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Monday, January 26, 2015
Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000
Developer: CSK Research Institute Corp.1995
A highly disappointing modernization of Sega's superior arcade game from 1982 (which was simply titled Zaxxon), Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 is similar to the original in that players fly their ship from an isometric perspective, and the object is to avoid obstacles and gunfire while shooting enemy ships, gun turrets, and other obstacles. However, the controls are sluggish, the 3-D polygonal graphics are blocky, there's tons of slowdown, and the bosses fill up an inordinate, frustration-inducing portion of the screen. Worst of all, your ship can't climb or descend, making the game all but unplayable. A two-player shoot-out mode and the ability to dock on special couriers in order to gain armor and additional weaponry can't save this game from its mother lode of faults.
The original Zaxxon was a visually arresting and highly challenging Arcade game, and it translated nicely to both the ColecoVision and the Atari 5200 systems. As a huge fan of Zaxxon 3-D for the Master System, my expectations were naturally high for this 32-bit rendering of the Arcade semi-classic. Unfortunately, Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 didn't come close to meeting a single criterion for what can be considered to be a quality gaming experience.
First of all, the controls for the game are incredibly limited. You can only move in four directions! This is astounding considering the fact that in all previous versions of the game you could fly your ship in eight directions. In this game, you can only fly left, right, forward and back.
Eliminating climbing and descending from the standard Zaxxon control scheme was an inexcusable act on part of the designers. It destroys a big part of what made the original game so very cool, that of flying above and below obstacles and enemy fire.
In addition to limited directional movement, the sluggish controls don't help much either. Most of the ships are clumsy, and tremendous slowdown occurs throughout the game, especially in the midst of a battle with a giant boss. Many times you'll feel as though the game is taking place underwater instead of in outer space.
While not bad in theory, battles with the giant, robot-like bosses present a boring and frustrating experience. The bosses are so big that, when combined with various large obstacles, they often take up an inordinate amount of screen space, giving the game a claustrophobic and uncomfortable feel.
The ability to jump from your standard ship into a courier ship adds little enjoyment to the game, and you won't find any of the weapons systems as very interesting or memorable. Equally, the two-player mode pathetically tries to add some pizzazz and originality to the game. Poor controls, horrendous slowdown and dull gameplay plague this portion of the cartridge as well.
OTHER ZAXXON GAMES:
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Into each generation, a Slayer is born. One girl, in all the world, a Chosen One. Or so the legend goes on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the now-classic horror series created by Joss Whedon. The show follows the exploits of Buffy Summers, gorgeous high school student by day and vampire hunter by night.
Using her super strength, heightened agility, lethal weapons (primarily sharp stakes) and wicked one-liners, she patrols the town of Sunnydale, which sits on the threshold of the Hellmouth, a vulnerable spot where forces of darkness are frequently unleashed upon the Earth.
Joining Buffy in her fight against the undead are members of the so-called Scooby Gang. The Scoobies include Willow, a computer hacking witch; Xander, a wisecracking wiseacre; and Anya, an ex-demon with a propensity for social faux pas. Watching over the group (and Buffy in particular) is ex-librarian Giles, an erudite British gentleman with a fondness for arcane, mystical reference tomes.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Game Boy Color finds Buffy in a world of trouble. Mesmerized by vampire Ethan Rayne's reading of the Book of Ancients, a coven of vampires from different countries has descended upon Sunnydale by way of the Hellmouth.
There are six standard types of vampires in this coven: Tux Vampires, Punk Vampires, Disfigured Vampires, Tribesman Vampires, Euro Vampires and Guardian Vampires. Master vampires (bosses) include Ninja Vampires, Viking Vampires and Beast Vampires.
These creatures of the night are raising hell in various spots around town, including the old mansion, the graveyard, the zoo, the cemetery, the sewer and the city streets. They've even crashed The Bronze, which is the local hangout, and The Initiative, which is a covert military facility that captures and/or kills vampires and demons.
As the Scooby Gang's key member, Buffy Summers, you'll run, jump and slay your way through eight levels of vampire-infested action. To vanquish a vampire, you must hit it and/or kick it until it falls beneath your slayer might. Once a vampire is down, you must stake it and watch it turn to dust. You can also throw the undead, block hits, roll on the ground and perform super leaps.
If you get knocked down, a vampire will jump on you and drink your blood. No matter which level you are playing, you will face only one vampire at a time. Arrows point your way to each successive bloodsucker. Throughout the game you can find soda cans that will enable you to do super punches and kicks. Paint cans and other items are scattered about for use in throwing at enemies.
In between each level you can watch a series of cut-scenes featuring dialogue between the characters. One scene even refers to Angel, the Buffy spin-off featuring her ex-boyfriend, a vampire with a soul. Angel's secretary Cordelia phones to warn Buffy of a dream that Angel has had in which Buffy is in danger.
A game of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends when Buffy's life bar has fully depleted. After each level, a password appears, giving you a save point for after you shut down your game system.
As expected, Buffy makes her way around various locations throughout Sunnydale and kills vampires. What wasn't expected was just how mundane this could be. No matter how far you progress in the game, Buffy only goes up against one vampire at a time. Apparently, being undead makes the creatures of the night brain dead and they never think to pair up or form a pack. Buffy is supposedly going up against a coven of vampires, but they never act very coven-like.
Until you reach the Hellmouth (the seventh level), the game is ridiculously easy. To defeat most of the vampires, all you have to do is punch them a couple of times, then do a lower kick to knock them down, then stab them with your trusty stake. For the average gamer, it is entirely possible to beat the game in one sitting. The bosses are about as easy to kill as the standard enemies.
The levels in Buffy have no obstacles (such as electrified fences) and no traps (such as fiery pits). On some of the levels, you do have to jump up to reach platforms, but your life is never in danger while you are jumping. Even worse, there are no non-vampire enemies to fight. Where are the werewolves or the demons? There's not even a lousy rat to trip over. You can see the eyes of the hyenas at the zoo, but they are merely background eye candy.
And what of hidden items, alternative weapons and secret passages? None to be found. Sure, occasionally you can pick up a can or something to throw at the vampires, but this feature is all but useless. It's easier and more expedient to simply engage the vampires in hand-to-hand combat. When a vampire isn't onscreen, you can't even pick up the items.
MORE BUFFY GAMES:
WATCH BUFFY ON DVD:
Friday, January 23, 2015
Q*bert - PlayStation
Publisher: Atari Interactive, Inc.
Developer: Artech Studios Ltd.
Also for: Dreamcast, Macintosh, Windows
Hasbro Interactive continues their series of classic Arcade game remakes with Q*bert for the PlayStation. In this disc you'll find the original game, a new Adventure mode and a special Head-To-Head contest. Those of you who misspent your youths in the Arcades will recall that the original Q*bert stars a little round orange guy with bulging eyes, a round snout for a nose, short legs and no arms or torso. Your job is to hop Q*bert around a pyramid of cubes and change the colors of the cubes to a target color. In later rounds, you will need to change the colors of the cubes more than once in order to achieve your goal. Once the entire pyramid has been changed to the target color, you advance to a new pyramid.
While you are hopping Q*bert up and down the cubes of each pyramid, enemies, most of which are deadly to the touch, will try and stop your progress. Another way to die is to hop off of the pyramid without landing on one of the three discs that are placed above and beside the pyramid. These discs are useful when enemies, such as Coily the snake (Q*bert's archenemy), are in hot pursuit. Green enemies and objects can (and should be) be touched, and some of them cause trouble. For example, Slick and Sam wreak havoc by hopping on cubes and changing their color.
In the Adventure Game, Q*bert's home world and friends, including Q*dina (a female version of Q*bert), have been kidnapped by Coily the snake. You must brave four unique dimensions with six levels each in order to find four pieces of the Magic Disc. Once again, you must hop on cubes to change them to a target color (or colors), but this time the playfield varies in shape from level to level and there are lots of new enemies and features. You'll discover bonus rounds, secret levels and special cubes that score you bonus points or transport you to new locations. Also, power-ups, such as keys, smart bombs, speed boosters, torches and other useful items, will help you defeat enemies and complete levels.
In the Head-To-Head competition, one player controls Q*bert and the other assumes the role of Q*dirk. Yes, once again, cube-hopping is the name of the game. Q*bert's cubes are orange, Q*dirk's are blue, and green cubes are shared. Players must complete their own color cubes while trying to grab as many green cubes as possible.
Many of the Head-To-Head cubes can be used to foil the other player. For example: A Coily Spawn Cube will produce a snake in your opponent's playing field; a Camera cube reduces the visibility of the opposite player's cubes; and a Trigger cube sets off an explosion for tagged cubes in your opponent's playing field.
Q*bert for the PlayStation is exactly what an updated-for-the-'90s remake of a classic Arcade game should be. It includes a fantastic replica of the original game, a graphically enhanced version of the original game, an utterly mesmerizing Adventure mode and a highly competitive, endlessly enjoyable Head-to-Head mode. Q*bert has made a very smooth transition from all-time classic to PlayStation stalwart. Anyone doubting the validity of Hasbro Interactive's efforts in preserving and expanding upon videogame history should look no further than this disc.
Most anyone who haunted the Arcades in the early 1980s remembers Q*bert. It was a quirky game with unique controls, addictive gameplay, crisp graphics, bright colors and a humorous mascot ("%&@!&!!?#!"). It was a game boys and girls and men and women could enjoy. It was cute and easy to learn, yet challenging once you got past the first few screens. Q*bert for the PlayStation stays faithful to the original game, even in the Adventure and Head-to-Head modes of play. The basic goal of hopping on cubes is left firmly intact while new worlds, cool power-ups and strange camera angles add interesting elements of challenge to the familiar formula.
The variety of worlds in the Adventure mode is excellent. You'll travel through atmospheric lands both near and far that evoke a variety of moods and locations. You'll hop on gothic castles, towering skyscrapers, foreign villas and other cool structures and environments. Whimsical, art deco-style levels will dazzle your eyes with blinding color. There are all kinds of crazy designs and wacky cube arrangements; fans tired of hopping on the same old pyramid will welcome the variety and constant change of pace.
The Head-to-Head mode adds a whole new dimension to the gameplay; sending Coily or another enemy to your opponent's side of the screen or thwarting your opponent by screwing with the camera angles is a lot of fun. Also, there are strategies involved. Should you try to be the first one to finish a level, or should you go strictly for points? How much should you concentrate on foiling your opponent's game plan? What about the bonus cubes?
There are only two complaints I have with Q*bert, but they are minor. The controls are solid, but they are not perfect. Occasionally, you will die and you will swear that it is the gamepad's fault and not your own. Also, in the Head-to-Head mode, the penalty for dying is not strong enough. You are given infinite lives and you get to return to the action immediately after you hop off of the playfield or get squashed by an enemy. I don't mind the infinite lives within the context of this particular game, but a few seconds should elapse before you are permitted to continue play.
OTHER VERSIONS OF Q*BERT:
Thursday, January 22, 2015
Mark your calendars for RetroFest, a small video game con in Fort Worth, Texas on April 18, from 12-6.
Come buy, sell, and trade your consoles, games, toys, and comics. Street fighter arcade tournament, Smash Bros. tournament for prizes. $4 general admission. 100% of the proceeds go to send kids to summer camp.
Check it out HERE.
My article on road movies appeared this past summer in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Here it is, reprinted for your perusal:
Summer is a great time to gas up the family truckster and hit the road, whether you want to travel cross country or simply dash up to WinStar for a little gambling or down to Austin for some primo live music.
If you want an adventure closer to home, you could take the short drive to your local theater and watch the newly released Road to Paloma, which tells of a Native American named Wolf (Jason Momoa), who travels the American West via motorcycle, looking to unleash some vigilante justice on the man who raped and murdered his mother.
Or you could take the alternate route and check out a road picture in the comfort of your home. Here are 10 such films—all available on DVD and through various streaming services—listed in chronological order:
Road to Singapore (1940)
The year 1940 is nowhere near as revered as 1939 in terms of famous film releases, but it is certainly no slouch, giving cinephiles such classics as The Philadelphia Story, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, and Pinocchio. One of the funniest films from 1940 is Road to Singapore, the first of seven “Road to…” pictures starring Hollywood legends Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
The comedic duo, who exchange witticisms throughout and sometimes break into song and dance (and fight) numbers, vow to give up women until they happen upon the lovely Mima (Dorothy Lamour), whom they adopt as a caretaker. For good, old-fashioned entertainment with a dash of exotic island irreverence, Road to Singapore is hard to beat.
Easy Rider (1969)
Most great hippie movies from the 1960s are music documentaries—Woodstock and Monterrey Pop immediately come to mind. However, there are a handful of interesting hippie dramas from the flower power era, most notably the counterculture classic Easy Rider, in which Peter Fonda (as Wyatt) and Dennis Hopper (as Billy) hit the open road on their motorcycles, heading from Los Angeles to New Orleans.
Their destination is Mardi Gras, but as with Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters (as documented in 2011’s Magic Trip), their true journey is to discover America. In addition to meeting likeminded folks—they hang out at a commune and are joined by comic relief in the form of ACLU lawyer George Hanson (Jack Nicholson)—they encounter nasty, hate-filled rednecks.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
Every late 1970s-era teenage male wanted—make that craved—the black, gold eagle-decorated Pontiac Trans Am Burt Reynolds (as Bo “Bandit” Darville) drove in Smokey and the Bandit. A dated but still enjoyable comedy, the film also starred Sally Field as the runaway bride, Carrie. Who can forget Carrie, riding shotgun, changing out of her wedding dress while Bandit speeds down the highway?
Acting as a “blocker” for a truck hauling an illegal beer shipment from Texarkana to Georgia, Bandit is chased by a very funny Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), a profane, short-tempered sheriff who chews every word of his southern-fried dialogue to pieces. And, of course, there’s the infectious theme song sung by Jerry Reed (who drives the aforementioned truck): “Eastbound and Down.”
The Muppet Movie (1979)
If you grew up watching The Muppet Show during its original run, you were likely excited by the release of The Muppet Movie, which revealed Kermit the Frog’s origin and his feet—watching him ride a bicycle is a hoot, not to mention a nifty special effects trick. One day, while Kermit is perched on a log in a Louisiana swamp, singing “Rainbow Connection” and playing the banjo, an agent (played by Dom DeLuise) tells him he ought to be in pictures.
Thus, “Kermie” sets off on a cross-country trip to Hollywood, meeting many of his Muppet buddies along the way, including Miss Piggy, who immediately falls in love with the amiable amphibian. Seven theatrical “Muppet” movies have followed, but the original remains a distinct pleasure and a rollicking good time.
National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
If you’ve ever looked at a famous tourist destination, briefly nodded your head and walked away, you’ve probably seen Vacation more times than you’ve been on vacation. If you’ve ever served a casserole and said, “I don't know why they call this stuff Hamburger Helper; It does just fine by itself,” you probably need a vacation from watching Vacation.
In short, Vacation is one of the most copied, most quotable comedies ever released, nailing the agony and the ecstasy of the family road trip like no other movie before or since. As played by Chevy Chase, Clark Griswold’s sincere desire to provide his wife (Beverly D'Angelo) and kids with “family fun” is truly infectious.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
The road movie subgenre is ideally suited to the comedy film. Nowhere is this more evident than in John Hughes’ Plans, Trains and Automobiles, a laugh-out-loud odd couple story in which uptight marketing executive Neal Page (Steve Martin), trying to get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, pairs with Del Griffith (John Candy), a loud, obnoxious, overly optimistic salesman. Griffith would make for a great crazy uncle, but he’s a terrible (if sympathetic) travel companion, telling bad jokes and setting fire to the quarrelsome couple’s rental car.
Filled with heart and humor, Plans, Trains and Automobiles is most fondly remembered for the burned up (but drivable) car, Page’s F-bomb tirade and the embarrassing snuggle buddy wakeup line, “Those aren’t pillows!”
Thelma & Louise (1991)
The ultimate female empowerment film of the 1990s, Thelma & Louise proves that women can hit the road and get into trouble with as much gravitas as any man. Housewife Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis) and waitress Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon), both frustrated with their lot in life, head out in a ’66 Thunderbird convertible for a mini-vacation in the mountains.
Unfortunately, the world is a cruel place, and their two-day dash for temporary freedom is corrupted by theft, murder and attempted rape. Look for Brad Pitt as J.D., a cowboy hat-wearing hitchhiker and “gentlemanly” robber whom Thelma takes a liking to.
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
There’s a scene in Little Miss Sunshine—an engaging, character-driven, satirical ode to non-conformity—in which the dysfunctional family at the center of the film gets pulled over by a police officer while they are driving to California. The dad advises, “Everybody just appear to be normal.” This is impossible given the makeup of the family, which includes a failed self-help guru (Greg Kinnear), a heroin-addicted grandfather (Alan Arkin), a suicidal Proust scholar (Steve Carell), and a Nietzsche-reading teenager who has taken a vow of silence (Paul Dano). The reason for the road trip is so the bespectacled, somewhat awkward daughter (Abigail Breslin) can enter a beauty pageant.
Released in 1999, Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace was a terrible movie, hampered by wooden acting, a bland plot and easily the most annoying character in the series: Jar Jar Binks. Fanboys, set in 1998, is no masterpiece (The Big Bang Theory does a better, more intelligent job of poking fun at nerds), but it is an amusing (if far-fetched) film in which a quartet of Star Wars fanatics and their female companion (Kristen Bell) scheme to break into Skywalker Ranch, steal a rough cut of The Phantom Menace and see it before it hits theaters. Prior to screening Fanboys, you should set phasers on fun (oops, wrong franchise).
The Road (2009)
One of the bleakest stories ever put on film, The Road is based on Cormac McCarthy’s dense, post-apocalyptic book of the same name, which was released in 2006 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Unlike most of the other movies on this list, The Road is deeply depressing, offering only the slightest glimmer of hope as a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travel south (toward the ocean) through a ruined gray wasteland harboring few survivors, including some who have resorted to cannibalism. At various points, the boy asks his dad (and the viewer, perhaps?) if they're “still the good guys.” For the sake of humanity, let’s hope so.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Classic Console Magazine, available to download for free.
You can check it out HERE.
Here's the info from the publisher:
Other gaming magazines currently available:
You can check it out HERE.
Here's the info from the publisher:
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