Category Archives: Games

Dino Run Coulda Been a Contender

Had Dino Run been released during the actual 8-bit Atari age, I do believe it would’ve been a hit. The gameplay is silky smooth, the constant running pace is excellent, and the balance of priorities (outrunning the black smoking fallout of dinosaur extinction vs. finding eggs to preserve your species and earn continuations) is a great stress enhancer. Plus, the music! Why don’t do they do music like that any more?

My favorite details: the running dino visibly craps himself as the wave of doom approaches, and surviving a close brush with death is considered an achievement (“doom surfing,” my best time was seven seconds).

Here’s the review from Play This Thing. And here’s the game itself.

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My Aim Is Truer

Never been the biggest fan of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. At bottom, despite the open-world sandbox element that everyone always goes on and on about, the games to me have been marred by a completely retarded targeting system. And this problem never seemed to improve with the sequels. What’s the point of game where you can massacre civilians and whatnot if it’s impossible to aim at any one person on the screen? Call me a stickler, but I like to try for the occasional proper headshot and not stagger about like a spastic sociopath during gunfights.

Looks like GTA IV has finally — finally! — fixed this crippling bug. According to IGN’s review, which awarded the game a rare 10.0 score:

A great deal of that pleasure is due to the refined combat system. Though Grand Theft Auto has always been about action, it has never provided a great targeting system. That has finally, truly changed with GTA IV. Hold down the trigger and you can lock on to an enemy (or civilian). You’ll see an indicator of their health. You can adjust your aim slightly with the thumbstick so that nudging up a little can help you earn some headshots. Partially depress the trigger and you have free aim, which is great for targeting tires or specific body parts. With skill, you can take down enemies faster in free mode.

In another helpful change, the newest game in the franchise takes a fictionalized and somewhat compressed New York City as its setting — and I happen to know my way around New York! As a result, I’ll get to avoid the debilitating sense of being lost all the time when playing a freaking videogame, which has never been a formula for fun in my book. This is the downside of the open-world concept that’s clearly become the ne plus ultra of modern game design: I’m not 14 any more and I don’t have endless consecutive hours in which to internalize fictional game maps. When trying to get into a GTA game, I inevitably find myself feeling like a tourist in a foreign city. Maybe a week has passed since I last played, but I shouldn’t be made to feel like an imbecile because I can’t remember where my safehouses are in relation to the latest crime caper.

On a side note, not matter how incredible the GTA version of the Big Apple proves to be, it seems like the folks at Rock Star Game have nothing on these guys. Man, Prototype looks amazing, eh?

Japanese Chain Reaction Game

Ok, in order to push the fever-dream Mickeys down screen, I’ll share with you my favorite browser-based game of all time. It’s one of the very few games, in fact, that I’ve returned to time and time again over several years. Others come, stay for a time, and recede. Not this game.

Simple: You get one explosion, which you deploy by clicking within the game field, that sets off a chain reaction. Try to get all 50 blue balls in one shot. The game is played in three rounds. A total score of 100 is mediocre. 140 is amazing. You get rising Japanese affirmations, I assume, as you approach 150. I’ve never had a perfect game (but I’ve been damn close).

And this is the best part: I never remember the actual name of this perfect primitive game. A total block. I just type “japanese chain reaction game” into the Google searchbox, however, and my favorite game is the top result. In some ways, you can argue, Japanese Chain Reaction Game is more properly the “real” title than the one chosen by the creator. Also, it’s somehow pleasing to me that Internet users everywhere agree: this is, indeed, a Japanese Chain Reaction Game.

The Civilization of the Joystick

More good news: Civilization, the ur-computer game and king of all time sucks, is coming to the Xbox 360. And the early notices — like this one, penned by a well-known PC gaming supremacist — seem very positive, particularly for those of us who tremble at the notion of slipping into steely grip of a new Civ addiction.
It’s not a Civ IV port (which I still haven’t played), but a whole new version of the game specifically made for quicker console play. To quote the above-linked review, the game “feel[s] not like the cold hexes and hotkeys of PC strategy, but like social boardgames re-imagined expertly for console, replete with a chummy, toy-like physicality that belies the satisfying complexity underneath. It’s Civ made simpler and quicker, but no stupider.”

Doesn’t come out until June, but this just might be the game that forces me to indulge in an Xbox Live subscription.

Vanity Fair Unleashed!

Well, I’ve been going on and on about this New Star Wars Videogame — and this Vanity Fair piece is like catnip for my hype receptors. Hype it more…I want to play so bad…really, this is having just the desired effect on me!

To wit:

As the consoles have become faster and better, the software developers have risen to the challenge of designing a better game experience, and one of the reasons I have come to San Francisco is to see two demonstrations of software that LucasArts is excited about incorporating into its next marquee game. The first program is called Euphoria, and was developed by NaturalMotion, a tech company based in San Francisco and Oxford, England. On a projection screen in a darkened auditorium, I watch as a digitally animated Imperial stormtrooper, the comically doomed cannon fodder of Lucas’s Star Wars universe, is lifted by an invisible force and dropped in various ways—on his head, on his back—and over various objects such as steel and wooden crates. Each time he is lifted, he struggles mightily, and then, every time he drops, he reacts differently. Dropped on his head, he grabs it with his hands before going still. And after being dropped on his back, on a metal box, he arches it in a way that suggests he is in agonizing pain.

His reactions are eerily lifelike, and I am told that what I am seeing is not animation but a kind of artificial intelligence generated by Euphoria, which enables the stormtrooper to react with an almost human uniqueness—in real time, no less—to obstacles and attacks. Dropped 100 times, the Euphoria-imbued stormtrooper will react differently 100 times, unless he is dropped in exactly the same way twice. When he is placed at the top of a sloping roof, he struggles furiously to gain purchase as he slides down, and actually grabs and hangs on to its edge for a few moments before falling to his inevitable fate. But the real pièce de résistance of the demonstration is when the stormtrooper is placed on an unsteady surface and actually begins to shift his weight and pedal his feet in order to maintain his equilibrium. “That’s not animated at all,” says Steve Dykes, the LucasArts senior engineer running the presentation. “That is actually a character trying to maintain his balance, physically simulated.”

If such things as the putative future of games is of interest to you, then you will surely be interested in the rest of it.

The Euphoria Engine

Re that new Star Wars videogame.

It looks really, really great.

Mario Music

Welcome to Friday. This is from Destructoid:

When the “Egyptian” theme starts, about midway through, I became happy.

For another musical wonder from YouTue — and from roughly the same era, no less — head over to McFly’s place.