November 30, 2009
Captain Novolin was a notorious SNES title about a diabetic superhero who fought off sugary snacks. If Seanbaby’s review of the game is to be believed, that’s about all there was to this (probably) well-meaning game that only wanted to educate children about certain health problems but has nonetheless gone down in video game history as a silly joke.
On that note, I present Starbright’s Quest for the Code, a star-studded video game assembled to teach kids about asthma. Actually, the game isn’t geared towards kids in general but rather is targeted specifically towards kids suffering from asthma. I have no idea if this game was ever marketed or intended to turn any kind of profit. The still shrink-wrapped copy I procured for a dollar in a spent shop stipulated that it was not to be sold but should be freely given to an asthmatic child.
Here’s the story: Diane Sawyer — lending her newscasting talent to this charitable cause — breaks a story about a giant machine that has just landed in town and is threatening to release all manner of asthma triggers. The machine is run by one Mucus Airgon, someone who apparently really has it in for asthmatics and has a gang of 7 henchvillains creatively named “The Evil Seven”. So you know that 7 levels are going to be involved somehow. I should clarify at this point that the main thrust of the game is to educate asthmatic children how to live with asthma and that it does not have to be debilitating. It seems that Airgon’s grand plan is simply to demoralize asthmatic children. The gap between that and the “Profit!!” step remains a smidge hazy but I’m certain I have seen stranger premises in other games during this Gaming Pathology project.
The title of the game refers to the acquisition of 7 pieces of a code which will be used to destroy Airgon’s asthma-triggering machine. Or some such.
Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays the guide, Cyrus and shows up, Matrix-style (as in, he mysteriously contacts you through your computer). He leads you first through a lung simulator to teach you how the human respiratory system operates and how asthma and its triggers act upon the system. I had a sinking feeling about the game play aspect of the proceedings as soon as I saw the first activity — cleaning up snot in the nose.
Now, I’ve put up with a lot of outlandishly silly game play concepts for this blog (measuring and cutting drapes continues to stand out in my mind). But how creatively bankrupt does your premise need to be before cleaning up snot becomes a viable game play mechanic?
I hate to dwell too much on this point since this is most likely a kind-hearted charity effort. The game has 3 main types of game play, at least during the levels that I played, and not counting the cursory snot cleanup. The first type involves the player dragging different types of asthma triggers over areas of a room where that type of trigger can occur. The game then challenges the player about a good course of action for mitigating that trigger. This is seen above. The second type of game play, encountered after the player has finished auditing a room, is a simple point and click pixel hunt to determine the location of a member of the Evil Seven. After locating the dreaded villain, there is a trivia round where the player must answer a number of asthma-related trivia questions correctly in order to clear the level.
There is at least one other type of game play on offer– after clearing the first 2 levels, the player gets to shoot mucus in an Asteroids clone. There is likely to be another minigame after the next 4 villains, based on the way the villains are grouped in the stage select screen.
As mentioned, a lot of famous people lent their voice talent to their game. Here’s the full list:
- Cuba Gooding, Jr. as your guide, Cyrus
- Diane Sawyer as “The Newscaster”
- Kelsey Grammer as Mucus Airgon, leader of the Evil Seven
- General H. Norman Schwarzkoff as Robo-Roach
- Whoopi Goldberg as Moldy
- Funkmaster Flex as Mold Mob game announcer
- Jeff Goldblum as Alex Dander
- Shaquille O’Neal as The Fuminator
- Glenn Close as Chalktisha
- Gwyneth Paltrow as Perfuma
- Minnie Driver as Smokita
I would enjoy learning more about how this game was produced. The credits are quite extensive and a lot of work and talent went into it. Maybe one day I’ll put together a highlight reel of some of the villains from this largely Smacker-based game.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Childrens Games,Trivia Games,Windows Games | Comments (1)
October 31, 2009
It’s Halloween and I decided to do some MobyGames screenshot recon on two appropriately themed games. Inspired by Benj Edwards’ recent vintage scan, I decided to try out an entry in the Splatterhouse series. Further, I sprung for the iPhone version of Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition, the most expensive iPhone app I have purchased to date (a whopping US$7).
First up is Splatterhouse for the NEC TurboGrafx-16. For the uninitiated, this series revolves around a slight modification of the classic slasher horror movie formula– the hero of the game (Rick, apparently, though the game itself doesn’t see fit to name him) is actually the machete-wielding, hockey mask-wearing, nigh-unstoppable killing machine. His target is not a camp full of teens but rather a house filled with ungodly abominations in which his girlfriend is being held captive. The graphics are decent for the early 16-bit video gaming area. There are a few rooms with many mirrors and I think you know what that translates to in a supernatural action game:
Yeah, that reflection is going to jump out of the mirror, many times over.
Rick’s weapon of choice is a large stick that happens to be laying around in most levels, which is a good thing because this big burly dude is unable to carry the stick while climbing up ladders to different levels. Different levels seem to have signature weapons that are highlighted in the level card, like shotgun, spears, and machetes. Even though he’s only the stage 3 boss, this chainsaw-handed monstrosity is easily the most menacing thing I saw in the game. The fact that Rick is facing off with him using a shotgun makes it perhaps the most badass scene in the entire game, even if the chainsaw sound effects were lacking.
In fact, many of the boss battles are quite creative, especially in level 2 when Rick fights a haunted room in what I dubbed The Ikea Nightmare:
You have to dodge falling debris, then fight a floating chair, 3 floating knives, and finally the painting. Oh, and don’t be standing under the chandelier because that will fall before it’s all over. Several boss battles have a “One more thing…” moment, so you have to be on your toes while the game still gives you control of the character.
While the game sticks well to a haunted / gory mansion motif, the decor grows incongruous at the end of stage 4 as I thought the character had just stumbled into Dracula’s castle. In this seemingly interminable hallway, Rick finds a golden machete as well as a gaggle of disembodied heads revolving around an inverted cross.
This confused me somewhat — is the inverted cross supposed to be an evil symbol? After a little digging, apparently, it’s construed to be an evil symbol to some. But compared to the rest of the horrors in the mansion, if you have to explain why this one particular artifact is evil, it’s probably not doing its job. Though I’m thinking that having the heads revolve around the number “666″, or worse yet, fighting a bunch of flying “6″s would have seemed ultimately hokey (not unlike fighting the giant Decepticon symbol in the Japanese Transformers NES game).
All in all, this was a lot of fun. It was a lot of trial and error in the classic side-scroller sense, but still enjoyable. Then again, remember what I’m used to doing for the sake of this blog — playing forgotten, obscure, or just plain bad games that no one else wants to bother with, all in order to fill gaps in the database. It’s nice to play a more famous and generally better game every now and then.
Then there’s Resident Evil 4: Mobile Edition. I’m a fairly big fan of the Resident Evil series in general and I qualify the 4th installment as one of my very favorite action games. And I have to give credit where credit is due — RE4:ME on the iPhone is quite the technical achievement and will wow disbelievers who doubt what the iPhone can do in the graphical department. (This illustrative screenshot is just a prerendered cinematic, though.)
All that said, I really don’t like RE4:ME. The game allegedly follows the primary flow of the original game, only dumbed down slightly given the limited input facilities of the iPhone. And those limited input facilities are really the rub here.
Honestly, I have had this same problem with a lot of iPhone games. Sure, you can touch the screen and you can tilt or shake the unit, but that doesn’t necessarily help with many different types of games. Such as this. Here, the player must use the touch-directional pad on the left to move and then use the context buttons on the right to switch to different modes (aiming vs. moving vs. using knife). Manually reloading the weapon is performed by shaking the unit which is a nice touch once you get used to it.
The beginning of the game starts Leon in an enclosed village area reminiscent of the original village from RE4. First, Leon can practice blasting the possessed Spaniards, slashing item boxes, and picking up items. After knocking off enough enemies, the first chainsaw dude appears. Even though I had already collected the shotgun, I couldn’t take him down. This was exacerbated by the fact that there are still many other enemies coming at the player at the same time as Mr. Chainsaw. It’s not effective use of the 6 shotgun shells to use them on the lower level goons and it’s unwieldy to constantly switch between weapons.
Plus, the very detailed graphics are on a very small screen and it’s quite difficult to focus on them for extended periods without growing fatigued or suffering from a headache.
At the Apple App Store:
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,iPhone Games,TurboGrafx-16 Games | Comments (0)
October 27, 2009
Oh look, another Hello Kitty video game that isn’t in MobyGames yet. Dang it. All right, let’s just get this over with.
Really, I shouldn’t have a foul attitude about this. My last outing with a Hello Kitty game — Hello Kitty Dream Carnival — was actually quite the delightful romp. Hello Kitty Bubblegum Girlfriends is more of the same — colorful, simple, and actually very fun. I’m impressed that, even though Dream Carnival and Bubblegum Girlfriends were developed by different houses, they both carry a very consistent style. This probably goes to show that Sanrio exercises tight control over its licensees.
This game, like the other one, is a series of 8 rather well-engineered minigames. Here are the ones I found the most interesting.
First, I was all over Sky Bubble Popper, which is a variation of the Puzz Loop formula of which I have become a large fan thanks to Luxor and StoneLoops:
I always love a good Breakout clone and Cupcake Trampoline delivers while being the most exploitative minigame on offer:
Hello Kitty and her bunny friend use a trampoline to keep the squirrel in play grabbing ice cream cones and cupcakes. I hope the squirrel at least gets a cut of the spoils for her role.
I absolutely could not figure out what was going on with Bubble Gum Taxi which has something to do with picking up Tetris-looking pieces from the conveyor belt and placing them on a puzzle:
Crazy Cookie Race eventually shaped up to be my favorite game and it had many pieces:
Place cookies from the bottom shelf onto the light outlines moving on the conveyor belts (first and third from the top). Those cookies come out baked and decorated on the second and fourth belts where they must be manually picked up and placed into the appropriate boxes on top before they reach the end of the belt. You’re going through a lot of ingredients but Hello Kitty’s friends have many more for you to use. You just need to click on them when they arrive with the ingredients and they will cheerfully drop them into the cauldron.
Interesting tech trivia: The credits for the game give a shout out to the Lua programming language, implying that it must be used in the game somehow.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Childrens Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
October 26, 2009
I’ve seen Operation and Clue adaptations in this Gaming Pathology project and now I come to another board game adaptation — Candy Land. I wonder if this will be a direct adaptation (like Clue) or an “inspired by” type of adaptation (like Operation). The answer turns out to be a mixture– it is a direct adaptation of the original Candy Land board game but with 8 minigames/side activities to keep things interesting.
As for the primary board game, the developers went through the trouble of lovingly modeling the beautiful Candy Landscape in 3D and rendering still shots that encompass every single space in the game. When moving from one space to the next, the player is treated to a somewhat clunky transition between these shots. With a little more computing horsepower, this could be a great FPS setting or some kind of 3D animated game.
Now here are some of the more unusual items that struck me about the side activities. In the Gingerbread Plum Forest, the player meets Plumpy who cheerfully describes himself as the last of the Plumpa Trolls. You would think that being the last of his race would be cause for despair, but not so. Plumpy wants nothing more than for you to tickle him into surrendering plums for a pie. Maybe that’s his way of coping with the trauma and depression.
Next to the Ice Cream Sea, the player has the opportunity to customize a giant sundae by clicking through the various layers in order to rotate through colors/flavors. Then, clicking on the creatures surrounding the sundae allows for decorating. Afterwards, ask the fairy to set the sundae adrift on the Ice Cream Sea where it is promptly devoured by a whale. It seems that eating it on shore would have been a positive idea. Then again, maybe it’s better to let the whale have at it considering that the sundae was decorated with bodily excretions from anthropomorphic confections and foodstuffs.
The Lollipop Woods afford the player the opportunity to decorate giant lollipop trees using a special decorating machine. It turns out that lollipop decoration is performed in a CMYK colorspace.
This is Gloppy, the proprietor of the Molasses Swamp. There are no activities in the swamp except to interact with a few surroundings.
Indeed, the highlight (lowlight?) of the swamp is when Gloppy implores you to — direct quote — “Come back again so we can get messy together.”
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Childrens Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
October 20, 2009
Sometimes, all I have to go on is a CD-ROM. That’s how it was with Roketz. Turns out it’s a DOS game. Time to fire up DOSBox and have at it. The credits, however, imply that there was also an Amiga version that preceded the DOS version.
I had some trouble making a go of this until I remembered to severely crank up the CPU cycles in DOSBox — this game was from 1996, after all. It’s also the first and only game I have seen which uses a 720×350 color graphics mode. The game is set in a dystopian future, probably — I think the preceding story screenshot was supposed to establish setting for this game. The art style is not in keeping with the rest of the game.
As for the game, it reminds me a lot of those Positech racing games I played quite some time ago. Race around a 2D map and shoot at other players while collecting powerups. This game functions in both free-for-all combat mode as well as lap racing mode.
There are also powerups to be purchased, including a teddy bear for good luck:
The game was developed by an Estonian group called Bluemoon. They still have a functioning website where they claim credit for helping to create both Kazaa and Skype. And they created the beloved SkyRoads game. Both SkyRoads and Roketz are available for free download from their website
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,DOS Games,Racing Games | Comments (1)
October 19, 2009
More TAS capsules! Let’s go…
First, let’s do Prince of Persia, the NES version. I think I’ve seen this particular TAS at least 3 times but for some reason, I didn’t capture a series of screenshots. I know I’ve seen this play out entirely too many times. I remember playing the DOS version of the game a long time ago and I think I even made it out of the dungeon. It may have been groundbreaking at the time, and perhaps even offer some fascinating, puzzling, and challenging gameplay to this day. But you have to admit that it’s boring to watch even the speedrun and dull to perform the capture chore since so many places in the game all look the same.
Still, I managed to capture this frame of animation which makes it look like the prince has to go potty really bad:
From there, I moved on to Nosferatu for the SNES. Any description you can find of this game (save perhaps for its own box copy) will immediately peg it as a brazen Prince of Persia ripoff. Which it is, make no mistake. However, it’s a good deal more interesting to watch than the original PoP game. For starters, the hero is 100% badass as he takes down werewolves, Frankenstein monsters, zombies, mummies, and eventually Dracula himself, all with his fists (and feet of fury).
The graphics are significantly more appealing than in PoP. Everything in the castle gets into the act of trying to get the hero– the books in the library fly out at you and even the artwork comes to life and take you down. The only gripe I had with the graphics were that a number of outdoor scenes (where boss battles usually took place) did not make use of the parallax scrolling so commonly found in the 16-bit era. I would have to review the SNES internal technical documents again (my second favorite behind the NES) but I think these scenes might be using a graphical mode that only allows one plane due to a higher resolution or higher number of colors.
It should be noted that Dracula really dropped the ball as a manager when he promoted the zombie in the above screenshot to miniboss. I don’t think he was really up to the task. Every time the hero lands a hit, the zombie keels over and visibly vomits.
Journey to Silius (NES) brings back a lot of memories since I remember working hard to beat the game. Thankfully, the TAS demonstrates that the graphics and gameplay were diverse enough over its stages that it’s not an embarrassment to remember playing through the whole thing back in the day.
The most curious thing that stuck out at me based on the speedrun was that, according to the wanted posters in the background of level 1, there is a fugitive penguin on the loose:
I remember thinking that Wrath of the Black Manta (NES) was pretty lame back in the day, and that was before I really took the time to think through the things that are being presented to me in video games. Wrath has the eponymous ninja trotting the globe from New York City to Tokyo to Rio de Janeiro and back to New York City in order to bust up a drug ring and also get to the bottom of some kidnappings. The game would have us believe that a kidnapping victim had time to leave a detailed note about the kidnapping at the scene of the crime before he was abducted:
Also, the ninjas in this game can fly simply by attaching a sheet to their wrists and ankles. They remind me of cartoonish flying squirrels:
The final game from this set is the venerable Gradius (NES). If you’ve never taken the time to watch a TAS, this is a good time to start. Go to this Gradius TAS page and watch one of the video versions linked. As the page description notes, “This is probably one of the best illustrations on how to create art out of a simplistic and otherwise uninteresting game to watch.” It’s exhilarating and a static screenshot doesn’t begin to do it justice, but when has that ever stopped me? Here are the iconic Easter Island space heads from the series:
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,NES Games,SNES Games | Comments (0)