Kinect stuff. It plays games too.

But let’s go back, shall we? Before the Xbox One, there was the Xbox 360. Eight years and one week ago, Microsoft used MTV to announce the unveiling of the new Xbox with a TV special titled Xbox: The Next Generation Revealed. Which later gets changed to Xbox 360 Revealed partway through the broadcast, but that title isn’t nearly as catchy.

Our host for this evening is Elijah Wood, which you may know from some series of movies about Hobbits. Along with Wood, our co-host is MTV2’s Jim Scherer joining along in the festivities, being the primary interviewer for most of the special.

Before they show off what the new Xbox looks like, they start out with the typical “video game history” video that talks about what’s happened in gaming. Goes through all the common beats: Video games weren’t a thing until people got crazy for Pong, then Nintendo came around and made video games relevant in America again, and then a bunch of other stuff up to now. The competition isn’t nearly mentioned as much directly, which is probably a good idea since they didn’t want people to get hyped for the next PlayStation or the Nintendo Revolution.

It seems every major video game-related TV special has to mention the history of video games, and it’s always hackneyed every time I see it. I mention this because me and friend of the site Bobinator watched Cybermania ’94 a while back before writing this, and even though it’s almost 20 years old as of this writing, it’s just as ridiculous as this event. Even Cybermania said Pong was the first video game, which I guess is a bit more punchy to say compared to SpaceWar.

Continue reading…

Snoop Dogg’s video game hizzistory.

I found out recently that Snoop Dogg has a new game out called Way of the Dogg. It looks to be a brawler featuring his likeness. This got me thinking about previous games that Snoop has been in. While it’s not a metric ton of games, it is more than the game history of other rappers like Dr. Dre and 50 Cent. So let’s check out Snoop’s history in video games, because why the hell not?

Note this may not be a complete list. I likely have left out a game or three, so if I did, let me know through the usual channels. That being said, let’s get started.

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec (PS2 – 2001)

I never really enjoyed the Gran Turismo games. Sim driving games never were my thing, I don’t want to maintain my cars by changing the oil and tires, I just want to pick a car and drive on a track. It’s why I kinda enjoyed Forza Horizon more, they straddled the line from being a sim racing game and a fun racing game. Gran Turismo 3 was one of my first PS2 games I got, along with such wonderful games like NBA Hoopz and Contra: Legacy of War.

Snoop contributed a song to the game’s soundtrack, called “Dogg’s Turismo 3.” It’s… something alright. He needs to make another one for the next Gran Turismo. Let’s make it a tradition.

True Crime: Streets of LA (Xbox, GameCube, PS2, Windows – 2003)

Developed by Luxoflux and published by Activision, True Crime: Streets of LA was a decent free-roaming action game that mixed gun play, driving and fighting in a facsimile of Los Angeles, CA. Released during the boom of Grand Theft Auto clones, it boasted big stars like Russell Wong, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman and James Hong. It got a sub-par sequel, True Crime: New York City, and a spiritual successor in Sleeping Dogs. Highly recommend Sleeping Dogs by the way, it’s an awesome game.

Not pictured: His ride, which is pretty gangsta.

Snoop Dogg is a playable character in a bonus game mode. To unlock it, you have to find 30 Dogg Bones scattered around the city. Once you find them all, you unlock “Dogg Patrol,” which features Snoop stopping criminals around LA, much like Nick Kang does in the main game. You’re given an hour to stop crimes until you die or time runs out, whichever comes first. It’s little more than a score attack, but the novelty of playing as Snoop is worth a look.

Some of his music is also in the game, along with a bevvy of other west coast rap artists. The soundtrack itself got a CD release, and I bet the soundtrack is pretty good.

Need for Speed: Underground 2 (Xbox, GameCube, PS2, PC — 2004)

Snoop really likes making songs for video games, doesn’t he? He contributed another song to a driving game, this time a Need for Speed title. Except this is probably the most bizarre thing I’ve heard.

It’s a mashup of The Doors “Riders on the Storm”, with Snoop contributing rap vocals. This is the second time I’ve heard “Riders on the Storm” mixed with another song or artist. I wonder what the surviving Doors thought of this creation…

(Thanks to andlabs and LanceBoyle for pointing this one out! I missed this in the original article’s publication.

Continue reading…

Hollywood Hellfire: A movie tie-in game? In 2013?!

Licensed titles. You know what I’m talking about: Movie games, games based on TV shows, even one based on a book series because the publisher got the book rights and not the movie rights. The lesser-known licensed titles are the movie tie-in games. The ones done by a small team usually done just to tie in with the game, and is enjoyable for about 30 minutes. A few examples that come to mind is that flash platformers of films like Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid or modifications of existing games like the Underworld modification for Half-Life by the same people who brought us They Hunger.

While reading my usual email junk of Twitch newsletters, IGN deals and newsletters for The Hobbit, I was glancing through an email from Sony Pictures of this quirky little game at the bottom of the newsletter: Hollywood Hellfire, a new movie tie-in game for the forthcoming comedy This is The End.

Sounds like a knockoff game you see on a TV show.

I am not a big moviegoer, so I didn’t know this movie existed until today. Seems to be a self-parody of disaster movies, with exaggerated versions of the actors portrayed in the film. All I got out of the trailer was stoner gags, Emma Watson robbing the main characters, and Michael Cera being impaled on a pole. Plus a strange fascination with “titty-fucking.”

This rivals the Zynga Slingo Joker for “nightmare fuel” territory.

It’s a rather basic platformer where you play as stars Seth Rogen or Jay Baruchel, running through a wartorn Hollywood, grabbing mushrooms for points, water jugs for extra lives and food for health. You have three hearts, lose them all (or fall into a lava pit), you die. Run out of lives, its game over.

While dodging fireballs and James Franco’s head, you jump on moving platforms, bounce on blue jump pads, and run away from hazards in a few areas. I only got to the third level before I finally lost, so I don’t know what the ending is like.

The game itself has a confusing sense of design: It has a chip tune soundtrack and 8-bit sound effects, yet the platforming and art style is very reminiscent of mid-to-late-’90s platformers. It’s like it doesn’t know what it wants to be, a modern game or a retro throwback!

If you’re one of those people with Sony Rewards, you can get Rewards points with the game, or so I thought. I’ve been a member for years thanks to Wheel of Fortune‘s Wheel Watchers Club but they say I’m not eligible for these points. Bastards.

If you wanna play this yourself, you can try it out here. (NO LONGER AVAILABLE, SEE BELOW.) As always, don’t expect this to be up forever, so play it while you can. Gotta get those badges and high scores to share on your favorite social media groups!

I also found out Jonah Hill is in this movie along with Seth Rogen. I always got the two confused for a long time, and I still confuse them every once in a while. Now that they’re in the same film, maybe I should start writing that script for a buddy cop film starring Hill and Rogen. Probably better than whatever Hollywood dreck is out there.


Update 6/6/2020: Technology is great as it gives us cool unique ways to promote games. However, technology also sucks, because it means that this game is hard to find, or straight up lost to time.

One, the website no longer exists, as that link redirects to the main Sony Pictures webpage. Two, trying to use the Internet Archive to play an archived version causes a splash screen to show that the Unity Web Player is required to play it, something Unity discontinued their support for a few years ago.

My brief crawling online to find a replacement place to play this has lead me to nothing but dead ends. Compared to other things I wrote about on the site, you can still find places to play Expendabros and Suicide Squad: Special Ops, but not this. Hollywood Hellfire might actually be lost media now, and that incredibly sucks.

Thus I’m putting out an open request: If you know of a place where this game is available, please let me know. I’m big on preserving stuff like this, the junk that nobody should remember. This should not be about something that existed for a few months in 2013 and is lost forever.

Video Games according to CSI: Miami: Urban Hellraisers.

I’m one of many ideas. Long ago, back when I was an aspiring YouTube guy, I had this idea for an internet show where I would review a TV show that depicted the world of video games in a hilariously bad light. This was back when The Nostalgia Critic was a big thing. Unfortunately, the issue of using clips from a TV show for mockery purposes could get me in legal trouble, so that idea got canned. But hey, it’s 2013, and I’m in the mood to revisit old ideas, this time in written form. Least they can’t sue me for copyright on a blog post.

I wanted to look at TV shows – sitcoms, dramas, news reports, stuff like that – and how they inaccurately depict video games. Some will be funny. Others will be tragic. Hopefully you’ll be entertained along with me.

Yeah, it looks like crap. I’m a writer, not a graphic designer.

The show I decided to write about first is CSI: Miami. The first spinoff of the long-running CSI TV series, it starred David Caruso as Horatio Caine, where he head-tilted and mumbled his way through ten seasons of the iconic police procedural.

I’m not a fan of CSI: Miami – hell, I am not a big fan of CSI or these kind of criminal investigation shows in general. I didn’t mind the original series until William Petersen was replaced with Morpheus. Things just weren’t the same in Vegas after that. Heard they replaced Morpheus with Sam Malone now, which is an even weirder casting decision.

During CSI: Miami‘s fourth season, they decided to tie video games into a crime, hot off the heels of the various Grand Theft Auto controversies throughout the 2000s. The result was “Urban Hellraisers,” an episode full of hilarious and inaccurate video game references mixed in with terrible acting and writing. At one point, they added a subplot involving a minor character and Emily Procter’s character just because the plot was so paper-thin that they couldn’t fill it into a 45-minute episode.

I’ll avoid giving an in-depth recap, this is not a CSI: Miami fan site after all. Instead, I’ll just give a rough summary of the events of the whole episode.

Continue reading…

Pokemon Monopoly: Gotta catch ’em all!

Let’s talk about Monopoly, the classic property building board game. Also known as “that one game that goes on forever because dummies add house rules that make a two hour game go on longer than it should.” No, you don’t get money on Free Parking, you must auction a property if you don’t buy it, and you get $200 if you land on GO, not $400. At least it’s a better board game than Risk, now that one’s a pain to play.

Over the years, I have somehow amassed a large Monopoly collection, from Disney-themed Monopoly to Monopoly featuring the Seattle Mariners baseball team, to even one of those bootleg “Build Your Own” Monopoly clones made for Windows 3.1. Though, much like everything in life, I took it to excess and got sick of collecting them, shoving all the various Monopoly games I got in my garage, some of which have never been opened. However, buried between Deluxe Edition Monopoly and Michael Graves Monopoly, there was this special edition:

Just like the post I made about the Nintendo Power catalog, it’s “Pikachu and a bunch of other characters you *might* care about!”

Yeah, they made a Pokemon Monopoly game. Gotta catch em all, I guess. This edition was made back in 1999. Pokemon fever was in full swing, and naturally there was gonna be a crossover with the famous board game. Interestingly, this was before Hasbro licensed Monopoly to USAopoly to do their cross-brand spinoffs like The Beatles Monopoly and Rolling Stones Trivial Pursuit. I don’t remember how I got this, but I think I might’ve “borrowed” this from my grandma and never gave it back, I can’t be certain. Regardless, it’s in my Monopoly collection, and I’m now gonna go look into this version.

I’m going to assume you all know the rules of Monopoly, so instead I’ll just cover the noticeable differences between this and the original you know and hate love.

I used the plastic container that holds the Pokemon tokens for Houses and Hotels. Or as they’re called in this case, Pokemarts and Pokecenters. It’s rather handy.

Continue reading…

Spotted: Atari Hot Wheels, at a local discount store near you.

Sometimes video games and toys make a bizarre combination. Over the years I’ve found a bunch of unusual crossovers of varying quality. But who knew that Atari, a brand basically running on fumes and nostalgia grabs, and Hot Wheels, a toy brand that became less about real cars and more about weird abominations, would join forces to make a nostalgic car collection that came out this year, of all things? I didn’t know until a friend of mine mentioned these to me.

Poor Centipede, getting stuck with such a janky toy car to be represented by.

I was tipped off to these from a friend at Hardcore Gaming 101, who found one of these at a Bi-Mart. Ah Bi-Mart, that podunk little chain of discount club stores based in the Pacific Northwest. Bi-Mart gives me that old-school vibe that reminds me of a supermarket that’s stuck in 1987. I even remember the TV commercials which looked so low budget you’d think they were made for public access. They’re still around, still shilling discounts much akin to your Big Lots or Grocery Outlet stores today.

Continue reading…

%d bloggers like this: