Journey With The Doctor To The Edge Of Time

Doctor Who: The Edge of Time

I can understand why it's a challenge to make a video game based on Doctor Who that honors the spirit of the source material.  The Doctor abhors guns, so a shooter is out of the question.  You could make a platformer because the Doctor and his/her companions certainly do a lot of running, but there's not much of the show's soul in a jumpfest.  Match-5 puzzle game?  Well, now you're not even trying!  Thankfully, the folks at the BBC, PlayStack, and developer Maze Theory have seemingly cracked the puzzle of what it takes to make a solid Doctor Who game with a VR adventure that casts the player in the role of the Doctor's latest assistant who must come to the rescue when she (voiced by Jodie Whittaker from the television series) needs help solving the latest universe-ending jam.  Doctor Who: The Edge of Time released last week for the PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Vive Cosmos.  Here's a bit of the press release that summarizes the experience:

Armed with the iconic Sonic Screwdriver, players will solve mind-bending puzzles, grapple with classic monsters and encounter new horizons in a quest to find the Doctor and defeat a powerful force that threatens to destroy the fabric of reality. They will face the infamous Daleks and other known faces from the Doctor’s world plus some brand new never-before-seen monsters as they travel through stunning cinematic environments that truly bring the show to life!

The Doctor has been hurled through time to the end of the universe. A virus that threatens to rip apart reality itself has been unleashed. Players can pilot the TARDIS on a journey across worlds both familiar and strange to recover a series of powerful time crystals that can repair spacetime and ultimately, save the universe itself.

I've been playing the game on PSVR and am impressed with what I've seen so far.  I mean, I get to wave a sonic screwdriver around to make things happen, and that right there is at least 25% of what you need for a real Doctor Who game.  The rest comes from monsters both familiar and new, an engaging story that feels like an episode of the TV show (even the opening credits have been reworked for VR, sending players hurtling through the time vortex in first-person), solving puzzles, and finally being able to remark for myself that "It's bigger on the inside" when I step inside the TARDIS for the first time.  I have more to play before I'm ready to write a review and issue a verdict, but first impressions are solid except for one issue: as I unfortunately experienced with Borderlands 2 VR, playing the game for more than twenty minutes or so makes me incredibly nauseated.  I swear there's a monkey's paw at work because the more I want to play a VR game, the more likely it is to make me sick.  My girlfriend (who is also a gamer and Doctor Who fanatic) and I have decided to switch off playing every few minutes so that we can recover from nausea by watching the old fashioned 2D television screen while the other one wears the PSVR helmet.  We'll solve the puzzles together and stave off stomach issues just like in one of those grand romantic montages from an old movie.  I'd like to think that the Doctor would appreciate our teamwork.


Bart Simpson Just Wants To Play His Games

The SimpsonsHere's a fun blast from the past courtesy of @90sManiax on Twitter.  Acclaim published a series of poor-to-lackluster games based on The Simpsons in the early 1990s for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Super NES, Sega Master System, and Sega Genesis, and here we have an advertisement for several of the titles featuring original Simpsons animation as Bart tries to avoid his chore obligations in order to play.  The three games advertised here - Bart vs the Space Mutants, Bart vs the World, and Bart Simpson's Escape from Camp Deadly - were all semi-popular in their day based solely on the red-hot Simpsons license, but had little to recommend in terms of gameplay.  Even for NES games, these products were extremely basic with poor hit detection, grating sound, and unintuitive controls.  I rented both NES games at different times in that era based just on being a fan of the license and came away disappointed.  It wasn't until 1992's Bart's Nightmare for the Super NES that I finally found a Simpsons game worth owning, and even it isn't reaching its full potential.  It was in 2007's The Simpsons Game that the property finally succeeded in the gaming world, largely because publisher Electronic Arts brought in the writers and animators from the television show to work on it.  Now that's how you use a license!

(Image via Retromags)


Power Button - Episode 296: Super Fun Holiday Season Gaming Preview Show

Power ButtonWith only about six weeks left in 2019 we are staring down the end of the year and all of the new games that come along with it.  This week Blake Grundman and I are talking about all of the new games due out between now and the end of December that we want to check out including titles like Luigi's Mansion 3, Death Stranding, Mario & Sonic the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, and more.  It's a great season to play some games!   Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, find us on Stitcher, subscribe via iTunes and Google Play, 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. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way. 


Mini-Review: Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

It's become a surprising tradition since the Wii era that whenever the Olympic Games gear up for another installment, Nintendo's Super Mario and Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog will be there for a fresh round of sports mini-games featuring the extended casts of both franchises.  Now in its sixth iteration in celebration of next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 covers familiar territory in new ways for the first time on the Nintendo Switch.  The big draw to this sequel is the new 2D retro event series in which the Mushroom Kingdom and Green Hill Zone gangs trade their shiny 3D models for old fashioned, nostalgic sprites from the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis days.  What justifies the throwback?  It seems that Dr. Eggman and Bowser are cooking up a new scheme to be rid of their nemeses once and for all...

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The Terminator's Greatest Hits

Terminator 2The Terminator just won't die - both the T-800 killing machine and the franchise that it spawned.  The sixth film in the series, Terminator: Dark Fate is in theaters now and it tosses aside the newly established continuity from the fifth film, Terminator: Genysis, which threw away the continuity from the fourth film, Terminator: Salvation, which dumped the continuity from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (not to mention the television continuity of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).  Thanks to the timey-wimey ball, all sorts of Terminator media has been disowned from its parent franchise.  These Skynet-style erasures from history do not impact the various Terminator video games because, like most tie-in media of their eras, nobody ever expected the games to officially tie into anything.  Luke McKinney at Den of Geek recaps the Terminator games spanning from the original film all the way up to Terminator: Salvation.  What I found strange was that the games based on the original 1984 film are not for Atari or contemporary hardware from its day, but hail from the early 1990s.  I had no idea there was a Terminator game for the Sega CD, for instance.

This isn't just the best original Terminator game, it's one of the best Terminator anythings. In 1993, this truly felt like future technology had been sent back in time to kick our human asses, and was so good at the job we enjoyed the process. It didn't waste then-revolutionary CD storage capacity on overlong FMV (Fuzzy Massive Video). It knew we were playing because we'd already seen a great movie and we wanted to kick ass. It filled all that extra space for explosions and rock music, and both blasted big holes in the timestream.

If this games' version of Kyle Reese had been in the movie, he'd have blown the Terminator apart, leapt over the pieces, slam-dunked grenades into Skynet's central processing unit, and carried Sarah Connor into a future where the only "road of bones" was their honeymoon. If John Connor had had this Kyle for a father in Terminator 2, the kid wouldn't have been such a wise ass.

Of the Terminator games I have played over the years, none of them captured both the essence of the films and a fun gaming experience.  I put more time than I should have into Terminator: Salvation for the Sony PlayStation 3 because I'm a fan of the franchise and the developer behind the game, the late lamented GRIN of Bionic Commando fame; plus the game awards nothing but gold trophies.  No bronze, no silver, just gold for completing each level.  Sadly, it's really not worth the effort.  The game is a grim bullet-sponge shooter with little to redeem it.  The strange thing is that I don't know why I own the game.  I don't remember buying it and it's not the kind of game I would purposefully acquire because of its poor reputation.  GRIN was already circling the drain by this point and purportedly rushed the game to shelves which explains its half-finished nature in places.  I didn't review it for Kombo according to my records.  It's just on my shelf without an explanation.  Clearly this is Skynet meddling with time again.  The futuristic AI has already erased one Terminator game from history.


Can You Survive The 8-Bit Nightmare?

Bloodstained: Ritual of the NightEach year on Halloween at PTB we take a moment to appreciate something from the world or lore of Konami's Castlevania franchise, but this year we're looking at something a little more Castlevania-adjacent.  Koji Igarashi's long-awaited spiritual successor to Castlevania, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, finally reached stores earlier this year and one of the hidden areas that players may overlook at a tribute to those original Castlevania titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The 8-Bit Nightmare sends heroine Miriam into a side-scrolling level fashioned after the classic NES trilogy complete with legally distinct versions of ghosts, zombies, and bone dragon pillars originally made famous by Igarashi's previous series.  Kotaku tells you how to find the area (it's twice hidden as a secret room accessible from another secret room), but beware: it's a challenge!


Sony To Discontinue PlayStation Vue

PlayStation VueAfter five years of trying to make its live TV streaming service a success, Sony has announced that it is shutting down PlayStation Vue.  A precursor to similar services such as Hulu's live TV service and YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue offered a variety of so-called "skinny" bundles of cable and local broadcast television channels as a streaming replacement for traditional cable TV.  The idea was that instead of paying a cable company for a glut of channels you'd never watch just to get access to the few that you do want, Vue would let you buy smaller packages of channels such as AMC, FX, and TBS.  This was a great idea when the service first launched, but in an effort to stay competitive, management began adding additional bundles of channels to even the most basic levels of service while gradually inflating the price and it wasn't long before the monthly cost of the service was comparative to the traditional cable model it was trying to eschew.  Worse, the new channels added to the service was some of the garbage channels that viewers were trying to ditch in droves by cutting the cable cord in the first place.  You start out only wanting your favorite TNT dramas and suddenly you're paying $85 a month for a service tier including channels like Babyfirst and the Olympic Channel.  The PlayStation  Blog bids farewell to Vue.

Today we are announcing that we will shut down the PlayStation Vue service on January 30, 2020. Unfortunately, the highly competitive Pay TV industry, with expensive content and network deals, has been slower to change than we expected. Because of this, we have decided to remain focused on our core gaming business.

While sad to see Vue come to an end, it's probably for the best.  Price increases and an increasingly lackluster library of channels weren't winning any fans, and while the service has 800,000 subscribers, it's long since been surpassed by services like Hulu's live TV service which boasts nearly 2,000,000 subscribers.  It probably didn't help that by branding Vue with the PlayStation name, prospective customers assumed they would need a PlayStation to access the service which is not true; apps for mobile devices and set-top streaming boxes such as Amazon Fire TV have been available for years.  There's also the baggage that the PlayStation name carries with it, implying to the uninitiated that the service is related to gaming instead of general television.  I can't help but wonder if Vue had not been tied to the PlayStation brand and if it had stayed true to its mission of only offering small channel bundles that people wanted to watch for a fair price, it would have found success.  There are already too many ways to overpay for channels we never watch.  We certainly didn't need another option.


Missing Pieces Of Sega History Reappear

Sega multimedia demoIt's funny how sometimes when you least expect it the answers to long-running questions suddenly just appear.  I remember eagerly making my way through an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly back in 1992 and coming across a quick blurb discussing Sega's upcoming CD-ROM peripheral for the Sega Genesis and how the company was working on a CD version of the then-upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 2.  The article even had screenshots to back up the claim.  Of course, now we know that the CD Sonic project became Sonic the Hedgehog CD and was its own thing compared to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but those screenshots of Sonic holding a CD that Dr. Robotnik wanted to take from him didn't turn up in either game and ended up as lost gaming lore.  The EGM piece states that the screens are from technical demo that may not end up as part of the final product, but now we know for certain that is the case as HiddenPalace.org has posted the original Sega CD demo for curious fans to discover.

Among the exhibits present at the show for the Sega CD was a technical showcase of what the Sega CD was capable of. The demo features everything that the Sega CD would be known for - full motion video, sprite rotation and scaling, a larger color palette, and CD quality audio, all presented in a neat five minute presentation running on actual hardware! This was one of the very first projects that the Sega Multimedia Studio would create before going on to create Jurassic Park for the Sega CD - a project that would end up taking over 20 months to complete. The demo features clips from then upcoming films such as Cool World, Batman Returns, and even a little clip from a Bugs Bunny cartoon (a clip from "The Big Snooze" no less)! While the demo is very sporadic with what it presents, almost seemingly random for the sake of throwing things on the screen, it's a nice demonstration of not only what the Sega CD could do, but what the Sega Multimedia Studio were capable of.

Unfortunately, not everyone present at the show was aware of what they were really seeing. Reports of a Sonic game exclusively for the Sega CD can go as far back as February of 1992 under the title "Super Sonic". With rumors of the upcoming Sonic 2 appearing at SCES 92, and the fact that expectations were set with the upcoming Sega CD, it's no wonder that the first instance of Sonic appearing on the Sega CD was misidentified as a new Sonic title. Each video game magazine at the time would take the same shots of Sonic (not of anything else from the demo, suspiciously) and would write how it was proof that the screenshots were of either an upcoming Sega CD exclusive title, a Sonic 2 port, or even a Sonic 1 port.

Of course all of the magazines of the day published articles "confirming" this demo as proof of a Sonic title for the Sega CD.  Sonic the Hedgehog sold magazines back in his prime, and word on a new (or even old!) Sonic game for the new hardware would draw much more attention and interest than an article drying explaining the contents of a five-minute demo reel that only included Sonic for an moment.  Today we'd call such articles clickbait, but back then it was just called "selling magazines".  And speaking of Sonic CD, HiddenPalace.org has also released a series of eight in-development versions of the game spanning from early work to nearly finished product, so there's plenty for Sonic fans to check out this weekend.  As a fan from way back who remembers reading about all of this stuff in magazines such as EGM, it's great to have a chance to see exactly what it all was and learn about its place in gaming history.


Mini-Review: Star Fox: Assault

Star Fox: Assault This article was originally published at Kombo.com on February 11, 2005. 

Whenever danger faces the Lylat System, General Pepper turns to the heroes-for-hire Star Fox team to eradicate the enemy menace and restore civility to the solar system. The Star Fox team's battles against the twisted scientist Andross have become stories of legend, primarily because each title in the series has some level of notoriety surrounding it: the original Star Fox brought us the Super FX Chip, Star Fox 2 is still considered "the one that got away", Star Fox 64 rocked our world with the Rumble Pak, and Star Fox Adventures received more attention as the first and last Rareware title for the GameCube than for the actual gameplay itself. Now Nintendo and Namco have teamed up to create the latest installment of the Star Fox saga, Star Fox: Assault, and for the first time Fox McCloud and friends have to stand alone without new technology or nostalgia covering their backs.

One year after the events on Sauria the last of Andross’s troops are attempting to regroup near the planet Fortuna when Cornerian military forces engage the enemy fleet. Andrew Oikonny, the nephew of the late Andross and former member of the renegade Star Wolf team, is attempting to lead his hired troops to glory in a plan to follow in his uncle’s footsteps. The Star Fox team arrives just in time to pursue Oikonny to the planet’s surface where, without warning, a large creature plummets from space and crashes into the would-be emperor’s ship, destroying it. This interstellar visitor is no friend, however. It is an Aparoid, a member of a species of insectoid-like creatures that are devoted to consuming the resources and residents of neighboring solar systems. As the Aparoids invade the Lylat System the Star Fox team springs into action, determined to destroy the enemy menace.

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