October 18, 2009
So far, all of the food-related advergames I have seen on this blog have been for items that are not held in high regard by nutritionists. So here is Dole’s 5-A-Day Adventures which promises to teach us all about proper nutrition and exercise in the most cloying ways imaginable.
So this is pretty straightforward. There are 8 areas, as seen in the above screenshot. Each one provides the player with a lecture about some aspect of nutrition or exercise, usually delivered by anthropomorphic produce (“Hey kids! Remember to eat lots of me and my friends!”). Here’s the phyto chemical parade. I’m trying to figure out if there is a demographic that would be old enough to comprehend words like “phyto chemical” yet still young enough to withstand the inanity of this game.
Afterwards — and the UI is a bit confusing in this respect — the player can choose to either take the Challenge or the Ultimate Challenge for a given area. The respective challenges are a bit misnamed. The unadorned “Challenge” is actually significantly tougher and revolves around trivia that is sometimes multiple choice (as seen in the next screenshot) and sometimes interactive (like having to build a food pyramid). Players earn tokens for correctly answering these questions.
The “Ultimate Challenge” is an insidious misnomer. These present a series of yes/no questions where correct answers are awarded a gold star each. After a little playing, you will no doubt notice a distinct pattern: all the answers are a resounding “Yes”. And they all seem to be somewhat behaviorally-oriented:
Other questions were along the lines of “I sang one of the 5-A-Day songs to my family”; “I sang a 5-A-Day song with my friends.” It was around this time that I decided this was a little messed up. Let’s face it– the only way that kids are going to be exposed to this is in a compulsory context in a classroom environment. And here is this automated mechanism dispassionately supplying repeated negative feedback if a child dares to answer that he or she did not sing a 5-A-Day song.
With any luck, some budding computer hackers exposed to this at a precious young age were able to reverse engineer the data file format, which the game was nice enough to store in a folder on the desktop. Let’s have a look:
Then launch the game again, select the hacked file:
Then call the teacher over to show off the fact that I successfully completed all the objectives in the game, and may I please go outside and play?
After feeling like I emerged triumphant in that skirmish, I checked my pantry only to discover a shelf of Dole brand canned products. So it seems Dole has won the larger battle here.
The CD-ROM I have is marked “2000 edition” and I found references on the internet dated as early as 1998. I also found a portfolio page from a company named IDD which claims credit for this game. IDD is not mentioned in the credits for my version, nor is their screenshot similar to anything in my edition. I was able to contact someone involved in the creation of this edition at eMotion Studios and my contact confirmed that there were just these 2 versions of the game.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Childrens Games,Licensed Schlock,Trivia Games,Windows Games | Comments (4)
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 22, 2009
Yep, one more. Another Barbie title that I overlooked during my Barbie gaming spree back in January. Honestly, I don’t know why I even bother to keep a spreadsheet of all my games if it can’t even help me keep track. MobyGames needs to have complete information on every Barbie game under the sun, and my sources indicate that we aren’t even close to being done.
So Barbie dons her fins and takes to the water in Barbie Mermaid Adventure. There are minigames aplenty, starting with the cuddlefish game (not to be confused with cuttlefish, at least, that’s what I’m asserting). The goal is to rock them all to sleep. If you pass by one that’s already snoozing, it will wake up. So there’s a little logic at work here.
These Barbie games (and Macromedia Director-based, kid-targeted games in general) are highly formulaic. So here’s the formula for Mermaid Adventure:
- 3 levels, each of which has:
- 1 rainbow dolphin
- 2 minigames
- 3 musicians
The goal of the game is to prepare the big party. In each of the 3 levels, find the rainbow dolphin. Before you can do that, you must complete the 2 minigames for the level. And while you’re at it, contact each of the 3 musicians jamming in that level.
Here’s another minigame, where it’s necessary to match 8 pairs of fish as they float around:
This game leaves me undecided about the aquatic doll — she’s either the most easygoing individual ever when faced with enormous stress, or she is a remarkable airhead who doesn’t understand priorities. The opening movie sets up all the problems (complete with all the juicy data I will need for a perfect MobyGames entry, which I managed to furiously transcribe, and I appreciate it was all explained right there in one place): We’re going to have a big party today with a carefully choreographed dance number to live music. But we need to personally invite the 9 musicians so that they can play — we’ll work out the music later. Oh, and the magic shell of light in the theater just broke. And that’s why we need the magical trio of rainbow dolphins — only they can repair it (I wanted to make a comment here about rainbow tuna nets but it’s late and I just can’t figure out a way to make it fit).
And Barbie still has time to spare to cheerfully listen to a clownfish tell silly fish jokes. I wager there are times when Barbie wishes she wasn’t so good with animals.
So while there should be 6 minigames, mathematically, there are actually only 4. There is one unique game per level, but one maze in each which Samika the Seahorse must complete. The goal for each of these mazes is to obtain something else for Barbie to wear at the party. I was a little stunned when I saw these boxer shorts:
Barbie assured me the item was actually a necklace. Naturally, there is an activity where you can decorate the necklace as well as earrings and a crown using the seashells collected throughout the adventure. Another non-game activity is to jam with the musicians.
One more minigame, and this one was predictably fun. It’s hard to go wrong with a Breakout clone which is what you must play to, well, save the whale:
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Barbie Games,Childrens Games,Girlie Games,Licensed Schlock,Windows Games | Comments (2)
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)
November 30, 2008
I remember when I first set out on this Gaming Pathology journey. According to my master spreadsheet at the time, I had around 80 games in my collection that were not in the database. My MobyGames records state that I contributed 106 games in 2007 and 30 games so far in 2008. Yet, my spreadsheet currently reports that I possess around 110 unentered games. Therefore, I recently resolved to not purchase anymore games until I have made a significant dent in the unentered games in my stock. And then there’s all the screenshot recon to be done!
So I have been reorganizing my computers recently. Most notably, I have decommissioned my Windows XP machine that was my central hub for this Gaming Pathology experiment. In its place, I have created a Windows XP VMware session on my Mac Mini. VMware Fusion for the Mac is supposed to have some nifty features for emulating DirectX so that gaming in a virtual computer won’t be such a drag. However, the virtualization program was quick to tell me that my budget-minded Mac Mini, with its economy class Intel graphics chipset, does not necessarily support all the latest and greatest features.
Somehow, I don’t think that this will be much of a problem given the types of games I often play, the bulk of which seem to be based on Macromedia Director. In fact, I thought I would eschew covering a new game for the time being and try one that I have been wanting to play for awhile: The Lost Island of Alanna, a Cherry Coke promotional game.
Unfortunately, as a result of my recent attempt at a full-on Mac conversion, I am still at a loss with regards to a decent graphics workflow. At the same time, I am also fighting with the newer image capabilities of the WordPress blogging software driving this site. Please accept this single screenshot that highlights what happens when running this 1998 vintage title on Windows XP without setting the compatibility mode to Windows 95:
X, not marking the spot in the cola-themed adventure
As mentioned, this game came out in 1998. I was excited to snatch this up for cheap on eBay, even though the game has a decent entry already (refer to said entry for better screenshots, which do not vary significantly from the ones I could post). I should have read the MobyGames entry a little more thoroughly. It seems that this game was heavily dependent on materials available at a now-defunct cherrycoke.com URL. I can certify that the game’s eponymous island is pretty much impenetrable without the clues on that website. The Wayback Machine doesn’t help much since I can’t find any front pages for the site that mention Alanna.
Again, though, I should have done a little more homework before my purchase, for there is a complete walkthrough available, listed through MobyGames. Not only that, but the walkthrough author saw fit to post an entire copy of the game at the top of the walkthrough. So, by all means, download it and give it a whirl, especially if you thought Myst was an unparalleled masterpiece.
While the walkthrough reveals every single detail needed to complete Alanna, it also contains a specific deep link into the old Cherry Coke website. This is invaluable for web forensics via the aforementioned Wayback Machine and thus I was able to locate the original online companion materials for this game. Behold: The Standlake University of Cultural Anthropology project on Alanna.
The Standlake University research notes appear eerily authentic. This represents a marvelous impersonation of a dry, boring academic website. Keep in mind that there are some people who believe that video games are supposed to be fun.
I’m ecstatic to report that I finished this adventure game, including the sliding tile puzzle, and I am unashamed to admit that I followed the walkthrough to the letter. I wasn’t going to bother until I noticed that the walkthrough actually had a 71-step process for solving the sliding tile puzzle. The same website, apparently specializing in adventure game walkthroughs, even has software for solving sliding tile puzzles.
- Myst, Alanna’s most obvious influence
- Taco Bell Tek Kids– now here’s a company that knows how to do promotional tie-in video games
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Adventure Games,Licensed Schlock,Windows Games | Comments (0)
October 16, 2008
Tonight’s title is extremely confusing. I was trying to keep with the theme of commercial tie-ins. I remembered picking up a Campbell’s Soup CD-ROM. The confusion alluded to in the title derives from these facts:
- There are 4 software titles on the CD-ROM and on the sleeve
- The titles imply that all 4 will be available on the CD-ROM (3 educational games and a calendar creation app)
- The CD-ROM displays a volume label of TMUNCHER; the closest any of the listed titles come to this title is Knowledge Munchers Deluxe
- There is clearly only 1 game on the CD-ROM — not 4 — and it has something to do with munching
So out of the 3 games that could have been on this disc, I fortuitously came to own the disc with the one game that presently has no entry in MobyGames — Knowledge Munchers Deluxe, which the title screen explicitly notes used to be known as Trivia Munchers Deluxe. So I guess when I get around to adding this game, I will have to list it as that latter title with the former title as an alias. And I will have to add this cover art set as a 1999 Campbell’s Soup re-release.
I am glad that my curiosity is finally satisfied pertaining to the ultimate payoff when saving Campbell’s Soup labels for education, something that many of us did as children (oh, please don’t tell me I was alone in this).
It occurred to me to search for ‘muncher’ titles. Turns out that there is a whole series revolving around a protagonist named Muncher. Muncher is literally hungry for knowledge. It is your job to guide him to the correct answers so that the little green glutton can gleefully gorge on them.
And that’s really all there is to the game. Our hero has 2 weaknesses– wrong answers (apparently poison) and adversaries, collectively known as Troggles, such as the overgrown slug pictured. The creators were obviously quite pleased with the various Troggles as they meticulously named and animated each one.
The trivia on offer is incredibly configurable and features levels 1-4 and ultimate. Within each category of trivia, the player can select sub-categories of trivia to be asked (or not).
One more interesting detail: this game has an original copyright date of 1996. What month was it released? Maybe this computer chip, embedded in the game over screen, serves as an Easter egg for video game historians?
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Educational Games,Licensed Schlock,Trivia Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)