Saturday, 27 August 2011

Keerrrrroooueechsht, Keaaeeerrrrrrrrroooueeeechsht: Game 0013

Parker Brother's Spider-Man is not so much a game you beat as get bored of, very quickly. Its simple mechanics hail from a bygone era, some may call it classic, where its not so much your synapses that are being stretched but the rusting circuit boards of your ageing VCS. You play everybody's friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man and its your job to rid New York's skyscrapers of The Green Goblin's Super Bombs, threatening to destroy the entire city. Gameplay takes place on vertically scrolling skyscraper levels, where you must use your webslinging abilities to scale the building, catch criminals, avoid time bombs and that flying bastard Green Goblin and finally diffuse the Super Bomb at the summit. Wow. I actually made it sound quite good, but believe me, its not really. Don't get me wrong, I owned this game the first time around and to my 4 year old self, sat in front of the 'Big Telly', the only thing illuminating the otherwise dark living room (it was probably nearing bed time), I was Spider-Man. But I'm afraid that nostalgia alone isn't enough to mask the simple control scheme and (barely) functional graphics of Spidey's video game debut.

On the subject of the visuals, while basic to say the least in terms of their design, to their advantage they are wonderfully colourful, the primary palette doing its best to replicate a comic book colour scheme inkeeping with the cartoons and comics aimed at kids of the time. The sound on the other hand is reduced to a start of level midi jingle introducing you to your frequently impending 80 storey plummet to death, invariably on your back. Ouch. The game's other sound is the screaming techno grind of your web, shooting its way around the skyscraper backdrops. Its a most odd sound indeed and one I'm not sure I can do justice to with words (despite trying desperately to phonetically spell it out in the title of this post) , It is also one of the most grating noises to ever grace a video game, and a sound that bears no relation to the classic 'thwips' of spidey's trusty web shooters.

The aim of the game is clearly to shoot for high scores, your score increasing by busting criminals in the many windows that line the walls and reaching the top to diffuse the Super Bomb. Doing so will start Ol' Webhead at the foot of yet another increasingly difficult skyscraper and so the game repeats, until you lose your designated three lives. Unfortunately the repetitive gameplay is enough to make you shoot for the off switch rather than that coveted high score.

When all said and done Spider-Man isn't the worst game the Atari VCS has to offer, but for gamers that don't remember this from the first time around, there won't be much that won't have you reaching for the volume control within minutes and the off switch minutes after that.

Favourite Moment: Diffusing the bombs does have a certain level of satisfaction to it. Quickly marred by placing you at the foot of another largely boring building full of scumbags all hellbent on pushing your yawn receptors. That was my favourite moment.

On The 1s and 2s and Super Mario Bros. 3s. Bounce With This For A Hot Minute

Though I don't always mention it here, I am a huge hip hop fan and am really impressed with Heath McNease's 8-Bit styled mix tape, fusing old school beats, oodles of Nintendo samples and extremely sharp, brilliantly executed lyrics that reference everything from the Konami Contra Code to Fred Savage in the Wizard. Excellent stuff. Enjoy it here for free:

In the words of the author:

A freakin' ridiculous mixtape using Nintendo samples, pop culture references, a shoestring budget, anabolic steroids, and a lot of love


Released 03 July 2011

Heath Mcnease, ForBeatsSake, Davey Rockit, Playdough, Manchild, Red Cloud, Okwerdz, Cas Metah, KJ 52, Sivion, Fab Da Eclectic

Disney Pixar Swaps Processor Intensive Render Farms For Circuit Boards, Capacitors And Eproms In New Movie 'Wreck-It Ralph'

It would appear that Disney Pixar's latest eponymous anti-hero Wreck-It Ralph is set to do for classic video gaming what Woody and Buzz did for toys in their latest animated offering of the same name. Much like everyone's favourite cowboy and space ranger came to life when no one was around, the plot of the movie is set to follow video game antagonist, and Donkey Kong wannabe Ralph after the lights in the video arcade go out, and his attempts at shaking his bad guy image as he ventures into more modern video games to lend a helping hand.

If the above video is anything to go buy Disney Pixar appear to be bringing their trademark eye for detail to the project. The above Donkey Kong styled upright arcade was installed at the D23 Disney Expo 2011 and showed an unplayable attract mode only version of the fictional game to whet fans' appetites. Everything from the bevel and machine decals, the colour schemes of the cabinet, to that faithfully recreated 8-Bit Nintendo look of the graphics sings attention to detail and a genuine love of the medium. The more diligent among you may also notice the arcade manufacturer's moniker 'TobiKomi' which is Japanese for Jumpman, Mario's name in the 1981 original. 

A four minute preview of the film at D23, revealed that well known licensed video game characters, including one of the Pac-Man ghosts, will be along for the ride. Lets hope that Nintendo's strict licensing agreements can be bent to accommodate Pixar's whims, as it would be a shame to miss out on seeing the influences the film and its creators so clearly hold dear.

The film is pencilled in for a November 2012 release, until then we wish veteran Futurama and Simpsons Director Rich Moore, his cast (including John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch) and the entire Pixar team the best of luck.

Monday, 22 August 2011

EDGE Were Just Wrong OK. Everyone Has Off Days...What? Who's Committed A Cardinal Sin?: Game 012

Much has been made of Goichi Suda and Shinji Mikami's latest collaborative project: Grasshopper Manufacture's Shadows Of The Damned, often to the point of overshadowing the fact that neither of these creative powerhouses actually directed this seminal post modern, balls to the wall, foul mouthed quote fest through Hell's backyard. It was European industry veteran Massimo Guarini a name you may be less familiar with, that took the helm acting as the creative go between for Suda's punk rock ethics and Mikami's veteran action credentials, and it shows. What has emerged between the three of these talents (Guarini's previous work including credits on critically acclaimed but criminally undersold DS titles Soul Bubbles and Moon) is a world that is a wonderful fusion of East meets West. A glorious hybrid of Venetian gothic architecture and rain soaked neon Tokyo streets. Of oversized screen hogging boss battles and the more intimate moments between our protagonists, reading (often badly in the case of Garcia) bedtime stories to each other. As a result, its a world that isn't instantly recognisable from any other place you've ever visited before in a video game. And yes...that's a good thing.

This culture clash extends to our two leads. Self proclaimed: Garcia 'Fucking' Hotspur, a hotheaded romantic Mexican demon hunter with a penchant for purple leather jackets and well to do English, reformed demon Johnson who handily doubles as Garcia's increasingly absurd arsenal. Yeah you heard it, a big weapon called Johnson. Its in this 'Viz: Bumper Summer Special' vein of juvenile double entendre that most of the game's humour continues. Ranging from genuine laugh out loud moments to injoke's that are clearly the wet dream of Suda and Mikami's love for their own medium. What Guarini, Suda and Mikami have created in these unlikely bedfellows is perhaps video gaming's first ever comedy double act (no the Bonanza Bros. don't count) an Eric and Ernie for the 'Saw' generation, incredibly well fleshed out characters that often show their weaker sides or, more often than not, just their plain embarrassing ones.

The same subtle nuances however have not been applied to the game's lone plot device, its that age old adage, guessed it: 'Our princess is in another castle'. But while It may be the most well trodden path in video game lore, Shadows Of The Damned takes more than its fair share of blood soaked back roads and prickly thickets to keep the path seeming fresh. As penance for slaying too many of his demons, Fleming, the lord of the underworld has not only stolen Garcia's beloved Paula, he's cut off her head, possessed her to attack our boys and made his minions repeatedly burst from inside her beautiful flesh. But none of that is going to stop Garcia from trying to get her back. Much like Mikami's previous outing Vanquish, who's mechanic centred around a balancing act of speed versus slow motion, Shadows of The Damned similarly plays off the opposition between light and dark (where the dark harms Garcia and the light harms demons) handy then that Johnson comes equipped with a light shot to disperse said darkness. Understanding this interplay between light and dark becomes the main thrust of the gameplay and can be used to traverse the games scant puzzles, often complex combat and gigantic boss battles. Alcohol (what else?) also plays an important part in the game. Replenishing Garcia's energy during lengthy stand offs with the games various enemies and prolonged exposure to the darkness.

While a relatively linear and somewhat short experience (the game's 5 acts clocking in at around 8 hours of gameplay) Shadows of the Damned is a game that loves trash culture and video games as much as you do. More than making up for its shortcomings with flashes of inspiration such as collecting strawberries and gems like you were Bub and Bob, forcing you into a couple of 2D shmup stages (think Chinese paper puppet theatre meets Forgotten Worlds), recreating a classic scene from The Evil Dead and introducing you to trusty demon William, who will not only save your game for you but shoot into the sky emitting a steaming, fizzing turd as he does so.

If Mikami, Suda and Guarini have made any kind of statement with their ultimate popcorn B-game its a big two figures up to the establishment. A steaming hot turd in the eye of the corporate best sellers that many may not find funny. But if you're not in on the joke then you'd probably be more at home with a more conventional shooter, perhaps a game in which you mow down real life soldiers based on real life wars from our shadowy history. But in my opinion that is both way more offensive and far less funny than what's on offer here.

Favorite Moment: In a game with so many stand out set pieces and genuinely hilarious moments its hard to choose one. But my money is on handing Johnson the phone to a sex line that causes him to extend into The Big Boner, complete with Carry On style sound effect. That and the resulting chant from Garcia that invites two storey high demons to 'taste my big boner' every time he shoots at them. Juvenile? Yes, but it never fails to raise a smile.

Step Aside Operation Rainfall, This Guy Says It Better Than You Ever Could

Okay, so many of us European gamers have sneered at the ill fated attempts of Operation Rainfall to get Nintendo of America onboard and release the Big 3 Stateside. While we recline comfortably on our sofas (probably sipping cocktails) and brandishing the Monado at screen devouring spider bosses all our US partners can do is constantly call, e-mail and in the most extreme cases write letters to Nintendo's customer service workforce who probably would have a hard time picking Mario out from a line up, let alone Xenoblade Chronicles' Shulk. Don't get me wrong I'm all for what they stand for, but its a little poetic justice for Euro gamers after years of being shafted with late and often never appearing releases. Operation Rainfall's pathetic begging and self righteousness as table turning release schedule crusaders is also beginning to wear thin, not to mention clogging up my Facebook wall. My sympathies for the cause wore very thin as the day after the European release of Xenoblade Chronicles, Operation Rainfall patronisingly thanked European gamers for buying the game on their Facebook status and inappropriately patted themselves on the back as though we would have never had the backbone or insight to do it without them, despite Nintendo having confirmed the game's European release way before the germination of Operation Rainfall:

We want to extend a huge thanks to everyone that helped us out today.Thank you, Europe, for purchasing the game (you didn't need us to tell you how awesome this game was!)
Thank you everyone around the world who helped us make a statement to Nintendo of America, we appreciate all the enthusiasm that was shown today for these amazing games.
We can only hope that Nintendo of America took notice as well.
Either way, as gamers, united we stand.

Its for this pathetic outpouring that my sympathies are no longer with our American cousins, I don't want to hear another word about their sterling efforts to the community especially when Pandora's Tower and The Last Story get their 'already' planned European releases later in the year. In the meantime, enjoy the above video. This guy is more persuasive than a million Operation Rainfall followers bothering NOA's frankly indifferent workforce.