Super Slapshot

AI is really really interesting. I don’t mean the science fiction BS about machines overthrowing their human oppressors (though that is undeniably interesting in its own right) but rather AI as a question of implementation. The first two years of a computer science degree are basically basic classes in machine psychology. In essence, you spend a lot of time learning what computers can and cannot do well and why they can or cannot do it. The practical applications of this are vast, and it sets you up for a long and accursed existence of yelling at your television every time computers are abused as a deus ex machina, because everything in fiction should be plausible.

In a vast majority of cases, the question of practical AI is one of simply making your agent act smart but in time to fulfill whatever objective. Computers are pretty good at coming up with complete solutions given however much time they need, and are less good at coming up with a good enough solution right now. When it’s properly implemented, the results are basically magic, here’s a short demonstration.

Now this is the result of some pretty heavy computation on a decently modern machine, which is part of why it’s magic, because doing the same thing on a 16 bit processor with limited memory is. Well it’s very hard.

So given that I’ve been sperging on AI this weekend and I really don’t want to drop another review on the pile of “phh, hockey, whatever jock” vs. “god stop being such a nerd sports enthusiasm is no less ridiculous than, say, reviewing every game ever“, we’re going to watch super slapshot play itself and see how it fares.

For the purpose of this test I chose Israel vs. Sweden. I thought it would be a fitting match up due to Israel’s scrappy and well known prowess both offensively and defensively and Sweden because they are a country with ice. It was only about 9 minutes in length and and neither put up a very good fight during play itself.

You do not need ice to play a strong game of Hockey.

The goalies were veritable ironclad juggernaut destroyer battleships, neither letting a single goal through even when Israel was shorthanded two players. I literally know maybe the first and second things about hockey, but I’m pretty sure the game isn’t played that way.

It came down to an overtime shootout which Sweden, who aside from absolutely stellar supernova goaltending played a pretty miserable offensive game, took handily by scoring two goals like it was nothing.

Now if you could have done that like 7 minutes earlier, this would have been a game of hockey.

What I’ve learned about hockey and AI today:

-Skate pathing and dodging while maintaining realistic movement must be a really neat and interesting problem to tackle.

-Shooting AI is probably boring because the goalies are invincible supermen.

-Israel got like 4 penalties, including 2 at a time, the Swedes got none, couldn’t close the deal when they were 2 players up, played passively, and took it at the end of the game. The programmers may have had some ideas about nations.

Advertisements

Super Scope 6

They called it Super Scope 6, not because it was the sixth iteration of a series, but because it had six games or, more accurately, six game modes. I won’t list them all because they’re silly. They split into two primary categories: LazerBlazer, in which one shoots at aliens who fly menacingly in front of the screen like those last reluctant cheerios in my breakfast cereal, and Blastris, in which Nintendo explores the less violent portion of the light gun spectrum. I will now attempt to convey the grandly magnificent experience that is playing such a rampantly amazing title. I will share few factual details, as we have websites like The Wikipedia for that. I will, instead, dazzle you with metaphors and similes constructed in such a way as to create, in your mind, the feeling of playing Super Scope 6.

LazerBlazer

I am a baby. I turn effortlessly in my mother’s womb. Suddenly, I realize that we’re not alone. There is evil approaching. I bang on the walls of my cage. The captain comes. He tells me that the aliens are coming, and that everyone that they thought would help them isn’t going to help them anymore. It looks like it’s up to me. “Devils!” I shout as I man my turret. I am hungry like a cannibal with naught but children on which to feast. I blaze my lazer up with my lighter. Bam bam! But my lazer is a piece of orange dog shit. Instead of light, the thing fires big gobs of yellow jell-o at my foes! Sin! I am dying for a good kill and these jell-o gobs are too slow to hit anything. Then I remember what I was taught at the academy. I begin to shoot not where the alien is, but where it will be. My gobs of jell-o hit home! I am a slug on a lovely, tasty log. I munch and munch. Yum yum. But now I am like a turtle in a shell whose shell is being shot at by cannons the size of mountains. I cannot sustain this barrage! Dying, I am an old man who dies.

All babies are trained for war.

Blastris

This mode wouldn’t work for me, and thus I am armed only with imagination and luck for my next piece. I have been told only that this mode involves some sort of Tetris clone that one plays with a light gun. I will clear the stage and then begin.

I am a Russian man in the year 4000, surrounded by the crumbling ruins of mankind. I must be kind to the toppling nation before me. I must ease its demise with organization. “Not one piece!” I yell. But there’s more: “Not one piece of Russia will be wasted! Each will fill up holes in the earth, so that, one day, my kind will once again walk on a flat surface, and not have to live underground like rats in the sewers!” And I begin to fire my cannon at the tumbling structures. Somehow, this makes them flip around, I guess, and then they go into their respective holes. I am a champion! Nothing can stop me. Except… MOLES!! And they’re everywhere. Moles at my feet. I focus my shots on them now, to save my own hide. And civilization collapses because of my selfishness. The needs of one are put before the many. Oh dang.

Super R-Type

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. 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 lay 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. Talking about the future in past tense is hard.

Super RBI Baseball

The catcher might be experiencing a bit of "foul play"

It was only a matter of time before I flew too close to the metaphorical sun curiously labeled “enjoying SNES games” and got horribly burned. My face was seared off by the light of games that were fun to play and interesting to write about and my eyeballs melted out of my face to pool on the ground like the spilled innards of Cadbury Creme Eggs™, the delectable chocolate treat that I might have just ruined for you.

No, all good things must end, and in some cases they must end in a maelstrom of fury, curse words, and me crying a little bit when I read the word “baseball.” It’s time to review Super RBI Baseball, a baseball game for the SNES. A SNES baseball game! I’m about to explode with the novelty.

Everything you could want to simulate The Most Boring-est Game in the World is here at your fingertips! You have the ability to throw screwballs, fastballs and highballs (you have to unlock the “Angry Players’ Wives” part of the game for that last one). You can run around the bases, or steal them and drive them to a local pawnshop where they’re beginning to realize that you’re just trying to pawn off stolen baseball gear and if you didn’t know any better you could swear they wrote your name down and then looked at each other meaningfully and one of them went to make a phone call…maybe you should learn about that eBay thing Uncle Rick was going on about before he got shot?

You like graphics? This game has some! Thrill at stunning digital depictions of all your favourite players, none of whom I’m going to bother to list! You like music? Gasp in incredulity and maybe even shock as some music plays from the stadium, the tiny orchestras of the game world ceaselessly churning out choons for your enjoyment! You like different modes of play? Acknowledge the fact that you can have a tournament or an exhibition and you can save season progress with a password!

If you lined up all the SNES baseball games and made me play them one after another (please don’t), I doubt I’d be able to remember which was which; they all run together for me, a giant puddle of stuff that I’m not particularly interested in. I think this one is average for a SNES baseball game, but if you’re a baseball fan, you’re going to have to play it to find out what a baseball fan would think.

I hate baseball.

Super Putty

Honestly? Alright.

Guh

Let’s get this over with. Actual simple review (one sentence): Super Putty is challenging platformer with repulsive and often confusing graphics that I’m sure someone loved dearly but is basically horrible. The longer story is that I hate basically everything that this game represents. First of all, the character. There’s only room for one amorphous blob in video games, and that is the blob (and his boy):

I don't want to hear any of this "the original was better" horseshit. It might have been better in terms of "fuck this game it's way too hard" but it was way less better in terms of "ha ha, he just blew up inside that other frog monster thing and that's awesome".

Super Putty takes a cute blue thing and lets it do things that Putty should do (except rub offs of your favorite comics) and then puts it in a platforming fever dream where you can do a million things but all you’ll want to do is jump. You can’t just jump though. You have to stretch (I have no idea how this is better than jumping), go flat (which absorbs things), punch stuff, and presumably some other things I’d know if I had a booklet. It all starts off pretty unassuming.

ALSO, it's worth noting that this game had a tutorial level. That's a pretty big rarity for this generation.

So there’s a little blue guy who can stretch and bounce. Got it. You exit the level by taking robots to their space ship, which you do by absorbing them and spitting them out. It’s not clear why a ball of putty needs to do this. But then this bullshit happens:

BLAM

Basically what the game does then is get so ugly that you want to stop playing it immediately and then [SPOILER ALERT] you do just that.

Also the blob eats hamburgers, but he teaches us about things.

For those of you keeping track at home, that means that Super Putty represents every awful game that tried to invent a lovable character who is mostly unremarkable and then puts him in convoluted and stupid setting that reminds you of better games (Commander Keen, A Boy and His Blob). And it’s also super, super ugly.

Yup.

Super Punch-Out!!

Full Disclosure: I fucking love this game.

There’s so much to love about Super Punch-Out!!: racial stereotypes, punching, brutal knockout animations, precision timing and challenging game-play, time trials (and you’ll basically never hear me say that), excessive punctuation, etc. The list could go on.

I think pretty much everyone accepts that Mike Tyson’s Punch Out was a pretty awesome game. I think even Mike Tyson would say something like “that game is a magnanimous presentation of my exceptional fortitude”. Or something way more colorful, probably, like “I’d fuck that game till it loves me”. Anyway, the original Punch Out was unforgiving and great. Mario was the ref. You loved it. It was your favorite game.

The hits keep comin'!

What’s neat about Super Punch-Out!! is that I had no idea it was even a thing until my second year of university. In 2002 (a post-9/11 world, if you will), my entire winter exam period was spent trying to beat my personal best times (and the times of my friend Nathan) instead of studying for my exams. I think history will show I made the right decision (history definitely doesn’t show that). I used to be able to drop Bear Hugger in something like 17 seconds. I tore that bitch up. I could beat the game front-to-back without much trouble, but I still came back to try to beat the characters faster. Again, I never do this. This is totally unlike me. But this game….

So let’s take a second to talk improvements here… it’s still Punch-Out, after all. First of all, Little Mac is a thing of the past. This is likely a good call because he was sort of a dork and his Carl Winslow coach (despite his amazing appearance in this pbf comic) rode around on that bike in the same mocking way the Duck Hunt dog laughed at your misery. So they replaced Little Mac with a guy… he’s white… his name is whatever you want… and he beats on stereotypes. Awesome. Thanks Nintendo!

I will ride out your face!! Err... wait... mustache? No...

I think pretty much everyone believes that when the Japanese are racist that it’s adorable. I’m not sure how that happened, but check out this cast of characters: Bear Hugger (big white guy, huge beard, overalls, king hippo analog – Canada), Piston Hurricane (Cuba, because they have hurricanes), Bob Charlie (Jamaica… when his special attack comes, his coach yells at him to “shuck and jive”), Dragon Chan (China, he makes Bruce Lee noises and kicks you in the face), Masked Muscle (giant luche libre, spits in your face and fights dirty, Mexico)…

So anyway, the gameplay is virtually identical. You have super punches, fast super punches, jabs, body blows, dodging and ducking. It’s pretty basic. But the puzzle and pattern solving in SP-O!! is awesome. There’s just so much game to love. When you nail Bald Bull with a right body blow during his charge, you feel so good about yourself. You probably will just start pelvic thrusting. You feel that good. It’s awesome.

Yeah, that's right fuckface.... take it all in.

I don’t really have any criticism here. I love this game. I’m a little rusty… I almost got beat by Gabby Jay while trying to learn to counter punch again, and Bald Bull beat me once when I forgot that his “Counter Attack” command means he only hops twice on his bull charge. Mr. Sandman tore me up completely. But man, this game is just so good. I should probably try out the one for Wii. I bet that’s awesome too if you use a controller.

What’s probably the most telling is that I will very likely enjoy the Punch-Out games more than I’ve ever enjoyed a Fight Night. Any Fight Night. That’s saying something, I bet. Probably.

Conclusions.

Super Play Action Football

“Super, Play Action Football,” said his mother. Super obeyed.

“Super Play; Action Football,” said the commentator, colourfully. He said it because he had just seen what he believed to be a super play, and wanted to clarify that he thought that the football he was watching was action packed, which it wasn’t.

“Super Play-Action Football,” commanded the football expert, who wanted his football team to feign a running play, and then pass instead.

However you spell it, Super Play Action Football is not about foodball. But it should be. Imagine: the pitcher hikes the watermelon and everyone has a slice. The passer passes the pizza-pie and everyone has a slice. The runner runs fifteen yards with a with a cloning device and everyone has a splice. Excellent.

Football Squeezed Cheese

But instead of following the advice of countless cooks and bakers, Football (a subsidiary of Kraft Cheese Slices: “Everyone Has a Slice”) has yet to adopt a more omnoms friendly theme. And I suppose that’s ironic, since it is owned by a cheese company. Instead, it involves men crashing into each other, each attempting to touch, even once, what I’ve been told is the skin of a dead pig. Now, that would be all well and good if that dead pig had been prepared as a plate of awesome bacon, because then everyone could have a slice. But it’s not. In fact, it’s just been stuffed full of nitrogen, oxygen, and other gasses, and chucked around a field made of fake grass. Further, I would like to add that football is exceedingly violent. Once, I saw a man cursing at the screen about how he wanted to kick some poor man’s teeth in such a way as to make them appear, as corn is likely to, in the young man’s stool. Perhaps this gentlemen was confused about the nature of human to human contact in the 21st century. As a concerned parent, I am of the mind that sexual behaviour of any kind is preferable to angry bumping, which I often have to tell my child to avoid. Instead, I want my child watching hardcore pornography at all times. After all, isn’t the point of life procreation? Yes, my friend. Yes it is. So I propose that football become, instead of an orgy of violence, an actual orgy, in which all the players would engage in wonderfully consensual sex for several hours in a stadium of roaring fans (so that they don’t get too hot).

In any case, this game is great, if you like foodless, sexless football. And I really don’t. And this raises an important question. As a reviewer, am I required to look for the objective through the subjective? Should I give a game a good review, even if I don’t like it, based on its so-called objective merits?

Here’s an example: if there was a game that involved attaching electrodes to oneself so that, when you were shot in the game, you would feel real pain in real life, would that be a good game? Would it be worthy of a good review? It does exactly what it sets out to do, but is it any fun? Does it fit into our collective conception of what good is? I don’t know.

So, is this game good?

I can see that it does what it sets out to do handsomely. But I cannot, for the life of me, find this game fun. So, is it a good game? Is a game in which you stare at a blank screen and try to enjoy yourself a good game? Is it art? Is it worth ten minutes of an already short life?

I don’t know.