Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge

Considering that we live in a largely capitalist society, it should be of little surprise the wide variety of methods that which companies will employ in order to advertise their products and services to the general public: SUV posters at bus stops, product placement of alcoholic beverages in educational television, tattoos of soft drink slogans on our eyelids, prescription drug commercials broadcast via satellite into our fillings, images of feminine hygiene products beamed into our skulls while we sleep by microwave lasers constructed on the moon—boundless is the realm of human ingenuity when confronted with the myriad of opportunities with which to wrench the hard-earned ducats from the general public.  Indeed, the pervasiveness of the commercial world has also been known to extend its viscid tentacles into the one of the most rapidly growing forms of home entertainment—pornography.  And video games.  One such example of the latter is today’s subject: Park Place Productions and GameTek’s Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge.
Kawasaki is a Japan-based manufacturer of a wide variety of land-, water-, and air-based vehicles and related equipment, although they are likely best known to most as a manufacturer of redneck and white-trash recreational transportation.  In 1993, they ventured forth to extend their brand-name recognition by licensing the use of their motorcycle and personal watercraft lines for, what is honestly, a shit racing game.  After playing this game for the extent of an hour (or some period of time that felt like such), I cannot honestly state that I find much to be redeeming about it.  That’s about it.  There is nothing special here, just a mishmash of poor controls, a frustratingly limited overhead view, and an altogether bland racing experience.
While the game is upsetting on its own merits, I am somewhat further saddened by the realization this game is nothing unique, and simply exists as another piece of corporate shovelware—a title developed with the primary purpose of simply providing an additional advertising channel for a large corporation.  Domino’s pulled the same crap with its “Noid” mascot on the PC in the ’80s; 7 Up followed suit times ten with the ironically titled “Cool Spot”, which was pushed onto just about every popular video game platform early in the following decade; and, more recently, Burger King violated early adopters of the Xbox 360 with a handful of cheap titles prominently featuring its plastic-faced, serial-rapist monarch.
But even then, isn’t just about every game—at least every game sold for money—produced with the goal of turning a profit for the developers, publishers, and any other investors who have a stake in the product?  Every now and then, someone hits gold with a new idea or piece of information property, business and marketing execs jump on top of the situation, and we end up with enough Final Fantasy games to drown a small nation in a sea of androgynous anime rejects.  Internet forums cry out in horror, only to find themselves deafened by the din of unbearable voice acting from countless numbers of Sonic the Hedgehog sequels.
Sweet.
KAWASAKI-IT TO ME!!
KAWASAKI-IT TO ME!!

Considering that we live in a largely capitalist society, it should be of little surprise the wide variety of methods that which companies will employ in order to advertise their products and services to the general public: product placement of alcoholic beverages in educational television, soft drink slogans tattooed inside our eyelids, prescription drug commercials broadcast via satellite into our fillings, images of feminine hygiene products beamed into our skulls while we sleep by microwave lasers constructed on the moon—boundless is the realm of human ingenuity when confronted with the myriad of opportunities with which to wrench the hard-earned ducats from the general public.  Indeed, the pervasiveness of the commercial world has also been known to extend its viscid tentacles into the one of the most rapidly growing forms of home entertainment—pornography.  And video games.  One such example of the latter is today’s subject: Park Place Productions and GameTek’s Kawasaki Caribbean Challenge.

I see what you did there! With the play-on-words with "storm"? Clever girl...
I see what you did there! With the play-on-words with "storm"? Clever girl...

Kawasaki is a Japan-based manufacturer of a wide variety of land-, water-, and air-based vehicles and related equipment, although they are likely best known to most as a manufacturer of redneck and white-trash recreational transportation.  In 1993, they ventured forth to extend their brand-name recognition by licensing the use of their motorcycle and personal watercraft lines for, what is honestly, a shit racing game.  After playing this game for the extent of an hour (or some period of time that felt like such), I cannot honestly state that I find much to be redeeming about it.  That’s about it.  There is nothing special here, just a mishmash of poor controls, a frustratingly limited overhead view, and an altogether bland racing experience.

kawasakicaribbeanchallenge-bikes

While the game is upsetting on its own merits, I am somewhat further saddened by the realization this game is nothing unique, and simply exists as another piece of corporate shovelware—a title developed with the primary purpose of simply providing an additional advertising channel for a large corporation.  Domino’s pulled the same crap with its “Noid” mascot on the PC in the ’80s; 7 Up followed suit times ten with the ironically titled “Cool Spot“, which was pushed onto just about every popular video game platform early in the following decade; and, more recently, Burger King violated the hearts and minds of early adopters of the Xbox 360 with a handful of cheap titles prominently featuring its plastic-faced, serial-rapist monarch.

But even then, isn’t just about every game—at least every game sporting a price tag—produced with the goal of turning a profit for the developers, publishers, and any other investors who have a stake in the product?  Every now and then, someone hits gold with a new idea or piece of information property, business and marketing execs jump on top of the situation, and we end up with enough Final Fantasy games to drown a small nation in a sea of androgynous anime rejects.  Internet forums cry out in horror, only to find themselves deafened by the din of unbearable voice acting from countless numbers of Sonic the Hedgehog sequels.

Sweet…

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Kawasaki Superbike Challenge

kawasaki

Here is a list of facts as to why I often to not feel like very much of a man:

– I look like a wet noodle with a not-thin-anymore layer of lard on top
– I haven’t been in a fight for 15 years (at least I won that one, though)
– I stopped playing sports long ago
– I love going to buy clothes
– I have a very musical voice
– I own no leather aside from a pair of Sperry Top Sider deck shoes
– I am currently wearing a green cable-knit cardigan
– I have incresingly drank less regular beer and more light beer this summer (because it’s… summery)
– I think scotch is yucky
– I think UFC is pretty boring
– I know what “braised” means
– I’d rather play video games than eat beef
– I don’t know how to drive, and
– I HAVE NEVER BEEN ON A MOTORCYCLE.

Good thing I spent about eighteen minutes playing this game, because now I know! Stunning first-person graphics bring the crotchrocket to life in this insane-o speedrace to see who can ride a motorcycle fastest from some place to another place that may or may not be called “Suzuka.” Apparently it takes eight hours; I am boggled as to who on God’s green earth would sit down and play a game for eight hours in this day and age where EVEN YOUR VERY CONSOLE distracts you (Bloop! Your friend is online! Bleep! You’ve got e-mail! Blop! Have you had dinner yet?). But, I respect that this game may have come out in a time where sitting down to play video games meant you were entering your own tiny sensory deprivation state, where the only things that existed were you, a controller, and some circuits or whatever blah blah something technical. But now I got the cell phone, and the laptop, and the desktop, and the 360, and the house in the city that looks out onto a shitty, noisy, busy, light-filled street. I’m lucky if I get 30 minutes into anything.

Then again, if I were to get that much in a game, it wouldn’t involve something as masculine as tucking an engine between my legs. It’d probably be a puzzle game with lovely animated characters in lovely top hats, or little androgynous fellows whacking away at each other with swords on a grid. But I think that makes sense. We’ve already established that I’m about as manly as a pile of Richard Simmons’ nail clippings.

Kablooey

Kablooey

Kablooey
Kablooey

Kablooey is a somewhat entertaining puzzle game.  It is both a follower and precursor to a number of puzzle games in this category.  The game is challenging, and you feel a certain sense of accomplishment each time you clear a stage.

Standard grid-based game with bombs to deal with
Standard grid-based game with bombs to deal with

The concept is somewhat novel for the era.  Tile-based game.  You have to walk around and blow up bombs in a particular order such that you don’t fall in the water, or get blown up.  My biggest complaint is that the game tries to do too much at once.  You have a limited amount of time, and you have a limited number of lives (but infinite continues, so what’s the point?), and you can die just by stepping in the wrong direction by mistake.  I much prefer puzzle games when they don’t try to also put an adventuresque element to it. If they had made it now, they’d also throw in some sort of leveling system, and achievements.  Instead of all the clutter, I wish they’d just focus on the puzzles.  Make them challenging enough on their own so that you don’t have to taunt the player with making them fall off the edge because they pushed the wrong direction.  Chu-chu Rocket is masterful at this sort of game.  You don’t get frustrated when you get it wrong.  You just try again.  Here, you have to try again not only when you get the puzzle wrong, but also when you run out of time, hit an enemy,  scratch your nose and nudge the d-pad.  It doesn’t add anything to the game and takes a lot away.

You can see part of the game board layout from an aerial view, but not all of it.
You can see part of the game board layout from an aerial view, but not all of it.

I also wish they’d just show you the whole game board at the start of the stage.  I get that they’re trying to make it more challenging, but it doesn’t end up that way. You have to move, pause, move some more, pause again, to get in the whole stage.  It’s basically impossible to do them in one go.  You have to die a few times to learn the layout.  You just automatically run through each level at the start and then suicide to see the layout.  You have infinite continues. Why not?  Would have been easier to just give the player a flyover at the start of the stage, at least.

Verdict: Kablooey gets  a lot right: interesting concept, challenging puzzles.  But it suffers from trying to do too much, adding a lot of things that just frustrate the player without making the game more enjoyable or challenging.  I suppose that approach is forgivable for the early nineties.  Nowadays, Popcap games has learned the lessons from the trailblazing of games like Kablooey and makes much more fun puzzle games.  Oh, and the music is repetitive.

Joe and Mac 2

Dear _____,

As you may know, Data East receives multitudes of game design suggestions every months. We examine each candidate carefully for sound design and profitability and decency (family is very important to us, we’re certain you’ll agree). We are certainly glad to hear about your enthusiasm for our earlier release, Joe and Mac, and some of your ideas may come into consideration when we plan our future title.

It must be stressed that we appreciate the rigor of your design, sketches, and document, as well as going to the considerable expense to ship the design document to us. To that end I feel that as a Producer here at Data East I might lend some suggestions to your future designs. If you apply your unimpeachable work ethic to future projects there is no telling what you might accomplish!

First, I would suggest removing some of the many rich locations you have created for the game. Lonely huts 1-37 may not be the most effective way to market your material, especially given the lack of palette swaps to differentiate them.

Today's videogame consumer has little appreciation for repetition or metaphor, we question this addition.

Far be it from me to question your artistic vision, but you may want to consider clarifying what it is to say to the modern player of video games. The mechanics you suggest (we are especially fond of the “eating” and “spitting” abilities) are excellent and many of your platforming challenges seem appealing. There seems, however to be a fairly large amount of worm-riding challenges. I am not attempting to make any implications that may not be relevant, but this seems unusual.

You may consider using upper and lower case text, it tests with our focus groups as less coercive.

Now normally we would complete this scene and move on, but when compared to some of your later designs (fig. 421c, for example), there are some troubling similarities.

See fig. 4214 and phi respectively.
Fig. Phi

And yes, I have thoroughly read Appendix C: “On the dethroning of the archetype of the father through metaphorical castration and assuming the godhead”, and am unconvinced of its marketability.

However, we thought that your use of entertainment and education together was very clever, let me be the first to say that if you were to create more concepts like this it could do great things for the industry indeed. Many of our top speculators anticipate big sales from so-called ‘edutainment’ titles.

This is exactly what we are looking for.

We found the use of the pirahna as an obstacle while also teaching basic pirahna facts is fascinating; though it may be a good idea to remove the cutscenes you illustrate of various prehistoric animals being stripped of their flesh in record time. Keep to basic dinosaur facts and I assure you, your ideas will be irresistable.

Please feel free to submit again, but for the moment we regret to inform you we will not be able to publish your work. Best of luck in your future endeavors.

Sincerely,

Shane Johnstone

Producer

Data East

Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues

Scientists have since hypothesised that dinosaurs were in fact canines.
Scientists have since hypothesised that dinosaurs were in fact canine.

Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues – not to be confused with The Lost World: Jurassic Park – is eerily prophetic with regards to the second movie’s plot.  In fact, the plot of Jurassic Park 2 actually makes more sense.

First of all, the main character is Dr. Alan Grant NOT Ian Malcolm.  We all know (or at least strongly suspect) that Ian Malcolm’s role in The Lost World was a plot contrivance based on Sam Neill’s reluctance to reprise the role of Dr. Grant (making his decision to appear in III all the more baffling).  Sure, Malcolm was the only one who was right about everything, but to us kids, he was the spoilsport trampling all over our hopes and dreams.  (We don’t want your science, Mr. Voodoo Man, we want magic!) Dr. Grant was the hero; the Everykid staring up in awe at a living, breathing Brachiosaurus for the very first time.  He didn’t cling stubbornly to the vestiges of his adulthood; he didn’t even care that his very livelihood as a paleontologist had become obsolete; he simply released himself to the magic of a dinosaur he could see and touch.

(It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention that while Alan Grant remains the central figure of this game’s story, he is not in fact a playable character.  The player controls Tactical Sergeant Michael Wolfskin, a mercenary dispatched by John Hammond to accompany Dr. Grant on this dangerous mission.  Regardless, in the context of an island overrun with wild, prehistoric lizards, an armed mercenary makes far more sense as a protagonist than a chaos theorist and mathematician.  He also looks a bit like Paul Reiser of Mad About You (and Aliens) fame, which doesn’t hurt.)

Dinosaurs were the cultural zeitgeist back then – we knew all of their names from Parasaurolophus to Pachycephalosaurus, we argued about them in the schoolyard (the ‘smart kid’ at school tried to tell me that Tyrannosaurus Rex was not the quintessential King of the Dinosaurs.  If only I could journey back in time to inform him that its name literally translates as ‘tyrant lizard king’ in Latin.  PWND!), and we went to the museum, for fun.  I’ll repeat that for effect: we WENT TO THE MUSEUM, for FUN.  Such was the power of the terrible lizard.

JP2 also accurately predicted the rise of the DS to gaming prominence.
JP2 also accurately predicted the rise of the DS to gaming prominence.

Second of all, Jurassic Park 2 takes place on the same island as the first film, Isla Nublar.  As the title suggests, it has been released into chaos since the events of the first film.  The Lost World contrives a second, neighbouring island known as Isla Sorna.  The idea behind this second island was that it was the ‘control group’, so that they could observe dinosaur behaviour outside of captivity.  How on earth they planned to do this is beyond me – did they get out there with a helicopter and a clipboard?  So essentially, InGen, Hammond and company decided to make the same stupid mistake a second time; albeit a stupid mistake that had a far greater potential for abject failure and complete disaster.  The plot of JP2, on the other hand, sees the original, abandoned park discovered by a rival company (the appropriately named BioSyn) which attempts a very literal corporate takeover of Jurassic Park and its reptilian denizens.  How did a group of game developers manage to come up with a better, more plausible plotline than Hollywood?!  I fear that I am destined to take this mystery with me unto death.

Jurassic Park 2, though repetitive, and tougher than granny’s gingernut biscuits, is positively dripping with atmosphere.  Tensions are always high, be they in the jungle or inside an abandoned complex.  Raptors stalk and surprise as well as they do in the films – perhaps a little *too* well…

jp2_biohazard
Biohazard's the right word for it!

“Clever girl!”

In many ways JP2 is reminiscent of Alien 3 for the Sega Megadrive (another game superior to its film counterpart – by no means an astounding feat).  Activity time!  Substitute the word ‘raptors’ into the following sentence every time you read the word ‘xenomorphs’:

The xenomorphs are so fast you have to shoot off-screen constantly while running to avoid death.  This places unreasonable demands on one’s ammunition supply.

(May I suggest a raptor-killing tactic?  Set phasers to stun, charge your weapon while running, jump as soon as you see the raptor, turn and release.  Rinse and repeat.  The strongest breed of raptor (grey) takes no more than three fully charged energy bolts to put down.)

This game is so atmospheric it uses graphical filters in the foreground – clouds of dense fog in the swamps, a spotlighting effect in a dark facility – I know because I fiddled with the emulator–I mean, my legitimately purchased Super Nintendo Entertainment System – settings to switch them off and on again.  I don’t know how many other 16-bit games did this, but I’m impressed by the graphical spit and polish on this thing.  The moody synths and tribal beats only amplify the game’s tangible sense of dread, on level with the raptors-in-the-kitchen scene of the first film.

Fog and fluid animation: a match made in heaven.
Fog filters and fluid animation: a match made in heaven.

If you’ve read Jared’s review of Jurassic Park, you’ll be coloured the same shade of surprised I was to find that not only was Jurassic Park 2 developed by the same company that developed the original (Ocean Software) – it’s also not crap.  In fact, it’s really quite good.  There is only one satisfying explanation for this singularity: a lack of info from Hollywood and a stricter deadline leading up to the first game’s movie tie-in release; versus the creative freedom afforded by not having to stick to a highly classified film script for the second game.

It doesn’t take a chaos mathematician to work it out:

Tie-in = Tied Down.

Jurassic Park

A big ole tee-rex.
A big ole tee-rex.

When I told Travis that Jurassic Park was a poo-conflagration of a game, his reply was, “???.” So surprised was he to hear that such an illustrious franchise had flushed its videogaming marbles down the proverbial hole-in-the-ground that he couldn’t even produce a coherent question. Instead, he used his extensive knowledge of symbol to convey his train of thought.

His first “?” is for me. He uses it to indicate both his astonishment and his disgust that something like that could have occurred in such a wonderful world as this.

His second “?” questions the very questioning of my statement that this game is, in fact, a poo-conflagration. After all, a great many games that are based on blockbusters are made of evil; why should this game be an exception?

His third “?” questions the very questioning of the question. Here, he admits that, though he has travelled far in the land of videogames, and though his colours have run and his flag hangs tattered, he still demands a good game every now and then. And he bloody well loved the film Jurassic Park.

Such an internal divide is common when approaching a videogame based on a beloved film. You say to yourself, “Well, all those other games based on movies are right shit, but this one will be different.” And so you play. Of course, the game is shit. But you do not stop playing.

The first stage of the process is denial. Actually, every stage is denial.

Only after a significant amount of time has passed is it possible to look at games like this with some objectivity. Only then is it possible to say, “Goram game got bun buzzit… conflagration.”

Friends, that time is now. Welcome.

Jurassic Park wants you to be sad. It gives you a zappy-gun and says, “Go. Shoot dinosaurs. Have fun,” all while mechanically waving its hand and smiling a smile that is just a shade whiter than it should be. Turns out, all this little zappy-gun is good for is killing the little turnip-eaters that run away if you look at them. What. The. Fuck.

Push it. Push it good. Push it. Push it real good.
Push it. Push it good. Push it. Push it real good.

This is when you realize that what you had originally thought was a Pick Up Shit button is actually a Fuck Me In The Asscrack, Mister Dinosaur button. You get jumped by about seven velocity-raptors (that’s a speed-pun) as soon as you muster the courage to piddle down the garden path. Oh, now you’re back at the start.

Turns out there’s some sort of ball spinny thing place BEHIND you in the map. Lucky you, it makes the dinosaurs blow up. Literally. Blow up. It’s the best part of the game.

So ends a legend.
So ends a legend.

So you try to use that, but you die after you blow up a few dinos, cause you’re kinda bad at it. Back to the start. Guess what, Junior! It’s gone now! You can’t pick it up again, even if you have to continue! You’re actually totally fucked!

Back to the blowing up dinosaurs for a minute. Everything blows up dinosaurs in this game. Found a shotgun? Yeah, that blows ’em up. This becomes amusing when the game inexplicably changes to a sluggish first-person mode. The dinosaurs don’t appear to notice you until you’re standing inches from them, so you can just blow them up from across the room before they know what’s up.

The only way to kill dinosaurs, it seems, is to blow them up. When you throw gas at them they just pass out for about five seconds and then stand up to bite you in the bum.

This game, upon reflection, is awful.

Thank you for your time.