X-Zone

March 17, 2011

SUPER MOUTHWASH

When I first read that I’d be reviewing the SNES game X-Zone, I was pretty excited. Finally, I thought, a game that I’ll enjoy: pornography. Well, as it turns out, X-Zone isn’t porn. Don’t make the same mistake I did.

“Unknown circumstances” are responsible for a malfunction in Compound X’s central bio-computer that controls “X-TRA” (really?), the external threat recognition assault system. Basically what this amounts to is that a bunch of robots are going to try and kill people. If it launches its “global retaliatory strike,” then all life on this planet will be “x-tinguish(ed).” (REALLY?!)

Fiine.

The game begins with you entering the “X-termination zone” (ok, fucking whatever) to activate the bio-computer’s shutdown sequence. So, let’s do it!

Hmm…not sure how to proceed here since X-Zone makes use of the Super Scope and I don’t have a Super Scope. Damn my lack of proper tools! I’ll just follow in the grand journalistic tradition of making up facts to suit my lack of preparation in writing this story. Here we go!

Wow! I didn’t realize the SNES was capable of photorealistic graphics! It’s like there are ACTUAL BIO-COMPUTER DRONES flying out of my computer monitor! Whoa! That was a close one! I need a haircut, but not that bad! Yikes! If these—and I can’t emphasize this enough—incredibly realistic SUPER VISUALS weren’t enough to recommend X-Zone, then the cunningly well-designed sound should! Heck, if I was blind I’d be utterly convinced that it was time to take shelter in my basement from a cloud of laser-firing future machines!

Jumpin’ Jehosaphat! I thought things were intense on the first level of X-Zone, but it was nothing compared to the second level! This is a whole new experience! My exclamation key is getting worn through writing this review! The second level of X-Zone involves some kind of experimental sound wave that makes the game float in front of your eyes in 3D! I don’t understand how this preceeded IMAX by so many years and is so much better?! It literally does not make sense. My ears are ringing from explosions and I can barely keep my hands from shaking as I type this. It was like being in the centre of the greatest futuristic light show in the universe. The big bang was probably junk compared with this.

The third level. You can’t understand it and I feel sorry for you. When you witness the light, you will be at peace. X-Zone is the greatest work of humanity. Our civilization continuing to produce anything after its creation is a foul joke.

Level four. Life is the game, compared to level four.

Level five. It is everything.


X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse

March 16, 2011

You'd buy it. Don't judge me.

I bought X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse when I was but a small boy filled with wonder and hope. I spent all of my Christmas money on it. It was something like $105 at a Radioshack and I paid this because I’m Canadian and I make poor decisions. I took it home and was thrilled that I could play as a number of my favourite X-Men characters (but let’s be honest, everyone wants to play as Wolverine all the time and there’s so little reason to care about anyone else, at least when you’re 11).

And then…. I couldn’t make it past the second fucking level. I remember trying, certainly. I spent $105, afterall. The platforming was clunky and the enemies abundant. And, when you lost a character, you fucking lost that character. I remember thinking to myself at the time that I’d been suckered into buying a game I should have rented. But I saw the ad for it in Nintendo Power and it looked so good (those 4 screenshots in the ad really sparked my imagination!). I went for it. I took the plunge.

This is what one gets for taking plunges...

And this game….

I’ve previously written that I don’t have the patience for games that are pointlessly hard. I’m not even sure that this game is pointlessly hard. And, additionally, I’m afraid to play the game now only to discover that I was a simple child (this was maybe the case). But I can tell you that this game was a perfect example of the GameEnder Scenario.

The GameEnder Scenario

The GameEnder Scenario is when you play a game and are having a great time with that game up until a single point of failure. This failure could be the result of something you’ve done or something the game has done to you through poor design. This sounds like whining. Sometimes it is. So, you reach the portion of the game where you encounter this frustration that prevents you from moving forward in the game. You try a few times. You turn the game off. You maybe never play that game again.

I one put something like 30 hours into Chrono Cross, which was not a difficult game generally. I got to the a pivotal point in the game where I had to fight some significant boss and this boss beat me. The boss-fight itself was pretty long and the game didn’t seem to be especially compelling. I never touched the game again. Not once.

That’s likely an extreme case, but a great example of the GameEnder Scenario being my own fault.

An example of the GameEnder Scenario being the fault of the game itself would be Final Fantasy Tactics and the Weigraf battle. It’s notorious for being one of the toughest battles in the game and if you’ve either level built too much or not enough it can really ruin your day. I’ve known at least one person who suffered GameEnder in this way.  In this case, the issue often has to do with multiple save games. If you can’t win the battle, and you saved before the battle, and you didn’t have more than one save, you could very well be stuck on this fight some 15 hours into the game (or whatever) and be force to started entirely.

And so…

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse might have been my gateway to GameEnder Scenarios… a game that I played for a very brief time, got very annoyed with, and stopped playing altogether. There were probably lessons I could have learned from the process. I could persevered and learned something about seeing things through. Or I could have worked tirelessly to squeeze my dollars out of the purchase. Or, I could have done what I did in this case, which was get super frustrated, take the game out, toss it in the corner of the room and play some motherfucking Super Mario Kart.

(I AM SORRY THAT THIS TURNED INTO SOME STUPID ESSAY ABOUT HOW I QUIT THINGS EASILY, BUT MAYBE YOU DO THE SAME THING SOMETIMES AND SHOULD SHARE YOUR TALES IN THE COMMENTS, I GUESS)


WWF Raw

March 11, 2011

These days, to make a game about pandas is somewhat risky. There are various reasons behind this. Though pandas are still a large financial draw, they are declining in popularity and have been since the late nineties. It could be because people have become somewhat jaded by the facade of pandas. Are they, one would ask, cute and cuddly, or are they the bears who I shoot for sport in my local dump? They cannot be both. The second, possibly more interesting reason is that pandas appeal to a younger demographic. Hell, I remember when I was a young boy and went to kindergarten with a panda lunch box. All the other boys thought I was so cool, until I opened up the lunch box and they realized that I was vegan. Being vegan, in those days, meant it was somewhat hypocritical to like pandas. Sure, pandas eat bamboo and everything, but are they really vegan friendly?

Many people felt that pandas were corrupting nice young boys with their racial slurs and their glorified violence. When my classmates saw that I was, ostensibly, a pussy, they abandoned me for the more manly boys, who would talk all day about the numerous subtleties of the word “boobs.” Soon I, like many boys, gave up their love for pandas. It probably happened when I turned ten. It was then that I realized that the expectations of manhood that pandas so willingly propagate were simply unrealistic. I was like a girl in a Judy Bloom novel, except that instead of successfully integrating into society, I became a revolutionary. I silent revolutionary, but a revolutionary all the same. I tore up all my posters of pandas, cancelled my subscription to Panda Welfare Magazine, and started pumping iron. Soon, I was a successful businessman with several children. I look back on it now and realize that pandas were holding me back, keeping me from fulfilling my potential, from progressing, from evolving. So I changed.

And now, when I play games like WWF Raw, a game centred upon a panda named Mick who must collect as much raw bamboo as his little tummy-pouch can carry, I can’t help but feel a very substantial amount of cognitive dissonance. Yes, I can still “have fun” with the game, but never again with the wide-eyed wonder that accompanied my childhood experiences. There is, thus, no nostalgic value to games involving pandas, at least for me. Probably because I have too many bamboo shoots up my ass, though.


World Soccer 94

March 10, 2011

Take that, opposing team!

World Soccer 94 is the first soccer video game where I’ve had less trouble scoring a goal than I do in real life, so that’s a plus. I’m not great at video games any more (already short attention span destroyed by drug use and testosterone rage-issues, old age, handless) so when I can succeed at something with a reasonable amount of effort it instantly endears me to the game that let me win like I was a particularly dumb child.

While I’ve got all this good will at being allowed to win floating around me, I have to admit that this game doesn’t seem very good. Graphically, it’s on par with drawing a bunch of stick men and moving them around as you roll a marble between them. It doesn’t look good, even considering the 1994 release date of the game. The ambient noise of the crowd watching the game sounds a bit how I’d imagine it would if you drowned a little group of happy robots.

Controlling the little guys is an interesting experience. I found that mashing the button rapidly was an excellent strategy, often ending with me stealing the ball from my confused opponent. Once the ball was in my grasp I had no problems deftly maneuvering my way around the other team—they were powerless to stop me. Well, until I sneezed. But that has nothing to do with the game.

Ultimately this game looks pretty cheap and is really easy, just like your

MOTHER


Wolverine: Adamantium Rage

March 4, 2011

A huge jacked-man.

Wolverine: Adamantium Rage features a huge jacked-man who gets turned into a small furry critter that, according to Wikipedia, mates with two to three females per lifetime in a rather monogamous fashion. Now, to human beings like ourselves, that may seem somewhat excessive, but one look at a wolverine will make you realize that that little dude is really holding himself back with his two-babe limit. Honestly, he could probably get more  ladies than a cowboy covered in mansicle powder. Like the woodland animal, the huge jacked-man becomes rather spiteful at times and is known to rather fly off the handle.

For example, the premise for this game seems to be that Wolverine is rather frustrated with his new personal computer. So frustrated, in fact, that he punches it and then punches everything else.

And that constitutes the entire back story. How great is that?

His rage is so great, that he becomes uncontrollable, as is the case with many side-scrolling, punching, kicking goofballs. To compensate for this, the developers have graciously given him a regenerating healthbar that allows him to be whacked around pretty good before he decides to stop being whacked around and just die. It begins at one hundred percent, about three to five percent being subtracted for every misstep and bullet taken by the faithful woodland creature. The one thing it can’t help you with is getting stuck in holes. I got stuck in quite a few holes. If you fall down an elevator shaft, there doesn’t appear to be any way to get the elevator to actually come down to get you. The elevators in Wolverine’s home seem to be controlled exclusively by entering them and then crouching. But no matter, I just restarted the dang game.

Despite it playing a bit fast and loose with the controls and the strangely easy enemies, this game is not so bad. I might venture to say the time it took to develop is made worthwhile by it’s theme music.

Check it out: I’m gonna rap to it.

“Wolverine

He’s a sexy commando

He punches you

He don’t give a shit like Brando

Wolverine

He’s a punching machine

He even punches doors open

See what I mean?

He’s a cute little animal

Not a hungry cannibal

Cheesed-off hero

Sayin’ ‘did you real the manual?’

No I didn’t

‘Cause I ain’t in it to win it

But I am curious as to what they put in it.

Perhaps they detailed how to jump real high

Or how to get the guy to eat a meat-pie

On the fly.

It was probably pretty minimal

Just like how they apparently put the caramel

Into the Caramilk bar

I’ve got it figured so far:

They mold the chocolate into the shape of a bar

But then they leave a space in

And then spray some yummy taste in

And close it, sell it, and let the billions roll in.

But anyway,

It’s just another friday

Wolverine on the mic: ‘I did it my way’

Well thanks, Jack, but I was gonna tell them

About that elevator shaft I fell in.”


Wing Commander

February 25, 2011

 

That is one terrible title screen.

Wing Commander — I’ve heard tell of you. When people talk of you, they use words like Celebrated and Iconic, the kind of words hardly spoken in civil conversation. You dazzled the youth of my generation with cinematic style and your disagreeable attitude. Had I met you when I was younger, I made of taken a stab. I might have taken two stabs, in fact. Maybe after that I would have gotten bored and stabbed something else, but for that one shining moment, my dear, it would have been you, me, and a bottle of Koala Sparkling Beverage.

But, it was not to be. And instead, I meet you now, twenty years later, in the sleazy bar that is my emulator. And, while once you would have given me a new reason to live, now… now you’re just another Friday night. That is to say, another video game, alone, with a Diet Koala Sparkling Beverage, which I sure as Satan wish they still made, goddamnit. So, what’ll it be, Wing Commander? Will you command my heart, or merely the chest cavity nearest my heart, my left lung. Will it be romance, or just a fling in the back seat of my trousers? Will you rock my world or just drink all my booze and leave?

I'll get you, Skycross, if it's the last thing I do!

Well, I’ll tell you: this old bitch still got some moves in her.

Sure, she looks old, and she feels old, but the crab-tree that is Wing Commander has a certain something… some kind of flair, or something, that seems to stick around. Perhaps it’s the maddening frustration that comes from playing these games. Frustration, like yer old hamburger wit’ fries, is one gameplay mechanic that never goes out of style. When you feel that deep anger in the pit of your chest, oh: you know it’s something special; you know it’s meant to be. I get that feeling when I play modern day multiplayer romp-and-stomps. And when that bitch Spirit stole my kill, time and time again, I just wanted to gank the heck out of her. What kind of rookie is she anyway? She’s supposed to be all green and everything, but she’s one hot shot little punk! She just rides on up out of nowheres and boom, boom! And then she says, surprised, “Oh, captain, I think I got one,” like I’m going to give her a medal, or shine her toupee, or something. Look, missy, I’m the one playing the game, alright? I get to do the stuff, not you. Learn your place.

So, frustration. Yeah, that’s one thing this game does well. Let me tell you a story. So, I was looking for some aliens to zap (presumably out of sheer malice for their squirrelly selves), when I notice that I’m running short of fuel. Well, that’s harsh, I think, but this game certainly wont let me sit out here in the middle of space whilst waiting to get hunted down by some giant space crocodile, will it? It did. It certainly did. And it threw a bunch of asteroids my way, too, which I most obligingly hit, and promptly died. Not only did I die, but I DIED. All caps. They made me stop playing I died so hard. They made me start all over again! Good god, the realism is unsurmountable. Not since Hot Coffee has there been this degree of immersion in any one place at any one time!

 

"Oh, yeah! Do me, C.J.!"

Well, I’d had enough after that, and to the sound of my 20 gun solute (instead of firing the guns, they dissolved them in water), I said “QUIT, OH MIGHTY BEAST,” and, hence, I wrote this article thusly. And self-referentially, too, I might add. Take that Mr. Fitzgerald!


Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

February 17, 2011

Thank you, helpful schlub

You’re an agent hot on the trail of a minion of the notoriously hard-to-catch-despite-being-dressed-like-a-fire thief Carmen Sandiego! Someone has stolen something from somewhere, and based on a series of geographic clues, you have to trail them around the world until you gather enough evidence to put out a warrant for their arrest. Sound fun? It is, kinda.

This is probably the closest thing I’ve seen to SNES game that manages to be educational and entertaining at the same time. As you fly around the world from place to place collecting information about your subject, you must display a tiny amount of geographical knowledge in order to follow their trail. “I saw someone like that,” says a helpful hotel clerk. “They were eating a red and white flag.” Red and white? Eating a flag? To Japan we go, land of the flag-eaters*!

While the music and the graphics in Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? aren’t all that great, they serve the game play quite well by presenting information you need in a clear and concise format. Well, the graphics present things. The music doesn’t present much. It just plays vaguely pleasing noises at you.

If you gather enough details about the appearance and hobbies and destination of your subject, you can issue a warrant for their death. Or arrest. Whatever. It makes you feel like an FBI agent who doesn’t know how to use the Internet and spends a lot of money on air travel.

When you finally capture your target you’re presented with a graphic sequence where you strip search and question them for hours, cumulating in water boarding them. It’s a strangely prescient look at today’s governmental institutions and their rampant abuse of naked time power.

In other words, fun!

* This is probably a fetish there since they have all of them. God they’re advanced.


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