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.

Goin’ Out West: Running the gauntlet at E3 2012

Goin’ Out West: Running the gauntlet at E3 2012

E3 2012 has come and gone, bringing forth tons of people, announcements, events and bleary-eyed game journalists who haven’t had a real meal in a week.

I was not among them.  While I attended the full event this year I did not go to cover it.  There are easily tens of thousands of others who went to do just that, so I chose not to.  I went with my other professional priorities in mind instead, leaving the thousands of blogs about the new Call of Dutygame or Nintendo‘s press conference to others.  I do not classify myself as a gaming journalist nor is reporting and writing all that I do in gaming.

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That being said there seems to be expectations from followers of my columns here and social media.  Several e-mails have been asking me where my coverage is, despite numerous public statements that I was not going to E3 to report on it.  Only now am I writing this in an attempt to satiate those who seem to expect it while also showing what I was really out there to do.

Therefore this E3 column will be different as I provide short stories and thoughts on my adventures in Los Angeles this year.

Tuesday, June 5 –

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I always skip the Monday press conferences, knowing whatever I missed can quickly be watched from a comfortable chair later and knowing whatever is shown is going to be seen when I walk the floor anyway.  I rolled into the event on Tuesday morning instead.

Got to walk the floor very little on Tuesday as I caught up with business contacts and potential business contacts along with some friends.  Notable moment came from the VIP area atop the Microsoft booth when I met Philadelphia Eagles wide reciever DeSean Jackson.  He is as tiny in person as he is fast on the field, but quite friendly.  No, I did not let him know I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan.

Wednesday, June 6 –

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Hit E3 early this day to meet-up with veteran video game journalist Rusel DeMaria, a man who has been writing about video games longer than a lot of the gaming media in attendence have been playing.  Also got to catch up with Spy Hunter world champion Paul Dean, who is always an interesting guy to talk to.

The most interesting portion of the day for me started late afternoon as the Los Angeles Kings fans began to arrive to the area.  A lot of tension existed in the area that day, as if the Kings won the Stanley Cup that night there may have been quite a moment in an area surrounded by other video game events.

Met up with Twin Galaxies founder Walter Day at the Nokiato help him out with some stuff he needed to do for the Video Games Live event taking place there that night.  This became a point for multi-tasking, as the VIP party for VGL was going on at the same time as the red carpet premiere of the film noobz at the theatre down the street.  After becoming one of the few people on earth to see exactly how Billy Mitchell primps his hair a group of us walked from the Nokia and past a sea of hockey fans and alert LAPD to the red carpet premiere.

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It was a while before our turn to walk to red carpet, where actor/producer Blake Freeman was presented with a historic award and trading card for the film.  I have to look for footage of a media interview with actor Ron Livingston to see if my accidental blurting out of “Holy ****, the guy from Office Space!” can be heard.  Exactly 45 minutes late for the Video Games Live party we had to skip the screening of the film and head for the door.

As soon as he hit the front door of the theatre, Walter Daysuddenly ran off at a full sprint.  I turned around to see the rest of our group had not yet caught up with us, then back to see Walter still running at a surprisingly high speed.  Not knowing what else to do I took off after him, as a 63-year-old man in a referee uniform shouldn’t run through a pack of hockey fans alone.

We plowed through the barricades in front of the Nokia as I tried to keep up with Walter.  He ran right into the main theatre with me after him as people we starting to take their seats.  I truly hope someone out there got cellphone video of me and Walter Day’s run through the streets of Downtown Los Angeles.  If you do, please post it or send it to me.  It has to be quite a sight.

Plopping down in the Video Games Live VIP party I noticed two things.  I was sweating half to death and the godfather of video games himself, Nolan Bushnell, was sitting 5 feet from me.  Was an honor to finally meet him, even if I was short of breath at the time.

Also glad that the LA Kings lost that night.  Not only was I not prepared to spend the night in a riot scene but a popular story subject in this space, Rachel Lara, might have been a red skidmark on the pavement outside if they had.  Luckily she arrived through the exiting hockey fans in tact that night.

Thursday, June 8 –

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This day marked the first day of the event that I actually got to play anything.  To sum that up, those who complain that football games are the same thing every year will find the new physics in Madden NFL 13 really do change the feel of the game in a big way and that I think Nintendo’s Wii U will catch on well with those that made the original Wii a big success.

A great surprise came to me this morning as me and Walter Day met up at the Nintendo booth along with Guinness World Records’ Gaz Deaves to present Isaiah Triforce Johnson with awards for his successful attempts at being the first-in-line to purchase numerous Nintendo consoles at launch.  The surprise came in the form of Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime along with a photo op alongside him.  Quite a hard fellow to get to, it was a fun thing to happen to me, even if the photos I saw later claimed I was Gaz Deaves.  I can’t quite imagine him with my haircut.

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Later hit the G4tv set for Walter to present Nikole Zivalichwith an award as well only to have the fun surprise of getting one myself while there.

For the rest of the event I got to walk the floor with Walter Day, meet up with some more folks and end up in more cellphone photos than I can count.  Ironically, despite not going to E3 to report on it I ended up meeting more people and becoming more exhausted than I have at any previous E3 event.  I am also still catching up on the trailers I actually failed to find the time to see while out there.

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Quite a fun time overall, and the slideshow to the left will show some of these very adventures.  If anyone reading this also has photos or videos of the happenings mentioned here please Tweet them to me @OriginalPSP or send them to my website at PatrickScottPatterson.com.

In the meantime I rest in this window between E3 and ComicCon as I hope and pray for no more downtown street runs.

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.

Anna Morris: Zoe Mode

Zoe Mode logo
Zoe Mode logo

Name: Anna Morris

Company: Zoe Mode

Profession: Business Development Co-coordinator

Favorite Classic Game: Spy Hunter (on Commodore 64)

Quote: Growing up in a tiny village in the countryside meant very little access to exciting technology. When my brother and I were given our cousin’s old Commodore in the late ‘80s, we were hooked straight away. Spy Hunter was always my favourite (despite being rubbish at it) because of the addictive gameplay and awesome theme tune.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.