Tuesday, April 16, 2024

A to Z Challenge: NHL (EA Sports)

 My favorite sports game series has been EA's NHL series.  I first started playing it with NHL 95 for the SNES.  While some people might like other years better, I had a lot of fun with it.  It might not have been the first one where you could create a player, but it did have that feature so you could make your own guy or guys to play alongside the real players.

(In the picture above I took 5 Hartford players against Steve Yzerman and Bob Essensa in practice.  It didn't take long for future Red Wing player/exec Pat Verbeek to score.  About a year later, Hartford would move to Carolina to become the Hurricanes.)

Of course I played the Red Wings a lot, who back then had a really good team.  Though playing it a couple of years later, I'd usually trade Keith Primeau and Paul Coffey for Brendan Shanahan as the Wings did in real life.  You could assemble most of the 97-98 teams if you traded with some other teams for Shanahan, Tomas Sandstrom, Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby, Doug Brown, Mike Vernon, and maybe some others.  You would probably have to make a few others like Tomas Holmstrom, Mathieu Dandenault, or Aaron Ward.

Anyway, besides the regular game, I had a lot of fun with the practice feature.  That let you choose from 0-5 members of two different teams.  So you could play 5-on-5 or 5-4 or even 5 against just the goalie.  You could practice offense or if you let the computer have 5 guys and you only have 1 or just the goalie, you can practice your defense.  Unfortunately that wasn't a feature EA continued.

The next ones I bought were for the PC, starting with NHL 2000.  The graphics were better and the roster building was a lot better too.  You could sign free agents, make your own players, and of course do trades.  I think I had 2001 too, which might have been a little better.  But 2002-2003 weren't that good.

NHL 2004 was one I played a ton on the PS2.  The cool thing with that was not only could you create players; you could create whole teams!  You could make up a city and a logo and then create your own roster with an expansion draft.  But I usually created my own roster--the Mutts!  I made a whole team based on some old stuffed animals.  Spot Mutt II was the star and captain with his son Spot III as the sniper on the top line and his son Spot IV as "the Hammer" or the bigger guy who fought and did the dirty work.  Spot V and Spot VI then were the defensive pair with one being more offense-minded and one more defense-minded.

The second unit featured raccoons with Ricky Raccoon at center and Vern and Zeke as the wingers.  And then a couple more as the defense.  The third unit used St. Bernards with Bernard St. Bernard at center and a bunch of B-names on offense and "Dave" Beethoven on defense.  This line was intended to be the "checking line" or the line that would hit people and play defense more than score.  (Because St. Bernards are big and can be mean.  Get it?)  The final unit was just some randos like Artful Dodger, Cooler Mutt, and Jeremiah Mutt.  The goalies I made one of each animal though they were all female:  Spot's wife Marshy Mutt, Ricky's mother Laura Raccoon, and Bernard's wife Bernice St. Bernard.  Which one was in goal would depend on who had the hot hand--or paw.

Besides making my own team, I'd grease the settings a little to play a faster game.  None of that "trap" bullshit for us!  When you won the Stanley Cup, there was a cool montage at the end that would show your guys and give stats.  And then in "Dynasty Mode" you could go on to the next year!  Your team would carry over and have to do it again.  As players got older, their stats would decline and after a few years some of the more veteran ones would have to be dumped for new players.

Unfortunately, the next year EA mailed it in, probably because of the lockout.  NHL 2005 was shit that I never actually bought, just rented.  I don't think that one even let you create players!  WTF?!  I tried NHL2K5 but the minigames were more fun than the real game.

The next one I bought was NHL 2007 for the PS2.  It was a lot more like NHL 2004, with most of the same features.  And it added in a bunch of European league teams from Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and Russia.  The neat thing about that was sometimes a player might go to Russia for a year or so and then come back, so you might find him on the roster of a team in that league and be able to put him where he was.  Or the team in Sweden or Switzerland might have a prospect an NHL team calls up so you could trade him to that team.  The first couple of years it was a good way to help keep rosters somewhat current.

Again you could create a team and I used basically the same team.  I think the difference was this time with a salary cap you had to be more careful about the players you created so they wouldn't be too expensive.  The montage at the end wasn't as good but overall the game play was largely the same.

I apparently got NHL 2009 as well so some of my memories from 2007 might be for that game.  Or I might not have played it much.  I don't really remember.

Since the PS2 stopped having games made for it a year or two later, I never got any more NHL games.  I could get them for the PC but I don't really care.  I haven't watched a lot of hockey since the Red Wings stopped being good so I don't even know most of the players anymore and a lot of the ones I do know are getting old.  I mean Sid "the Kid" Crosby is like 35 now.  A lot of the star players from the 80s-2000s are coaches or executives now.  Such is the way of things.

Monday, April 15, 2024

A to Z Challenge: It's-a him, Mario!

 Mario became a symbol of Nintendo and the video game industry in general after pretty humble beginnings in Donkey Kong.  In that game for the Atari 2600 and arcade, you had to guide the blobby Mario up ladders to rescue the princess from the giant gorilla, who in no way was like a donkey.  Along the way you jump over barrels or smash them with a hammer.  It was the kind of game that just kept going and getting more complicated.  Maybe at some point you did actually win.

In Donkey Kong Jr., Mario is actually the villain holding Donkey Kong captive while his son has to rescue him.  There was also a regular Mario Bros game where you did...stuff.  I think they made that for the Atari 2600 but we didn't have it.  That was probably the game that introduced Luigi and maybe that they were plumbers.  So you had a good chunk of the Mario mythos established!

When the NES console came out in the mid-80s, Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt were the games that usually game with it.  This time instead of Donkey Kong, Mario and his brother Luigi battle Koopa, who has taken the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom.  You have to jump on or over enemies like "goombas" or turtles and avoid the spiny bad guys and bullets.  You got two upgrades from hitting special ? bricks with your head.  First a mushroom would make Mario/Luigi grow.  Once at full-size another brick would have a flame flower that allowed you to launch fireballs.  Those were helpful against a lot of enemies but not beetles or bullets.

The game had 8 "worlds" each with 4 levels, the last of which was always a special castle where you'd have to jump over a Koopa only to find that "Our princess is in another castle" until of course the last level.  But you don't have to play all 32 levels; you can beat the game by playing only 1/4 of that.  You play 1-1 and then in 1-2 there's a "warp zone" that lets you jump to 4-1.  Then in 4-2 there's another warp zone to 8-1.  From there you have to play through to the end.  

Worlds 2-2 and 7-2 are underwater levels that can be tricky because the water really hampers your ability to move around; it's almost better to be small so you're more agile.  2-3 and 7-3 then you have to run like crazy as flying fish come at you from above and below and you can't really kill them easily.  The third level on a lot of worlds are jumping levels where you have to jump from trees to platforms and stuff.  Those are always a little nerve-wracking as there is no room for error.  Miss something and you fall to your death to probably go splat.  To amp up the difficulty, a couple of these also have bullets flying by.  With the bullets or flames in the castle levels, the problem is you can hear them launch but by the time you see them you might be in mid-jump with no way to correct before you get hit.

The game was (and still is) hugely popular.  On the knockoff Gameboy and knockoff SNES I have, there are versions of Super Mario where someone puts in different characters or different enemies, sort of like the Doom WADs I made in the 90s.

Super Mario 2 then was a really weird game that didn't use much of the gameplay from the first game.  You throw turnips and stuff and...whatever.  It was a bizarre Japanese import that most American players didn't really like because we were expecting something more like the first game.

Raccoons are known for their flying, right?

Around 1988 or 89, they made Super Mario Bros 3, which was far more like the first game.  The gameplay is largely the same, but expanded so you could get the fireball suit but more often a feather that gave you a raccoon tail to let you fly.  In the aquatic levels you could get a frog suit to swim better.  And there were "P Wings" that let you fly a lot longer and higher than the tail.  There were also minigames like matching cards or lining up three objects or just picking from treasure chests.  These things gave you extra lives or spare mushrooms, tails, and so on that you could use.

We didn't have an NES for a while and didn't have Mario 3, though I think we might have rented it a few times.  And on my knockoff Gameboy I've played it, though I keep getting stuck on the pyramid in World 2 because I don't think the controls work all that great for what you need to do, which is throw beetles around to break bricks.

In the cheesy product placement movie The Wizard, Super Mario Bros 3 is the final game played in the "Video Armageddon" tournament.  And as the Rifftrax points out, it's funny how the one player's brother and friend are shouting tips for a game they've never played.

In 1993 there was also a super-cheesy Super Mario Bros live action movie starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi and Dennis Hopper as Koopa.  The movie is pretty much nothing like the video games.  One time I watched the Rifftrax and then thought about what they could have done differently.  The thing is, I don't think a live action movie could have worked back then especially.  With CGI still in its infancy and really expensive, they'd have needed a budget like Waterworld or Titanic to make it and it still probably would have sucked.  Even now it was a lot smarter to go the animated route than trying to work live action into it.

The 2023 animated movie was obviously better, though I didn't think it was really great.  It did make a ton of money, so I'm sure there will be a sequel at some point.  That movie featured Easter eggs from pretty much all the games featuring Mario and Donkey Kong.

Besides the Super Mario Bros games, there were also games featuring Mario like Dr. Mario and Mario Paint.  When the SNES came out, there was a new game called Super Mario World.  Unfortunately I never had that one because I got the basic SNES that didn't come with that included.  I think I got the most basic one that didn't have any game included.  There was also Mario Kart that let you race around in go-carts with characters from Mario games.

I think then there was another new Mario game for the N64 along with spinoffs for Luigi and Yoshi.  And that continued with the Wii, Wii U, and Switch.  Plus the Gameboy.  For the Wii you could get the original Mario games to play on it, but I never bought that.

Anyway, as I said, Mario has become the symbol for Nintendo and largely for video games in general.  He's basically the Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny of gaming.  (Maybe he's Bugs and Pac-Man is Mickey?)  Even the music from the original Super Mario game has become iconic; I have an MP3 of a version recorded by the London Philharmonic.  Not bad for a plumber from the Bronx.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

A to Z Challenge: Legos!

Doing a quick Google search, I found this article that gives a brief history of Lego video games.  So go ahead and read that and I'll see you on Monday!

OK, actually I have played a couple of the Lego games but not a lot.  I think I played the original Star Wars one (the prequel one) a little bit.  And then I know I played the second one with the original trilogy, though I don't think I owned it.  This is a screen shot from a Gameboy version on RetroGames

I know I got the Batman one in a Humble Bundle or something for the PC.  Like most of these games it's fun and somewhat easy, though sometimes not as easy as you might think.  I remember I got stuck on one point and then found it's because you were supposed to do something that you hadn't done before in the game so I had no idea that I could do what they wanted me to do.  Make sense?  No?  Good.

The ones I have played, you generally follow a story of some sort.  You use Lego building to create bridges or other platforms; fix or build vehicles to travel; or to repair or create some other machine for the level.  If you're not careful you can get shot or hit with something or fall down a chasm and then your Lego character will break apart into pieces.  The same can happen to vehicles.

While the games started on the PC, they were also made for the various consoles of the 2000s-today.  Like the later Star Wars specials on Disney+, the stories are generally done tongue-in-cheek with slapstick and nerd humor.  As that article says, that was really good with the prequels considering how much they sucked to most people not named Tony Laplume.

The success of the games is probably a large reason The Lego Movie and Lego Batman Movie came to be.  And at least with the video games it doesn't hurt so much to step on them, right?

Friday, April 12, 2024

A to Z Challenge: Krynn (AD&D Games)

 I was never into paper Dungeons & Dragons (and still am not despite all of Michael Offutt's posts about it) but in the early 90s, my brother and I bought some of SSI's Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games.  I think one of the first we played was Champions of Krynn which was from the Dragonlance series.

Like with the physical D&D, you first have to make a party of characters.  There are a bunch of different races:  humans, elves, dwarves, and whatever.  And different classes:  knights, rangers, paladins, mages, clerics, and thieves mostly.  And then you got to make a blocky little character that could be male or female and different colored clothes, skin, hair, and weapons.

Then like probably a lot of the physical games, it starts at a tavern.  You meet Sir Karl, a knight of the realm or whatever.  And eventually you get started on an adventure that takes you around the world of Krynn.  You traverse dungeons and castles and keeps and all that stuff.  Ultimately you go to the flying castle thing on the cover.  Along the way you have to fight parties of bad guys, which gives you better equipment and experience so you can level up.

RIP Squirrel

It was a pretty fun game but to really find your way around it helps to have the "clue book" that was probably $20 or so back then at Waldenbooks or Electronics Boutique.  When I replayed the game a year or so ago after getting it from GOG.com, I found the clue book online in a PDF.  I also needed to get the journal in a PDF and print it out because to log in it would ask you for a word from the journal like, "Page 13, Paragraph 6, Word 1" and then you type the word.  That was I guess to make it harder for people to copy the game's disks to let someone else play because back then it'd be hard to copy the manual unless you had some money--and why not just buy the game yourself then?  It was kinda the early form of trying to stop people from sharing passwords!

The sequel to Champions was Death Knights of Krynn.  It wasn't as good of a game or as deep either.  Basically, Sir Karl, who died in the previous game, is a zombie and he and other zombies or whatever the game calls them are up to no good so you have to stop him.

The annoying thing when I tried to play it a year or so ago was that you can't transfer your team from the previous game like you could with the original disks.  The best you could do was modify a premade team but they wouldn't have the items and skills the same as the end of the previous game.

The final part of this trilogy is The Dark Queen of Krynn.  This one had upgraded graphics and a little different game play.  Unfortunately I still couldn't import my team from any previous games.  What I remember of the original was it had a better story than the second one with more depth and breadth.  

Besides the Krynn series they made a couple of other series.  The first one they made in the late 80s was called Pool of Radiance.  I think at some point we got that one and played it.  Since it was older, it wasn't quite as good as the Krynn ones because it didn't have as good of graphics or as many features.  They made a few sequels to those "Forgotten Realms" ones:  Secret of the Silver Blades, Curse of the Azure Bonds, and Pools of Darkness.

Another newer series was Gateway to the Savage Frontier and its sequel Treasures of the Savage Frontier.  I think those were newer than the first couple of Krynn ones so they had better graphics and features.

The last series they made was the "Dark Sun" series:  Shattered Lands and Wake of the Ravager.  Those had better graphics and some different gameplay.  While they were D&D games I think they were in more of a different world, one where it was largely desert.

They also made a Buck Rogers game that was more based on the comics and stuff than the 70s TV series.  That was a pretty fun game as it had a lot of the same gameplay only with spaceships and lasers and stuff.  That one wasn't in the bundle I got from Gog.com.

I liked those games for the most part.  Though I had some ideas how to make them better and sent the company some annoying letters, though by now I forget about what.  It was like 30 years ago.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

A to Z Challenge: Joust

 Like I mentioned before, a lot of the early video games (and even some today) were pretty silly.  One of the silliest was Joust.

The concept was entirely weird:  you're a knight who pilots an ostrich-type bird.  On the screen are different levels that have teleporters on them to spawn enemy knights on birds.  You have to fly up and hit them from above; hit them from lower and you'll die.  If they die, they release an egg that you have to collect before it hatches to basically respawn the enemy.   And there's lava at the bottom that'll kill you if you fall into it.  The first couple of levels the bottom is solid but then the bottom starts shrinking to reveal the lava.  Oh, and sometimes a pterodactyl will fly around to try to kill you.

That all makes sense, right?  Yeah, not at all.  There's a quickie Robot Chicken sketch that just shows the gameplay and someone basically says, "WTF?"


But like a lot of these weird old games, it can be pretty fun.  We had this for the Atari...one of them.  I think there was both a 2600 and 7800 version.  Or maybe we just had the 2600 version that we played on the 7800?  Anyway, I'm not sure how far I got into it, but one of those where it was never that far.

I think there was probably an NES version or at least there is on my knockoff Gameboy thing.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A to Z Challenge: Invasion & Battlecry (Robotech)

Because I have something else for R & had something else for B, I'm doing my Robotech PS2 games here even though Invasion was the second game made for the PS2--at least in America.

I've probably said it before, but the first Robotech PS2 game Battlecry was the main reason I bought a PS2 in the first place.  While they made Macross games in Japan, there was never really a Robotech game for older platforms or the PC.  Battlecry was really the first attempt on this side of the pond to create a game that would let you do some (but not all) of the stuff from the TV show.

Like most of these games, you don't play as Rick Hunter, Roy Fokker, or anyone like that.  Instead you're Jack Archer, a guy who's sort of like Rick or Roy but not.  The game starts when the Zentraedi invade Earth to steal the SDF-1.  The unfortunate thing then is you don't get to go with the SDF-1 to do some of the cool stuff from the TV show like battle in Saturn's rings or go to Mars or stuff.

You do get to be in the final battle to help the SDF-1 destroy Dolza's flagship.  Then a large chunk of the game is afterwards, trying to put down riots in the cities that remain after the "Rain of Death" and put down rogue Zentraedi in the wastelands.  The final battle takes you to deep space, where even if you win, you die alone in space.  Hooray?

The awesome thing about this game is instead of the side-scrolling type for older platforms, you can play from the cockpit or outside of it.  And best of all, you can change your Veritech between all three modes:  plane, robot, or the hybrid Guardian mode.  You have the Veritech's gun and also missiles to take down various bad guys.

Of course since this is mission-based, some of the missions can be a real pain in the ass.  For instance there's one where you have to escort famous singer/actress Lynn-Minmei and of course then there are Zentraedi who show up.  You could probably just scoop up her car and fly in Guardian mode to safety, but no, you have to painstakingly follow her car around while killing bad guys.  It can be very annoying.

Through most of the game, Archer has a female boss who's voiced by one of the women who worked on the original dubs.  If you're slacking off on a mission--or she thinks you are--she'll break in to berate you with something like, "Wolf 10, what are you doing?!"

While not a perfect game, it was really awesome for me to fly around in a Veritech and shoot Zentraedi pods and stuff like I was Rick Hunter.  

I was then excited for the next game a few years later.  They skipped over the "Second Generation" with its Hovertanks to go right to the "Third Generation" based on Genesis Climber Mospaeda.  The game is called Invasion because it's about the Invid, you guessed it, invading Earth and taking over.  You play as "Locke" a dude who can't remember who he is but gets a Cyclone and starts helping the resistance fight the Invid.  Like the other game you don't get to interact with Scott Bernard or other main characters a lot.

What was disappointing to me with this game is you only get the Cyclone (no Alpha or Beta Veritechs) and you're in its robot mode pretty much all the time.  You don't get to change to its motorcycle mode while fighting, which is kind of lame.  I guess they figured letting you do that would mess up the whole first-person shooter thing.

So most of it you're walking or running around while killing Invid mechs.  And then like "Ariel" in the TV show, your guy starts to realize that he's actually an Invid creation.  And then he helps to get the Invid Regis to leave Earth or whatever.

It was not nearly as much fun as Battlecry.  I don't know if there were development problems or what but it wound up being a cut-rate Robotech-themed HALO.

The problem with both games was since neither had an open-world aspect the replay value wasn't great as you could basically only do the missions over again.

On the RetroGame site there were a bunch of Japanese Macross games and two Robotech games.  One was just a prototype N64 game called Crystal Dreams that let you fly the Veritech from the cockpit or outside of it:

And another was a Gameboy Advanced game that was neat in that you could transform, though it was too slow.  That game let you fly as different characters like Rick Hunter, Roy Fokker, Max Sterling, Miriya, and Ben Dixon.

Most of both the Macross and Robotech ones on there are side-scrollers where you take on swarms of Zentraedi.  A strategy game would have been neat.  You could have played as Gloval in charge of the RDF or Breetai in charge of the Zentraedi and then reenacted some of the battles from the series.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

A to Z Challenge: Hit & Run (The Simpsons)

 There have been games based on The Simpsons since the original NES in the early 90s.  I have two games for my PS2.  The first, Road Rage, was an OK game where you just drive various vehicles from the Simpsons universe to race people and stuff.

Hit & Run is a much better game that like The Godfather in my previous entry applies more of an open-world concept to let you somewhat experience the world of the TV show.  And like The Godfather, there are missions (starting with the "easy tutorial level") that have you go a bunch of places and meet a bunch of characters.  Sometimes you have to race someone or find stuff or do something silly like help Cletus collect his "flat meat" from the road.  There are 7 total levels and each one you get to be a different character:  Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, or Apu.  Each character has different phrases they'll use periodically.

The game does a good job of working in a ton of Simpsons references and locations.  Besides the Simpsons house (and Flanders') you have the school, church, power plant, Qwik-E-Mart, Android's Dungeon, and many more places.  You don't necessarily get to fully explore these places, but they are at least there.

The town is divided into a few different sections.  You start in the Simpsons neighborhood.  There's another section for downtown and another by the water and another up in the hills.

Since it's called Hit & Run, a lot of what you do is driving.  You get the Simpsons car and other vehicles from the show (at that point, which was maybe like Season 15 or 16?) like a monster truck, a Shriners car, the Car Designed By Homer, and the rocket car bought by the bum who created Itchy & Scratchy.  You can even swipe the pink Cadillac that crashed into the Planet Hollywood-type place.  If you're a fan of the show--or were a fan until it jumped the shark about fifty times--it's a lot of fun just to have sort of a 3D version of Springfield to play around in.

Since it's somewhat open world, you can do the missions or you can just fool around, stealing cars and driving around Springfield.  One fun thing to do is rev the rocket car up and jump it off a ramp just to see how high you can get before smashing back down.  I also liked the Stonecutters tunnel that's complete with the classical music used in the show.  Near the end of the missions, the game transforms Springfield into a Halloween-themed version where you can drive around in the car from the "Homega Man" episode and stuff like that.

The actual "story" of the game is pretty silly and actually rips off a South Park episode where the boys find out Earth is the setting of a reality show.  Or maybe South Park ripped them off.  It's something I ripped off for Chet Finley vs The Machines of Fate only instead of just a reality show the aliens are making bets on human behavior.  While a sequel would have been rad the developer lost the rights before one could be made.

I haven't played the game in a while and at one point I loaned them to my sister, who probably lost them.  I'm sure by now they've made other Simpsons games, but this one is my favorite.

Monday, April 8, 2024

A to Z Challenge: The Godfather

 Someone at Electronic Arts or whatever thought it would be a really good idea to take the popular open-world game Grand Theft Auto and set it in the 40s with characters and missions based on The Godfather, one of the most respected movies of all time.  And while Martin Scorsese and Al Pacino and others hated the idea, I found it to be a really fun game both for the missions and the open-world play.

Like a lot of these games you don't play as a character from the movies.  Instead you make your own guy, choosing different facial features, body type, and clothes from a menu that was sort of like a trimmed-down version of The Sims.  Then you start as an "outsider" who joins the Corleone family and works his way up to becoming the Don of Dons, or head of all the crime families in New York/New Jersey.

There are two main components to the game.  The first are missions that are mostly taken from the first movie.  You have to protect Don Corleone as he's taken to the hospital after being shot, help Michael protect him in the hospital, help put the horse's head in the movie producer's bed, and take down the heads of the other families while Michael is at the baptism.  You can choose to do some right away, though some you can't really do at first, or you can wait until later.  I think you have to do a few just to open up the map a little.

The open-world part of the game lets you go to the territories of the five families.  You start in Little Italy, which is under siege from other families.  You have to take over various shops by bribing or coercing the owner with violence until he agrees to pay protection to you.  The more places under your protection, the more money you get.  Sometimes another family will then take the place over again and you have to go back.  There's also a warehouse and/or train yard for each of the other families that if you take it over, you get a lot more money flowing into your coffers.  The obvious goal then is to take over everything in Little Italy, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Hell's Kitchen, and New Jersey.

Each family has a compound that you have to storm to wipe them out.  It can be really difficult so it's not something you do straight off.  But once you take that family compound down, they won't be able to take over your businesses anymore.  The Corleone compound near Little Italy has health, ammo, and cars you can use and a save point.  Sometimes you can talk to characters like Michael (made to look not like Pacino), Tom Hagen, Fredo, other members of the Family, and even Mama Corleone, who doesn't really have anything interesting to say.

Besides the Corleone compound, you can go into various hotels to take them over and then use them as save points.  That's crucial as you expand your territory, because nothing is more annoying than doing a bunch of stuff and then getting killed (or having the game freeze or power go out or something) before you can find a save point.  The hotels usually also have ammo and health and phones you can use to get messages telling you where you need to go for missions.

Some of the hotels have gambling rackets that you can take over to add money to your coffers.  A lot of places have safes that you can blow up with dynamite to get some extra money.  Scattered around the map are doctor's offices where you can get healed.  You can blow up their safe or punch the doctor or nurse but then the cops will come after you.  You can also go to a couple of police stations and steal a police car and then turn on the lights and siren to make people get out of your way.  You can steal taxis too if you want. 

The other families will also have trucks you can rob.  First you have to stop them by ramming them with a car or shooting them.  The trick is as soon as you shoot it, the truck will floor it, so it's best to hit it with something high-powered in heavy traffic if you can.  Once the truck stops, you have to kill a couple of goons and then you get money and maybe some ammo or something.

To get around, you drive cars.  There are cars owned by the family that you can take or if you wreck that--or just want something faster--you can steal a car, though if a cop is nearby he might try to stop you.  Some cops walking the beat you can bribe to be on your payroll, which helps to take heat off you when you want to take stuff over.  There are also banks you can rob periodically for some money; the banks in Manhattan are the best-guarded but have the richest takes.  You have to get the money back to a save point before it'll count as being yours and the heat will die down.

It can take days to do all the stuff in the game.  Sometimes it can be frustrating, especially the compounds, docks, and railyards that are heavily guarded.  You get a variety of weapons like brass knuckles, a baseball bat, a pipe, a revolver, a pistol, a shotgun, and a machine gun.  Then there are upgrades to each weapon to make them carry more ammo and do more damage.  Like Wolfenstein or Doom, some weapons are better than others for different situations.  The pistols are better close-up or for precision shots (a shot to the head will instantly kill someone) while the shotgun does more damage but doesn't hold as much ammo and the machine gun does damage quickly but can run out pretty fast if you're not careful.

As you get more money, you can also change your character to reflect his new station.  You can buy fancier clothes and sunglasses and stuff like that.  And no you can't have a female character.

Even after you've done all the missions and taken over everything, with the open-world you can still screw around endlessly robbing banks, stealing cars, or just beating up random people.  Then you can get the cops to chase you and try to ditch them or really piss them off until you finally get caught.  It's not as much fun, but you can do it.

Anyway, while some would criticize the game for being a cheesy cash grab based on a beloved movie/book, I thought it was a lot of fun to play on the PS2 though I'm sure it was also made for XBox too.  I still have my copy that I could play if I hook up the PS2.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

A to Z Challenge: Frogger

 Frogger was one of those games that became a hit early on with arcades and the Atari 2600.  And like a lot of games then, it had a silly concept:  you have to guide a frog across a road and then across a swamp to froggy heaven or whatever.  If you did it like 5 times or something you got to the next level.

Of course each level got more difficult with more lanes of traffic, faster cars, snakes, alligators, logs going really fast, and so on.  With the logs, some you could wrap around the screen but others wouldn't, so you'd have to jump or get dumped into the water.  Which for some reason kills the amphibious frog.  But you did get to mate with a white frog sometimes, so there's that.  

My family had Frogger for the 2600 so I played it a bit.  I don't remember how far I got but I don't think it was really one with an ending.  The game was of course memorialized in an episode of Seinfeld where George buys an arcade version of it to try to preserve his high score, but of course fails at doing so.  There was a brilliant bit where you watch overhead as he basically reenacts the game while pushing the cabinet only to get stuck at the curb--something that isn't really a problem in the game itself.

You can probably get versions of Frogger for your phone or in various Atari or maybe even NES revivals and knockoffs.


Friday, April 5, 2024

A to Z Challenge: Elevator Action

Picture it: the late 1980s in a pizza parlor in Auburn, Michigan.  My brother and I were probably in town for a basketball game my dad was coaching and we would sometimes play in only when it was a rout one way or the other.  Anyway, the pizza parlor had the arcade version of Elevator Action and we played it for a little bit.

The game is kind of silly like a lot of games back then.  You play as a secret agent who starts at the top of a building.  You have to find hidden documents in specially marked rooms with red doors and get them to the bottom.  Along the way there are bad guys who look sort of like the black Spy vs. Spy guy.  You have to shoot them and avoid their bullets by ducking or jumping or going into a room.  You can shoot out light fixtures to make it dark to help you escape sometimes.  The most grisly way to kill the evil spies is to crush them with the elevators if they're under them.  You can also get crushed if you're under an elevator when it comes down or if you perch on top of one when it reaches the top of the shaft.

The levels get more and more difficult as you go with more bad guys, more elevators (and escalators), and more stuff to find.  I'm not sure if it's one of those games with an end level because I've never gotten really far on it.

Elevator Action was not on the Atari systems but there was a version for NES, though I don't think we ever got it.  Probably just as well as it would have probably cost like $50 for a game that while fun would only be amusing for a little while.

A few years ago from Amazon Vine I got a knockoff Gameboy thing that came preloaded with a bunch of Japanese games.  Elevator Action was one of them.  So I got the chance to play it again and still haven't gotten farther than two or three buildings.  You can probably get one of those knockoff game systems for pretty cheap on Amazon, Wish, or Temu.  

The game does have a really catchy theme song that if you start playing you probably won't get out of your head for a little while.


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