February 28, 2007
Another month has flown by, which seems to happen regularly thanks to this new mission. Here are the latest games to make it into the MobyGames database thanks to this blog:
And it may interest — or frighten — some of you to learn that this blog is starting to infect others. WildKard, a major MobyGames contributor, is embarking on a similar new-game-a-day effort. His first review is of a fascinating little indie game called Galcon.
I’ve actually managed to keep this nonsense going for a solid 2 months now. I keep wondering if I should back off a bit. Trouble is, I’m on a roll now and I’m getting so good at selecting, installing, playing, capturing, noting, blogging, and documenting these games, and all in a single evening, that I would hate to lose the momentum. Besides, the better I get at it all, the more fun it is. Still, I may declare one night a week as a break night to do other stuff that needs doing (tax season is upon us in the U.S.!).
However, I just ordered 20 more cheap, obscure, absent-from-MobyGames titles from eBay. The madness! The pathology.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under The Big Picture | Comments (0)
February 28, 2007
All I know about Radio Active is what it says on the CD-ROM: “The Music Trivia Game Show.” I really hope that covers pop music from the 1980s and 1990s or I’m sunk. I eventually learned that the game covers trivia on music from 1961 to 1985, so I might have a fighting chance on the later part of the period.
The game allows up to four players to compete in this music trivia game show scenario. Each player selects an avatar to represent them. The avatars are a selection of brazen stereotypes reliably overacting. It works. You have the rebel, the cheerleader, the pirate, the cover girl, and 12 others. Name your player and move on to answering trivia.
The gameplay consists of spinning a wheel, hitting a category, and answering a trivia question. The categories generally define musical time periods, e.g., 61-64. This game is not Y2K compliant. Usually, it’s a textual trivia question with one answer you must select out of 16, which makes guessing quite difficult as you can well imagine. I don’t fare too well at 60s or 70s music question but then luck out with an 80s question when “Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac” sounds familiar:
You get one chance to mess up, too. If you answer a textual question correctly, you get a trivia round with a musical melody you must identify. Sometimes, you hit the video category on the big wheel. This is when the game shows you a video of someone who worked closely with a musician and tells you clues about who the musician is. Further, every third round is an extended round where each question has 3 possible answers instead of just the 1. Bonus points galore.
Call me lame, but I can actually envision this game being fun in the right company. However, don’t spoil the game for yourself by poking around in the CD-ROM. The filenames of the QuickTime files sort of give away the answers (e.g., “MCHAMMER”). And this was the avatar I chose, the Rebel:
Enough music trivia, let’s talk about multimedia tech trivia. This game uses (or used) QuickTime v1.1.1. Talk about vintage! Thankfully, I didn’t have to downgrade QuickTime like I had to do with certain other games. What kind of codecs were in use in the first version of QuickTime? According to the files on this disc, Apple Graphics (SMC) and Cinepak.
Here’s a curious feature of the game: I tried to type in my usual gaming name, “Multimedia Mike”; that was a bit long so I shortened it to my backup of “MultiMike”. The game complained that it didn’t know how to pronounce that. So I backed it off to just “Mike” which is pretty well guaranteed to be recognized, and indeed it was. The game proceeded to verbally address me as Mike. As I played the game I became curious about the mechanism it used to judge the validity of the names. Did it perform some kind of complicated character or phonetic analysis on the names to be able to sound them out? That sounds awfully hard. But the only alternative would be to have a dictionary of common names and prerecorded samples vocalizing each. I was going to start poking at the game to see what kind of names it would accept. But instead, I just opened up the main game data file and went hunting for text strings containing my name.
It turns out there are 761 valid names. I counted them by using a text editor to sum the number of quote characters and then divided by 2. I extracted them all and have listed them in the remainder of this post. Did your name make the cut?
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Trivia Games,Windows Games | Comments (4)
February 27, 2007
I played through tonight’s game thinking that it was a fresh new game that MobyGames had never heard of. Turns out I was wrong. I figured it out after I had written a new game description and tried to enter the game. It’s an easy mistake to make when MobyGames returns 181 game matches for ‘operation’; I didn’t find the game until I manually typed in the URL based on the site’s friendly URL scheme. I still submitted my new, lengthier description for Operation anyway. Good thing I’m good enough at writing these by now that the authoring didn’t take me that long.
Operation is a computer game adaptation of the classic board game. You remember the one– use a pair of tweezers to remove any number of objects from an unfortunate patient. If you touched anything other than the object, the buzzer would go off. This game offers 5 different hospitals in 5 different locales catering to the needs of 5 different types of patients — Haunted Hospital (monsters), Rainforest (be a vet doc), Space Hospital (operate on aliens), Main Hospital (boring humans), and Dinosaur Hospital (help dinosaurs, perhaps to survive extinction). Each hospital is more or less a conveyor belt of patients. You can treat each patient either via the classical Operation extraction game technique or with a game unique to that level. The classical Operation mode (seen in the screenshots below) allows you to guide a pair of tweezers into the patient and remove the foreign object, while dodging everything else. There are 4 objects per patient (as seen in Disco Wolfman above).
Alternatively, you can cure the patient using the special game for that level. For example, the special game in the Rainforest level is Musical Melodies. I guess your doctor colleague in this level is kind of a new age hippie. The healing process works by her first playing the melodies of a various body parts on the patient, and then you need to replay the sequence; i.e., game of memory.
Other special games include an Asteroids clone where you have to descend into a dinosaur’s upset stomach to break up the rising burp bubbles; and a game where you must guide a frog up and out of a patient’s throat while your doctor colleague for the level inexplicably tosses food down the chute in an effort to thwart the amphibian.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Childrens Games,Licensed Schlock,Windows Games | Comments (0)
February 26, 2007
While my study of digital multimedia has often centered on video games, sometimes I have picked up CD-ROMs that are not strictly games in the technical sense (generally meaning that they have no clearly defined goal). I thought that I would make a post about a number of such titles that I have encountered recently.
One is Magic: An Insider’s View. This disc is an educational journey through magic illusions hosted by Harry Anderson, star of the old sitcom “Night Court”.
The disc features multimedia instruction on a range of tricks as well as historical tidbits about the craft.
Two other non-game multimedia CD-ROMs I have are Crayola-licensed titles created by IBM: Crayola Vehicle Voyages, which came in a bundle of “Games For Boys”, and Crayola Magic Princess Paper Doll Maker, in the analogous “Games For Girls” bundle. These truly are just crayon drawing activities transposed onto the computer monitor. Here is a screenshot from the Vehicle Voyages title:
I could not find any gaming elements to qualify it for entry into MobyGames.
Then there are 3 storybook titles. At first blush, these sound like they would be little different than cartoon videotapes. However, according to the instruction book for one title, it is possible to interact with various hotspots on storybook pages which might qualify it for inclusion. I’ll know more when I can actually get the games to run. The first is called Little Samurai published under the banner of “Magic Tales: Stories That Magically Come To Life.” Unfortunately, it absolutely, positively requires an 8-bit video mode which my video card simply won’t provide (16-bit is the lowest it offers):
The other 2 books are marketed as “Living Books” and the stories are “Mark Schlichting’s Harry And The Haunted House” and “The Tortoise And The Hare.” They suffer from a similar problem:
I tried to get them to work under Windows 95/VMware but ran into the old audio driver issue, namely the fact that I haven’t figured out how to install one yet on the VMware image.
All 3 titles seem to use some interesting multimedia resource files. Even though one title is published by a different house than the other two, the file formats between them seem to bear some resemblances.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under The Big Picture | Comments (2)
February 25, 2007
You might think that fast food marketing tie-in video games couldn’t get anymore absurd than the Taco Bell Tek Kids Flash-Ops games, or perhaps the Burger King Xbox/360 trio of games. But try this on for size: A Little Caesars Pizza-based game for the purpose of teaching fractions. Perhaps even stranger, though, is the fact that the sleeve in which Little Caesars Fractions Pizza is packaged actually labels it as a demo disc. My suspicion is that this demo was given away free with pizzas during some promotional period and the full version was available from Panasonic’s PanaKids division. The only record of the full version that I can find is this cover art picture.
The above depicts the main menu of the game. It’s sort of a futuristic pizza service operated by dinosaurs. Just work with it. You are enlisted as a new hire after a brief screening process where you demonstrate that you can identify which pizza out of a selection of four represents 5/8 of a pizza. The staff informs you that you have a lot of pizza to deliver to various time periods. However, in this demo, you only have access to the Triassic Park period. So you accept this assignment. When you arrive in your time machine to deliver the Hot-N-Ready food items (Little Caesars trademark marketing campaign), the cavepeople see fit to give you a brief education about fractional equivalence. You would be content to just collect your tip and move on to the next time period, but no. The cavepeople spell it out for you with rap.
And just for that, I have finally seen fit to post actual music on this blog:
Little Caesars Fractions Pizza — Caveman Pizza Fractions Rap, 1.23 MB, MPEG-4 AAC (.m4a) file
In fact, there are many fully-produced songs on this CD in redbook CD audio format.
After the rap, many of the cavemen disband, presumably to enjoy pizza. One early specimen of a woman remains behind to school me, man from the future, about fractions. In the process, she makes me work for my tip. In the following game, she gives you a goal such as “less than 3 and 5/6″. Then, a number of creatures walk, crawl, and fly through the screen holding fractions. You must use your slingshot to hit the fractions that match up with the given spec. The things a pizza delivery boy will do for a living.
Back at base, there is also an arcade game that you can play using your tip money. It’s called Tails and it’s a Nibbles-type game. The game gives you a mission to collect the fractions that are equal, less than, or greater than a given fraction. Hit a fraction that doesn’t match up, or a barrier, or your tail, and lose a snake. When you consume a qualified fraction, your tail grows.
A curious facet of this variation is the addition of the scissors icon. I haven’t seen anything similar in other Nibbles-type games. The scissors cut your tail in half.
Here are some of the pizzas I was assigned to deliver in the game:
- cheese, cheese, and extra cheese pizza
- pineapple and mosquito pizza
- popcorn and jellybeans pizza
Did Little Caesars sign off on this game? I can’t say I was exactly hungry for pizza, especially after the mosquito mention. Or maybe that’s actually part of their menu; I don’t know. The last time I remember having Little Caesars was in 1996 which predates the copyright on this game by 2 years.
Another curious feature is the janitor’s closet off the main menu which leads to the parents’ and teachers’ access control. It’s password protected. No worries since one of the dinosaurs pops up to tell you that the password is ‘access’. The control panel allows configuration of certain gameplay options and allows account management. I’m surprised it didn’t also allow changing the password. Perhaps that’s in the full version.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Educational Games,Licensed Schlock,Mac Games,Windows Games | Comments (10)
February 24, 2007
I got a brand new PlayStation 2 yesterday and just finished hooking it up. This is the first Sony gaming console I have ever owned. Indeed, it may be the first time I have ever touched a PlayStation console at all.
I have the slim one on the left
You know what this likely means: I can now accumulate all manner of obscure PS1/PS2 titles from the last 12 years. This GP experiment could well continue for a long time.
I had never planned to get any PlayStation console, although I do possess a smattering of PlayStation 1 & 2 games collected for the purposes of multimedia study. My impetus for this purchase was that I wanted a new standalone DVD player to replace one that I don’t like very much (also made by Sony). A friend recommended that I just go ahead and get a slim PS2 so that I can also play the used copy of the legendary PS1 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night game that I happen to own, and that he thinks I should rightfully experience in its full glory. So I got the console and the DVD remote accessory. I have heard tales that the original PS2 was not a good DVD player but the slim PS2 was markedly improved. Fortunately, I’m not the type who can discern variance in video quality very well and I’m quite happy with the DVD playback thus far. All the annoyances of the old standalone unit seem to have vanished.
And I’m pleased to report that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is incredible; at least the early levels that I got to play operate like a super-duper NES remake of the classic Castlevania stages.
I actually bought this system new, which is quite uncharacteristic of me. It got me to thinking of the other consoles I have purchased, and when was the last time a purchased a new console. I have never exactly been on the cutting edge. My first console was the NES Action Set (with Zapper gun) in 1989… purchased new on March 11, but who’s keeping score? Next console was a Super Nintendo, purchased used in August, 1997. Next was a Sega Saturn, purchased in early 1999 well after they had been discontinued. It’s a blur, but I might have actually gotten this one new, though very cheap. Next was a Sega Dreamcast in April, 2001. These had been discontinued at the time but I heard that they were easily programmable which was my primary reason for purchasing one. However, the Sega Dreamcast (and Resident Evil: Code: Veronica) got me back into casual video gaming. I can’t remember exactly when I picked up a Nintendo GameCube but I know it was used (not much cheaper than new at the time, but it was the principle). My latest acquisition before the PS2 was an old Sega Genesis pawned off on me by a coworker.
There’s a first time for everything. Who knows? Perhaps one day, I will think of a reason to pick up a used Microsoft console.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Gaming Memories,The Big Picture | Comments (1)