Pac-Man's Day Out

Pac-Man 2: The New AdventuresNamco and its partners hit it big with Pac-Man in 1980, but how do you take a maze craze and go larger for a new wave of success after the original experience starts to feel stale?  Hardcore Gaming 101 is chronicling all of Pac-Man's oddball sequels and spinoffs such as puzzler Pac-Attack and the educational Professor Pac-Man, but the game that you absolutely need to notice is 1994's Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures for the Super NES and Sega Genesis.  Dumping all of the maze stuff and focusing more on Pac-Man and his family as characters, Pac-Man 2 requires players to indirectly interact with Pac-Man and influence his behavior without directly controlling him.  It looks like a standard 2D platformer, but it's definitely not!

The actual gameplay would be best described as a point and click adventure, with one very important distinction. You don’t have direct control of Pac-Man himself, as he’ll wander around and interact with the world autonomously. You, the player, have control of a slingshot and a floating hand, which you’ll use to guide Pac-Man around the world. The hand is used to point left or right to get Pac-Man to move in that direction. The slingshot is used to get Pac-Man to notice specific objects, knock them over, or if you’re getting bored, to repeatedly pelt Pac-Man in the face with rocks. He doesn’t like that very much.

Indeed, Pac-Man’s mood and current opinion of you is a major gameplay mechanic, and determines how he’ll interact with the world around him. Various things around Pac-Man can occur to shift his mood, and he’ll often shift between several even without your input. Getting yelled at by the local farmer, for example, will sadden him, while having caterpillars fall on him will make him nervous of everything. There’s a variety of different emotions and degrees of which Pac-Man can feel, from ‘grouchy’, to ‘ear-steamingly, foot-stompingly enraged’, to ‘literally insane’, among many others.

Pac-Man lives in a well-defined world in this game and showcases a number of behaviors and animations far ahead of his time compared to other 2D characters of the era.  Sonic the Hedgehog gets a lot of attention for tapping his foot when he's bored, but Pac-Man spends this game swinging back and forth through a range of emotions from smooth confidence to optimistic joy to slightly miffed to downright pissed to shiveringly terrified.  Pac-Man isn't just a character on screen, he's your pixel pal, and working together the two of you are going to to share a grand adventure.  Treat him right (except when you need to make him mad to proceed) and you're in for a good time.


Power Button - Episode 291: Antiques Sideshow

Power ButtonEveryone wants to believe that a worn copy of Super Mario Bros. may be worth big money someday, but as Chris Kohler at Kotaku recently reported, there's actually some value in familiar games as collectors from other markets swoop into the video game world to pay thousands for games that most people would pass over as common.  On this week's podcast, Blake Grundman and I discuss this new influx of interest in retro games and whether or not it's good for the gaming community at large.  Then we see if either of us has any hidden gold in our collections as Blake digs into his bins of old game cartridges and we find out just how much that used copy of Iron Man X-O Manowar Heavy Metal for Game Boy and a sealed copy of WipeOut 64 are really worth.   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. 


Power Button - Episode 290: Now We're Reminiscing About Portable Power

Power ButtonIn celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Nintendo's famous Game Boy, Blake Grundman and I spend this week's podcast discussing the iconic portable gaming system and remembering our favorite handheld memories.  From our own Game Boy origin stories to classic games such as Super Mario Land, Tetris, and Wario Land to underwhelming licensed games including Ren & Stimpy: Space Cadet Adventures and Home Alone, we honor the big gray brick and recommend a few games you may have overlooked in the past three decades.  Oh, and of course I'm going to tell you to play Bionic Commando.  You had to know that was coming.  And did someone say Pokémon?   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. 


Nintendo Expands

Super NES expansion portThese days if you find a slot on a piece of Nintendo hardware it's likely that it's a place for a standardized piece of technology such as an SD card or a USB port, but the company used to have a knack for adding proprietary ports and slots to its consoles that were used for increasingly esoteric add-ons and upgrades.  Check out this fun article from the Nintendo World Report archives chronicling the history of Nintendo's various expansion ports from Nintendo Entertainment System to Nintendo 64 to Nintendo GameCube and beyond.  How many of these add-ons did you own?  Hint: likely zero.

First up is the Famicom and NES. Unlike the NES, the Famicom came with hard-wired controllers. Any extra controllers and peripherals could be plugged into Nintendo's first expansion port, which was located at the front of the machine. This port was used to host light guns, 3D shutter glasses, keyboards, extra controllers, and other items. Many system expansions plugged directly into the cartridge slot, such as the Famicom Disk System and the Famicom Modem. The Sharp Twin Famicom, a system that combined the Famicom and Disk System into one machine, added an additional three expansion ports, but these remained unused.

The NES shipped with an expansion port on the bottom of the console. On multiple occasions, modems were planned to be connected there. However, the NES expansion port never received a commercial application. Originally, the port was covered by a snap-in cover, but later model systems actually had a plastic tab covering the port completely. The port was still there, but the plastic actually had to broken off to access the port. The lack of expansion port utilization outside of Japan was an ongoing trend that started with Nintendo's first system.

Nintendo had lofty goals that usually went underwhelming fulfilled with most of the expansion port accessories debuting in Japan to provide niche gameplay experiences with experimental ideas and then appearing nowhere else.  Third parties filled the gap with increasingly obscure hardware that used the ports without achieving much success.  The NES, Super NES, and N64 all featured commonly unused expansion ports overseas and it wasn't until the GameCube era that the ports saw a mainstream use with the Game Boy Player (a pair of networking add-ons which also made use of the ports were offered for sale online in limited quantities and worked with a handful of games).  Hobbyists have long since cracked the mysteries of these ports, too.  While Nintendo didn't get around to doing much with these ports internationally, I'm glad they were there.  Had history unfolded a little differently, we could have been able to experience some of the unique ideas made possible by the expansion hardware and those ports were the gateway to making that happen. 


Power Button - Episode 289: Blood And Spiders

Power ButtonWe're back!  We've been on a forced hiatus for a few months due to my sudden health issues and Blake Grundman's conflict with the Norwegian tax authorities, but now that everything is getting back to normal we are here to discuss recent gaming happenings including Nintendo's announcements about the Switch Lite and a better battery for the original Switch, time spent with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and Blake finally getting around to Marvel's Spider-Man.  Join us for an hour of catching up.   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. 


A Family Guy Salute To GoldenEye 007

Family Guy - GoldenEye 007Family Guy has skewered pop culture for two decades and I always laugh the most when the production team sets their sights on a classic video game.  In Season 17's "Griffin Winter Games", Peter Griffin and his daughter Meg are captured while trespassing in North Korea and must stage a thrilling escape in the style of a nostalgic video game.  Peter suggests they use Rare's famed GoldenEye 007 for the Nintendo 64 as their inspiration, and what follows is a loving tribute to the console's most beloved shooters.  From the ammo count in the lower left corner of the screen to the targeting reticule that appears when Meg needs to target bolts to shoot open a grate to the little cinematic cut scenes, Family Guy knows the source material and has fun with it.  Peter even offers fun observations about the gameplay and environment while they make their escape.  It's an unexpected moment that will make GoldenEye fans smile.


Mobile Mario Kart Tour Enters Beta

Mario Kart TourNintendo's ongoing flirtatious partnership with the mobile gaming space continues with the upcoming Mario Kart Tour for iOS and Android in which the console Mario Kart experience is reformulated for a streamlined experience with microtransactions.  While the company's Super Mario Run released as a one-time purchase and failed to meet sales expectations, follow up titles based on Animal Crossing and Fire Emblem included microtransactional elements and have, so far, lit up sales charts, so I'm not surprised that Mario Kart Tour follows that mold.  The game is in beta for Android starting today and while players are bound by a restriction on posting screenshots of the game, you know that hardly anybody is honoring that.  Ethan Gach at Kotaku has a writeup on how the game plays and how much money it expects you to spend to have a fighting chance at winning.

To unlock additional circuits you collect Grand Stars by completing races and other challenges. Earning stars is also how you unlock gifts, some of which contain green gems, Mario Kart Tour’s premium currency. This is where things start to get weighed down with overlapping in-game currencies. For five gems you get to “pull” on a green pipe that shoots out a new driver, kart, or glider, each of a different rarity. My first pull got me Morton, one of the Bowser minions. Currently the in-game shop, which doesn’t allow you to buy gems yet, is advertising Metal Mario.

I'm interested in trying Mario Kart Tour once it releases, but I don't expect to put any money into it if it's just going to go to lootbox-style random pulls from a bank of items or characters.  I will spend money on mobile games provided that it's a single fee (such as the aforementioned Super Mario Run) and I realize that is a dying if not already dead business model in the mobile space that is increasingly built around monthly subscriptions or slot machine-style payouts of randomly generated items.  That said, I enjoy Star Trek Timelines and have paid a few dollars into its premium currency from time to time to support the development studio, but we're talking more along the lines of four dollars every few months as opposed to the $99 whale package that the game promotes every few days.  I'm sure that Mario Kart Tour's beta period will be used to gauge whether or not the current pricing model used in the game is fair and undoubtedly the marketplace in the release version will be balanced based on player input.  Whenever a mobile game goes into a public beta these days I naturally assume that's really what the developers are testing.  The gameplay is probably pretty well locked in by that point and its the engagement with the in-game store that really needs testing and input.  Mario Kart Tour's shop doesn't sell gems yet for real money, but it's only a matter of time before it does.

(Image via ResetEra)


Ghostbusters Coming To Planet Coaster

Ghostbusters X Planet CoasterGhostbusters seems to be poised for another resurgence as a new film is in production, the 2009 video game is rumored for a current console generation re-release, and Dan Aykroyd has written a prequel script featuring the Ghostbusters characters in high school.  Now comes word that the amusement park simulation title Planet Coaster is crossing the streams with the supernatural spectacular featuring Aykroyd reprising his role as Ray Stantz who will mentor players throughout the campaign and William Atherton returning as Environmental Protection Agency antagonist Dickless Walter Peck.  New rides and other surprises await in this crossover add-on.

Ghostbusters fans will be steeped in nostalgia as other fan-favourite ghosts and characters make appearances as the story progresses, including Slimer, the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and even the legendary ECTO-1 car. A new in-game interactive dark ride, The Ghostbusters Experience, allows Planet Coaster players to engage with the game in a whole new way as they take on the role of a Ghostbuster to bust ghosts with their particle throwers and log their high score.   

I've never played Planet Coaster, but if there's ever a reason for me to check it out, it would have to be this expansion.  The reveal trailer shows off just enough to pique interest.  No release date has been announced just yet.


2009's Ghostbusters Video Game May Be Coming Around Again

Ghostbusters

I spent a lot of time and energy both writing about and playing Ghostbusters: The Video Game in 2009, so you know that my interest is piqued when I see that Taiwan's gaming rating agency (their version of the ESRB) has rated a Xbox One version of the game slated for release (one would hope a PlayStation 4 version is in the mix somewhere too).  Considering that the original developer, Terminal Reality, is long gone and the original publisher, Atari, isn't exactly a gaming powerhouse anymore, the listing credits the port job to Mad Dog Games who in recent years has worked on games such as NBA Playgrounds, World of Speed, and Shaq Fu: A Legend Reborn.  So... we will see.

The game itself could use a little polish on the backend of things as the PlayStation 3 version had some nasty bugs on release including an issue with wiping out save data(!) and performance issues in the library level.  The game also included an online multiplayer mode that had problems of its own, so I don't know if anyone would shed any tears if that part of the game didn't make the cut this time.  Either way, Ghostbusters: The Video Game was a great use of the license, was true to the lore of the movies & the animated series, and definitely deserves your attention.  Let's hope this pans out as I will gladly play through it again on current generation hardware if it's a solid conversion. 

(via Resetera)


How High Can This Donkey Kong Shelf Get?

Donkey Kong shelf

Since the dawn of time, humanity has had a single collective dream: to have a wall-mounted shelf that resembles a stage from Donkey Kong and to stock that shelf with little 8-bit stylized figurines of Nintendo characters.  Now I have achieved this dream.  Gaze upon the Donkey Kong shelf and the tableau it presents with Donkey Kong himself on the top level guarding both Princess Toadstool and a classic Donkey Kong arcade machine (it lights up and plays sound, too!).  Mario and Luigi are on their way to save the day and maybe earn a free game, plus Toad and Link are heading up the rear for backup.  A lone Goomba patrols the lower level; sadly, Link is the one hero on the scene who cannot jump, so maybe the Goomba has a fighting chance.  Also, Gizmo the mogwai from Gremlins has stumbled into the scene and is hanging from a ladder for no reason other than he looks cute doing it.  Hang on, Gizmo! 

Special thanks and appreciation to my girlfriend who spotted the basic shelves at IKEA and painted them to something more appropriate for a big gorilla.  Acquiring the figurines was a costly chore as several of them have been out of print for some time.  Amazon to the rescue, naturally, but it took patience and time to wait for a third-party seller who wasn't charging outrageous prices for essentially an $8 chunk of plastic.  Seriously, resellers, when it comes to pricing, how high can you get?