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.”

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.

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 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.

Super Mario RPG

What’s the point of an RPG? I ask honestly, because I’m not exactly sure. I can think of two possible ways to interpret the title “Role Playing Game.” The first is that you play a role in the story and in the creation of the character. The second is that you passively “act” a role already scripted for you. I prefer the former, but Super Mario RPG is the latter.

It’s a story we all know: the Princess has been kidnapped, likely by the aggressive dinosaur, and I guess he’s raping her, or whatever. It’s Mario’s job to get her back. Now, I didn’t finish this game, but I expect that he will do so, and without much deviation from that task. Along the way, some random-ass-crap will probably happen, though it may be hard to beat the introduction to the game, which involves an enormous sword stabbing downward into the vagina that is Bowser’s castle, and taking control of it by vibrating. It’s very much a “who’s your daddy” kind of moment, and Mario wants nothing of it. What the giant sword has done to the princess, we can only guess. How Mario will overcome the monstrous talking weapon is a mystery, but it overcome it will be.

The sword looks angry. Mario should watch himself.

Mario is, of course, Mario. And there isn’t really much wiggle room there. Mario’s traits involve: Bravery, Peppyness, Italianness, Sometime-Cowardice, and that’s about it. He wears red clothing and jumps high. His beauty is in his simplicity, absolutely, but does anyone feel as though they can identify with Mario? He’s not much of a protagonist.

But still, Super Mario RPG is a charmer. It seems like, with their RPGs, Nintendo really lets the wacky cat out of the bag. Lots of weird, weird stuff happens. I enjoy that.

Super Mario Kart

Word to the wise: don’t get your flatmate hooked on Mario Kart.

Oh, you might think it’s terrific at first having a Player 2 at the ready, but you’ve got to understand: it’s not just a “bridge title”; 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, because it gets him pumped for a day at work.

I’ve worked long and hard at expanding his horizons, but it seems he can only 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.

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. 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 are your timer, as your driver jumps, hits question mark 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.

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 Godzilla

So, you hear the words Super Godzilla and your eyes fog with the mist of imagination. Images float in your mind’s-eye: Mario is replaced by a giant lizard; koopas lose their shit. Godzilla is made for platforming. Unfortunately, with Super Godzilla all we get is a stripped-down version of Pac-Man. Instead of ghosts, we get tanks. Instead of little yellow dots, we get water towers that inexplicably have mystical blue power inside them. Instead of graphics, we have sub-graphics — meaning the game attempts only to represent the placement of objects, rather than their actual appearance. Godzilla is a little blue dot. Whoever defies Godzilla is a little pink dot. I suppose you could read the game as an allegory for gender issues, but I’d rather not.

I could reproduce the rest of this dialog but it's barely worth it.

The game involves the player navigating this map by directing Godzilla toward one of the four possible directions. Above the map is a view of Godzilla moseying past skyscrapers and the like. When you change his direction on the map, his likeness above also changes direction. And that’d all be snazzy but Godzilla doesn’t really give a damn what you say. He’s perfectly content to throw himself through buildings like a champion. Roaring and gnashing his teeth all the while. Godzilla is a wild animal; he is difficult to control. He is a monster. If you press up, he might just go up. But only if he’s ready.

Godzilla is eating building!

The game gives only a brief explanation of why we are controlling Godzilla in the first place. Seems that there’s something rotten going down in Osaka and Godzilla is the only way to put things right. I’ll buy that. There’s not much that Godzilla can’t unfuck. He’s a mediator in the best sense of the word: the sense meaning he’ll probably step on you.

In summation, I would have preferred a platformer, but if this is all I get, I am appeased. I am a man of grace and recovery. I bestow benevolence upon all lesser beings.

Super Black Bass

This is not what I expected.

Gentlemen. Ladies. This is a story of defeat.

What is fishing?

Fishing is badass. It is catching a piece of nature and saying, “FUCK YOU FISH!” and killing it with a blowtorch after poking its gills for a while to make it suffer. It is a perfect metaphor for man’s dominion over nature.

Or is it…

Long ago there was a group of men called the Really Deep Chaps who said something so important that they engraved it on a rock using their bare knuckles. It was this: “Fishing is a sport of the mind. It is not about the catch, it is about the feeling of the breeze in your hair, the rocking of the boat, the singing of the birds, the poking of the petunias.” The tragically hip wrote a song about it. They called it, “Alberta Something Something.” But this is a true story, so I’ll get back to it. No, it’s done.

Flower children who grew up in the baby boom saw the engraving and misinterpreted it. They read it as a manifesto. They lined up around lakes, cast their rods in, and when the fish bit, they kissed them and threw them back. They lived by a new ethos of fishing, not one in which people pull animals out of lakes to say, “I MADE YOU,” metaphorically, but to wish the fish a wonderful life and at the same time get really into nature and shit.

Now, fishing games seem to be confused about which kind of fishing they want to give people. If they wanted it to be about catching fish, you’d think they’d actually let you catch fish every once in a while. If they wanted it to be about communing with nature, you’d think they’d have just told people to go play outside and not make the game so fucking frustrating.

So, the flower children are confused. The game looks like fishing, but it doesn’t have all the getting-in-touch-with-onesselfness and being-alone-for-awhileness. The people who like killing things are also confused, because what the fuck?

And Microsoft gets an idea for a wallpaper design.

So, it is a story of a defeated people. It is a story that has no happy ending. Fishing games have the power to appeal to absolutely no one.

What’s the point?