Monday, December 31, 2012

A Year in Gaming, 2012

Well folks, the year is coming to an end.  Hence, we can now call the games of 2012 history.  Here is a video review of the year in gaming, by Malcom Klock.



Monday Meme: The Pac-inator

If it's Monday, it must be another video game Retromeme:



via Reddit and Imgur

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry X-Mas




It's Christmas Day!  Time to unwrap those presents, and may all your new game controllers be fully charged.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Galaga 30th Collection

As our final entry into The 12 Video Games of Christmas we bring you Galaga 30th Collection for iOS, made by Namco Bandai.

This app was released in 2011 to mark the 30th anniversary of Galaga, the sequel to 1979's paradigm-shifting Galaxian by Namco, distributed in North America by Midway.  The initial download is free, and for that you get the original Galaxian for free.  The rest of the games, available through in-app purchases, are as follows:


  • Galaga  $2.99
  • Galpus $2.99
  • Galaga '88 $3.99
  • All-games pack: $7.99
The app keeps the basic mechanics of the arcade games, and gussies up the graphics so the aliens look cleaner and buzz around with coloured glowing streaks behind them.  Besides the normal versions of the Galaga and Galpus games, you can also play a score attack round and try to beat your high score in three very difficult screens.  For control, you can chose a standard joystick/button configuration, or go for the option to move your ship by sliding your finger to and fro across the screen and tapping to fire, which feels much more precise.  The app provides rapid fire shooting, which makes dispatching a large number of aliens at once much easier than the originals.

You also have access to a store where you can spend Galaga points in order to upgrade your ship with such ordinance as faster reloading shots or a forward shield.  These points are earned by playing the game and performing well.  Achievements and a ranking system rounds things off.  Over all, this is another good update of classic arcade games for iOS devices.  You can snag Galaga 30th Collection at the iTunes store here.  Happy holidays!

Monday Meme: Pac-Man Meets PONG

It it's Monday, it must be another Retromeme:


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Midway Arcade Origins

Today in our The 12 Video Games of Christmas feature, we have Midway Arcade Origins for PS3, developed by Backbone Entertainment and released by Warner Bros. Interactive.

Warner Bros. picked up the assets of Midway when the company filed for bankruptcy in 2009.  Their presentation here of 30 classic Midway arcade games is certainly a no-frills affair, where you merely  quickly cycle through the cabinets to choose your game, while the murmur of a busy arcade plays in the background.  A nice option though is being able to tag games as favourites, so you can use that option to quickly find the cabinets you prefer to play on.  You also get access to operators switch options, letting you do things like change difficulty or add more lives.  Unfortunately, there are no bonuses or history offered.

There could also be some more options given for configuring controls in the games, although most of them feel pretty good on the PS3 gamepad.  It's also great to see these classics up on the big screen, bezel art and all.  A high score leaderboard system helps you keep tabs on your friends' activities in the arcade.

I wouldn't exactly call this collection the "origin" of Midway's storied past in the video game world, but it certainly is a cornucopia of gaming goodness from the company.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Ms. Pac Man for iOS

The 12 Video Games of Christmas continues with Ms. Pacman for iOS.

Now, this one was before my time but I have actually played an arcade cabinet of this before. I can remember playing this and Operation Wolf at an old boardwalk arcade when I used to live in the UK. I was pretty young so I had to stand on a milk crate to play them. 

I remember having a great time with this because at its core the game is classic Pac Man action. It's all here; the classic gameplay is replicated in style with a neat cabinet style controller interface down the bottom of the screen and faithfully recreated gameplay. If you've ever played the game before and are wondering just what the difference between the two games is here is the short version: Ms. Pac Man features redesigned mazes in four different styles, moving fruits, random ghost movement making predicting their movements a lot more challenging and new music and sound effects. 

There is a reason these arcade games were so popular (and let me tell you, Ms. Pac Man was one of the most popular arcade games of all time!) and if you want to get in on the arcade action you can drop some iTunes credit here and download the game to your iOS device.

Were you addicted to pellets back in the day? Share your stories of obsessive Ms. Pac Man playing in the comments section. No intervention required. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Pitfall!

Leaping into The 12 Video Games of Christmas today is Pitfall Harry, in a drastic iOS remake of Activision's original 1982 Atari VCS/2600 game Pitfall!, by developer The Blast Furnace.

30 years after the fact, this new version almost seems like a retro-themed version of the hit mobile game Temple Run. Here we send Harry running pell mell through 3D-rendered native villages, cavernous er... caverns, and wild jungles.  Obstacles in his way must be jumped over, slid under and, in the case of the snakes and scorpions that return from the original, whipped with an accessory borrowed from Pitfall Harry's original influence, Indiana Jones, all the while snagging treasure that lines the paths.

Solidly falling into the Freemium category of apps, here the in-game currency are diamonds and the treasure you find, which you use to upgrade Harry with more skills, or even just to continue the game where you left off.  Given the breakneck, twitchy gameplay, you'll be dying a lot, and since diamonds are given out sparingly by levelling up, you'll be feeling the pull to purchase a bunch, ranging from $1.99 all the way up to $29.99.  It's feasible that you could plow through the game without actually spending a cent, but only for the devilishly patient gamer.  A very nice touch of nostalgia are the "Explorer Club" badges you collect in game by reaching achievements; a nice throw-back to the real badges Activision would send to players who mailed in proof of their accomplishments.

It's good to see Harry back, even if he's aping another gaming app like Temple Run.  Swing on over here to continue his scorpion dodging exploits on your iOS device.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Another World for iOS

Welcome back to the 12 Video Games of Christmas! 

Today, we're looking at another fluidly animated platformer from the past with Delphine Software's masterpiece: Another World.

Originally released for home computers and consoles in 1991 Another World (or Out of this World) amazed gamers with fluid animation and cinematic presentation that many thought was impossible on a cartridge. Using rotoscoping the visionary developer created a pulse pounding science fiction adventure that roped players into a brilliantly realised world. Who doesn't remember that massive black monster bounding ominously towards them in the background at the beginning of the game?

With remastered sound, HD graphics and achievement support BULKYPIX has given iOS gamers a great little piece of gaming history if they missed out on it originally or they can't play it on an original console anymore. I for one will be sticking to my Mega Drive copy though. Head here to drop some iTunes credit!

It'd be great to hear if anyone has played Another World or the equally excellent Flashback. Share some memories in the comments section everybody! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Visual Cortex: Remembering Christmas Wishes

I'm fairly certain that heading into the Christmas season, a lot of kids in 1983 were lying under their blankets at night with a flashlight, pouring over the video game section of that year's Sears Wishbook.  Crammed full of every important video game of the era, it was a cornucopia of gaming goodness.  It also has a tinge of doom with all the price slashing, a herald of the collapsing market that would lay waste to the video game landscape the following year.

In the Cortex today is a page from the 1983 Sears Wishbook, featuring what was considered a great, shining hope for the continuation of the industry, Coleco's 3rd-gen powerhouse ColecoVision.  Sadly, the great "arcade in your home" system sank with the rest of them in the great video game crash.  A page of history, forever turned:



For more on the history of the ColecoVision, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.


The 12 Video Game of Christmas: Atari's Greatest Hits

Wrapping up an entire video game arcade is a little tough.  Today's entry in The 12 Video Games of Christmas makes it a whole lot easier.  The Atari's Greatest Hits app is a masterfully made collection of classic Atari arcade and VCS/2600 games, available for both iOS and Android.

"Options" is the operative word here, and Atari provides plenty of.  The app is available for free, and with that you get Atari's cold-war influenced arcade game Missile Command.  If you want to add to your classic collection, you can: download 4-game packs for $0.99 each, buy a pack of 15 tokens for $0.99 that lets you sample any games you wish, or buy the whole shebang of 100 games for $5.99.  What's even better, though, are the myriad of control options you get.  You'd be justified in worrying how a mobile app would handle the wide gamut of control options you get in the long history of Atari games, like the trak ball in Centipede to the thrust controller of Lunar Lander to the VCS paddles of Video Olympics and more.  The Atari's Greatest Hits app serves up multiple ways of playing the game, sometimes with 7 or more configurations; fixed joystick, touch-screen control, fire button on the right, fire button on the left, on the top, on the bottom... it's a given that you'll find some way to play the game comfortably, either in portrait or landscape mode.  What's more, this app was the first to offer support of the mini-arcade cabinet iCade, and Atari has since come out with their own official Atari Arcade joystick for the iPad.  It's not as retro-cool as the iCade, but it comes in lighter in weight as well as price, selling for $59.99 as opposed to $99.99 for the iCade.

All these options, plus 2-player simultaneous play via Bluetooth for some games.  The Atari's Greatest Hits app lets you defy physics by stuffing an entire arcade into the stocking of the retrogamer in your life.  Get it here from Apple's app store, or for Android at Google Play.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tron's Legacy Continues

Coming through the I/O Tower is word that Tron: Legacy, the 2010 sequel to Disney's groundbreaking 1982 movie Tron, is itself getting a follow-up.

Legacy created a lot of buzz during its release two years ago, managed to pull in over US$400 million dollars world-wide, and spun-off an animated series titled Tron: Uprising, which airs on the Disney XD television network.  It's little wonder that Disney wants to continue plumbing the Tron universe.  Legacy director Joseph Kosinski has been tapped for the sequel, with Jesse Wigutow in negotiations to write the script.

I liked Legacy when it came out in theatres.  I saw it in 3D, and the movie was shot with 3D equipment as opposed to converted to the format after the fact, and it looked spectacular.  In addition, the story was a bit more fleshed out than the original.  Here's hoping Tron 3.0 continues the upward cycle.

For more information on Tron and other video game movies that mattered, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

via The Hollywood Reporter



The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Pac-Man for iPad.

Yellow ornaments hang from the tree in today's The 12 Video Games of Christmas.  Wait, that one is eating the tinsel!  Darn you, Pac-Man!

Made by Namco and selling for $4.99 in the App Store, this round of Pac-Man is for the iPad only. It definitely feels like the arcade game, and has some good options for controlling our yellow hero.  Using the virtual joystick feels a bit logey, but an option to move Pac around the maze by swiping your finger to make him turn feels surprisingly responsive.  What's really neat, however, is the accelerometer control scheme, where you tilt the iPad to move the character, kind of rolling him around the maze like in a marble-roll game such as Labyrinth.  It feels pretty cool and physical, although not particularly precise.  All of these control methods come included with the free Lite version; if you want to really get the arcade controller experience by hooking the game up to the mini-arcade cabinet iCade, you'll need to pay for the full version of the app.

Another interesting addition to the formula is the ability to continue your game where you left off after losing your last man, by spending Namco coins, which, of course, you can purchase with real cash.  This particular freemium endeavour is not so obnoxious as others you find in the app store, as you get an awful lot of the program in the free version.

Pac-Man for iPad can be gobbled up at the iTunes App Store. Bon app├ętit!




Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Meme: Yellow Fury

If it's Monday, it must be another video game Retromeme:



via cheezburger.com

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Doom Classic for iOS

As the 12 Video Games of Christmas extravaganza continues with a nice little gem from id Software. Doom Classic is a faithful recreation of one of the most popular FPS games of all time. If you're here reading this you probably don't need Doom explained to you but for the sake of context here's a little background.

In 1993 id Software released Doom much to the chagrin of office Managers everywhere. By 1995 the game was estimated to be installed on more computers than Windows 95. The game catapulted id from an obscure Texas based game developer to the holy ground of shooter game development. Now, the game that filled a thousand BBS's in shareware form can be yours for Christmas for the bargain price of $4.99. 

Doom Classic isn't just a cheap cash-in port either. There have been features implemented like tilt strafing and tilt turning and "auto use" which opens doors or pushes switches automatically that take advantage of the unique idiosyncracies of the iOS platform. 


If you're expecting some iTunes cards for Christmas then definitely put Doom Classic on your "list of things to get with that iTunes card I got for Christmas" - or that Dimensional Shambler won't be pleased. Here's a link to expedite potential Doom-ing: Doom Classic

If you (like myself) wasted much of your young life playing way too much Doom then share some experiences in the comment section. Whether it was forgetting to eat or talking back to the quit messages it'd be great to hear them! 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Prince of Persia Classic for iOS

Welcome back to the 12 Video Games of Christmas!


Anyone who grew up with a home computer in the early 90's probably remembers Prince of Persia. My earliest memories of playing the game go all of the way back to sitting in the dingy after school program room playing DOS games like Gods, Castle Wolfenstein and of course: Prince of Persia. 

The animation impressed me and it still is impressive if you look back on it today. Such an important game does not deserve to be relegated to the "Halls of Obscurity" (a place I just made up) and thankfully if you're packing iTunes cards around the Christmas period then you can pick up Prince of Persia Classic for iPod and iPad for only $1.99 - honestly. That is really cheap considering you get the original game with updated visuals, updated level design and modern game design sensibilities. 




Prince of Persia Classic features three modes and Game Centre achievement support which should extend play for diligent players. The price is really compelling though, so if you have $1.99 laying around the dusty confines of your iTunes wallet then drop it on an updated piece of gaming history today here: Prince of Persia Classic.

Did anyone else play Prince of Persia growing up? Let's hear about your swashbuckling antics! 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: iCade

The arcade in your home!
Our entry today in The 12 Video Games of Christmas comes in its own beautiful wooden box:  the iCade.

This squat and sturdy mini-arcade cabinet started life as an April Fool's Day prank in 2010, part of a tradition at the ThinkGeek website that also spawned the tauntaun sleeping bag.  As the iCade joke post went viral, however, response for a real device was so strong that ThinkGeek teamed up with ION Audio to actually produce it.  ION Audio is the consumer brand of Numark Industries, makers of professional DJ equipment.  Also partnering with the project was Atari, and their classic game app Atari's Greatest Hits was the sole compatible game program with the iCade's launch on June 27, 2001.

As stated, the iCade is solidly built, a wooden cabinet into which one slides any generation of iPad.  The two devices connect via Bluetooth, after which compatible apps will display the iCade as a controller.  Since launch, the list of supported apps has been growing, including Midway Arcade and the recently released Vectrex Regeneration.  The iCade's joystick is professional grade, although its action could be a bit tighter.  The buttons, all eight of them, are rock solid and have a real arcade feel.  Overall, the iCade goes a long way to mitigating the control problems you generally find playing classic games on mobile devices.

The cabinet is available from ThinkGeek and various retailers, usually selling for $99.99.  Currently, however, ThinkGeek has them on sale for $69.99.  Recently ION has released the iCade Jr., a similar device for the iPhone, but I think this is delving a little bit into the ridiculous.  It is a bit cheaper, however, going for $49.99.  

Buy the retrogamer in your life an iCade, and you are truly giving them the gift of the arcade.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Classic British Computers Live Again

Those who grew up in Britian and Europe in the 80's and early 90's know all about the ZX Spectrum and Amstrad CPC.

Most people who owned one remember the Sinclair Spectrum and CPC as their gateway to the world of personal computers with big name developers like Rareware and the famous composer Jesper Kyd starting as humble home computer developers and composers respectively on them.

 Source: theguardian.co.uk

Both of these home computers had their own particular charm. The Spectrum was not designed for gaming but developers released some fantastic titles anyway despite the impediment of a lack of dedicated video. This meant games could only really display a few colours at a time from a total of seven. The CPC is remembered for its games with bright, bold colours and the unique Amstrad monitor.

Source: serious.gamesclassification.com
Games like Fantastic Dizzy, Firebird, Manic Miner, Wizball and ports of popular arcade and home console games like Commando, Altered Beast and Ikari Warriors led to the CPC and Spectrum becoming beloved amongst home computer users in the 80's and early 90's. Magazines that catered to hobbyist game and operating system development and the "demo scene" fueled the fires of fandom amongst Spectrum and CPC users and now their legacy lives on in communities on the internet.

A manifestation of the love the fans of these home computers hold for them is the "fan site" and what better way to celebrate these wonderful pieces of gaming history than to host some of the most beloved games on the system for play in your browser?

World of Spectrum is a huge site dedicated to all things Spectrum. Straight from your browser you can launch hundreds of games, demo discs, educational programs and productive tools. This is a huge time sink and if you love your home computers then you'll get lost in this site for hours.

CPC Box is the home of a really excellent CPC emulator; the site doesn't hold quite an impressive library of titles like World of Spectrum but it does provide the user with a nice big display resembling a CPC monitor and the ability to boot the CPC and play around with the command line in BASIC. This site is a lot of fun to tinker with.

European gamers must have a tonne of great memories of these two classic computer systems, and of the games that molded a generation of players and programmers. Did you grow up with the shrill loading of a Spectrum tape drive? The satisfying clacking of a CPC keyboard? Share some memories with us.

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Atari Flashback 4

Just wrapped up with Pac-Man gift paper and stuffed into Santa's sack is our next retro video game present for our 12 Video Games of Christmas: the Atari Flashback 4 Deluxe.

Probably the next best thing to actually going on eBay and bidding on an authentic Atari VCS/2600 game console, the Flashback 4 is a stylized replica of the venerable Atari workhorse video game console.  It plugs into your TV inputs, and included are 75 built-in video games, Atari VCS/2600 classics like Night Driver, Asteroids and Adventure.  Unfortunately, most likely due to licensing issues, third-party games such as Activision's Pitfall are not on the list.

A nice inclusion, though, are wireless controllers in the style of the originals.  Ironic, considering Atari actually produced wireless 2600 controllers back in 1983, although the ones included in this package aren't nearly as monstrous.  Replica game paddle controllers also come bundled with the deluxe model, which should make playing games like Breakout and Video Olympics feel much more natural.

The Atari Flashback 4 Deluxe is made by AtGames and sells for $79.99, although at this writing they are currently sold out, so you should keep an eye out for replenished supplies, or you might have to do some searching to see if they are available online at various auction sites and the like.

Here is the AtGames online store page for the Flashback.

Have you gifted Atari today?


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: SuperCade

Continuing today with The 12 Video Games of Christmas retro game guide: Santa's elves have been busy on the assembly line.


Imagine seeing this with a big red bow tied on it, under your tree Christmas morning.  Hell, it could BE the tree, just wrap tinsel around it and plug in a Super Mario Bros. star at the top.  SuperCade, from the good folks at Chicago Gaming.  50 licensed, classic games such as Asteroids, Berzerk, Battlezone and many more, all in an upright cabinet with two joysticks, multiple buttons and even a roller ball.  All for a cool US$ 2069.49, but hey, free shipping! While you're composing your email to Santa, here's a video of Supercade in action:


For even quicker results than Santa, here's the Amazon link.  Go ahead, press the 1-Click button.  Your rec-room will thank you for it.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Midway Arcade for iOS

Virtual N.A.R.C.
Today we start our 12 Video Games of Christmas feature, where we spotlight a game a day that would jingle a retrogamer's bells this holiday season.

In the stocking today is the Midway Arcade app for iOS devices.  It is a universal app that works for both iPhone and iPad.  It is a collection of 10 classic titles from Midway, one of the first manufacturers of arcade video games and producer of such classics as Gunfight, Sea Wolf, a little number imported from Japan called Space Invaders, among many, many others. This app features some of the later games of Midway.

The in-game Menu has you moving through a virtual re-creation of a classic arcade, faithfully replicating the noisy din of a typical video game hangout.  As you shift from one rendered classic cabinet to the next, you can choose to step up to one of the 10 games included for the initial $1.99 purchase:
  • Defender
  • Spy Hunter
  • Rampage
  • Root Beer Tapper
  • Arch Rivals
  • Joust
  • Four skill games: Basketball, Pool, Air Hockey and Roll Ball (Skee-ball)
Available for in-app purchase are two game packs, for $0.99 each:

Fantasy Game Pack
  • Gauntlet
  • Gauntlet II
  • Wizard of Wor
Action Game Pack
  • NARC
  • Total Carnage
  • APB
Start flapping
It gets to be a bit of a broken record with reviews of classic game emulation on mobile devices, but a real problem here are the controls. There aren't many options for adjusting the nature of the virtual joystick, and the tilt-controls are a bit wonky too.  Driving games like APB and Spy Hunter are a lost cause.  A mitigating factor here is that Midway Arcade supports the iCade, a mini-arcade cabinet with a joystick and button array,  which you just might see under the tree later in this series.  Since the iCade lacks a steering wheel, it doesn't help much to control the vehicle games.

Midway made some great games for the arcades, and Midway Arcade brings that shifty, smokey coin-op jive right onto your iOS device.

Available on iTunes


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rum Punch: Video Game Inspired Commercial from Bacardi

Here is a strangely funny ad shilling Bacardi rum, with a situation that seems similar to a certain famous video game protagonist:

via N4G and Electronic Theatre

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Meme: End of the Lines

If it's Monday, it must be another video game Retromeme:


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Through the Eyes of a Goomba

This video is getting a lot of buzz, it's a short film that takes a look at life from the perspective of a Goomba.  It'll make you think, next time you rampage through Super Mario Bros..  You monster.




via Open Thinking

Friday, December 7, 2012

Star Trek Crew Invades the Big Screen, 33 Years Ago Today

Indelibly mixed in my memory with blasting rocks in Atari's Asteroids and shooting Space Invaders at the local arcade, as well as seeing video games coming home with the Atari VCS and the then newly-minted Mattel  Intellivision, is Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was released to theatres in North America on Dec. 7 1979,  33 years ago today.

Detailing the return of "Admiral" James T. Kirk to the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, as a giant cloud menacingly approaches Earth with unknown intent, the film was savaged by critics at the time, calling it over-long, glacially-paced and too full of itself.  The film series righted itself commercially in the next iteration, the rollicking Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, but I've been swayed over the years that TMP is a more pure Star Trek movie.  Later films narrowed plots to episodic TV dimensions, but the original movie seems more true to the idea of exploring the unknown, grandiose nature of the universe.  The effects by visual master Douglas Trumbull also seemed barely constrained by even theatre-sized screens.

Star Trek was my pop-culture obsession before video games beamed in, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a milestone on that journey.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

King of Consoles: The NEOGEO X continues the fun!

[I'd like to introduce Andrew Pine, who joins TDE as a blog contributor.  Based in Australia, he is an authoritative voice in later gen games and consoles such as the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn and TurboGrafx-16, and graciously lends his support to the site.  Welcome, Andrew! - ed.]

[UPDATE: Various retailers earmarked to carry the NEOGEO X are reporting that delays have pushed back the release of the system until Dec. 18.  We will post a short blog entry on that date to remind readers; for now, here is Andrew's announcement post]

Neo Geo fans rejoice. Today (if you're in Australia get your wallet ready because it's the 6th already!) the NEOGEO X is released. If you preorder the handheld, SNK Playmore and Tommo Inc. will throw in a copy of Ninja Masters for free. The NEOGEO X is a handheld that is rated for four to five hours of playtime per charge. The X also supports HDMI via the AES style docking station and if you want to play with a friend you can play two player games with an additional arcade controller.



The most interesting thing about the $199 dollar piece of nostalgic wonder is the fact that it is expandable with additional game cards to augment the list of 20 built in games. That is pretty good value for arcade lovers.

For those catching up the Neo Geo was released in 1992 as the AES (Arcade Entertainment System) based on the arcade MVS (Multi Video System) which allowed arcade owners to easily swap out cartridges instead of boards in cabinets. The AES was incredibly pricey when it was released at a recommended retail price of $649.99; this was in 1991 so you can imagine not too many people were able to pay that price for a home console. To put this in perspective the Sega Genesis cost $189.99 when it was originally released in 1989.


Despite the high price of entry the AES would prove to be pretty popular for SNK and throughout the 90's many high profile properties like Metal SlugFatal Fury and The King of Fighters would thrive on the MVS and AES hardware. No other console could touch the supremely colourful sprites and backgrounds the Neo Geo hardware could render and it maintains the legacy of introducing removable memory storage to console gaming.

If you're interested in getting a NEOGEO X to satisfy your nostalgic cravings or you just want to dabble in the world of Neo Geo then North Americans can head to Gamestop, Target or order online. In Europe you can order online only and in Japan the console is only available through Amazon at the moment. Here are some links to make life easier for you.

USA:
Target
Amazon

Canada:
EBGames
 
Europe:
Blaze

Japan:
Amazon

Official NEOGEO X page

Have fun Neo Geo fans!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Visual Cortex: Explosive Invaders

Where we pull a visual bauble out of the treasure chest of images at TDE and examine it with a loupe.

Today in the cortex, a flyer for Space Invaders, which helped solidify video games as popular entertainment.  Invaders' biggest contribution to the North American video game industry was probably how it brought coin-op games out of bars and bowling alleys, and into restaurants, coffee shops, hotel lobbies and other mainstream venues.  Such did video arcade games move from a smokey niche market and into popular consciousness.  

But that's nothing compared to how Space Invaders affected Japan when original manufacturer Taito released it there.  The game was so popular, with so much change being dropped into the machine to play, that the Bank of Japan had to triple 100-yen coin production to keep it in circulation.

This flyer sent by North American licensee Midway to distributers is mighty explosive.  A fitting graphic for a game that set the world on fire.  For more information on Space Invaders, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Video Games, Are They Art? The MoMA Says Game On!

Facing Their Doom
When Roger Ebert reviewed the film 'adaptation' of id Software's seminal FPS PC game Doom in October of 2005, while savaging the movie he also fired a shot at its source medium:

"The movie has been 'inspired by' the famous video game.  No, I haven't played it, and I never will..."
This dismissive attitude towards video games raised a few hackles from gamers,  and fires were further stoked in Ebert's Answer Man column, where he continued to state he considered video games as not worthy of his time.  He finally dropped the hammer on any possible artistic aspirations of video games in his column that November:

"I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art."
And so the debate has raged for years, "Can video games be art?".   A counterpoint to Ebert's protestations otherwise has come previously in the form of the 80 games of various genres inducted into the Smithsonian American Art Museum in March of 2012.  And now, the Museum of Modern Art will be displaying a collection of video games starting next March.  Some of the initial entries will include Pac-Man, Myst, The Sims and Portal, with the museum aiming to add the likes of Space Invaders, Street Fighter II and even Minecraft at a later date, totalling 40 games in all to be interred at the MoMA's Philip Johnson Galleries.  A particularly interesting entry will be Zork, the classic text-only adventure by Infocom.  Such an example of the brilliant prose found in video games will make an excellent addition.
Kandinsky's Composizione VIII

Are video games art?  Yes, definitely.  If I were to classify categories, I would say that early video games fall under abtract art.  The sparse mazes, outlined mountains and  geometric characters are all iconic representations of reality.  You could say the renaissance arrived with the lush visuals of games like Dragon's Lair and Myst.   Modern day entries represent an on-going attempt by game artists and programmers to approach hyper-realism; in lighting, physics and the human body.  Yes, it is art.  To ride the ranges of Red Dead Redemption, as a burning sun sets behind a wide, rusted mesa, is to ride through a Bierstadt or Moran painting come to life. Yes, video games are art, as much as Picasso and Matisse are art.   Especially considering the limited technological canvas most of these electronic artists had to paint on.


via The New York Times
Composizione VIII available at art.com

Friday, November 30, 2012

Starcade Archive

This is Starcade!
Let me shine a light on a collection of videos at the Internet Archive, episodes of the classic arcade game series Starcade.

The show ran on Ted Turner's WTBS cable channel from 1982 - 1983, and in syndication the following year.  Billed as the first video arcade game show, Starcade featured players facing off against each other on the popular arcade games of the time.  Watching the episodes is like glimpsing coin-op Valhalla, with shiny Tron, Super Zaxxon and Stargate cabinets filling the backstage.  It prefectly captures the 80's in video amber.

We might not have arcades in our neighbourhoods anymore, but we still have Starcade.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

PONG Turns 40

The First Serve
On November 29, 1972, a recently incorporated company in California named Atari announced the release of its first product, an electronic video arcade game called PONG.  Two players would stand at the wood-grain and yellow cabinet, twiddling the control knobs that moved two paddles displayed on a B&W TV screen.  With the paddles they would play an electronically abstract game of table tennis, batting a little white blip back and forth in an attempt to "Avoid Missing Ball For High Score", as the simple gameplay instructions prompted.

Conceived by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and designed by Al Alcorn, Pong was a smash success, giving birth to the video game industry.  Fast-forward nearly 40 years later, in 2011 that industry was worth US$65 billion dollars.

Among other celebrations of Pong's 40th birthday, an attempt to enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest game of Pong was made on Nov. 16, 2012.  A 22-story version of the game, complete with festive lighting, was played on the side of the Downtown Marriott hotel in Kansas City, MO.




In a lead-up to the anniversary, earlier this year Atari announced the Pong Indie Developer Challenge.  Offering a grand prize of up to $100,000, the company solicited independent app developers to submit their take on the venerable Pong.  The three winners were announced on Aug. 2, and they will participate in a profit sharing scheme divided between the three Pong apps that will see them collect royalties up to the winning prize amounts.  The top winner, the freemium-based PONG World by zGames, can be snagged at the iOS App Store here.

Pong put Atari on the road to becoming the fastest growing company in American history.  It's no stretch to consider that when you say Pong is 40 years-old today, you're also saying the video game industry is 40 years-old.  So like those tipsy patrons of Andy Capp's bar in Sunnyvale California, who played the original Pong prototype until it broke and convinced Bushnell and Atari to produce the game commercially, raise a glass to the grand-daddy of the video game industry.  Your serve, PONG!

You can play an updated version of PONG online at Atari.com for free.  For more information on the history of Pong and Atari, consult your local Dot Eaters article.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Retroclip: Thayer's Quest

Thayer's Quest
cabinet
After the enormous success of laser arcade game Dragon's Lair, Rick Dyer and his RDI Video Systems company created another groundbreaking laser coin-op game in 1984, called Thayer's Quest.  Its story was more closely based on Shadoan, the Tolkien-esqe source material that Dyer had conceived earlier and from which he had spun off Dragon's Lair.

Thayer was an astounding attempt to produce a sword & sorcery RPG epic for the arcades.  Eschewing joysticks and buttons, Thayer had a full-size membrane keyboard mounted on the cabinet, which players used to input choices during the game.  At the start, you could enter your name, and then be personally refered to via speech synthesis.  Shown on the keyboard were various inventory items that Thayer could use at certain spots to advance the plot.  The game even had a save game system, where the last ten players could return to continue their progress after losing their last life.

The innovation found in Thayer's Quest makes it a very special and unusual arcade game indeed.  Posted below is our gameplay video.  For more information on Thayer's Quest, Dragon's Lair and the rest of the 80's laser game craze, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nintendo Admits It Has A Wii Mini

Recently we seem to be in the timeline of our current generation of video game consoles where companies, anxious to generate renewed interest in their hardware without actually producing something new that would cannibalize sales of their current offerings, simply produce refreshes of their current machines.  This involves reducing the size and amount of inner circuitry of their lines, in order to look more sleek and save on production costs and thusly lower retail prices. Atari and Mattel both attempted to stave off obsolescence by remodelling their flagship consoles in the early 80's, producing the 2600 jr. and Intellivision II respectively.

Wii Mini
Both the Xbox 360 and PS3 have undergone shrinkage with "slim" versions, and now Nintendo, with the release of its next generation Wii U console safely behind them, has announced what it calls the Wii Mini.  Priced at $99.99, the smaller form-factor comes with a red Wii Remote Plus and Nunchuk controller, to match the console's colour.  What it doesn't include, however, is any online capability, nor Gamecube compatibility.  The console also seems to be a Canadian exclusive, at least over the 2012 Christmas season.  Nintendo is mum on any details about other countries getting a release, so currently only Canada has tiny Wii's.  Don't worry though, we're not embarrassed. Although I don't think I'd be telling anyone I had a Wii Mini.  Especially in the clubs.  Be sure to ask your Future Shop salesman about his Wii Mini on Dec. 7.

Okay, I'll stop now.  Although I still think they should have called it the "WeeWii".  Maybe in Scotland.

1983 - E.T.'s Final Home Recreated

ET Box Cover
Perfectly captured in forlorn sepia tones is the fate of the E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial game by Atari, infamous for helping sink the company and its flagship console the 2600, and thus the rest of the U.S. video game industry in 1983 - 1984.  Created by artist Pauline Acalin, these 6x6 digital prints feature the rejected 8-bit fugitive wandering a landfill, while the ghosts of slightly more popular electronic aliens look on mourning his fate.  The work is simply titled "1983".

The hand-signed prints can be purchased at the Yetee Gallery space on Storenvy, for $20.  For more information on the E.T. game and the great video game crash, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.


via Kotaku

Monday, November 26, 2012

Quote Mining: Straight outta Hartford, CT

Do you know the powerhouse 3rd gen console discussed in this quote?

Answer:

Mr. Dressup Honoured by Google Doodle.

Early ad for Mr. Dressup
Ernie Coombs was a mainstay of children's programming on the CBC, as the title character of Mr. Dressup, running on the network from 1967 to 1996.  Along with his puppet friends Casey and Finnegan,  he was a gentle and friendly accompaniment to my formative gaming years of PONG and Atari.  He passed away in 2001.

That Google has chosen to celebrate what would have been his 85th birthday really... wait for it...

Tickles me.

Google.com

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Save Us Dikembe Mutombo, You're Our Only Hope...

Title Screen

Old Spice, a company that is rapidly defining how to do incredibly effective viral marketing, has created a new, online retro-style game starring retired NBA basketball star Dikembe Mutombo.  Titled Dikembe Mutombo's 4 1/2 Weeks to Save the World, the former baller is on a quest to carve new dates into the Mayan calendar, and thus save the world from extinction at the end of the year.

The game is very funny and highly surreal, as only a classic 8-bit game can be.  It's also pretty fun to play.  The game is rolling out in instalments, with the first stage now live at oldspicesavestheworld.com.  Be sure to say Hi to Science, the Bear for us.

via Complex Gaming

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tank Game for Mattel Aquarius

This is an interesting find, from NuGeneration Gaming.  It is a video of gameplay from Space Ram, a tank game on the Mattel Aquarius personal computer.

The Aquarius was Mattel's attempt to enter the burgeoning personal computer market, released in 1983.  It's strange that Mattel would attempt to market a computer alongside the ECS or Entertainment Computer System that they also sold as an add-on to their Intellivision console, designed to turn the Master Component into a full-fledged computer.  I guess it shows that the company had no real confidence in either system.  At any rate, the Aquarius failed miserably as a home computer of the era.  The writing was on the wall internally at Mattel; programmers had their own slogan for the machine, referring to its obsolete specifications by 1983 : "The System for the 70's".

For more information on Mattel Electronics and the Aquarius computer, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Market percentages of game platforms and genres analyzed.


This is a graph of the percentages that various gaming platforms and genres have made up of the video game market, from 1975 to present day.  It's completely fascinating.

Culled from a database of 24,000 video games from VideoGameGeek, these charts vividly describe the roller-coaster ride of the rising and falling whims of the video game market. Witness as arcade games dominate the percentage, and then get steadily hammered down into nothingness.  Watch helplessly as generations of video game systems yield to their successors, who yield to the next wave, in an electronic circadian rhythm.

To me, it's very much like watching a colourful evolutionary chart, where organisms emerge from their primordial pong, crawl gasping into the sun of commercial acceptance, who then are driven extinct by more evolved species better able to adapt to the marketplace.  It puts The Dot Eaters into perspective: It's like breaking apart the rock strata of video game history and examining the fossils, in a medium of electrons and brightly coloured photons that is anything but chiselled in stone.

Reading this chart, I also can't help but think of the companies, programmers and players who are swept around helplessly in the ebb and flow of the ever-shifting, ever-raging video game current.

via ncikVGG of Reddit.com.

A New Godly Kickstarter Project by Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux helped define the "God Game" genre with Populous, developed by his Bullfrog game development house and published by EA in 1989 for Amiga and Atari-ST computers.  In the game, players controlled the fates of a race of little people wandering around varying landscapes, smiting them with boiling volcanoes or spreading pestilence across the lands, or nurturing them with flat fertile soil on which to build homes and prosper and multiply. You were either up against a CPU-controlled rival race of beings, or, in an early instance of online play, against another human via dial-up connection.

While the game was a blast to play, after awhile things would inevitably devolve into a "land flattening" simulation, with players scrambling to smooth the landscape faster than his opponent in order to expand housing for his own minions, resulting in higher influence and more and stronger followers.

The repetitiveness of the game was not its only shortcoming.  It had a very unwieldy user interface that took up 1/2 of the screen,  squeezing the player's actual view of the landscape for precious screen real-estate.  Populous made true believers out of computer gamers and created Molyneux's name in the industry, but that gigantic block of icons has been a personal cross he's borne for decades.  It eventually fuelled the "gesture-only" interface that powered the UI in his magnum opus god game Black&White, doing away with most on-screen icons but not entirely successfully.

Thus, it comes to pass that Molyneux and 22Cans, an indie development house he begat earlier this year, have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new project called Godus, that promises to redefine the god game genre as much as Populous established it 23 years ago.  Of course, your excitement level about this venture depends on whether or not you still trust promises coming from Molyneux, who has developed somewhat of a sketchy reputation for promising big, paradigm-shifting game elements while hyping an effort during development, only to fan on the actual implementation of these elements and apologizing afterword when the game is released.  Rinse and repeat.

Although, you have to admit that really only those of us who slavishly follow every little detail of the development of his games throw stones over the results.  Those people who just walk into the game without knowledge of things promised are generally happy with it.  I hope you'll join me in keeping the faith that Godus and Molyneux aren't leading us down the garden (of Eden) path once again.

You can check out the Godus Kickstarter project here.

Here's our Populous gameplay video, for those not as old as Methuselah.  For a  history of the genesis of EA, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.







via neoseeker.com


Atari's Groove Tube

Smack dab between the release of home PONG in 1975 and the VCS in 1977 came the Atari Video Music in 1976.  The brainchild of home PONG creator Bob Brown, you would plug your stereo via RCA jacks into this piece of ordinance, and output to your TV via a RF connector.  Thusly, the Atari Video Music would display trippy graphical patterns on your TV, in time to your music.  The box is hard-wired analog, with nary a processor in sight.  Think of it as an early version of today's mp3 player visualizers.  You can grok the effect in this YouTube video:



Read more about the device here at Technabob.  What would your choice of "mind-enhancer" be when watching this thing?


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

It is pitch black...

Perhaps you're like me, and one of the very first gaming experiences you had on a computer was a text adventure.

Sometimes a person is lucky enough to have a first experience, a first taste of something, that is so amazingly, compellingly good that it forever shapes how they think about that thing.  For me, that first thing was Infocom's Zork, and it gave me a lifelong love of computers and gaming.

The text adventure was a genre that ruled the landscape of early computer gaming, until advancing graphics technology inevitably supplanted text as the canvas for creating worlds on personal computers. GET LAMP, a documentary directed by Jason Scott, takes a close look at the genre, from its inception as Will Crowther's original cave-diving Adventure, to its perfection at Infocom, to its effective demise in the late 80's and resurgence in the modern era as home-grown Interactive Fiction.

As the premiere text adventure company of the era, a particular light is shone on Infocom, producer of  classics such as the aformentioned Zork games, Deadline, Suspended, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy... the list is exhaustive.  Interviews of those involved are numerous and informative, and form a captivating narrative about the company and what it was like to work there.  It's fascinating to hear the founders and game designers talk about how they were convinced they were on the cusp of creating a new type of literature that would stand the test of time.  Now we look back with 20/20 vision and it seems so obvious that the writing was on the wall for Infocom even as it began making games, that inherent in the very idea of text adventure computer games is the seed that will sow the company's destruction.  It was inevitable that game designers, inspired by Infocom games, would eventually want to move on from monochromatic text and turn the lights on to see what is actually there.  As well, hobbyist IF writers and players also feature in segments that highlight the fact that text adventures have survived and thrived after the demise of Infocom.  Be sure to keep an eye out for a secret item in these interview segments.

Call them text adventures, or adventure games, or the more grandiose interactive fiction, these types of games created entire worlds only with words on a screen.  GET LAMP brightly illuminates the forgotten dark corners, hallways and caverns of these worlds and the people who crafted them.  Good thing too, because you don't want to end up reading these words:

...you were eaten by a Grue.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nintendo Draws First Blood


Nintendo's latest game console, their first shot across the bow in the next generation of video game machines, was released yesterday.  The hook is once again a re-imagining of the gaming controller, although here, instead of motion control, the Wii U taps into the gaming tablet rage by having a large screen embedded into the controller.

There seems to be a lot of potential here, including allowing one player to influence the play field on their screen while others struggle against his influence with regular Wii controllers, or even being able to move the game completely onto the controller while someone else watches the TV.  It comes off as a mish-mash to me, however.  Do we want motion control in our controllers, or do we want a big screen?  Also, I'd be very worried handing over a controller with a screen to my 4 and 6 year old sons.

At any rate, here's hoping the Wii U boosts Nintendo's sagging bottom line, and doesn't become the company's Atari 7800.  As always, for more information on the history of Nintendo, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.