Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The 10 Best ColecoVision Games

My favorite classic video game system of all time is the ColecoVision, due in part to sheer nostalgia, but also in part to the console's wonderful array of games, most notably its stellar arcade ports. Without further adieu, here are my picks for the best 10 games in the ColecoVision library. (As you might know from some of my previous writing and interviews, my favorites tend to change from time to time--sometimes Lady Bug is my favorite, sometimes Pepper II or Mr. Do!, sometimes something else, but this list is how I felt when I wrote it.)

1. Miner 2049er

Miner 2049er was the first and best third-party game for the ColecoVision. Unlike its computer and Atari 5200 counterparts, the ColecoVision rendition offers gamers an 11th level of play (the Uranium stage). The brilliance of Miner 2049er is the way it infuses elements of Pac-Man into the climbing game genre: players, guiding Bounty Bob, must walk over all the girders to complete each level, but grabbing certain items lets gamers turn the tables on the pursuing bad guys, making for some intricate strategies.

Buy Miner 2049er on Amazon or .  

2. Lady Bug

Much more than a simple Pac-Man clone, Lady Bug features revolving doors, the ability to spell out EXTRA (ala Mr. Do!), and the ability to spell out SPECIAL, the latter of which lets players maneuver around a vegetable garden gobbling up fresh produce. The game is a wonderful port of Universal’s 1981 coin-op semi-classic, despite the fact that the creatures roaming the maze tend to flicker.

Buy Lady Bug on Amazon or 

3. Mr. Do!’s Castle

This sequel to Mr. Do! drops the maze game format of its predecessor in favor of climbing action. Players guide Mr. Do! the clown around the screen, up and down ladders and across castle floors, using a hammer to knock floor blocks on top of unicorns. The premise sounds unimpressive, but gameplay is anything but. Mr. Do!’s Castle does an excellent job borrowing ideas from Donkey Kong and placing them within the wacky world of Mr. Do!

Buy Mr. Do!'s Castle on .

4. Centipede

The best shooter for the ColecoVision is also the one of the best games in the system’s entire library. Based on Atari’s 1980 arcade game (which was the first shooter to amass a large female following), Centipede works extremely well with Coleco’s Roller Controller trackball peripheral, which helps make the game fast, fun, and furious. Graphics that closely mimic the coin-op classic cement the deal.

Buy Centipede on Amazon or .

5. Donkey Kong

The pack-in game with the ColecoVision system, Donkey Kong helped move nearly 1,000,000 consoles in its first year, thanks in part to a TV commercial showing the game’s incredible, arcade-like graphics. With the release of Donkey Kong, games for previous systems, such as the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision, looked downright primitive. The port only has three of the arcade original’s four screens, but it’s a blast to play.

Buy Donkey Kong on Amazon or .

6. Frogger

With its cute visuals, charming folk tunes, and simple four-way controls, the arcade version of Frogger (1981) was a huge hit for Sega. Parker Brothers capitalized on this brilliantly, bringing the game to a number of different consoles, including the ColecoVision. Only The Official Frogger for the Atari 2600 Starpath Supercharger tops this sparkling rendition.

Buy Frogger on Amazon or .

7. Frenzy

Despite the lack of voice effects, Frenzy is a fantastic port of Stern’s 1982 arcade game. Frenzy is the sequel to Berzerk and features the same type of robot-shooting action, but contains more colorful, more detailed graphics. Berzerk never made it to the ColecoVision (though it was released for the Atari 2600, 5200, and Vectrex), but Frenzy more than makes up for this shortcoming in the CV library.

Buy Frenzy on Amazon or .

8. Mouse Trap

A near arcade-perfect port of Exidy’s 1981 arcade game, Mouse Trap is a Pac-Man-inspired maze title that makes excellent use of the number keypad on the ColecoVision controllers. Pressing color-coded buttons opens and closes red, yellow, and blue doors, making the game a bit more complex (and more fun) than Pac-Man. The player-controlled mouse mainly eats cheese, but gobbling up bones turns the mouse into a vengeful, cat-chasing dog.

Buy Mouse Trap on Amazon or .

9. Slither

Like Centipede, this port of GDI’s coin-op arcade game makes excellent use of the ColecoVision’s Roller Controller trackball. Players guide a laser firing ship around a desert, shooting upward and downward at snakes (which get smaller with each hit), brush, and dinosaurs. Slither is fast and challenging, and blinking is kept to a minimum, adding to the game’s arcade-like look and feel.

Buy Slither on Amazon or .

10. Turbo

Based on Sega’s 1982 coin-op classic, Turbo comes packaged with Coleco’s steering wheel/gas pedal peripheral, which the company dubbed “Expansion Module #2.” The driving mechanism works well with game, giving it an advantage over Pole Position for the Atari 5200. Even more impressive are the colorful, richly illustrated visuals, which include icy mountain roads and city streets lined with large buildings.

Buy Turbo on Amazon or .

Honorable mentions: 
, River Raid, Spy Hunter, Tutankham, Zaxxon, Boulder Dash, Jumpman Jr., Mr. Do!, Space Panic, Tapper, Donkey Kong Jr., and Venture.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 -- GET ONE BEFORE THEY'RE GONE

My hardcover book covering EVERY Sega Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 game (U.S. releases) is officially out of print, but you can still get it on Amazon for a limited time. The book will eventually come out in paperback, but it will probably be at least a year.

The book covers EVERY U.S. release for the console, including stuff up into the 1990s, to Frogger--the last game in 1998. The cover cut-off date only refers to console generations. The three systems in the book came out in 1989, and the SNES came out in 1991, so that's the cutoff point in terms of consoles. But every game for all three systems has its own entry.

You can find links to sample pages HERE
In 2012, industry  icon Walter Day honored Classic Home Video Games, 1989: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and TurboGrafx-16 Games with an official Twin Galaxies Trading Card.
(click on the images for a closer look)
The third in a series about home video games, this detailed reference work features descriptions and reviews of every official U.S.-released game for the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, which, in 1989, ushered in the 16-bit era of gaming. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system followed by substantive entries for every game released for that console. Video game entries include historical information, gameplay details, the author's critique, and, when appropriate, comparisons to similar games. Appendices list and offer brief descriptions of all the games for the Atari Lynx and Nintendo Game Boy, and catalogue and describe the add-ons to the consoles covered herein--Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, Sega 32X and TurboGrafx-CD.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and a "Gothic" New Year to all my family, friends, and fans!

(click on the images for a closer look)

Friday, December 19, 2014

How to Get Published: 50 Successful Query Letters - NOW AVAILABLE!

Now Available for just $2.99 on Amazon Kindle!

"I’ve known Brett for a number of years. He's a top-notch journalist, and this book is full of fine practical advice."
~James Reasoner, author of the best-selling American Civil War Battle Series. 

(click on the cover for a closer look)

More than a decade in the making, How to Get Published: 50 Successful Query Letters is by Brett Weiss, who has authored seven books and has had hundreds of articles published in a variety of newspapers and magazines. A full-time freelancer, Weiss has been prolific on the web as well, writing for numerous markets. As Weiss will show you in this book, hard-working writers should get published frequently, and one of the most important aspects of this is to learn to craft a well-written query letter.

In addition to 50 real query letters that led to published articles and books (and in one case, a freelance writing job), How to Get Published: 50 SuccessfulQuery Letters includes tips on writing query letters, along with articles about and advice on writing in general. Whether you’re an aspiring writer longing to get published or you’re a veteran of the wordsmith wars, you’ll benefit from the behind-the-scenes information this book has to offer.

*An introduction with tips on writing successful query letters

*50 successful query letters written by Weiss, who makes his living as an author and journalist

*An essay on how Weiss “broke through” to become a successful writer

* “Anatomy of a Near Nervous Breakdown,” in which Weiss reveals how his writing career almost came to a crashing halt

* “How to Get Published,” which offers practical advice on the writing life

* “How Writing Can Supplement Your Income,” an article on how to write for publication while keeping your day job

* “Writers in Movies,” a fun feature on film versions of famous writers

* “The History of Typewriters,” in which Weiss details the origins of that most wondrous of writing tools

* An interview with James Reasoner, author of more than 300 books

*An interview with Brett Weiss, conducted by Chris Cavanaugh of Classic Gamer Magazine

Sunday, December 14, 2014

DC Comics Movie-Based Covers

From DC's website:

Lights, camera…COVERS!

Inspired by classic Warner Bros. movie posters, DC Comics’ newest batch of variant covers are fun, imaginative…and NOT coming to a theater near you. But you’ll wish they were. Whether it’s Supergirl realizing that she’s not on Krypton anymore, Aquaman fighting to Free Willy, Batgirl ready to lead the Revolution (just think about it for a moment) or the Justice League…well, it’s best to just see that one for yourself. 

These clever movie poster mashups are the most recent in our series of monthly variant cover themes. Previous themes include monsters in October, LEGO in November and this month’s amazing Darwyn Cooke variants. In January, we’ll be featuring variant covers that pay tribute to the Flash’s 75th Anniversary, while Harley Quinn steals the stage in February. Look for the 22 movie poster variant covers at your local comic shop in March, 2015.

These covers are incredibly cool--what a great idea. Someone at DC deserves a raise. Below are three of my favorites. You can check the rest out by clicking here.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Video Game Gift Guide 2014

Here's my annual Video Game Gift Guide, reprinted from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Regardless of what you call them—gamers, joystick jockeys, armchair warriors—video game players are both the easiest and hardest people to shop for when it comes to the holiday season.

If they give you a list of titles they want for a particular gaming console, all you have to do is run to the store or hop online and whip out the credit card.

However, if you want to surprise the gamer in question, or if you are purchasing something for an unnamed recipient (at your company Christmas party, for example), you run the risk of buying something many devotees of electronic entertainment already own, such as the mega popular Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U or the unimaginatively titled but ubiquitous Destiny for the PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

So why not buy something a little different, a little special or at least slightly out of the ordinary?

Here’s a list of nine items that most gamers would be happy to spot under the Christmas tree. Yeah, you should probably go ahead and keep that gift receipt, but you probably won’t need it.  
ColecoVision Flashback

Flashback to Christmas of 1982. Thousands of excited children awoke that morning to a shiny new ColecoVision, a “next-gen” console packaged with a stunning port of the arcade favorite, Donkey Kong. Kids who were especially un-naughty received a few additional games, such as Cosmic Avenger, Lady Bug and/or Mouse Trap.

Now you can recreate that experience (at least to some degree) for your own children with the ColecoVision Flashback, a plug-and-play unit with 60 built-in games (61 if you purchase the Dollar General version). Thanks to licensing issues, Donkey Kong and certain other key titles are missing, and the controllers have shorter joysticks than the original ColecoVision, but this is still an easy, cost-effective way to introduce younger players to the simple thrills of retro gaming.

Atari and Intellivision Flashback consoles are also available.

Buy ColecoVision Flashback on AMAZON
Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
It Books
By Blake J. Harris

During the mid-to-late 1980s, Nintendo was king of the video game industry. The legendary Nintendo Entertainment System dominated the Sega Master System and Atari 7800 in terms of both market share and cool factor. However, beginning in 1989 with the release of the Sega Genesis and in 1990 with the hiring of CEO Tom Kalinske, Sega became a major player, challenging and even surpassing the mighty Nintendo—it was a David and Goliath story for the ages.

In Console Wars, which is based on more than 200 interviews with former Sega and Nintendo employees, author Blake J. Harris captures this epic battle in dramatic detail, resulting in a narrative nonfiction work that will appeal to both gamers and business people.

Harris is currently co-directing a Console Wars documentary, which is being produced by Scott Rudin, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

Buy Console Wars on AMAZON.

Game Informer Subscription
Sunrise Publications

With so much free content available via the Internet, the age of the video game magazine in the U.S. is largely a thing of the past—such iconic publications as GamePro and Nintendo Power have gone the way of the rotary phone.

However, thanks in part to its connection to GameStop, Game Informer is still going strong, regaling readers each month with news, reviews, interviews and more, including reports on development companies and video game conventions. The articles are usually well-written and insightful, offering far more depth than most of what you will find online. Plus, a subscription, whether digital or print, offers several added perks, including 10% off used games.

If you are unsure if the person on your shopping list already has a subscription, simply ask a GameStop employee.

Buy Game Informer on AMAZON

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

Arguably the greatest first-person shooter series of all time gets an upgrade with Halo: The Master Chief Collection for the Xbox One, a new release containing Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary, Halo 2 (a high-def anniversary edition with extended cutscenes), Halo 3 and Halo 4, each with enhanced visuals.

The bundle also includes a variety of extras, such as a Halo 2 making-of documentary and access to the live-action digital series, Halo: Nightfall. Gamers can even check out the multiplayer beta for Halo 5: Guardians, a game that won’t hit store shelves until the fall of 2015.

This is a must-own for everyone ranging from hardcore Halo fans to those who have wondered what all the fuss was about, but have never actually played any of the games.

Buy Halo: The Master Chief Collection on AMAZON.

The History of Sonic the Hedgehog
Udon Entertainment

Sega exited the hardware business long ago—the Dreamcast was discontinued in 2001—but the company and its speedy blue mascot live on in such games as Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode II and Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, and in The History of Sonic the Hedgehog, a beautifully illustrated coffee table book now available in a more compact softcover version.

All but the most strident of Mario loyalists will fail to be charmed by this highly polished tome, which covers the history, the games, the spinoffs, the creators and the friends and enemies of Sonic. The book is Sega-friendly, so there’s not much negativity here, but it is a fun, informative read.

Did you know that Sonic wears red shoes because of Christmas? We didn’t either until we perused The History of Sonic the Hedgehog.

Buy The History of Sonic the Hedgehog on AMAZON.

Little Big Planet 3 Plush Edition!

If there’s anything more fun than opening a video game on Christmas morning, it’s opening a video game that comes with a toy. The Plush Edition of Little Big Planet 3 for the PlayStation 4 is just such a gift, packaged with a six-inched stuffed Sackboy, the chief protagonist of the game.

While the tangible Sackboy sits in your lap (or occupies a space on your collectibles shelf), you guide the onscreen character as he runs, jumps and climbs through an array of craft-like worlds. Unlike most side-scrolling platformers, Little Big Planet 3 lets players unlock materials that can be used to decorate, design and share customized levels.

Sackboy is joined by three other playable characters: Oddsock, who runs fast and does wall-jumps; Swoop, who flies through the air and grabs items; and Toggle, who grows large to weigh things down and shrinks to traverse small openings.

Buy Little Big Planet 3 Plush Edition on AMAZON.

Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition

Video games are all well and good, but it’s important to step away from the small screen from time to time in order to live a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. Enter Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’sEdition, a board game that the whole family can enjoy.

Designed for up to six players, the “Zelda-fied” take on the classic property-purchasing contest employs Deku Sprouts instead of houses and Deku Trees instead of hotels. Empty Bottle cards replace Chance cards while Treasure Chest cards supplant Community Chest cards. Instead of guiding a Shoe, a Car or other traditional token around the board, gamers maneuver a Triforce, a Hylian Shield, a Bow, a Slingshot, a Hookshot or a Boomerang. Naturally, rupees replace standard Monopoly money.

If you want to journey through the land of Hyrule and beyond without turning on the television set, this is the way to go.

Buy Monopoly: The Legend of Zelda Collector’s Edition on AMAZON

Nintendo 3DS XL - GameStop Exclusive NES Edition

Originally a playing card company, the Japanese juggernaut Nintendo turned 125 a couple of months ago. Next year, the Nintendo Entertainment System will celebrate its 30th anniversary. You can help the gamer in your life celebrate these milestones by giving him or her an NES-themed 3DS XL. With its handsome gray, black and red design, the handheld system pays tribute to the NES controller and console.

Other special editions of the 3DXL are available, including a Super Smash Bros. edition, and each are compatible with the entire 3DS library (along with most DS titles), including such franchise favorites as Donkey Kong Country Returns and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Buy Nintendo 3DS XL - GameStop Exclusive NES Edition on AMAZON.

Xbox One Special Edition Armed Forces Wireless Controller

The conundrum: your friend or family member loves his Xbox One, but you have no idea what to get him as he has all the latest and greatest games and is seemingly set for the foreseeable future. The solution: pick up this attractive Armed Forces Wireless Controller, which stands out from the pack with its camouflage design. Next time the recipient of this cool gift engages in a little multi-player action, and various controllers get strewn about the coffee table or couch, there will be no confusion as to which one is his.

More importantly, the device, which is ideal for the first-person military shooter genre, has a number of upgrades over the standard Xbox One controller, including vibration motors in the triggers that increase the visceral sensation of the onscreen combat.

Buy Xbox One Special Edition Armed Forces Wireless Controller  on AMAZON.