November 26, 2007
Perhaps I need a “girlie games” category for this blog since I clearly have 2 games for such a category in as many days. If you’re unfamiliar with the Bratz franchise, good for you! To fill you in, they’re sort of a band of junior skanks marketed towards young girls. They seem to be universally reviled and condemned by parents yet wildly successful nonetheless. Naturally, they have a game or 3 in their massive merchandising repertoire.
What kind of game is on offer in Bratz: Rock Angelz? I think you could qualify it as a team-based RPG with an assortment of innovative minigames, not unlike an entry into the blockbuster Final Fantasy franchise… or perhaps I’m just trying to make lemonade here. The story goes like this– one of the Bratz girlz gets a dream internship at a fashion magazine working for a demonic editor-in-chief (umm, The Devil Wears Prada, anyone? except that this character was not quite as restrained in her delivery as Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestley). The internship is predictably a nightmare as the character faces her two arch-nemeses — who have also been hired on in higher ranking positions — and has to perform menial chores unrelated to the core of her fashion interest. She eventually gets fired — the details are a bit fuzzy but I think it’s because the girl failed to properly screen out the editor’s junk mail — and the rest of the girlz get the bright idea to start their own fashion rag. So they rent an office that turns out to be a rat hole. So the next adventure is to go shopping in order to properly decorate the office space…
And that’s really all I could handle, seriously. I got to chapter 4 (out of 9 chapters). Some of the chapters are adventures where you guide the girlz around rendered sets and interact with characters and surroundings. There is a little exploration element here, but mostly the goals are pretty cut and dried. There is generally one over-arching quest for a particular chapter, but with a number of sub-quests within. These often involve helping other people. For example, the salesgirl at a clothing store is depressed because she can’t get up the nerve to talk to Eitan, the totally hot guy who works at the smoothie stand. So one of the girlz plays match-maker between the 2, and then the salesgirl finally has the spirit to help the Bratz girl in her quest. The game did not offer a “complain to manager” icon.
Wow, I can’t believe I explained that shy-girl scenario in such detail. It should be noted that, in contrast to typical adventure games, the conversations in this game are almost uniformly good-natured, even when the other character has nothing of note to mention. Typical games will be all like, “What do you want? I thought I told you I’m busy!” Where this game is totally like, “Hey, what’s up? Nothin’ much? That’s cool.”
Interspersed between and throughout the chapters are assorted minigames. Things like blending fruit smoothies to spec or picking out the editor’s clothes for a trip. Here is a minigame pertaining to doing a layout for the fashion magazine:
I didn’t really try, and I don’t think it was possible to lose. Success at the minigames is rewarded with an upgraded wardrobe that can be changed out at anytime during the 3D adventure portions.
Think that’s a ridiculous detail? To be fair, it’s difficult to criticize Bratz for this outfit selection feature. More serious games have been doing this for years, notably in the Resident Evil series. Certain of these games have special unlockable outfits for the characters while other franchise games allow the player to customize the outfit at the very start (as seen in this screenshot).
Soleil Moon Frye serves as voice talent on this game. Turns out there is life after Punky Brewster. Checking her IMDb credits reveals that there is another Bratz franchise game — Forever Diamondz. Ugh, it just doesn’t end. I get the impression that everything having to do with Bratz must have some plural word in the title so that the pluralization can be spelled with ‘z’.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Adventure Games,Girlie Games,Windows Games | Comments (13)
November 25, 2007
Oh please, oh please, oh please, oh please, let this be an actual game which would merit its inclusion into MobyGames! I spotted My Fantasy Wedding in the clearance software section of an office supply shop. I purchased it even though I was unsure of whether it was technically a game vs., say, a shrink-wrapped wedding planning application. But it was still too tempting. When I got it home and peeled off the clearance sticker, I saw the ESRB rating badge — that means it has to be a game, right?
Who says there are no video games for girls?
You know, in a recent MobyGames forum thread, another long-time contributor expressed shock that I had not resorted to cheap or dirty tricks in order to keep gaining MobyGames contribution points. That depends — could it be considered an unfair advantage that I’m willing to try games that no one else would go near? The title screen of this game greets you with squeaky excitement as your virtual narrator describes all the business that needs to be attended to before the wedding may take place. The first thing to do is to choose your bride avatar. Then choose from among 4 wedding locations, and then choose your bridesmaids. Then, you get to choose your groom. Not only that, you get to choose his groomsmen. If all of that is too much work, you can always click the curler-wearing “mother” icon who will make these choices on your behalf and allow you to get straight to the important stuff — shopping.
Much of the action takes place at the mall where you shop for dresses, tuxes, jewelry, bouquets, cakes, and everything else that a happy bride needs for her big day. Where does the “game” aspect enter into play? There are a number of minigames interspersed throughout the mall shops, each with 3 levels. The incentive to complete these minigames is that success unlocks more options in all of the various stores; more dress styles, more cake types, more flower species, etc.
One minigame is a matching game which requires neither an explanation nor a screenshot — this must be the easiest type of minigame to engineer. At least it’s smart enough to limit the number of misses that the player gets. There is a gift packing game that is almost like a sideways Tetris block game — pack as many rectangular wedding presents into the car as possible. There is also a Pac-Man clone that has a slight twist– it’s the flower girl game where the flower girl leads the bride through a maze to collect various treasures for the wedding. The antagonist in the maze is just the single groom — the groom must not be allowed to see the bride. The twist is that the player controls the flower girl while the bride follows a few steps behind. So the game requires some real-time planning.
This was one of my favorite games — the invitation game. Fling letters at the letter carrier marching to and fro on the sidewalk. I think this game could be considered a spiritual clone of Paperboy since it’s possible to break windows on the buildings in the background. Those invitations must be using some thick, expensive card stock.
This is the most messed-up of the 6 minigames that My Fantasy Wedding has to offer — the bouquet game. It seems that your friends think you are the recipient of entirely too much generosity. You have too many presents and they want to steal your presents. You need to lay down a suppressing fire consisting of bridal bouquets to pacify your covetous girlfriends until they get their own fantasy weddings. It’s important to fire bouquets constantly in this game because the floral ordnance travels slowly and these greedy girls are slick.
There is much music in the game. A lot of it can be selected at the wedding music store in the mall. These are all the different songs that can be played during the wedding proper. These themes are recognizable, traditional, and public domain. However, different minigames and stores have assorted songs playing in the background. Many seem to be one-off renditions of more modern (i.e., copyrighted) songs. I just know that the song which plays during the dice game (where you and your girlfriends roll dice for bridal shower gifts) is an homage to the 1999 Santana/Rob Thomas song, “Smooth”.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Girlie Games,Windows Games | Comments (4)
November 20, 2007
There are still 3 more games in the Spy Kids Learning Adventures series, whose surface I merely scratched in The Underground Affair. That was a short investigation because the game was supposed to have a supplemental puzzle book, whose solutions would yield codes that you were expected to constantly enter into the game in order to get anywhere. Fortunately, a reader pointed me to the Brighter Child website where the necessary documents are mirrored.
This Learning Adventure is Man In The Moon. It seems that we have established a presence on the moon, or perhaps just a secret spy base. As the story intro unfolds in the narrated comic book style, a rocket crashed near the moonbase and contact is lost with the remote location soon after. The spy organization decides that the best course of action would be to task our 2 Spy Kid siblings — Carmen and Juni — with investigating the situation on the natural satellite. It seems that their dragonfly spy craft has been retrofit to deal with the rigors of space travel anyway, so why not?
Before I jumped into this game, I downloaded the puzzle PDF (which also happened to be included on the game disc this time) and worked through all the puzzles. Well, I worked through as many as I could that did not require a physical printout, like a logic puzzle that was based on a large word search. I actually quite enjoyed plodding through all of the puzzles. They reminded me heavily of the puzzles from various puzzle-a-day calendars I’ve had over the years, only simpler and much more solvable. So when I begin the game, the story soon prompts me for a code, which I can come through with.
However, if the only part of the game that actually involves me is offline puzzles, then I’m honestly unimpressed. Plus, I am confused as to why there are 3 difficulty levels at the main menu. I soon learn that there are 8 different minigames as part of the story. Some of the minigames are quite interesting. The first one deals with navigating through an asteroid using math.
But my favorite minigame — this had me hooked for hours — was this moon worm invasion. Nope, it’s not a Space Invaders clone. It’s a clone of something, to be sure, but I don’t know what. I know I’ve seen the style of gameplay before.
You launch these light grenades at the moon worms. When a grenade connects with 2 or more worms of the same color, that worm goes away, or if 2 grenades connect with one worm, or if 3 grenades connect — poof. Wipe out all the worms and residual grenades, before they breach the perimeter. I guess they’re enforcing lunar litter laws pretty stringently. Seriously, after I took out the final worm, the game was still going on. I thought it was a bug until I managed to wipe out all of the leftover grenades as well.
I would like to take this opportunity to address a subject that has dogged me since the glory days of Tetris: cheating puzzle games. I don’t buy for a moment that these types of games choose the next piece or color on a purely random or even pseudo-random number generator. I know how trivial it is to evaluate the map and algorithmically decide which piece or color would be absolutely useless to the user, and keep throwing those pieces fast and furious. I know your game, puzzle game.
The next minigame occurs when the Spy Kids knock over a shelf of security tapes and have to put them in the right order again. Honestly, I didn’t understand anything about how this puzzle was supposed to work. But I clicked about 3 times on different spots in the puzzle and the game congratulated me. This led to my capture by the primary villain of the game, a fellow who is only the #2 most wanted villain on earth and resents the fact that he’s not #1. In typical villain fashion, he expounds on how he should have known that the powers that be would send the Spy Kids after him. For my part, I think I would be fairly insulted if the government sent a ragtag team of bumbling, bickering, underage siblings to thwart my diabolical plot for world domination. No respect; no respect at all.
Anyway, he restrains the Spy Kids in magneto-chairs. The next minigame is to reverse the magnetic polarity on your watch so that you can repel the magneto-chair and escape. The explanation doesn’t make much sense, nor does the puzzle. The designers must have figured the same and actually made a hint button for this one that illustrated how to solve it. I took the easy way out. Rest assured that it’s not just a game of Tic-Tac-Toe.
This is the final game I got to (before I tried to do something the game wasn’t designed to handle and caused an infinite loop of dialog boxes). You got to guess 15 letters of the word in order to move the crane to the far right side of the machine so that you can recover the villain’s evil device. All those years of faithful Wheel of Fortune viewership finally paid off as I knew to choose the most common English language letters first.
Since the official answer site seems to have gone away, I thought I would post the answers to the puzzles (missions) if anyone Googles them, or just wants to compare notes…
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Childrens Games,Educational Games,Licensed Schlock,Puzzle Games | Comments (16)
November 19, 2007
I have been trying to play some games recently but I have been discouraged by the creeping, non-fun sensation I get when I realize that I’m duty-bound to do a bunch of writing afterwards. That’s right, I seem to have finally hit that wall where playing these games is no longer any fun. Still, I have a goal of hitting 10K MobyGames contribution points before the year is out. And at this point in the experiment, you had better believe I understand the most efficient way to get mucho points off of a single game — by exploiting any given Macromedia Director-based game. Why? For these reasons:
- They are often spec’d to run on 2, sometimes 3 platforms (Windows 95, Mac, and sometimes Windows 3.x).
- I usually have a full cover art set of 3-5 scans.
- The games are easy to blow through in a 1/2 hour and I can get a complete description of the game and a diverse set of unique screenshots, usually 20-30.
- These games nearly always neatly roll their credits. Enter them for one platform. Once approved, easily copy & paste them for the other platforms.
- These games are often produced by obscure, one-hit wonder-type companies that only ever produced a game or 2 before learning the hard way that the road to riches isn’t paved with cheap CD-ROM entertainment. The companies often aren’t in the database yet for this reason.
For all of these reasons, Babes in Toyland recently netted me well in excess of 100 contribution points.
With that, allow me to present the Director-based game, Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Published in 1996, this title is not based on Disney’s movie from that same year. Indeed, today’s specimen might be termed in some circles as a knock-off, but is it really? Disney does not actually have exclusive rights to the Hunchback story, only certain characteristics unique to their telling.
Anyway, this game consists of 4 minigames — rather abysmal minigames, I should note — based around the artwork shown in the story. The main attraction is the interactive storybook. Pages are shown as above. A text overlay is shown onscreen with part of the story. A narrator reads the text while segments are highlighted so that the user (presumably a young child who is disappointed that this game is not based on the real deal from Disney) can follow along. There is also a produced song that the user can opt to listen to. It comes off as something from an easy-listening radio station. I suppose it could very well have been the lead radio single from the Disney Hunchback.
This is one of the minigames, Make-A-Match:
You recognize the concept– the card-matching memory game. This variation is unique in that it gives the player as much time as desired to study the board before covering it up with rocks. Another game called Ring The Bell is yet another memory game where the player must remember and replay and sequence of bell tones.
This was the worst game for play control reasons:
It is called Rat Maze and what makes it so bad is that you have to click on the arrows on the left in order to move the cheese. The problem is that the underlying input mechanism wasn’t programmed in a very future-proof manner and even the speediest mouse click will send the cheese bolting to the opposite end of the maze.
This last item counts more as an ‘activity’ than a ‘game’ — Gargoyle Builder. Build your very own gargoyle from various colored body, arm, and head styles. Then you can press the ‘dance’ button to make him, well, spasm uncontrollably:
I admit that I have not read the original Hunchback tale (I didn’t even sit through all the pages in this animated storybook), though I did see Disney’s 1996 film (which, as an unabashed fan of 1990s animated Disney fare, I thought was an extraordinarily mediocre effort, save for the soundtrack). I did a text search for the word ‘gargoyle’ in Wikipedia’s entry for the story and came up empty-handed. Could it be that this game was brazenly ripping off that aspect of Disney’s creative license? Perhaps the people who developed this game didn’t read the original story either, but just saw the Friday premiere of the 1996 film and worked all through the weekend on this treatment.
This all reminds me of an old Suck.com essay called Faux Film Festival:
It’s a familiar, horrifying scenario. An exhausted parent in a video store or supermarket sees a videotape packaged for sale. The tape boasts a familiar title — Aladdin or The Hunchback of Notre Dame — and an attractive sticker price. Upon arriving home, the tape is proffered to media-savvy children, who immediately proclaim, in loud, whiny voices, “This isn’t the real Aladdin.”
The article notes that Disney lost a lawsuit to try to block such knock-offs. This might help to explain why, in recent years, they seem to have moved away from adapting traditional (read: public domain) stories (the last I can recall is 1999′s Tarzan) and more towards new properties (like The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo & Stitch).
What floors me the most about this game is that the guilty parties still seem to be in business: Peter Pan Industries, the publisher, is still around and is still ripping off everything Disney does. Amazing. Check out their catalog. They have, not one, but three episodes of The Little Cars (see Disney’s Cars). There is also Ratatoing, which I strongly suspect is influenced by Disney’s Ratatouille.
The game was developed by Right Angle, Inc. who has a portfolio to show for their 14 years in operation. This game, however, is not showcased.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Childrens Games,Mac Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
November 10, 2007
This blog has been a bit stagnant lately, but that’s not because of a lack of material yet to be entered into MobyGames. Indeed, the more data I enter into the database, the more data I somehow come across that yet needs to be entered. In fact, over the course of this experiment, I have created a number of lists of all the games that I personally know of that are not in the database.
Thus, I present to you the lists of missing games. My personal specialty is 8-bit NES games. As of this writing, there are still about 85 NES games missing from the database. Not bad, considering that the number was over 250 when I first started contributing a few years ago. For certain lists like the NES and Dreamcast lists, I sought out official or unofficial game list compilations and carefully reconciled them against MobyGames. For lists such as Windows and Sony PlayStation, I have not done a formal reconciliation process yet and have only been compiling lists as I become aware of games that are not in the database. This usually occurs when I am browsing eBay stores that stock lots of obscure gaming software.
I have been working a lot on my primary technical blog recently (which sometimes involves some game hacking). But I would still like to return to this effort because I want to score 10,000 MobyGames contribution points before the year is out. Right now, I have a little over 8700 points. It should be a doable goal.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under The Big Picture | Comments (0)
November 2, 2007
Rejoice! Someone else has actually played this game! Karen came along and made a request for another smash hit track from the Little Caesar’s Fractions Pizza, and I’m only too happy to indulge her nostalgia. This one deals with how whole numbers can be divided and united.
Little Caesars Fractions Pizza — The Whole Can Be Divided Or United, 1.31 MB, MPEG-4 AAC (.m4a) file
Who knows? Maybe I will start posting much more music from forgotten video games — until an IP owner complains about it — just to make effective use of my web hosting plan.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under The Big Picture | Comments (0)