Monthly Archives: September 2013

The List: One Puzzle Game

No story. No fancy graphics. Puzzle games are the raw ore of gaming.  They are 100% all about gameplay.

While puzzle games can range from the casual to the hardcore and intense, I always stayed pretty much in the mainstream with my library.  You know, Tetris, Dr. Mario.  Pretty straight forward and somewhat casual puzzle games.  I never got into the Facebook games, so sorry Candy Crush, you’ll not be found here.

I do enjoy a puzzle game though, because I always get to play my favorite opponent: myself.  High scores, getting to a new stage you’ve never been to before.  In an age where my friends are grown and moved off, I am my favorite gaming friend anymore.  These games provide a great challenge against myself.

The List:

Myst. I have started to play this game… a bajillion times.  Every time I get stuck somewhere, then come back after so much time has passed that I have no idea what I’m doing and have to start over.  I’ve never beat this game.  Taking it with me while stranded on an island somewhere might be the only way I’d ever beat it.  But I don’t think it’s going to make the cut here.

Brain Age is a fun game.  It’s designed to be used every day.  I played it quite extensively when it first came out on the Nintendo DS, but I haven’t trained my brain much lately.  With the amount of beer I drink, I probably should be training it.

Yoshi’s Cookie is a fun simple puzzle game.  I’m sure there are other games out there like it.  You line up the same type of cookies in a line horizontally or vertically, and you clear that line.  That’s all there is too it.  But it has a Yoshi charm to it, and it’s portable.  I really love this game though it kicks my butt once the speed starts ramping up after a few levels.

Blast Corps I suppose you could argue isn’t truly a puzzle game.  But many of the levels require puzzle elements to clear the path for the out of control nuclear missile transport.  Rare produced this game in it’s golden years with the N64.  It can be brutally challenging at times, but all the vehicles are fun to drive, and there’s a nice variety of side missions to mix up the gameplay.

World of Goo is something different.  The art style is a bit dark and quirky.  The music is fantastic.  And the puzzle gameplay is heavily physics driven.  You link your “goos” together to get them to the exit point.  It can be tough making them stick the way you want without collapsing, and even when you do pass a level you always could have done it faster or more efficiently.  This is a downloadable game I got on WiiWare, but it’s also available on other platforms including mobile.  Definitely worth the price.

Tetrisphere is a game I think most people don’t appreciate.  I love it.  I remember renting this game back when I was younger.  It was one that I would rent, then rent it again when it was time to check it back in.  The music is awesome, and I love building up combos until you get a huge nuke to drop on your sphere and release the… sphere guy.  Okay it’s weird.  But it’s really fun.

Dr. Mario.  You know what this is and what it’s all about.  When this game came out, I mostly remember that all of my friends mothers were better at it than we were.  I’ve never been very good at it.  But it is fun.  I’m starting to realize that these good puzzle games all have fabulous music.  I suppose they would have to in order to keep you playing.  I still have it and still like to play it from time to time.  My neighbor across the street is a freak about this game, and he’s freakishly good at it too.

Tetris DS.  There have probably been (without exaggeration) a thousand versions of Tetris released.  My favorite is Tetris DS.  First of all, it’s portable.  And the Nintendo themed level art and music is very attractive.  I’ve played ALOT of Tetris in my time.  Again, I’m certainly no master of the game, but when I’m in a groove, I can get pretty far.  It’s always when I get greedy and I try to go for those 4 line clears that it gets me in the later levels.  It’d be hard to imagine a world where playing Tetris isn’t even an option.  Does this one win by default?  It wins every other puzzle game list…

The Winner:

Blast Corps Winner

 

Blast Corps.  What a friggin’ fun game.  It was frantic, it was frustrating, it was deep.  Clearing the path was just the beginning.  Then you had to find all the RDUs, destroy all the buildings, and free all the survivors. No it’s not a PURE puzzle game.  But I couldn’t imagine leaving it behind.  And it definitely isn’t going to win in an Action category against games like Zelda.  Be a hater if you want, but this is my puzzle game of choice.  I only wish I could go back and forget everything I know about this game and play it again for the first time.

New for 1997

I remember being very envious of Gateway computers.  In the mid to late 1990’s, they had some really great marketing going on.  It was a time when computers were just barely starting to become a fixture in the home.  As they did, more and more people people started dialing up and getting online.

They hit a home run with their branding.  I remember they would always tout in their commercials, that their computers were built in South Dakota.  They used holstein cows in a lot of their early commercials and you really got the impression that Gateway computers were built in some barn on a farm in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota.  Every computer shipped in a cow patterned box, so it was just a fun package to get.  And they really pushed selling their computers as a complete package.  All together they did a great job of making the PC seem like something that was friendly, fun, and they removed all the complications of is X compatible with Y.  So for a lot of families, their first computer was a Gateway.

gateway cow box

We had several old PC’s by the time Gateway rolled around.  At this time, we had an AMD K6 machine that ran at 200mhz I believe.  Windows 95, 26.6kbps modem.  It wasn’t bad for the time.  But the stability was less than reliable.  This is from the time when you’d turn off your computer, and you’d get a message after Windows shut down that said, “It is now safe to turn off your computer”.  Then you’d manually push a button to turn it off. GASP!

But back to Gateway.  I’ve been trying to think about why in retrospect, I looked up to Gateway so much.  We never owned one, and I only knew one other person that did.  And it wasn’t anything remarkable, it did most of the same stuff any old PC would do.  I think it was just because the marketing was so prevelant.   Not only were there TV commercials, but they would send out actual paper catalogs in the mail which were chock full of desktops, laptops, printers and all the cool stuff that would be blazing fast.  And in that time there was always a lot of waiting around when it came to using your computer, so faster was always a huge deal.  Now a days you can get away with using even 10 year old hardware and plop around on the internet.  But using a 1987 PC in 1997 was pretty much impossible for any modern task.

Gateway Computer

I remember thumbing through those old Gateway catalogs.  I really wanted a laptop and I’d look at a modest, but not barebones model that would be priced at something like $2,500.  If I could just make $20 a week, I’d think to myself, it would only take (then I did the math)… 125 weeks.  To think that it would take me two and a half years to save up for something like that made them feel completely unattainable, and maybe that’s where my reverence for the brand comes from.

It’s fun to think back on this time.  Computers were booming.  Everyone was jumping online and into a world that was completely uncharted.

A Day For the Toronado

It’s been over a year since the one and only time the Toronado broke down on the side of the road.  I’ve had it back together for a while, but I haven’t really given it any love until today.

Here it sits, like it has for months.

I tried to start it up and move it before Luke’s birthday party back in August, but the battery was dead.  I charged up the battery and the old thing fired right up once the fuel got pumped back up into the carburetor.

I pulled it into the garage for an oil change.  Our 3rd oil change in 24 hours in this garage.  Haha.

This is what dirty and neglected looks like.  Leaves, dirt, bird poo.  Time was starting to pass it by.  Sad to see it like this after all the work I put into painting it.

I washed out the engine bay.  Halfway because it was just nasty.  And the other half was because there were spiderwebs everywhere and I didn’t want any spiders hanging around!

I went for a short cruise and came back home.  I don’t have current tags on it right now, so I didn’t want to drive it too far.  And I need new ball joints before I really feel safe on the highway.  So it was just an Albert tour for today.  But I did make the point to BACK it into the driveway so the neighbors can tell it DOES run!  Haha.

So there we go.  The ball joints should be around $100 all together.  Then I plan on driving this thing!  Part of me wants to fix the hail dents, re-do the vinyl, get new bumper fillers and paint it.  The other part of me want to just drive it as a “beater” during the winter and nasty days so we can keep the Cutlass clean.  I’m really torn which way to go.  I just like this car so darn much!

LAZY

This is where Luke and I spent most of the weekend.

Here I am, sitting on my bum, like I have spent most of the weekend.  I haven’t left the house for almost 48 hours now and it feels glorious.

Without a doubt the majority of my time has been spent hanging out with Luke.  He truly loves to play.  From the moment he wakes up, until he is reluctantly put to bed, playing is serious business.

In all honestly, it’s really fun for me too.  Deep down I’ve never really grown up.  But now, as a dad, it’s socially acceptable for me to play with Hot Wheels, make tracks for the trains, race cars with Luke, watch cartoons and do all the stuff a kid wants to do.  We spent probably an hour this morning, eating breakfast and watching Super Mario Bros. cartoons from the 90’s.  Then we played cars on Luke’s rug with all the streets on it.  Took the putt putt golf set and pretended we were playing hockey.  Sang songs in the bathtub.  Made a mess with a deck of cards.  Had a pillow fight.  Watched a full season of Video Game High School.  And had a tickle fight.  All just this weekend.

So no, I don’t really feel guilty at all about not getting anything done.  What I did get done feels pretty rewarding.

 

The List: One Racing Game

In contrast to the previous post, this genre is going to be a lot harder to choose a winner.  I’ve been playing racing games since RC Pro-Am and Rad Racer on the NES.  I’ve played a lot of fantastic ones over the years too. And to think that I could only take one is actually quite bothersome.  That means no matter what I’m going to have to leave some significant portion of my past behind me, never to be experienced again.

I think my appreciation for racing games goes back to a kid and just loving to play with cars like Hot Wheels or RC cars.  Video games are just an extension of that.  I’ve had so many and played so many over the years, even just narrowing it down to this list is going to be difficult.

The List:

There’s probably several games on that list that wouldn’t make most people’s.  That’s probably because there was really no reasoning behind how I acquired a lot of these games.  This was the days before the internet for the most part and I didn’t have access to in-depth reviews and pre-release coverage.  But in retrospect, I’m glad because I might have missed out on what are now some of my favorite games.

Take Crusi’n USA for instance.  This game got almost universally terrible reviews.  But it makes my list of top racing games.  And it’s all because I have just had a ton of fun with the game.  Playing against Dad, or even just unlocking the new cars.  I had a lot of FUN and that’s what gaming should always be about.

Micro Machines on the NES was a super fun game.  But man was it hard.  It ends up that you just have to resolve yourself to memorize each track.  But it’s fast paced, and you really feel like you’re driving the tiny cars.

Top Gear Rally is another game that most people probably remember as “Just another racing game”.  But at the time, this game had so much going for it.  It was technically well made with all sorts of eye candy and the cool ability to design your own decals.  But I always felt it was a very balanced game, and one I STILL pick up and play on occasion today.  The music is fantastic as well.  Just a couple notes and I can vividly remember late Friday nights and Saturday mornings racing these tracks still long after the rest of my family went to bed.

RC Pro-AM.  This game has a special place in my heart.  I’m not sure when we got it.  It just seems like it’s always been there.  If you were to pick a Fun Melon and squeeze it dry, what collected would be RC Pro-AM.  It’s demanding, it’s simple, and even if you get really far and lose, you still have just as much fun starting over as you did on level 26, which I think is the farthest I ever made it in that game.

Gran Turismo 3 is the sole reason I bought a PS2.  I remember I bought the red box pack-in that came out right after my birthday.  The extra birthday money I received helped offset the hefty $329 price tag.  But it was worth it.  I poured hours into this game.  It’s one of those that you can get down to the real nitty gritty of your car and tweak absolutely everything.  You can purpose build a car for all out speed, or something for the road courses, the circle track, there was just so much to do and so many details.  It’s my go to “serious” race game.

gt3ps2bundle

World Driver Championship is one of the best driving games of all time.   It didn’t have licensed cars, you couldn’t design your own decals, but on the N64 there isn’t a better looking racing game, and may not even be a better looking game period on the system.  It still looks halfway decent today, which is more than can be said for most every N64 title.  But even a great looking game can be ruined by mediocre gameplay.  But WDC doesn’t let up there.  The tracks are fantastic.  Changes in elevation, the number of tracks, and then each track has around three or four variants that keep it interesting.  The controls are balanced, the cars are fun to drive.  If you like driving games, and haven’t played this, it’s worth getting an N64 just to play it.

But there’s one racing series that, for me, stands apart from all others.  Even when I went to write this I thought to myself, “I know I need to put a list together, but it’s just not fair to all these other great games that they have to compete with… Mario Kart.”

I’ll start with the newest Mario Kart, Mario Kart 7.  I wasn’t expecting much from this game.  I had almost felt after Mario Kart Wii that the series had finally run its course.  But Mario Kart 7 rekindled that flame of what a great MK game really is all about.  Fun, quick to learn, difficult to master and great tracks.  I found myself enjoying it MUCH more than I anticipated.  And racing online is a total blast, but I’m not too sure they’ll be Wi-Fi on this island I’ll be stranded on.  I guess there’s no guarantee there’ll be electricity either so this list is kinda nuts anyway…

Mario Kart: Super Circuit is one of those few games that I truly treasure.  It’s a game that I deeply invested time and energy into.  I feel like I have a greater amount of ownership over that game than the average person.  Back in the 00’s, I was a regular of the IGN Boards.  When Super Circuit came out, a few of the members decided to start a Time Trials competition.  I spent hours working on times, and then hours more posting and talking about them.  Infact the only real reason I ever bought a digital camera was to post my Super Circuit times on IGN.  Those are happy memories.  But there is no other game I’m more invested in than the next one.

The Winner:

Mario Kart 64

It’s the reason for my internet handle I still use today.  It’s the reason I constantly look for good N64 controllers.  It’s the reason I didn’t get a lot of homework done.  And it’s the reason a lot of people just won’t play games with me.  I think no game am I better at, no game have I spent more time playing, and no game has completely consumed me the way Mario Kart 64 has.  I could probably write a book about this game.

I was and still am a Time Trials freak.  I know my times aren’t world records or anything, but the represent a lot, to me at least.  Is this is?  Is this my favorite game of all time?  I don’t know… maybe.  It is certainly something special though.  And it’s one thing that I couldn’t imagine leaving behind if I had the choice.

Check back soon, and I’ll be trying to figure out which Puzzle Game makes The List!

The List: One Sports Game

I haven’t been much of a sports fan until recently, so my selection of sports games has been somewhat limited.  But even since the beginning, I have always enjoyed a fun sports game.  Ice Hockey on NES comes to mind as one of my earliest memories playing a sports themed game.  Dad and I used to play each other back when I was like 6 or 8 years old and he would totally kick my butt every time.  Mike Tyson’s Punchout was another phenomenal retro sports game that I love to revisit all the time.  Having it on the Wii U virtual console and potable makes it even better!

A lot of the “sports” games I own tend to fall under the arcade sports genre.  Games in the Mario Sports line and NBA Hangtime are great games, but they are certainly a stretch on the sports they are based on.  So the decision had to be made, do I include these games to compete with more authentic sports games like PGA Tour Golf?  I came to the conclusion that yes, I would include them, because they simply wouldn’t have a chance to win anywhere else.  And given my meager sports game catalog it helps beef it out a bit.

Which sports game would I choose to play for the rest of time?  Here’s “The List”:

Even though this is one of my less passionate genres, this is a really tough choice!  I would hate to give up the nostalgia that the NES games provide.  Games like Ice Hockey and Punch Out have aged well, and play so solidly.  But could I play them all to the end of time, I don’t know.  Definitely not Tecmo Bowl, it just gets too samey after a while.  And I would get tired of Punch Out kicking my ass.  Ice Hockey, though… I may be able to play that game forever.

I have probably had the most fun playing with friends, games like Mario Strikers, or NBA Hangtime.  If I say, “A baseline leaner”, anybody who has played Hangtime can vividly hear the voice from the game in their head.  Mario Golf & Tennis are just highly polished and fun games.  I could see myself playing any of those games for a long time… if I had friends to play them with.  Most of them haven’t been dusted off in a while, because they just aren’t as much fun to play solo.

I have to seriously consider Wii Sports.  For a simple and free pack in game it was totally awesome.  I still say one of the best parts was being able to play with all your Miis.  Having Grandma Dee hit a home run on my baseball team, can not be beat.  We also had some very competitive matches in that game that were so intense feelings were hurt.  Now that’s a good game.

But then you have the realistic sports games like Madden, NCAA Football, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour, you can not only roleplay as your favorite team or player, but you can really get down to the nitty gritty of the game.

And the decision is…

Madden 25 (Or whatever the latest version is)

Madden 25 (Or whatever the latest version is)

Replay-ability has a lot to do with this list.  And when it comes down to it, Madden is always one of those games that I wish I had more time to spend with it.  Franchise mode alone could be enough.  But you can do complete fantasy drafts, different play modes, challenges, there’s just really a lot to do, and a lot to play that could last a long time.  You can play your franchise out to the next quarter century if you want to.  So if I could only take one sports game with me, I’d take Madden (whatever the latest version happens to be).

Time… It Flies.

It is almost literally impossible for me to believe that this was just last year.

The List

This will begin a difficult series of posts.  It’s the beginning of another fall sports season and there are a lot of teams out there making cuts.  They’re whittling their best players down to the best of the best.

Well when it comes to games, there are literally hundreds of phenomenal games out there that deserve to be played and re-played.  But if you had to cut it all down to a starting lineup, who would make the cut?

I’m going to go through my games in my collection and decide, if I had to leave it all behind and pick one game to represent each genre, one game that I could play over and over in that category, what would it be?  So I’m going to have to make some tough choices to determine my all time favorite game in each of the following genres:

  • Action/Adventure
  • Arcade
  • Fighting
  • First Person Shooter
  • Party
  • Platform
  • Puzzle
  • Racing
  • Role Playing Game
  • Simulation
  • Strategy
  • Sports

Did I leave out any important categories?  Let me know in the comments.

I’m going to have to leave some really great games on the shelf.  And just to warn you in some of the categories like Fighting, there WILL be some great games left out of discussion entirely because those are genres I just never quite got into and as such some iconic games I simply never have played. They will still be represented though.

Then my ultimate goal is once this list is completed, to PLAY these games, capture the video, produce it out and make a show out of it.  This will become my project for Friday night’s “Project Night”.  None of that can commence though until “The List” is finalized.

So check back soon as I make the final cut for my defacto “Sports Game”!