Tagged: game

Mom and ToeJam & Earl.

(CONTENT WARNING: This post will go briefly into serious subjects, such as cancer and death.)

My mom was into video games for a really long time. Played the Atari 2600 before I was born, played stuff like Super Mario Bros. 3, Monopoly, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 when I was young; we were both also hardcore You Don’t Know Jack fans, owning practically every edition that came out. She was really into fairly casual games, such as when DirecTV had a channel specifically for playing casual puzzle games. FarmVille 2 was something she was really into in the past few years.

By the time the Nintendo 64 came around in the mid ‘90s, the complexity of Super Mario 64 alongside the bizarre three-prong controller pushed her away from most console video games until we got a Wii in 2009. She still played Jack and the aforementioned casual games, but nothing particularly complex.

This was a pretty dope cover for a Genesis game like this.

Yet out of the many games she played, there was one game, a 16-bit classic, that she was really into, one that you wouldn’t expect considering the other games I mentioned. That game was the wonderfully Jammin’ ToeJam and Earl.

An exploration-based game where the titular ToeJam and Earl travel through various areas on planet earth to recover the pieces of their destroyed ship, ultimately to get back to Planet Funkotron. This was developed by Johnson-Voorsanger Productions, a couple of guys who had previously worked at Toys for Bob on the Star Control series of games.

A typical journey through the game.

ToeJam and Earl on the surface is a fairly simple game: Find ship pieces in specific levels without running out of lives from various hazards. Yet there’s also a bit of complexity: one could play with a fixed world of 25 stages, or a random set of levels that could be a cakewalk or a punishing challenge. Along the way, our heroes must avoid the aforementioned hazards such as bees, crazy dentists and hula girls while finding the elevator to the next floor. The two also have presents they can open to give items that could help or hinder progress, from defensive weapons like tomatoes and rose bushes to hazards like school books, rain clouds, and present randomizers.

Since the elements of presents and ship pieces could change from game to game, ToeJam and Earl is practically a rogue-like, where not every game plays the same. Pretty damn impressive for 1991.

 

This battle-worn copy we have came from a Blockbuster Video. They even imprinted the store name on the back of the cartridge. It’s a nice memento considering the fading relevance of Blockbuster Video.

Continue reading…

Games I beat in 2018: Medal of Honor, the mostly forgotten 2010 reboot.

Hey folks. Sorry that my posting is still somewhat erratic at the moment. Things have been going on in my life, and for a good while I didn’t have anything interesting to write about. I’ve amassed so many junk items over the years that they’re all strewn about in my room, hoping one day they’ll be played and/or written about.

So instead of struggling to think about something, I’m gonna do some posts about some of the games I’ve beaten throughout 2018. Surprisingly it is a small list, as I had fallen into the trap of playing the same quick pick up and play games instead: Killing Floor 2, Payday 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, and more recently, Quake Champions.

Despite having a massive backlog, I still did finish a few games throughout the year. This was originally gonna be a post with two reviews, but this particular review got so lengthy that I had to split it up.

So let’s talk about a failed reboot of an iconic franchise, shall we?

327982-medal-of-honor-windows-front-cover

Mr. DudeMcLargebeard getting ready to shoot the evil people.

(Warning: Spoilers for the story of Medal of Honor 2010 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 lie within.)

Back around 2014, I had written (but oddly didn’t publish) a thing about Medal of Honor: Airborne, which I had replayed because a friend was streaming the game. It’s one of his personal favorites, and while I liked some elements of it like being able to drop anywhere on the in-game map, or even the creative weapon upgrade system, it just felt like a tired shooter going through the motions, and was going beyond the more historical angle of Medal of Honor, even having Nazi super soldiers wielding MG42s like it was nothing.

At the end I had written something to the effect “It’s not as amazing as Frontline or Allied Assault, but it’s probably better than Medal of Honor: Warfighter.” At the time, I hadn’t played the most recent Medal of Honor games, and 2018 felt like the time to tackle Medal of Honor 2010 – as I’m gonna call it from here on in, to distinguish it from the 1999 original – and I felt disappointed all the way through.

20180101134508_1

I finished this back in January, as the very first game I beat in 2018. This was not a good start to the year.

Realizing World War II games were on their way out after a near ten-year period of them constantly coming out, EA was in a bind. Medal of Honor was considered this prestigious franchise, and they didn’t know where to take it. Their solution was to see what their competition already did three years prior and follow suit: Go modern, and see if it stuck.

The problem was that this came out right after the extremely successful Modern Warfare 2, and was out the same year as Call of Duty: Black Ops – probably in my top three favorite Call of Duty games for various reasons – so already EA was climbing a very, very steep hill. With Medal of Honor 2010, EA didn’t get to the top, but instead slipped and started rolling down the hill, giving themselves bruises and broken bones along the way.

Gameplay wise, it’s a boilerplate roller coaster of a modern military shooter. Shoot the bad guys, reload, occasionally use a grenade launcher or call in airstrikes. Right click aims, Left click shoots. Occasionally you get medals for headshots or multikills, a holdover from Medal of Honor: Airborne that doesn’t make sense here. There’s even a level where you’re in a helicopter. Occasionally soldiers go “hooah” and speaking military lingo so frequently that it’s almost self-parody.

Even something like this has been done, and done better elsewhere.

It’s clear Danger Close was glancing at what Call of Duty 4 did years prior, and tried to copy it, but didn’t understand what made Call of Duty 4 such the blockbuster success.

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.

bedlam-header

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.

20170114024412_1

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…

Wolfram: A Wolfenstein 3D remake actually in 3D.

id software’s amazing run of first-person shooters in the ‘90s are in some of my top games of all time: Doom, Quake, even Quake III Arena was pretty good in spite of Unreal Tournament’s more fun, absurd nature. But one game I had a fondness for was Wolfenstein 3D.

For a long time, I tended to look at the more community side of these games, looking towards the mods and user-created levels people made. Even for something like Wolfenstein 3D, which is nothing but 90 degree angled floors, there was some charm and enjoyment from them. Hell, I even found some amount of enjoyment in the third-party Spear of Destiny mission packs that FormGen put out.

Wolfenstein 3D is a fairly simplistic shooter by modern standards, but it started laying the groundwork for what made their games tick: Exploring areas, defeating enemies quickly, and strafing around arenas in a quick pace. It’s operatic ballet but with guns and nazis. What happens when you try to make it work in an actual 3D engine and try to shoehorn in awkward mechanics that just don’t fit? You get Wolfram.

Already we’re off to a great start with this menu…

I have to give a shout out to the Video Game Music Preservation Foundation, which for some reason has an article dedicated to this game. Being a fan of the Wolfenstein games, I had to see if this was the remake of Wolf3D that would be better than the original, like how Black Mesa to Half-Life. Sadly, I was in for a world of disappointment.

A big knife, blocky arenas… It’s just like the 1992 original!

Wolfram recreates all of “Escape from Wolfenstein,” the shareware episode. Levels are the same blocky shapes as they were in ‘92, the wall textures are a mix between remastered versions of the originals and ports presumably from other versions of Wolf3D, and the music is ripped straight from the original, but somehow sounds like it was ripped from somebody recording it off their speakers or something.

So you’re probably thinking, “Hey, this sounds like a pretty cool remake! What’s your problem with it?” Well, let me explain.

Wolfenstein 3D involves using the doors a lot to funnel enemies and dodge fire. Doors become your best friends here.

Wolfenstein 3D’s combat is fairly simple. Outside of some bosses, all the enemies are hitscan – once the enemy shows a certain frame of animation, the game determines if that was a hit or a miss, and if it hits, it calculates for how much damage you take – As you progress, you learn some of the tactics of the game involves ducking inside rooms and strafing back and forth at an opened door to avoid getting hit as much. It’s fairly simple and arcade-like these days, but it worked well in the era when Wolf3D came out.

I don’t know what this guy was thinking by running towards this door.

Wolfram, on the other hand, plays more like a modern shooter. Enemies try to do maneuvers like crouching and trying to move towards you, but for the most part they’re fairly stupid. Enemies never reload or take cover if low on health, they don’t flank or chase you, they’re rather static and don’t move. Wolfenstein 3D might not have had the most complex AI, but it was a lot less boring than this.

Probably the most awkward-looking iron sights animation I’ve seen in years.

There are several mechanics that Wolfram introduces that are baffling and don’t make sense in Wolfenstein 3D’s landscape. You can now jump, even bunnyhop around the landscape. Weapons have iron-sights which are slow to use and have little benefits compared to the standard hip-firing. There’s an awkward stealth mechanic where enemies won’t attack if you’re in the dark, but I never got it to work right. There’s even a flashlight, which isn’t that necessary considering all the excess colored lighting everywhere.

Hell, I’m pretty sure most of the models are ripped wholesale from other games. The enemies look like reskins of models from another game. Even B.J. Blazkowicz is ripped straight from Counter-Strike: Condition Zero, where B.J. now has gray hair and a combat vest compared to how he looks in the original. But, at least there’s an easter egg that features Fluttershy from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which I guess might be worth the price of admission.

I know for certain that she wouldn’t like this place, and I’m not even a fan of My Little Pony.

Had Wolfram made levels to make use of these mechanics, it would work out better; but here it just seems like the designer learned to make these in a 3D engine and slapped them into recreations of Wolfenstein levels without understanding what makes Wolfenstein 3D work. Thus you end up with a Wolfenstein 3D remake that feels fairly amateur, and ends up being frustrating to play through. Wolfenstein 3D is an exciting game, and somehow this saps all the fun out of it. It’s a shame, really.

Oh hey, colored lighting! This would’ve been cool in like, 1997.

Now I’m not expecting a one-for-one recreation on a modern engine, but even if you’re gonna remake one of the classics, you have to understand what makes that enjoyable, if it’s fun to play, that sort of thing. Copying assets from other games and forcing in game mechanics that don’t fit can ruin the game considerably if not done well. There’s a reason the original kept it simple: Because it works.

While I can forgive this a little for being just a fan project, there’s many many better Wolfenstein homages out there. Free Lives’ Super Wolfenstein HD is a better game overall even though it barely has anything to do with Wolfenstein. Even MachineGames made better homages to Wolfenstein 3D as both The New Order and The Old Blood have nightmare segments where B.J. goes through those original levels. Those seemed more fun than what’s available here.

Now, I don’t hate remakes. In the right hands, a remake can be better than the original. But this particular remake is what happens when you put a remake in the wrong hands, trying to make a modern game out of a classic. If you want to see this for yourself, here’s their ModDB page. Perhaps you might enjoy this. For me, though, I’m better off with playing the original. Remakes are nice, but sometimes the original article is good enough.

Wolfenstein 3D screenshots courtesy of Mobygames.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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