U.N. Squadron

January 29, 2011

January 18, 1919: The Paris Peace Conference opens.

June 28, 1919: The Treaty of Versailles is signed.  The world is at peace once more.

January 21, 1920: The Conference comes to an end with the inaugural General Assembly of the League of Nations.

September 18, 1931: The Imperial Japanese Army begins its invasion of Manchuria.  The League of Nations says:

"Hey, don't do that!"

January 30, 1933: Adolf Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany.

March 16, 1935: Hitler reintroduces conscription to Germany, openly flouting the military restrictions of the Versailles Treaty.  The League of Nations says:

"Hey, don't do that!"

March 27, 1933: The Empire of Japan withdraws from the League of Nations.

September 19, 1933: Germany withdraws from the League of Nations.

October 3, 1935: Italian armed forces invade Ethiopia.

October 7, 1935: The League of Nations says:

"Hey, don't do that!"

July 7, 1937: Japan begins a full scale invasion of China.  As a final measure, the League offers only its “spiritual support” to the Chinese.

December 11, 1937: Italy withdraws from the League of Nations.

September 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland.  The League of Nations says:

...

Nothing.

World War II begins.  The League fails its primary directive: to avoid any future world war.

October 24, 1945: The United Nations officially comes into existence.

57 YEARS PASS…

March 20, 2003: The United States of America begin their invasion of Iraq.

The United Nations clears its throat, about to say:

“Hey–”

America pushes past, hollering:

"YEEEEEEEE-HAAAWWW!!!"

Meanwhile: UN Headquarters, Turtle Bay, Manhattan...

Kofi Annan gazes grimly over the surface of the East River.  His left eyebrow twitches.  The capillaries in his eyeballs burst like test tubes overheated.  His lips quiver, not out of fear, but in a fit of holy rage.  His fingers clench to make a fist, as he brings it down hard upon his desk.  Kofi Annan says:

"Let's rock."

Enter the UN Squadron:

Justice is served, bitches.


Troy Aikman NFL Football

January 15, 2011

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Words cannot express the alienation I feel when I play an NFL game. So I thought I’d make a Jason Rohrer game about it. I call it “Troy”:

OHGODOHGODOHGODOHGODOH

WHATAMIEVEN--

Oh.

OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH

Fin


TNN Bass Tournament of Champions

January 1, 2011

Sadly not the precursor to Guitar Hero.

Fish are boring.  The pursuit of fish is boring, and often, futile. So what brainiac thought it’d be a good idea to faithfully replicate this experience and put it in a videogame?  TNNBTC literally consists of taking your boat out onto the water, picking out a spot, watching, waiting, and catching nothing.  It is terrifyingly realistic.

OH GOD NO PLEASE

I would be curious to know the statistics surrounding fishing-related deaths each year – just how many people fall asleep, capsize, and drown when participating in this “sport”?  How many people are literally bored to death?  All I can say is THANK GOD THIS GAME ISN’T PORTABLE.  This is 16-Bit LemsipDO NOT OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY DURING OR AFTER PLAY – if you played this while driving a wheat thresher you would flat out die.

MAKE THE HURTING STOP

What kills me most is the central conceit behind the two most boring ‘games’ on the planet: golf, and fishing.  Both are so-called “gentlemen’s sports” – constructs devised by bored husbands to escape from their wives and families.  Which brings me to my (threefold) scariest question of all: what sort of terrifyingly boring family would drive a man to do this, what sort of terrifying boredom would drive a man to make a game about it, and what sort of terrifying boredom would it take to drive a man to play that game?


The Tick

December 18, 2010

SPOON!!

The Tick sucks, which is only appropriate for a videogame based on a sucky cartoon based on a sucky comic book character named after a bloodsucking parasite.

This irritates me perhaps a little more than it should, because The Tick is a parody of the superhero genre. I think parodies have a responsibility to at least be good if they’re going to be at someone/something else’s expense.  The fact that the videogame is a carbon copy of every terrible Spider-Man game is almost vindicating.  Almost.

The whole thing reeks of mid-90s Jim Carrey-ism.  I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to retrospectively put a bullet in my own 10-year-old head until I just coined that sentence.


The Terminator

December 4, 2010

[Ironically] there is no better illustration of irony than Alanis Morissette’s hit song “Ironic”, the lyrics which [in]famously failed to convey the very meaning of the word.  But I would give the coveted red ribbon to Gov. Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger for the case of The State of California versus the Entertainment Merchants Association, which singles out “really violent videogames” (over, say, really violent action films) as having a particularly bad influence on kiddies under the age of eighteen.  This has led to some truly outstanding headlines like “2010: Judgement Day”, “Fighting the Terminator on Videogames”, along with my personal favourite:

 

(Not an actual headline.)

HASTA LA VISTA, GAMING

Well, in The Terminator for the SNES, you get to fight the Terminator in videogames.  Unfortunately, the gameplay is nowhere near as delicious as the irony.  In fact, it is quite bitter.  But enough about that – I’ve always found that the longer you talk about what’s ironic and what’s not, the greater your chances of stuffing it up and looking like a complete tool.  Oh, okay, just one more from Wikipedia:

The studio had suggested O. J. Simpson for the role of the Terminator, but [James] Cameron did not feel that Simpson would be believable as a killer.

Just let that one sink in for a while…

…BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

The player assumes the role of Kyle Reese, a Human Resistance fighter sent back in time by John Connor to protect his mother Sarah Connor from a cyborg assassin known as the Terminator, thus ensuring his (and humanity’s) survival.  There’s something very oedipal about the way it all pans out, though, and it’ll do your head in if you let it.  See, Kyle guards Sarah’s body a little too well – like, with his penis – and impregnates her, thus ensuring John Connor’s conception!  How does one send one’s own father back in time to impregnate one’s mother and conceive one’s self?  How can a sperm and the genetic by-product of said sperm exist within the same timeline without creating a time paradox? And does that make her MILF material?!!!

People forget that about sperm.  It’s one in a million or nothing at all.  Some people ask their mothers why they didn’t marry a king or a billionaire or an actor so that they could be a prince or rich or famous (as if such a thing was in her grasp), but no – any other sperm on any other day means that you wouldn’t be you at all.  And if you’re not you, you don’t exist.  Wow, we’re blowing some serious minds here.

What’s mind-blowing is how bad this game actually is.  A Terminator game should be pretty hard to stuff up, and yet here we are, entering 2011 without a single good Terminator game.  If you think that’s slack, chew on this for a moment: we’re only 18 years away from the apocalyptic events of Terminator, and we don’t even have flying cars yet.

The Jetsons had those by 1984 - we're running way behind schedule!!

If the entire game was like those sections in Metroid Fusion where Samus had to run and hide from her doppelganger, that would be marvellous.  But we can’t all dwell on ‘what might have beens’ now, can we?


Super R-Type

August 27, 2010

Super R-Type: The Game doesn’t interest me in the slightest.  It’s slower than other R-Types and yet somehow manages to be even more incredulous/relentless/S&M in its difficulty.  What does interest me is the mythology that underpins it.

The ‘bad guys’ of the R-Type series are known as the Bydo Empire.  I say [quote][/unquote] bad guys because it is us who created them.  In the 26th Century.  As sentient, ecology-destroying biological weapons.  It’s just the kind of hubris you would expect from humanity – we’ve always been a little too big for our britches since we started playing with atoms.  So, like a kid with a box of matches, we got burned – the Bydo turned on their human overlords after a botched attempt to annihilate a foreign solar system.

But the hubris doesn’t end there!  The humans ‘solved’ the problem by making it someone else’s problem – they simply shifted the Bydo to another dimension.  Eventually they made their own way to the 22nd Century, where humanity’s great-great-great-great[...] grandparents were left to clean up the mess.  How typical!  Well, maybe that’s not fair – it’s refreshing to see Earth’s problems dropped in the laps of its elderly, in a time when so many are laid at the feet of its children – but do you know what would be more refreshing?  IF EVERYONE CLEANED UP THEIR OWN DAMN MESS!  Or at least lie in the bed that they’ve made for themselves.  Perhaps humanity deserves its grisly fate; perhaps we’re the villains and we need to be stopped.

Future-proofing the distant past.

So what started out as an innocent bit of backstory has actually developed into an intriguing fictional example of retrocausality.  On that note, it’s really difficult to talk about the future in past tense, or any tense for that matter.


Super Pinball: Behind the Mask

August 20, 2010

There was a time, long, long ago, when pinball machines and videogames stood together – a veritable Brotherhood of Coin Crunchers. Oh, how they danced and player together in that magical land; the magical land of Arcadia. But fate had other designs.

The humans were comfortable in their little homes, and it was only a matter of time before the consoles took over. The pinballs and Model 3s fought long into the night – one could say they gave no quarter – but it was all for nought. Naomi, the Queen of Arcadia, was seduced by the Dark Side. She gave up the Brotherhood’s secrets, porting her library to the consoles. Arcadia had fallen, and the pinballs were given in servitude to the consoles. Their bodies were destroyed in the Forge; their souls extracted as gems to power their golems. These hulking abominations were but shadows of their former glory.

Thus concludes my dark tale, the tale of Arcadia. But I’d like to think there’s another ending:

On occasion, you might find a pinball machine tucked away in the corner of a pool hall, or maybe a bowling alley, or a wealthy politician’s basement, like old trees in a sacred grove. They’re the ones that got away.


Super Ninja Boy

August 13, 2010

Super Ninja Boy is every bit as amazing as its title suggests.

It’s a co-operative two-player RPG that allows the second player to drop in and out in any given town.  Do we even have that today?  I don’t know, but it’s amazing.

BOUT!

It’s an RPG whose battle menu is limited to  ‘BOUT’ (fight) or ‘RUN’ (flee).  Choose ‘BOUT’ and you’re immediately thrust into a side-scrolling beat-’em-up, that’s every bit as fun as River City Ransom.  Have these two genres ever met again since?  I don’t know, but it’s amazing.

You want to know how satisfying this feels.

But by far the most amazing thing about Super Ninja Boy is its relative obscurity within the annals of videogame history.  I’d never heard of this game prior to writing this review – had you?  And yet, as far as I can surmise, it’s pioneered two great ideas in the RPG genre that to my knowledge are yet to be replicated.

I can only offer a few possible explanations for this.  One is that ardent RPG players back then may not have had any friends, and thus were unable to discover the joys of friendship, human communication, and co-operation via Ninja Boy‘s two player mode.

Another is that RPG fans were only interested in playing RPG games.  It’s possible that the exclusion of a menu-based battle system (though curiously still present for boss battles) was perceived as a dilution of a ‘key’ genre staple rather than a welcome reprieve (or dare I say – “innovation”?) from the same old, same old of practically Every Japanese Role-Playing Game Ever™ – then and since.

I have only two legitimate criticisms to level against Mr. Ninja Boy, and these are they:

  1. The graphics are a hodge-podge of art styles and assets stolen from its more well-remembered contemporaries.  Namely, the map screens from Dragon Quest, caves and treasure chests from Phantasy Star, and the manga stylings of River City Ransom – thrown together.

    EXHIBIT A:

    EXHIBIT B:

    And:

  2. You’ll be lucky to walk three seconds before being pulled into yet another random battle encounter, and it’s a bit of a pain in the ass.  You might want to think of this as “incidental grinding”, or you’ll probably be driven to agoraphobia.

But hey, this game charmed the pants off me.  It’s cute and it’s wild and it’s set in Chinaland with aliens in it – what more could you want from an RPG?


Super Mario Kart

August 6, 2010

A word to the wise: do NOT under any circumstances get your flatmate hooked on Mario Kart. That means DON’T let them play it. At all.

Oh, you might think it’s terrific at first having a Player 2 at the ready, but you’ve got to understand – it’s a ‘bridge title’ in the truest sense of the word – it’s a gateway drug.

Marx was wrong. Mario Kart is the Opiate of the Masses.

It’s like being married to a nymphomaniac – you might think that’s an awesome problem to have, but wait until you’re red, raw, run down, and can’t get a damn thing done*; then let’s see what you have to say about it. Oh yes, you can most definitely have too much of a good thing. Try telling that to my flatmate, though, who’ll happily put “World on a String” (as performed by Michael Bublé) on repeat for the entire duration of the morning commute, simply because he likes it.

I’ve worked long and hard at expanding his horizons, but it seems he can only accommodate latch onto one new thing at a time before culture club is adjourned. Oh well, I suppose listening to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack on repeat instead of Billy Joel is progress. The thing is, if I wasn’t constantly introducing new cultural material, we’d be stuck on the latest obsession FOREVER.  Not even joking.

Thus far, I have failed to replace Super Mario Kart Wii. Can you see how that might be a problem?

I have another friend who’s stuck on Super Mario Kart. Not stuck as in “can’t finish it”, but stuck as in he keeps coming back to it. He uses the Classic Controller on Mario Kart Wii, if only to simulate playing it on a SNES. I’m pretty sure his frustration with the Wii version is parallel with my feelings “going back” to the SNES version. What he may see as impurities introduced to the Wii version, I see as tweaks missing from the SNES version. I’m progressive like that. Nonetheless, Super Mario Kart is an experience enshrined with very good reason.

I’ve seen it referred to as an abstraction of go-karting, but it’s more an abstraction of Super Mario Bros. Your adversaries may as well be the timer, as your driver jumps, hits ‘?’ blocks for powerups, throws shells, and avoids obstacles to reach the finish line [flagpole]. It’s Mario in 3D, essentially, and a testament to the primal strength of the Super Mario Bros. game design.

It’s Wacky Races: The Videogame, where everybody knows your name playing dirty is a virtue, and mischief is encouraged. So many great games revel in the fun of mischief made [see A Link to the Past, GTA, and my current obsession, The Saboteur].

For every time Nintendo has been berated for making “kiddie” games, they should be applauded for their timeless aesthetic choices. What separates Super Mario Kart (and indeed, any Nintendo game) from the rest of the dross is this thing we in the biz like to call “art direction”. This vibrant cast of characters wouldn’t look out of place in a Saturday morning cartoon, and I’m here to tell you that’s a good thing.  Donkey Kong, Luigi, Yoshi, Bowser, and Princess Peach have each become so familiar they can headline their own games and still sell a million copies.

I picked Yoshi because he looks like he has a thermometer in his mouth.

It blew the Mario game wide open – beyond platformers – into racers, sports, RPGs, and fighters. It was just a great idea.

Super Mario Kart deserves every bit of nostalgia lavished on it. Everything about it is memorable. Just don’t show it to your flatmate.

* This review was delayed by at least two days due to Flatmate Mario Kart Addiction.

Super Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts

July 30, 2010

Are you one of the two people on Earth that found Ghouls ‘n’ Ghosts too easy? So easy, in fact, that you finished it twice in a row just to get the proper ending? Don’t you ever wish it could get just a *little bit* harder? Well, have I got something for you! Presenting:

SUPER GHOULS ‘n’ GHOSTS!

It's pandemonium! It's pandemonium!

Featuring:

  • Rising obstructive pillars!
    They rise! They obstruct! They generally cause death and discomfort!
  • The amazing double-jump!
    You might think it’s helpful, but watch as you hurtle helplessly towards a violent and untimely end! No mid-air re-directions here!
  • Infinite, invincible caskets on respawn!
    You can’t kill them, but you can’t touch them either! Oh, and zombies come out of them as well.  Don’t forget those zombies!
  • Child’s Play.
    Still too easy?  Enter the Sorcerer, who can turn you into a baby at the flick of his wand!  They say only the good die young – so how good are ya?!
  • 2 games for the price of 1!
    Don’t think we’ll let you off too easy! In true G ‘n’ G fashion, you must finish the game twice in a row to get the true ending. Double the gameplay = double the fun!
  • * EXCLAMATION MARKS!
    Lots of them!!!!11111!!!!!!

All this comes with a free wedge of lemon and a pinch of sea salt to sprinkle in your eye while you play! Bodacious!

***CALL NOW on 1900-GNG-SNM to secure your copy today!***

SUPER GHOULS 'n' GHOSTS: It'll leave you screaming for Mummy!


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