October 16, 2009
3D Galactic Destroyer is just the type of hyper-generic title that begs me to jump in and see what’s going on here, especially since MobyGames has no record. Google doesn’t even have a record of this title which is even stranger. For that matter, not even the CD-ROM artwork has a record:
The CD-ROM is just one big ad for Starshine Software, whose site is now just one big URL redirect to Cosmi, noted purveyors of budget software. Studying the disc reveals a number of different directories with many different types of software. There is also a strange file called password.rtf which schools the reader in how to properly enter a password to install a piece of software. Note that it didn’t stipulate which piece of software would be installed, just that the user should read the “Program Description” and where the “Program Description” could be found.
I eventually figured out what was going on and this strikes me as unprecedented– In what was obviously an effort to save on publishing costs, Starshine created generic CD-ROMs packed with 10 different software programs (this game, a Mahjongg game, a recipe organizer, SAT and ACT prep software, a home accounting package, and some others). The installation for each is protected by a password which is found somewhere in the “Program Description” which is found somewhere in the packaging. I was getting a little annoyed since I paid a whole dollar for this, until I remembered that this spent game actually came with the jewel case literature intact.
So I figured out the password for the 3D Galactic Destroyer installer (‘mission’, don’t tell anyone). I learned that this is developed by Webfoot… why do I recognize them? Ah yes, they were responsible for Safari Kongo, which never worked for me, and 3D Marble Flip, which worked but was rather bad.
I also learned through a series of clues that the original title for this game is 3D Missile Madness which produces plenty of Google hits (mostly warez sites, it seems). What kind of well-known game have they hijacked for this outing? The Defender concept:
The destroyer skims along a planetary surface taking out various hostile flying enemies while rescuing friendly aliens on the ground. In a slight twist, each level has 3 planes along the surface that the player can (and must) traverse between to neutralize all the bad guys. It’s a decent effort but is rather difficult to control.
Tech support time: This is a Windows 95 game and I’m trying to run it under Windows XP. I had to mark both the “run in 640×480 mode” and “Windows 95″ settings in the game’s properties page before the game would run without complaint. Further — and this is critical — it was necessary to manually kill the game from the Task Manager after exiting. Even after what appears to be a clean exit, a process named something like 3dGalacticDestroyer.exe was hanging around in the process list and prevented certain other programs (including itself) from executing.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
October 15, 2009
I spied GapKids Adventure at my favorite spent shop and hoped that I had located the sequel to the Snow Day game, one of the first games from this Gaming Pathology project (and I know that such a game exists, and I know I will locate it one day). Alas, this is unrelated to Snow Day save for its GapKids theme and the probability that it was distributed in the same way as Snow Day (at various GapKids stores). My copy of the sleeve has the handwritten note “code 427″ on the front of the sleeve. Will this game feature more of that GapKids trickery goading players to return to the store at set intervals in order to learn secret codes to access more games?
The game sleeve is larger than a typical CD-ROM sleeve because it contains a pair of paper glasses similar to cheap red/blue “3D” glasses. However, these glasses have red tint over both eyes.
It turns out that the glasses will be used to “decode” certain obscured clues throughout the game. Such clues look like this secret clue poster which, for some reason, is hanging in the character’s bedroom:
I haven’t seen this technique since the tech specs found on the back of Transformers toy packages over 2 decades ago. I can’t shake the feeling that there must be some standard color adjustment tool found in many graphic editors which would allow you to undo the masking.
Anyway, the game, apparently written in Flash 6.0 circa 2002-2003, has the player selecting either a boy or a girl, dressing them, gathering useful items from their bedroom, selecting a mode of transport and heading over to the tree house after completing some athletic obstacle courses.
The tree house sits atop a magnificent tree with an intricate ladder maze which must be negotiated before partaking in the recreational treasures of the tree house:
The ladder maze is platformer action which somehow manages to defy both the rules of real world physics (as all platformers do with their platforms moving to and fro in mid-air) as well as accepted video game physics (jump on a moving platform and the character remains stationary in air as the platform moves out from beneath).
So I finally get to the tree house (the gameplay was arduous enough that I almost gave up). What’s inside? Well, we have an optical illusion book, a fortune teller fold-up that can be printed, a certificate of completion in the form of a poster that can be completed and printed, a DJ mix station activity, and a secret password that accesses a bonus half pipe game. Oh, and there’s also a compartment with a numeric lock. This is where the code that was scrawled on the sleeve (and was seen earlier in the game using the red shading mechanism) comes into play. What’s the hidden secret in the compartment?
These kids are keeping a monkey prisoner in their tree house! It seems animal rights types would be all over Gap Inc. if anyone had ever heard of this game in the first place (Google searches only produce references to Snow Day).
Also in the tree house is a video game system that offers 2 games. GapKids Adventure was created by a group named Orange Design who demo a number of Flash games on their site. I get the feeling that the 2 arcade games here are Flash games that they had laying around and thought this would be a good opportunity to publish them. One is a Lunar Lander-type game. Wouldn’t you know– here’s the exact Flash game on their website.
The other is standard Pong game with a twist– the whole game field is obscured by the same red masking as the clues, necessitating the use of the red glasses.
You might be able to sort out the clues if you stare at the static images long enough. But you’ll be lost trying to find the paddle and the ball in this field without the glasses.
The game sleeve threatens that this is only Volume 1 so I will be on the lookout for more volumes. Or I suppose I could email the creators who still seem to be in business.
Update:: Thanks to my contact at Orange Design who informed me that they only produced 1 volume of this game.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Mac Games,Windows Games | Comments (2)
June 24, 2009
I’m on a real kick with these iPhone games. They’re irresistible for my purposes — inexpensive (I’ve been going for the 99-cent ones), simple, fun, casual games that are easy to write up for entry into MobyGames for cheap contribution points. The iPhone and iPod Touch make it effortless to capture, download, and organize a wide range of representative screenshots; the original cover artwork is trivial to separate from the main application; and the creators typically list their credits somewhere accessible (and there aren’t too many of them, which means that MobyGames gets to have credits for the game record but without too much effort on my part).
Enough about my motivations, let’s check out the games. First, there’s Bloons, a relentlessly colorful game in which a monkey sits atop a floating platform and uses darts to pop balloons. You use the touch screen to configure the velocity vector of the throw in order to pop as many balloons as possible. Sounds easy enough, but there are all kinds of catches, though not in the first level:
The first catch is that you have limited darts. Certain levels have special balloons that give you more darts. Then there are lots of other types of special balloons, such as the one filled with tacks– popping it will pop all of the surrounding balloons. Each level has a minimum number of balloons that must be popped before you are allowed to progress to the next stage.
Most levels beyond the first level have other obstacles, such as walls whose segments will disappear if you sacrifice a dart, walls whose sections are impenetrable by darts, and walls whose segments bounce the darts. This is the level that did me in during my first play sessions:
I like this game; it has the same trajectory/velocity gameplay that I have seen in many other places but with a twist I had not seen before. The only thing that really annoyed me (apart from the confusing difficulty met at only level 9) was that the screen orientation was opposite what I was used to for most landscape uses of the iPod Touch. However, the game was published by an outfit named Ninja Kiwi, a name that implies that they are in the southern hemisphere. Perhaps screen orientations are opposite down there, just like toilet flushes (or not).
Next up is Parachute Panic which features a rather distinctive art style made to look like crude pencil and crayon artwork on a sheet of notebook paper. The game also makes industrious use of the unit’s tall screen.
The parachuters need to land safely on the ships below, which may or may not be stationary. Tap on the ‘chuter to open their chute and swipe the screen in their vicinity in order to manipulate the weather to blow them in one direction or the other. Watch out for the varied threats such as sharks, helicopters, and UFOs.
Parachute Panic also features a curious a capella title song about falling. Why these people are parachuting in such deadly conditions is never really explained, though it could just be that the sharks need to be fed, as evidenced in the game over screen:
The last game is StickWars. Like today’s other 2 games, it is designed expressly for the iPhone’s unique control capabilities (unlike, say, Zenonia which had a console-style control schema overlaid on the screen). StickWars has the player defending a fortress wall from invading hoards using magic, apparently. When the stick figure invaders (those poor stick figures take a lot of abuse in today’s games) come on screen, touch them on the screen and fling them high into the air. That would have to be demoralizing to any advancing army and I’m frankly surprised that they have the courage to keep up the assault, level after level.
This flinging shtick gets old in a hurry so the game designer(s) made the act of flinging the barbarians rather lucrative (I think you know the expression: “Step 1) fling invaders; step 2) ???; step 3: PROFIT!“). With this money in the bank (and earning interest during each round), the player can fix walls, fortify walls, build prisons to hold prisoners rather than killing them outright, and lots of other stuff that I have yet to fully explore.
At the App Store:
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,iPhone Games | Comments (0)
May 31, 2009
I took a brief vacation a little over a month ago. It was the kind of vacation where I, you know, actually traveled somewhere that was a significant distance from home. And what did I think to do? Play games, of course. Not all the time, fortunately, but during certain downtime. I took my little ASUS Eee PC 701 loaded up with DOSBox and the ripped ISO images of most every DOS game from my collection still unentered into MobyGames.
Executive Summary: None were good. Surprised?
In 3D Cyberpuck, set in 2212, people have channeled their lust for violence into an ultra-violent version of hockey. The point of the game is to hit the goal but there are also lots of weapons and powerups that come into play.
I scored a goal though I am at a loss to explain how. I used my digital gamepad that I thought to bring along for the trip. However, this game was obviously designed for an analog joystick. If you have ever experienced that kind of mismatch, you know how impossible a game can be.
Next up is Megamaze. This is a game that requires at least 2 players and at most 4, so it’s a little tricky for just one person to try. Actually, it would also be rather difficult for the maximum 4 players to play simultaneously since all 4 are expected to use the same keyboard. The players simply roam around the maze and shoot each other.
The game was made by 2 fairly young-looking programmers, neither of whom took credit for the sound. My notes indicate that the sound was rather lacking (and the sample from the game over screen was clearly taken from “Aliens”). Somehow, I feel I can’t be too hard on the game since I made a similar game around the same time.
I tried Xerix II: The Caverns of Mars which, despite being freely available, is not in MobyGames. Maybe others have tried it but, like me, couldn’t get it to run.
Klondike Moon is one of those games that just goes clear over my head. It has something to do with outer space mining. According to my notes, you win a level when you pay off your debt, exit through the wormhole, and block others from making good on their debts.
The more pages that an instruction manual contains, the quicker I lose interest, unfortunately. I’m not looking forward to combing over the manual again in order to create a satisfactory MobyGames description.
Then there’s Tower of Fear. How old school is this game? Check out the video configuration:
It’s hard to believe this came on a CD-ROM (obviously a re-release). This probably would have been a halfway fun action game except for speed issues; I couldn’t make the game run slow enough. Either that or there were input timing issues so that I couldn’t control the character effectively.
At least Tower of Fear came with some interesting demos. Now this sounds like it would be more up my alley: Barney Bear Goes To Space.
One last game I tried was Absolute Zero, which is already in the database but without any appreciable action screenshots. When I tried to play, I realized that the the contributor who submitted the original screenshots probably encountered the same problem I did: the FMV transition segments ran too slowly. When I say “ran too slowly,” I mean on the order of 1 frame per second rather than, say, 15. I got as far as this news segment setting up the story with the headline, “Security Charged With Brutality.” You’d be angry too if you had to deal with this computer system.
- I went through this capsule review chore with a bunch of Sega CD games: part 1 and part 2
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,DOS Games,Sports Games | Comments (2)
April 17, 2009
M&M’s The Lost Formulas is a story about corporate mismanagement, wanton workplace hazards, and math. Yes, this is meant to be an educational game focused on math skills. It succeeds in being the harshest math experience I have had since the AP calculus exam in high school.
The red and the yellow candies are all set for their tropical vacation when Red thinks to ask Yellow who is in charge on the candy factory in their absence. Turns out it’s the M&M’s Minis who, to put it gently, are not qualified to perform the task. Yellow is charged with returning to the factory pronto and putting things back in order. The first level has him hopping in his ride and racing back to work.
The math comes in with math formulas posted on the side of the road. Soon afer, there will be 3 crates on the road. Choose the one with the correct numerical answer and smash through; the crates with the wrong answers are made of steel.
So you’re driving at an uncontrollably automatic high speed (scratch that– it’s possible to manually accelerate in short bursts to even higher speeds) in a car with tenuous steering at best, and then you have to worry about solving math problems in real time or smash up against a steel crate. It’s sort of a “scared straight” style of math instruction. All those math tests in school don’t seem so terrible when compared in this context, now do they?
The first stage driving will feel safe and secure in comparison to the horrors that await you at the candy factory, which fails to adhere to most occupational safety requirements. There is more high-speed driving in later levels (including on a forklift). But several levels are influenced by Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Yellow has to solve math problems in order to advance to the next numerical platform and avoid whatever workplace hazard is down below.
Yellow takes a lot of static from Red. Indeed, Yellow’s mannerisms are in keeping with a complete buffoon during the cutscenes. But he is an extraordinarily gifted acrobat as seen during the assorted 3D platform action levels as he effortlessly somersaults to and fro. Certain stages have Yellow on a conveyor belt marching towards a platform with 3 numbered doors. What door holds the correct solution? For this one, you have to be paying attention as you were hauled down the belt. There are various monitors with numbers in a certain pattern. Find the number that fits the sequence.
It must be noted that The Lost Formulas was developed by an outfit named Boston Animation. Another notable game they have to their record is Darkened Skye, a fantasy game infamous for its tie-in to another popular candy– Skittles. The credits for this game proved nearly pointless to process. While the Simon and Schuster (the publisher) credits were easy enough to understand, when the credits roll down tot he Boston Animation credits, every person gets a photo but most of the names are obfuscated.
Based on the MobyGames credits for Darkened Skye, I was able to positively identify a few of the photos and submit them to the database for posterity. But I decided against trying to enter the entire set. I don’t quite understand the motivation for this– The Lost Formulas is a fairly decent and well-engineered game, even if it’s a bit traumatizing in the educational department. They shouldn’t want their names stricken from the record over this work.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,Educational Games,Licensed Schlock,Mac Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
March 21, 2009
I have a CD-ROM containing a DOS game based on the 1992 movie The Lawnmower Man. So what we have here is an interactive movie created very early in the PC multimedia era (1993 copyright), based on an early example from the netsploitation flick genre, and created by an outfit called Sales Curve, a name that doesn’t exactly scream “hip, cool digital entertainment”. But, really, how bad could this possibly be?
What we’re looking at is a game that runs in DOS 320x200x256-color mode that is trying to offer a faithful representation of virtual reality (or what the common perception of VR was in the early 1990s). Technologically, the game is very uneven. Some animations appear to be 160×100 in resolution, doublesized by doubling the width of the lines and skipping the rendering of every other line. Many VR-type animations look like above (and that drives much of the game). And then there is the occasional movie clip digitized directly from the source film, and quantized to a blue scale:
I tried to remember something about the movie from all those years ago, but I think I blocked most of it out. I remember all the phones ringing in the final scene, a sign that Cyberjobe had taken control of the world’s computer network. The intro of this game recounts that finale and goes on to describe that the mass ringing caused massive political and economic upheaval throughout the (physical) world. I really don’t know why the game cares about describing the goings-on of the real world when this game is obviously supposed to focus on what happens in the digital realm.
During the same overly long intro, a bunch of Jobe’s enemies from the film get digitized into cyberspace. One digital entity — perhaps an enemy of Cyberjobe, or perhaps just the player’s neutral character — is shown trapped in the all-encompassing cyberspace and Cyberjobe’s lawnmower gets territorial:
Right about the time that I start wondering if there is actually a game here, rather than just an extension of the movie, the intro loops. I get the bright idea to press a key and the game begins (quick game design tip: lead into a menu sometime during the opening proceedings). What kind of game is on offer here? One that would severely lower the bar for even the bottom-scraping interactive movie genre were it not for the fact that this game is probably one of the pioneers of the genre.
As far as I know, this game has 2 actions: Jump and duck. In the opening stage, your virtual character is being pursued by the malicious lawnmower. He runs along a narrow plain and a disembodied female voice advises you on when you should perform which action. Since everything is pre-rendered, there is obviously a tiny window in which you can possibly react with either the up or down key. This game mechanic reminds me heavily of American Laser Games titles such as Mad Dog McCree and Who Shot Johnny Rock?. If you miss that window, as I often did, you are treated to one of the most drawn-out game over sequences ever in which the lawnmower runs you down:
About the company responsible for this game — Sales Curve — did they ever survive? Turns out that they did, but renamed themselves SCi games, apparently shortly after this game. I have even played at least one other of their games for this blog, the RTS game Gender Wars.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Action Games,DOS Games,Interactive Movies,Licensed Schlock | Comments (1)