Tis the Season

It’s that time of year again.  Child’s Play is an incredible charity dedicated to “dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 60 hospitals worldwide.”  It’s an organization started by the guys from Penny Arcade and supported by you.  I encourage you to open your heart and support the Child’s Play Charity.

Games as saviors?

I watched a video yesterday about using video games as a means to help solve world problems. It sounds outrageous at first, until you really think about the problem. But first, how about watching the video :

Ok, now that you have some background, let’s think about this for a bit. Technology is amazing, and has brought us many advancements. Gaming is one of those advancements. We have the capability of creating entire universes, purely for our own amusement. People spend hours each day exploring these worlds. Players are typically working toward completing goals set forth by the game designers. When a player completes a goal, they are rewarded. Sometimes rewards are new items, monetary in nature, or perhaps clues to other goals. Each goal is within the reach of the player, though some goals may require more work to attain.

Miss McGonigal argues that the devotion that players show to games can be harnessed and used to help solve real-world problems. Players feel empowered by games, finding within them a way to control what happens to them. Games teach players that they can accomplish the goals set before them, bringing with it an excitement to continue.

I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion about this topic with a group of college students. Opinions ranged from a general distaste of gaming, seeing it as a waste of time, to an embrace of the ideas presented in the video. For myself, I believe that many of the ideas Miss McGonigal presents have a lot of merit. Some of the students argued that such realistic games would be complicated and uninteresting. However, I would argue that such realistic games have already proven to be big hits.

Take, for example, The Sims. The Sims was a huge hit, with players spending hours in the game adjusting various aspects of their character’s lives. I found the entire phenomenon to be absolutely fascinating. I honestly don’t know what the draw of the game was. Regardless, it did extremely well, proving that such a game could succeed.

Imagine taking a real-world problem and creating a game to represent that problem. At the very least, such a game can foster conversation about the problem. It can also lead to unique ideas about how to solve the problem, even though those playing the game may not be well-versed on the topic.

It’s definitely an avenue worth tackling, especially as future generations spend more time online. If we can find a way to harness the energy and excitement that gaming generates, we may be able to find solutions to many of the worlds most perplexing problems.


The End for Duke?

Duke Nukem Forever. 12 years in the making, so far, and no end in sight. Sort of.

Last Wednesday, 3D Realms, a division of Apogee Software, closed its doors. 3D Realms was formed back in 1994, presumably as Apogee was to be phased out. The first title they published was Terminal Velocity, a futuristic combat flight simulator developed by Terminal Reality. From there, they developed their first 3D game, Duke Nukem 3D, releasing it in 1996.

The Duke Nukem franchise began earlier, in 1991, when Apogee released the first Duke Nukem side-scroller. Duke, with his irreverent humor and fast action, became an instant hit. The 3D first-person shooter furthered this popularity with excellent level design, multiplayer action, and plenty of adult humor. Duke was such a hit, the next episode in the series, Duke Nukem Forever, was announced in 1997 and expected to ship in mid-1998. However, numerous setbacks, rewrites, changes in game engines, and other behind-the-scenes action, the game remains incomplete and unpublished today.

The unfortunate demise of 3D Realms means that Duke may never be published, though Take 2 Interactive still holds the publishing rights. There are rumors that George Broussard, designer, is looking for funding to continue working on the game. After 12 years, though, is there any hope left?

Since the announcement of the studio closing, screen shots and footage have started to leak. From what has been leaked, it looks like this could have been an incredible game. There’s some gameplay here that seems fairly new to the FPS arena. Here’s the leaked game footage:

In addition to the footage, a number of screenshots have been leaked. Voodoo Extreme has a great collection of screenshots, including plot details, and design documents for the entire game. Shacknews has a collection of screenshots from a number of the artists. I’ve included some of this art below.

3D Realms had a good run, and now it’s time to say goodbye. Perhaps Duke Nukem Forever will see the light of day, but I’m not holding my breath.


Back at the beginning of August, a small game developer based in the UK asked for honest feedback on a fairly straightforward question, “Why do people pirate my games?” I can only imagine how many emails he received in response. So, he read each one and compiled his thoughts in a well-written response. And, to top it off, he’s changing the way he does business in an attempt to make some of those pirates honest.

Cliff Harris, the game developer, received the typical pirating reasons. These include cost, ease of access, and DRM. A few surprising reasons included the “I don’t believe in intellectual property” response and complaints about current generation game quality. And, of course, there were also responses about pirating because they could.

Cost was somewhat surprising because he mentioned that while there were the normal complaints about the high cost of current games, there were also complaints about the price of his games, which ran in the $19-23 range. In some ways, I can agree with this. Games you buy at a retail chain generally run $50-60 when they are first released. Over time, depending on the platform, prices will drop. Ultimately, it takes years for most titles to drop into the sub-$20 range. One argument against price was the thought of impulse buying. I know, for myself, that impulse buying is a big one. I spend a great deal of time determining what the next console game I get will be due to their high cost. On the other hand, sites like Big Fish Games allow for quick impulse buys.

Quality is another interesting reason. When a new games comes out, there’s generally a lot of hype. Unfortunately, and probably as expected, most games don’t live up to the hype. The major letdown in most new games seems to be the gameplay or lack of content. The game is too short, or difficult to play due to poor control schemes. Game demos often don’t show the full game, giving false impressions. In the end, you pay a good deal of money for a game you don’t enjoy. And to top it off, there’s no way to get your money back. So many people opt to pirate the game instead of paying money for something they might not like. Of course, more often than not, they still don’t pay for the game, even if they do like it.

For myself, I don’t really have any interest in pirating games these days. While I would love to have the latest and greatest games (Bioshock and Mass Effect come to mind), pirating often means that you lose some of the features. You almost always lose the online portion of the game, since most online games use some form of DRM to ensure authenticity. Growing up, getting a job, and having little time to play might be a reason too… ;)

Of course, there is one particular reason to pirate games that seems to come to the forefront of my mind these days. DRM. Let’s say I can only get a few games a year. And let’s say I put off getting something like Bioshock or Spore, opting to get it later when it hits the bargain bin. The problem is, these games may never hit the bargain bin. Or, when they do, they won’t work anymore. Why? Because in order for the games to work, the activation servers for these games must be up and running. Good business sense dictates that most times, when a service costs more to run than the revenue it brings in, it’s time to discontinue that service. So when it becomes more costly to run the authentication servers as compared to the revenue the game is bringing in, they’ll get turned off. Or, worst case, the company maintaining those servers dissolves and the servers get deactivated because there’s no-one to run them anymore. The effect, in the end, is the same. The game I purchased is unusable. I recently saw it phrased another way, “you can’t buy new games anymore, you only rent them.”

The sole purpose of DRM, of course, is to prevent piracy. And is it working? Well, sure it is. It prevents casual pirating, such as making a copy for your friend down the street. With DRM, casual pirating becomes more difficult, often out of the reach of typical users. So in this way, DRM is a win. On the other hand, the advent of the Internet has made it extremely easy to find and download copies of games and other programs that have been altered to remove the need for activation. In other words, the DRM was cracked. Casual pirating becomes easier again.

And let’s face facts, DRM is not nearly as hard to crack as you may think. Let’s take a look at the latest “state-of-the-art” DRM as applied to the new game, Spore. Spore was already on the torrent sites, with a full workaround for the DRM, 3 days PRIOR to its release in the US! The game hadn’t even been released yet, and it was already pirated! Great job, DRM.

Of course, pirating is illegal, and there are no real excuses for it. But publishers should learn the reasons behind pirating. Why has it become so big? Is it purely because pirated versions are readily available via the Internet? What makes a pirate start pirating? Is there anything that can be done to reduce pirating, without alienating the legitimate user? Surely the draconian DRM schemes we use today aren’t working well. In fact, there are some games that won’t work unless they can re-activate every few days! And if you can’t get a connection to re-activate, you can’t play! But, dammit, I bought this game!

I have to applaud Cliff on his response to all of this, though. He has decided, through all of this, to not only reduce the price of his games, but to give up DRM completely (even though his DRM was a one-time lookup thing and almost completely non-intrusive) and lengthen his game demos. That takes a lot of courage to do, especially since his livelihood is riding on this. Hell, his willingness to do this has even intrigued me to the point where I may just have to buy one of his games, just to support his decision! I suppose I’ll have to check out his selection and see what’s there to play…

Play with your Wii and get Fit!

The Wii is pretty popular these days. Nintendo has done an excellent job providing entertainment for just about anyone with this one device. Funnily enough, that includes fitness buffs. About 3 months ago (91 days, actually), Nintendo launched the Wii Fit.

The Wii Fit is one cool little device. It’s essentially a flat surface, about 3 inches tall, packed full of electronics. The board is broken down, internally, into four quadrants, each quadrant having its own scale. What this means is that when you stand on it, four scale simultaneously weigh you, resulting in both an accurate total weight, as well as a weight distribution that can be used to identify your balance. Thus they named the board the Wii Balance Board. Yeah.. Marketing.. They’re such geniuses.


So, 3 months ago, I went out and bought one of these beasts. Yes, I stood in line, at midnight, just to make sure I got one. Not a bad idea, apparently, as they have become somewhat scarce these days. At ay rate, I got one, and I started using it that morning. A lot has been said about the benefits of the Wii Fit, but I will tell you, from experience, that I’m damn happy I spent the $90 or so on it. I’ve missed weighing myself once since I bought it.

What’s so special about this thing anyway? Well, I’ve done a lot of thinking about that because I’ve fought with weight loss in the past, and I’ve always failed miserably. In fact, for the last 3 years or so, I’ve neither gained nor lost a pound. And while that may sound good, what you don’t realize is that I spent about a year and a half hitting the gym 2-3 times a week, I tried dieting, and I’ve tried casual exercise at home. Nothing seemed to work, and I was getting a tad frustrated. I wasn’t massively overweight, but my doctor did categorize me as morbidly obese. That puts my BMI over 30. In fact, my BMI was almost 38 when I started using the Wii Fit.

There are those that will argue that BMI is a bad measurement. I agree, to an extent. BMI is 100% a calculation of your body weight and your height. It does not take into account other factors such as muscle versus fat, or activity level. In fact, taller people tend to have an unnaturally high BMI, purely because of how BMI is calculated. Regardless, the intention of BMI is to provide a general idea of the optimum body weight for any given person.

Arguments aside, I wasn’t happy with my weight, or my BMI. I’m not the most active person in the world, and I don’t really enjoy exercise that much. But I had to do something, and the Wii Fit seemed, at least to me, to be a good idea. So far, it has worked out better than I ever hoped. I’ve dropped 35 pounds in 3 months, lowering my BMI to under 33. I feel fantastic, energetic, and a hell of a lot more confident. On the downside, though, I’m going to need a new wardrobe pretty soon.. Belts will only hold me over for so long. :)

So how did I do this? How did I lose so much weight in such a relatively short time? Well, first and foremost, I have to hand a lot of the credit to the Wii Fit. No, not because I use it to exercise, although that does help, but more-so because it tracks my weight. Seriously! Every morning I get up and weigh myself, and I immediately know where I stand. I know if I’ve slacked off too much, or if I’m on track to losing the weight I want to. It’s incredibly satisfying to look at the graphs every so often and see the curve of the line indicating the weight you’ve lost.

I do about 20-25 minutes of exercise on the Wii Fit 3-4 times a week. My schedule has changed a little recently, so one day a week I’m usually on the Wii Fit for a little over 30 minutes. That’s it for the Wii Fit! The rest of it is on my own.

I’ve reduced my food intake by a lot, which is probably the hardest thing I’ve done. I love food. I’m not keen on gorging myself, but I absolutely love my wife’s cooking. I also love pizza and chinese. I used to be able to eat half a pizza with no problem at all. So, reducing my intake was difficult. I cut out soda and candy right from the start. Occasionally I’ll have a soda, but not often. Reducing the rest was a matter of spreading it out a bit over the day. I eat smaller meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and I usually have a snack or two during the day. That snack is anything from a handful of vegetables, to something like a handful of pretzels or a small bowl of pudding. I don’t watch calories or fat that much, but I am aware, somewhat, of what I’m taking in.

Next, I spend about 30 minutes a day walking. This is usually the first half of my lunch break. I’ll head out of the office, and walk around town for a while. I end up covering about 1.5 miles during that walk. It’s a casual walk, but at a somewhat brisk pace. I don’t make any lengthy stops, mostly just stop at street corners so I don’t become road pizza. It rains once in a while, and I’ll miss out on walking that day. That hasn’t happened too often, though, so I guess I’ve been lucky. My plan is to do laps up and down the parking garage if it rains for more than a day, though.

Finally, I do a little exercise before bed. It’s about a 5-10 minute workout routine. I spend about 5 minutes lifting barbells to strengthen my upper body, and then I do a series of abdominal crunches and finally I do the Plank for about 60 seconds. Occasionally I do an exercise I learned in the military called a butterfly, though I’ve only found it referenced online as a six-inch killers. It’s pretty simple, just lay on your back with your hands underneath your buttocks. Lift your feet about six inches above the ground and hold them there for 10-30 seconds, depending on your exercise level. Drop them slowly down, rest for a moment, and then start again. Another variant on this is to hold both feet at six inches, then move one foot up to about 12 inches. Switch feet, bringing one down and one up, sort of in a kicking motion. Each “kick” counts as half a rep. Do about 10 reps, then rest. The idea is to do a small set of exercises just before bed, enough to get the heart pumping, but not enough to work up a real sweat.

Overall, I do roughly an hours worth of exercise a day, and I usually end up taking the weekend off, though I’m always watching what I eat, and I endeavor to do my nightly routine every night. It’s working so far, and I truly feel great. I want to shave off another 50 or so pounds before I’m really satisfied, but I’ve definitely started moving in the right direction!

The Wolfman

An interesting short film I ran across over on one of Surfer Girl’s blogs.  For those those don’t know, Surfer Girl is the secret identity of a games industry insider who has been blogging some incredible info about past and future games, as well as political related material…  Great stuff!

This particular short film inspired an attempt at a new game by American McGee called Oz.  Based on the Wizard of Oz books, it was intended to be similar in nature to the Alice game, dark and scary, but was going to use cardboard cut-out graphics similar to the video.  At any rate, it’s a pretty cool little film.  Check it out.


Review – Portal (PC)

Anticipation : 10
Expectation : 8
Initial Reaction : 10
Overall : 10
Genre : First Person

Way back in 1995, 3D Realms announced that they were creating a game called Prey.  Key to Prey’s gameplay was the use of portal technology.  Portal technology is a way to create “rips” in space that be moved around in real time.  Portals allow the player to move from area to area by creating artificial doorways between them.  Unfortunately, Prey wasn’t to come out until 11 years later.

In 2005, students from the DigiPen Institute of Technology wrote a game, Narbacular Drop, for their senior game project.  Narbacular Drop revolved around a princess named “No-Knees” who is captured by a demon.  She is placed in a dungeon which turns out to be an intelligent being named “Wally.”  Wally can create portals, which the princess uses to escape the dungeon and defeat the demon.

Valve Software hired the Narbacular Drop programmers in mid-2005, and the team set to work on Portal.  Portal, built on the Source engine, is essentially the spiritual successor to Narbacular Drop.  In Portal, the player, Chell, is placed within the Aperture Science test facility and informed that she must complete a series of tests using the new “Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device.”

I won’t go any further into the plot because you really need to experience this game for yourself.  The commentary from GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the computer controlling the facility, is definitely worth checking out.  The computer informs, taunts, cajoles, reassures, and lies to you.  And all with the promise of cake, when you finish!

The game is excellent.  It is exquisitely polished from the environments to the controls.  The game mechanic itself is quite simple, very easy to learn.  Gameplay consists of completing a series of puzzles to find the exit, using portals along the way to move from place to place, move boxes, disarm weapons, and more.  Included are a series of advanced puzzles and challenges that you can complete once you have beaten the main game.

This is definitely a game worth checking out.  Go..  Now..


But remember: The cake is a lie.

Review – Manhunt 2 (PSP)

Anticipation : 10
Expectation : 9
Initial Reaction : 8
Overall : 8
Genre : First Person

Back in 2003, Rockstar released called Manhunt.  The basis for the game is that a man on Death Row, James Earl Cash, is sent for execution, but is injected with a sedative instead.  Apparently, a director, Starkweather, bribed the doctors to not kill him.  The director is filming snuff films, and wants Cash for his latest movie.  Using his contacts with the corrupt police force and various gangs, he forces Cash into killing the various gang members to stay alive.

The controversy surrounding the game is the game mechanic itself.  The object is to sneak through the levels undetected and perform the most outrageous kills you can.  A variety of weaponry is available, ranging from plastic bags to knives and bats.  The player is “graded” on the style and number of kills.


Fast forward to 2007 and the sequel, Manhunt 2.  Manhunt 2 centers around a character named Daniel Lamb.  Lamb was part of an experiment, referred to as “The Project.”  During the experiment, something went wrong and Lamb was shipped off to an insane asylum.  Lamb escapes during a lightning storm and, working with a friend, Leo Kasper, he attempts to uncover the truth about what happened.

The gameplay is similar to that of the original Manhunt, but dispenses with the scoring screens.  The scoring screen was primarily removed to appease the ESRB, but Rockstar claims it distracted from the story as well.  The game was also altered slightly to obscure the kill scenes in accordance with ESRB requests.  Prior to these changes, the game was rated AO, the highest rating available for video games.  Unfortunately, AO rated games are not permitted to be release on any current console hardware.  As such, Rockstar worked with the ESRB to reduce the rating to M by making the aforementioned changes.

The game itself is pretty compelling, though it seems to be a little on the easy side.  The storyline seems to be pretty decent so far, though it can be hard to follow.  The story jumps occasionally from the present, back to events from the past.  Regardless, the game is quite fun to play.

There are a number of different kill styles, some of them pretty gruesome.  Rockstar also added a number of new kill styles and weapons.  For instance, there are environmental kills now, allowing the player to use objects in the environment to dispatch an enemy.  New weapons such as the circular saw and a number of new guns are available.

I have enjoyed my time playing so far.  Some of the levels are definitely a challenge, while others are incredibly easy.  To be fair, I’m not playing on the insane setting, yet.  I expect that the insane setting, however, merely increases the hardiness of the enemies, and possibly the number.

Overall, I’m pretty happy that I picked this game up.  I plan on picking up the Wii version of the game as well.  It’s definitely a controversial game, though well worth checking out.


Note : This is *NOT* a game for children.  Parents, please be responsible.

Review – Puzzle Quest (PSP)

Anticipation : 8
Expectation : 8
Initial Reaction : 6
Overall : 4
Genre : Puzzle

Well, it’s been a while since I did a review. I held off on reviewing this particular title with hopes that the developer would release a patch to fix some of the problems with the game. Unfortunately, they have not. With that in mind, on to the review!

Puzzle Quest was designed by Infinite Interactive and ported to the PSP by Vicious Cycle. It was ultimately published by D3 Publisher, who, incidentally, purchased [pdf] Vicious Cycle on June 20, 2007. Puzzle Quest received the “Best Puzzle Game” award at IGN’s Best of E3 2007 awards for the XBox 360 Live Arcade version.

The game itself is quite fun to play. The player navigates a large world map, detailed with a number of destinations that open up as the story progresses. Each location has a variety of options such as retrieving quests, purchasing items, and listening to rumors in the tavern. Quests lead you on through the story, ultimately aiming to save the land of Etheria from the evil Lord Bane.

You can choose from four player classes, Druid, Warrior, Knight, and Wizard. As the game progresses, you gain levels and invest points into a variety of skills. There are four primary “mastery” skills, earth, air, fire, and water. In addition, you can choose to increase other skills such as cunning, morale, and battle.

The four primary skills determine how much of each mana type your player can collect, as well as various bonuses for collecting it. Battle skill increases the amount of damage you inflict when you match skulls. Cunning increases the effects wild cards have, amount of gold you gain for matching coins, and determines who goes first when battle starts. Finally, morale increases your life points as well as various bonuses for collecting the purple experience stars.

Your character also has a citadel that can be upgraded to gain access to additional spells, skills, and items. As you gain gold, you can build additional portions of your citadel. A dungeon allows you to capture enemies and even ride them as mounts. The mage tower grants you access to learn spells from captured enemies. The stable allows you to train your mount, allowing additional bonuses during battle and increasing the likelyhood of bypassing creatures on the map. Still other features unlock the ability to train your character, forge items, and capture other cities.

When a battle begins, you are shown an 8×8 grid of symbols. The red, blue, green, and yellow gems represent the fire, water, earth, and air mana. The skull icons are used to inflict damage. Matching coins increases the gold you character has, allowing you to purchase items and skills. Purple stars are matched to increase your experience, helping boost you to that next level.

The battle is played in a similar manner to the popular Bejeweled game. The player simply swaps the positions of two adjacent symbols. If the symbols cause a row of three or more symbols to match, the symbols are removed and the appropriate reward is obtained. Additional symbols fall in from above, often causing chain reactions which can result in additional bonuses. If the player matches five or more chains, they receive an experience and gold bonus. Matching four symbols in a row results in a free turn, while matching five results in a free turn and a wild card. Wild cards can be used to match any of the four mana types.

In order to win a battle, you must reduce your opponents hit points to zero. This can be accomplished by matching skulls, or casting spells. Skulls come in two flavors, a normal skull, and a +5 skull. The latter cause explosions, destroying any symbols around the skull and inflicting additional damage on the enemy. Spells are obtained through leveling your character, as well as capturing enemies. Spells come in a variety of forms. Some spells can heal damage inflicted on you, some inflict damage on the enemy. Other spells can change symbols on the board from one type to another, while other spells can steal or reduce your enemies mana.

As the game progresses, you can capture enemies and gain additional spells from them. Some captured enemies can also be used as mounts, allowing the player to move quicker through the map, gaining a chance to avoid some encounters. Capturing creatures occurs after you have battled a given creature at least three times. To capture a creature, the 8×8 game board is displayed and you are tasked with clearing the board of all symbols. In this version of the game, no symbols will fall from above. But don’t be fooled, some of these puzzles are quite difficult.

Once a creature has been captured, you can learn spells from it. Again, the battle board is shown and you match symbols to gain access to the spells. In this form of the game, you must match a specific number of symbols to progress. If you reach a point where no more matches are available, you fail to learn the spell and must start over.

Similarly, you can forge new items using runes found throughout the land of Etheria. This time, you must match the forge symbols on the board. As with learning spells, when no more matches are available, you fail to forge the item and must start over.

Overall the game is quite fun to play and can keep you occupied for hours on end. Additionally, you can choose to battle specific creatures through the battle menu, or play wirelessly against friends. Sorry, only ad-hoc multiplayer is available.

There are, however, a number of issues with the game. During the game, you have the opportunity to gain companions. Each companion adds bonuses and skills to your player that are used while battling. Unfortunately, a bug in the PSP version of the game prevents your player from actually gaining these bonuses. You still gain the companions, they just have no effect whatsoever on the gameplay.

Worse are the freeze bugs. I’m not entirely sure what causes these, but they have been reported by a number of users. There are a few different versions of this bug, all causing the game to freeze and the PSP to turn off. Some are avoidable while other can result in needing to completely restart the game. For me, I first encountered this while using the Druid character. After playing for some time, I noticed that browsing through my spellbook caused the game to freeze and lock up. I found no workaround for this and, as a result, was not able to use any spells above level 10. I have also seen the game freeze during various battles, though this seems to be a random event. I have seen additional reports of repeated battle lockups, causing the player to have to restart the game.

According to the Gamespy review, there is yet another bug that prevents settings from being saved. Personally, I haven’t noticed this particular problem, but I haven’t really played with the settings much.

I have emailed both Infinite Interactive and D3 regarding these bugs. Infinite Interactive directed me to D3 explaining that they did not write the PSP code and had no control over it. D3 responded with what seemed to be a canned response that they would “look into the issue.” That was six months ago. I have since emailed them twice. I have received no response from them, thus far.

This lack of customer service has me quite upset. What could have been an excellent game has been marred by bugs. The lack of response on the part of D3 has forced me to reconsider buying any additional D3 and Vicious Cycle titles. I highly recommend you check all reviews and forums regarding any D3 titles before you decide to purchase. While Puzzle Quest is still a great game and I do enjoy playing it, it is quite frustrating to reach a point where the game becomes unplayable due to a bug. I’m still holding out hope that D3 will address these bugs, but as time goes on, it seems less and less likely.

Review – EA Replay (PSP)

Anticipation : 7
Expectation : 7
Initial Reaction : 3
Overall : 5
Genre : Various


EA Replay is a collection of old “classic” games.  Included in the collection are the following :

In addition to these classic games, EA decided to add some extra content such as multiplayer, collectible cards, and mid-game saving.

Unfortunately, this collection falls well short of being fun and entertaining.  My primary interest was the Wing Commander and Syndicate games.  I remember playing these on my PC and thoroughly enjoying them.  In fact, the Wing Commander series is still one of my all time favorites.

It’s not that the games don’t live up to present day expectations.  I’m realistic, I know that these aren’t next-gen multi-million dollar megahit games.  I realize we’re not talking about the latest in graphics and gameplay.  But I do expect them to play the way they did back when they were new games.

Wing Commander falls way short of this goal.  The WC games included are apparently the SNES versions.  The controls are just too quick!  It’s extremely hard to identify and target incoming ships and the controls are confusing.  Unfortunately, this killed the entire experience for me as I was very much looking forward to playing WC again.

Budokan and Syndicate are a little better.  For the most part, they’re what I remember from years past, although the Syndicate they included was the SNES version.  The gameplay seems to be identical to the originals and while not the best games in the collection, they’re not the worst.

The rest of the collection is actually pretty new to me.  I’ve heard of Road Rash, but never truly played it.  After taking a look, it reminds me of Pole Position, but with a bike.  The controls are responsive and the games seem to play pretty well.

B.O.B. is pretty fun to play.  I vaguely remember hearing about this game, but never played it.  B.O.B. is a side-scrolling platformer game.  It’s pretty neat, actually, and I had some fun playing it.  Worth checking out.

Jungle Strike and Desert Strike are pretty fair games.  I’m not a huge fan of games like this, so I don’t have much to say.  They’re worth playing if you’re fans of helicopter shooters, but if not, avoid them.

Mutant League Football is actually pretty fun.  Apparently this was a play on the Madden series of the day and they did a pretty good job with it.  Definitely worth a look.

Haunting Starring Polterguy is a very odd game.  The idea is to scare a family out of their home by screaming, making noise, and haunting items.  It’s a fun game to try out, but I don’t think it really stands the test of time.

Ultima is just plain horrible.  Again, this is not the original Ultima series from the PC, but a  port from the SNES version.  This game is simply horrible, just avoid it.

And finally, Virtual Pinball.  Not much to say here, it’s a pinball game.  Fun for a little bit, not much beyond that.


Overall I was extremely disappointed with the collection.  If I knew that most of these were ports from the SNES version, I would have passed off the collection altogether.  While I have had some fun playing Road Rash, B.O.B., and Mutant League Football, the game has mostly collected dust.


If you really need that classic-gaming fix, however, pick up the Sega Genesis Collection instead.  I’ll be reviewing that in the near future.  Definitely worth looking into.