There actually is a lot going on this month. There are five, count them, FIVE upcoming retrogaming events (probably even more, but 5 that I know about). That's a lot of classic gaming/computing going on in September. In addition, by playing the Insanely Epic Zapataur at http://savethearcades.stridegum.com/ you can help keep an arcade running. That's right, by playing a game called Zapataur, you can donate your points earned towards one of four arcades still running in the U.S. (Arcade UFO, StarBase Arcade, Game Galaxy, and Star Worlds Arcade) and whichever has the most points by October 6 will end up winning $25,000. Pretty creative way to try and help arcades stay in business! I've played the game a few times and have scored about 100,000 points each time. I encourage everyone reading to help out the cause and donate their points to the arcade of their choice. However, if you are having a hard time deciding which arcade to help out, try and donate to some of the ones on the bottom to make the competition more interesting, as right now Arcade UFO is running away with it.
I hope everyone had a good summer! Now with school back in session I expect to hear some people's school memories playing games back when they were kids. It would be fun to hear some stories about hanging out at the arcade after school let out or playing video games all night instead of doing homework. Those types of stories would be fun to hear and fit in nicely with the new school year. See you next month when we break out our Halloween issue!
Monthly - High Score Monthly
Enthusiasts Of Columbus Swap Meet
-Submitted by Bryan Roppolo
Vintage Computer Festival East 6.0
-Submitted by Bryan Roppolo
2009 Portland Retro Gaming Expo
-Submitted by Bryan Roppolo
Southern California Classic
Collectors Arcade Party
-Submitted by Bryan Roppolo
Emergency Chicagoland Commodore
-Submitted by Paul Zimmerman
Hello, and this is James Sorge’s “Movies with a Byte”, and the victim of the month is “Joysticks”, from 1983. The movie stars Joe Don Baker as Joseph Rutter, Scott McGinness as Jefferson Bailey, and Leif Green as Eugene Groebe.
Eugene becomes a worker at a local arcade owned by Jefferson Bailey, which is known for adult content as well as games. It becomes a focal point where local businessman Joseph Rutler wants to shut it down for good because he thinks it’s influencing his daughter negatively. Rutler holds demonstrations and tries to steal the videogames from the arcade, but neither of which work. He then hires King Vidiot, who was thrown out of the arcade, to help him out in return for giving King Vidiot his own videogame. After a petition with the mayor’s office failed, Rutler captures Dorfus, Bailey’s best friend, and forces Bailey to play Vidiot in Super Pac-Man to determine who gets the arcade. Bailey doesn’t want to play because his ex-girlfriend was reprimanded for playing videogames, but with Eugene’s help, he eventually overcomes it wins the competition. Afterwards he reunites with his girlfriend, Eugene becomes an assistant manager, the mayor ends up liking video games, and the arcade is saved.
The biggest complaint about the movie is probably its inclusion of sex and other forms of adult-oriented material. The display of boobs and other risky things makes this movie extremely inappropriate for children, though I thought it was displayed in a horrible way. I was not enthused by this aspect and it did seem fake, though several people I know would enjoy this. It’s really a catch and can call..
The best thing about the movie though has to be the display of characters. From the evil businessman in Rutter, the two minions, dorkface Eugene, fat boy Dorfus, and crazy guy King Vidiot, there seemed to be a character for everyone in the movie. I think people will be able to enjoy or relate to at least one person here.
As far as this game’s relevance to the video game industry, it’s mixed. While the sexual themes in the movie do cast a negative air about it, it does have some good playings of various games, including Super Pac-Man and Galaxian, both of which seem to be displayed pretty prominently, as is Satan’s Hollow. For 1983 it seems to be the only display of classic gaming as far as I know..
In closing, I didn’t care for the cheap and stupid sex thrills, but the movie was not all that horrible in the end. It tells a story, it displays video games, and might cheaply entertain some people. It has some good gaming moments and references towards older video game arcades. It might not reflect on how things were back then, but still, it has video games in it, so it’s a relic. Just don’t show it to young children please.
Movie Rating: (3 out of 5 stars) Industry Impact: (3 out of 5 mushrooms)
easy mocking what people wrote about computers 25 years ago, but even as
a green teenager there was an abundance of face palming shortly after
taking the magazines out of the mailbox each month.|
I had subscriptions - mostly gifts - to several magazines back when type-in listings were a big thing, always hoping there'd be stuff as entertaining as the $30 programs I couldn't afford. After spending a couple of days typing and inevitably experiencing disappointment there wasn't much to do for four weeks except read the articles, even though as a juvie it made about as much sense as perusing pornography for that purpose.
Over time I warmed to it, however, and learned two very different sets of knowledge. Besides the stuff about computers that was useful, there was a great microcosm of contemporary commercial, political and social impurities. Rave reviews of crappy DOA products (PC Jr., anyone?), rants about computers being the death of decent society and fanboys responding to the slightest criticism of equipment with scathing personal attacks all became familiar - and remain comfortably so today..
My longest running subscription was to the TRS-80 Color Computer magazine The Rainbow, started in 1981 by a guy who cranked out two-page photocopies at a drug store and wound up lasting a dozen mostly lucrative years. At one point the monthly issues were well in excess of 300 pages and, unlike other monster publications like Computer Shopper, the ratio of editorial content remained relatively high.
Just not always the most intelligent or ethical stuff in print.
The stupidity in the pages of The Rainbow is common to plenty of computing magazines and many other infamous favorites will be visited in time, but for the moment I'm going to blog a single issue to illustrate the many, many ways embarrassment is possible. The May 1984 issue came in the midst of the CoCo's peak, such as it was, just shy of the magazine's third anniversary.
(Disclosure: I have every issue of The Rainbow published, many purchased a second time on eBay for outrageous amounts to replace lost originals, making my "hater" credentials dubious. Furthermore, I submitted a number of articles to this and other publications, all of one being rejected, so my own insight was apparently even worse).
A running set of 12 themes defined the issues and May was the printer issue, meaning the type-in listings were heavy on things like screen dumps of graphics screens, mailing label databases and banner generators. Every single damn year.
We're skipping a lot of pages, but the first inside one is a full-page ad by Computer Plus that's often used as a "price" reference because it ran a listing of major hardware and software items in that space during most of The Rainbow's life. A 16K standard BASIC CoCo was $135, a 64K extended BASIC version $210 (the original 1980 CoCo was a 4K standard model for $399). This is useful knowledge when looking at some of the add-ons companies thought people would be willing to buy.
A few pages later the "what are they thinking" ads start with a company selling hard drive packages for $1,295 (5 MB) and $1,595 (10 MB). The economy of scale issues alone ought to have scared off potential buyers, but anyone investigating beyond the plug-and-play promises in the ad copy discovered immense and expensive hardships getting the crippled CoCo hardware to make use of that space (among other things, the drive had to be partitioned into virtual "floppies" of 156 KB each).
Letters to the editor start the actual content and, in-between shameless fawns for the magazine and various software companies, is Dylan Krider, 13, despairing about the ignorance of his teachers when the school's computers break down. ""They have blamed this on the PEEKS and POKES of our programs. So we have three angry teachers and some poor kids who are being punished for it. I told them it was impossible for the program to hurt the computer...But being that I'm a kid, I guess they started telling me how wrong I was."
(While the teachers almost certainly were misguided, it's interesting to note the CoCo was one of the few computers besides the Commodore PET that could be damaged through software. Similar to the PET's "killer POKE," a command that would speed up the CoCo processor beyond its tested limit could in theory damage chips).
Next is another ad from the heap of Misguided Entrepreneurs, this time a CP/M hardware expansion selling for $300, or around $500 if you want Wordstar and one or two other pieces of software. To use it, however, requires a video monitor and a special adaptor (since the CoCo is only designed for TVs) costing roughly $200 (monochrome) or $400 (color, if you don't want to keep two displays so the rest of your programs can be used normally). Also needed is a floppy disk drive - another $300, although it has to be assumed anyone looking at the CP/M pack already has one.
Nearing the end of the letters section is a situation familiar to many of today's disgruntled users. Lawrence Snyder of Norristown, Penn., says the $80 he paid for an accounting program is "quite high compared to other similar utilities" and, worse, nobody at the company will even talk to him without a VISA number so they can charge a $20 customer service fee. John Watkin, a company official given a chance to respond, claims fewer than 25 percent of buyers make inquiries and, instead of making everyone pay $100, the policy is to "let the end user decide if he or she wanted to pay for technical support." This is one of those times I wish I'd been eavesdropping in whatever room company officials decided customers would feel amicable, rather than totally screwed, by such policies.
Editor Lonnie Faulk's monthly column following the letters is typical self-agrandizing crap, which much of the time is mixed with shrill propaganda for all things CoCo and scorn for rivals. Supposedly he once worked for UPI, astounding given how poorly he writes and loose he plays with facts. This month's focus is about hosting yet another great RAINBOWfest (which in fairness were valued trade shows for a community with few alternatives) and how a hot discussion topic was whether arcade games should be "winnable."
"Do we want our children (and ourselves, who play these games, too) to always be 'losers' no matter how proficient we become?" he wrote. "Is it that important to be able to win all the time - or at least, have the chance to win?"
Getting beyond the opinions there's a do-it-yourself memory upgrade guide, a reminder of the frequent corrections I saw for various hardware projects appearing a few months later. A screwup in a software type-in listing is a nuisance, but hardware mistakes obviously run the risk of serious damage.
An education column has an interesting stat: 37.5 percent of college freshmen have written a computer program (43.6 percent of men, 31.6 percent of women). That's an area where computer literacy has certainty decreased during the past 25 years. Also, the author notes in a correction that disk drives of then-modern mainframe computers contain a gigabyte, not a googlebyte, of storage. Anybody want to lay over/under odds on the year a googlebyte drive is reality?
Time for another mind boggler of an ad, this time for a "sale" on a suite of seven accounting programs including a general ledger for $185 instead of $249 and payroll database for $225 instead of $295. You also needed to buy a separate "professional" operating system, along with having two disc drives, an 80-column hardware card, a monitor with the appropriate adaptor. The only question remaining is if someone can top the bill for all that - I'm guessing $2,500 or so - by the end of the issue..
I'm not sure which sex to feel more embarrassed for after reading a "women and computing" column where one woman tells the author "unless it can run the sweeper, there is no way it could help me at all." Others bitch about how sports at least are limited to seasons, but the computer is always there to occupy a guy's attention. Also, "lots of women I speak with seem to be turned off by games," they prefer paper for balancing checkbooks and "there was a fraction who were definitely afraid of the computer."
Next is my favorite part of every issue: Reviewing Reviews. This month's collection of responses is an all-time classic, beginning with one of the most thorough displays of self-destruction ever.
A poor review of the adventure game "Mansion Of Doom" incites an insulting and fiction-filled rant by the company's Leroy Smith. In response to the game's limited vocabulary: "If Mr. Gani kept using TAKE instead of GET, then I'd say he has a personal semantic flexibility problem." In response to the lack of a "save" feature, the company's alleged research finds "most people would rather try to solve an Adventure from start to finish" without saving. In response to a presumed error, a screaming-in-italics "Pal Creations' programs do not have bugs!" Finally, an "amazed" response to the opinion that at $15 it's overpriced "since marketing experts throughout the country kept urging us to raise the prices on all our fine 32K Adventures from $24.95 to $29.95 to be in the same price range as Adventures that are inferior to ours." Not only wouldn't I buy this program, I wouldn't touch anything a company thinking such obvious lies are going to win customers over.
Next is a legitimate beef about an online terminal program that exposes a common Rainbow problem: "Your often 'goody goody' reviews, obviously intended not to offend your advertisers, are a disservice to your readers and to improving the products." A second letter about the review states "I feel sure that there is no way Mr. Reed or Rainbow would publish a bad review of any Softlaw product." An editor's note, responding to a long list of complaints about things such as not being able to establish reliable modem connections and use printer functions, states the program is no longer copy protected and "this should alleviate several of the aforementioned problems."
Finally in this section is a case of stupidity due to excessive intelligence. Marty Goodman, a CoCo legend who consulted the programmers of a drawing application, complains "my one overall criticism of the review was that it made Graphicom sound a lot more complex than it really is." That said, he also "personally highly recommend(s) that purchasers of Graphicom make their own custom joysticks" with two buttons or a footswitch to deal with the fact you often need to hold one button down and click another while drawing with the joystick (this was well before the days of the two-button mouse).
Negative reviews, as already noted, were exceeding rare and the editors went to embarrassing lengths to distract readers from the few printed.
Consider this summary of an $8 calculator program written in BASIC able to do only the four basic functions to six digits and two decimal points (far less than possible simply by typing an equation such as "PRINT 12345678/123"): "All in all, I can't imagine any reason to buy this program." The headline above this scather of a review? "Number-Kruncher Good For Basic Math."
Another assessment of a disk utility "if you have never written a BASIC program and you have never read your disk system's owner's manual, then you might want to consider buying it." The headline is "DRB Utility Is Reasonably Priced."
Finally worth mentioning in the reviews section is a critique of the game Foodwar, an unauthorized port of Atari's Food Fight that the author calls "very unique." Setting aside the awful writing as evidenced by the redundancy of the phrase, such reviews by people who never played the original arcade version of a game - or any game, at times - was so common it was a surprise to see someone actually able to describe the quality of the port. Usually the "review" was little more than a how-to-play summary ending with some variation on "Great game. Buy it."
The final section of The Rainbow was devoted to various technical columns and articles. In keeping with their advertising-friendly tone, this month's features included a long column by the seller of one of the "professional" operating systems going on a long rant trashing the competition. Both were basically laughable flops relative to the CoCo's capabilities and intended audience, but the author's system (FLEX) was all but dead at the time while the competition (OS9) would be forced on developers by Tandy for the next six years..
And as we come to the final pages we have a winner in the most expensive and absurd ad sweepstakes. A company selling a "professional" FLEX system is asking a mere $12,398.79 for a system with 256K of memory and 53MB of hard disk space. Another 256K of RAM was a mere $1,900. After that, the hundreds of dollars per software application surely must have seemed like peanuts.
There once was a truly gifted game programmer. Everyone who played his earliest games all agreed he was born to be a Programming God. After working for several of the largest game coding companies, this programmer went off on his own, so that he could make the best game ever. It would be his ultimate achievement: a game he himself would love to play.
He poured his whole life into this game. For many months, he kept its development and his progress a closely guarded secret. Only a handful of the man's most trusted friends were allowed to see it. He never showed more than a few small parts of this ultimate game to anyone. Even early on, those few who saw it could not help but tell others what a fantastic game it was going to be when it was released.
One day, long after he had first begun working on it, the coder put the final touches on his masterpiece. Even by his very high standards, it was finally good enough to show to the world. And he just couldn't wait to show it off!
On the day he was scheduled to have the only known copy duplicated for mass production, the coder was killed while crossing a street. Nobody knows for sure whether the trash truck that hit him really ran a red light, or if the coder was daydreaming when he stepped out into the street.
Not long after paramedics arrived, the coder was pronounced dead. Police officers found the coder’s backpack and other belongings. Inspection of same revealed the single finished copy of the game; but despite months of trying, later, even experts found the game was simply beyond hope of recovery.
No one knows for sure if any other copies of the game still exist, or are playable. To date, nothing has been found.
At his funeral, the coder’s best friends wept openly as they told the crowds how great the game had been. Reporters asked what the game’s name was going to be. None of the man’s friends had ever thought to ask. One tabloid reporter referred to it as "the Trash Truck Game". The name stuck.
- - - - - - - -
The story above isn’t true. It was a private joke that a friend and I shared. Adam Trionfo and I had long hunted down games on various systems: tracking down the truth behind mere hints that certain games might exist. In many cases, we found those games; or the truth behind how far they’d been developed. In many cases, we archived the digital data that gives a player an interactive experience.
Because we were often fascinated by the people who made those games, and wanted to know more about the history behind their creations, we didn’t stop with “just” finding the game and archiving the digital data; we sometimes were lucky enough to be granted interviews with the coders; and in a best-case situation, they granted others permission to download their creations – not quite putting them into the public domain, in a legal sense; but pretty close to it..
Adam’s a nicer person than I am (or something). Ideas that get under my skin and drive me to distraction, don’t seem to bother him as much. One of the things I’ve seen often over the years, but that I’ve never understood, is the idea of “collecting”. I can understand wanting a large variety of choices when it comes to interactive experiences. No problem there. And I can easily appreciate how special it is to hold something made by hand, by what amounts to an interactive artist; creating an experience in one’s mind.
What I could never understand, however, was the idea that (to some people) the whole idea isn’t what they have; but what they have, that other’s don’t have; but badly want. My long past experience as a Digital Archaeologist causes me to believe that, statistically anyway, the bulk of the “good games” on any given game system, are mass produced in such numbers that there’s little trouble obtaining a copy.
In maybe one case out of ten, a game that was rumored to exist, for many years, but that nobody has found a copy of, will turn out to be quite good (within the limits of what that particular game system is capable of doing, that is).
In nine cases out of ten, I think most well-experienced gamers or Digital Archaeologists would agree that one or more reasons exist, why that game wasn’t mass-produced; and isn’t better known to the gaming public. In some cases the games that stay rumored, for years and years, should have: as interactive experiences go, they’re very flawed. Rarity and the power of exclusive ownership may be bragging rights to those who collect games, but never play them – but I’ve never been able to wrap my head around why they’d do that.
- - - - - - - -
The two things above explain the back-story to the first (known?) “graphics hack” of a game for an incredibly rare home computer: the MP-1000 game console by APF. To give you an idea of how few collectors collect for this console, I will note that way back in 1997 I did a statistical study on how many systems “collectors” said they collected for; and what those systems were. The Atari 2600 system was on the top of every collector’s list: 87% of those polled (my study was based on data published in the third version of the Collector’s Guide, by Digital Press) wanted stuff for that system. Sixty-six percent of those same people said they collected for the Atari 7800 system. The ColecoVision had 62%; the Intellivision had 56%; and the Atari 5200 had 54%. After that there was a large drop-off in interest, among those collectors: the Odyssey 2 only had 34%; and the Vectrex only had 32%. After that, there was another drop: Fairchild’s Channel F system only had 18%. The system now commonly called the Bally Astrocade also only had 18%. The Arcadia 2001 (which was made by Emerson, under license from some other company or companies) only got 11% of those in the DPCG #3 poll interested enough to collect for it.
I mention that study to say that the MP-1000 console by APF wasn’t even listed! It wasn’t on anyone’s radar, at all. After the Arcadia 2001 game system, there was a catch-all category called “other” that systems like the APF might have been a part of; or might not have been. So, to gamers and collectors in 1997, it apparently “didn’t exist” or was not interesting enough to bother collecting things for it.
Once again, I hasten to say that obscurity doesn’t equate to greatness, in my opinion! I’m not saying the APF is an unknown but great system. It wasn’t interesting enough to me, as a somewhat jaded Digital Archaeologist and gamer, to pay it any attention; until Adam Trionfo told me about a message board that Lance Squire had started. Mostly because Adam and Lance were involved, I became more curious about it. Lance was planning to send a real system and a bunch of games to Adam, around March of 2008. When I didn’t run away screaming, the two of them ganged up on me – and “Adam’s” system and games became “my stuff”. (Adam later bought another system. He’s busy studying the BIOS or Kernal chip inside it: just due to his own technical curiosity. I’ve also taken a look at the old system’s internals; just as a thing to do, for no particularly good or big reason).
All of which leads me to this: some silly person took the time to take a small, very simplistic “aim and shoot” game that was built into the M-1000 and MP-1000 game consoles; and to do what I believe is called a “graphics hack” to it. I just happen to be that silly person. ;-)
Adam gets credit (whether he wants it or not! Ha!) as the person who found where the game’s graphic data was, in the system’s BIOS chip. He used a program called ShowGfx (it’s used a lot for hacking the graphics on Atari 2600 games, apparently; but I hadn’t used the program until weeks ago) to locate the graphics. I later drew an image of what I wanted, on graph paper; and entered it in using EditGfx.
A few minor glitches got fixed, after I burned a 2732 EPROM and altered my APF’s motherboard, to accept an EPROM instead of the factory-made ROM chip. After viewing the new image on a real system, I made a few small changes to the new graphics – using a fancy calculator and a hex editor.
The original game was called “Rocket Patrol”. It had an image of an odd-looking spaceship: one image, that got used a lot, over and over: to represent a fleet or convoy of like ships. These ships move in a straight line from right to left across the screen. And you shoot at them. Slowly..
As games go, it’s not all that exciting (and all the other games for the system are pretty primitive too and not very fun to play. Which probably explains the “other” status).
In defense of the current games on the APF, I’d have to say they were made before the industry “invented” the ideas that later became the staples of the Classic Gaming world. Space Invaders hadn’t even been in arcades, before the APF game system “had its run” in the market. Pac-Man came out a couple of years after the system was first introduced. So, as a gaming historian, I can mostly forgive the lack of any innovative games on the APF. Still, that doesn’t make the existing library fun to play. I don’t imagine I’d have ever stuck a quarter in a slot, if they were arcade games.
So, the point of hacking Rocket Patrol’s graphics wasn’t to take a non-fun game, and to make it more fun. It plays the same as it always did. Only the graphics have been altered.
“Trash Truck 2” is now built into the BIOS or Kernal chip, on my personal APF system. (And on Adam’s, since he was silly enough to leave it over here, after a visit: asking me to see if I could improve his console’s really bad RF video output. Ha! That’s what he gets!) Now, when you turn on either of our APF game consoles, if a cart is inserted in the slot, that cart game comes up and plays. (As normal.) If there’s nothing in the slot, Rocket Patrol used to play. Technically, it still does: except that now the on-screen name and graphics have been altered to be “Trash Truck 2”.
Personally, I really like the shape of the spaceship in the original. It looked a lot like something children’s author and Disney artist Bill Peet might have drawn. I didn’t make the changes I made because I felt they needed doing, to improve the visuals. I just think it’s pretty funny, in a nerdy sorta way, to have a sequel to a non-existent game!
And it seemed to fit the “logic” of the Trash Truck game legend, too: if there was ever a sequel made to that game, it would have had to have been coded up by someone other than the original programmer; because the original coder got run over by a trash truck. So, what better thing to do, in a sequel or homage to that game, than to destroy trash truck after trash truck in an act of apparent revenge!?
If anyone wants more technical details about the console by APF, there are a few small sites with info. See either the Yahoo Group that Lance Squire runs; or Lance’s web site; or the APF web site by Larry Greenhill. Note that the first emulator for the APF can be found on Greenhill’s site. I personally use and like that emulator, by Enrique Collado.
Power Rangers: The Movie for the Sega Genesis flows as follows: you start with fighting oozites, then Ivan Ooze (an evil tyrant) blasts you, you defeat his Mech's, then flash back to Lord Zedd battles and presumably fish Ivan up at the end, though the game isn't interesting enough to get that far.
Graphics: 10/ 100
Sound: 7/ 10
Controls: 7 / 10
Gameplay: 5/ 10
Replay value, longevity: 0 / 100
rating: 5/ 10
Happy August! Once again, I'm going to turn this month's column in right under the gun. Unfortunately, I am still unemployed (not for lack of effort!). However, with the job hunt not going well, I've taking up writing as a rather serious hobby. Besides the previously mentioned high school sports column, I started up two new blogs in recent weeks:
Behind The Whistle (http://www.behindthewhistle.com) - This blog is discussing things related to basketball officiating (my other side job while I am unemployed).
Through ABC eyes (http://throughabceyes.blogspot.com) - This blog is my personal views on pop culture and technology).
Like Retrogaming Times Monthly, I incorporated Google Ads on the two blogs to see if could earn some side cash. I can't say the two blogs are generating massive amounts of traffic, but I enjoy writing them. With all my blogging and other writing, Retrogaming Times Monthly got put off a little bit.
Fortunately this month, there was a well known game that was both easy to play and write a story around.
For those of us who grew up in the 1980's, we had our share of action characters that we idolized. It could have been Han Solo, Luke Skywalker or Captain Kirk for those into science fiction. For those into more action adventures, Indiana Jones might have been your man. However, if you wanted something more suave but still action oriented, there could only be one: "My name is Bond. James Bond".
I admit that James Bond was not a character I particularly idolized. However, I did enjoy all the movies for the action and adventure. So, if you were a kid in the 1980's, there was only one game that could allow you to simulate Bond's adventures: Spy Hunter by Bally Midway (Sega for the home version).
Spy Hunter allows you to drive a super car that is initially armed with machine guns in the front. As you play the game, a weapons van will appear. You can pull your car into the weapon's van and gain additional items: oil slicks, smokescreens, and missiles. This process is very like another 80's show Knight Rider! The oil slicks and smokescreens are rear mounted weapons while the missile is attached to the front.
As the driver of this super car, you have to contend with assorted enemies whose simple goal is to destroy you. There are four types of enemies you face while on the road:
According to the Wiki entry on Spy Hunter, there is a section where the player gets to drive a boat. I actually remember getting to that section of the game in the past. However, despite a few attempts, I couldn't quite get to that point while trying to do this review.
The Apple II version of this game is faithful to the arcade original. All the enemies (at least the ones on the road) are present and accounted for. The graphics are solid if not spectacular. The animation is reasonable for the number of enemies that appear on screen. However, due to the limitations of the Apple II, the graphics aren't quite as colorful as the arcade. The one noticeable thing that the Apple II version is missing is the theme music. The theme of the arcade original was one of its charms. This might have been a good opportunity to try and put the music in a sound card.
All in all, despite the missing music, the game play is still pretty fun. It does get repetitive after a while so you might get bored. However, it is worth a shot (no pun intended!) to play if you haven't done so in a while!
In 1995, a company based in Yorkshire, England named Team17 released a game under the simple name of Worms. A lot was expected of the game, after the company had previously released several highly regarded titles, starting with beat-em-up, Full Contact on the Amiga. This was followed by other successful games on the system throughout the early 90s, such as Alien Breed and Assassin. Worms was Team17’s first multiplatform release after initial Amiga exclusivity and featured turn-based gameplay, where one team of worms aims to kill the opposing team, until there is only one team standing. The game featured an array of weapons, such as shotguns, bazookas, and grenades, but what the series ultimately gained its popularity and cult following from was its bizarre and unusual weaponry, such as the exploding sheep. These trademark weapons continued to be included in the games’ sequels, like Worms Armageddon – the first game in the Worms series to be released on the new generation of consoles (Dreamcast, Playstation 1, and Nintendo 64). One of the stranger weapons added was the infamous Holy Hand Grenade, which triggered a ‘Hallelujah!’ sound effect when thrown, in homage to the well-loved film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The series continued to implement very similar gameplay mechanics as more games came out, but the character design changed dramatically. Worms 1 on the Amiga (see below, top segment of picture) saw tall, thinner smirking worms, a stark contrast when compared to those portrayed in Worms 2 on the PC (see below, middle segment of picture), who were shorter, fatter, and…down-right angry! The series ventured into 3D in 2003, with the aptly named Worms 3D, which was the beginning of a newer, cleaner design for the many charismatic protagonists of the series (see below, bottom segment of picture). This character design was retained for the 2007 downloadable release of Worms on the Xbox 360, and later, on the Playstation 3 and iPhone.
Initially titled as Worms HD during development, the title went back to the games’ 2D routes, to the delight of many faithful fans of the series. Visually, the game is a lot brighter and sharper than previous titles, during gameplay and also the menus. Menus are extremely quick to load, and with the initially charming, but ultimately annoying music repeating every minute or so, you’ll be eager to get straight into a match, rather than browse through the menus for too long. There are several different level themes in the game, two of which (The hell and jungle landscapes) are paid DLC in the 360 version of the game, but are included free of charge in the PS3 version, possibly as a ‘sorry’ gift after the game was released more than 2 years after the Xbox release. The levels themselves are randomly generated online, and the developers claim that you will ‘never see the same level twice’. Priced at a modest $12.99/£7.99/€9.99 on PSN, the title encourages gamers who have yet to dabble in the Worms series to give it a chance, with 3 helpful tutorials, introducing the basic game mechanics. This is a much better way to get to grips with the game, rather than a long ‘how to play’ wall-of-text option…which also happens to be included! Worms offers 5 different difficulty settings, ranging from Beginner to ‘Full Wormage’. A very useful feature within the game enables you to create your own game style, allowing you to modify the number of rounds, time designated to every player for each turn, the round time, retreat time, and mine detonation time. You also have the ability to create a custom weapon set, effectively giving you the ability to create unlimited super sheep only matches! Awesome! You can also limit the amount of ammo each weapon is designated. Using the default teams (Marines, Champions, Old Skool, Doctors, Clowns, Rookies, Warlords, Hotshots and Boffins) is fun, but if you’re as eager to create your own team as I was then you’ll be pleased, as you are able to pick a name, give them a unique voice style (you have more than 60 light hearted tones to chose from), A unique gravestone (should you need one!), and if they are an AI driven enemy, you can even chose their personality traits, from being vengeful, to being stupid. You can also change each worm within the team’s name. The leaderboard functionality not only allows you to compare your score from the Challenges with people from around the world, but also with those on your friends list.
The single player portion of the game includes 20 deathmatch levels against AI opposition that get increasingly difficult as you continue. Whilst you can get a decent amount of enjoyment out of playing against AI opposition, you will soon feel inclined to venture online, and this is truly where the game shines. Worms features full voice-chat support, allowing for up to 4 players to talk (and more importantly trash talk!) amongst each other online during the match. From what I’ve played, the PSN version of the game works incredibly well online, with no signs of lag or slowdown, which could be a potentially game-breaking feature in a fast paced title such as this – Well, it’s definitely one of the faster turn-based games anyway. Rounds tend to last between 5-10 minutes each, depending on the standard of opposition, and whilst matches online are competitive, you never get the feeling that they’re too competitive, as the humorous voice-work for each work can break the ice in the most tense of situations. If you prefer sitting down on the couch with friends for some local multiplayer battles, then Worms should definitely have some appeal to you, with support, again, for up to 4 players locally.
Matches are easy to come across online, as the series’ faithful fans still turnout day after day to face new opposition over the PSN and Xbox Live, and despite having a slightly smaller number of weapons to chose from when compared to certain other games in the series, the sheer variety of arms should prove satisfying to anyone who has any interest in the title, with more than 20 to chose from. Whilst the audio aspect is let down slightly by the mediocre and often repeated music, it is made up for by the character and charm of the worms’ voices. Long-term replayability and an impressive array of customizable features will keep you coming back for more, and while the game’s mechanics aren’t drastically different to those introduced way back in 1995, the foundations the series was built upon still hold strong, feel satisfying, and above everything else, still prove to be great fun. Why change a working formula? A recommended buy at a bargain price, can’t beat that!
When coming up with what to write for this month's column, I had no idea which direction to take. However, I was lucky enough to stumble upon an article talking about video game ratings and thought to myself wouldn't it be interesting to flashback to when the whole game rating thing was starting to take off. I mean, when I grew up there were no video game ratings, you pretty much just bought what you wanted without having to worry about getting stopped by your parents. Somewhere along the line that changed to where you now have to be a certain age to purchase some titles. It probably has to do with the fact that as the video games got more realistic people started viewing them more as full fledged movies instead of pixilated fun and that got some parents to push for ratings like in the movies. Anyway, this month I took a step back to the early '90s to try and discover how and when the whole video game rating deal got rolling. It should prove to be an interesting history lesson as well as something that is just fun to read.
The New York Times
December 9, 1993, Thursday, Late Edition - Final
Industry Set to Issue Video Game Ratings As Complaints Rise
Amid growing concern about blood and sex in home video games, and growing pressure for Government intervention, several of the country's biggest game companies and retailers will announce plans on Thursday to establish an industry-controlled ratings board similar to the one used for rating movies.
The effort is being led largely by Sega Enterprises, the second-largest video game company in the United States. It includes Nintendo of America, the biggest company, and retailers like Sears and Toys "R" Us.
The plan is an attempt to head off legislation that would establish a stricter rating system. A Senate hearing on that legislation is also scheduled for Thursday.
The industry's proposal would create a board that would design a rating system under which games would be rated before they went to market. Participating manufacturers would label the games.
Details on how the board would be constituted and how a ratings system would be enforced at the retail level have not been decided.
Though the companies have not decided how the ratings would be designed, they could resemble a system that Sega recently imposed on its games. Sega gives games one of three labels: "Mature Audiences -- 17," on those that may not be appropriate for children younger than 17; "Mature Audiences -- 13," and "General Audiences."
While Nintendo does not have a rating system, it has adopted comparatively strict guidelines that restrict "gratuitous" or "excessive" violence or sexual innuendos of any kind.
But Senator Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who has proposed legislation that would require an industry-led rating system, said the Federal rules were necessary.
"I had hoped for more," he said. "I had hoped the industry would adopt a code according to which they would simply stop producing some of the worst stuff, in terms of violence and sexual content."
Video games are a $6 billion industry and represent the greatest use of interactive television technology. Aided by compact disks and computer chips, many games feature characters that look like real people rather than cartoons like those in Super Mario Brothers.
Action and adventure have long been staples of video games. But advances in technology have made it possible to produce realistic games that engage the players in a way television cannot.
Not only are some games more violent than television offerings -- even cartoons -- but the most advanced new games, produced to run on machines with powerful processors, can also make players feel as if they are participating in an action movie or science-fiction thriller.
But because improved technology has enhanced the realism of the games, they have stirred controversy, similar to the debate about violence on broadcast television.
In "Lethal Enforcement," a new game distributed by Sega, players take the part of inner-city police officers in Chicago who shoot terrorists, drug deal-dealers and highjackers.
Players point and fire guns at actors on the screen, who collapse if they are hit. The game allows players to "upgrade" their weapons electronically from Magnum handguns to assault rifles, machine guns and grenade guns.
In "Rival Turf," based on teenage street gangs, players fight in commuter trains and on the street.
In recent months, much of the publicity about video games has centered on "Mortal Kombat." In a version distributed by Sega, lifelike characters win points by ripping out the spinal columns and severing the limbs of their opponents.
In "Night Trap," a game produced by Digital Pictures Inc., based in Palo Alto, Calif., characters fight off vampires in what officials of the company described as a "spoof on slasher movies and vampire movies."
Late today Nintendo said it would join the effort, though an executive expressed skepticism about the industry plan, which was first reported in The Washington Post.
"If they think rating systems are going to make violence go away, they're missing the point," said Peter T. Main, the vice president of marketing for Nintendo.
Nintendo's version of "Mortal Kombat" is tamer by design than the Sega version and Nintendo officials have contended that they have sacrificed sales as a result.
Bill White, the vice president of marketing for Sega, said the new plan reflected a broad consensus that consumers were entitled to more information about the products they bought.
|Tom Zjaba is the founder of Retrogaming Times and is both a video game and comic book enthusiast. Be sure to stop by his Arcade After Dark site to see a plethora of video game related comics which are not published in Retrogaming Times Monthly.|
Hope everyone has a
good school year! Seems like just yesterday the summer was starting and now it's
already the new school year. Before you know it we'll all be parading around in
Halloween costumes. I do have some special things planned for the October issue
(the scary issue!) so keep your eyes peeled for that one which will be coming
out next month. Until then...