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Let's Watch Zen Pinball 2's "Balls Of Glory" Pack Featuring American Dad and Family Guy

American Dad PinballZen Studios won't release its new Balls Of Glory pack for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 until next week, but I was provided with a pre-release copy of the new pinball tables featuring American Dad, Family Guy, Archer, and Bob's Burgers in all their bumper and flipper glory, so I just have to share some gameplay video of me learning the ins and outs of Stan Smith's CIA challenges and Peter Griffin fighting Ernie the Giant Chicken on the table.  There's even a skirmish with Stewie's half-brother Bertram in there and you'll see me nail the Avery Bullock skill shot three times in a row.  Despite the overuse of certain sound clips from the television shows (the American Dad table loves to replay Klaus explaining the "Wheels and the Legman" gimmick and Patrick Stewart's Bullock often says "You're a complicated man, Smith"*), overall I'm enjoying these tables and all of the nods to their source material.

* The game cuts off the rest of this Bullock quote which is "I would love to do mushrooms with you."  I find myself saying it aloud just to finish it.

American Dad Pinball Table Coming From Zen Studios

Good morning, USA!  I've been very vocal about my madman's dream of a milk-proof robot American Dad pinball table, so I'm overjoyed today that Zen Studios has announced it is working on a table featuring the Smith family for its Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 products.  Coming soon along with tables based on Family Guy and Bob's Burgers in the Balls Of Glory pack, Zen has already teased another table as part of the bundle.  What'll be next presumably from the FOX animation line-up?  The Cleveland ShowThe SimpsonsFuturama?  Jon Lovitz returning to The Critic?  Whatever the answer, I have a feeling it's going to be a wonderful day.

What Is This? A Pinball Table For Ants?

Ant-ManZen Studios continues its fruitful partnership with Marvel with another pinball table for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 based on a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  Ant-Man is the latest movie to cross over to the world of pinball, bringing a set of flippers and bumpers featuring elements and set pieces from the Paul Rudd / Michael Douglas action-comedy.  See the table in action as I run through it for the first time.  I always like to go into new Zen tables blind without reading the table guide first, so I have no idea what I'm supposed to do on the Ant-Man table in this video, but I think I start to find some of the sweet spots pretty quickly.  Next time I'll try and trigger a mission or two, perhaps.

See The Portal Pinball Table In Action

Thanks to developer Zen Studios providing me with early access, I've spent the weekend exploring the company's newest pinball table based on Valve's popular Portal seriesWatch as I set a new high score by completing missions while GLaDOS takes shots at me, Wheatley interferes, and Ratman lurks in the shadows.  It's another winning table for Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball FX2 with plenty of fun little touches from the series.  The Portal table is available across the Zen product line starting this week.

Portal Pinball Table Coming From Zen Studios

PortalThe busy people at Zen Studios must never sleep because they keep cranking out new pinball tables at an increasingly amazing pace.  Just weeks after sending tables based on Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Rebels out into the world, the company has announced this morning that it's teamed with Valve to create a new table based on Portal.  It's due out the week of May 25, 2015 across the Zen line.  Here's what to expect via the Zen Studios blog:

Guide Chell and Wheatley through test chambers by navigating portals, using aerial faith plates, defeating turrets and facing other obstacles, and battling against GLaDOS as you attempt to escape the facility and reach the surface. Team up with ATLAS and P-Body for their Cooperative Testing Initiative Multiball and wreak havok on the Turret Factory by discovering Ratman’s hidden mini playfield.

I'm calling it right now: combining pinball and thinking with portals will make this one of the most challenging Zen tables ever made.  It's hard enough to follow the ball sometimes as it is, but once we add folding space to toss the ball all over the table, I know I'm going to need some serious practice to keep up with this one.  The description certainly sounds like they're making good use of the Portal license though, so I look forward to finding out how true they stay to the source material.

Power Button - Episode 171: Nintendo App-rehensions

Power ButtonThings get heated on this week's episode of the Power Button podcast as we discuss Nintendo's recent announcement that it's partnering with mobile publisher DeNA to come to the smartphone and tablet app store near you.  Nintendo is also working on its next traditional video game console, codenamed NX, and we spend some time hashing that revelation out and how it relates to the mobile news, too.  Round 1!  FIGHT!  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton.

Nintendo Going Mobile, Announces New NX Console

Mario jumpsNintendo announced a partnership with Japanese mobile platform DeNA this morning, signaling an intent to bring its popular franchises and talents into the smartphone/tablet space.  Here's Mike Futter at Game Informer to explain:

The games that DeNA will be working on are completely new, rather than ports of existing titles. Nintendo's entire slate of intellectual property is open to the mobile company to tap for its creations. Nintendo continues to hope that its mobile presence will drive interest in its dedicated video game console devices, something the company has stated as a goal for entering the smartphone and tablet space. 

In addition, DeNA will be developing a membership service for Nintendo that will be accessible on PC, 3DS, and Wii U. The as yet unnamed service is targeted for launch later this year, however it was not specified if this will be a regional rollout or if the duo will attempt worldwide release.

As if that's not enough of a business bombshell, it was also announced that Nintendo's next dedicated gaming console, codenamed NX, is in the works.  We'll hear more about that and how it fits into the DeNA deal in 2016.  Here's Stephen Totilo at Kotaku to explain what we know about the NX:

Seeking to put off questions that Nintendo's future would be entirely mobile, Iwata says that Nintendo is still very much in the "dedicated video game system market", and that their next piece of gaming hardware is code-named the "NX".

"Nintendo has decided to deploy its video game business on smart devices, but it is not because we have lost our passion or vision for the business of dedicated video game systems", he said.

"On the contrary, because now we have decided on how we will make use of smart devices, we have come to hold an even stronger passion and vision for the dedicated video game system business than before." 

"Now that we're less devoted to the dedicated video game system business, we're more devoted than ever before!" Talk about your double-talk. Iwata should run for office.

"As proof that Nintendo maintains strong enthusiasm for the dedicated game system business", Iwata adds, "let me confirm that Nintendo is currently developing a dedicated game platform with a brand new concept under the development codename 'NX'."

Continue reading "Nintendo Going Mobile, Announces New NX Console" »

Last Dance With The iPhone 4S

iPhone 4SI'd been pushing my iPhone 4S long past its expiration date.  Purchased in June 2012 after my iPhone 4 did a spinning flip off of a countertop and smashed screen-first into a cabinet handle, my trusty 4S had been showing signs of wear and tear for a while.  No cracks, scratches, or cosmetic damage, thankfully, but instead I'd noticed little things like ongoing decreased battery life, apps frequently crashing, apps forgetting data, settings not staying set, and the ballooning of "Other" data that iTunes was unable to recognize, delete, or handle that had filled up the gadget's meager 16 GB of storage.  The phone even refused to be wiped for a fresh install from a backup.  I keep my technology around until I've clearly worn it out, so the 4S's time had clearly come.  It was time to upgrade.  Like all technology transitions though, nothing is ever as easy as it sounds.

Continue reading "Last Dance With The iPhone 4S" »

Power Button - Episode 162: The Great Prognosticus Predicts!

Power ButtonGaze into the future with this week's episode of Power Button in which our in-house seer, The Great Prognosticus, speculates on what the year 2015 holds for trends in the video game industry.  Marvel at potential price drops!  Wonder at the bottom falling out of the crowdfunding movement!  Look onward to where Destiny will go!  Fear the coming glut of microtransactions!  Tomorrow's just your future yesterday.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. Next Time: Preorder early and often if you want to get your hands on our discussion of limited collector edition releases. Ryan Olsen of MonkeyPaw Games is your exclusive pack-in for this spirited discussion.

Sonic The Hedgehog 3 Pitched For iOS

Sonic 3 and KnucklesOver the past few years we've been treated to completely revised and improved versions of Sonic CD, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 for iOS and Android, but the best of the original Sega Genesis era, Sonic the Hedgehog 3 locked on with Sonic & Knuckles, has yet to arrive on mobile platforms.  The developers behind the previous releases have come up with a proof of concept vertical slice of the beloved game running on iOS and now hope to convince Sega to fund actual development.  Here's a video of the demo in action showcasing Angel Island Zone and a lengthy blog post detailing the technical challenges in bringing Sonic 3 up to modern expectations.

Aside from the tricks used to make each level more interesting visually, the levels themselves were also filled with various gimmicks and events with a wide range in degree of complexity. For a legitimate remake project, all of these things would have to be duplicated in exact detail. This is something with which we took great care in re-creating Sonic 1 and Sonic 2, and so, we’d expect no less from ourselves in the case of Sonic 3 (& Knuckles). However, in some ways, this makes the job of re-creating the game somewhat more difficult than when the game was first created from scratch, because instead of being the ones who make the decisions, design the methods, and plant Easter Eggs and other subtleties on a whim, we instead have to fully understand and accurately reproduce what was already done in a way that is virtually indistinguishable from the original.

This is actually where our different methods come into play. By preference, Taxman has acted mostly on the basis of observation, carefully observing what happens at run-time and then reproducing it with his own methods. When I was brought into these projects, one of the reasons was that my understanding of Sonic the Hedgehog came from an understanding of the original assembly code itself, and experience with reading and manipulating it. This meant that I was able to take specific methods from the original code and apply them to whatever else I was doing, which in this case, was re-creating the games using the RSDK. It was especially handy when observation couldn’t readily, or at all, explain what was happening. Observation also has its merits, though, as it’s a great time-saver in straight-forward cases, and there are advantages to writing your own code without bias, such as the potential for more-easily creating cleaner and more versatile code, and guaranteeing a from-the-ground-up understanding of the method. That’s not to mention how repeated observation can expose strange exceptions. The code, too, could easily expose an obscure behavior in some cases, or at the very least, be used to easily obtain exact values. I tend to move between the two as it feels appropriate, and between the two of us, we seem to catch pretty much everything.

While I'm not much of a fan of touchscreen gaming when it comes to platformers (I prefer a control pad and actual buttons for precise control), I eagerly bought all three Sonic re-releases for iOS as they were released.  They play very well for iOS games largely because of the loving care that went into development and the simple fact that Sonic only needs one action button to play rather than separate buttons for jumping, shooting, item use, etc. as more complex games require.  I'd really like to see Sega get involved with this pitch and greenlight proper development.  More mobile releases would be nice, but this version would really fly on modern consoles and PC.  One assumes Sega has crunched the numbers on this sort of thing and come to the conclusion that it's not financially viable, but I can't believe that one of the best hits from the Genesis era could be unprofitable in today's market.  Sonic isn't what he used to be, but his original adventures still stand the test of time.