|Issue #35 - April 2007|
Table of Contents
|02.||The Many Faces of Millipede|
|03.||Video Game Rock|
|04.||NEScade -- Marble Madness|
|05.||Apple II Incider|
|07.||Old Wine in New Bottles: Retrogaming on Modern Hardware|
|08.||Game Over|Attract Mode by Scott
|Millipede marquis, courtesy of KLOV.com|
|Meager collage of Millipede Faces|
|Atari2600 screen shot courtesy of Digital Press CD|
|Atari 8 bit and 5200 screenshot courtesy of AtariAge.com|
Back in the 1980's, history was made in the video game industry. A rock n roll group was featured in a video game. Not as a guest appearance but as the stars of the video game. The year was 1983 and the group was Journey in all their digitized glory. The game was not very good, but it was the start of a love affair between rock n roll and video games. While it may be hard for people to understand how a group like Journey was the first, you had to have been a teenager during the early 1980's to understand just how popular the group was. But more surprising than Journey being the first group to be featured in a video game is how long it took for another band to appear. Not until Michael Jackson's Moonwalker in 1990 was a rock group (or in this case, a solo artist) again the main character of a video game. Why the large gap? Weren't there bands that could have done well? We at RTM are here to not answer the question but to instead give our suggestions for some possible marriages of video games and rock n roll. Here are a list of some popular video games from the classic era that may have been improved or at least vastly altered by the inclusion of a rock group. With this in mind, we offer you....
Crazy Rock Video Games That Just Might Have Worked!
1. Imagic - Grateful Dead's Truckin - Having a game where you drive a truck across the country is alright, but make it a tour bus for the Grateful Dead and you have a long strange trip! Besides having to get the band to the concert on time, you have to watch out for the police, rabid fans and more.
2. Atari - Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon Patrol - Driving a moon buggy on the surface of the moon is fun, but put that same buggy in the mind of a disturbed person and the experience is greatly enhanced. And what a killer soundtrack.
3. Atari - Donovan's Sunshine Superman - Yeah, Superman was a good game for the Atari (and possibly the best rendition of the man of steel in video games), but make it a hippy trippy Sunshine Superman and you have a whole new game. Goodbye Metropolis, Hello San Francisco. Lois Lane is a flower girl. The possibilities are endless. (I know you are thinking that I should have gone with Imagic's Atlantis, but that was too obvious.)
4. Atari - Crosby, Still and Nash's Our Haunted House - With the sappy lyrics "Our Haunted House is a very, very, very fine Haunted House. With two ghosts in the yard..." Think about it, what is scarier than a haunted house? One that is haunted by Crosby, Still and Nash who fly around and sing that very sappy song over and over. I know they are not really dead, but who cares, enough of their brain cells are.
There you have a few strange ideas that Just Might Have Worked. Now it's your turn! Send in your wildest, craziest, most outrageous ideas and we will publish them in an upcoming issue of RTM. So until the next article, keep those joysticks firing and remember that an unplayed video game is a sad video game.Tom Zjaba (Whose twisted mind is always coming up with strange ideas like this. Want further proof? Check out the video game comic strips at Arcade After Dark (http://arcadeafterdark.com), the prose stories at KZ Comics (http://kzcomics.com) or the previous issues of Retrogaming Times at Tomorrow's Heroes (http://tomheroes.com). Trust me, you will never call me sane again.)
Over the years there have been a few games that don't fit into a preexisting genre. This is either because they are made up of various types of gameplay or they involve a new form all together. Marble Madness is the latter. Released in 1984 and designed by future industry legend Mark Cerny, Marble Madness carved out a niche for itself in the hearts of arcade patrons with its unique concept. Via a trackball, the player controls the movement of a marble as it sails through a series of labyrinths, each more treacherous than the last. Up to two players may play at the same time, racing their marbles to the finish of each stage before time runs out. Although there are a few enemies that aim to stall progress of your marble, the courses themselves are the real challenge. They feature increasingly complex pathways and mechanisms that must be successfully navigated and exploited to reach the finish on time. Not the longest or deepest game by any means but it sure is fun and frustrating at the same time - the perfect balance. Five years after rolling into the arcade, Marble Madness crashed into living rooms when Rare ported it onto the NES.
While the move onto the NES seems like a logical one in terms of popularity, it is also met with uncertainty. After all, a core part of the Marble Madness experience was the use of a trackball for control. Obviously the directional pad on the NES controller is a poor substitute for the arcade control surface, so Rare did the best that they could. At the start of the game the player is asked to select the control method they are most comfortable with. 90 degree mode is the standard, the controller is held in the usual way - up is up, down is down, and so forth. 45 degree mode requires the controller to be turned 1/8th clockwise, using the directions on the directional pad as diagonals - up is up-right, down is down-left, and so forth. Since the labyrinths are drawn from an isometric perspective this works out well, however the gameplay is exactly the same regardless of the control mode used. Another challenge of replicating the trackball control is ball acceleration. The faster one would roll the trackball, the faster their marble would roll. This is critical for getting up hills, over bumps, and around obstacles contained in the game. Pressing the A Button on the NES control pad gives your ball a little push of acceleration, replicating ball acceleration from the arcade as well as possible. Amazingly, good control can be obtained using the NES controller with a bit of practice. Rare did an excellent job at getting over this ultimate hurdle and made a trackball game playable with a digital directional pad.
Rare did an equally excellent job at recreating the look and feel of the original stages. They're nowhere as cleanly detailed as they were in the arcade but for the NES hardware things look very accurate - each stage is recreated near perfectly with the same paths and perils. Enemies look and behave the same, as do the traps and mechanisms. While it's all there, it does play just a hair slower than it did in the arcade but this doesn't detract from the overall experience one bit. Audio is impressive as the graphics and control. This is important as Marble Madness is well known for its unique soundtrack and it was actually the first video game with stereo sound. Of course the NES hardware isn't up to reproducing the music perfectly but it does a fine job none the less. Sound effects aren't as well done but considering the high marks the game gets in every other category it is quite excusable.
Marble Madness on the NES is as close to
the arcade as you could ever possibly expect to get on the hardware. Rare
were indeed masters of the isometric perspective on the NES with other hit games
such as the Pro-Am series, Battletoads, and Snake Rattle And Roll which all used
similar graphic styles. While they would go on to greater success after
the eight bit age, this era is still my favorite in their history. Anyone
looking for a quality home version of this arcade masterpiece needs look no
further. Even nicer is the fact that the game is dirt common and can be
had for just a couple bucks. Rare did a top notch job start to finish and
NES owners should take a look at the work they did here, it really is quite
|Welcome to RTM 35 and the April 2007 edition of Apple II Incider. For this month, I will return to talking about some classic games from the 1980's. These three games were part action and part strategy. However, beyond those aspects, the games had huge replay value that made me play these games over and over again back in the 80's. Even today, in the year 2007, I
occasionally get an urge to play these games. These three games have definitely stood the test of time.
This month's game is another Playstation compilation, Intellivision Classic Games. This was published by Activision in 1999, one of the first of a long series of re-releases of classic Intellivision games for various platforms. The Digital Press guide gives it a rarity of R2.
The collection includes 30 emulated games. Almost all of the non-licensed titles created by Mattel Electronics are included. Not surprisingly, it skews very heavily towards sports games (11 of the titles). Like the Activision collection reviewed last month, no licensed titles are included; even the sports games all have "generic" titles (e.g. PGA Golf has become Golf, NHL Hockey has become Hockey), presumably because the licenses have long expired.
It also includes several less action-oriented games such as Checkers, Chess, Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, and (very oddly) the children's game Sharp Shot. The most obvious exclusion is the early release Utopia; while it lacks a two-player mode, it is (arguably) much more fun than Checkers.
A nice bonus is the set of approximately ten video clips of interviews with the original programmers. Each clip is only about thirty-seconds long, but they provide some historical context to the games.
One serious weakness is inherent in the Playstation controller: it lacks the keypad present on the original Intellivision controller. This is only partially remedied by an on-screen keypad. Unfortunately, the overlays are not incorporated into the game graphics, nor can they be found in the minimalist manual. This makes games that make heavy use of the keypad (e.g. Golf, Chess) rather more difficult. Fortunately, both the original manuals and overlays can be downloaded from the Official Intellivision website: http://www.intellivisionlives.com/
Next month, we will look at another Classic game collection.Feedback on this column is most welcome. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|I'm back on the road to
recovery, and if everything works out as planned, I may have a special segment
related to a title I spoke of earlier, the Tower of Druaga, ready for next
months issue. See you
Copyright © 2007 Alan Hewston & Scott Jacobi. All related copyrights and trademarks are acknowledged.