Midway Arcade Origins

midway arcade origins

Nostalgia can be extremely arresting.  Can a gamer ever return to the feeling experienced when first taking out the Death Star in Star Wars, smashing multiple baddies with a single rock in Dig-Dug, or playing a flawless board of Ms. Pac Man?

midway arcade origins

Gamer nostalgia is also conjured by environments and contexts.  I’m sure most middle aged gamers have swapped stories from their youth about visiting the local arcade (remember those?) to plunk some quarters in their favorite machines. In those golden years, we played for nothing but score and bragging rights, and we were fascinated by graphics that were so remarkable that they couldn’t yet be reproduced on our home systems or personal computers.  I used to beg my father to take me to the PX on base (military brat, represent) so that I could play one of my retro favorites—the cartoonish cop chase game A.P.B.  It was my fond memory of this 1987 relic that led me toward Midway Arcade Origins. I do not regret the purchase.  At the same time, some of the classic titles within this trove of 30+ games simply don’t reignite the longing to play arcade games that I fondly remember from my childhood.

midway arcade origins

The first problem with the compilation is that some of the classic control schemes just don’t translate to modern joypads.  720 is a prime example. In my youth, I would eagerly line my quarters on top of the black-and white-checkered plastic control panel assembly, but without the circle-locked joystick on the arcade cabinet, the game is almost unplayable.  Too much die, not enough skate.  The same unfortunately applies to A.P.B., a game that is dysfunctional sans its steering wheel and pedals.  Granted, you can still get some enjoyment out of the titles, but they just aren’t the same without the respective racing wheels and other cabinet specific peripherals.

midway arcade origins

Unfortunately, there is also a lot of useless filler in the compilation.  The less you remember about Pit-Fighter, Xenophobe, and arguably the worst sequel of all time, Spy Hunter 2, the better.   In light of these weak choices, I found myself wondering why Paperboy, NARC, and Roadblasters were left out.  All three were extremely popular Midway titles from my youth, and all three could have easily made the compilation exponentially better, especially since Paperboy is no longer available on Xbox Live Arcade.

midway arcade origins

Thankfully I was able to get a lot of enjoyment out a few of the included offerings.  Joust and Joust 2 hold up extremely well, as do Satan’s Hollow, Robotron 2084, Spy Hunter, Rampage, and both Gauntlet games (just don’t shoot the food!). Two titles I’d never played before, Wizard of Wor and Bubbles, ended up being my favorites.  Smash TV and its sequel Total Carnage also play well with a modern controller, and they still serve as a reminder that most of these games were simply designed to get one more quarter out of the pocket of your Kangaroos.  This is certainly a staunch contrast from the “save anywhere, unlimited lives” mentality that permeates game design today.

Leaderboards are also included so you can still appreciate how badly you perform compared to other hardcore retro gamers.  Further, multiplayer is offered on any title that traditionally supported it.   While the limitations of portable console gaming and the omission of certain titles does make the compilation feel a bit incomplete, the game isn’t a bad purchase if you are looking to scratch that retro itch. Just don’t expect most of the games to play like they did when you were waiting in line behind that skeevy dude in the Iron Maiden t-shirt to get one more crack at Sinistar.

Wreck-It Ralph: The backstory behind the classic Tapper arcade video game

Wreck-It Ralph: The backstory behind the classic Tapper arcade video game

Out of all the vintage arcade video games that make cameos in Disney’s new Wreck-It Ralph film, which opened this weekend, perhaps none are as much of a surprise to old school gamers as Tapper, Bally Midway’s 1983 cult classic.

wreck-it-ralph - tapper

Originally conceived as an arcade title for bars and taverns, Tapper went into business with an official license with Budweiser, courtesy of Midway marketing guru Tom Nieman, and was programmed by Scott Morrison and Steve Meyer. A cabinet resembling a real bar, complete with cupholders, a brass footrail and a small beer tap as a controller, housed the unique coin-op title.

The object of Tapper was to control your speedy bartender as he tries to keep up with thirsty patrons who are capable of chugging their beer quickly and tend to get grumpy if they don’t get another right away. After the bartender fills a beer glass he slides it down to the customers, who slide back an empty one if they’d like to wet their whistle some more. The first level takes place in a saloon setting, with an athletic contest, punk bar and space alien bar appearing in future levels.

wreck-it-ralph - tapper

At one point a special chip was ordered to record burping sounds for use within the game. The production crew for Tapper sat around one night drinking beer and burping into a microphone, but once the concept was installed into the game it quickly became annoying. The idea was dropped.

The game was a modest success at a time when the arcade market was falling into a deep slump due to over saturation of product and locations. Around 3,300 Tapper machines were sold, and not all of them to bars and taverns as expected. When concerns arose about alcoholic advertising appearing in arcade locations where children might see it, Midway released an altered version of the game called Root Beer Tapper. The basic concept of the game was the same, but with root beer replacing Budweiser, removal of many of the bar elements from the game cabinet and replacing the bartender with a younger and more family friendly looking soda jerk.

wreck-it-ralph - tapper

Root Beer Tapper also allowed for the game to be licensed for home consoles of the time, though another licensing arrangement appeared in other home versions where soft drink Mountain Dew was the product of choice. The root beer version appears in all other modern day console re-releases.

In Wreck-It Ralph, Tapper’s is the name of the hangout where all the arcade characters gather at the end of a hard day. While it is quickly noted on screen that root beer is served there, the bartender is the mustached tapper from the original version. The arcade cabinet within the film features art from the original Tapper arcade machine with the root beer version on-screen.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy5j0L6o6ns[/youtube]

This film appearance appears likely to cement the Bally Midway classic into pop culture some 29 years after it’s original release.

The Classic Gaming Birthday Round Up

The Classic Gaming Birthday Round Up

Over the last two weeks a number of iconic classic games have had birthdays. The following is a grouping of those postings from Patrick Scott Patterson.

August 27

Super Mario Kart celebrates 20 year anniversary today

The original Super Mario Kart, perhapsNintendo‘s biggest 16-bit classic, turns 20 years old today.

The classic racer was first released in Japan on August 27, 1992 with a North American release just days later on September 1. Developed by game industry legend Shigeru Miyamoto and directors Hideki Konno and Tadashi Sugiyama, Super Mario Kart came about in an effort to create a multi-player racing game that improved upon the single player experience of Super Nintendo launch title F-Zero.

The game proved to be one of the strongest titles for the Super NES and Super Famicom, selling 8 million copies during it’s lifespan, a titanic number for that generation of gaming. Sequels and follow-up titles continue to this day, including Mario Kart Wii, the second best-selling game for the successful Wii game console with almost 32.5 million copies sold to date.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcTIk19Lcms[/youtube]

Many fans of the original still look back upon it today.

“At the time of the games release, I was actually into go-kart racing,” said Mario Kart fan Josh Jones of Killeen, Texas. “This was a way for me to experience a whole new way of racing and battling at home. Nintendo did a supreme job incorporating it’s characters into a fun filled game which still has a fan base today.”

The multi-player aspect made an impact on the household of another fan of the game.

Super Mario Kart was the game that settled all the sibling disputes in my household,” said P.J. Stanton of Bordentown, New Jersey. “When my brother and I couldn’t agree on something the winner of argument was determined by a quick race or battle. Of course, by the time we finished playing we usually had forgotten what we were arguing about. My brother and I are estranged now, yet every so often we’ll talk on the phone and the conversation will always lead back to who was the better player.”

August 30th

Original Street Fighter arcade game turns 25

It has now been 25 years since the originalStreet Fighter arcade game first saw the light of day.

Capcom introduced this one-on-one fighter to arcades on August 30, 1987 in two different cabinet styles. The first featured two pressure sensitive “punch” pads while another marked what would be the first-ever six button layout on a fighting game.

While the original Street Fighter was only a modest success, the impact of the game on video game history cannot be fully stated in a short article. Street Fighter II, first introduced in 1991, became the biggest arcade hit since Pac-Man and spawned an entire generation of fighting games. Today, the Street Fighter franchise is one of the most competitive scenes in all of professional video gaming.

“I actually grew up with Street Fighter on arcade back in the day,” said fighting game fan Teri Otis Redding of Australia. “Loved every Street Fighter made pretty much. I think I’ll always remember the arcade experience I had when I was growing up.”

The continued success of the franchise seems pleasing to the maker of products for fighting games.

“Street Fighter has been almost a benchmark for standards on all upcoming games,” said Doug Johnson ofFoeHammer Custom Joysticks. “We love it when they launch a new one because the hype is tremendous.”

August 31st

Arcade classic BurgerTime turns 30 years old

Yet another household name in video game history is celebrating a major milestone this week as BurgerTime turns 30.

August 31, 1982 saw the first public appearance of the game, originally called Hamburger during it’s initial Japanese release. Created by Data East, the game made a big splash at the 1982 AMOA trade show where Data East showed off the title for it’s DECO Cassette System (an early interchangeable arcadesystem) as well as a licensed version from Bally Midway.

BurgerTime featured a chef named Peter Pepper, doing battle with living eggs, hot dogs and pickles who are trying to stop him from making the biggest hamburgers in the world in a multi-level platform. The game gained a loyal following in both coin-op form as well as home console versions from Mattel Electronics.

BurgerTime is one of the defining eighties games,” said Ohio’s J.D. Lowe, holder of the third highest BurgerTimescore ever with 6,109,500 points. “Easy to learn, hard to master, with music that sticks in your head and a design that is hard to replicate.”

Many of the remaining original BurgerTime arcade cabinets have landed in the hands of collectors, including Rhode Islands’ Brian Diamonti, who says he will hold on to his machine regardless of the offer.

“I had a buddy offer to trade me his Joust for myBurgerTime and I had to turn him down,” Diamonti said. “BurgerTime is too much of a staple in gaming roots to trade off and my girlfriend would be too pissed at me.”

BurgerTime made a national television appearance in early 1983 as one of the game titles used in a gauntlet on That’s Incredible. Players had to quickly reach a scoring threshold on the game to move advance to the next game. Texan Ben Gold, who won the televised contest, only had a short time to learn the game.

“I had three weeks to learn it and only one arcade to practice at,” Gold recalled. “Todd Walker was by far the best player on this game and the irony is that his mistake on it is what allowed me to beat him in the competition.”

Numerous sequels to BurgerTime have been released over the past 30 years, including last year’sBurgerTime World TourRay Almeda from MonkeyPaw Games, the company who released the 2011 follow-up, notes the unique concept of the game as a reason for it’s longevity.

“Anybody who plays BurgerTime instantly gets hungrier and hungrier the longer and longer they play,” Almeda said. “Even to this day, Peter Pepper still remains a lovable chef that builds the planet’s biggest burgers. Who would have thought you’d be running from food in a video game? It doesn’t get any more addicting and iconic than that, even after 30 years.”

September 6th

Activision classic Pitfall! reaches 30 year anniversary

The iconic Pitfall! has now reached the 30 year mark.

Originally released on September 6, 1982, this early Activision title was designed byDavid Crane and became an instant best-seller. First released for the Atari Video Computer System (later known as the Atari 2600), Pitfall! sold 4 million copies, a huge number for a game at that time and held the top on best-seller charts for an incredible 64 weeks.

Perhaps the first hit game to popularize the side scrolling style that became a staple of gaming later in the decade, Pitfall! gave players a limited amount of time to overcome in-game obstacles such as pits, crocodiles and giant scorpions in an effort to reach the treasure at the end.

The popularity of the game transcended the title itself with the character of Pitfall Harry at the helm. Pitfall! was one of the video game titles featured in the first season of CBS Saturday morning cartoon series Saturday Supercade. A young Jack Black appears in one of the television commercials for the original game as well.

Pitfall! was our first chance to game as a proper adventurer,” said Jayce Stokes of England’s ConsoleNinjas podcast. “The way it combined maze elements in with the platform staples of timing your jumps and avoiding hazardous drops was unmatched back then.”

As an early example of a game with a finite ending point, completing Pitfall! proved to be a badge of honor among gamers, many of whom say they had a love/hate relationship with the cartridge.

“Who doesn’t love Pitfall!?” said Stockton, California’s John Lopez. “I played it until I thought I’d break my joystick as a kid. The gameplay was great; a running man grabbing the vines, swinging over the pits and quicksand, jumping logs, climbing into the underground caverns, jumping scorpions and collecting treasure. It was one of the coolest games.”

A new version of Pitfall! was recently released for iOS devices, while the original game designer recently opened up a Kickstarter project in an effort to launch a new jungle adventure.

Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot

This week we have another gem added to the list. Killer Instinct was Nintendo’s answer to other fighters out there and a true classic game. They were very successful with it although the franchise was long abandoned, we can still look back at this game and see what Nintendo did right.

Killer Instinct - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot

The music is quite catchy for a fighter game. There might not be classic tunes like from Street Fighter 2 but there is something special that came with this game and that’s Killer Kuts. It’s a disc with remixed music of the game!

The graphics are beautiful. The SNES looked to be in its limits when this was released. The game has a 32bit feel although it’s being run in a 16bit console. All I can say is that this was the shit back in 1995!

Killer Instinct - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot

In this game you have to find your favorite fighter and master him or her. You better learn all the finishing moves, combos, and of course the Ultras! The gameplay is very easy to learn so anyone can pick up and play. The next level comes to when you increase the difficulty and decide to take people on the arcade. Of course, that was a 90s thing.

Killer Instinct - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot

Like any fighter, this game is awesome to play against another friend. Have a fighters party and take on all your buddies in a tournament. I can go on and on….it also helps if you have a grudge against a friend and want to kill him via-video games. That works!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dR-7TO_LD0[/youtube]

So to conclude, the game is a classic that should not be forgotten. With such memorable characters, great fighting engine, and lots of replay value you can’t go wrong with Killer Instinct! An absolute must have for any retro gamer!

Wizard of Wor

 

Who would have thought, a game released in 1981 would still be played and enjoyed in this day and age ! It just proves that quality always trumps quantity.
This game has simple graphics and even simpler sound effects. But what it does have, is oodles of gameplay, and let’s admit it, that is the most important part of any game, retro or new.

Wizard of Wor-arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Wizard of Wor is a timeless classic. Game play is simple – one or two players, known as Worriors, move around a variety of line-drawn dungeons (mazes), shooting the creatures that wander within. These creatures, or Worlings (Burwors, Garwors and Thorwors), are eliminated so that the player progresses to an even harder dungeon. On each of these levels, there are bonus monsters, called Worluks, and occassionaly, the Wizard makes a special guest appearance – see The Dungeons of Wor.

Wizard of Wor-arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Each dungeon has different maze patterns, with escape doors that your Worrior can walk through to re-appear on the opposite side of the maze – this is great for when things get tough and you need a quick exit. Be warned though, the Worlings and Worluks can also use these escape doors !

Wizard of Wor-arcade-gameplay-screenshot

The Dungeons of Wor:

Basic Dungeons – consist of short passages and long corridors.
The Arena – appears after the first bonus Worrior is awarded. The most difficult of the basic dungeons with an open central maze area.
Worlord Dungeons – Dungeons ’8′ (and subsequent dungeons) are more difficult where the player is likely to engage the Wizard. In these dungeons, the player is addressed as “Worlord”
The Pit – the 13th dungeon appears after the second bonus Worrior is awarded. It is an entirely open area, with no place to hide and requires the greatest skill for survival. Eliminating all Worlings, Worluks and Wizard earns continued play.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srPdPw9VH2A[/youtube]

If you doubt how good this is game is, I urge you to give it a try. Game play is simple enough for any player to pick up in an instant. Mastering it is another story. I do warn you though, once you enter the dungeon, it is difficult to stop – you will be hooked !

GraphicsSimplistic, but that doesn’t matter

75%

SoundThe tempo of the effects and droning music picking up as you are about to clear out the last Worling, gets the heart racing !

85%

PlayabilityEasy to get into, you just move up – down – left – right and then fire. Sounds simple enough !

92%

LastabilityIf you clear out the Pit dungeon, then you earn continued play. You may find this exhausting and a bit samey, but rest assured, this is the game’s magic – you will want to keep on playing.

90%

OverallIf you do not have access to the arcade version of the game, then hit up the brilliant C64 conversion. WoW is a classic !

92%

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srPdPw9VH2A

Manufacturer:Bally Midway
Year: 1981
Genre: Labyrinth / Maze
Number of simultaneous players: 2
Maximum number of players: 2
Gameplay: Either
Joystick: 4-way
Buttons: 1 (Fire)

Site of Last Starfighter, birthplaces of Mario and Lode Runner added to registry

Three new additions have been made to the Registry of Historic Gaming Locations, a project aimed at preserving the stories of locations that have historical importance to video gaming.

The Last Starfighter

The project, which started last summer, now lists a total of 26 locations with plans to add more on a monthly basis.

The newest crop of inductions include:

– Rio Cafe & Grocery in Santa Clarita, CA – The food store where the hotshot gamer in 1984 film The Last Starfighter strutted his stuff.

– Early Nintendo Warehouse in Seattle, WA – The site where the struggling Nintendo of America built the Donkey Kong machines that saved them from bankruptcy in 1981.  This is also the warehouse owned by Mario Segale, the man rumored to be the inspiration behind the naming of Nintendo’s iconic mascot.

– Former Broderbund Software HQ in San Rafael, CA – The place that brought Lode Runner, Choplifter, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and Prince of Persia to life.

Some of the other 23 locations previously inducted include competitive gaming birthplace Ottumwa, IA, the original testing locations of classics such as Donkey Kong and Defender, arcade locations featured in films such as Tron, The Karate Kid and WarGames, former headquarters locations of companies such as Atari and Bally Midway and the famous landfill that saw millions of unsold Atari game cartridges dumped in 1984.

In a short time the Registry of Historic Gaming Locations has received press coverage across the world, including recent stories in Japan and Brazil.

The full Registry list, including the newest three entries, can be found at PatrickScottPatterson.com.

 

Satan’s Hollow

Satans Hollow

Satan’s Hollow

At first, I thought this was some hack game or Halloween mod, but Satan’s Hollow is a real shoot em up game made by Bally Midway in 1982. As you can obviously tell, this game is pretty much like Galaga, but you fight weird demonic creatures instead and you have a shield to protect you for a very limited time when things get crazy.

I had to check Wikipedia to learn that some of the things the creatures toss at you are eggs and rocks. I think the best in the Sinistar like demon head that tried to attack you every few levels.

Arch Rivals

Arch Rivals - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Arch Rivals

In 1987, the development publisher team of Acclaim/Midway/Rare pitched in to produce an arcade port of the basketball simulation Arch Rivals, as they would release as an 8-bit video game cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. Would it measure up to its original cabinet counterpart? Well, no, actually; it looked much worse, and simply did not play as enjoyably. However, it did manage to forge its own identity as one of the quirkier basketball-game selections on the ol’ Nintendo system and managed to serve as a bit of foreshadowing to a future blockbuster b-ball franchise.

Gameplay

On its surface, Arch Rivals is a basketball video game on the NES. There are a few features, though, that make it somewhat notable. This is not a five-on-five version; rather, this cart features two-on-two full-court style hardwood action. Additionally, the player only controls one character on the team, rather than the switch of controls used in many other games. However, the player can tell the teammate what to do, in the sense that pressing the pass button (B) not only makes the teammate pass the ball, but the player’s character is actually shown, via speech bubble, telling the teammate to do so, or to shoot by pressing the A button (also used to jump on defense).

Arch Rivals - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

On defense, though, the claim to fame for this video game is in using the B button to punch opposing players. There are no fouls in Arch Rivals, and in fact no other penalties either, as it is impossible to move out of bounds or travel, for example. Thus, gameplay devolves (evolves?) into a cat-and-mouse chase across every possession, as the offense struggles to set up an open shot or dunk before the defense can punch them out and get the ball back. Holding the B button sets up for a punch, during which the character’s arm is visibly withdrawn and the player can move about the court, until it is released to unleash the punch. Or, while holding B, the player can press A to perform a weird diving, somersault-rolling “swipe” move to try and steal the ball and retain motion. This move is much more difficult to pull off.

Arch Rivals - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Once past the humorous title screen, displaying up-close face shots of two “arch rival” players plainly irritated with each other, with a basketball in the middle until a fist bursts forth from its round orange skin, the options are presented. Weirdly enough, there are only four tongue-in-cheek teams to choose from (Los Angeles, Brawl State, Chicago, and Natural High), and even of these four, only very specific match-up configurations are available, scrolled through with presses of the B button. The A button moves to a hints-giving session, screen by screen, providing helpful instructions. After the options comes the character selection, giving eight different players the player can choose from, or two players in a head-to-head game with each choosing their own character. They supposedly have different characteristics, such as one being a top shooter, one being the best brawler, etc., but in reality, the actual gameplay results of most of them is similar enough to be unintelligible from the other.

Arch Rivals - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The play control is a little off-kilter, especially when compared to other basketball games. For example, the physics programmed into this game demand a bizarre momentum, whereas defensive players without the ball move notably faster than ball-carriers; akin to the “catch-up” boost a losing kart may receive in a Mario Kart game. In fact, if the player pauses the game will running at full tilt, the player actually continues to move until their inertia runs out, even though the other athletes are frozen still. Not since Kid Kool has an on-screen character sprite had so much trouble coming to a stop.

Then there are the truly distinctive factors behind Arch Rivals. For one, players can trip over the little referee. Also, eventually in the game, random garbage and stuff gets strewn about the court, tripping players that run over them. Furthermore, one interesting aspect is that, on the occasional slam dunk, the backboard breaks, bringing glass shards down to the floor and remaining broken for a little while. This, along with the two-on-two action, one-character control with teammate commands, emphasis on knocking the opposing team over, and arcade-style gameplay are very reminiscent of Midway’s later basketball series, the more famous NBA Jam franchise. In this sense, Arch Rivals can be seen as the direct predecessor to Jam.

Graphics
Arch Rivals - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Another early NES basketball game is Double Dribble, which surprisingly only looks a little worse than its original arcade iteration. Arch Rivals, on the other hand, looks decidedly worse than its upright cabinet original. While it would be nice to say that this is primarily due to the superior graphics of arcade Arch Rivals over arcade Double Dribble (which, in itself, is an opinion that may merely be a matter of taste), the visuals of the console cart have unusual choices throughout, the prime example being just the eerie, not-quite-right way the actual players are renders, with single white pixels as eyes. There are a handful of different “cutscenes” that are seen after every successful score, ranging from the ref standing there with a whistle, to the possibility of one coach or another seen barking at their players off-screen, or even a cleavage-bearing cheerleader. However, despite the graphical goofiness of these potentially appealing scenes, they pose a very telling problem: Pausing the action after every single made shot makes Arch Rivals much more slowly paced, which removes from its otherwise zany charm of punching and rushing back-and-forth action. It can be confidently stated that, without these needlessly overdone cutscenes, Arch Rivals would be a better game.

Sound
Arch Rivals - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

It could be argued as admirable that the background music is not distracting, but surely the programmers could have done better than a bass-rhythm, quick-hits-otherwise ditty that seems to make the player feel like the developers were unaware that the NES had more than two channels for music. The sound effects themselves are barely noticeable either, which is a more disconcerting issue. Even with the somewhat obvious limitations of the 8-bit NES machine, the backboard-shattering surely could have been rendered with more punch and circumstance. Perhaps this reviewer is just dreaming, but Arch Rivals is decidedly not a game that reached for the stars in its audio department, merely settling to service the gameplay mechanics.

Originality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgxgQaHyrak[/youtube]

As mentioned before, though its gameplay is not quite satisfying for basketball purists and merely suffices are a zany diversion for everyone else, unfortunately coupled with the gameplay flaw of stop-and-go rhythmic issues, Arch Rivals holds an intriguing spot in console history, one that laid the path for the amazing entries in the NBA Jam series. But historical context itself cannot make a great game, and Arch Rivals must be properly recognized as neither among the best ever created, nor the worst ever suffered through: A two and a half star rating out of five pegs the b-ball sim for good.

Eric Bailey is a retro gamer on a crazy quest to write a quality review for every single American-released NES video game over at NintendoLegend.com.

Nacho Pintos: Frugal Games

Frugal Games logo
Frugal Games logo

Name: Nacho Pintos

Company: Frugal Games

Profession: Game Designer / Developer

Favorite Classic Game: Pac-man

Quote: I’m not a person with ‘favorites’. It’s always hard for me to say which books, films, songs or people I like most, or have been the most influential, because their memory and my perception of them varies wildly over time.

However, I re-play Pac-Man every time I stumble upon a new version/clone/homage/reworking of it. I can’t help it, it’s so perfect, so seminal. All ‘collect-everything’ games started here. The setting is absurd: colored ghosts, yellow dots, a pizza-like avatar… That’s what I miss most in current games, and what keeps me going back to classics: no ‘realism’, just a different, weird gameworld, with different rules, set up with very scarce resources, and yet it works and is addictive, balanced, brilliant. Unique.


Bio: Frugal Games is me, doing design and programming, and Pedro Pacheco (http://unosetenta.com) doing all-things-visual. So with just two persons, we had but to turn resource scarcity into a virtue. Our mission is making small games filled with great ideas (a 120 hour epic FRPG in 4 DVDs wouldn’t be frugal, would it?) We both love how simple, small games from the past felt so big and vivid in our minds, and we want to recreate that feeling. It’s not about nostalgia or love for retro-things, but to bring back the imagination of the player into the equation of gaming.

Project: Flee, for Android devices

Project Info: Flee is an obsessive recreation of the LCD handhelds that were so popular in the 80’s, like the Game&Watch series from Nintendo: one game in one machine, in your hands. We’re both in our early thirties, so these devices were our first contact with portable digital videogames. That’s where our player days started, and that’s where our videogame-maker days begin.

For me the most crucial design target was to make the player feel that he’s holding in his hands one of those devices, forgetting that it is actually a state-of-the-art smartphone. This led to the two most-highlighted (by the press) features of the game: the device gets dirtier the more you play (you can clean it if you want), and the effect when pressing the screen (to reveal the hidden graphics behind) – I would like to develop on the concept of aging user interfaces in the future. But Flee is not just these two gimmicks, there’s actual gameplay inside.

On Mode A (most LCD handhelds had two game modes) you control the main car and have to avoid the obstacles, along 30 levels of devilish difficulty: cars that move at different speeds, rabbits that weave from lane to lane, almost impossible car-labyrinths… We wanted the game to be very, very difficult and fast. On Mode B, the player controls the hordes of rabbits that approach the main car, which now moves on its own, through 18 levels; there were many ideas for more game modes but these turned to be the most meaningful. Furthermore, you can play both modes at normal or Turbo speed. There’s also a game manual that meticulously mimics those of the 80’s.

We added features unseen in old LCDs: a game ending (on mode A, level 30) with a misteryous hidden message, a 20-song soundtrack that emulates the car’s radio (after finishing a level, you hear the radio tuning to a new station while a new song fades in) and a global Scoreboard using the Scoreloop service for Android.

Classic Gaming Beauty Pageant

Ever hear the saying; “Don’t be fooled by a pretty face”? In this case that “pretty face” can put you in intensive care quicker than a Dragon Punch. ~J.A. Laraque

Classic Gaming Beauty Pageant

We asked our fans on the official Obsolete Gamer Facebook Page which classic gaming heroine was the sexiest. We received a number of responses and now we will showcase some of them here. Let’s take a look at some of the lovely ladies of classic gaming to see if we can find a clear winner.

Beauty Pageant

Princess Toadstool

Princess Peach from Mario

With golden blond hair, big sky-blue eyes and rosy-red cheeks it’s no wonder Mario is willing to go anywhere in the galaxy to save her. As princess of Mushroom Kingdom, Peach takes her job very seriously and is even willing to battle to save her land. Her beauty and grace are unmistakable, she clearly owns the evening gown competition, but she is much more than just another pretty face. Peach is also an avid go-cart racer and excels in golf, tennis, soccer and even brawling. She is clear royalty that brings a lot to the throne.

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms Pacman arcade side

Nothing beats a full figured woman and Ms. Pac-Man carries the perfectly round look better than anyone else in history. While it is true the lovely lady spends most of her time eating she is constantly on the run which balances it out. Her strong suit is the swimsuit competition because she refuses to wear much else besides a pink  pumps, silk gloves and a lovely bow. Don’t get any ideas guys, Ms. Pac-Man is married and has a child. Honestly would you want to date someone who is constantly being pursued by ghosts?

Samus Aran

Samus Metroid

Sometimes a man wants a strong woman, someone who can handle herself in battle; someone who can kick your ass, that woman is Samus Aran. This battle beauty spends most of her time in her battle suit blasting away the badies in Metroid, but there is a softer side to ol’ Sam. When not blowing away anything in her path, Miss Aran loves to read war strategies and weapon tech manuals. She lost a few points for refusing to compete in the evening gown or swimsuit competition but her answer to what would she do if she won the pageant was clear and to the point, she said: “I’d keep doing what I’ve been doing all my life, saving the world.”

Tyris

Tyris Flare Golden Axe

Originally Tyris was not part of the pageant, but when a sword-wielding, red-haired amazon asks to be included you better not say “no”. Brawn and beauty are in perfect harmony with this video vixen. In Golden Axe, Tyris battled against the horde to seek revenge on Death Adder for the murder of her parents. Now Tyris is a swimsuit model and military consultant. That’s an A+ resume.

Princess Zelda

Princess Zelda

This noble beauty believes in the more traditional role of fantasy princesses. Zelda spends most of her time either in a magically induced sleep or trapped in some dungeon waiting for a hero to save her. Being a lady of stature and prestige she refuses to show herself in anything beyond her royal gown, but we still like what we see. Zelda understands the key to being saved is looking good and patience, lots and lots of patience.

Chun Li

Chun Li Street Fighter anime

Ever hear the saying; “Don’t be fooled by a pretty face”? In this case that “pretty face” can put you in intensive care quicker than a Dragon Punch. Chun Li is a competitor be it in Street Fighting or beach volleyball, she doesn’t like to lose. Being the first lady of fighting games has put a target on her head and Ms. Li wouldn’t have it any other way. She loves to show off her silky smooth legs and powerful thighs, but that is just a trap. If you are not careful you will quickly become a victim to her lighting fast kicks. Chun has no problem using her brute force to get what she wants, she rather kick you than kiss you which is why many of the judges are voting 10.

Jill Valentine

Jill Valentine Resident Evil fan art

If you were to date this woman and Valentine’s Day came around it would be in your best interest to give her the world. I mean not only is Valentine her last name, but she kills zombies for a living. You have to love a woman with a gun who knows how to use it and with her lock picking skills you will never run out of ammo. Now some have called her the weaker link in team Resident Evil, but that is far from the truth. Her strengths lie in her versatility. Jill is proficient in many different weapons and her puzzle solving skills are top shelf. Ms. Valentine dazzled us with her numerous wardrobe changes. We asked her, “Why do you love to show off all your different types of clothing?” Her response was, “Do you have any idea what I had to do to get these clothes?”

Lara Croft

Lara Croft - Tomb Raider

When out raiding tombs and treasure hunting it is important to have the total package. Lara Croft is the total package. She has the brains to solve the most mind numbing puzzles and the athletic ability to run, jump and swing her away across the most dangerous environments. She is an expert marksman and a Rhodes Scholar and she has a pair of assets that are second to none. Ms. Croft defines pageantry competing and excelling in all categories she is the epitome of classic gaming excellence and beauty. Clearly if there is a winner amongst this fine field of females it is Lara, she would have won even if she did not give us all a share in her latest treasure find.

Bump N Jump

Sometimes there are games out there that you play just because it’s a little different than the norm, for me Bump ‘n’ Jump was that game, released by Data East in 1982 this action racing game mixed Mario bros. style jumps with Spy Hunter-style driving.

Bump N Jump cover

Now I did not know this at the time but there is actually a reason you are racing down a sometimes horribly shaped highway knocking cars off the road and jumping over broken bridges. The drivers girlfriend was kidnapped by a group called the Black Army Corps. (No relation to Black Water)

Again we have another case of a simple goal that is not so simple to execute. Your mission is to get from one level to another by racing down the highway to hell playing extreme bumper cars with everyone on the road. To add to the fun the road looks to have been constructed by my three year-old self because the road is only sometimes straight. Most of the time the road resembles mountain tops with peaks and jagged edges sticking out and if you run into these you are dead.

Bump-n-jump-gameplay-screenshot

Luckily your car is equipped with the mother of all hydraulics that would make Snoop Dog go Snig-a-de-dig-a-de. Your car is able to take to the skies with a super jump and come crashing down on your enemies.

The game has a top down or “bird’s eyes” view so as you race you encounter a variety of enemy cars and trucks. These cars you can bump off the road to take them out, the trucks you cannot and sometimes the trucks will drops boulders or other items in your path that if you crash into will kill you.

Jumping does not just crush cars and trucks it is also to jump over the numerous broken bridges in the game. (I told you the stimulus package was necessary) It is also a good way to get out of a sticky situation. For instance when you bump into a enemy car it will give a little push back and if you are coming up fast on one of the out-sticking jagged edges on the road you can use your jump to safely navigate back to the middle of the road where you mainly want to be.

Bump-n-jump-gameplay-screenshot-1

Bump ‘n’ Jump was simply designed but the gameplay was what made it fun. It had a Spy Hunter feel to the road design using simple colors and shapes and since it was also published by Bally Midway it makes sense where the 1983 Spy Hunter got its level design from.

As you go through the levels you are also going through the season. (How long did it take this guy to get his girl back anyway?) The changes in level design are small mostly consisting of color changes. The exception was the winter stage which sported a snow covered design and slippery icy roads.

Unfortunately Bump ‘n’ Jump was another game I wasn’t very good at. Sometimes when that yellow exclamation point would begin flashing on screen and making that beeping noise I would become traumatized and crash. Like Spy Hunter I only made it to the winter level once. (I notice a pattern here)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uaql2YDZCPU[/youtube]

BNJ was ported to a number of console and computer systems such as the Atari 2600, the Commodore 64 and the NES and has been released under different names such as Burnin Rubber and Buggy Popper.Simple design and fun gameplay was the theme of the 80’s and that is why games like Bump ‘n’ Jump are still played today. Like many games of the 80’s you can find flash versions of them on websites or there is of course M.A.M.E, but I have no idea what that is. =)

Spy Hunter

Spy Hunter
Spy Hunter

Spy Hunter

In the 80’s Spy Hunter was the game to play especially if your arcade was lucky enough to have the full sit-down version of the game that was actually shaped like the car. It had fast driving, a bunch of different weapons and a theme that stayed stuck in your head for months. I loved Spy Hunter; I just sucked really really bad at it.

Spy Hunter showed up in arcades in 1983, developed by Bally Midway you played the role of a spy driving a high-tech sports car. Your mission was to race down the mother of all freeways taking out enemy vehicles which later really seemed un-spy like to me. While it is true James Bond is known for his awesome cars it’s not like all he did was drive around taking out bad guys, but then again maybe that would have been better than Die Another Day.

Speaking of James Bond, the early versions of the game used the theme created by Monty Norman, but because of copyright issues Midway was forced to change the theme to a version of Henry Mancini’s, Peter Gunn. Strangely the theme only plays during certain parts of the game like the beginning and when you get a new weapon beyond that there is no music and only the in-game sound effects.

spy-hunter-arcade

Now the game itself is not too difficult in principle, you start off on a highway in your G-6155 Interceptor which was modeled after the 1983 Camaro Z28. On the top of your screen you have your score and a timer counting down from 1000. During this phase you have unlimited lives to get use to the game.

Along the route you will run into civilian cars which you are not to destroy even though some of them seem to move into your path or try to bump you. It is truly humiliating when one of the civilian cars blazes by you even when you are driving at full speed. If you destroy a civilian car your score counter stops denying you of points for a while and your weapons truck will only show up once per area to give you new weapons.

spy-hunter-arcade

Once your “free time” is over you will begin to encounter enemy cars such as ones with blades that come from its tires to slash yours sending you off the road. There are also armor plated cars which you can’t shoot, you have to knock them off the road or use a smoke screen or an oil slick. You also have a limo which will pull alongside you to shoot you in the face with a shotgun and finally a helicopter that drops bombs on you.

To help you out on your “Spy Hunting” your weapons van (which looks a lot like Optimus Prime) will come every so often and give you different weapons including an oil slick, a smoke screen or missiles. All these weapons have limited usage, but can be refilled if you live long enough and don’t kill any civilian cars. Your weapons van (which really is a semi-truck) will give you new weapons and refill existing ones.

spy-hunter-arcade

The graphics were what you would expect from 1983, it was a top down game meaning you played from an overhead view and the landscape only had minor changes in color and a plant or two on the side of the road. The exception was when you switched to boat mode and fought on the water and when you entered the winter area where the ground was icy.

I personally only made it to the boat twice and the ice level once, this is because I sucked really bad. Also you could have all three weapons upgrades on your car at one time, but again, you had to not suck as much as I did.

spy-hunter-arcade

The game was very successful and ported to pretty much every computer and console system of the day and a movie was even in the works starting The Rock, but there has been little news of its production of late.

Spy Hunter is classic action even though driving on the highway is not really Spy Hunting and your car is pretty lame at first and civilian cars drive faster than you and the switchblade cars sucked major ass and being shot in the face by a limo blows chunks and the music turned off making the explosion of my car audible to everyone and I ran out of quarters trying to get to the boat level.

You can find this game in its flash version pretty much anywhere and its worth trying out, there are other versions and a Spy Hunter 2, but the original was the best in my opinion and one day I hope to make it back to that icy level.