Billy Mitchell: You play Pac Man?


We all know who Billy Mitchell is especially if you love classic games, but sometimes you can know somebody and get the reason you know them just a little bit wrong as Billy explains in this clip from our Q&A event at the Florida Film Festival for Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Billy Mitchell


The Obsolete Gamer Show returns with its 100th video interview and we welcome video game legend, Billy Mitchell to the show. Love him or hate him, Billy is a champion and world record holder known for his skills in Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and more.

Billy Mitchell has been featured in films such as The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters as well as many other video game documentaries and was part of CNN’s the 80’s.

Being from Hollywood, Florida we got to interview him in person and asked him about his reputation in the gaming world and his thoughts of subjects from gamers hating on each other to what advice he would give a gamer about to hit the big time.

Donkey Kong: The start of a collection

Donkey Kong: The start of a collection

It may appear that we are going somewhat off-topic with this post. Strictly speaking, Donkey Kong, the game that is Mario’s birth-ground, does not seem an appropriate subject for a blog titled beforemario.

But it is not too farfetched, to state that without Donkey Kong this blog would not exist. And it is therefore more than appropriate to put a spotlight on Miyamoto’s premiere master piece; the start of my fondness for Nintendo, as well as the start of my collection.

With that in mind – let’s dig in.
Donkey Kong collection

It is not my intention to introduce or explain Donkey Kong. That would be silly. Unlike many of the Nintendo toys and games featured on this blog, I can safely assume that you know all ins and outs of the game’s origin, have played its four levels a zillion times, and watched The King of Kong more than once. Right?

What I would like to show you instead, is my first – ever – Nintendo game. The first piece of what would become a mountain of games. The first snowflake of an eventual collecting avalanche.

Here it is: the actual first Nintendo item I bought, almost thirty years ago.
Donkey Kong collection

Let us rewind three decades of time, to the Summer of 1982. For months, I had been pumping quarters (well, actually, guilders) into Nintendo’s arcade revelation Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong collection

I did not own a video game console at the time, and got all my pixelated kicks at the local arcade.

Now, I must admit that I had never really liked the Atari VCS 2600, which was the big home video game daddy around that time. I had played it occasionally, but could not get over the difference between its game play and what was on offer at the arcade. As a result, it never made it to my ‘must have’ list.

I remember seeing Atari’s home conversions of Space Invaders and especially Pac Man (two of my favorite games at the arcade) and not warming to these versions at all.

Then one day, I walked into a toy store, and saw a stack of brochures laying on the counter. It featured a new game console about to be released: CBS’s ColecoVision.
Donkey Kong collection

The scan shown above is from the actual copy I picked up that day, thirty years ago. Given the many times I have thumbed through it (and drooled over it), in the months that followed that moment, it looks surprisingly fresh.

The main selling point of the ColecoVision was a mouth-watering home conversion of Donkey Kong. A screen shot of it was put prominently on the front of the brochure. With the yellow high-light behind it, it stood out more than the actual console itself. And with reason. This was its killer app.

Donkey Kong collection

Inside the brochure, three pictures told a clear story, with a simple side-by-side comparison of the three home versions of Donkey Kong, for the ColecoVision, theAtari 2600 and the Intellivison.

Donkey Kong collection
Never mind that Coleco had handled all three conversions, and possibly given the version destined for their own hardware platform maybe a little bit of extra attention and TLC. The difference in quality, foremost visually, was staggering.
Donkey Kong collection

The ColecoVision version of Donkey Kong was no pixel-perfect conversion either. The first level, for instance, was missing one platform (it had five, instead of the original’s six). And more was missing, as I would soon find out. But it was close.
Donkey Kong collection

So, long story short: desire swelled up in me. I had to have it.

And after months of saving up, I became the proud owner of a ColecoVision.
Donkey Kong collection



Unlike in the US, where Donkey Kong came packed with the console, in Europe you had to buy it separately. Which I did, obviously.

Donkey Kong collection
A magical moment. Look at it. Hours of fun, packed in a black piece of plastic.
Donkey Kong collection

I slotted the cartridge into the machine and started playing.

Donkey Kong collection
Initial amazement at the feast of color and sound was suddenly replaced by confusion. After three levels the game started again at the first. Wait a minute… where is the factory level?

After some moments of disbelieve, and re-reading the manual, I had to take in the truth: there was no factory level. My favorite level had been sliced during the conversion process. Alas, no running on conveyor belts. No jumping over pies.

Donkey Kong collection
After recovering from that somewhat disappointing news, I was still very happy with my own home arcade, and played Donkey Kong for hours on end.
Donkey Kong collection

After this first Nintendo purchase came another, and another, and another, and another. But thirty years on, this one remains one of the most special.

Games & Candy 3

Games & Candy 3

Check out Games and Candy Part 1 & Part 2

Found some neat arcade/video game toys and candy at a candy store the other day.

Pac-Man Arcade Candy

Pac-Man Arcade Candy

Mario power Up energy drinks and some Mario Kart candy.

Mario power Up

A ton of Pez candy

Pez candy

Mmm Bacon candy

Bacon candy

Simpsons lunch boxes and mugs

Simpsons lunch boxes

And of course I had to get some Pac-Man candy to bring home.

Pac-Man Candy

Pac-Man Candy

Pac-Man Candy

When Video Games Become Board Games: Part 1

The 1980s saw a sudden increase in board games that were based upon classic video game cartridges or the quarter-devouring arcade machines.  Leading the charge was the powerhouse board game company Milton Bradley with an astounding array of video-to-board game titles, but were soon joined by competing gaming companies such as Ideal, Entex, and Parker Brothers.  It was a glorious time for board game enthusiasts!

This is the first of (hopefully) a series of articles listing and describing the various video game to board game properties that provided hours of family fun for a generation of gamers.  Just a quick note of definition: to be included on this list a game must fulfill a number of requirements: have its origin in a video game property, be for at least two players, and be an actual board or card game (not a handheld or tabletop electronic game).

video game board game

 

Frogger (Milton Bradley, 1981) While the fun of hopping across the road, avoiding certain death from a wide variety of sources was a hit as a video game, the translation – authentic as it was – did not have the same charm as a two-player board game, which, really, should not have been a surprise.   More interesting is that this may have been the very first board game to be based on a video game property!

video game board game

Pac-Man Game. (Milton Bradley, 1981) One of the best conversions of the arcade experience to table top board game play by using a game board in the design of the Pac-Man screen, with marbles taking the place of all the dots (the marbles are held in place by holes in the game board).  Four competing Pac-Man player tokens with the ability to capture and store marbles travel the board, avoiding ghosts and eating their way to success.  A brilliant translation!

video game board game

Defender (Entex, 1982) Entex had introduced electronic handheld versions of several popular video games, including Defender in 1981.  Board games were still a hot market, and so they also experimented with a board game version. Up to four players could attempt to turn back the invasion of various aliens, their directions shifting using a spinner to simulate the mobility of the arcade version. An ambitious, difficult to find game.

video game board game

Donkey Kong Game (Milton Bradley, 1982) Players moved their Mario tokens on a game board reproduction of the classic game screen, dodging barrels and fireballs when necessary, climbing up the girders to defeat Donkey Kong and rescue the “fair maiden.” The game was actually a pretty decent conversion from the video game, and a lot of fun to play.

video game board game

Invader (Entex, 1982) As previously mentioned, Entex produced many electronic handheld games, and some based on video game properties such as Defender and Space Invaders. However, the licencing was a bit of an adventure for this California-based company, and in this case, their agreement did not extend to making a board game based on the Space Invaders video game. Their solution? Rename it “Invader” and remove all mention of the game it was based upon!

video game board game

Ms. Pac-Man Game (Milton Bradley, 1982) Although this game is based on the original arcade game and uses its elements, Milton Bradley ensured that the game play is completely different to prevent Ms. Pac-Man from becoming a duplicate of their original 1981 Pac-Man Game. The game board is divided into four quadrants, and players take turns moving the Ms. Pac-Man token attempting collect as many plastic dots as possible from their quadrant. Each player also controls one Ghost token, which he or she can use to intercept and regain control of Ms. Pac-Man. It may not be completely true to the original, but Ms. Pac-Man is still an enjoyable game to play!

video game board game

Pac-Man Card Game (Milton Bradley, 1982) Pac-Man enters the world of educational card games, albeit with very little of the addictive charm that made the franchise so enduring. The mechanic is a bit labored with players attempting to fill lines of three spaces with Pac-Man cards to complete equations and score points.  To enjoy this game you either have to be a complete math or Pac-Man geek. Not much here for anyone else!

video game board game

Turtles (Entex, 1982) This game for 2 to 4 players was based on the Konami arcade game Turtles by Stern, and was another of Entex’s handheld games to board games series.  Just like the arcade game, players needed to rescue little turtles, and whoever rescued the most, won. Important to note that this game has NOTHING to do with any Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Possibly the most obscure video-to-board game entry on this list.

video game board game

Zaxxon (Milton Bradley, 1982) Translating the faux three-dimensional Zaxxon video game with its altitude-shifting airships into a two-dimensional board game was a challenge that was met in full by Milton Bradley by using a few standard 3-D tokens in conjunction with ingeniously designed fighter tokens that could be raised or lowered on their stands as needed. Game play was very similar to the original Zaxxon game, but with two to four players attempting to reach and shoot Zaxxon with BOTH their fighters and win the game.

A Footnote
It is important to remember that board games are not video games and neither should be expected to match the other’s total gaming experience.  Video games of this era were all about constant motion, quick reflexes and split-second decision-making.  Board games, however, are about measured decisions, random die rolls or card draws, and ever-changing strategies based on the play of your opponents.  In addition, board games often have suggested ages for players. I have read several reviews over the years from adults who were unable to understand that a game meant for children would have limited appeal to adults (and who scored them based on their own experience of playing them as an adult), or from reviewers who also expected a board game to be a video game.  These kinds of reviews do a tremendous disservice to the board game genre and to those who are searching for more information on one of these classic games.  To those game reviewers – and you know who you are – STOP IT! Let the game be judged on its actual merits, not on standards that it was never intended to fulfill.

Robot Chicken: Pac-Man

Robot chicken, pac-man, adult swim, cartoon network, ms. Pac-man, seth green, 8-bit, classic gaming, funny video game videos, retro gaming

Today’s video of the day comes from the Adult Swim show, Robot Chicken. You can always expect Seth Green and the gang to come up with some hilarious shorts, but his retro gaming parody’s are especially funny. Check out their latest one based on the classic arcade hit, Pac-Man.

Original Pac-Man cartoon series hits 30th anniversary

pac-man cartoon

Original Pac-Man cartoon series hits 30th anniversary

Thirty years before the Angry Birds appeared on every type of merchandise known to man,Pac-Man was the hottest product license on the planet. The 1980 arcade hit appeared on seemingly every type of consumer product of the day, from clothes and bedsheets to school products and cigarette lighters.

On September 25, 1982, a cartoon based on the Pac-Man games debuted on ABC television. This highly hyped series, produced by Hanna Barbera, marked the first time ever that a video game property was licensed for a mainstream entertainment series.

The cartoon featured Pac himself, along with his wife Pepper (aka Ms. Pac-Man), their young child Baby Pac-Man and their pets. They all lived in Pac-Land, an obviously fictional city full of a number of different shades and shapes of Pac-people. The monsters from the video game series were also present, led by an original character named Mezmaron.

The series took some liberties with the characters themselves, as might be expected by any licensed property-based cartoon series from the 1980s. Most of the male characters, including Pac-Man himself, sported a variety of hats. The ghost monster characters for Blinky and Clyde switched places from their video game roles with Clyde becoming the smart alpha of the group and Blinky becoming the dim witted follower of the group. Sue, the female ghost from the Ms. Pac-Man game, appeared in a shade of blue rather than the orange color from the game, likely in an effort to make her stand out more from Clyde.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yu-qrVx7XKw[/youtube]

Entertainment veteran Marty Ingels voiced the lead character. Somewhat ironically, voice acting legends Frank Welker and Peter Cullen voiced the often-feuding pets of Chomp-Chomp and Sour Puss. Two years later they would voice the characters of Megatron and Optimus Prime in the original Transformers cartoon.

From 1982 to 1983, Pac-Man aired on ABC Saturday mornings as part of a cartoon block featuring older properties such as Richie Rich and a cartoon version of the Little Rascals. The second season, which introduced the Super Pac-Man and PJ Pac (Jr. Pac-Man) characters was paired with another eighties icon in Rubik The Amazing Cube, based off the red hot toy of the time.

The series was cancelled at the end of the 1984 television season, cut loose as the North American video game industry suffered a near-fatal crash. Influence from the cartoon would continue to be felt for years, however, including the packaging artwork for the Pac-Man Chef Boyardee food products and Nintendo Entertainment System version of the original game. Namco released Pac-Land in 1984, a side scrolling game that pre-dated Super Mario Bros. and also featured heavy influence from the game in Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, a 1994 16-bit title.

While the original series itself was short-lived, the Pac-Man cartoon opened the doors for video games to be licensed as television and film properties, a practice that is still ongoing today. A newPac-Man cartoon series, in fact, is set to debut on Disney channels in 2013.

The original series was released on DVD earlier this year.

David Crane speaks on the triumphs and pitfalls of his multi-decade career

David Crane

The first video game boom period of the late 1970s and early 1980s created many superstars that are still known today, from the hardworking Mario to the still-hungry Pac-Man. It also saw a handful of game designers reach the superstar level themselves, including David Crane.

Starting his career with Atari on titles including Canyon Bomber and Outlaw for the Atari Video Computer System, Crane was among the founding members of Activision in 1979. Since that time, Crane has been the driving force behind game titles that made an impact on several generations of gaming, from Pitfall! to NES cult-classic A Boy and His Blob to the controversial Night Trap.

The original Pitfall!, which just reached it’s 30th anniversary, was a literal game changer according to Crane.

“Even during development, we knew we had something special,” he said. “The platformer game genre opened up worlds of new games. In fact, there were hundreds of platform games developed after Pitfall! blazed the trail through the jungle. When the game held the number one spot on Billboard‘s chart for 64 consecutive weeks, a record that I don’t think has ever been broken, we knew the game had legs.”

Today, three decades after it’s release, Pitfall! is among the classic video game titles still found on t-shirts and modern console releases. Crane states that this was not something that he considered the future would hold.

“I would have never predicted the classic gaming movement where people continue to play their favorite games 30 years later and who bring in a new generation by exposing their kids to the classics,” he stated. “Sure, we tweaked the games to a fine point and we felt those games were the best games on the market at the time, but it still surprises me when classic gaming enthusiasts tell me that for pure game play, modern games fail to live up to the standards we set back in the day.”

A Boy and His Blob, Crane’s 1989 title for the Nintendo Entertainment System, began as a tool-using adventure game concept. After recalling a cartoon character creation from his childhood, Crane altered the game’s toolkit into that character.

“When I try to explain the concept and story of A Boy and His Blob people look at me like I have two heads,” Crane said. “As the explanation goes on they become sure of it, ‘So… after collecting all of the underground treasures, the Boy spends it all on vitamins? Then he turns his Blob into a rocket and flies to Blobonia where he vanquishes an evil king with a Vitablaster? Are you insane or just on drugs?’ I assure them that I am indeed sane, and that my drug of choice is peanut M&M’s”

In the decades since Crane’s early success, the video game industry has grown to include various publishing levels. The veteran game designer notes that modern publishers should take notes from the history of the industry.

“In the eighties games were published on ROM cartridges. That was a huge barrier to entry, requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars to publish a single game,” he said. “In the mid-eighties there was a crash, brought on by 30 companies trying to cash in on Activision’s success but without quality games. By 1985 there were 20 bad games on the market for every good game. Consumers were lost.”

“Today there is no barrier to entry,” he added. “Anyone with $99 can pay Apple to publish a game, which explains why there are 100,000 games in the App store. One on hand the optimist will say that this makes it possible for indie developers to make something fabulously new and original. The pessimist points out that there are 1,000 bad or derivative games for every one jewel. Games in the eighties sold for $40; that indie designer who makes the jewel is lucky to net 40 cents on every game he sells. That is not enough to sustain a game development business, so it becomes unlikely we will ever see a second jewel from that designer.”

“The industries of then and now couldn’t be more different,” he continued. “But today’s glut of bad, derivative, or just plain indifferent games has some similarities to the conditions in 1985. Back then that glut precipitated a major crash in the business and it took years for the video game to regain it’s popularity. Hard to say if that will happen again, but those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.”

Crane recently turned to Kickstarter in an effort to create a new Jungle Adventure game as a follow-up to his 1982 classic. The project failed to catch on enough to reach it’s goal, however, despite Crane’s hope that supporters would like to be part of the game development process.

“Ask any game publisher if they would like the e-mail address of everybody that is going to buy a game before the game is published,” he said. “That could be a valuable resource for those times where the designer is struggling with game options. I suspect that my Kickstarter project didn’t get traction because the masses are not ready to commit to a game until they know what it is. Those that understood what I was hoping to achieve backed it enthusiastically, and went out as evangelists to try and recruit others.”

After 35 years in the video game industry, Crane states that he will continue to be part of it for some time to come.

“I design and program games every day,” he said. “I have been compared to Charles Schulz, who drew the Peanuts cartoons every day of his life for 50 years. By that analogy I have at least 15 good years left. I am comfortable in the fact that I know how to make games fun, and that is what keeps me going.”

Arcade Classics: What happened to them all?

It is easily the most common question I get when I chat with anyone about the classic arcade games of the early 1980s. What happened to them all?

Tron

They remember those days just as I do. Video arcades were commonplace and practically every type of business out there had arcade games in them. I remember seeing a Defender in the window of a flower shop, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga machines at the local Denny’s and entire gamerooms in select 7-Eleven stores. These machines were literally everywhere.

Over time a number of these machines have ended up in homes, mostly as an addition to a rec room or something fun in the corner of the garage. A smaller number of home collectors are deeply dedicated, some with dozens or even hundreds of machines. In recent years, arcades and taverns with classic themes are popping up around the country, giving an extent of new life to a bygone era.

Atari Football

What most casual and even many die-hard classic arcade fans don’t realize is that the vast majority of machines from the early eighties arcade boom are long gone from the planet. While games such as AsteroidsSpace InvadersPac-Man and Donkey Kong set arcade sales records that still stand today, most did not survive.

Today I provide some insight into why. While none of this is going to cover things in depth, it is going to touch on the basic answers to that common question.

The Great Video Game Crash

Atari Pole Position

While it is becoming a hardly known legend to the younger generations of gamers, the entire North American video game industry crashed hard in 1983 and 1984. The arcade market and home console markets crashed for different reasons, with the coin-ops dropped off first. Things slowed in the summer of 1982 and went into a free-fall the next year, due in large part to oversaturation of the marketplace and aging equipment.

By 1984, a great number of arcade operators had gone out of business. Those that survived had significantly smaller operations and routes. The vast majority of arcade machines seen in non-arcade businesses were never owned by those businesses but rather by vendors who installed the machines in those locations for a cut of the revenue.

Operators were stuck with huge inventories of machines nobody wanted to play anymore, and with almost everyone forced to scale back operations, most older machines had no resale value or potential buyers. Everyone had enough Scramble and Galaxian machines gathering dust in a warehouse already.

Joust

So they trashed them.

Many machines were gutted for useful parts such as monitors and coin doors then had their cabinets smashed, burned or taken to a landfill. Others were left to rot in abandoned warehouses, sheds or fields.

This practice actually still continues today. Me and a friend came across an antique store a few years ago that had obtained a few trailers of early eighties machines. Thinking they had no value they left the open trailers outside and smashed up entire machines until they’d filled their dumpsters. By the time we got there, we found pieces of games such as Donkey Kong Junior andCentipede in the trash and the machines still in tact had been rained on so much they were falling apart.

While there are hobbyists who restore classic machines scattered across the country, it is commonplace for them to use several machines to complete one full restoration, trashing the rest.

Conversions, Multicades and MAME

Mame arcade cabinet

Most classic arcade machines that didn’t end up as scrap were converted into newer game titles, and still are today.

The first successful conversion kit game was Mr. Do! in 1983, starting a trend that helped operators survive at least a while longer. For a far lesser price than a full arcade machine, vendors could purchase kits with new electronics, graphics and sometimes wiring which was used to turn that old Qix or Berzerk machine into a brand new game title.

While most arcade manufacturers resisted this trend as long as they could, they were forced to change with the times and start offering kits to operators. Some, such as Nintendo and Atari, began to produce kits designed to specifically convert their older titles.

Pac-Man

 

This trend continued through the middle of the decade but slowed for a time in the late 1980s. A bit of a resurgence in the arcade market came along with the rebirth of the home console industry during this time, and dedicated machines of newer hit titles began to sell once again. Most converted machines were simply converted again to newer titles for street locations.

The next big period of conversion mania came with Street Fighter II in 1991 and 1992. This game earned so much money so quickly that many operators quickly bought kits for every arcade cabinet they had in storage. Years ago I met an operator that literally converted every remaining early 80s machine he had to SFII when it was hot, and remember locations with classic machines such as BurgerTime and Front Line that they converted at this time.

Donkey Kong 3

In recent years the conversion mania has continued in two forms. Over the past decade an influx of overseas knock off boards often dubbed as “Multicades” have made their way into North America. These bootleg boards contain dozens and sometimes hundreds of games. Many arcade machine resellers have gutted surviving classics in favor of converting them into these multi-game machines in the name of making a buck.

Other home collectors have built arcade machines based on the MAME emulation program. While some of these MAME fans have built their arcade rigs from classic cabinets that were already stripped or converted beyond reasonable restoration, others have posted blogs where they show their process of gutting a surviving arcade machine to build it into a computer-based conversion.

Several arcade conversions have appeared on these popular treasure-hunting television programs in recent years, often without the people on the show seemingly aware of it. An episode of Pawn Stars saw someone bring three “Japanese Arcade Games” into the Las Vegas shop, two of which were conversions from Defender machines. The Ms. Pac-Man machine that appeared on an episode of Auction Hunters was actually a conversion of an original Pac-Man machine, a cabinet that is similar but quite different in many ways as well.

Arcade Passports Required

Ms. Pac-Man

Classic-era arcade machines that weren’t trashed, left to rot or converted may not reside in the country at all anymore. Several people in southern states have confirmed to me in the past that they have shipped and sold entire box trucks of older arcade machines to Mexico.

The current world record holder on Taito rarity Zoo Keeper had his machine shipped to his Australia home from the United States.

Preservation is Key

Trojan

At the present time it seems that the number of people who’d rather turn a retro arcade machine into a Multicade or MAME machine far outnumbers those who would rather try to restore them into their former glory. It is a long and often expensive task to do so.

However, these machines are pieces of pop culture and video game industry history. Just as memorabilia from films, television and various sports have seen efforts to save and preserve their history over time, video games are finally starting to see signs of a preservation effort.

The efforts of groups such as Southern California’s Videogame History Museum and New Hampshire’s American Classic Arcade Museum should be noted for being among the first in the country to take serious steps in this direction as well as many individual collectors across the country such as New Jersey’s Richie Knucklez and Cat DeSpira in the Pacific Northwest.

In time, such efforts may turn the question from “What happened to them all?” to “Did you see all that are left?”

Mythbusting six common video game trivia mistakes

Mythbusting six common video game trivia mistakes

Welcome to the return of Know Your History, a feature column that aims to cover proper video game history. Normally, an edition of Know Your History would compare past history to current headlines in an effort to put current topics into proper perspective. This week, however, the aim is to correct a number of video game history facts that I either seen often or have recently run across.

With that said, let us get started with one of the longest running mistakes I’ve seen.

– Pong was NOT the first coin-operated video game.

know your history

A lot of people think and commonly publish that Pong was the first arcade video game. This mistake is incredibly common and with good reason, as I’ve found this mistake printed in video game publications as far back as the late 1970s. While the first successful coin-operated arcade video game, Pongwas not the first, nor was Computer Space, Nolan Bushnell’s first attempt at bringing one to market.

Galaxy Game actually gets the title of being the first coin-operated arcade video game. This space battle game appeared on the campus of Stanford University in 1971, at least two months before Computer Space and almost a full year before Pong.

– The Pac-Man ghosts only have one name each, not two.

know your history

Another long-running mistake is the misconception that the monsters in the original Pac-Man have two names each, such as Character: Shadow, Nickname: Blinky. This is incorrect.

The term of “Character” on these screens is not attempting to list a name but to describe the personality traits of that monster. As top Pac-Man players know, each of the four monsters has a different AI than the others. The “two names” on the title screen are attempting to point that out with one word each, probably losing something in translation.

The original Japanese listings under “Character” paint the picture a little better, with the red ghost described as Oikake (“to pursue”), the pink ghost as Machibuse (“to ambush”), the blue ghost as Kimagure (“moody”) and the orange ghost as Otoboke (“pretending ignorance”).

Compare those “Character” listings to the American versions and they make a little more sense. The character term of “Pokey” (Clyde) is describing him as “a little slow in the head” or something similar.

Make no mistake, the monsters have only one name each: Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.

– Mario was NOT named Jumpman during production of Donkey Kong.

know your history

Another very common error, despite being easy to disprove with a quick Google search. I’ve heard people tell me that “Jumpman” was the name for Mario in the original Donkey Kong arcade game, with some going so far as to tell me he wasn’t even named Mario until Donkey Kong Junior or even the original Mario Bros.

None of this is quite correct. While it is true that Mario’s working name was Jumpman, and that the instructions on the original arcade version do call him that, the name of Mario came along before Nintendo was even pushing Donkey Kong machines out the door. The original advertising flyer, released at the time the game was released, refers to the character as Mario numerous times.

While Jumpman was almost the character’s name at this time, he was referred to as Mario far earlier than most websites claim and throughout all the merchandising released for the game.

– Sega Channel was NOT the first online console gaming.

know your history

Sega might have claimed this at the time of their short-lived online console service, but to do so would mean ignoring GameLine for the Atari 2600 and PlayCable for the Intellivision console, both from the early 1980s.

– Wolfenstein 3D was NOT the first of the first-person shooters.

know your history

Saw this error listed a lot during Wolfenstein 3D‘s recent anniversary. Numerous mainstream media reports called the classic the first-ever first person shooter, a fact that is nowhere near accurate, as there were numerous others that came before it.

The first is often credited to 1974’s Maze War, which is shown in the slideshow for this column.

– Oh, Guinness Book, how could you make this error?

know your history

I like the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition books, and not just because I’m listed in them every year. I enjoy the great cross-section of gaming that is covered inside.

However, the 2012 edition lists a pretty harsh error on page 202, calling WWF WrestleMania for the NES the “first wrestling video game” in the bottom left corner. How this was not fact checked is a huge mystery, as this 1988 title wasn’t even the first pro wrestling game on the Nintendo console, nor was it the first WWF title to market, either, which would be Micro-League Wrestling.

Numerous popular pro wrestling games came out going as far back as 1983, including Tag Team Wrestling, Mat Mania and Mania Challenge in the arcades and Pro Wrestling on the NES. How did this error make the book?

Then again, this isn’t the only error I noted in the book this year. Page 47 attributes a quote and some information about Galaga champion Andrew Laidlaw as coming from “local newspapers” when, in fact, that quote and information was obtained and first written by me, the person who broke the story to the mainstream media. Click here and see for yourself.

These are just a handful of the common video game history errors out there, but some of the most common. Hopefully this article can go a long way toward helping fix these misconceptions.

Pac-Land

pac-land

While considered part of the Pac-Man series Pac-Land was a completely different style of game that brought us an early look at a gameplay style that would later become common place. Developed by Namco and released in 1984 Pac-Land showed us a completely new world we had never seen before.

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

Turbo Views, originally premiering on YouTube in December 2008, covers games for the TurboGrafx-16 and Turbo Duo video game system from 1989 – 1993.

The goal of the series is to eventually review EVERY American released TG-16 game as well as numerous on-camera “extras,” home-brew, prototypes and PC-Engine games that never made it overseas.

 

Know Your History: Call of Duty critics should note the Pac-Man run of 1982

Welcome to the first edition of Know Your History, a new regular feature in this space.

know your history

Consumer market video games have existed for more than 40 years now, and with such a milestone comes a great deal of history.  Many of the current topics in video gaming can be compared to events of the past but are often treated as if they are first-time happenings.  This column aims to draw on the history of the industry and culture as it relates to current hot topics in the gaming world.

With the recent announcement of Call of Duty: Black Ops II, critics of the best-selling CoD series have been quite vocal.  They state that a new Call of Duty game each year is simply too much and that each game doesn’t bring enough new material or changes in gameplay.

30 years ago there was a popular game series that drew the same criticisms in time.  Eager to follow up on the record-breaking success of Pac-Man, Bally Midway brought not one, not two, not three but FOUR new Pac-Man games to the arcades of 1982.

Ms Pac-Man 1982

Ms. Pac-Man started the march of sequels.  Released in January 1982, this first Pac-Man follow-up added more colors, moving fruit and multiple mazes to the popular Pac-Manformula and took the top of the arcade earnings chart with ease.

Super Pac-Man

Super Pac-Man was the first Namco-produced sequel and came out later in the year.  Adding gates and keys, bonus rounds and a super pill to the maze chase concept, Super Pac came on strong at first but quickly slid off the earnings charts.

Pac-Man Plus

Pac-Man Plus was an upgrade kit for existing Pac-Manmachines in need of an earnings boost, released by Midway after pressure from arcade operators who were facing legal action for installing “enhancement kits” from other sources in order to twart the patterns players had developed for the original game.

Baby Pac-Man Pinball

Baby Pac-Man rounded out the 1982 Pac-Man games by attempting to merge a maze video game with a small pinball machine.  The game failed to make much of a splash and is difficult to locate today.

Call of Duty critics might point at this and note that frequent sequels is far from a new concept in the world of video gaming and has actually moved far faster in the past.  Two more Pac-Man-related arcade titles came out in 1983 as well.

Also worth note is the fact that historians blame Super Pac-Man‘s quick fade from popularity to be due to the massive changes in the basic Pac-Man gameplay concept.  Ms. Pac-Man, however, changed little to the basic concept of the game and simply added new screens and features while running on the hardware of the previous game.  Ms. Pac-Mansold a record number of arcade machines in the United States and continues to hold the record to the modern day.  Ms. Pac-Man machines can still be found in many locations across the country, the only one of the four 1982 Pac sequels to do so.

While annual releases to popular game titles may seem like a topic of note to the gaming world of today, it doesn’t mean it is a new concept when one knows their history.

Pac-Man Battle Royale super-sizes in new deluxe cabinet

The iconic Pac-Man never seems to leave the gaming scene for long, and the current arcade scene once again has a case of Pac-Man Fever.

Pac-Man Battle Royal

Pac-Man Battle Royale super-sizes in new deluxe cabinet

Pac-Man Battle Royale Deluxe is a recent coin-op release that stands out in any location or video arcade.  Launched in December, this new release takes the Pac-Man Battle Royale release from 2011 and places it into a large multi-player stand-up cabinet with each player having their own control station.

Similar at a glance of the popular Pac-Man Championship Edition games for home consoles, PMBR pits players against one another in a “last Pac-Man standing” battle.  Check out the description from Namco’s sales materials for the game.

Pac-Man Battle Royale is the first four player competitive Pac-Man arcade game. The original Pac-Man game concept has been given a cannibalistic twist: Eliminate your opponents by eating them and the last Pac-Man standing wins the round. When players eat a power pellet, they power-up by doubling in size and increasing in speed. Once powered up, they are now able to eat non powered-up blue players and ghosts. Players of the same size simply bounce off each other. Players can also be eliminated by running into ghosts if there aren’t any powered up players. Eating a piece of fruit or all of the pellets resets the maze with a fresh new set of power pellets. The game is simple, competitive, and highly addictive. The deluxe cabinet’s glowing lights and large viewing monitor make this the perfect centerpiece for any location.

Dave & Busters locations are among the first to feature the huge deluxe cabinets.  Check out the slideshow to the left to see a deeper look at this newest arcade release.

Patrick Scott Patterson has been a gamer since 1981, acting as a writer, technician and world record holder on several game titles. He has appeared numerous times in the yearly editions of Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. In addition to writing here, Patterson has also written for Yahoo!, Twin Galaxies, VGEVO and Gameroom Magazine, and is always looking for unique and positive news to report from the video gaming world.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Pac-Man, but were afraid to ask

The Pac-Man Dossier

Everything you ever wanted to know about Pac-Man, but were afraid to ask

The original Pac-Man arcade game might be pushing 32 years of age, but the name still has interest with video game fans of all generations.  Pac-champ David Race once again made international headlines when RecordSetter announced he’d set another new speed record while the recent online World’s Biggest Pac-Man game estimates more than 40 man-hours have been played on their website in the past year.

Casual players and observers who think there isn’t much to Pac-Man strategy and gameplay might be surprised by a visit to the Pac-Man Dossier website.  This labor of love by dot gobbling fan Jamey Pittman goes deep into the Pac-Man program, explaining not only strategies but how the game thinks and reacts to the player’s every move.

“As a kid, my grandparents would often take me to a local shopping mall that had a Gold Rush arcade,” Pittman recalled. “This is where I encountered my first Pac-Man machine in 1980 or 1981. Up to that point, I had dropped most of my quarters into space-themed, ‘shoot ’em up’ titles like Space Invaders and Asteroids, but that all changed once I saw Pac-Man.  Everything about it seemed so new and different compared to what I was used to: the cabinet, the colorful characters, the sounds, everything.”

Decades later, Pittman once again returned to the deep blue maze.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLfugsoU3d0[/youtube]

“The game studio I was a software developer for went under in 2008, and I suddenly found myself with a lot of time on my hands,” he said. “I started playing a lot of Pac-Man using the MAME emulator and realized that, as much as I enjoy playing Pac-Man, it would be even more fun to reverse engineer the game and finally learn how the ghosts work ‘under the hood’, so to speak. So I set out to fill in the many gaps in the internet’s collective knowledge base on the inner workings of Pac-Man. The goal was to conclusively prove how every part of the game functioned, especially everything related to ghost behavior, and put everything I learned into one reference document to share with interested parties.”

With input from several Pac-Man champs and classic arcade reverse-engineering guru Don Hodges, Pittman completed the Dossier after two months of work.  With explanations on every aspect of Pac-Man from how the monsters react to player movements to why and how the player can sometimes pass through an enemy without losing a life, Pittman notes a few programming bugs in particular that caught his eye.

“I think one of the more interesting tidbits was how the chase mode logic for Pinky and Inky works slightly differently when Pac-Man is facing upward,” he said. “After noticing this subtle discrepancy in Pinky’s targeting algorithm, Don and I did some additional code analysis and concluded the game developers screwed up by leaving an overflow bug in the code used for calculating tile offsets relative to Pac-Man’s current position. Another interesting bug I uncovered is how to trap three of the ghosts inside their home during the first two levels of play. That one took some time to figure out as the code governing when and how ghosts leave their home is fairly convoluted.”

Since launching, the Pac-Man Dossier has received hits from over 300,000 unique visitors and was even used as a learning tool when Google developed their popular Pac-Man 30th Anniversary Doodle in 2010.  If time allows, Pittman says he may do similar site for another arcade classic.

“I could easily do an sister site on Ms. Pac-Man as it’s based on the original Pac-Man code,” he said.  “Both I and Don have already spent a lot of time looking over that game’s disassembled code.  But in terms of choosing a completely different title, I think I would most enjoy tearing Centipede completely apart. Defenderor Joust would be fun projects as well.”

The Pac-Man Dossier can be visited by clicking here.

Patrick Scott Patterson has been a gamer since 1981, acting as a writer, technician and world record holder on several game titles. He has appeared numerous times in the yearly editions of Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. In addition to writing here, Patterson has also written for Yahoo!, Twin Galaxies, VGEVO and Gameroom Magazine, and is always looking for unique and positive news to report from the video gaming world.

A look back at the Coleco Mini-Arcades

Coleco Mini-Arcades - Frogger

Long before the Nintendo 3DS and Sony PSVita were even thought possible and even before Nintendo made theGameBoy a household name a company named Coleco echoed through the ears of video gamers who wanted to take gaming everywhere they wanted to go.

Coleco Mini-Arcades - Donkey Kong

The early 80’s video game boom saw gaming literally appear everywhere.  Arcade games appeared in every type of public business you could think of while consoles that hooked up to home television sets brought blocky gaming experiences home.

Coleco Mini-Arcades - Galaxian

Capitalizing on this trend combined with the popularity of handheld electronic games such as Mattel’s Football, Coleco began licensing and producing small “tabletop” video games based on some of the most popular games of the day.

Coleco Mini-Arcades - Zaxxon

Despite Atari holding the licenses for home console versions of Pac-Man and Galaxian, Coleco was able to get the rights to produce the Mini-Arcade versions, both of which became top sellers.  A literal parade of hits followed with the addition of FroggerDonkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man.  A version of Nintendo’s Game and Watch Donkey Kong Junior and a version of Zaxxon rounded out the Coleco line before the mid-80’s industry crash.

Coleco Mini-Arcades - Pac-Man

Rather than make traditional handheld games the Coleco Mini-Arcade games attempted to duplicate the look of the arcade hits right down to the cabinet artwork.  A series of commercials featuring a character named “Mr. Arcade” shrinking full size arcade games down into the Mini-Arcade games drove the point home.  The result was a fun arcade feel that didn’t exist in any home console versions of arcade hits at the time.

Coleco Mini-Arcades - Donkey Kong Jr

The Coleco games are popular collector’s items today.  Some of the later releases saw smaller production numbers and even the more popular releases are difficult to find in good condition after being played to death in their heyday.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKDFoDvs898[/youtube]

Take a look at the slideshow and video to the left to see more about the Coleco Mini-Arcades as either a trip down memory lane or, for younger gamers, a good gaming history lesson.

Patrick Scott Patterson has been a gamer since 1981, acting as a writer, technician and world record holder on several game titles. He has appeared numerous times in the yearly editions of Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition. In addition to writing here, Patterson has also written for Yahoo!, Twin Galaxies, VGEVO and Gameroom Magazine, and is always looking for unique and positive news to report from the video gaming world.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land

Christmas_Comes_to_Pac-Land

While current generations of gamers wait with much anticipation to open the XBox 360 Kinects and latest Call of Duty gear currently stashed under the Christmas tree, we take a look back today for a historical first in video gaming.

The first major wave of gaming popularity came to a crest in 1982 as arcade video machines could be found almost anywhere and Atari faced off with their first real home console challengers.  It was also a huge season for video game related merchandise, as manufacturers of everything from breakfast cereal to bedding to swim trunks got in on the first video game boom.

Christmas_Comes_to_Pac-Land

On December 16, 1982 the first ever Christmas special of the video game age debuted in prime time.  Hanna Barbera’s Christmas Comes to Pac-Land took the popular new Saturday morning cartoon series based on Pac-Man and it’s many sequels into uncharted territory for anything related to video games.

In this ABC holiday special, Santa Claus crash lands in the fictional town of Pac-Land, an odd world where it seems to be legal to eat other inhabitants and walk around without pants.  Santa, (voiced by a pre-Optimus Prime Peter Cullen), has never heard of Pac-Land while those who live there have never heard of him or Christmas at all.

Christmas_Comes_to_Pac-Land

The inhabitants of Pac-Land accept the idea of Santa and Christmas pretty quickly and decide to help Santa fix his sleigh and warm up his reindeer.  Pac-Man himself (a guy you’d think would be a pretty important guy in a world of the same name) goes off to find Santa’s sack of toys, which have been discovered by the “ghost monster” gang of Blinky, Pinky, Inky, Clyde and Sue.

Long story short, Santa gets going on his way, Christmas is now known by those who live in Pac-Land and even the ghost monsters get in on the gift giving spirit of the season.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYH7AWiCF2g[/youtube]

Initially the special had a short lifespan.  The video game industry crashed and burned through 1983 and 1984 and by the time gaming returned to the public eye years later (due to Nintendo’s strong marketing plan) Pac-Man was considered old hat in place of the Super Mario Bros. and Zeldacharacters.

The special has come back in recent years in holiday airings on Cartoon Network and Boomerang and can also be watched on the left side of his article thanks to YouTube so that parents of the original video gaming generation can show their young ones the roots of Christmas video gaming.

Mario’s Changing Style

Mario KartIf you were lucky enough to have been born in the late 70s or the 80s, chances are you were hit with the video game bug that was gathering up kids by their thousands in arcades and homes across the world. These video games brought with them a host of new characters who would soon become household names: Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and, of course, Mario. The star of the Mario platform video game series and the hugely popular racing series Mario Kart, Mario, is everyone’s favorite stout little Italian-American plumber, but he’s done a lot of changing over the years to get where he is today.

Created by Shigeru Miyamoto whilst he was in the midst of developing the arcade favorite Donkey Kong, Mario was originally known to the designer as Mr Video and Miyamoto had plans to integrate him into every video game he developed. The character picked up his famous name from the warehouse landlord for Nintendo of America, Mario Segale. Segale had been chasing then-president Minoru Arakawa for back rent and as a way of appeasing him they opted to rename Mr Video in Mario Segale’s honor.

Mario’s distinctive look is a product of happenstance more than design. Back in 1981 when he was still Mr Video, Mario was visualized as a carpenter due to the game taking place on a construction site and gave him a large nose as this made his character design more recognizable as a silhouette. When he appeared again in Mario Bros. in 1983, the setting of the game transformed him into a plumber and this, along with his nose, inspired Miyamoto to give Mario roots in New York. The instantly recognizable red overalls, blue shirt and cap all came about due to design issues owing to the limitations of arcade hardware: Mario’s clothing was designed to make him stand-out and contrast against the background, while his cap and mustache were added to get around the problem of having to animate hair, eyebrows and facial expressions.

After his turn on the arcade machines, Mario finally make his first fleshed out, 3D appearance in 1996’s Super Mario 64. From here Mario’s appearance continued to develop and he was given a white and red “M” emblem on his hat, as well as white gloves, and his costume colors reversed to give him blue overalls with a red shirt. This would be Mario’s final form and the one he has gone on to sport ever since.

The rest, as they say, is history and this feisty little plumber has been making that history ever since
his introduction 30 years ago. He may be one of the oldest venerable video game characters around, but he’s still one of its brightest stars.

Classic Arcade Game Show Returns With Online Play

StarcadeWhile competition on the classic arcade games of yesterday has seen its fair share of public attention over the past few years, events such as the upcoming Kong-Off in New Jersey will only be another in a long line of head-to-head gameplay.

One such example is Starcade, a game show created during the original 1980s heyday of the video arcade.

Created by JM Production Company, Starcade debuted in 1982 on WTBS and featured gamers of all ages facing off in both question and game play rounds.   The original run of the show ended in 1984 and reruns of the show ran on G4tv from 2002 to 2004.

In the show, contestants would face off first in a question round.   Whoever got the question right would get to choose from the games selected for that episode to play against their opponent for a timed high score.

From now-historcial classics such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Dig Dug to lesser known titles that exist in the present day as the rarest of collectibles, such as Major Havoc, Mazer Blazer and others, Starcade featured over 130 different arcade game titles of the day across it’s 139 different episodes.

Donkey Kong, the topic of much discussion these days, was also among the many games played on the show beginning with the 1981 pilot episode.  In the pilot, ChiPs star Larry Wilcox took on and beat the winning gamer from that episode by 300 points in what was the first look at the now-classic game that put Nintendo on the map.

Now, JMPC is set to introduce myStarcade, a virtual online version of the game show.   Using the actual head-to-head matchups and games from the original series, myStarcade will act as both a fun trip down memory lane and a history lesson from the “Golden Age” of the video arcade game.

Players will be able to create profiles and battle for the top ranking on the myStarcade game by competing in other games that appeared in the original show, including the Name the Game Board, where players must quickly identify a screenshot a now-arcade classic.

Virtual prizes given to actual contestants of the original series, including home computers from the era and even a portable record player, can also be won in the online games.

The myStarcade game is currently in testing phase and is set for a launch within the next four to six weeks on the official Starcade website.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jt0ObijBvL4[/youtube]

For more information and to watch full episodes of the classic series, visit www.Starcade.tv.

You can view Scott’s website here.

Totally Tiny Arcade

totally tiny arcade

Totally Tiny Arcade is based on the rather brilliant idea of combining WarioWare styled mini-games with a classic arcade aesthetic. Or is that the idea of revisiting Lazy Jones while liberally remaking some of the best known arcade cabinets ever? Well, we’ll never really know I suppose, but what actually matters is the simple fact that Totally Tiny Arcade is, despite its flaws, a truly great offering for us ageing retro gamers.

Set in a visually pleasing and distinctly 80s arcade, the game has players rush through more than a dozen imaginatively remade classics chasing after a nefarious virus and trying to beat a pretty strict time-limit. Beating the game, leads you to a brilliant boss stage -played in front of a most obtrusive audience- that will in turn unlock a short and lovely finale and -happily- a new arcade venue to tackle. Do this another couple of times and the game is pretty much over and a few extra modes become available.

totally tiny arcade defender

The main attractions of Totally Tiny Arcade are of course the arcade remakes themselves. Impressively, there are more than 20 of them available, each sporting excellent, chunky, retrotastic graphics and some equally impressive sounds, with each game spanning four levels. The games are inspired from an impressive variety of titles including Space Invaders, Spy Hunter, Pac-Man, Joust, Frogger and even the Atari 2600 version of E.T., though -unfortunately- not all of them are equally good. For every two or three excellent remakes there’s a dull or even a completely unsuccessful one, but admittedly the brilliant and imaginative games far outnumber them mediocre offerings. After all, not all arcade games were that good, even back in the day.

You can grab Totally Tiny Arcade (or of course try the hefty demo) via its very own, very retro official site. Oh, and here is the trailer, that will hopefully clear things up.

Verdict: Retro and indie gamers will love it. The rest should first give it a try. Gnomes should indeed instantly buy the thing.

Kino One Review

Kino One
Kino One can be described, in a nutshell, as the illegitimate child of a classic single screen shoot-em-up arcade game with a late 90s bullet-hell Japanese shmup, conceived after a particularly wild night of sake drinking. This is of course a good thing. Or at least it should be considered one by most indie-minded retro gamers, that tend to appreciate both these sub-genres and the overall anime aesthetic of the game. Especially as some R-Type inspired mechanics have also been thrown into the mix.

After all, Kino One, knows and loves its audience, and doesn’t try to appeal to the casual gaming crowd. It features lovely cell-shaded graphics to appease the little Japanese loving nerd that lives inside you, excellent comic book styled cutscenes, great video game humour, an intricate scoring system, and a brilliant virtual arcade sporting some truly well remade versions of Pong, Pac-Man, Arkanoid and more.

Kino One Gameplay Screenshot 1

Despite not being incredibly original and at times feeling slightly repetitive (some stages do drag a bit), one can’t help but notice the amount of care and polish poured into the thing. It features more than enough levels, impressive end bosses, different difficulty options and even comes packed with cute faux arcade flyers. Besides, the control scheme that effortlessly lets players cloak, use smart-bombs and shoot everything in sight works like a breeze and helps Kino One become a most addictive fun little high-score chase.

Oh, and the soundtrack is quite enjoyable and definitely appropriate too.

Kino One Gameplay Screenshot

Verdict: Not the most original shmup around nor a game for everyone, but excellent fun and absolutely stuffed with content to make retro-gamers, shmup addicts and manga worshipers drool. Also very cheap.

Visit the official Kino One website to find out more, download the demo or -better yet- grab a copy of the thing.

Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection

Well, well…. It hasn’t been so long ago… I mean it’s only been 50 years since the founding of Namco and almost 30 years since the oldest game of this compilation was released. On the other hand this blog has existed for less than one day, and this definitely is the first PC game review to appear here. That’s quite a paradox. Maybe.

Anyway. Namco’s Museum is an almost decent (budget) collection of some classic, some not so classic and a few pointless games, hoping to please retro gamers, to teach new gamers some old tricks, to teach young dogs strange tricks or to please the average casual gamer. There are 16 games on offer, two of which (PacMania and Galaga `88) are unlockable by attaining (pretty low) highscores in PacMan, Ms. PacMan or the original Galaga, which are actually three of the best titles available in this compilation, and are decently emulated. The other games included are:

Dragon Spirit, which I had never played before, and is a passable top down shooter with an appropriately ridiculous backstory and cute graphics .
Pole Position and the radically samey Pole Position II, both aged beyond recognition (they used to be quite nice guys back then) but excellently emulated.
Galaxian, which has always been a poor man’s Space Invaders.
Mappy, the strange little unknown game that is fun for five minutes, but tends to get nervous, act stranger and gradually reduces the poor player to a horrified excuse of a person.
Rolling Thunder, a decent platformer/shooter with nice graphics.
Xevious, the classic Namco Classic.
Skykid, which is pointless, annoying and obscure, but I guess perfectly emulating the horror of being a skykid (?).
Rally-X, a very interesting car game. An absolute time sink.

Oh sorry, almost forgot. When (and if) you buy Namco Museum you will also be able to play Digout and Bosconian.

That’s the deal. Just take into consideration that there are virtually no extras (like interviews, photos, videos etc), very few options, very slight but usually annoying sound problems and the overall presentation isn’t as sleek as it should have been. And you could always download MAME for free instead. On the plus side you get to hear five ‘classic’ 80s songs while browsing through the games and it wont cost you a fortune.

That’s a (five) out of (ten).

 

POD: Pac-Man Fever

Pac Man Room
Pac Man Room

Ever walk into someone’s room and they decorate it in one theme and it freaks you out because there is so much of it? In this case, these kids have some serious Pac-Man fever, or their parents do. Let us breakdown what we see here and before we do thanks to Vintage Computing and Gaming for the scan.

  1. Pac-Man lunchbox with some delicious trans-fats inside because we had those back then
  2. Pac-Man beach towel for the ladies who used to have figures
  3. Pac-Man face towel because people use to use face towels
  4. Pac-Man bed sheets because your drugged date will get the reference
  5. Pac-Man night shirt – A little to short, Chris Hansen is waiting
  6. Pac-Man card game – In your face Pokemon
  7. Pac-Man board game – The graphics are better than the original
  8. Mini Pac-Man arcade game – Damn you Jimmy for stealing mine at show and tell
  9. Pac-Mania game – Yes we get it
  10. Pac-Man addict poster – We understand how the drug use started
  11. Pac-Man short sleeve shirt – That kid looks creepy with a forced smile
  12. Pac-Man sweat shirt – Child labor was strong back then
  13. Pac-Man Fever album – Yes, there was an album
  14. Pac-Man pillow case – This case was used in the great pillow fight love in of 87
  15. Unidentified Pac-Man game – Now I understand why the girl is not smiling
  16. Pac-Man chalk board – People use to use them outside of school
  17. Pac-Man Poster II – Kidnapper John Smith says he got the idea from this poster
  18. Pac-Man pajama’s – They look much better on someone post-teen

There you have it and there was and still is a ton more items they could have tossed in that room. Check out some other ads for various Pac-Man products.

Starcade

Starcade Arcade Studio
Starcade Arcade Studio

Starcade

In the 80’s when the masses were really getting into video games and the arcades were packed with classic games such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Centipede, Starcade began its run. Starcade was the video game show where contestants competed against each other for prices by answering questions and playing video games.

The game began with two players or teams who first hand to answer a video game related question. Whoever answered the question correctly first would be able to choose from five arcade games that were setup in the studio. Once the player selected the game they would have 60 seconds to get the highest score they could. If the player got the game over screen their turn would end and the points they gained would be added to their overall score.

The second player then played the same game as the first so it was possible that even if one player went before the other the second player could score more points in the game and win. The strategy here was to choose a game you were good at to rack up the points and hope your opponent would not do as well as you.

Starcade Contestants
Starcade Contestants

There were three rounds that were identical to the first except for the length of time one had to play the arcade game. At the end of the second round the player in the lead could play “Name that Game”. In “Name that Game” the player had to guess four arcade games based on only seeing a screenshot and would win additional prices. The player in the lead at the end of three rounds received a bonus prize, won the main game and moved on to the bonus round.

In the bonus around the player had to beat an average score of 20 other players on one of the two remaining arcade games. The player had 30 seconds to get the high score and if they succeeded would win the grand prize which most of the time was an arcade game, jukebox and even a home entertainment robot.

Starcade only ran for a few years completing about 133 episodes before it was canceled, but has remained a favorite among gamers. You can see reruns of Starcade on the G4 network.

Motivational Monday: Knock Offs

knock offs demotivational poster
knock offs demotivational poster

Motivational Monday: Knock Offs

Sometimes you just want the prestige of having something popular, at the top of its game. You want everyone to know you have it and have no shame in showing it off. Unfortunately, for many of us obtaining the best is not always possible. Thank goodness for knock-offs.

The knock off is as old as time and it is the art of copying something good, but not good enough that it has the quality of the original. Knock offs can be found in everything from shoes to clothes to electronics and video games are not immune to the knock off. This week we take a look at some of the knock offs that has made their way into video game history.

Now before we begin just a warning. The term knock off can upset people especially those who created something they were proud off. In many cases the court or the court of popular opinion deemed that something was not a knock off. However, I call em as I see em so enjoy.

K.C. Munchkin

I have seen a number of Pac-Man clones in my day, but this one has an interesting story. The Munchkin video game was created for the Magnavox Odyssey. As you can see it looks a lot like Pac-Man, but it was different enough. The problem came because Atari was exclusively licensed to create the home version of Pac-Man, but Munchkin came out first. In 1981 Munchkin was released and Atari sued. At first the courts refused to stop the sale of the game and then the following year on appeal ruled in favor of Atari. Strangely enough the release of Pac-Man by Atari turned out to be a major failure.

The Great Giana Sisters

So why would you try to copy Mario Bros? Why not? The fact was that Nintendo had a hit on their hands and in all likelihood the game was not going to be ported to the personal computer. The Great Giana Sisters was developed by Time Warp Productions and was to become available for systems including the Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64.

The game looked and played a lot like Super Mario Bros. at least in the first levels. Also, it didn’t help that on some covers was the sentence; “The brothers are history.” Yeah, it probably was not a good idea to taunt Nintendo who retailed with a Bowser size lawsuit and got the sisters locked down.

Funny thing, the Great Giana sisters is going to be available on the Nintendo DS.

Munch Man

I really don’t want to call this game a knock off because I owned both it and the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A that it was released for, but it was loosely based on Pac-Man. The cool thing was the differences including the fact that you were trying to connect links to form a chain not eat dots. Also the ghosts in the game, called Hoono’s change from level to level. As the game continues your enemy gets much faster than you and their vulnerability time is greatly reduced.

I loved Munch Man as a kid, the sounds of the game was so trippy to me. Come on, that sound when he eats the bad guy? Classic!

Imitation is the most sincere form

Intellectual property is important and as a writer I understand this even more. With that said some of these games were just great fun and I am glad they were made. There are tons more knock offs or clones out there. If you want us to do an article on them drop us a line.

Combat (Atari)

Atari Combat
Atari Combat

There is just something grand about opening up a brand new video game console and finding it packed full of everything you need including a game so you can start playing right away. With my Atari 2600 when I received it the system came with 27 games!

Combat shipped with the Atari 2600 in the fall of 1977 and was based off of black and white coin-op games, Tank and Anti-Aircraft II. The game had what could be called “Pong” like graphics, but did feature a variety of colors. More importantly it was the ultimate two player game at the time as the game was about fighting against your opponent in tanks, jets and biplanes.

Atari Combat
Atari Combat

Tank Game

The Tank game featured two tanks you could move around the “field” and fire at each other, the side with the most points would win, but there were various conditions you could play under. In some instances the board dynamic would change giving you different hiding spots and an invisible mode. There were also different ways to fire at your opponent including your normal straight firing missiles, your guided missiles and missiles that could bounce off walls.

Atari Combat
Atari Combat

Biplanes & Jets

In the flying levels you could control either biplanes, jets or a bomber. In most instances you would face of in one-on-one, two-on-two or three-on-three battles, but you could also have miss-matched battles and one where three biplanes would face a bomber. Most of the levels were the same, either it would be a clear “sky” or have two clouds which you could hide within. The firing modes were also slightly different offering a normal missile, machine gun and guided missile.

I personally played Combat for hours against my sister who was extremely good at tank pong. What made the game so fun was the two player aspect and even though to today’s eyes one may think the game was simple it took on a whole new dynamic just by switching levels. Even when we got Pac-Man as a present a few weeks later we always came back to Combat because of the fun factor.

Atari Combat cartridge
Atari Combat cartridge

Releases

Combat was not always shipped with the VCS (2600) however other versions were sold most notably for the Sears console. Tank Plus was the name released under Sears Telegames. Frontline was the name Combat was released under in Canadian by Zellers. The game was released as just Tank by CCE in South America for the 2600. Dynacom and JVP released the game under the name Combat for Brazil.

Atari Combat game card
Atari Combat game card

Atari Combat box art
Atari Combat box art

If you were to give an in game item to your significant other as a birthday gift what would it be?

Super Mario Bros 3 Tanooki Suit
Super Mario Bros 3 Tanooki Suit

Think of the millions, perhaps billions of items out there in the universe of video games. If you could select any one of them as a gift for your favorite guy or gal what would it be? Maybe you would go back to classic gaming treat your lady to a pixelated piece of fruit from Pac-Man. Ladies maybe what would make your man’s day would be the completed gun from Heavy Barrel. What would I give out? Well for me it’s a no brainer, a Tanooki suit.

The Tanooki Suit first made its appearance in Super Mario Bros. 3, it was a rare item and pretty much once you lost it you would never see it again. The suit turned you into a raccoon looking creature but actually Tanooki suits are named after tanukis, Japanese creatures who, according to mythology, can use leaves to shapeshift and cause chaos.

Tanooki cosplay
Tanooki cosplay

Why would this be an awesome gift? Well first of all with the suit on you could run and take off to the skies and fly. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Secondly you could turn into a statue. I am not 100% sure how useful that would be, but if you need some quiet time that would do the trick. The most important part is how cute she would look in it.

Maybe for the guys it’s not as sexy. Also there is a furry component to wearing a suit like this pretty much anywhere, but who cares let your fur flag fly. Just be careful and don’t get her the frog suit or its game over.

Atari’s Pac-Man

Atari Pacman box art
Atari Pacman box art

On May 22, 1980 Pac-Man was released in the arcades of Japan where surprising enough it did not garner a warm reception. At the time more action oriented shooters such as Space Invaders were the games of choice, but when the game made its way to the states it became a monster hit and a worldwide icon.

Created by Namco the original title was Puck Man, however, the name was changed because it was felt ill-mannered children (and adults) would change the “P” to an “F” and we all know what that spells. In addition the artwork and cabinet design was changed to fit a style that could be sold to the masses.

Pac-Man’s success came from the fact that it was different than a shooter. It appealed not only to a wide age group, but made the jump to female gamers, something even the great Space Invaders could not do. Though the challenge of eating all the dots on a small maze seemed simple enough most players never made it past level 20. In fact there are 255 levels in the game and only a few have seen the 256th kill screen.

Pac-Man was ported to pretty much every computer and console system of the time and many copies, unauthorized squeals and bootlegs have been made for it. Pac-Man also made its way into merchandising, food and even its own cartoon. Pac-Man is truly one of the most famous video games on the planet.

The story of the Atari 2600 port of Pac-Man was that it was developed by Todd Frye and released in 1982. The game sold over 7 million copies though over 12 million were manufactured. The port was criticized for not staying true to the arcade from the graphics to even the sound of Pac-Man munching away on dots. Critics and fans alike felt the game was rushed and poorly developed with many asking for refunds for their purchase. In the end Atari took a huge financial hit on Pac-Man second only to the disastrous E.T. Many believe this failure coupled with E.T.’s lead to the downfall of Atari and the video game crash of 1983.

Leila Uslander: SteelSeries

Steel Series logo

Name: Leila Uslander

Title: North American Marketing Manager

Company: SteelSeries

Favorite classic game: Ms. Pacman

Quote: A memory of being at the back of the local Pizza Hut and playing Ms. Pacman on a “broken”, free machine for hours.  I rode my bike back to that same Pizza Hut the next morning to play again, and they had fixed the machine. I was heartbroken, and totally addicted to the game.


PIXELS by PATRICK JEAN

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PIXELS by PATRICK JEAN

Alright this is just too cool, if you love classic video game characters like Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Donkey Kong you are going to love this video made for the Paris-based visual effects company, One More Production.

Pixel World

The video, directed by Patrick Jean shows the pixelation of New York. Highlights include Donkey Kong lobbing barrels from atop the Empire State building, Space Invaders descending upon unsuspecting taxis, Tetris blocks raining down on Manhattan, Pac-Man chomping up a subway and — my personal favorite — Frogger simply hopping across the street.

While I personally loved this video I couldn’t help but think of the flyover scandal that hit New York in summer 2009. Could you imagine if this was broadcasted how many people would believe it was real and go into a panic. Oh you don’t believe people would think this was real? Well they thought this was a freaking bomb!