Monday, April 22, 2019

Kids Say The Darndest Things About Video Games - Fortnite, Mario, and Mr. Do!

Funny Easter story about my five-year-old great nephew Cooper (pictured here with my niece Emily, his mom). He asked me about my favorite video game. I told him what I tell everyone: "Mr. Do!" After giving me a funny look, he told me his favorite was "Fortnite."

Then he ask me how many games I know about. I told him thousands and said, "Did you know I write books about video games?" He asked if he could see them, so I showed him my Super Nintendo book that my mom keeps in the living room. He said, "Oh, I've read that." He then opened the book to the "M" section and showed me how far he had gotten in the book: almost to the end. (My mom told me later that he had sat in a chair with the book in his lap one afternoon going through it page by page.)

Then Cooper asked if I had written any other books with pictures. I showed him my"100 Greatest" book that covers 1977 to 1987. He flipped through it and asked me about several of the games since he didn't recognize them. I then turned to the "Super Mario Bros." chapter with the pixelated image of Mario. He said, "Oh, there's the 'Minecraft' Mario."
不不不不不不



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Top 5 Blog Posts of All Time

I looked up my five top blog posts of all time and decided to share the results with you guys and gals. In order of most clicks, here they are:

#1. KISS is one of the most popular bands of all time, so it only makes sense that “My Interview with Lydia Criss, Ex-Wife of Original KISS Drummer Peter Criss” gets the top spot. You can read it HERE.

#2. It seems that everyone wants to sell their old stuff, or at least likes the idea of being a retailer on a small level. This explains why “Opening a Booth in an Antique Mall” is a popular article. You can read it HERE.

#3. When cheating scandal over Dragster for the Atari 2600 made news, it hit the mainstream. Thus, my feature called “Todd Rogers - A Funny Thing Happened at a Video Game Convention” is a perennial favorite. You can read it HERE.

#4. I was pretty wild during the 1980s, and people seem to get a kick out of reading about the times when I met famous rock stars. Check out “I Was a Teenage Concert-Goer--Or, How I Met Ozzy Osbourne & Paul Stanley” by clicking HERE.

#5. People like to sample before they shop, so “Look Inside - Brett Weiss's Retro Gaming Books” gets lots of clicks. You can read sample pages of my books HERE.

Thanks for the clicks, and thanks for reading!




Monday, April 15, 2019

Retro Video Game Review - Outlaw for Atari 2600


Outlaw
Atari 2600
Publisher/Developer: Atari
Fixed-screen shooter
1978

SYNOPSIS:

One of the first games designed by David Crane of Activision fame, Outlaw for the Atari 2600 is both a target shooting contest and a shootout game in one cartridge. When playing by yourself, you score points by shooting a moving target. When challenging a friend, the two of you (one gunslinger on the left and one on the right) fire away at each other.

Outlaw features 16 variations of play. In each of the games, an object such as a cactus, a wall, or a stagecoach moves or stands between the gunslingers, or between the lone gunslinger and the target. In the two-player games, the first player to score 10 points wins. In the one-player games, you've got 99 seconds to score a maximum of 10 points. Outlaw was patterned after Midway’s Gun Fight, which hit the arcades in 1975.

REVIEW:

Some things, like going to amusement parks and sporting events, aren’t much fun by yourself. You can add playing Outlaw to that list. Played alone, Outlaw is an overly simplistic and boring game. Played with a friend, however, it is a kicking good time. You'll laugh a lot as you and your frenemy duck behind and break through the various obstacles, taking potshots at one another.

Like most of the early Atari VCS games—Fun With Numbers and Maze Craze come immediately to mind—the graphics in Outlaw are barebones to say the least. With his cowboy hat and crouching shooting stance, the gunfighter is recognizable as such, but overall the sprites and color schemes are basic. When compared to other games of the day, however, Outlaw doesn't look too shabby.

One appealing aspect of Atari VCS cartridges from the late 70s was the number of gameplay variations. Many titles boasted at least 16 different games in one cartridge. While these extra games were generally minor variations on a basic theme, at least it seemed like you were getting more for your money. In Outlaw, the variations are certainly welcome. The difference between shooting through a wall and shooting past a stagecoach is indeed significant in terms of the strategies used for hitting your opponent while avoiding his or her gunfire.
 Outlaw is an imminently playable game that offers a good amount of enjoyment. Shooting through the obstacles to get to your opponent is a blast. However, when compared Combat, which is the best two-on-two shootout game from the era, it comes up a little short. With its tanks and planes, Combat offers more challenges, variations and excitement.

Check out my Atari 2600 book HERE.




Sunday, April 14, 2019

Retro Video Game Review - SlamScape for PlayStation


SlamScape
Publisher/Developer: Viacom New Media
Vehicle Shooter
1996

SYNOPSIS:

SlamScape for the PS1 is a 3D, behind-your-vehicle shooter set in a surreal world of bomb-throwing ferris wheels, deadly teddy bears, exploding balloons, bottled brains on unicycles, a Scary-Go-Round, a spinning seagull named Gullicopter, a monstrous creation called Crabzilla, and other bizarre enemies.

Your objective is to pilot a rocket-mounted pile driver called a Slamjet while shooting, blasting, smashing, and jumping most everything you see throughout four dangerous regions. Derived from your subconscious, the regions contain four heavily guarded Orb-Ids needed for level progression. Once you obtain these items, you'll take them to a central location within that level. You must employ a different strategy for each orb you wish to obtain.

Obtaining the Orb-Ids won't be easy as you're going up against 16 blood-thirsty opponents lusting for victory. While the default weapon is a Shockball, there are a variety of special weapons including Minetraps, a Fasterblaster, a Ripstar, and a devastating Torp, which is the most powerful item available. While flying in your futuristic craft, Nodensnaggers and Power Leeches will land on top of you, zapping your energy and draining your power.

SlamScape features a 3D graphics engine running at 60 frames per second and supports analog controls. Electro-rockers God Lives Underwater lent their musical talents for the interactive soundtrack.

REVIEW:

If SlamScape weren't so limited in scope, it would be difficult to know where to begin this review. The game fails miserably in just about every area of gameplay. For starters, the Slamjet is terribly hard to control. It bounces around in the general direction you intend to go while spinning and sliding unintentionally into a wide assortment of strange but unappealing enemies.

Precision moves are nearly impossible to perform. When you do manage to land a shot, it usually just barely injures whatever you're firing at. On other hand, your ship is killed easily after just a few hits. You're better off trying to avoid most of your adversaries than taking them on directly. Needless to say, this gets boring and frustrating very quickly. To make this game even more of a pain, off-screen enemies suddenly appear without warning and leech themselves to your vessel, sucking your energy dry. As if the game wasn't difficult enough already!

Most of the better shooters involve the destruction of hundreds of enemies as many people play these kinds of games, at least in part, to blow off steam and relieve stress. Other gamers simply get a kick out of wanton (but harmless) destruction. SlamScape offers almost nothing of interest in any of these areas. If anything, playing this game will make you want to pull your controller out of the PS1 and “slamscape” it into the wall. Everyone needs a few hard games in their collection, but poor controls and undue frustration do not make for a fun game.

Included in this package are three music videos by obscure alt-rock grunge/electronic band God Lives Underwater. Although tolerable, they're not a great band by any stretch; their music is as hackneyed as their name. Sadly, the music videos are the best thing about SlamScape.



Thursday, April 11, 2019

2-Volume Super Nintendo Book Set - ON SALE!

Amazon has a great deal going: The SNES Omnibus two-volume set is on sale for less than $67.34, which is a nice discount off the combined cover price of $99.98.

As of this post, The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M) is $34.28 while The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N–Z) is $33.06.

Check out sample pages from Vol. 1, which is available now, HERE. 

Check out sample pages from Vol. 2, which is shipping April 28, HERE.

With the two-volume set, which was written by an author (me) who has been gaming since 1975 and writing professionally about video games since 1997, you’ll get:

*Two deluxe hardcover coffee table books, each with a colorful centerfold featuring your favorite SNES characters
*More than 470,000 words; More than 870 pages
*Write-ups for EVERY U.S. release for the Super Nintendo; Each game gets at least one page
*More than 4,100 full-color images: box art, cartridge scans, screenshots, vintage ads
*Nostalgic stories from prominent YouTube celebs, programmers, authors, and other industry insiders
*Quotes from vintage magazines *Memories *Historical info *Reviews
*Essays on the Super Game Boy, the Super Scope, the Console Wars, and Super Metroid

Retro Video Game Review - Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee for PlayStation

Oddworld: Abe's Oddyssee
PlayStation
Publisher: GT Interactive Software
Developer: Oddworld Inhabitants
Adventure Puzzle/Side-Scrolling Platformer
1997

SYNOPSIS:

Odd alien Abe has worked for years as a slave at a futuristic meat packing plant called Rupture Farms. Though the plant prides itself on producing Paramite Pies and Scarab Cakes, the species the food is made from is on the verge of extinction. Using a full-fledged alien race as ingredients, the owners have come up with a new product called Mudokon Pops.

While eavesdropping on a meeting of the higher-ups, Abe discovers the horrific news; he and his people are of Mudokon ethnicity. Disgusted and terrified by this revolting development, the alien embarks on a journey to escape the vast planet and rescue his fellow co-workers. Unfortunately, the plant owners know of the revolt and are looking for Abe's head on a stick -- or in this case, a Mudokon Popsicle.

As homage to the days of Flashback--The Quest for Identity and Out of thisWorld, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee is a side-scrolling platformer heavily rooted with puzzle solving and, according to the manual, inexplicably challenging gameplay. Your job is to maneuver Abe through the dangerous confines of Rupture Farms and its bordering territories (Monsaic Lines, Scarabania) while sneaking, jumping, climbing and running for your life. The adventure will also have you solving puzzles by pulling levers to unlock doors, defusing bombs to avoid being blown to bits, sneaking past sleeping guards, speed rolling across the screen to evade gunfire, and other situations that challenge the reflexes and the mind.

While Abe's primary goal is to stay alive, rescuing fellow Mudokon aliens is a top priority. Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee allows you to communicate with fellow friends and bitter enemies with an exclusive GameSpeak system. By pressing the L1 or L2 buttons, you can say hello to fellow Mudokons and have them follow your or hold their position; Abe can also be rude and funny by laughing at the inhabitants or breaking wind in front of a guard.

REVIEW:

Before you begin playing Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, you'll need to have at least some idea of what the game is all about. At the very least, you'll want to understand its attitude and where it comes from. After you're introduced to a dark, yet humorous storyline, the game informs you in big colorful letters that "Abe's Oddysee is loading. Get over it!"
What you may not know until the game actually begins is that it requires spatial problem-solving skills and deductive reasoning with a healthy dose of trial and error on the player's behalf. This game constantly challenges and thoroughly keeps you on your mental and physical toes. Almost every screen features at least one action/strategy puzzle that you'll have to figure out. If you get in a big hurry on any particular level or screen, you're sure to die by bullets, electricity, a long fall or a number of other cleverly laid out obstacles and traps.

The environment of Rupture Farms is one of cold steel, darkness, isolation, misery, torture and horror; the darkly realistic, yet humorous graphics portray this H.G. Wells meets Alan Dean Foster meets George Orwell future very effectively. There are also surrounding territories such as the strange alien world of Monsaic Lines, the desert wasteland of Scarabania and the lush forest of Paramonia that drive the graphical premise home.

The soundtrack, although suitably foreboding and sinister, is remarkably and surprisingly restrained. It must've been tempting to fill this game with all kinds of distracting, over-the-top music that would ultimately have harmed its air of mystery, fright and intrigue. On the other hand, the sound effects are average at best. Some of the frequently recurring sounds are grating on the nerves, such as Abe reentering the game after being killed. Additionally, of the many noises the Mudokon can make, such as whistling, laughing and farting, most are unrealistic and not particularly funny. But these bodily noises do play a strategic role in the game as you can use them (among other things) to distract evil creatures bent on your destruction.
 
Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee handles quite well and that's especially important as many of the puzzles require split-second timing and instant controller response. Most of the screens provide a running commentary across the top of the playing field, giving you pointers and hints on how to get past a certain obstacle or solve a particular puzzle. Some of the commentary is meant solely for laughs. An assortment of sequels and offshoots followed, including Oddworld: Abe's Exodus and Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee - New 'n' Tasty! 

Check out sample pages from my video game books on Amazon HERE.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Retro Video Game Review - Paperboy for Nintendo 64


Paperboy
Nintendo 64
Publisher: Midway Home Entertainment
Developer: High Voltage Software
Genre: Mission-Based Racing
1999

SYNOPSIS:

An updated remake of the 1985 arcade hit, Paperboy for the Nintendo 64 puts you in the role of a Paperboy or Papergirl. Your job is to get on your bike and deliver newspapers to your subscribers within a specific amount of time.

While peddling along in the various 3D neighborhoods, you must avoid cars, cats, dogs, rolling tires, bad kids, kids on tricycles, workers and other dangerous obstacles (over 100 in all). Houses line both sides of the street and you must throw the papers in mailboxes and on porches. The farther you are from a mailbox when you throw a paper, the more time you will earn.

To help you with your delivery route, the following power-ups are available: Paper Spray enables you to scatter papers in all directions at the same time; Super Jump sends you high into the air; Monster Potion makes your character stronger (not to mention uglier) and able to throw papers harder; and Rocket Boost makes you fast and invincible. You score points for every paper you deliver and for jumping ramps and performing bicycle tricks like Handstands and Tailwhips. You also get points for breaking windows of non-subscriber's houses and for throwing papers at various obstacles.

There are more than 45 delivery routes in Paperboy. Each has a Bonus Course that can be accessed by collecting the three Bonus Coins hidden within each level. The game takes place in many different neighborhood environments, such as the desert, the beach, a spooky monster town and a park, where you must deliver papers to campers. Throughout the game you'll encounter a number of boss characters that you must confront, with the first being a monster running loose in Dr. Tesla's Castle!

REVIEW:

With its original concept, addictive challenges, handlebar controls, and sarcastic wit, the original Paperboy by Atari Games was an arcade smash. To do well in the game, players had to think of many things at once: aiming, steering, going fast or slow, restocking and conserving ammo, and avoiding or throwing papers at a wild assortment of obstacles.

It was a challenge to ride by the homes of subscribers and non-subscribers, as different strategies were required for each. Non-subscribers' homes were basically shooting galleries while subscribers' homes required a single, accurate toss of a newspaper. To get really good at Paperboy, many quarters were required.

Paperboy for the Nintendo 64 has many of the same objectives and goals as the original game. It all boils down to delivering papers to subscribers while abusing non-subscribers. In addition, the game is loaded down with the typical features one might expect from a late 1990s update of a mid-1980s Arcade classic.

You'll find tons of new obstacles, the ability to do bicycle tricks, a variety of power-ups, a diverse array of delivery routes and, of course, 3D graphics. The question is this: do the enhancements actually improve upon the original game or at least make the Paperboy concept fresh and exciting for a modern audience? The answer is a resounding no.

The original Paperboy was a linear experience. Once you passed by a subscriber's home, you could not go back, so you lost a customer if you didn't manage to land a newspaper on their porch or in their mailbox. In the remake, you can wander all over the place and go back to homes you may have missed and get them each a paper.

This aspect of the gameplay takes away some of the immediacy of delivering papers and removes the necessity of aiming correctly the first time around. In fact, aiming isn't much of a factor in the new game. Since the playfield is 3D, all you have to do is ride your bicycle right up to a mailbox or porch and simply drop a paper off. In the original Paperboy, throwing a newspaper in a mailbox was both challenging and risky.

Nonlinear gameplay and 3D graphics simply don't mesh well with the Paperboy concept. While the original game required full concentration and genuine skill on the part of the gamer, the Nintendo 64 version is challenging only because of poor, loose controls. Also, performing bicycle tricks and hunting for coins is boring and seems like a wasted effort since each level is timed.

The graphics in this game are weird and ugly. Slanted houses, odd angles and triangular characters add up to an unpleasant visual experience. The music and sound effects, which are flat and ordinary, could've easily been achieved on the less powerful Super NES.

Paperboy for the Nintendo 64 is a contrived and convoluted mess. It proves that 3D graphics and nonlinear gameplay don't necessarily make for a better game. If you own a PlayStation, do yourself a favor and pick up Arcade's GreatestHits/The Atari Collection 2. It includes the original Paperboy as well as five other arcade classics, all in their original forms.

Check out sample pages of my books on Amazon HERE.