Boxboy Comics Are Charmingly Cute

BoxBoy!

Nintendo and HAL have created something simplistically challenging in the BoxBoy! series for the Nintendo 3DS, and while the puzzle-platformer title is short on colorful details, it's long on personality.  Take the star of BoxBoy!, for instance.  Qbby is just a square with eyes and legs, and yet he oozes charm.  We only see him walk, jump, and occasionally dance in the game, but over at the official BoxBoy! website you'll find him starring in short yonkoma comics in which he gets into all kinds of misadventures.  They're delightful little quick hits of BoxBoy! fun.


Assassin's Creed Comes Home For The Holidays As A Hallmark Ornament

Assassin's Creed Hallmark ornamentWhen I was growing up and the holidays set in, my family would decorate our house with all kinds of creative decorations and ornaments, and I always looked forward to going to Hallmark with my mother to pick out our new ornament for the season.  The Star Trek collection caught my eye quickly in the 1990s when the company began making Next Generation ornaments such as the Enterprise-D and Captain Picard, but being a video game player, I wanted official ornaments of Mario, Mega Man, and Link.  Games were still "just a kids thing" at that time though, and it wasn't until just recently that game publishers realized they could license their IP on a decorative scale.  Last year GameStop offered a collection of officially licensed Super Mario Maker ornaments, for instance, and I've seen some Super Mario Galaxy and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword ornaments as well, but they're standard spherical bulbs with existing stock character artwork on them.  That's a step in the right direction, but I know everyone involved can do better.  Ubisoft is taking that leap this year with most detailed video game character ornament yet.  Hallmark is poised to sell an Assassin's Creed ornament featuring everyone's favorite Renaissance assassin, Ezio Auditore.

You better watch your back with this ornament! Ezio Auditore da Firenze from the video game series Assassin's Creed will make a brave and mighty statement hanging on your tree.

Ezio will sell for $15.95 when he releases in November 2016.  Somewhere along the way I became a pop culture ornament collector, and Ezio will join my other ornaments based on Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, and, of course, a whole lot of Star Trek.  I hope that if Ezio sells well we will see many more video game ornaments in the years to come.  There are plenty of other Assassin's Creed characters to feature, of course, but let's see some Katamari Damacy ornaments with the Prince of All Cosmos, Ratchet and Clank characters to hang from the tree, and I'm going to need more shelf space and more disposable income if Capcom ever comes up with ornaments of the classic Robot Masters from the world of Mega Man.


Mini-Review: A Boy And His Blob

A Boy and His Blob

This review was originally published at Kombo.com on November 11, 2009.

Relaunching the original Nintendo Entertainment System adventure of the same name, WayForward Technologies and Majesco have come together to put A Boy and His Blob back on the right path in a new for Nintendo Wii title that overhauls the original clunky gameplay while elevating the sweet tone. When a friendly alien from a distant planet - the blob - crashes on Earth, he befriends a local human - the boy - to aid him in saving his homeworld from the evil emperor. Armed only with a bag of jellybeans that enable the blob to transform into various helpful forms such as ladders, trampolines, cannons, parachutes, and even a rocket, they will progress through forty stages of puzzle platforming action that takes them across the planet and deep into space.  

A Boy and His Blob's most impressive attribute is its heartwarmingly adorable art direction. Everything in the boy's world is smoothly animated, inviting, and charming. Some levels even make endearing use of shadows and silhouettes to help paint an emotional picture of the bond between the two heroes. Considering that the boy and the blog are silent protagonists (well, the boy does occasionally call out to the blob to hurry), all of the characterization comes from the various visual elements. The game even goes out of its way to avoid distracting the player with on-screen meters and indicators which lends a cinematic vibe to the action. Fans of the original NES game will spot the tribute to the 1989 adventure in Stage 11 immediately, too.

As far as the action itself goes, each level tasks the duo with reaching the golden jellybean at the end of each stage. Along the way are enemies and hazards that must be dispatched or avoided with the blob's transformations. Be prepared to crush foes with a blob-anvil, float by enemies with a blob-parachute, drop them to lower levels with a blob-hole, and other such activities. Along the way are three treasure chests that can be collected, which unlock a grand total of forty challenge levels. This is not a game that one will want to play for consecutive hours, as the concept began to grow a little tedious after playing five or six stages in a row. Dividing the game's eighty levels into little groups results in impressive longevity.

There's not much to complain about with A Boy and His Blob. The boss battles that cap each world take some trial and error to complete, but what's a video game without the need to repeat sections from time to time?  Sadly, I fear that A Boy and His Blob will be overlooked by the market in favor of games with flashier boxes and larger marketing budgets. WayForward and Majesco have produced a top notch title that carries the spirit of the original game and brings in plenty of new material. This is an entertaining, semi-challenging, adorable adventure for the ages that you must not miss.

A Boy and His Blob is also available on the Sony PlayStation 3, PS3, PS Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, and Linux as of 2016.


The OneUps Bring You Part Seven

Metal ManSomewhere along the line when I wasn't paying attention, my favorite video game music cover band, The OneUps, released a new album.  Entitled Part Seven, this latest release includes songs from Final Fantasy VI, Double Dragon, F-Zero, Donkey Kong Country, EarthBound, and many more each performed in the band's unique jazzy funk style.  Check out this version of Metal Man's famous theme from Capcom's classic Mega Man 2, "Saw VIII", and prepare to be impressed.  You can download the entire album from many of the usual digital storefronts including Amazon. If this is your first exposure to the band, I highly recommend that you check out their complete discography. Fans of video game music from the medium's most beloved franchises will find so much to enjoy.


Here's All Three Hours Of Street Fighter V's Story Mode

It's all the rage these days for gaming websites to offer up complete video streams of new content the day it's released before most people can experience it for themselves, so in that spirit I give you the complete three hours of Street Fighter V's new cinematic story mode.  Thrill as characters trail off in mid-sentence and pose before battle.  I'm still undecided on how satisfied I am with the overall plot, but I'm glad that Capcom went ahead with creating it.  It really adds some meat to the game's basic bones.


Power Button - Episode 210: Seeking Our Fortune With Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (Part 2)

Power ButtonFollowing on from last week's discussion about the first half of Naughty Dog's Uncharted 4: A Thief's End for the Sony PlayStation 4, this week's episode of Power Button digs into the back half of the game and focuses on the adventure's overall themes and relational set pieces.  From cut content that would have filled in some of the gaps to impressive performances by the cast to the game's ultimate strengths and weaknesses, we finish unpacking Nathan Drake's final(?) adventure.  Major spoilers ahead!   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.


Come Get Your Super Mario T-Shirts, Cookies, And Phones In This 1990 Nintendo Retailer Catalog

NES boxes

1990 was a hot time for Nintendo and its retail partners.  This was the era when the Nintendo Entertainment System was king, when a third-party licensee could slap Mario on just about any consumer product to earn a healthy profit, and when games like Boomer's Adventure In Asmik World and Wall Street Kid were positioned as the next big thing.  I remember those crazy days, but if you're too young to have been around for them, then you can vicariously experience the thrill of laminated wood displays and cartridge storage kits with the Official 1990 World of Nintendo Buyers Guide provided by Video Game Ephemera.

The Official 1990 World of Nintendo Buyers Guide was a custom-publishing project aimed at Nintendo’s retail partners, which included more than 6,000 locations with special “World of Nintendo” areas reserved for Nintendo-related products. The article on page 6 describes this type of installation as a “store within a store,” a neighborhood mecca for Mario maniacs.

In the pages between the product listings, you’ll find short articles about certain Nintendo licensees as well as paid ads from some of them. The articles are actually labeled as “advertisements,” so they were obviously paid for as well. Many of the ads speak to consumers, but several of them are written for the people who sold the games. It’s fascinating to see the soft-sell tactics employed by game publishers as they tried to convince retailers to carry their products in the early ’90s. Most of them promise “aggressive” advertising campaigns and dealer support while extending friendly invitations to visit their booths at the Consumer Electronics Show.

This guide and others like it are a peek behind the curtain at the layer of middlemen between Nintendo's licensees and your local retailer down the street.  I remember seeing plenty of these Oakcasestore displays in the Kmarts of my youth when I longed to scarf down the licensed cookies and collect the cards and wear the t-shirts bearing Mario's smiling face.  Nintendo was hot, Nintendo was king, nothing could ever possibly knock Nintendo off its pedestal.  Nope, not at all.  The days of officially licensed cartridge storage cases made of oak will last forever!  Actually, those oak cases do look pretty sweet.  I bet they'd look right at home next to my classic oak VCR cassette storage case.  Not all family heirlooms are impressive or valuable.


Power Button - Episode 209: Seeking Our Fortune With Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (Part 1)

Power_buttonWe are men of fortune here at the Power Button podcast, so on this week's episode we seek our fortune with Naughty Dog's recently released Uncharted 4: A Thief's End for the Sony PlayStation 4.  Join Blake Grundman and I for eighty minutes of adventure through the first sixteen chapters of the game (this is your spoiler warning!).  We cover set pieces, character moments, flashbacks, clever details, and favorite moments.  Rock your half-tuck and tune in.   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, @ThePowerButtonNext Week: The discussion continues with the second part of the conversation as we take your through the end of the game and beyond.


Sony To Pay Out Over PS3 OtherOS Debacle

Sony PlayStation 3Once upon a time, the Sony PlayStation 3 included an option to install an alternative operating system.  Many curious and creative people used the OtherOS option to install Linux on the console, but all good things must come to an end and as hackers started to crack open the PS3's secrets using the OtherOS option as an attack vector, Sony did the logical thing and removed the feature via a firmware update in 2010.  You'd think that would be the end of that, but the action sparked a lawsuit, lawyers became involved, it all went before a judge, and now six years later the company will have to pay out.  ArsTechnica explains who can claim money as part of the settlement.

To get the $55, a gamer "must attest under oath to their purchase of the product and installation of Linux, provide proof of their purchase or serial number and PlayStation Network Sign-in ID, and submit some proof of their use of the Other OS functionality." To get the $9, PS3 owners must submit a claim that, at the time they bought their console, they "knew about the Other OS, relied upon the Other OS functionality, and intended to use the Other OS functionality."

Alternatively, according to the deal, to get $9, a gamer "may attest that he or she lost value and/or desired functionality or was otherwise injured as a consequence of Firmware Update 3.21 issued on April 1, 2010."

At least it's not another tossed-off download voucher for Rain from the PlayStation Store as we've seen so many times in other PlayStation-related settlement agreements.  Please be honest if you file a claim.  If the closest you ever came to installing OtherOS was thinking "Hmm, maybe I'll try that someday" then forget about the $55 pay day.


Explore The Wonderful World Of Amiibo

KirbyFor as popular and successful as Nintendo's amiibo figurines have been in both the fan and collector markets, it seems that few people who own the toys know the extent to which they can link them to all kinds of video games for the Wii U and 3DS.  Yes, the Super Smash Bros. link is well known, but did you know that the amiibo can unlock extra functions in games such as Chibi Robo: Zip Lash, Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, and Kirby and the Rainbow CurseNintendo's messaging needs work, but fortunately the Internet is here to help.  A Twitter user going by the name MoldyClay has put together a massive compatibility chart to spell out which amiibo which work which games and what functions are unlocked when linked together.  From Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. to Mario Kart 8, this chart has it all in one easy-to-read place.  As of this writing, it's up to version 9.0.

As an amiibo owner (I own a dozen of the figurines ranging from commoners like Smash Mario to the hard-to-find Ness), I appreciate this chart to keep track of what I can do with the games I own.  I enjoy amiibo functionality.  That said, what I do not enjoy is that amiibo for characters can split into multiple product lines and one version of a character may not unlock the bonus that another version does.  For example, I own the Smash Bros. Kirby amiibo.  I can use this Kirby in Kirby: Planet Robobot for the 3DS to unlock a hard-to-find Smash power-up for Kirby.  However, only the recently released Kirby amiibo from the new Kirby line of figurines unlocks the exclusive UFO power-up.  I know Nintendo wants to sell me as many amiibo has humanly possible, but buying two Kirbys just doesn't sit right with me.  Kirby should be Kirby regardless of his shape (especially as older amiibo go out of production; it's been a while since I've seen a Smash series Kirby on a store shelf).