Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for September, 2008

Dream up your own games – and build them, too!

Posted by ptcgaming on September 29, 2008

Ever wanted to create to your own video game? Well now you can, thanks to the folks at YoYo Games! By logging on to http://www.yoyogames.com/gamemaker, you can download YoYo’s Game Maker software and make your gaming dreams come true. And the best part… It’s FREE! Well, unless you want to unlock some additional functions, then you have to pay to register. But the free version has everything you need to develop a fully-working video game.

Now I’m pretty sure you won’t be able to put Electronic Arts out of business with anything you create, but you can share and even sell your games! The Game Maker Web site has numerous games created by people using the software. And tutorials are available online to help you get started.

So, you ask, why aren’t there any screenshots of a game I created? Well, that answer has two parts: One, between working full-time and taking care of things at home, I haven’t had a lot of time to tinker with the program, and two, since I haven’t had time to make it all the way through the first tutorial yet, there’s no way I have the know-how to create my own game yet (Okay, maybe that’s pretty much the same reason).

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Retro Game Review: Ghosts ‘n Goblins

Posted by ptcgaming on September 26, 2008

Not exactly the knights who say “Nee!”

Note: This review was requested by my friend Kevin Johnson, an indie artist in the Greater New Orleans area. Kevin recently created his own Webcomic, “Strange City Heroes,” which can be viewed by clicking here.

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System
Released: 1986
Developer: Capcom

Background: Dust off the ‘ol Game Genie, because if you’re thinking about throwing your NES controller through your TV, you’re probably playing Ghosts ‘n Goblins. Capcom’s brush with the afterlife is a difficult, frustrating game that slaps you right in the face just about the time you think you’ve reached GnG immortality. The story is your run-of-the-mill “girlfriend gets kidnapped by the devil and you have to fight your way through several levels to take on the Dark One and rescue her” story.

Graphics: 2.5/5
Because they’re only half as good as the arcade version (which set the bar high for its time). While the level in the screenshot above is pretty detailed, other levels (I’m looking at you, Stage 6) are nothing more than patterns of equally-sized white and gray blocks. Other stages are much more detailed, but the NES version is so far out of the arcade version’s league it makes me a harsh critic.

Sound: 3.5/5
The sound and music are actually not all that bad for a game in the early days of the NES. The squeaking noises do become annoying after awhile, but the game’s music is some of the best. Capcom games typically featured some of best music on the NES, most notably in the Mega Man series.

Controls: 4/5
You really can’t do more with an NES controller on a side-scroller than run, jump and shoot.

Gameplay: 2.5/5
Let’s just stay in the middle on this one. If you like a game that’ll make you prematurely go gray up top, you’ll give this game high marks. If you don’t, you’ll score it very low. This game is punishing, and if you can complete it without throwing your console out the window, I have a friend who might want to challenge you to a game of Contra with just three lives. And if the game isn’t hard enough, when you do reach Lucifer and defeat him, don’t claim your trophy quite yet – It’s all just an illusion, and now you have to start all over again (Did I mention it’s even harder the second time around?). Then, upon laying the smackdown on Lucifer the second time to rescue your lady, you’re treated to a short ending that features one of the game’s trademark bad English translations (“Congratulation. This game is happy end”).

Overall: 3.125/5
I won’t say anything more about how hard this game is, but despite its difficulty, Ghosts ‘n Goblins is truly a classic. If you’re a glutton for punishment, this is the game for you!

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Our Favorite Games: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

Posted by ptcgaming on September 19, 2008

Platform: Nintendo Game Boy, Game Boy Color Released: 1993, 1998 (DX version)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was one case of a game undergoing a dramatic face lift, and all for the better. Originally released in 1993 to rave reviews on the original monochrome Game Boy, its DX version was released for the Game Boy Color five years later. The DX version not only added full color to the entire game, but also added a couple new features only available when playing on a GBC. This game veered away from a few typical Zelda concepts: Link’s quest doesn’t take place in Hyrule, there is no Triforce, Ganon isn’t the main boss and, aside from one mention at the beginning of the game, Zelda isn’t included in the game at all. Instead, a shipwrecked Link wakes up on Koholint Island, and the only way off the island is to wake the Wind Fish, who is sleeping inside an egg on top of a mountain (Don’t look at me, I didn’t write the story). To wake said Wind Fish, Link must gather eight instruments, which (keeping to Zelda tradition) must be obtained by fighting his way through eight dungeons, each with a main boss at the end. There were a couple things I found strange about this game: For one, several characters from the Super Mario Bros. series make appearances in the game. Secondly, I was very disappointed in the ending to this game (but I won;t spoil it for you). Nevertheless, if you love Zelda, but get tired of having to kill Ganon all the time, give Link’s Awakening a try.

On a side note, this is the final entry for the “Our Favorite Games” series at this time. I hope you have enjoyed this look back at some of the most popular games from yesteryear. I plan to have another “Favorites” series sometime later on, so if you have any suggestions on what games you’d like to have featured then, your suggestions are always welcome. Thanks again for reading!

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Our Favorite Games: Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Posted by ptcgaming on September 18, 2008


Platform: Sega Genesis Released: 1992
Sonic returned to the gaming scene in 1992 with this sequel, and a friend tagging along. Sonic 2 took a successful model and improved upon it, making the game graphically better and faster (if that was even possible). Sonic’s second quest to take out Dr. Robotnik introduced us to Tails, his partner in crime (er) and ongoing character in the Sonic series. Though most of the zones were cut down to no more than two acts (except the Metropolis Zone), the abundance of zones made the game seem much longer than the original Sonic. And while the game features continues that can be earned, the lack of a save feature makes this game difficult to sit through after spending all day at work then coming home to take care of your family before having time for yourself. (On a side note, there is a save feature in later titles in the series.) But even with it’s time-consuming length, the ever-changing landscapes and great music make this a great title for a weekend gaming sit-down. The game is so popular (at least six million copies sold), it’s the biggest seller for the Genesis (Mega Drive in Japan), all-time. This sequel is a great example of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

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Our Favorite Games: Donkey Kong Country

Posted by ptcgaming on September 17, 2008

Platform: Super Nintendo Released: 1994
Donkey Kong Country changed the way we looked at the primate’s franchise. He was no longer a single-screened platformer, he wasn’t involved with anything to do with Mario and he wasn’t designed by his creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. But it still managed to sell more than 9 million copies, making it the third-biggest-selling SNES title ever behind only, well, that Mario guy. DKC utilized pre-rendered 3D graphics to create its outstanding-looking world. Donkey Kong and his partner, Diddy Kong, were on a mission to get DK’s bananas back from King K. Rool. You had to make your way through six different worlds to accomplish this in a side-scrolling format. Collecting 100 bananas along the way got you an extra life (sound familiar?), as would finding the four letters that spelled “KONG.” Both Donkey and Diddy (long before Diddy was Diddy) were both on-screen at the same time, and you could be either one. To switch to the other character you just had to “tag” him. Despite its popularity when released, DKC has become the focal point of some criticism, with some calling the game one of the most overrated of all-time.

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Our Favorite Games: Out Run

Posted by ptcgaming on September 16, 2008

Platform: Sega Master System Released: 1987
Remember back in the days when you’d spend a Saturday night at the local arcade feeding quarters into dozens of video game cabinets to flex your gaming muscles? I sure do, and one of those games I fed numerous quarters to was Out Run. Now Sega Master System owners were lucky – they didn’t have to keep feeding quarters to get their Out Run fix. The idea of Out Run was simple – drive to the checkpoints before time runs out. Of course, dodging other cars and making your way through several different landscapes makes this much harder than it seems. Out Run was just plain fun. Its 3D effects and graphics were some of the best of its time. You just hopped in the car with your girlfriend and put the pedal to the metal. Another thing that made Out Run great was it was always changing – You could choose your route, giving the game 16 different route variations. And where you end determined your ending. Out Run has been called by some not a “racing” game, but a “driving” game instead.

Posted in Favorites, Sega | 1 Comment »

Our Favorite Games: Super Mario Bros. 3

Posted by ptcgaming on September 15, 2008

Platform: Nintendo Entertainment System Released: 1990

Raise your hand if you packed into a movie theater to catch the Fred Savage movie The Wizard just to see a glimpse of SMB3. Or do you remember chants of “Mario! Mario!” coming from your TV? It doesn’t matter how you were introduced to its 8 bits of glory, because the game speaks for itself. Fantastic graphics, gameplay and sound make this, in my opinion, the greatest original NES title ever. And there must be some people who agree with me, since SMB3 is the biggest selling game of all-time not originally bundled with a console (18 million copies sold). The game featured the same storyline – Bowser kidnapped the princess, so go get him – and yet so much more. There were world maps to explore, mushroom houses and new power-ups, oh, the number of power-ups. My personal favorite was always the Tanooki suit, even though the Hammer Bros. suit kicked serious butt, too. Eight worlds, each packing more than the four standard levels each, awaited you on your quest. There were some world-specific items (remember Kuribo’s Shoe?), and each world was completely different from any other. In a nutshell, this game is fantastic. And it set the stage for another epic 2D Mario game, Super Mario World, which helped launch the Super NES. Many of SMB3’s innovations (power-ups, world maps) were transferred to Mario’s 16-bit quest, a testament to how groundbreaking this game was.

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Our Favorite Games: Lemmings

Posted by ptcgaming on September 14, 2008

Platform: Commodore Amiga (PC) Released: 1991
Ah, Lemmings, those gullible, green-haired beings that jumped, dug and built their way into out homes in the early 1990s. Just about everyone has heard of Lemmings. The idea of the game was to get the required number of Lemmings (drones) to the door at the end of the stage. You helped make your way through the stage by jumping, digging, bashing or blowing your way through numerous terrains, everything from dirt to rock to concrete – just don’t fall into the water or lava! You assign a Lemming a specific task, and he’s (or she’s – I’m not quite sure) supposed to do it, so as long as you timed your assignment right. The game had four difficulty levels, each with a set of included levels. On each level, there was set number of Lemmings you had to save in order to move on. Now I don’t know exactly why, but even though the concept of this game was simple, it was still a lot of fun. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly suggest you do.

Posted in Favorites, PC | 2 Comments »

Our Favorite Games: Pitfall!

Posted by ptcgaming on September 13, 2008

Platform: Atari 2600 Released: 1982

Anyone who came within a hundred miles of an Atari 2600 in the early 1980s has heard of Pitfall! It’s Activision’s adventure featuring Pitfall Harry and his journey through the jungle. You ran either left or right (your choice) dodging snakes, scorpions, rolling barrels and crocodiles as you tried to find all the hidden treasures before the 20-minute timer ran out. You could stay above ground to complete the game, or you could utilize the underground passageways that let you skip through multiple screens at once. Pitfall has sold around 4 million copies since its release, second on the 2600 only to the lackluster port of Pac-Man. This was just one of several great titles Activision developed for the 2600, such as River Raid and Commando, two other challenging but fun games. Pitfall’s graphics, animation and sound were top-notch for the 2600, and the game remains a classic today.

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Playing video games = better brain

Posted by ptcgaming on September 8, 2008

Ah, Oregon Trail… where famine, learning and video games meet.

I remember reading several years ago a magazine article that talked about how children who play video games were better off up top. Gamers were said to be better at problem solving and had better hand-eye coordination compared to those who didn’t play video games. And while I hadn’t seen any articles on the subject since the original Super Mario Bros. ruled the gaming world, a recent piece in USA Today brought the topic back to life.

A recent article in USA Today says today’s gamer could end up being one of the world’s next great surgeons.

See, this news has been divided by a wall. Somewhere in the middle, it seems stories on how video games benefit children were replaced with stories on how video games corrupt children and make them more prone to violence. Stories on how Super Mario Bros. made us better students was replaced by how Grand Theft Auto made us shoot up our school. It’s your classic case of the negative getting more attention than the positive.
Remember back when there were video games actually developed primarily for learning? I don’t mean getting smarter by jumping on Koopas or Goombas, I mean a game that was meant to teach you something. The best one that comes to mind is Oregon Trail, a computer game where you led a stagecoach out west to Oregon. The idea of the game was simple: Don’t let all your people and animals die. But the fact you had to hunt and earn your way down the trail while making decisions critical to your survival made it a learning experience. And the game was so much fun you never realized you were actually learning something in the process.
Thanks to the folks at Nintendo, the availability of learning games still exists. Games like Brain Age, Big Brain Academy and Flash Focus help stimulate your brain cells. And just like 20 years ago, many video games today force you to use critical-thinking skills. So it’s not that video games stopped making us smarter, the fact they do just got lost in the mix for a while.

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