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Every Game I Own

A random review of 30 years of video games




March 3rd, 2009

Instead of review Gauntlet (which I own as an arcade emulation on the PlayStation, and as the Tengen title for the Nintendo Entertainment System) or Dandy (the predecessor/ancestor of Gauntlet, for the Atari 8-bit), or Dark Chambers (the child of Dandy /slash/ clone of Gauntlet for the Atari 7800 and other systems), I just wrote my own.


December 18th, 2008

Club Drive (aka Poop Car)

Blame my 2 year old son on that name.

Club Drive looks (and feels, from what I remember) a lot like Hard Drivin', Atari Games polygonal arcade stunt driving game.  It's for the Atari Jaguar, the old 64-bit system that came out before the Sony PlayStation.  And it's no WipeOut or Twisted Metal, by any means.

However, despite the poo-poo reviews I've seen around the web tonight, I actually enjoyed it.  Not that I'm eager to race back to it.  It's not really a very good race game.  It has a racing mode, but not really any opponents (unless you play 2-player... which I can't, because I gave my other Jaguar and controller to a friend recently.)

Club Drive has four 'worlds' you can play in.  The default, "Jerome's Pad," is the interior of a house, and your car is RC-sized.  It's the most interesting, and least 'start-to-finish' shaped.  It also includes a big blocky orange cat-shaped thing sliding around chasing a triangular-shaped mouse-like thing.

My son decided this game is "poop car" because there's a toilet in the bathroom, and if you bump the car into it a flushing sound effect plays. Along with this, he really got a kick out of pappa plummeting into the ocean in the San Francisco level. (Well, either he enjoyed it, or it really stressed him out.)

I believe Hard Drivin' was the first 'realistic' driving game with simulated physics. This game does as well.  And although this game has some annoying habits when it comes to your car toppling around, you can push [1], [2] or [3] to reset the car to upright.  And it's not horrible, like that piece of crap Twisted Metal 3.

Club Drive has a few interesting features that set it apart from a traditional racer.  To me, that makes it more interesting than if they had tried to turn it into a strict racing game. (Unless they improved framerate, physics, and added opponents, they would have failed at that quite horribly.)

(1) Camera angles.  Some games let you choose 'inside', 'on the hood', 'behind', 'further behind.'  Club Drive has a few of those, but it also seems to have some set camera positions that follow you for a while (you might, for example, end up driving across the screen from the left side to the right), and the ability to stare at your car from the front. (Not just a quick 'rear view glance'.) Which is... odd.

(2) Rewind.  Years before Prince of Persia was chucking handfuls of sand around, Club Drive allowed you to rewind. Go back to just before that fatal mistake. Or hell, go back to the beginning.  Some PlayStation racers had 'replay' after-the-fact, but I don't think I've ever seen any other car driving game with a 'rewind' button.

(3) Collect the balls.  Not only is the default locale the inside of a house, the default gameplay mode is a 'collect the balls' game, where you drive around trying to find little objects that you're supposed to collect.  So really, the minute you plug this cartridge into your Jaguar and start playing, it's nothing like a typical "racing" game.  You're in a house, driving past the cat, up a ramp, to collect an electric fuzzball...

Now, I could just be saying all this because I was so pleased that my son was excited about this game (and not hitting the power button, or trying to hog the controller).  But really, I think my only real complaint about this game is the music.  It's pretty bad... and I tried all the radio stations. :(


December 7th, 2008

Warlords and Castle Crsis

Our son's 2nd birthday was yesterday, and once all of the other kids and parents were gone, we were left with a few of our closer, child-less friends.  One of them seemed pretty keen on playing Atari (since he hadn't since he was a kid), so I popped "Indy 500" (see previous review) into my 7800 and we took it for a "spin."

My son, who was in a particularly good mood after having had hours of fun with other kids and family, was kind enough to not hit the power button, or pitch a fit.  In fact, he was yelling "go! go! go!" while we raced.  (Which he started yelling today when he saw the Indy 500 controllers again.)

Of course, with so many people in the room, I couldn't resist putting my copy of Warlords in so we could have some 4-player fun.

After a round or two, I recalled that I had a modern (written and published in the last few years) Warlords style game for my Atari 800XL, "Castle Crisis."  It was a hit.

I wasn't really familiar with the original, arcade version of Warlords until years after seeing the Atari 2600 version. It's one of those arcade games that was already pretty old by the time I started going to arcades, in the early-to-mid 1980s.

Castle Crsis seems to be a spot-on reproduction of the arcade version, while the 2600 title was much simplified.  There's more to it than just the more highly-detailed graphics (it includes an animated sequence of a dragon coming in and launching the first fireball...)

Using the fire button to hold onto a fireball causes small flames to fly back towards your castle, causing damage.  So unlike on the 2600, you can't hold the ball indefinitely without some penalty.

(Notice the Atari 'fuji'-shaped symbol in the crown.)

The best part, though, is multi-ball mode.  After a castle is destroyed (or sometimes when the game thinks things are going too slowly), an additional ball will appear.  In the end, most of the games we played ended up with 2 players defending themselves against 4 fireballs, without really any chance (or much time) to do anything offensive.

Definitely worth having two pairs of paddles (and at least three friends). :)

December 4th, 2008

Indy 500 (RARE)

When I was a young kid, there was a teenager down the street that had an Atari 2600 too, and lots of cool games that we didn't have. My brother and I would go over to play, or sometimes borrow a game. One of the games I haven't played since those days is "Indy 500." It's fairly special (and considered "RARE" on eBay, it seems), because it has its own special controllers.

The "Driving Controller" looks a lot like a "Paddle Controller", but it's actually a rotary controller... it can spin around over and over again.  It's like a ball-based mouse, a trackball, or the volume knobs on more modern stereos.  As it spins, little digital bits get flipped in a pattern, and the game can tell how fast and in what direction you're spinning it.  This is versus an analog paddle, which is a potentiometer that reads some value between ~0 and ~255.  You can only spin it so far in either direction.  (Along with the cool race car label, also notice: only one controller per plug.)

To my knowledge, Indy 500 is the only game on the VCS that utilized these controllers (and I'm not sure what, if any, games for the Atari computer or Commodore 64 utilized them, either) -- which is a shame.  It's an old game, and many more modern race games could've been created and taken advantage of them. (Think "Off Road".)

Hell... come to think of it, why didn't Pole Position use a paddle instead of a joystick!?  Someone needs to make a homebrew hack!

Sidenote: Some people sacrifice Driving Controllers to create a rotary controller for Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar.  (Again, Atari could have made the original Tempest for the Atari computer, and used these controllers... at least as an option.  *sigh!*)

98 cents?
I found Indy 500 at a local music store in thier old-games collection.  I bought it, then set out to buy Driving controllers.  Because I had one (for making into a Tempest 2000 rig, but then I bought a professionally made one), and recently sold it.  eBay to the rescue.  And lo!, the two controllers came with another copy of the game.

WOW the one on the left is action-packed!  Sadly, the label on the left is... shall we say: more accurate?

Two cars enter...
The game pits you against a friend... or the clock... but never a computer opponent... and lord forbid more than two cars at a time!

Which is fine.  This game is "CX2611".  I think that means it was the 11th game they released.  And it was 1978.  I was 3.  I don't think we even had an Atari 2600 by the time this game came out.  Why do I remember it being so thrilling...!?

Could it be the awesome Indy Car formula racers?

No?  Come on...  Just imagine what your virtual race car driver is experiencing!

Alright, fine.

Variety is your pit stop
Like most early 2600 games, this cartridge includes numerous variations on gameplay, and a 2-minute limit (throwing out the whole 500 miles part of Indy 500).

So yeah, while Indy 500 looks like a bizarre version of the Combat tank games...

...there's actually some fun to be had.  Shown above is the "Crash n Score" variation.  (No doubt "Crash n Score(tm)"... they trademarked everything back then.)  Each player tries to slam their car through a dot that appears at random spots on the ... uh... course.  Some racetracks even include Pac-Man-style warps at the top and bottom.

There's a "tag" variation, as well, though I had trouble not being "it" over and over again, once my car hit the opponent's car.

Ice, ice, indy *
Finally, there's a set of regular racing maps that are set on ice.  I'm not sure if Indianapolis ever freezes over, but nonetheless, this is the game variation that stuck in my memory for 25+ years.  Cars slipping all the hell over on a bright blue-grey background.

And honestly, it's worth throwing some money at a stranger via eBay and PayPal to revisit those huge blue and grey pixels, spin a 30 year knob-that's-not-a-paddle, and crash my big blocky Letter-H into things.

* Man, I've have got to stop with these "funny" headings.

November 23rd, 2008

The Force Unleashed

... is a game I don't own. Nor have I ever played it. Not wanting to be left out from the lightsaber swinging, I decided to pick up a copy of Star Wars: Jedi Arena for the Atari 2600.

Check out this compelling video from 1982.

That's right: "a battle field of the future" (of a "long time ago", if I recall my scrolling Star Wars intros correctly.)

I bought this game for five reaons:
  1. I remember playing it and enjoying it as a kid (my friend's dad worked at Lucas, so got a deal on the games, I think)
  2. I have "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" and "Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back" for the 2600 (also by Parker Bros). They are good, and this helps complete the collection. (Oops, I used the "C"-word!)
  3. My nearly-2-year-old son William is obsessed with light sabers. (Long story; see below.)
  4. A friend of ours (who owns a Wii and The Force Unleashed) has been a Darth Vader fan since she was a kid, so it's as much for her amusement as it is for William and I.
  5. I found it for cheap on eBay.
The game involves less physical activity than I imagine The Force Unleashed does. You don't swing a Wiimote around like a sword, you twist a knob on your paddle. Your character on screen doesn't prance about like David Prowse. They... don't move at all. The game is entertaining, nonetheless.

Jedi Arena is a paddle game. While paddle games used to annoy me, I think between the discovery of how to clean them and keep them from twitching out, years of boring old D-pads, and coveting the unique input system of the Wii, I've become pretty fond of them. Jedi Arena is, in fact, a little bit of a Breakout game.

It involves your two Jedis, lightsabers in hand, at opposing ends of an arena. A seeker droid (Wookieepedia tells me it's a: starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Marksman-H_combat_remote) floats around the middle of the arena, shooting lightning at the Jedis. Twist the paddle to make your Jedi swing his lightsaber to block the bolt, or it will eat away at your (curiously breakout-bricks-like) shield.

It seems, as a Jedi, you're able to use the force to control when the seeker shoots out at your opponent. However, it shoots out at the same angle your lightsaber is pointing, so you can't be on the offensive AND defensive at the same time. (Good game design.) Every 30 seconds or so, the seeker thunderously begins shooting randomly, putting both players on the offensive. (To mix things up.)

Gameplay modes include one-player vs. CPU, or two-players, and different speeds for the seeker droid to fly around at. One additional mode is two-players with an invisible seeker.

Not bad for just $4.95 ("buy it now" price).

... And regarding William. We visit our Vader-loving friend a lot, and she's got a room full of Darth Vaders (figurines, a lamp, Mr. Potato Vaders, etc.). William also caught some Star Wars while my wife and I were watching with our friends, and... well... his concept of Darth Vader has actually devolved. At first, he'd say "cschoo--CHEE" (Vader's breathing sound) and swing his arm around while making lightsaber noises. Then he started doing it when he saw jack-o-lanterns. Then just pumpkins. Now any kind of gourd, gourd-like squash, or bell pepper.

And now he doesn't say "cschoo--CHEE." He says "COOKIE!" He calls our friend "cookie." Her husband "cookie." But, most offensive to our friend (who has loved Vader for going on 32 years), he now calls Darth Vader, lord of the Sith, merciless and ruthless ruler of the Empire, "3rd greatest villain of all time"... "cookie."

Where did we go wrong?
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