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Come on Down! It’s the Price is Right Electronic Game!

This post is gonna talk about something that isn’t really a video game. I mean, an electronic toy could be considered a “video game” in the loosest sense, but it’s one of those things that is so cool to me that I can’t help but write about it. While I’ve written about cool board game things I’ve gotten over the years, such as the Pocket Player Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man side games published during Pac-Man Fever, even the first Pokemon-themed Monopoly, I think this fits.

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It’s so weird seeing old, pudgy Drew Carey nowadays…

It’s the fabulous, less-than-sixty-minute Price is Right electronic game! Released in 2008, this tries to replicate some of the iconic elements of the classic TV game show. This features Drew Carey on the cover, and was released during the “growing pains” period when Drew took over the show after Bob Barker’s retirement. While there were some good moments during those first few years, Drew was still trying to find his footing, especially after taking over a show hosted by a television legend. Though, don’t expect to hear his voice in the game, he’s just on the box art.

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The device in all its… glory.

Surprisingly, this is the second electronic game based on The Price is Right. The first one was made by the infamous Tiger Electronics, makers of “quality” LCD games. The less said about that one, the better. This particular one is produced by Irwin Toy, a company that’s been around for a long time and seems to still be kicking around making stuff. They’re not as big as Hasbro, but they’re certainly not dead, compared to Tiger Electronics.

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Cards, cards and more cards! Hope you don’t lose em.

Up to four players can play, and they play a loose version of the TV show. Everything is on these cards. Cards with a green border are used as item up for bids on Contestants Row. Cards with a blue border are for the pricing games (7 out of the 70 or so on the show). Finally, cards with a red border are saved for the Showcases. You input the 3-digit code for each prize or game, and the game goes from there.

All players play on each contestant’s row, which means a player can win multiple times and play multiple pricing games. After four games, the top three winners spin the Big Wheel, and the two highest-scoring players go on the Showcases. There, the top winner bids on a showcase while the runner-up bids on the other showcase. Whoever is closest to their own showcase wins. It’s not exactly perfect, but works within the limitations of the device.

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Fancy LCD screens! What a time to be alive.

Speaking of limitations, this game has sound! But I hope you love hearing that “come on down” intro tune a lot, because it plays All. The. Time. It’s not even the iconic theme music, it’s that dinky tune you hear at the start of every show! On the bright side, it does feature some (but not all) of the game’s sound effects. No losing horns here, sadly.

So let’s talk about the games featured, and how they play on the show compared to the electronic game.

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Budget Shooter Theater #5: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter.

“Best played co-operatively.” It’s something that’s fairly obvious for some games: Left 4 Dead, Payday 2, Killing Floor, the works. These are the kind of games that are built from the ground up to be played co-op with friends or random players, but can also be played by yourself if you want to. To me, the term also applies to games that have a single player campaign, but is infinitely more fun with a few friends. Like Sven Co-op is for Half-Life. That describes Serious Sam, the chaotic shooter series, to a T.

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My friend Cambertian (@cambert123 on Twitter) had requested I played one of the classics, Serious Sam: The Second Encounter, and sure enough, it was the first game where I abandoned the early “wheel” picking system in lieu of a more simpler “Request a game, put it in the queue” system. I had played Serious Sam games in the past, co-oping through The First Encounter HD, Serious Sam 2 and even Serious Sam 3: BFE with a few friends. I had tried to play through the classic games before thanks to the HD remasters, but I never got very far.

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Even for a 15-year-old game, it still looks pretty.

The Second Encounter is basically an expansion pack to 2001’s The First Encounter. It adds a few new enemies to its bestiary such as a pumpkinhead looking monsterwith a chainsaw, an Reptiloid Demon that throws homing fireballs, and even alien monsters of the simpler headless foes of First Encounter. There’s a few new weapons in addition to the common arsenal of shotguns, miniguns and rocket launchers, including the sniper rifle – a valuable weapon against middle tier enemies – and the Serious Bomb, the game’s answer to the BFG. There’s a few new locales like the jungle, some temples, even a snowy land, each area defining a certain episode of the game.

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A common sight in Serious Sam: Lots and lots of enemies.

Serious Sam is part of a genre I’d call “slaughter FPSes,” as they relate to the Doom community’s “slaughter map” design of straightforward levels and lots and lots of tra enemies to kill. Lots of rooms in The Second Encounter throw loads of enemies in fairly open spaces, which isn’t particularly hard. Until I got partway through the second episode, where Croteam loved putting loads of Kleers – the skeleton monsters – in very cramped corridors, making it difficult to push through without getting stuck and repeatedly hit. I ended up using the flamethrower a lot in that section as it killed them pretty fast.

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Activision and its weird SNES localizations.

Activision. I probably don’t need to say any more, but I’m going to. They’re a company that fully endorses the practice of “make something until it stops making money, then burn it alive and dump the ashes.” Franchises like Tony Hawk’s Pro SkaterGuitar Hero, and James Bond came out practically yearly until the quality suffered. Many iconic studios like Neversoft, Bizarre Creations, and Radical Entertainment were among the casualties when their games didn’t sell well enough. Others, like Raven Software, were enslaved to make Call of Duty after two back-to-back commercial failures (Wolfenstein and Singularity). Even then, who knows when the COD bubble will finally burst?

But before Activision was the monstrous juggernaut they are now, they were still a company that was recovering from the ’80s. A bunch of bad business deals forced the company to be bought by a holding firm in the early ’90s, ran by Robert “Bobby” Kotick, who still runs the company to this day.

While Activision was trying to rebuild during the ’90s, they decided to do something unusual in terms of localization of two Super Famicom games to the west. Localization is fairly common, sometimes changing stuff like minimizing Hitler and Nazi references in Bionic Commando on the NES, to straight up overhauls of existing games like Masked Ninja Hanamaru becoming a game involving Domino’s short-lived mascot Yo! Noid for the NES. In Activision’s case, theirs were somewhere in the middle: they decided to scrap the original Super Famicom soundtrack, get a contract deal with some fairly popular electronic bands, and have their songs be part of the new American soundtrack, complete with advertising this fact on the box and in the game itself.

So, all I can say now, is “Are you ready for this?”

(Before I go any further: Shout out to online buddy LanceBoyle for giving me the inspiration to write about these. Not the guy from MegaRace, though I’ll give him a shout out too because why not?)

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The first game they attempted this with was BioMetal, a fairly innocuous shoot-em-up with powerups that was a decent little R-Type clone. Alas I am very bad at these kind of games, so I couldn’t get past the first stage. Though from what I’ve seen, it seems to be just one of many shoot-em-ups on a system filled with them. It’s why stuff like Phalanx had that weird hillbilly on the cover, to make it stand out.

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Though, Activision’s attempt to make it stand out was a bit more unusual: Replacing composer Yoshio Nagashima’s soundtrack with songs from the band 2 Unlimited. 2 Unlimited was the band that made that fairly popular electronic song “Get Ready for This,” a song that plays practically at every sporting event you could imagine. It plays during the title screen and appears on Stage 2.

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Overkill 3: The long-awaited continuation through the Windows Store.

About a year or so back, I wrote about Modern Combat 5. I did so because I had jumped from Windows 7 to Windows 10, and never got to experience the Microsoft Store ecosystem.

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One of the games I had downloaded, Sniper Fury, weren’t really worth talking about all that much. Just felt like Modern Combat 5 but more like a rail shooter.

I was going to do a “series” based on Windows 8-10 apps, but I got sidetracked. The other games I had installed had either gotten super grindy unless I paid, or in the case of Asphalt 8: Airborne, that they are such a daily ritual for me that I’m still grinding to get that last achievement to this day. The only other games that could be interesting to write about are too “well-known,” like the Killer Instinct reboot.

But there was one more game I had installed, and until recently, never tried. Then I tried it, and thoroughly regretted playing it.

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STERN MILITARY FACE

Overkill 3 is the third installment in a modestly popular franchise originally released on mobile platforms. Co-developed by Spanish developer Game Troopers and Czech developer Craneballs – props for the goofiest developer name I’ve seen yet – Overkill 3 is a cover shooter. Unlike Modern Combat 5, there is no moving, only aiming. So it’s less a cover shooter and more a rail shooter.

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Here’s John Scully, our resident shootyguy who must kill the evil big bads from… something, I don’t know.

There is a story but it’s so razor-thin that there’s no reason to pay attention to it. You play as John Scully, a guy with the most ridiculous protagonist hairdo I’ve seen this side of Soap MacTavish, fighting off big bads in various places. There is no principal villain, just Scully going from place to place, hiding behind cover, and shooting dudes repeatedly.

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Five random video game CDs I own.

In my many years of casually running a blog, I’ve ended up collecting a fair share of video game-related junk. Demo discs. Hot wheels cars. Even collecting bottles of Mountain Dew Game Fuel. But one I’ve gotten the most often is random video game-related music.

I have the traditional soundtrack fare of music straight from the game, but there isn’t a whole lot I could write about those. Except maybe that copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that Nintendo Power was giving away to people who re-subscribed to the magazine. But I do have a fair share of stuff that’s tangentially related to video games that I think are interesting.

So here are five random video game-related CDs I own, in no particular order.

Music from the Motion Picture: Tomb Raider

This was around the time where the franchise was in a slight slump thanks to Eidos following Activision’s philosophy of pumping out a new game every year, but before the trainwreck that was Angel of Darkness. I never saw the movies based on Tomb Raider, but I heard they’re fun, popular little action flicks. Maybe that was because a certain Angelina Jolie was the titular star… (The film also features a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig!)

I honestly didn’t think the film would be filled to the brim with licensed music, but there’s a lot here, and it’s a mix of industrial (Nine Inch Nails) and electronic artists (Chemical Brothers, Moby, Fatboy Slim). A lot of it is a good example of that late ‘90s-early 2000s style of pop/industrial and hip-hop/rock sound. A lot of these are artists I’ve heard of, but the only song on here I was familiar with prior to listening was Basement Jaxx’s “Where’s Your Head At.” Which is so early 2000s it hurts.

The only thing I’m saddened by is no portions of the film’s score by Graeme Revell. That was released on a separate CD – It was common to release a soundtrack of the licensed music and a separate CD for the film’s score – but even having one or two tracks on here would’ve been a nice surprise.

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Super Jeopardy! for the NES: Just as fun as the real show!

Game show video games are still one of many genres I’m fascinated by. While Jackbox Games are still plugging away with twice-yearly Jackbox Party Packs, the competition has mostly dried up. Hell, we haven’t had a proper Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy! game since the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era. (No, those crappy freemium mobile apps don’t count.)

So I tend to go back to the glory days, when GameTek was still around making loads of these games as probably their #1 source of income. I already covered the Game Boy and Game Gear versions of Jeopardy! in the past, and thought, might as well come back to the well once again.

Surprisingly, for the NES, there were four versions of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune on the system. It honestly would’ve done fine with just two, but it must’ve been a huge cash cow for them to keep making. Either that or being given away as consolation prizes on the show gave them a good reason to do the equivalent of a “roster update” for those games.

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This time, I’m covering a fairly obscure one from the Jeopardy! collection: Super Jeopardy!. Released around 1991, this was based off of the fairly short-lived version that actually aired on primetime TV.

I’m going to assume my audience knows Jeopardy! the game show (here’s the Wikipedia page if you don’t), so I’ll talk about what Super Jeopardy! was.

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Super Jeopardy! was a 13-week special Tournament of Champions featuring the best players of the current version of the show at the time (plus one champion from the Art Fleming era because the first Tournament of Champions winner passed away) playing for a whopping $250,000. Instead of playing for cash, they were playing for points in the main games. Continue reading…

Budget Shooter Theater #4: Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam: The Game

The internet is a fascinating thing. Sometimes you find things because of the internet. In my case, I stumbled upon this game thanks to the internet.

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Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam: The Game is a game based on a novel by Christopher Brookmyre (natch), a noted British author, whom sadly I’m not aware of since I’m a “bloody yank.” (I live in the United States.) I was made aware of this game thanks to Achievement Hunter-turned-Twitch-streamer Ray, aka “BrownMan” on Twitch. He was doing a blind run of this on Xbox One, and it looked like a game I’d give a try just on the idea.

This is also the third (and so far, final) game I requested myself, just to build a queue of games to play for BST. Ultimate Doom needed no introduction, Turok was something I wanted to try to see if nostalgia held up. Bedlam, on the other hand was clearly the offshoot of wanting to play something fairly unknown as it were. It’s also the most recent game I’ve played so far, coming out in 2015. (The Turok remaster came out that year as well, but the original game came out twenty years prior so that doesn’t really count.)

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Ahh, the days when games looked sharper before ugly OpenGL texture filtering…

The story involves Heather Quinn, as she signs up for some new virtual reality machine to simulate video games. Little did she know, she was sucked into the world of video games instead. With the help of various people she meets in the game worlds, she must go through the worlds of various video games and find her way out.

When I started playing, I was thrusted into a game world not unlike Quake II. Though it goes by a generic name – Starfire – it clearly has the style and look of that mid-’90s era of PC gaming. This is what Bedlam does throughout. Through my travels as Quinn, I went through a WWII FPS world, a futuristic open arena like Halo or PlanetSide, a medieval area similar to games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, even clones of Pac-Man and other old-school arcade games.

Yet, oddly, the game also name drops notable locations like Black Mesa (from Half-Life), and even mentions Call of Duty, despite all the games depicted in-game being fictional. Presumably it’s okay to reference them without having to pay legal fees; but this might all be referenced in the book the game’s based on, I haven’t read it to be sure.

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Budget Shooter Theater #3: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter: The Remaster!

So, now with the dreadful 007: Nightfire put out of its misery, the next game that came up on the Decision Wheel (name not final) was Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. This was one chosen by me because I wanted to pad the Wheel with options until there were enough people requesting stuff that it wasn’t necessary. I also was itching to try this game for a while, so now felt like a good time as any.

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The version I played is the recent remaster on Steam, co-developed and published by Nightdive Studios. Nightdive’s been hard at work re-releasing older DOS and Windows 95-era games and making them work in modern machines (or at least putting a DOSBox wrapper with it). Most notably is reviving the long-dormant System Shock franchise, and even trying their best to bring No One Lives Forever back from the dead, among other notable revivals. Naturally it makes sense to bring back Turok.

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Of course there would be a literal maze in a game like this…

The Turok game franchise is mostly known as a console series, where the main games were on Nintendo 64. However, the first Turok as well as its sequel Seeds of Evil did get PC releases, but rather than reverse engineer the game to work on modern machines like System Shock 2 or Aliens vs. Predator Classic 2000, the game’s assets — models, maps, sounds, and music — were ported to a proprietary engine known as the “KEX” engine. The engine is the same engine that handled the Doom 64 source port known as Doom 64 EX and even stuff like Powerslave EX. Basically this game is a mix of old and new: It’s like the console game, but not an exact port of the PC game. This might piss off some purists, but not me.

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Budget Shooter Theater #2: 007: Nightfire for the PC!

I’m gonna be doing recaps and info dumps of Budget Shooter Theater streams alongside regular blog posts for those who wish to keep up. Mainly so I can keep tabs on things, and have records for everything.

The second game chosen for Budget Shooter Theater’s Decision Wheel was 007: Nightfire, requested by Bobinator.

You’re probably thinking, “Oh! I remember that game! That game was amazing!”. Yeah, it was amazing. On a Gamecube, a PS2, even an Xbox. But that’s not the version I was playing on stream. I was playing the less-than-stellar PC version, released around the same time and developed by Gearbox Software.

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I always wondered what was up with the face of the Bond girl on the left…

Back in 2002, Gearbox Software was contracted by EA to make a PC game loosely based on 007: Nightfire. At this time, Gearbox was still a plucky fresh-faced developer, piggybacking on Valve’s Half-Life games. It wasn’t until 2005’s Brothers In Arms: Road to Hill 30 did they actually get to make something entirely original that wasn’t based on an existing license or a port of something like Halo: Combat Evolved.

Loosely inspired by the 1979 Bond film Moonraker, the plot involves Bond (portrayed by but not voiced by then-current Bond actor Pierce Brosnan) investigating the plot of a philoanthropist who supposedly decommissions silos, when in reality he’s using them to store missiles and use it for Operation Nightfire, which would destroy the whole world. It’s a typical Bond story for the era. Not full of pastiches like 2001’s Agent Under Fire, but certainly not the more “serious” Bond that Daniel Craig brought to the role in 2006.

I don’t know where I read this, but I heard apparently Gearbox wanted to make a Bond game based on You Only Live Twice, but was told to make this instead. The only other things of note is the story written by Danny Bilson, the man who would later sink THQ thanks to the trainwreck that was Homefront, and one of the mappers for the game was Marc Schroeder, who worked on the Poke646 Half-Life mod as well as maps for the aborted version of Counter-Strike: Condition Zero that Gearbox was working on.

Other than that, it’s a pretty mediocre Bond game. Not the best, but certainly not as awful as, oh say, Goldeneye: Rogue Agent. Clearly the console version is the superior product here.

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Introducing: Budget Shooter Theater!

For about a year or so, I had this idea: Play fairly cheap first-person shooters, third-person shooters and lightgun games that were $20 $30 US or less. I struggled to figure out how I wanted to present this. It was almost a podcast, it was fairly close to being an edited video series a-la a few video series I’ve seen online.

But sometimes the simpler options are the best. I opted to use my (at the time) dormant Twitch channel and just play along for the internet. It’s a slight homage to similar “beat ALL the games” projects like NESMania, PSXsplosion and others.

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As I’ve said before: I’m a writer, not a graphic designer. 😛

Unlike those, this is practically a never-ending quest as there are lots and lots and lots of trai- er, shooter games out there to mess around with. But that’s fine, because this is more of a series of the interesting, the unusual, the good *and* the bad of the “shoot dudes in the face” genre. I’m okay with it not having an end goal except when I feel it’s done.

For the inaugural episode, I decided to go play through the 1993 classic, The Ultimate Doom. My friend Bobinator of HG101 fame tagged along as my co-commentator as I blasted through all four episodes in about three hours with various mods to spice things up. Coincidentally I played this on Doom‘s 23rd anniversary. You can watch it below:

Click here for the whole Budget Shooter Theater playlist of games I’ve played. It’s an interesting mix of the classics and obscura.

After I finish a game, I write a recap and review of sorts on how I felt about it. You can check out what I’ve played and written about here.

If you wanna watch this series, you can follow me on Twitch at twitch.tv/tonicbh. Leave a comment on here or in the usual social media circles (Twitter, the Facebook group) if there’s a game you wanna see me play on a future stream.

(EDIT 7/3/2017: Updated it so it’s a bit more current, with newer links. I will make a separate post for The Ultimate Doom instead of using this recap post. Stay tuned!)