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.

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.”

Wing Commander

 

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!

Vegas Stakes

The Maitre d’ looked at my worn trousers and ruffled blazer. Then he asked for my name. I told him it was Mr. Elefant. It made me sound big and imposing, two things I am most certainly not. I spelled it ‘Elefant’ — no ph — for two reasons: it looked more like a last name to me and I didn’t have enough room for the more traditional spelling. It was a fake name, of course. But this was Vegas; everyone had a fake name.

Some room I had. No television, no chairs — just a bed and a phone. Presumably, the drabness of the hotel room was intended to drive guests out and into the casino area. Never one to argue with well-devised population management techniques, I picked up the phone. “Craig,” I said to Craig, who was my friend. “Craig,” I said, “Let’s get sloshed and throw money at the mere concept of hope.” He said alright, and we began a mistical journey of sorts.

I called Craig because he looked like the best candidate for the position of My Wingman. He was blond, bright, and had a full-toothed smile that sent shivers down my heterosexual spine. Also, he was rich. In my years of gambling, I have learned this simple rule: money attracts money. So having a certified moneybags around was sure to be an asset. Down we went.

I told him to keep his fat mouth shut and help me take these shallow shells of human beings for all they were worth. He said that he wasn’t a betting man, but if he was, he would bet on my enthusiasm and talent any day. I gave him a high-five and we slipped into two chairs at the nearest blackjack table.

The dealer was probably of the weapons variety by the look of his scarred visage. “Oh boy,” I said to him, and I slapped down a 20-piece thing. It was a good day to die.

Suddenly, I realized something. Everyone in the place was looking at me. Fuck. They know I’m a genius at gambling, I thought. But they didn’t do anything, so I continued to play.

Should have gone for the insurance, whatever that means.

But it wasn’t going so hot. I kept dropping down 20-piece things and then the dealer would give me bad cards and then I would lose the money and then I would have to put down another 20-piece thing and then I would also lose that and then I would put down another 20-piece thing and then I would also lose that but I didn’t stop putting down 20-piece things and losing money because I knew that I was good at gambling and my luck would soon turn around.

I looked around again. Still staring. I was still the centre of attention.

But wait. I waved my hand in front of my face. I had no depth perception. What the hell? I checked my eyes. I had two, but I couldn’t see out of one. Why hadn’t I realized this? Then I looked back at the table; jagged edges.

“Shit, everything aliasing!” I shouted. No one reacted. They just looked at me.

The  I realized I didn’t know how I got here. I realized I didn’t even know my real name.

What is this?

“It’s a videogame.” Craig was staring at me from the seat beside me.

“What?”

“It’s a videogame.” Craig said again, in the exact same tone, with the exact same spacing between words.

Movement. A group of large men were approaching our table.

“Run.” Craig said, his toothy smile never wavering.

Top Gear 2

Top Gear 2. Well, I guess I’ll start with the basics. This is a Super Nintendo game, which usually means it’s either amazing or a canned soup alternative. Not that I don’t like canned soup, I just don’t want to write reviews about it. Thankfully, this game isn’t canned soup. It’s more like asparagus. Now, asparagus isn’t bad. By many accounts it’s quite good. But it’s just that: asparagus. It doesn’t do anything unexpected or innovate in any real way. It just does it’s funny little thing and does it well.

With asparagus, it’s just a matter of heating it up and eating it. There’s no mambo jambo with saucepans or colourful napkins. No. Just stick that bad boy in the oven, turn it up all the way, and sit back. Blam: simplicity. Blam: food. So too with Top Gear 2. I press the go button and then the go button a couple more times, and then it puts me in a car and I can drive around a track. Well, that’s good enough for me. I wasn’t expecting anything more, Top Gear 2, so you have earned yourself a place upon my gaming spread, my games-as-food metaphor table.

So, you drive around a track, and as you do so, the vehicles you drive by become more and more detailed and larger and larger until you pass them, and then the game ceases to render those vehicles. That means you’re winning. And your driver never hesitates to rub it in your opponents faces. A speech bubble comes out of his head and he says things like, “Smell that, you good-for-nothing!” and, “Taste the colours that are present in my fumes!” and, “Hear your own screams of agony!” He’s a very sensual man — meaning he uses sensory information as a means to taunt opponents (Smell, taste and hearing, to be most accurate).

I find this offensive and tasteless. Much like the dirt that he demands that I eat.

 

All said, the asparagus was stringy. My significant other says I don’t know how to cook it. Well shucks to her!

As for this game, well, it’s pretty much just driving around a track. And that’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it doesn’t make me grab my groin with either anger or pleasure. What it does do, though, is allow you to change your controls. I’m not sure if that offends me or placates me. Either way, it’s nothing short of unprecedented for SNES game. So, good on these guys. These gremlin, gremlin guys.

TKO Super Championship Boxing

Technical Knock Out?

When I was a child, I was allergic to swearing. Goodness gracious, yes. Here’s an anecdote, followed by a transition into a review:

The trouble started when, drunk on youth and innocence, I went to a friends house, only to discover that treachery resided therin. It lay in his eldest brother, a pubescent lad with just the hint of a ‘stache’ upon his pimple-scarred face. We were playing a game of EA Sports Boxing when the villain appeared. He held out his hand for the controller, and, as I remember it, grinned an evil grin for the devilry he was about to commit. He loaded up a character of his own creation. “Don’t tell mom,” he said, and I had but to look at the name to determine the reason: “Shitkicker.” Gadzooks! My heart a-pounding, I carried on living, but only just. Later, I would ponder what awful thing had happened to the older boy to cause such vile behaviour in him. I came to the conclusion that he was a terrible person by nature; he was the “Shitkicker.”

It is only now that I realize just how wrong I was. He not a hateful boy, but only one who had seen the true potential for comedy provided by the boxing genre. Following in his mighty footsteps, I named by dutiful TKO boxer-man “DesiresIntercourse.” He wears it well. Not only does he desire intercourse, most probably of the sexual kind, but he punches other men in the face to get it. He punches them in the face until they fall down, he does. Or he should.

 

A tale of woe, / Of sorrow and so / on.

But instead, he chokes. It’s probably my fault; I don’t play this game’s strategy well. It tries to force me to box like an actual boxer, to bide my time, keep my defenses high, and strike when the time is right. I’m far more comfortable with just dropping the gloves and going all hockey fight on the other guy’s ass. Despite my failure at all attempts at competence, it is this very aspect of the game that I find intriguing. It helps give it some depth missing from a lot of boxing simulators and makes it less about how many punches you throw, but when you throw them. Which is, I guess, what boxing is all about — some kind of gentleman’s game of strategy.

But for purists like myself, who really just want to make that other dude fall down, it’s hard to think about not hitting him.

In the end, my friend’s brother got caught, his mom banned him from the computer for life, and now he’s a porn-actor. I mean a porn-activist.

Kids, don’t swear. You don’t know who could be listening.

Timeslip

In movies, whenever some dude gets into a time machine, he goes “zzzzzzap!” and he disappears. But this is ridiculous! Would it not make more sense for a eager-faced time traveler, who is able to jump to any point in history, come back at the immediate moment in time that he left? This would be practical: he would be able to go about his daily life without anyone realizing that he was zapping off to the past to see their great-grandparents. (This will always be a trouble with owning a time-craft — one has to always keep it hidden from those who would long to go back. To go back to see a loved one, or a religious leader. People long to justify the way in which their life — something universally defined by the past. If we could only go back, to where it all started, we could tell ourselves, ” This here: this is why I’m here.”) Or perhaps he jumps back in time right before something he doesn’t want to do. “Oh dear. Tomorrow I am to take that exam on nuclear fission. Oh, I know! I’ll skip it by going back in time, possibly to see some hot broad, and coming back after it happens. That way, I wont have to go because no one will find me.” No one would find him, incidentally, because he will have disappeared.

Why? I’ll tell you why! Because movie-going audiences are lambs that must be guided through movies with sticks and carrots a-plenty. They need to be shown the villain by the cruel music that is played on his appearance; so too cannot the audience see the hero disappear and then reappear instantly, before following his first disappearance, plot wise.

But there is another possibility: perhaps the hero, having disappeared from this time, cannot return. Perhaps he dies in the past, or maybe there are multiple time-lines. Perhaps this is the message that we slip in every peice of anything around time travel: you never can come back.

With games like Timeslip, it’s hard not to wonder if time travel is really worth all the pomp and frivolity. It follows Pan-Dimensional Bert, who goes back in time to, in his own words, “Drive those cavemen crazy with my Lynyrd Skynyrd.” He never does. Instead, they decide to show him who’s boss. They do this in such a beautiful way I can hardly describe it. They stand, just off screen, see, and they continually spawn — faster than you can shoot them, in fact. Thus, every platform becomes a major risk to jump to, since you can’t advance the screen past the entire platform, thus ebbing the tides of limitless baddies.

Eddie's last thoughts, as he turned into ooze, where of his wife and five children, whom he loved dearly.
This is the start of the game. I spent five minutes here.

Naturally, it’s eventually possible to get enough of the guys cleared out that there’s a free spot big enough to jump to, but you’d better fire your gun while you jump, or you will hit a wall of baddies and fall to your death, you unlucky soul.

So, this game is strange as hell, and I’m not really sure what to make of it, honestly. I like the concept (Dr. Scientistdad raids the refrigerator, falls into a black hole in his cheese tray, travels through time, finds true love etc.), but I’m just not sure I like the game play. It tends to feel like a game against the poor design of the game rather than any fun.

Thus, I must refrain from recommending this game to all but the most enthusiastic time-traveling fanatics.

Adieu