Tagged: games

I Bought Stuff! 8/22/2014: A whole mess of gaming junk.

Holy crap, when’s the last time I publicly documented my game finds on the blog? Seems like it was just last year when I wrote about find a “NOT FOR RESALE” copy of Streets of Rage 2, and a 20 minute video that about 3 of you watched. Let’s resurrect this old series, because I got some good stuff this time around.

Throughout most of 2014, I’ve found a bunch of cheap games, mostly junk like Eye Toy: Antigrav, licensed games based on The Great Escape and Starsky & Hutch, old PC games such as Mickey’s Word Adventures, even recent Game Informer issues for 50 cents each. If you’re following me on Twitter, you might’ve seen these already.

Funny enough, I found Mickey’s Word Adventures after taking advice from YouTuber LGR. After mentioning him on Twitter, I found out one of my finds were in a viewer finds segment of his “LGR Thrifts” show. I was floored when I saw it too, I didn’t expect it to be featured in the slightest. (It’s at the end of this episode, if you’re wondering. Look for the magazines on green bedding.)

Back around job, while I was doing some job hunting, I went into my local Bi-Mart. I’ve mentioned Bi-Mart before when I wrote about Atari Hot Wheels, and the place hasn’t changed one iota: It still feels like I stepped into a supermarket that hasn’t changed its look since 1985. While perusing their games section, I found several copies of this gem that I didn’t know got a GBA version.

tumblr_n6pz9sXU2k1r42mxqo1_1280

Man, remember when the Rabbids were a thing? I can’t say I miss them.

– Rayman Raving Rabbids (GBA, $6)

I’m finding sealed Game Boy Advance games. In 2014. Even the guy at the counter was surprised, mentioning some war fighting game and a World of Warcraft expansion that had been at the store also collecting dust for years. He then went on to say “Somebody made the wrong call on this one.” At least this copy of Raving Rabbids has a home now. I bet there’s still plenty of copies, provided they haven’t been thrown into a dumpster yet.

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The Expendabros: The broest movie tie-in game… ever?

If there’s anything I like about video games, it’s when there’s video game tie-ins to movies or TV shows. Most of the time, they get a small developer to make a crappy $60 game on a shoestring budget that’s usually long forgotten. Other times, they’re just dinky games made in Flash as a brief tie-in to an upcoming movie, such as the “Hollywood Hellfire” tie-in for This is The End. Then there’s the times where they go all out and make full-fledged free games, such as a Quake mod for some forgotten show called Soldier of Fortune Inc, made by the guy who would later go on to make They Hunger for Half-Life.

Thus, when I heard about this, I got legitimately excited:

Broforce: The Expendables Missions, aka Expendabros is a genius idea: Take the goofy machoness of Devolver Digital and Free Lives’ Broforce and combine it with an upcoming film — The Expendables 3 in this case — and you got this amazing movie tie-in. Expendabros is freely available to play, and Broforce is not required to own this. In a sense, this is a good extended demo of for Broforce.

Since I had yet to play Broforce, I was skeptical with this game. I’m not one for games with pixel art styles since they’re very overdone, but if it compliments the gameplay like in Hotline Miami, I can let it slide. In this case, it definitely works in Broforce‘s favor.

Obstacles, enemies, sawblades? What is this, Super Meat Boy?!

Broforce is a mash of action platformers like Bionic Commando, with the violent action of Metal Slug and Contra. You have one life and three special items by default, with each “bro” having its own signature weapon and special. You get more lives by saving your bros in cages, and rescuing enough bros unlocks an additional bro character to play as. Run out of lives and you’re sent back to the last major checkpoint.

The plot to Expendabros is a loose recreation of The Expendables 3: Barney Ross — here called “Broney Ross” — and his crew of Expendables has to stop Conrad Stonebanks from destroying the Expendables, who will destroy them by any means necessary.

Much like Broforce, Ross must shoot and explode his way through enemies while saving his bros, eventually finding the commander or boss of the level before making a dramatic explosive escape. As you go through the game’s ten levels, you fight more powerful enemies, and even ridiculous areas like rooms with saw blades and rocket turrets everywhere. At one point, you fight this guy:

I'm pretty sure Stonebanks doesn't have an arsenal of mechs in The Expendables 3, but a man can dream.

I’m pretty sure Stonebanks doesn’t have an arsenal of mechs in The Expendables 3, but we can consider this artistic liberty with the license.

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

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

pacmangameslogo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Far Cry 3: From partygoer to psychopath.

The Far Cry games have gone through this weird identity crisis over the years. The first game was a mostly linear, extremely difficult action game with aliens, Far Cry Instincts made your character become a mutated alien with superpowers, and Far Cry 2 was a promising game with too many stupid mechanics and probably the dumbest story to come out of a big-budget action game. To this day, I still don’t understand why people praise Far Cry 2 to the high heavens.

Surprising no one, Far Cry 3 has nothing to do with the others. Seems to be par for the course for Ubisoft: Instead of making a cohesive story/saga with the series, just make them like Call of Duty games where they’re mostly standalone and different, with the only similarity being a jungle theme. It seems to be working for them.

Far Cry 3 was one of my many purchases during the Steam Summer Sale this year along with Tomb RaiderDark Souls, the BioShock trilogy, all games I’ll eventually get around to playing someday. I bought it expecting that after the disappointment of Far Cry 2 that it could only get better from here. Turns out I was right, but with some caveats.

Warning: Minor plot spoilers within.

When I started Far Cry 3, I was welcomed to a video montage of a bunch of dudes partying out on some island, having fun and being idiots, all set the tune to M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes.” It’s like something out of a horror movie. Then it cuts away to our hero Jason being captured with his brother Grant, who eventually escape, but not without the villain Vaas deciding to kill Grant and leave poor Jason fighting for his life.

Afterwards, you’re found by a guy named Dennis, who’s part of this jungle tribe called the Rakyat and then you go through the steps of trying to save everyone and get out of the island alive. Eventually it leads to a revenge plot, where Jason eventually wants to kill Vaas and his boss Hoyt while helping the Rakyat tribe along the way. Vaas is probably the best character in the game, as he’s a sign of the general psychotic nature of the hostile people on the island, and it works. Sadly, something happens to him mid-game and he’s pretty much gone, which is a damn shame because Hoyt isn’t nearly as interesting.

Just ignore the floating magazine and we should be good.

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6 great Doom mods not called “Brutal Doom.”

I’m not a big fan of list articles. At best, you could find interesting stuff that might intrigue you and maybe share to your friends on Facebook. At worst, you find terrible click-bait articles that seem to be written more for a paycheck than any informative value. It’s something I’ve refrained from doing here, as I prefer writing interesting long form stuff instead.

Seriously, this is what Cracked is now. I weep for our future.

Seriously, this is what Cracked is now. Remember when they actually wrote parody articles? Probably better than “11 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Your Pants,” anyway.

One particular list article by Cracked irked me considerably. A recent list, “6 Awesome Hacks That Did Mind-Blowing Things With Old Games” featured some cool stuff like Iron Man or the Incredible Hulk in Grand Theft Auto IV, or the entirety of The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind in Oblivion‘s engine. Even Just Cause 2: Multiplayer Mod, where you could go crazy in the world of Just Cause 2 with hundreds of people, made the list. But what was number one? Brutal Doom.

I won’t go too much into Brutal Doom as it’s made the internet rounds everywhere over the past couple of years, but it’s championed as the “definitive way to play Doom,” with more gore, violence, Mortal Kombat-style fatalities, even a key that’s simply dedicated to flipping off enemies. It’s amazing at first, but it outstays its welcome pretty quick.

I’m gonna be honest: I think Brutal Doom is an overrated, mediocre mod. The only thing it has going for it is the ridiculous macho factor, and that seems to be championed by every average dude who always writes about the Doom mod scene. Brutal Doom is usually mentioned as “the way Doom was meant to be,” but it really isn’t. Brutal Doom isn’t the way Doom was meant to be played, it’s Doom if it was a terrible caricature of itself. It’s the Doom comic in game form.

Seriously, I wonder if there's people who love this sort of stuff.

All this does is make Doomguy look like a god damn psychopath who should be in a mental asylum, not fighting monsters.

So, as a response to the article (as well as breaking my own personal rule of no lists), I’m making a list of 6 awesome Doom mods that aren’t called Brutal Doom. These are ones that the Doom community swear by, and are more worth your time than Brutal Doom any day of the week.

As always, these require Doom to run. You can get Doom II on Steam for the low low price of $5. After that, you’ll need a source port to play these. I recommend GZDoom (for Singleplayer) and Zandronum (for Multiplayer). While these mods will work perfectly fine with the default Doom II levels, I do recommend playing these with custom levels, or PWADs, which I’ll link to as well. Unless stated otherwise, these are all focused on single player.

Police Brutality: Wildweasel presents Terrorists!

(idgames link)

Ever wanted to be an action hero? Terrorists! will live out your dreams of being the next Chuck Norris. Armed with only a pistol and the ability to kick dudes in the face, this mod adds real life weapons and enemies for you to fight in.

Stopping crime the only way possible: with a six shooter and a bunch of bullets.

Stopping crime the only way possible: with a six shooter and a bunch of bullets.

In addition to the weapons and enemies, there’s also a new feature where you level up your guns by killing enemies with them. Upgrades start out simple, like faster fire rate, but as you level them up, they get more crazy, like a Beretta that converts to burst fire, or a revolver that becomes a long-range rifle. Even your melee and grenades can get upgrades, from electric grenades to explosive roundhouse kicks.

Our hero, kicking robots like it ain't no big deal.

Our hero, kicking robots like it ain’t no big deal.

Wildweasel’s made some other great mods, like the WWII-inspired Nazis! (which goes great with the Egyptian themed EPIC 2), and the action packed Diaz. Terrorists became one of my favorites, only because of the weapon upgrades. The three I just mentioned are all pretty good mods for Doom, and give enough gameplay changes to make it just as fun. For those who want to live out their action movie dreams without actually getting hurt, Terrorists! will do the job nicely.

(Full Disclosure: I am friends with the guy who made this mod, so I might have a slight bias on this choice. It’s still high quality, though!)

Samsara

(ZDoom forum link)

Ever wanted to play through Doom campaigns with characters besides Doomguy? Well, Samsara adds characters from many old games of the era, from Duke Nukem, to B.J. Blazkowicz, even the heroes from Chex Quest and Marathon make an appearance here. Now playing as each character will allow you to use only that character’s weapons, so you can’t run around with 4-5 weapons from different games, sadly. However, that’s a compromise I can deal with considering the variety of classic characters involved.

Yeah. I'm the Ranger, a friend of mine is the Chex Quest guy, and we're fighting a Baron of Hell. Welcome to Samsara.

Yeah. I’m the Ranger, a friend of mine is the Chex Quest guy, and we’re fighting a Baron of Hell. Welcome to Samsara.

I’ve always loved crossovers between different game series, official and non-official. Samsara scratches that crossover itch. Playing as the various characters gives a much different take on Doom. Nothing’s more fun than ripping through Chex Quest as Duke Nukem, or playing custom levels like Community Chest 4 with Ranger, or bringing firearms to the world of Heretic. There’s even mods that add the enemies from those games, giving us an unusual mix that you normally don’t see in games like this.

B.J. Blazkowicz, Duke Nukem, and the guy from Marathon, all fighting on the same level. What's not to like?

B.J. Blazkowicz, Duke Nukem, and the guy from Marathon, all fighting on the same level. What’s not to like?

Samsara is meant to be played online, either fragging with friends in deathmatch or working together in co-op, with each person choosing different characters for each situation. Though you can play this single player in GZDoom, it’s not the recommended way to play this. Get some buddies together in survival co-op and rip through as many levels as possible. Just make sure you put it on random character for the ideal Samsara experience.

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TRL Trivia, where You Don’t Know Jack meets MTV.

Let’s talk about MTV. Go ahead, make the “Remember when they used to play music videos?” jokes, get it out of your system. Despite the jokes, MTV was a cultural revolution back in the day. Seeing lots of quirky music videos, then it slowly started expanding to general purpose music programming, such as Beavis and Butt-head and game shows like Remote Control. Eventually MTV’s various TV shows eventually got video games of their own in varying levels of quality, most of them bad.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

Remote Control the game show is awesome. Remote Control the video game, however, is not.

Alas, as we entered the internet age, music videos became infrequent, and we were subject to various shows like Celebrity Deathmatch, punk’d, Jackass and webRIOT. These shows went further and further past the original “Music Television” concept and ended up being more about general pop culture. Nowadays we’re subjected to reality shows involving teen moms and people from the Jersey Shore, with maybe some music videos in the middle of the night. But let’s forget about today and travel back to the year 2001, when times were much simpler, and it was more about the music.

Total Request Live, or trl for short, was a show that was part music videos, part talk show, and part “random teenagers screaming over the music video telling us how this Christina Aguilera song is their favorite song of all time.” It lasted several years on MTV before finally ending in 2008, which is surprising considering the state of the network at that point. TRL was where Carson Daly got his start, and he now hosts a podunk late night talk show on NBC that no one watches unless they fell asleep after The Tonight Show and forgot to turn the TV off.

In 2001, Take Two Interactive decided to cut a deal with MTV and make a game based on trl for the PC audience. Enter TRL Trivia. (or as it’s stylized on the box: MTV trl trivia.) I’ll give you three guesses which game this is meant to be like.

If you guessed this game would be a You Don't Know Jack clone, congratulations, you win this old HitClips thing I found in my bedroom. Enjoy the terrible sounds of *NSYNC's It's Gonna Be Me.

If you guessed this game would be a You Don’t Know Jack clone, congratulations, you win this old HitClips thing I found. Enjoy the terrible sounds of *NSYNC’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” through a tinny speaker!

This game holds a silly memory with me. I saw this game at a Big Lots many many years ago. It was always found in the discount bin with copies of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men and Tiger Woods PGA Tour: The DVD Game. I saw it go from $10, to $5, to $3, and eventually down to $1. Despite seeing it at the same damn Big Lots for years, stupid me didn’t buy it.

Eventually that Big Lots got renovated, and that game disappeared from the bargain bin. Either somebody actually bought it, or it finally went straight into the dumpster. Eventually I found two (!) copies at a family thrift store nearby from that Big lots. I’d like to pretend the copy I bought is the same one from that Big Lots of years past, but it probably came from a different place that had also thrown it out because nobody wanted it.

TRL Trivia was developed by Hypnotix. Outside of satire games like Deer Avenger, Outlaw Golf, and Panty Raider: From Here to Immaturity, they’re not known for making anything straightforward like a trivia game unless you count their adaption of The $100,000 Pyramid. Knowing what I found out, having them do a trivia game is weird considering what else they’ve done, but let’s see how they handled it.

A typical question on TRL Trivia. I actually got this one right!

A typical question on TRL Trivia. I actually got this one right!

Regrettably, our host is not Carson Daly, but instead a guy named Brian McFayden. It’s a bad sign when your host is only known as an MTV VJ and a small time actor/news anchor. He also looks like an *NSYNC reject on the back of the box, but considering the time period, I’ll let that slide. However, McFayden isn’t hosting this alone, we get questions handled by Dana Fuchs, which is probably not the same Dana Fuchs who sung in Across the Universe, but I’m not 100% certain. All McFayden does is praise the contestants for getting multiple right answers, chide the contestants on wrong answers, and call the contestants strange nicknames like “Friend 4.” He does a passable job in this case.

This makes me wanna play Tic Tac Dough instead.

This makes me wanna play Tic Tac Dough instead.

So TRL Trivia is a blatant Jack knockoff. Two of the rounds are based on the normal multiple choice format, and the Speed Round is their take on the Jack Attack. But there are unique rounds in this one, as “unique” as you could make a trivia game anyway. There’s a Timeline round where you arrange the answers in a proper order (such as “Arrange these movies from oldest to newest”), and a Guess Who round that’s like multiple choice, but gives you four clues instead of a question.

You choose one of 6 or 9 categories and play five questions at 500-2,000 points each, which are usually based on boy bands, movies, pop culture, other facts and miscellanea circa 2001. Hope you’re familiar with 98 Degrees, O-Town, and Almost Famous, otherwise you’re pretty screwed.

Guess Who is kind of different take on the quiz, but it’s still the same. In fact, this is probably ripping off something from You Don’t Know Jack too.

Another big change is that TRL Trivia supports up to four players compared to Jack‘s three. Problem is the buzz-in keys are now Z, M, the up arrow, and NumPad + keys, which is cumbersome compared to the common Q-B-P setup that You Don’t Know Jack used. I guess they didn’t want people huddled up so close to the keyboard. Instead of “screwing” your opponents to answer a question, the bonus options for you are resetting the clock, passing on the question, or asking for a new question. Like in Jack, you only get one of each. The only remotely useful one is the new question, the time extension doesn’t help unless you just can’t think of an answer, and you’d only use the pass if you buzzed in by accident, making it pretty useless.

The other interesting game mode, Timeline. Remember these bands? It’s like the worst kind of nostalgia.

Besides that, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this. At one point you could submit questions to a site for a possible expansion, but I see nothing about it being released, so I can safely say it was canceled. The only other thing I could talk about is how the disc comes with a demo for Tropico that’s prominently advertised in the installer. Oh, and the wonderfully rendered 3D recreation of the TRL set.

Man, what is with me and writing about games with cheesy-looking 3D graphics lately?

Man, what is with me and writing about games with cheesy-looking 3D graphics lately?

TRL Trivia is a late ’90s-early 2000s era pop culture trivia game. Not really as funny as You Don’t Know Jack, and the subject matter wouldn’t be interesting to teens, nor people my age. It’s average, and all it made me wanna do is play You Don’

YEAAAAAAAAAH DIS IS BOBBY! I LOVE THEM HYPNOMIX GUYS! I CHOSE TRL TRIVIA BECAUSE IT'S A TRIVIA BOOOOOOOOOOOOOMB! HOLLA FROM MY P-TOWN HOMIES! PEACE!

YEAAAAAAAAAH DIS IS BOBBY! I LOVE THEM HYPNOMIX GUYS! I CHOSE TRL TRIVIA BECAUSE IT’S A TRIVIA BOOOOOOOOOOOOOMB! HOLLA FROM MY P-TOWN HOMIES! PEACE!

Outburst: A board game changed to a game show.

There’s two things I have an unhealthy infatuation with: video games (natch) and game shows. Naturally since I like both of them, I’ve amassed a bunch of game show video games over the years. So I thought about combining them together and making an article series about game show video games. Because what better thing there is to write about than the 20 different versions of Jeopardy! that I own.

I’m gonna call this series “Game Show a Go Go.” Because I like how it rhymes. While this will cover a bunch of game show adaptations, I won’t cover video game adaptions of game shows exclusively. While there’s a bunch of game show adaptations, there are also video games that try to simulate the feel and entertainment of a game show, and I’ll cover those as well. Such as this entry, which took a simple little board game made it into something bigger.

I always wondered what those circles meant to convey…

Let’s jump back to 1995. Hasbro, wanting to get in on the burgeoning video game market, formed Hasbro Interactive. Most of their output was games based on their various board game properties, including Monopoly and Scrabble. Some of these were actually pretty good, others were fairly forgettable, thrown to the world of PC gaming obscurity.

This is probably the best Monopoly video game in existance. And it was made by Westwood Studios. Yes, the Command & Conquer guys.

In the late 1990s, they basically became the new company to make Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! games when GameTek went bankrupt. The company basically stayed on this path until Hasbro Interactive was bought by Infogrames in 2000, and now they basically are whatever is left of Atari these days. Hasbro the company would eventually get the rights back to license their board games to other companies, including EA and Ubisoft.

Now we move onto to 1998. Jellyvision’s (now Jackbox Games) You Don’t Know Jack was immensely popular, being one of the biggest PC games throughout most of the mid-90s. Naturally any Tom, Dick and Harry game publisher saw what Jack was doing and wanted in on that money by making You Don’t Know Jack-likes for the PC market. In some cases, they tried to make a trivia game styled like Jack, such as TRL Trivia and Austin Powers in Operation Trivia, or they tried to copy the goofy “adult humor” of Jack and make an original own game show-like game. This game did the latter, and did it by using a mostly-dormant board game franchise.

I actually scanned this in myself as there’s no good quality images of this on the internet that weren’t like 200×200 or something ridiculously small.

Remember Outburst? It’s that one board game where you shout out as many answers to a category as you can. It’s not a classic, but it’s one of those party games that gets thrown in along with Taboo and Catchphrase. Hasbro enlisted the development of Outburst by a small games company known as CyberDice.

Not to be confused with the company that pumps out Battlefield and Star Wars games every two years, CyberDice was a development studio that only made a handful of party games under the parent company of Hersch and Company, the company that actually owns the Outburst brand. From the brief research I did online, the only other game these developers are credited for is Super Scattergories. I’m going to hazard a guess the developer folded shortly after the dot-com bubble burst.

Though, they’re not the only developers involved: Engineering Animation Inc (EAI), who likely handled some of the CG animation, and surprisingly, a pre-Shantae Wayforward. I can’t tell you exactly what they did as there’s only credits for the publisher and some of the production staff, but they are mentioned in the manual, and founder Voldi Way is given a special thanks credit. In a sense, we’re finding out that developer’s humble beginnings is no different than they are now: Adapting some of the biggest properties into video games.

A sample round of play. Clearly I wasn’t thinking like the writers of this game were.

Outburst the computer game is basically formed like a TV game show. You can play by your lonesome or with other players, online or off. The game has multiple rounds of play, all based on the general theme of giving as many answers as you can within the time limit. After some rounds, you can earn bonus points by having the randomizer hit an answer you gave. The team with the most points after seven rounds wins.

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A Tribute to Red Book CD audio.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were developing games on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs, on the other hand, held up to a much bigger size of 700MB, and as a result, developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. This had the side effect of giving us a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

So shiny, but holds a lot of stuff.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips — the sound chips for the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive and the Super Nintendo, respectively. Musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation).

A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. This was known as the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio in video games throughout most of the 1990s.

I remember the PC version of Sonic CD being one of the earliest examples of this. It was pretty neat to listen to most of the game’s music outside of the game.

Not only could you hear the awesome music in game, you could listen to it outside of the game. In most cases, you could put the game CD in a CD player and start listening to the music without having to play the game itself. To me, this is what made CD audio awesome: Being able to listen to the soundtrack outside of the game.

Previously, if you wanted to listen to the game music, you had to hope for a soundtrack CD, or in the case of PC gaming, dig through files and play them on media players that could support MIDI or MOD Tracker files. The Red Book audio standard changed that to something more simple: putting in the CD in a CD-ROM drive and pressing play. Be careful though, since Red Book audio CDs are mixed mode CDs, you need to tune to track 2 to hear the game music, unless you want to hear a lot of unlistenable static that could damage your speakers or the disc itself.

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Experiencing PC gaming with Intel Integrated Graphics.

Back in December 2013, I decided to trade in my hunk of junk six year old HP Pavilion PC for a new custom built PC. Running on an Intel i5-4570, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD with Windows 7, I was in PC gaming heaven at the time. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stopgap until I could afford a new video card. It worked out great, pushing most of the PC games I had to high settings.

But then, tragedy struck. I saw graphical artifacts while playing Crysis, but thought nothing of it at the time. Several days later, my video card started spinning its fans loudly while I was idling on my PC, temperatures rising by the second. Even with a quick dusting, the card still got loud and didn’t show a picture. It happened to me again: a video card died on me. I got the HD5770 as an emergency replacement for my dead GeForce 8800GT back in 2010, and now I had another dead video card. I was amazed the Radeon lasted that long, maybe pushing all those polygons in those two months was a bit hard on the old gal.

Intel inside. I remember when that was considered amazing. Man, I’m old.

For the past month I’ve been playing other games, mostly on console. Stuff like binging the 2010 Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit reboot and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Annoyed that I couldn’t play much on the PC, I decided to test something.

All CPUs these days come with a integrated graphics chip inside them. The most hardcore of PC gamers won’t go this route, opting to buy a video card to do all the heavy lifting for their gaming needs. I thought I’d give my i5 processor’s integrated graphics chip a shot in the meantime. After installing the newest drivers for it, I tried a bunch of games on the HD4600, Intel’s integrated graphics chip and screenshotted the results.

Boy, I was surprised at what worked and how it ran. Pretty much every game I threw at it worked mostly fine with little problems, albeit with considerably lower graphical fidelity. For several of the games, I had to kick the resolution down to 1280×720 and lowering the graphics settings as far as they could, but most of them ran perfectly fine. Here are a few examples I decided to try:

Grand Theft Auto IV

Niko looks surprised at how ugly Liberty City looks.

One of the few times “This looks like a PS2 game” is right in this case.

I never thought this could run GTA IV. The game was notorious at the time for its ridiculous hardware requirements, though we’ve made significant advances in technology since its PC release five years ago. It ran pretty well even with the HD5770, so I was totally not expecting this to work with the Intel graphics. Yet, I could run this, with everything on low, at about 15-20 frames per second. There’s a lot of model and texture pop-in, so it’s not the most ideal way to experience Liberty City, but it’s playable.

Surprisingly from what little I played, I enjoyed it. Then again, I was never into the goofy antics that plagued the earlier GTA games like San Andreas, so maybe this game is perfect for me.

Saints Row IV

Look at that view of fake Steelport. Zinyak has quite the eye for detail.

Jumping off a building, to the tune of Stan Bush’s The Touch. Only in Saints Row.

I remember slogging through Saints Row: The Third on that junky old PC. Everything on low quality at 640×480, with framerates well into the teens. Some very dark times.

When I upgraded to the new PC, being able to run that as well as Saints Row IV here on high settings with a solid framerate was a godsend. Even with the integrated graphics shown here, I can still run and jump through cyber Steelport with little problems. Drastically better than what I suffered on the old PC.

I need to get back to this game sometime, this game is pure dumb fun.

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A look back at Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons.

So, as of this writing in 2014, Sega recently announced a new Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon titled Sonic Boom, complete with the common video game tie-ins. This was buzzing around the internet for the past couple of days, most notably because everybody couldn’t stop complaining about everybody’s character redesigns.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog

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

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

Oh yeah, Sonic also was a master costumer.

 

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

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

Oh Robotnik, you fat, lovable goof.

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

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

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

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

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

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