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I bought stuff!: Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2017 Edition.

Hey, y’all. I’m really sorry about the dearth of updates as of late. For the past few months, I’ve been down in the doldrums. No drive to write, to make videos, to stream. Sometimes, something comes around that seems pretty neat and I’ll write about it. I haven’t missed a single month in the blog’s 5+ year history, and I’m not breaking the chain any time soon, so I felt it was time to write again.

Having a yearly tradition on this site helps a lot too.

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Oh hey, it’s that logo again.

2017’s Portland Retro Gaming Expo happened last weekend, and it’s always a hoot to go. The cool deals, the amazing art, walking around the show floor and accidentally bumping into people like MetalJesusRocks and Bob Mackey of Retronauts among other notable people in the gaming internetosphere, the works.

Of course, as you can tell by the subject, I bought a few things.

Admittedly, at this stage in my collection career, I’ve slowed down in my collecting quest considerably. Most of the iconic games or systems that I’d want are just way out of my price range, especially for someone with fairly low income like myself. Though, seeing someone sell stuff like a JVC X’eye – a Genesis/Sega CD hybrid – or even visual novels entirely in Japanese is at least worth a look even if I can’t pony up the cash to own them.
However, I did walk away with a few things of interest, at least to me. Let’s go!


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$2 – Soldier of Fortune: Gold Edition (PS2)

Soldier of Fortune is one of those underrated gems. While on the surface it’s a boilerplate action game with a clunky inventory system, the appeal was the occasionally mentioned GHOUL system, where you could literally blow limbs off with a shotgun.

Cranking the violence factor to 11 was literally the game’s appeal, as the first level gives you the shotgun real early to show off this GHOUL technology. Otherwise it’s an action movie game with some military leanings that existed in a pre-Call of Duty: Modern Warfare world.

Sadly, it may never get re-released digitally, because Activision often doesn’t care about their older franchises, plus the costs of relicensing the Soldier of Fortune name from the magazine of the same name probably wouldn’t recuperate costs to do it, even with frequent GOG and Steam sales. A shame, really.

2020 Update: Soldier of Fortune Gold, SOF II: Double Helix and the oft-maligned Payback are now available on GOG. I’d say the first two are worth playing. The third one I never played, though it’s by famous developer Cauldron, of which I talked about one of their previous games, Chaser, a few years back, so it’s probably some passable eastern-european jank. Get these while you can!

I own the original on PC – albeit it’s the later Platinum Edition release; and a Dreamcast release oddly published by Crave Entertainment. I didn’t know a PS2 version existed. Surprisingly, this was also not published by Activision, but rather published by a pre-Advent Rising Majesco.

They also touted four player split-screen multiplayer, as well as USB mouse and keyboard support, which puts it in the rare league of PS2 games that support mouse and keyboard for something besides text chat. Other games that use this include the ports of Half-Life and Unreal Tournament, and according to my friend weasel, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII, oddly.

The low $2 price tag helped, too, let’s be real here. Continue reading…

Goldfinger 64: The Game with the Midas touch.

It’s been a while since I covered a modification, but that’s because I don’t pay a lot of attention to the various mod scenes. It also doesn’t help that lately I haven’t played anything new, and often getting myself into a rut. But did you think that a Nintendo 64 game from 1997, one of the biggest first-person shooters of that era, would have a mod scene?

No, I’m not talking about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter – besides, the mod scene is strictly on PC these days – I’m talking about Goldeneye, Rare’s groundbreaking first-person shooter released on the Nintendo 64.

Goldeneye isn’t my most favorite James Bond game – that’s Nightfire, specifically the console version – but I still respect it as a good game that made a huge impact for first-person shooters on home consoles. So I was surprised to see that the game had a modding scene. Definitely not as big as the ROM hacks of Mario or Sonic, or even the thousands of Doom mods; but significant enough to be noticed.

Unfortunately, it seems to be a “separate the wheat from the chaff” problem, as this video from The Kins proves:

Thus I didn’t pay too much attention to the scene, since it seemed to be fairly amateur. But then a friend brought this mod to my attention, and suddenly my interest in Goldeneye modding scene was piqued.

Not the real film sequence but an incredible simulation!

Enter Goldfinger 64, a total conversion for Goldeneye that covers the story of the 1964 James Bond classic, Goldfinger. Goldfinger isn’t one of my favorite Bond movies either, but I understood that it was the turning point for the film franchise. A little less grounded in reality, with goofy villains, iconic film quotes (“Do you expect me to talk?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”), and a time where you could have a character named “Pussy Galore” and not it be the butt of a terrible joke.

While I’m more a fan of the latter eras of Bond films – partially because I don’t like Sean Connery as a person, regardless of his acting abilities – Goldfinger is a goofy romp and a good starter James Bond film for a new fan. So let’s see how this team of modders took the engine of a 1997 game and based it on a 1964 film, shall we?

Here’s something you’d never see Sean Connery do: dual-wield Luger P08s.

One thing Goldfinger 64 does is expand on the film’s initial pre-title sequence. While the film only hinted towards Bond blowing up a drug lab and eventually getting in a fight with a cuban hitman, the game expands that into a three level challenge, hitting most of the story beats, but with some embellishments. Such as Bond just shooting the cuban hitman rather than throwing him in a bathtub and electrifying him with a fan.

Continue reading…

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. Plus it’s game show related, and anyone who follows the blog knows I’m a big game show nut.

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 the familiar pudgy Drew Carey nowadays. Even these days he seems a bit slimmer than how he used to be.

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. Disappointingly, his voice isn’t in the game, he’s just on the box art.

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The device in all its tiny glory.

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. They’re kind of one of the B-tier toy companies.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the first electronic game based on The Price is Right. The first one was made by the infamous Tiger Electronics, makers of quality LCD games. While it wasn’t inherently bad, it did try to follow the formula their previous LCD game show games did, but now with lots of unnecessary cards that made it a lot less convenient for the format. Made it a pain to play if you were traveling, that’s for sure.

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Cards, cards and more cards! Try not to lose them.

Up to four players can play in this version of The Price is Right. The electronic game plays like a loose version of the TV show. You input the 3-digit code for each prize or game, and the game goes from there. 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. Finally, cards with a red border are saved for the exciting Price is Right Showcases at the end of the show. Continue reading…

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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I wanna know who thought to give Sam this 50s chiseled-guy-in-a-pulp-comic look.

After realizing the “Decision Wheel” I made was leading to my own picks rather than unique or random ones, I abandoned the idea and replaced it with a simple queue system where friends and viewers could request games to be played on future streams. As I was asking for requests, my friend Cambertian on Twitter suggested this one for me to try, and it was quite the interesting pick.

I’ve played Serious Sam games in the past, where I tried to play through the classic games solo through the HD remasters, but I never got very far in them. I was more successful playing through them co-operatively with a few friends, where I played through The First Encounter HD, Serious Sam 2 and even part of Serious Sam 3: BFE. Sadly the group I had to play Serious Sam 2 and 3 were from separate communities, and we had a hard time matching our schedules enough so we could finish 3, since one of them was from the UK whereas the rest of us, including friend of the site Bobinator, were based in the US. One of these days I might replay 3: BFE solo, but we’re here to talk about the original games.

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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 monster with a chainsaw, an Reptiloid Demon that throws homing fireballs, and even alien variants of the simpler headless foes of First Encounter. There’s a few new weapons in addition to the common arsenal of shotgun, tommy gun and rocket launchers, including the valuable sniper rifle – devastating 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. These are much different than the aztec temples that are prevalent in First Encounter, and it brings a nice look to things.

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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 enemies to kill. Many of the rooms in The Second Encounter throw loads of enemies in fairly open spaces, which isn’t particularly hard.

However, once I got partway into the second episode, the game starts ramping up the difficulty in an unfair way. They loved putting loads of Kleers – the skeleton monsters – in very cramped corridors, making it difficult to push through without getting stuck and repeatedly taking damage. The flamethrower was my best friend a lot in that section, as it killed them pretty fast.

Continue reading…

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  in 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. Localizing games originally from Japan is fairly common, which usually meant changing stuff like minimizing Hitler and Nazi references in Bionic Commando on the NES, to straight up overhauls of existing games, such as Masked Ninja Hanamaru becoming a game involving Domino’s short-lived mascot Yo! Noid for the NES.

In Activision’s case, their localization approach was 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?)

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 that was already filled with them. It’s why stuff like Phalanx had that weird hillbilly on the cover, to make it stand out.

 

 

Activision’s attempt to make it stand out didn’t involve a cover change, but rather something a bit more unusual: Composer Yoshio Nagashima’s soundtrack was replaced by 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.

Continue reading…

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 by other things. The other games I had installed had either gotten super grindy to make progress 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 RETURNS

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 names I’ve seen yet, this is the first game available on the Windows platform.

From what I’ve seen of screenshots from the previous titles, Overkill 3 takes a mild curveball in terms of how it plays. The previous titles were first person rail shooters, and while Overkill 3 still plays like one, we actually get to move to third person, over-the-shoulder rail shooting. So it’s a bit of both a rail shooter like its predecessors and a cover shooter like other games out there. At least they’re spicing things up.

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Here’s our resident shootyguy who must kill the evil big bads from… doing the bad things. Honestly I couldn’t tell you much else.

There is a plot to the gmae, but it’s so razor-thin that there’s no reason to pay attention to it. You play as John Scully, a military soldier who goes from various places around the world fighting off big bads that vary from generic soldiers to outright mechs. There is no principal villain, just Scully going from place to place, hiding behind cover, and shooting dudes repeatedly. Scully also wins the award for the most ridiculous protagonist hairdo I’ve seen this side of Soap MacTavish, which is something.

Each mission has Scully shooting enemies, and completing certain tasks. Some are simple: Finish the mission, complete the “slide the screen” quick time events, don’t die. Others are fairly grindy, like killing x number of enemies, or staying in a stage for a period of time. Completing challenges gets a star and some cash or medals that can be used to upgrade or buy new things.

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How cute, I could get the Aliens pulse rifle if I get some more premium currency. Bet it doesn’t have the sound effects.

Overkill 3 hits this weird territory of being tonally inconsistent with the world and its plot at times. While there are human soldiers who wield real guns like an AK-47, a Desert Eagle, and a Barrett .50 cal, there’s also futuristic space guns, even ones like the pulse rifle from Aliens, and… stuff like a giant mech robot with a minigun.

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Johnny 5 is alive! …and he’s fuckin’ PISSED!

It’s like the team wasn’t sure if they wanted to stick to being a modern military game, or saw what Call of Duty was doing at the time and thought future warfare was The In Thing; so they decided to go with both. I assume the previous games were mostly grounded in reality, but since they were on iOS I can’t really confirm.

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Since this is a freemium mobile app, they’re gonna barrage you with packs for real money to get you to invest in their ecosystem. Thankfully I didn’t spend any money.

So you probably read “buy new things” and asked, “This is a freemium game, isn’t it?” You’d be right. To get certain weapons and armor, you need to have the right amount of credits and medals. Credits can be acquired by just doing missions, but medals require either leveling up, completing specific challenges, etc. Of course, you could just buy your way to victory, but I do not encourage this because this game really doesn’t deserve any money.

There was a point where every time I started playing Overkill 3, that there was a glimmer of hope, that there might be something good. As I progressed, there were missions that became so annoying and remotely unfair in spots that I must’ve tried and retried a dozen times, and that’s even when given the opportunity to revive just by watching an ad. I basically was grinding myself down in a vague attempt to make some progress, and it certainly wasn’t fun.

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I can’t tell which of these is worse, the sticker with the ableist language or the “JOIN ARMY | KILL PEOPLE” sticker…

It doesn’t help that even while in cover, Scully was still taking damage. Sitting there, not firing, having him nag at me for not doing anything, and he would still take chip damage. At one point, I had just finished off the last enemy – a mech robot shooting rockets at cover – and took just enough damage to die, thus denying me the reward for finishing the level, having to start over.

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This seems more in line with the other games in the series, just being a gun that shoots everything in front of them.

I could upgrade my armor, but I also hit that wall where I needed medals, and I didn’t have enough of those. I could get a better, more powerful gun, but those cost a lot of credits and require lots of grinding. I could upgrade my weapons or buy grenades or rocket raids, but eventually those cost medals as well. And if I use medals, I then can’t get certain weapons or armor unless I grind or spend money to get them. Lather, rinse, repeat.

There is a reason there’s a fair share of disdain among people who play these kind of free-to-play games and hit the brick wall of being stuck unless they’re willing to do the grind or give up and pay their way to make progress. For Overkill 3, the gameplay loop is so rote that it just wasn’t fun.

I was willing to put up with the paper-thin story, the wonky controls that were made more for a tablet touchscreen and not a common mouse and keyboard PC, hell, I was even willing to play the endless mode to get some extra cash. But I just got sick of it, and realized there were many other, better games I could be playing instead.

This mission in and of itself took a dozen tries, mostly because I went from full health and armor to zero in a matter of seconds. This game ramps up the difficulty unfairly.

I hate leaving games unfinished, but if the goal to completion is “grind or pay up,” I tend to abandon it without much of a second thought. Unless it’s a game I really find enjoyment in, like Asphalt 8, I can’t stick with it. I gave up roughly around the halfway mark, and feel no urge to come back to it, because I know even if I returned to it, all the elements of the grind would rear its ugly head once more, and I’d get sick of it again. So I abandoned it, and moved on to something else.

Even though this is a mobile game ported over to Windows, this is not where the legacy of Overkill 3 ends. Game Troopers moved on from the crowded mobile game market to the not-nearly-as-crowded virtual reality market. For the low low price of $20 — VR headset sold separately — you can play Overkill VR, which is this exact same game in Virtual Reality! At least it probably doesn’t have scummy microtransactions to slow down progress.

Let’s make tap to high-five the new “Press F to pay respects.”

There is one thing I do appreciate about Overkill 3, though: Sometimes Scully will ask you to do a high-five upon completing a mission. I’m not even bothered by the fourth-wall breaking moment, it’s just so goofy that I’m always amused when it happened, no matter what.

I will always appreciate games from countries you won’t expect to have a burgeoning games industry. Hell, I wrote fair praise about Chaser a few years ago, a game by a Slovakian game development studio. It’s just not a good game. If they were to release an Overkill 4, I’ll be okay with skipping that, if this game is any indication. At best, Game Troopers and Craneballs deserve a gold star for trying and not much else.

Five random video game CDs I own.

In my many years of running this 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 thing I’ve gotten the most often these days is random video game-related music.

It’s no secret that I’m fascinated by music, from the styles and genres, to their appearances even in video games. Naturally, over the years I’ve gotten a bunch of music CDs, each with their own little story that I’ve either found on a past I Bought Stuff!, or something I had for years.

I have the traditional soundtrack fare of music straight from the game, but there isn’t a whole lot I could write about those. For example, I own The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that Nintendo Power was giving away to people who re-subscribed to the magazine, but there isn’t much to say about that. However, I do have a fair share of stuff that’s tangentially related to video games that I think are interesting instead, so I’m gonna go with that option here.

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 probably at the absolute biggest it could be, despite a slight slump thanks to Eidos following Activision’s philosophy of pumping out a new game in the franchise every year, something that would inevitably lead to the abysmal Angel of Darkness in 2002.

I never saw the Tomb Raider films, but I heard they’re fun, goofy action flicks. Angelina Jolie being the box office draw probably helped too. This film also features Daniel Craig way before he was James Bond, so it already has piqued my interest.

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, Fluke, Oxide & Neutrino) 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. That song felt like it was everywhere around this time!

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 to me. Film scores are something I find appealing, if anyone who’s seen me talk about the music kits for Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Continue reading…

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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The Super logo for this super special.

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.

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4 player Jeopardy! sounds rather chaotic.

Oh, and the quarterfinals featured an unprecedented 4 contestants playing. Wowzers!

In reality, this was only made as a complementary show for Merv Griffin’s other show, Monopoly, based on the board game. Both shows didn’t last long, because they aired on a Saturday evening on ABC. Saturday is basically the kiss of death for anything on American television, so it along with Monopoly were in-and-done after 13 weeks. Though I bet had Monopoly lasted another season, maybe we would’ve gotten a season of Super Wheel of Fortune or something else instead.

Continue reading…

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

The internet is a fascinating thing. It’s really easy to somehow stumble upon something you didn’t know existed, and then get enamored into giving it a try. That’s probably the best way for me to describe my experience with playing this game, which was the fourth game featured on Budget Shooter Theater. It’s probably the most obscure, as well.

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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 was not aware of since I live in the United States.

I hadn’t really heard of this until I was watching Achievement Hunter-turned-Twitch streamer Ray “BrownMan” Narvaez, Jr. play this game, doing a blind run of this on Xbox One probably just to get achievements for it, something from his Achievement Hunter days that he still does. It seemed like an interesting little game, so I ended up looking for it on Steam and sure enough, there it was.

This was the third (and final) game I requested myself that I put on the “Decision Wheel,” just so I had a queue of games to play for this Budget Shooter Theater idea. The other two games were ones I had already played: The Ultimate Doom and the then-recent remaster of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter. Ultimate Doom needs no introduction. Turok was something I wanted to try to see if it held up or was strictly a nostalgia grab.

Bedlam, on the other hand, was strictly unknown to me until I watched that stream. I was going in mostly blind, and I wanted to see if it was as good as it looked when Ray played it. Turns out, it’s surprisingly better than I expected.

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

The story involves Heather Quinn, who signed up for a new virtual reality machine that simulates 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 various game worlds, she must fight her way out of Bedlam.

The moment I started playing, I was thrown 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, which I thought was neat. Through my travels, I went through a WWII FPS not unlike Medal of Honor, a futuristic open arena similar to Halo or PlanetSide, a medieval world similar to games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, even an area that resembled Pac-Man. This is Bedlam‘s world in a nutshell.

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 those games without having to pay legal fees, but this might all be references that are still in the book, which I haven’t read. Continue reading…

Budget Shooter Theater #3: Turok: Dinosaur Hunter: The 2015 Remaster

Budget Shooter Theater was not going well. After playing the amazing Doom, I tried to play through the dreadful PC version of James Bond 007: Nightfire. That did not go well. In the only time I ever bothered to, I rage-quitted and moved onto the next game. The Decision Wheel gave me Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.

As opposed to other games on that list — which include future entries like Serious Sam and and Christopher Brookmyre’s Bedlam, 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 would basically be the engine framework for Nightdive’s games going forward. As a result, this remaster 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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