Monthly Archives: February 2011

Build a statue of me, or there’ll be… trouble.

The following is a hilarious video plea from Peter Weller about plans in Detroit to build a statue of the character Robocop, a role he played through the movies Robocop (1987) and Robocop 2 (1990). They made another theatrical sequel, a made-for-TV movie and a TV series, but Weller stamped robotically away from those projects.

The movement to cast the metal lawbringer in bronze is spearheaded by a very active  Facebook page, currently enjoying, at the time of this writing, Like nods from 1573 people. There is also a Kickstarter page if you’d like to kick in a buck or two for the effort. The best guess to why this campaign is catching fire, aside from the fact that Robocop is awesome, is that Detroit, being the city the movies are based in, has come up against seriously hard times over the last decade, and people need to make something positive out of it. Sure, it seems like a frivolous gesture in the face of such hardships, but sometimes a frivolous gesture can make all the difference. Having a life-size statue of Robocop would be a tourism-generating landmark, at the very least.

I, for one, welcome our new robot übercop.

A Quick Look Back: The Castles of Dr. Creep

Creep Cover

Playing this game again brings back a flood of memories, of me and a buddy playing hours upon hours of it on the C64 back in my high-school days, threatening each other with the laser, cheering each other wildly as we ran the last few seconds down trying to pass a ticking force-field, and racing each other to be first through each door.

Hobbs, circa 2007

The game was designed by Ed Hobbs, for Broderbund Software.  Broderbund was a powerhouse game publisher from the 80′s into the early 90′s; the list of classic hits from them would be too large to reproduce here, but some gems include Choplifter!Lode Runner and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?.  Hobbs himself did Seafox for the company, and later the combat flight simulator Operation Airstorm for Expert Software.

There’s really only one word to describe The Castles of Dr. Creep:  diabolical.  It’s a platform game, but with a heavy puzzle element.  I’m not sure of the plot, but I think it revolves around the eponymous Dr. Creep needing to sell off his 13 castles; perhaps the electric bill for all those lightning spheres got to be too much.  At any rate, players assume the role of a hapless buyer, only out to purchase a fixer-upper with a nice view of the moors, but finding themselves in a battle to escape alive.

The warm and inviting title screen.

The castles are listed in the menu in order of difficulty, but even the early castles present a daunting challenge, equipped with such amenities as one-directional poles, conveyor belts, the aforementioned lightning spheres and laser guns, teleportation pods… along with the (un)dead tenants who populate the castles such as mummies and Frankenstein monsters, each of whom have different abilities in chasing you down.

Frankies go to Horrorwood

There is a single-player mode, but the game really shines when two people get in front of the computer, making their way through the castle simultaneously.  Most puzzles and traps are designed so that two people working in tandem can greatly shorten the time it takes to make it to the exit door.  What generally ends up happening is one player will man a switch that needs to stay open while the other player makes his way through the screen.  Then the second player must either run through the gauntlet alone, with his buddy cheering (or jeering) him the whole time.  Either that, or you must split up and approach the room from another entrance; in these cases, each player move through their respective rooms alternately, until meeting up again.

I Had Four Mummies

The rooms in Creep make for some hilarious moments; controlling the laser and taking pot-shots as your buddy scampers down the ladder; running like mad to slip by a force field before the timer runs out; luring the mummies towards your friend as he flails helplessly on a ledge.  The graphics are clear and bright, if perhaps a bit sparse with simply a black field as a backdrop, although this can certainly aid in the feeling of isolation the game exudes.

It’s a real testimony to the quality of a classic game when you fire it up nearly 30 years after playing it last, and you start yelling and giggling and squirming in your seat like you did as a kid.  The hallways and pathways of The Castles of Dr. Creep still hold their chilling allure decades later.

Hard Disks On Sale

Here’s a deal for you.  If you’re tired of swapping floppies with your Apple II, why not buy yourself a hard drive?  For $1995, you can get 5M of storage.  It would take you a long time to fill that puppy up!  Or, if you really want to expand, get a whopping 15 Megs of space for only $2995.  You’ll never want for storage space again!

So be the envy of all your nerdy friends, and get yourself some serious hardware.

Pre-order Bonuses: A Cheap Shill

Pre-order exclusive content is the bane of my gaming existence. Things on this front have really gotten out of hand. Case in point: Rockstar’s upcoming 40′s film noir extravaganza L.A. Noire.

I would like to buy your game, Rockstar.  I am more than happy to pony up 70 bucks to immerse myself in your dark, sinister Los Angeles of the 1940′s.  I want to exchange legal tender for your years of hard work.  I know what I want.  I want your game.  What I do NOT want, is to have to figure out WHERE to get your game, because different retailers offer different in-game incentives if you pre-order with them.  Look at this rap sheet of tawdry streetwalkers:

Gamestop – get “The Naked City” vise case, and a badge pursuit challenge

Amazon – unlocks “The Broderick” detective suit, which increases your fist-fighting abilities and lowers the damage you take fighting.

Wal-Mart – get “A Slip of the Tongue” traffic case

Best-Buy – get “The Sharpshooter” detective suit, increasing your abilities with rifles and pistols.

But wait, don’t pre-order yet!  Look what else you get!  If you pre-order directly from Rockstar, you get an official L.A. Noire t-shirt.  Or perhaps you’ll go to Target and get a $5 dollar gift card and a free Rockstar Games t-shirt by pre-ordering with them.

This is nuts.  All I want to do is buy the goddamn game and get the goddamn game.  The whole thing, without wondering what I might be missing out on because I didn’t go with another retailer.  Sure, all this swag is probably in there anyway or will be patched in later.  But they never tell you that before hand, as the heavy beads of sweat pour down your forehead in the harsh interrogative glare of approaching release date.  So you’re never quite sure.  I recommend anyone feeling the same way I do shoot Rockstar a tweet and demand that all this extra content be eventually available to everyone, regardless of where they bought the game.

Retail-based pre-order bonuses.  It’s a mug’s game.  And I don’t want to play it.

The Breeding Continues

Any self-respecting  gamer with an Amiga computer back in the 90′s had to have a copy of Alien Breed, created by Team 17 in 1991.  It started as a hardcore top-down shooter in the style of Gauntlet, that tested the mettle of many an Amigan with its endless hordes of alien attackers and stingy attitude towards health and ammo.

In the game-changing wake of Doom, Alien Breed morphed into an FPS with Alien Breed 3D in 1995, becoming the first type of game in that genre for the Amiga.  While the view the player had of the world in front of him was shrunk down to avoid over-taxing the Amiga’s processing power, the 3D Breeds included more graphical flourishes, such as advanced lighting effects, more detailed floors and ceilings, and more intricate level design.  Labelled a Doom-killer, the dwindling user base of the Amiga computer platform ultimately left Doom developer id Software with little to worry about.

Team 17 has returned to its Gauntlet inspired roots with a new series of top-down Alien Breed games for the PSN, the last of which, Alien Breed: Descent, has just been released.  Both single and multi-player co-operative modes are available for this go-round with the Alien scum.

Check the link here for more info on the new Alien Breed game. 

Forget it, Jake. It’s Polygontown.

Rockstar has released a new trailer for their eagerly anticipated next game, L.A. Noire.  Based in late 1940′s Los Angeles, it follows a cop as he battles corruption in the ranks, while solving a string of brutal crimes.  The showstopper for this game is probably the facial capture technique the company has used, in order to catch every subtle nuance of the actors’ faces as they deliver their lines.  You can see a bit of it in the trailer, and the linked “making of” vignette above, and it really is quite startling.  Whether this is a good or bad type of startling, we’ll soon see. So it’s L.A. Confidential, only I can walk around and shoot people?  I’m so there.

L.A. Noire is released on May 17, two days before my birthday.  Hint hint.

King’s Quest III Remake Released

The gang at AGD Interactive have taken it upon themselves to remake several classic Sierra-Online adventures, and have just released their makeover of King’s Quest III: To Heir is Human, originally released by Sierra in 1986.  The game graphics aren’t completely modernized to today’s standards, but are a nice SVGA overhaul.  The addition of a point-and-click interface, as opposed to the original’s text parser, is also greatly appreciated.

It also retains the original’s epic story of a royal baby stolen and a quest to regain a rightful place on the throne.  It was with KQIII that the storytelling powers of creator Roberta Williams really began to come into full blossom.

At a grand total of free, the price can’t be beat. Available for the PC and Mac.

Shhhh!

Chell, Keeping Quiet

Kotaku has an interesting blog post today, coming to the defense of video game characters such as Half Life‘s Gordon Freeman or Chell from Portal, who stay silent through their games.

Blogger Inspector-Jones makes some good points about how silence allows the gamer to infuse more of themselves into the character they are playing, but I think silent game protagonists greatly affect overall game design, as well.  Half Life 2 hedges its bets a bit by having Alyx Vance often accompany Freeman, allowing her to give some exposition on what is happening.  But when gamers are by themselves, such as nearly the entirety of the Portal series, the lack of being able to guide the player through dialog forces game creators to speak via design: the way the environment is laid out must communicate what is expected.  The iconic signs from Portal are a great example of doing this right.  They give the player an idea of what is coming, without being a giant flashing arrow saying “GO THIS WAY”.  And the nature of the icons themselves help shape the overall narrative, that of being a mouse trapped in a maze, given only the most clinical of instructions on how to proceed.

What Say You, Q*bert?

I also believe that, on some primitive level, silent game heroes create a connection in the minds of gamers back to the simpler times of the classic gaming era, when every character was practically mute.  Unless you had a voice synthesis module like the Intellivoice, that is.

In a lot of games, silence is indeed golden.

Speedball 2 Evolution: Ice Cream!

The iOS version of the much-beloved Bitmap Brothers game, originally released for the much-beloved Amiga computer platform in 1990 under the name Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe, is available for purchase in the app store today.

While receiving a slight graphical overhaul, play looks remarkably similar to how things went down in the arena back in the day: fast and brutal.

Here is the official iOS trailer: