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
The Sony PlayStation 2 is nearly 7 years old. Yet today was the first time I actually sat down and played an actual PS2 game. I got this PS2 unit some months ago, mostly for DVD playback. I have tried out a few PlayStation 1 titles on it. But I also have 3 PS2 games laying around.
The first one is called Evergrace, from the confusingly named FromSoftware. Apparently, this was a PS2 launch title. I purchased it while procuring a bunch of other cheap, old games from an eBay seller. Even though it was already in MobyGames (sans screenshots), it was cheap and in new condition, and I thought it might be nice to try a real PS2 game, and an RPG at that. I was disappointed. First, I tried to dutifully digest the manual before delving in since RPGs can be complicated. I have to pinch myself to keep from falling asleep since the manual goes into so much storyline. I skim the section on the controls and figure that they’ll make more sense in context, so I fire the game up. The first order of business is to check my speakers to see if anything is wrong. Nope– the music really is that cacophonic. Then the game assaults me with the same storyline I didn’t care about from the manual.
Eventually, the game gets rolling and you essentially have 2 characters to choose from — a guy and a girl — who will follow different paths in the game. Evergrace bills itself as an action RPG with an emphasis on equipment. I guess I’m supposed to kill creatures, get currency, exchange it for goods, and kill more creatures. I found the store, found out I was broke, went outside and tried to kill something, and learned that I was fairly ineffective in this task when using only my bare hands. I got bored of this quickly though I tried to give the game a fair shake. I even went back to the insomnia-curing manual a few times but couldn’t maintain the motivation.
The next title, Orphen: Scion of Sorcery, was also a launch title. I’m beginning to think that early adopters were awfully forgiving. I know these kind of graphics reigned supreme at one point but they seem fairly ho-hum these days. There is also the fact that for the past 7 years, I have largely been examining magazine and internet screenshots of PS2 games rather than seeing the actual games in action, which tends to elicit a far different reaction.
Anyway, Orphen– I had never looked too carefully at the literature for this one. I had always assumed it was an action game where the hero fired magic bullets. While that’s part of it, the game turns out to be of the genre action-RPG. RPGs really left me behind somewhere along the line. Mostly, I am used to the classic NES turn-based stylings of the original Final Fantasy game, the Ultima: Exodus port, and the classic Dragon Warrior series. The principle action in Orphen consists of encounters where characters square off with a number of enemies and quickly attack using offensive magic spells or magic weapons, or parry attacks with a magic shield. It’s RPG-ish, in a fast-paced way.
There is also some kind of storyline tying this all together. Based on the opening scenes, it was pretty obvious that Orphen must be based on an anime series, and sure enough. I’m not especially fond of anime to begin with and this game’s characters seem to embody much of what I despise. Still, I gave it the old college try. It’s a tad slow-going as you walk a few meters, run into a pre-scripted story advancement sequence, walk a few more meters, get more story, an enemy encounter, and then repeat. Apparently, that’s the whole game. The game’s copy lists as one of its key features “51 action-packed, event-based encounters.” I got through 5, maybe 6 of them, depending on how score is kept.
Finally, I decided to actually play a dreaded sports game– NHL Hitz 20-02. Generally, if I wind up with a sports game in my collection, it’s because A) it was dirt cheap, and B) because I wanted to study its multimedia files. This game served its purpose to that latter end. But how does the game play? The Hitz series is apparently a totally X-treme hockey experience based on licensed NHL teams. “No rules” is the overriding theme. The game assaults your auditory senses with Limp Bizkit in the opening FMV. Then there is quite a variety of activities available. Not only actual hockey, but violent minigames, such as body checking a number of players within a set time limit.
When I finally set up a screen capture process for my PS2 and Saturn games, at least I will know exactly what to capture for these 3 titles and be done with them.
Some of the top search terms driving traffic to this little blog deal with games revolving around a certain Mexican delicacy. (I am loathe to name specific search terms as that often has the effect of hijacking traffic from the more relevant page on my blog.) Of course, this is due to this series of games. Googling for the same terms to see what else could possibly be out there, I learned that Taco Bell is involved in another game distribution deal.
Included free in Taco Bell kids meals right now is 1 of 4 courses for 3D Ultra Mini Golf Adventures, a Sierra title that was released in April for the PC and Xbox 360. So, naturally, I was down at my local Taco Bell restaurant to procure all 4 discs, which can be purchased separately from a kids meal for a dollar apiece. I read that the promotion is scheduled to run through June 27 if, for whatever reason, you are motivated to gain possession of your own copies, which come with a number of kids puzzles including a simplified Sudoku puzzle. (Hint: I learned that these types of promotions tend to run at Taco Bell-only establishments vs. the increasingly common combo restaurant; e.g., Taco Bell/KFC combo restaurants are unlikely to feature these games).
This is the first time I have ever played a computer simulation of mini golf. I must say that I am impressed with this particular concept. I appreciate this game in the same way I appreciate outlandish pinball boards in computer pinball sims. Check out the Sly Serpent course:
The above is the second of 4 holes available on the Lost Island disc. The other 3 discs are named Carnival, Space, and Wild West. The full version of the game claims to feature a full 36 holes. Each of these Taco Bell-distributed CD-ROMs appears to have 4 holes each while the scorecard in each has columns for 9 holes. That would qualify each of these as demo discs. The reason I am hashing this over is that I am trying to understand whether each disc warrants entry into MobyGames.
While I’m trying to figure that out, here’s a screenshot from the Space disc which features the “Two Planets” hole where the hole is on a separate asteroid from the one where you are standing. Creative.
Regrettably, these games have no notable Taco Bell tie-in other than the branding on the CD-ROM promotional sleeves. No chalupa or burrito-themed courses.
I can already tell that April is going to be a fairly busy month and that this blog will go neglected for days at a time. That said, I just got 4 more fresh games from another eBay seller yesterday. And one of the titles was just too good to delay playing.
A.k.a. Beach King Stunt Racer (probably the European title as the manual comes in 4 languages), Bikini Beach Stunt Racer is the story of a courageous beach enthusiast’s quest to gather diamonds and perform dune buggy stunts in order to win bikini-clad feminine approval. The goal is to select one of three beach boys (stereotypical surfer jock, stereotypical food-obsessed party animal, or stereotypical drunken lush) and one of three tropical locales (St. Tropez, Bali, or Rio), and then drive your indestructible dune buggy around performing totally extreme stunts in order to earn the affection of the locale’s mascot lady. You might think risking your life performing silly stunts would be enough, but oh my goodness, no! She wants diamonds, too. Along the course, find 7 diamonds that complete her ring.
Examine the in-game screenshot:
In the upper left hand corner, you will observe the Babe-O-meter. This is the babe (Ms. St. Tropez in this example) you are currently trying to impress. She sits inside her ring which will show the diamonds as they are collected.
That screenshot showcases a rather serious but altogether enjoyable bug in the game. Sometimes when I would start the course, the dune buggy would jump 100 meters in the air and show incredible views of the modeled landscape while allowing me to twist and turn and get incredible scores, thus throwing the babe into throes of wild ecstacy, even if I didn’t survive after hitting the ground (the character doesn’t die, he just has to restart the level and with the same bug manifesting). We’ll chalk that up to a bug in the 3D engine. Here’s a slightly less severe bug in the same engine, though still disorienting:
It seems that the light source in this case is the sand, hence the shadow on the wall.
At first, this game is just obnoxious. But with a little practice, it actually becomes somewhat enjoyable after I start understanding how some of the stunts are supposed to play. Maybe with this, I’ll finally have the courage to try the stunt modes in Skateboard Park Tycoon. There is apparently a rich variety of outlandish stunts to perform in this game. Check out the intro video for the game which showcases all manner of physics-defying dune buggy stunts (my favorite is when the surfer dude surfs on some rocks that his ride is flying next to):
Everything in this game comes in groups of 3 with an unlockable fourth: 3 beach racers (with an unlockable fourth, an Elvis impersonator character, perhaps a cliche of a typical beach if I were ever to visit one), 3 locales (with an unlockable fourth, Daytona), and 3 bikini babes (with an unlockable fourth corresponding to Daytona).
And if you can’t play the game, I’m sure the next best thing will be to view the gallery of eponymous bikini babes on offer. The CD-ROM has 16 ending videos (AVI/MS MPEG-4v2/PCM), depicting the outcome of completing the various courses with the available characters. Ms. St. Tropez here will be depicted as washing the winner’s dune buggy while the man does something clumsy while gawking at her.
This is Ms. Bali, who will come running at the winner in romantic slow motion, her arms spread for the embrace, while the man always ruins the moment somehow and Ms. Bali is reduced to shaking her head in disbelief.
During her ending, Ms. Rio is depicted as dancing provocatively on a floating platform while the winner comes up to her dressed as that character’s stereotypical passion (surf board, ice cream cone, or bottle). Invariably, the character falls flat in the oversized costume while Ms. Rio keeps on dancing.
Those ending descriptions cover what happens for the first 3 unlocked characters. The same sequences ensue for the unlockable Elvis impersonator but always end up with him performing some dance that makes the woman faint. It’s all very abstract. Either that, or I simply don’t get it.
I told you I would revisit that Skateboard Park Tycoon game. I thought tonight would be a good night to do that thanks to the resoundingly dull experience with last night’s sim, Restaurant Empire (which, to be fair, I will probably revisit as well because I just feel that it should get better). There was at least one facet of SBPT that I had not yet experienced and that was the actual skateboarding action. Before I got into that, I wanted to try my hand at a new game and build from scratch with a fresh cash allotment.
There are three properties to choose from at the start, differing in quantity of real estate. There are also three difficulty levels to choose from: Easy starts you with $50K, medium is $10K, and hard is a measly $5K. It’s a good thing I started on easy again since once my park really got rolling, it seemed to hover in the neighborhood of $35K.
One of my first projects was to lovingly craft this monstrosity:
It looks sort of neat but scarcely any skater wanted anything to do with it, save for the platform on the lower left corner of the picture. That was an expensive lesson learned for when I start a new game.
5 days into my park’s operation, my first skater showed up. I’m not sure how that compares with my last game when I wasn’t really watching (and when I thought the skater was a mouse and tried to squish it). I sprinkled a variety of support structures all around the park which seem to satisfy the customer base. I also used the zoom feature (via the mouse scroll wheel) — something I discovered late in the game during the previous investigation — to great effect which allows me to have much more control over placement of objects. I created a network of railings of varying elevations in one corner platform which saw a fair amount of use. I also created what I would later refer to as the pain pit:
Ironically, this actually fulfills my initial goal laid out in my first SBPT post– to make sk8rs hurt. It seems to be immensely popular despite the fact that about 95% of the patrons go flying off into the pile you see on the right side of the picture. They dust themselves off and, like moths to the flame, come back for more.
But I finally started to hit my stride when I constructed this attraction:
I forget what it’s called, but I was careful to make it in 2 sizes because the manual emphasized that you needed to cater to a variety of skill levels. Indeed, these structures saw significant use. Another statistic the game provides is how much patronage each skating structure is receiving.
With much apprehension, it was finally time to try skating. Just like the main simulation part of the game, I wish I had tried the skateboarding portion earlier.
It’s not so scary after all! Actually, it’s extremely rewarding to be able to skate around and explore the park that you have carefully crafted using this 3D perspective. Above is my commandeered skater about to head up the ramp to the popular skating structure. I didn’t have time to try much in the way of tricks. I guess I can look forward to devoting at least one more gaming evening to this title.
Another in the series of Super Target dollar-specials, Ski Jumping 2004 doesn’t really sound like it would be all that involved. This turns out to be the correct assumption. I’m beginning to believe that these dollar games are little more than AOL delivery vectors as evidenced by the typical dialog presented as soon as you pop the CD into the tray:
The game is all about ski jumping. Don’t get me wrong– it’s based on a quite nice 3D engine and the programmers obviously know everything there is to know about the raw physics of ski jumping and have modeled them accurately. There are plenty of customizable parameters such as mountain, weather, and night vs. day run. But at the end of the day, it’s still a game about ski jumping. If that’s your thing then this is definitely the game for you. I admit I learned a lot about the mechanics of ski jumping and the support structures and layout of the runs. But after about 10 minutes I was prepared to move on. Though not before configuring the most terrifying run I could possibly engineer:
K185 mountain (185 meters, apparently, and the biggest K-number in the game)
wind from the side, and strong wind as well
Despite all that, I still couldn’t kill my player. The falls aren’t even that spectacular, at least not nearly as exhilarating as some I’ve been watching on YouTube today to bring myself up to speed on the sport and to verify the authenticity of this game.
Some other miscellaneous notes:
The game has a tutorial mode that laboriously walks you through each maneuver you need to master– the jump, the period of time when you coast through the air, and the landing.
Pictured above is the realistic mode. There is also an arcade mode which confused me because I was just watching other competitors jump. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to get a turn or not.
There are also networked multiplayer modes. I should hope this entails 2 skiers launching down the same run at the same time and trying to sabotage each other.
Certain screens kept demanding the CD and then bailing out. Fortunately, they were fairly inconsequential screens like credits.
The game makes heavy use of Ogg Vorbis files for audio (nearly 700 of them). My open source multimedia hacking readers will be interested to know that.