Tagged: computer games

I Bought Stuff! 1/2013: Video Edition?

Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog entry on game finds. I found a bunch of stuff, and decided to get with the times and actually make a video out of it.

I decided to get back into the groove of making YouTube videos. I used to make videos from around 2007-2010, but lost interest for reasons I can’t explain. Realizing that YouTube is a thing I shouldn’t ignore in 2013, I started a new YouTube channel dedicated to this blog. I’ll likely be making videos from time to time, including making the game finds entries more video-focused.

For those who can’t view YouTube,

(2019 edit: Oh hey. Around this time, I had the wise idea to do video blogs about the stuff I did. However, lack of motivation and frustration around making consistent video content caused me to give up this plan a few months later.

I’m a much different person now than I was then, and I’m not really proud of myself in these videos. Thus to minimize my own embarrassment, the video’s gone. The YouTube channel’s still there, just “cleaned up” with some videos removed. I’m not gonna remove this post, though. Instead, I’m replacing this with a picture taken in 2019.)

Here’s a quick summary of what I got over the course of January:

Largo Winch.// Commando SAR (PS1)

Wipeout XL/2097 soundtrack

Sonic Mega Collection Plus (Xbox)

DJ Hero 2 (360)

American McGee’s Alice (PC) with Strategy guide:

Largo Winch is a budget title by Ubisoft based on a French TV series, which in itself is based on a Belgian comic book. They’d keep up this trend by later taking the French XIII comic and making a mediocre cel-shaded first-person shooter that had some baffling design decisions. Why would you cast Adam West in a serious role after he’s been Mayor West on Family Guy for years at that point?!

Anyway. We never got Largo Winch in any form here in the States, so I figure this was a cheapo release in the same vein as VIP where they got the license for cheap and made the game for peanuts to be shoved in the bargain bins at Wal-Mart. I tried playing this, and it was a frustrating stealth-action game made before Splinter Cell, a more well-known and popular franchise by the same publisher.

Ubisoft would go to make one more Largo Winch game, though I bet it was exclusive to Europe as I’ve never seen it here. If there’s anything that needs to make a comeback, it’s Ubisoft making games based on obscure properties no one’s heard of outside of France.

Wipeout XL (known as 2097 outside the US) got a soundtrack featuring some of the artists who contributed tracks to the game, with a bunch of other electronic artists thrown in for good measure. There’s some pretty decent cuts in here: Pre-Homework Daft Punk, some Chemical Brothers and The Prodigy in there for good measure. A fair share of this stuff seems to be more like a Big Beat/Techno sampler more than a soundtrack. Makes sense, considering Wipeout XL/2097 is one of the few games that supports Red Book CD Audio.

When I finished the video originally, I stupidly dropped the CD, shattering parts of the case. CD still works fine, though. I need to find a plastic jewel case to replace it.

Sonic Mega Collection Plus is More Than Sonic Mega Collection. A simple compilation that added a fewq games not in the original. Better than the original Mega Collection since you don’t need to play Sonic 3 500 times to unlock Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Kinda redundant now considering I own the original games on the Genesis as well as this appearing in a litany of other re-releases over the years, but it’s a nice novelty.

Continuing the past trend of finding fairly recent games like Singularity and Blur at a Goodwill, I snagged DJ Hero 2, also shrinkwrapped. When I grabbed this, there were dozens of copies in one Goodwill. Clearly these were being cleared out from a Target or some other store. While I was more into the drums and guitar of the music game boom, DJ Hero was still pretty cool, and I heard the sequel’s much better. I should give it a try sometime.

Finally, American McGee’s Alice. This one was found at a different Goodwill, the one with the infamous bins. Thankfully, this was locked away in a case, so I didn’t contaminate my hands with whatever gunk is on the stuff in there. The game was not preserved well though: the box is mostly crushed, as somehow the cardboard liner that usually keeps the boxes firm was straight up gone.

There are some other cool things about this in spite of the crushed box. It’s the first pressing where Alice is holding a knife — later pressings would have her hold cards or an ice sword instead. Somebody paid $50 at launch at a Fry’s Electronics at launch, which is pretty neat to track where this game was bought originally. Finally, and I didn’t know this: It comes with the Prima Strategy Guide. I’ve been using that to keep the box from being completely crushed.

I’ll likely be making more video content in the coming weeks. I forgot how fun it is to make videos sometimes.

(One more note from 2019 me: Yeah, on second thought, let’s not.)

PRISM: Guard Shield: Sponsored by the National Guard.

Happy after-Thanksgiving, everybody. Hope you had your fill of fattening birds, parade floats and talking to your very bigoted grandparents. Unless you’re reading this on a day that’s not Thanksgiving, in that case then happy whatever-day-it-is.

I was gonna write about this game on Thanksgiving Day itself, but stuff came up. However, it has been a while since I last dabbled in bargain bin shenanigans, and this one is gonna be a doozy.

You’ve probably heard of America’s Army. Sponsored by the U.S. Army, the game was a significant hit back in its day. It was known for being an accurate simulation of the Army’s functions and operations — at least, for a military video game, anyway. A decent little game for its time, in spite of the blatant “JOIN THE ARMY” overtones.

At one point, the U.S. Navy sponsored Sony’s SOCOM series of video games. Realizing the “big boys” were getting video game deals, the U.S. National Guard decided to have their own sponsored game. A free, sponsored game, just like the U.S. Army did.  The problem is, it’s one of the worst free games I’ve ever played. And I’ve played a fair share of garbage.

As opposed to what, the seventh line of defense?

The National Guard’s sponsored game is PRISM: Guard Shield, a futuristic first-person shooter. I don’t know who the developer is exactly, the company mentioned on the (now defunct) website is Rival Interactive, a developer of unknown, unremarkable strategy game Real War, and a program about… Neonatal Intensive Care Units. I’m not making this up, by the way, it was on their website when it was still around.

However, the game also features the logo of another familiar developer: Rebellion Developments. Ah yes, that wonderful UK developer that gave us such great hits like Dead to Rights: Reckoning, Shellshock 2: Blood TrialsNeverDead and motherfuckin’ Rogue Warrior. Oh, and a bunch of Sniper Elite games, I guess. I’ve played Dead to Rights: Reckoning and Call of Duty: World at War – Final Fronts, so I am familiar with their body of work. It usually varies from “not completely terrible” to “how in god’s name did this get commercially released?” So, I knew to temper my expectations accordingly.

I’m familiar with this game for one reason: Back when this was brand new, I got an email from Fileplanet (RIP) saying I could get a free T-shirt if I filled out a form and played this silly game. I happily obliged, and after installing it, I played it and was shocked at how poor it was.

I remember playing this during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2005, alternating between playing the game, and watching the floats and silly Broadway numbers. As for the T-shirt, I got it months later in the wrong size. It was a black T-shirt with the logo on the front and a dead link to the website on the back. As far as I know, it’s somewhere in my house with other junk clothes, including a NASCAR t-shirt I won from a GameSpot stream back in 2006. I can’t say I’m really attached to that shirt.

Onto the game itself, our hero is a nameless, faceless character named Frank Shepherd. No, he’s not related to the Half-Life: Opposing Force character, and I doubt he’ll tell you that what their favorite store on the Citadel is. A successful graduate of the Gordon Freeman School of Character Development, Frank does his routine security guard beat at a “New York Harbor” — which I’m not sure which harbor in New York they’re referring to — which gets ambushed by evil bad guys, forcing you to shoot a bunch of generic goons while occasionally picking up intel and scanning laptops.

Look at those wonderful particle effects! Far Cry 2, eat your heart out.

Continue reading…

Game finds 10/2: Game expo edition.

It’s gonna be a double-header for game finds this time around. We’re gonna be covering not only the stuff I got from last weekend’s haul at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo, but also what I stumbled upon after PAX back in early September. It’s gonna be a fun one, indeed.

I got these three games after PAX finished in Seattle. I had some free time to kill before I had to get to the train station, so I had a donut at Top Pot Doughnuts — highly recommend you do so if you’re visiting Seattle — and found a Value Village several blocks away from where the main convention center was. After poking around the store, which was in an old building as it had freight elevators, I found these three gems.

Police Quest 2: The Vengeance and The Colonel’s Bequest are classic Sierra-published games. This was back in Sierra’s hey day, when they made a whole bunch of adventure game titles. Granted, most of them have not aged well, but having the complete box copies of both games is a treat. The Colonel’s Bequest was the first game in a mystery series starring Laura Bow, which she returned in another Sierra game a few years later, The Dagger of Amon Ra. I have no idea if this is any good. Police Quest 2 is probably the same silly stuff that most Sierra games did where you had to follow every step of police procedure to the absolute letter. The series had a few games, including a spinoff series, SWAT, which went from being a bad FMV game to a strategy game to a solid squad FPS that rivaled Rainbow Six in its day. Police Quest 2 had copied 5 1/4″ floppies of the game in the box, which is weird since the original disks are already inside. I guess somebody didn’t watch Don’t Copy That Floppy. Both games were $3 each.

Pat Sajak’s Lucky Letters, on the other hand, was more of a gimmick purchase. It had never been opened, and one copy there had a dozen price stickers on it, going from $20, to $10, to $5, and probably $1-2 by the end of it. Pat Sajak’s first foray into video games, it’s a hybrid of crossword puzzles with the game show “The Joker’s Wild.” Put into a sleek casual games package, it’s probably worth looking into later. This would also be Pat Sajak’s video game debut, despite being the host of Wheel of Fortune since 1982, he didn’t actually appear in a Wheel game until very recently, in the 2010 Wheel game for the Wii. I wonder why it took him so long before he finally caved in…

The rest of PAX swag was a shitload of buttons, energy drinks, cards and promo stuff, and Guitar Hero: Van Halen. I can thank One of Swords for the last one. Now onto the Portland Retro Gaming Expo stuff.

Oh dear, there’s a lot of stuff here. Let’s go through it from the upper-left forward:

  • Politicians 2009 trading cards: Somebody was giving these away as I left the expo on Sunday evening. Have no clue what they are, what they’re for, nor do I care. Free anyhow.
  • Pitfall! (2600): The 2600 classic. Signed by David Crane himself. I could’ve gotten a better copy of it, but I didn’t have time to look through the vendors to find a more pristine copy, so this will do. $2.
  • Super C (NES): The sequel to Contra. All of the major Contra games are kinda pricey these days due to high demand, including not-quite-a-Contra-game Contra Force. But I was able to get a good price on this one. $8.
  • Dragon Warrior (NES): Never was a JRPG guy, but I had to own the NES classic that started the famed Dragon Quest series, as well as being a common pack-in for Nintendo Power subscribers. Bought it from Chris Kohler’s little booth, which had a bunch of little interesting games here and there. $4.
  • Metal Gear and Snake’s Revenge (NES): Ah yes, the bastard childs of the Metal Gear franchise. A few friends of mine were talking about those games, and I decided to go hunt these down for kicks. I found Snake’s Revenge at one booth, and had a random convention goer find me Metal Gear at another booth. $5 for each one.
  • Aphids on the Lettuce: You know that circuit-bending system guy I mentioned in the last entry? Well, he was giving these away as well. His circuit-bending stuff is real interesting, I’d love to know more sometime. As for the CD, it’s some mashup CD of Beck tunes, and I’m not a big Beck fan. Can’t complain about free stuff, though.
  • Double Dragon (NES): The NES brawler classic. That one game Jimmy Woods got 50,000 points in 2 minutes on The Wizard. I owned Double Dragon II, but not the original. And I’m certainly not looking for Double Dragon III, even though I’d love to play as Bimmy and Jimmy. $6.
  • Jeopardy! (NES): Ah yes, a video game adaption of the game show classic. This is a funny story: I once bought a box of Jeopardy! for the NES several years back for $1. The box was beat up, the manual was in good shape, but there was one problem: The game inside was Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition, which was released 3 years later. I still kept it in the original Jeopardy! box and had not realized I didn’t have the original game until very recently. Got this one for free along with Double Dragon above. It also had a metric fuckton of stickers, of which I still didn’t get rid of all of them.
  • John Madden Football ’92 (Genesis): The only Genesis game of the lot, I got this for two reasons: Because it’s a dirt cheap football game, and it’s the one Madden game that had the ambulance for injuries that they took out of Madden ’93. $1. Insert your Moonbase Alpha “john madden” joke here.
  • Star Raiders (2600): Some booth was giving this away for free on Sunday. No idea if it works. Probably does, I rarely hear of busted 2600 carts.

That’s it. Honestly, I could’ve gotten more, but what I got is good enough. I would’ve liked to check out the NES and SNES reproductions, but I ain’t paying $75 to play a translated Live a Live on my SNES. Especially since I could probably get those for half that online. These people need to not jack up the price so damn much on those, I bet they’d sell more if they were reasonably priced, like $30 or something.

Now I’m gonna go and dust off my NES and clean all these games and see if they work. or I’ll ignore them and play more Doom mods instead, which is the more likely result.

Game finds 8/29: Pre-PAX edition: 32X junk and loads of Star Wars.

So, the Penny Arcade Expo is coming up. That video game thing in Seattle, that’s two days away. I’m gonna be heading there on Thursday (that’s tomorrow as I write this!) so I may post a few blog entries during or after the event. Today, instead of packing and getting ready to hop on a train tomorrow, I decided to go check some thrift stores and hope to find some stuff. And I definitely found stuff. This’ll be a small, but interesting haul indeed.

The two games on the left are Metal Head and Virtua Fighter, both for the Genesis 32X add-on. At $3 each, I couldn’t resist passing them up, just to build up my 32X collection. I wished one of the games was Knuckles’ Chaotix, that goes for about $30 now, and that’s for just the cartridge! Both of the Goodwills I went to had an unusual influx of NES, SNES and Genesis games, but most of them were licensed schlock, sports games or awful titles like Pit Fighter for the SNES, so I decided to save the $4-5 asking price for those games for something even better, such as the thing to the right of the 32X games.
In the past few years, I’ve stumbled upon various Star Wars and Star Trek video games in thrift stores, but usually passed them all up because I’m not a fan of those series. But the thing above was too good to pass up: The LucasArts Archives Volume IV: The Star Wars Collection Volume II. I never knew LucasArts did any sort of box compilations of their past titles, and having them all in one place seems pretty neat. The games it comes with are:

  • Star Wars: TIE Fighter Collector’s Series — a version of TIE Fighter that uses the engine of one of the later games, X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
  • Dark Forces
  • Star Wars: X-Wing Collector’s Series — same changes as TIE Fighter above
  • Star Wars: X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter – Flight School — A stripped down demo version of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
  • Star Wars: Yoda Stories
  • Star Wars: Behind the Magic: Vehicles Special Edition — An interactive encyclopedia of sorts.
  • Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight — Demo version
  • Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith — Demo version

I’ve heard of a few of these, such as TIE Fighter and X-Wing being amazing flight games for their times, and Dark Forces being a first-person shooter that went against the infamous “Doom clone” moniker that plagued a lot of first-person shooter games of the 90s. Others such as Yoda Stories I had heard were amazingly bad. It’s a bummer half the compilation is just demo discs rather than the full games, but I guess I can’t complain for $5. I’d be amazed if any of this runs, it says it requires Pentium II processors and mentions they were unable to verify compatibility with Windows 98 at the time, so this is pretty ancient. I’m not gonna try to reconfigure these games with DOSBox. At least, not right away, anyway.

It seems this was the last LucasArts compilation, as no other ones were made after this second Star Wars one. Past ones such as Volume I had classics like Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Day of the Tentacle and Sam and Max Hit the Road, which sounds like a hell of a bargain back in those days. Nowadays LucasArts has almost all of these games available through other outlets like Steam, complete with DOSBox compatibility right out of the box, so it’s probably a better deal than trying to hunt down these games. But this was probably a great deal around the ’90s when you probably heard your friends talk about these games but didn’t wanna pay loads for the individual games. I love compilations like this, I wish everybody did this more. It’s great for the late-to-the-party folks who are just getting around to playing some of the greats.

Mods and maps: A tactical Quake-stravaganza!

As much as I love the mod scene for old PC games, I realized I haven’t touched Quake‘s mod scene that much in the past few years. The last mods I played for Quake was stuff made for speedruns, like Quake Done Quick with a Vengeance. So for today, we’re gonna tackle some Quake mods that tried their best to be more like tactical shooters before that was even a popular thing. Both of these were released around the same time, and share a few similarities but both have their own unique quirks.

First on our list is a mod called Navy Seals Quake. This mod features a bevvy of new weapons such as the Mark 23 SOCOM pistol, the MP5 (and its silenced variant), a Mossberg tactical shotgun, even an M16 assault rifle with grenade launcher. There are three unique levels made for Navy Seals Quake, though selecting New Game oddly takes you to the default Quake start level. The levels all feature you going in and killing everything while completing objectives like destroying a jet and disarming “RADEK” bombs. You can also play through regular Quake with these new weapons, giving you a different taste of the game, but only a handful of characters were replaced, leaving you with custom marine models mixed in with default Quake enemies like Ogres and Scrags.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOwPcmcOSNY&w=640&h=480]

Continue reading…

Game finds 7/31: Video game… comic books?

So today I was gonna write something about a Doom conversion that I decided to replay recently, but got sidetracked on other things (including preparation for a camping trip in a few days). So I decided to head out and buy some stuff in preparation, but also check around for random game stuff. Let’s talk about some game buys, it’s been a while since I did so.

Alas, on the video game front it was kind of lackluster. While I did find Perfect Dark Zero for mad cheap at a GameStop ($2), Boom Blox was considerably less so ($13). I’m trying to burn off the excess store credit I have with GameStop so I don’t have to do much business with them anymore, especially with some of their dick practices over the years. Since I bought games on the Steam Summer sale from a few weeks back, I had games I didn’t need. Namely, a shrinkwrapped copy of Saints Row: The Third for Xbox 360, since I bought the PC version for $12.50. GameStop wanted $18 credit for it, so I hopped on the train and headed to Video Game Wizards, a local Portland game store I’ve gone to for years, just to do a price comparison. Since it was unopened, they were gonna sell it for $42 and offered me one third that value in cash or half the value in store credit. Naturally, I went with the store credit, which was more than GS was gonna give me. I then rebought 007: Agent Under Fire007: Everything or Nothing and 007: Nightfire all on the PlayStation 2 for a total of $8. I’m trying to replace my multiplatform released games from the GameCube with PS2 or Xbox equivalents, mainly because most of the multiplatform ports on the GC suck control-wise or for other reasons. Now, those buys were relatively uneventful. What I’m about to talk about next is more interesting.

Sometimes when I’m in downtown, I poke my head inside a couple thrift stores in the area, as I’ve gotten a few interesting things from them in the past, such as finding a Japanese copy of Hot Shots Golf 2 for the PlayStation at a Goodwill once. My usual thrift store haunts in downtown Portland were a bust, except in one store. This thrift store had a comic book I saw, which I decided to snatch up immediately. While I was there, I decided to thumb through their surprisingly vast comics section. I then walked out with about $2.40 of comic books. I’m no comic book nerd, the last comic I bought was Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog many years ago, but I couldn’t pass these up.

 

What I got follows:

  • Mass Effect: Redemption issue 1
  • Mass Effect: Invasion issue 3
  • Mass Effect: Evolution issue 4
  • Hellgate: London issue 0
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic – The Lost Suns issue 5
  • Timecop issues 1 and 2

It was the Mass Effect: Invasion issue that caught my eye and made me thumb through their comics. With the exception of Timecop — that’s based off the cornball Jean-Claude Van Damme film of the same name — they were all video game tie-ins. It also seems these were done as special editions, as my 5 minutes of Google searching revealed that every comic here was a 4-5 issue special edition. Two of the comics were a mere quarter, while the rest were 50 cents each. Coupled with the thrift store doing an end-of-month drawing where they cut a random percentage off the sale — mine was 20% — meant that I spent $2.40 for all seven.

Coincidentally all the comics are published by Dark Horse, about a good 95% of the comics there were Dark Horse-published. This is kinda funny as Dark Horse’s main offices are nearby where I live, in Milwaukie, Oregon, and my dad knew the founder, Mike Richardson, so I feel like I should give them the difference I paid as compensation. Except for Timecop, though. I’m okay with paying 75 cents for those.

I messed with Lo Wang, and got my ass beat: A retrospective of Shadow Warrior.

Man, remember when Apogee and 3D Realms were considered one of the coolest PC publishers? Then Duke Nukem Forever happened and now they’re just a shell of their former glory only to be laughed at. Where did it start going all wrong? Probably when they thought they could make a Duke Nukem 3D ripoff of their own. Ladies and germs, this is Shadow Warrior.

The cover even mimics Duke Nukem 3D’s where Duke’s standing on top of a dead baddie.


Released in early 1997 only on PC, it was an amazing flop. It didn’t sell as well as Duke 3D did. There were going to be three expansions, which only one — Twin Dragons — got a commercial release; the other two — Deadly Kiss and Wanton Destruction — would be cancelled after the poor sales of the original game. (Wanton Destruction did get released many years later as freeware, though.) Shadow Warrior is considered to be part of the “Holy Trinity” of shooters that used Ken Silverman’s Build engine: The others being Duke Nukem 3D and either Redneck Rampage or Blood, depending on who you talk to. (Some people consider all four to be important, making this a “Holy Quadrinity.” Which is totally not a word.)
I had already bought DukeRedneck Rampage and Blood through GOG.com, but bizarrely Shadow Warrior was nowhere to be found on that service (as of the time I write this). The only ways to buy it were through 3D Realms’ online store at a ridiculous-for-an-old-game price of $10, or hunt down a copy on eBay or local shops. Well, luck was on my side when I finally found a copy at a Goodwill recently. After a little cajoling with DOSBox to get it to work properly, I was ready to play Shadow Warrior, told by the man himself that “You no mess with the Lo Wang.” I had heard from friends that this game wasn’t very good. Was this gonna be a repeat of the Blood II debacle, where I found enjoyment in a game everybody else hated? No, because where I can find some enjoyment and goofiness in Blood II, it is almost nowhere to be found in Shadow Warrior.
Continue reading…

Vietnam: Black Ops: Not the Black Ops you’re thinking of.

Way back in January of 2012, I had written a post about a bargain bin shooter I had grabbed called Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima. That wasn’t a fun game to play. But there are several other bargain bin shooters out there, some of which that are actually alright.

Granted, I wouldn’t say it’s good, but I wouldn’t say it’s as bad as Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima. It’s yet another game based on a war, this time a little more recent. So let’s play Black Ops.

Sadly, Woods did not learn time travel and appear in a budget game from 2000. Though anything’s possible these days.

No, no, silly, not that Black Ops. Though I wouldn’t mind talking about probably one of the better games in the Call of Duty franchise, we’re actually talking about a game called Vietnam: Black Ops, and it was made way back in the year 2000. Insert your “In the year 2000” joke here.

With that font, I wonder if I’m playing Black Ops or Postal…

Made by a podunk little studio called Fused Software, this would end up being their only published game. Most of the people would work on this game and a handful of other projects around the late 90s to early 2000s, though one art designer for this is still in the biz working on art for stuff like Dragon Age: Origins, so good on him.

Oh, and this is another Valusoft joint. I had mentioned them in the previous post, and I wasn’t expecting to be playing two war games published by the same company. It shows how ubiquitous they were during this period. While I can’t say I remember this era fondly, it was certainly more interesting than seeing copies of Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 on my PC budget aisles.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuyN8Njt5c4]

You play as some unknown marine during the Vietnam War. Captured by Vietcong, your goal is to kill General Phan, and get out of there safely. Occasionally you’ll see text giving your character some personality, but that’s about it. Honestly, I’ll take Alex Mason and him babbling about “hearing the fucking numbers” over this bare-bones plot.

So, it’s another first-person shooter on the Lithtech engine. Which is weird, because I thought it was the Quake engine at first, until I dug into the files and realized it used the REZ file format that Lithtech uses.

In every level, you just get to kill a bunch of Vietcong, do some slightly obnoxious platforming, and get to the end of the level each time.

You start with a useless knife, then get an AK47, M16, a M60, a Sniper Rifle, and two explosive launchers during your travels. Most of the weapons will be in your collection not long after you start, and unlike Elite Forces WWII: Iwo Jima, there’s actually ammo for these guns this time!

Never thought the Vietnamese would have some hidden temple like this.

However, that doesn’t excuse the game’s punishing difficulty. You have 100 health and no armor, and it doesn’t take much for you to die. Get used to seeing the Purple Heart and “Taps” playing repeatedly every time you die, because you will likely see it a lot. Expect to be hitting the quick save key a lot.

Now I can give this game credit for something: The levels are pretty large, which is impressive for a 2000-era game. Problem is the the levels look blocky and simplistic, with the later levels being “my first FPS level” in some spots. They look like they belong in an action-adventure Tomb Raider knockoff rather than a Vietnam War FPS, but I’m not expecting realism here.

On the bright side, a handful of the levels feel somewhat non-linear, allowing you to take one of two different paths which probably take you to the same place anyway. At least, it felt that way, I didn’t replay the game to be sure if I was right.

Besides the ugly graphics and very banal gameplay of shooting dudes and getting to the exit, there really isn’t much else to this game. Thankfully it’s ridiculously short: I beat it in an hour and a half over two separate sessions. Honestly I was hoping for something longer, but then I flashback to WWII Iwo Jima and realized how much the game padded its levels with ridiculous difficulty spikes, so I’ll take the short length.

I found this in a thrift store for $2. For the time I got with it, $2 is the right price. It’s not mindblowing, but it’s not awful. Hence, Vietnam: Black Ops is just a passable, but ultimately forgettable game.

Surprisingly, there was a sequel: Vietnam 2: Special Assignment. Some of the developers from Black Ops return for the sequel, which surprised me. I haven’t found a copy of this anywhere, but I’m not expecting anything mind-blowing. Maybe I’ll find it and get around to writing about it some day…

Call of Duty: Black Ops promo picture taken from the Call of Duty Wiki. Vietnam: Black Ops video courtesy of YouTube user Marphy Black.

I Bought Stuff! 4/25/12: Some ’90s PC nostalgia.

Before I started this blog, I used to document my thrift store hauls and finds on my more personal blog. Now with a more centralized place to write about my video game-related things, I’ll start writing about them here. The stuff I’m about to show you will show some insight into ’90s era PC gaming, as well as a bunch of demo discs with free games on it. Because, hey, who doesn’t like free games? As my experience with getting one from GameStop earlier this year proved…

More freebies than you can shake a stick at!

Four old PC demo discs: 25 cents each, and a shareware copy of Wolfenstein 3D: 25 cents.

One place I stumbled upon had a few demo discs. Did I say a few? I mean 50 demo discs. For 25 cents each. From the early days of PC Gamer and Computer Gaming World to lesser known ones like that PCGAMES.EXE disc up there, which I could find no information on who published these. I only grabbed a few of these since I really didn’t need every demo disc, just ones that seemed appealing. Hell, for 25 cents each, I had to resist from buying all of them. Somebody must have dumped their old PC gaming collection.

The first one on the upper left is from Computer Gaming World’s November 1999 issue. It has demos of games like Freespace 2 and Midtown Madness, but what really caught my eye was that it had a trailer for Halo. Yes, that Halo. Back before it was a first-person shooter title for the Xbox, it was once going to be a third-person shooter that was supposed to be a PC and Mac game before Microsoft snatched it up for the console’s 2001 launch. The trailer on the disc is almost identical to the one featured below, the only difference being a slight change in the intro. I thought it was an interesting piece of nostalgia, and it seemed even in 1999 that Halo theme was in full force.

 

The remaining three — PCGAMES.EXE’s July/August 1998 disc, PC Gamer’s July 2000 disc and CGW’s March 2001 disc — all boast having a bunch of free games on them. Each disc had a different collection of games, and some of the games overlapped. Since some of these games are either hard to find or ridiculously expensive, I think I’d made the biggest gaming haul of them all. Here’s a list of what was on each disc:

  • PCGAMES.EXE: Battlecruiser: 3000AD, Betrayal at Krondor, Descent, Red Baron, Star Control II, and the first three Zork games.
  • PC Gamer: Alone in the Dark, Descent, Duke Nukem II, King’s Quest, Links: The Challenge of Golf, Road & Track Presents: The Need for Speed, The Secret of Monkey Island, Terminal Velocity, Ultima I, Ultima Underworld, and X-COM: UFO Defense.
  • Computer Gaming World: Acheton, Alphaman, Alternate Reality: The City, B-17 Flying Fortress, Balance of Power, Betrayal at Krondor, Bunni-flip, Crusader: No Remorse, Elite, Elite Plus, Empire, Kampfgrup, Nethack, Mystery House, Pirates 2, Rogue, Super Dune 2, Tac Ops, X-COM: UFO Defense and Zelda Classic.
Other contents on the discs included the obligatory patches for those who were stuck with 14.4K dialup connections, a few custom levels here and there, including a bunch of Duke Nukem 3D levels and a Quake map by Richard “Levelord” Gray. Of course, being demo discs there’s a bunch of demos, including PC Gamer advertising the demo to John Romero’s Daikatana. Thankfully it’s shown as a footnote on the cover, with pixelated Duke Nukem being the focus instead. Even PC Gamer knew Daikatana wasn’t that great.

The Wolfenstein 3D disk is just a 3 1/2″ floppy of the game’s shareware version sold by some computer store and had the goofiest cover ever. This is how things looked in the 90s, folks: Gradients and average art that loosely resembled the game. $5 for the shareware version of Wolfenstein 3D even!
I bought this one just for the novelty cover, I already have a full copy of the original game thanks to Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Game of the Year Edition. But the discs are just the tip of the iceberg. What I found next was more amazing.

 Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White (PC DOS) and an unknown Interplay box: $2 each.

I found these two PC game boxes in that same thrift store. Wheel of Fortune featuring Vanna White is a 5 1/4″ floppy version of the PC game complete with a signed Vanna White poster. I almost didn’t grab this because I thought it was the NES version at first, which I already owned and has an identical cover. The left box is a non-descript Interplay box, but has more interesting stuff when I looked inside…
The first game is The Lost Vikings, a side-scrolling platformer released on a handful of systems. It was made by a company called Silicon & Synapse, which you know nowadays under a bigger, more popular name. This is presumably what was in the Interplay box originally, though I’m not sure for certain.
The other game is King’s Quest V, one of the games in the long-standing King’s Quest series by Sierra. Presumably the previous owner used the Interplay box as a good storage for other games they might’ve had, so I’ll thank them for that.
Oddly, it’s the Macintosh version of King’s Quest V, which is weird to see in a sea of PC games. Maybe the guy bought that one by accident or something. Even though I lack a floppy drive to even play these on, it’s still a blast from the past. It’s a funny coincidence for this game to pop up, as a few friends talked about Kings Quest V on a podcast after I posted this.

Everything in one convenient picture.

All of these discs for a nice sum of $5.25. I honestly think I cannot top this find, not for a long while at least. I like PC gaming, but I didn’t really get into it until I was in my teens, so I missed a lot of the 90s PC gaming greats. Primarily because I was content playing GoldenEye on my friend’s Nintendo 64 at the time.
One of these days I’ll give some of these games a shot and see what I missed out on. At least I have two discs that have Descent and Betrayal at Krondor on it in case one version doesn’t work. This local thrift store in Portland, Deseret Industries, has been pretty good to me for finding really interesting stuff over the years. A shame I didn’t grab more of the demo discs, now that I think about it.
(Updated June 21, 2012: Replaced ugly cameraphone pictures with better quality ones from an actual camera. You can actually read the text now!)

Looking back at Blood II: The Chosen.

Critical opinion of games can vary wildly. Some games are universally praised, such as the major AAA entries, while others are universally slammed for their absolute badness. Though in all honesty, the games that are merely okay are the most interesting.

As time goes on, some games have stood the test of time and are still praised to this very day. Others have not aged as well and thus have a more negative reception now than they did back then. Despite that, there’s some games that are old enough that while the game is universally disliked now, there’s some people that have fondness for the game because of the time they played it. For me, that’s Blood II: The Chosen.

Caleb lives… again.

Taking place in the far-flung future of 2028, the protagonist Caleb from the original Blood is brought back from the dead to stop Gideon from unleashing the Cabal and causing hell on earth. While Caleb goes through darkened alleys, desolate hotels and the obligatory sewer level, he bumps into a few supporting characters who spout goofy tidbits of advice. All this culminates in Caleb having to destroy “The Chosen One” in a dark parallel world. It’s typical late 1990s first-person shooter fare: Little story, strange levels to roam around in, baddies to shoot, and the occasional jumping puzzle. Because hey, people LOVED jumping puzzles back in the day! (/sarcasm)

Blood II was one of the first games to use Monolith’s new Lithtech engine. When it was released in late 1998, the game had very mixed opinions. GameSpot gave it a respectable 7.8 in its heyday, IGN gave it a slightly weaker 6.8, and GamePro was the most critical of the game, giving it a 2/5. The general opinion seems to be that Blood II wasn’t as good, giving Blood considerably more praise. This opinion is agreed upon with most of my friends, regardless of playing it when it was new back in 1998, or when replaying it today.

From early on in the game. These guys have the funniest voice, including saying goofy gibberish which sounded like “Strongalellie,” which I still don’t get what it means.

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