Space Ace

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I’m sort of glad that we’re back to visiting these old games. There’s a part of me that feels like we’re digging into this old bin of artifacts left behind by a long-past, at-least-marginally-loved family member. Like a belligerent aunt, I guess. Or, at least, some sort of contemptuous cousin. These dusty (not literally) titles represent lifetimes (I really hope not literally) of treasured memories. I know – from the myriad comments that arrived years after we posted reviews – that my panning of titles people probably spent a lot of time with sometimes hurt their feelings.  At the very least, the amount of time and effort that went into building these games was likely non-trivial. We can only do so much.

Largely what we discover is that our marginally-loved family members were only marginally loved for a reason. They were probably weirdos. Or malcontents with stacks of newspapers all over. And when you get a box of stuff owned by a dead person you don’t care about mostly you don’t have any feelings for the materials within that box. They only serve as a grim reminder that you and all of your shit aren’t long for this world.

Anyway, fuck Space Ace.

I just want to point out that when games like this were released they probably retailed for like $90 Canadian. Or more. And at this time (hello, 1990s) the key demographic for Super Nintendo games was, I think, probably teens and/or young adults. You had to save for a SNES game. Or rent it, I guess. If I’d rented it, I’d have returned it. Space Ace is a game where the guy from DragonQuest and a space genie are fighting over a woman. Honestly, the space genie can have her. This guy’s no ace. It’s not even close.

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Here’s guy one. He’s our Space Ace.

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Here’s guy two. He’s our villain, I guess because he is a different color (spacism was alive and well, I see).

But when you get down to it, guy two is a man flying on a disc machine shooting lasers at guy one. You tell me which of those two guys sounds like a Space Ace to you.

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The game itself can be characterized as infuriating. You die when you get hit by anything. You die when you miss a jump (you will miss many jumps). Achieving a game over will put you back at the beginning of the game. It’s a good thing that no one can hear you scream. I “cheated” to get a little deeper and the second level featured mode 6 flying graphics and additional abrupt deaths.

No, thank you.

So, I’d like for you to imagine a 10-year-old boy who fucking loves space waking up on his birthday. He gets home from school and his parents tell him they’ve got a cool gift he’s going to love. It’s Space Ace. And he’s like, “I fucking love space, you guys”. That’s what he says to his parents. He’s crazy about space. And he puts this thing in and dies 5 times in a row in ways that are vexing and/or unfair and/or baffling. He does this for the better part of the week. He gets deep in the game, memorizing every misstep and movement. By the end of his childhood, he can play Space Ace in his sleep. He’s written stories about the titular ace and his adventures. He’s done drawings. By the time he reaches high school he’s moved on to some different games but his bar is low. He ends up working as a records manager at a local government office and dies alone, tragically, from a heart attack at 50 years old. You were his nephew. In his house, after the wake, you see these framed drawings of a man in a space suit and many paperback books about space adventures. You didn’t really visit him much. You say, “man, what a sad guy”. You find a dusty, still-working Super Nintendo in the corner. You’re sure you can sell it for a few bucks. And in the console is this game called Space Ace. “Ha ha… you say. Motherfucker loved space, that’s for sure.”

You play the game for 30 seconds… that’s long enough to die to the point where the game will rank you as a “Space Freeboid” and make you start over. You turn the console off. You look around and realize the impact this game had on his life. The drawings. The paperbacks. You get up and walk out of the house, and you never look back. Your dad sees you on the way out and says, “jeez, you don’t want any keepsakes from your uncle’s place?”

“Nah,” you say. “He’s given me enough”.

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The return of Every Game Ever

I always pictured Everygame as an artifact. Even when I was a few articles in, it was something that I didn’t really think of as a process; it was something I wanted to look back on years after it was finished, and say, “look at that dumb thing. It exists. A thousand dumb noodly articles, barely related to some video games.”

It kinda became something else.

Originally, I gave myself the Sisyphean task of playing, screencapping and writing these thousand articles, one a day, for I guess three years. That obviously wasn’t going to play without quitting my job, probably taking a bunch of drugs and shutting the rest of my life off. But eventually, I got the idea to get other people on board, and, all of a sudden, it seemed a lot more attainable. Pretty much anyone who asked got to write (however, they didn’t get to pick what they were writing; you were stuck with what you got). So, for a year, maybe more, we happily chipped away at the stupidest pile of shit ever, forced ourselves to adhere to arbitrary deadlines, and wrote.

Eventually, it kinda fell apart. We got exhausted. Levels of effort dropped. Deadlines were missed. The cynical tone mutated into one that was downright contemptuous. Every fucking 90s sports game became a week-ruining ordeal. What can I possibly have left to say about baseball?, we each individually said probably five or sixty times.

And then there were the expectations of the audience we had accidentally built. Somehow, we were getting linked on Gamasutra and Twitter. Due to some accidental SEO I farted out, we started appearing in Google searches. Comments would pop up. Among the dozens of weird spam messages, there would be questions about what the fuck was wrong with us for hating a game that we’d spent ten minutes on. It was never the point to be fair to any game, though. The point was to create a space where a game would be a jumping off point for writing.

The point was to make an artifact.

So much has changed since 2010, when the project fell off. Most of us left our 20s and entered our 30s. Twitter went from big to massive. Google Reader died (bye, everyone who ever read this!). We’ve all learned that the word “retard” is bad and casual misogyny isn’t funny (By us, I mean those of us writing. A large amount of the world had already caught on by then). We learned new words. English invented new words.

Anyway: we’re finishing it. The current plan has us running the remaining games from August 20th to December 28th, year of our videogames 2016. Then it’ll be done. Then, when I think about it, maybe I can have that gentle, soothing sense of longing that comes from remembering something you enjoyed and finished (like, say, Chrono Trigger) and not the low-level crushing disappointment of knowing you never did (like, say, Earthbound).

Stay tuned. Or, get tuned. Or whatever. RIP Google Reader.

X-Zone

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

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

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

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

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.”