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April 2006

Bothersome Hunnybunz!

Boppin'Back in the early 1990s when most folks still believed that the Internet was another name for the lining inside swim trunks, the rest of us were downloading neat little shareware DOS games from local BBSs with the ZModem protocol.  One such game was developed by Accursed Toys and published by Apogee: Boppin'.  In this charming side-scrolling puzzle game twin heroes Yeet and Boik go on a quest to rescue video gaming's villains from imprisonment by the Hunnybunz clan.  Seemingly combining elements of Dr. Mario with more conventional platformer adventures, our heroes accomplish this task by picking up special blocks and bopping them around the room so that they connect with identical blocks located in each level.

Unlike many classic DOS games, Boppin' lives on.  While the game was originally released as a shareware demo with additional levels available at retail, now the game has been ported to Windows XP by its creators and released online for free along with a handy guide that explains just how to play the game.  The entire Boppin' adventure of 160 levels (plus a custom level editor) is a fun yet challenging way to spend the upcoming weekend.  Be sure to take note of the game's varying art styles as Yeet and Boik are sent from one bizarre set of surroundings to another including levels that are drawn in the style of a pencil sketch and in a blueprint schematic fashion.

Weekly Poll: Wii?

Weekly Poll for 04-16-2006It's good to see the collectible spirit is alive and well out there.  Just stay away from that Philips CDi stuff.  It's just better for everyone if you ignore it.  Personally, I cling to the hope that my Virtual Boy collection will someday buy me a small island. 

I knew there was a reason I delayed this week's poll.  With word of the Wii wrapping its way around the world, lots of folks seem to have a negative view on the new name of Nintendo's Revolution console.  So, like every other gaming site out there, I'm forced to ask if you like the new name or not.  Such poll questions are the law, I'm afraid, so "wii" best all comply.  Cheesy "wii" puns are the law, too, which means that it's going to be a long few months.

Betrayals, Insults, and Eugene Levy: The Depressing World Of The Philips CDi

Mystic Midway: Phantom Express The Philips CDi has become somewhat of a curious piece of technology.  Until recently most gamers had never heard of the 1990s would-be game console, but some horrifying Zelda animations and word of a lost Super Mario game changed that.  Now people want to know just what this CDi thing was all about and what games were available for it.  The rest of the CDi library can't be as bad as those Zelda games, right? has a look back at the best and worst of the CDi family, covering everything from a wretched miniature golf game featuring Eugene Levy to a "nightmare simulator" that makes you question your worth as a human being.  These truly are games from the alternate universe.  Take a look at the CDi library and, like me, you'll find yourself wondering just who could possibly believe that these games could have been fun or profitable enough to keep a game console division afloat.

Take the first stage [of Mystic Midway: Phantom Express], which has you shooting childhood fears like safety pins and leaky diapers. Throughout the entire level, you'll hear babies crying, the off-key singing of nursery songs, and a woman yelling things like, "I never wanted children! YOU were the one who wanted children!" This continues on for many stages, culminating with the "old-age" level, which ends with your family telling you they don't love you, and that they can't wait for you to die. What a fun game!

And Philips wondered why the CDi left a smoking crater in their revenues, eh?  The article implies that the CDi is starting to become the next big hot thing in the world of collecting retro video game equipment, but I can't see myself (or anyone else, for that matter) running off to eBay with visions of a digital Eugene Levy dancing in my hopes and dreams.  I love retro stuff as much as the next gamer, but even I have limits.

Revolution Gets A New Name

Wii Never judge a book by its cover and never judge a video game console by its name, but... Nintendo has announced that its upcoming Revolution finally has an official name, as in the name you'll find printed on the box when you pick it up from the store later this year or so.  The name?  Wii.  That's not a typo.  They're really calling it the Wii (pronounced as in "we" or "wheeee!").  Nintendo has posted the news along with a zen-like explanation of the name that is supposed to make us feel all squishy inside.

While the code-name "Revolution" expressed our direction, Wii represents the answer.  Wii will break down that wall that separates video game players from everybody else.  Wii will put people more in touch with their games ... and each other. But you're probably asking: What does the name mean?  Wii sounds like "we," which emphasizes this console is for everyone.

Wii can easily be remembered by people around the world, no matter what language they speak. No confusion. No need to abbreviate. Just Wii.  Wii has a distinctive "ii" spelling that symbolizes both the unique controllers and the image of people gathering to play.  And Wii, as a name and a console, brings something revolutionary to the world of video games that sets it apart from the crowd.

So that's Wii. But now Nintendo needs you.  Because, it's really not about you or me.  It's about Wii.  And together, Wii will change everything.

The first thing wii need to change is that name.  Maybe it makes more sense or has more appeal in the original Japanese.  The problem is that without the koanish explanation the name makes no sense (some would argue it makes no sense even with the explanation).  "Revolution" has a powerful connotation behind it.  It represents change and upheaval, something that Nintendo has been aiming for in the marketplace.  "Wii" means nothing to the average person.  Nintendo aims to change that, of course, but still I have to ask... "Wii"?  Nintendo has all kinds of creative talent and the best they could come up with was "Wii"? 

Also, good luck trying to discuss the Wii with anyone without the conversation turning into a "Who's On First" we/why routine.

EA Has First Original Idea In Years

EA Sports Somewhere out there are pigs looking for a landing spot and devils looking for snow shovels because Electronic Arts has had its first original idea in a long, long time.  The company is at work on a new version of their Madden football franchise for the Nintendo Revolution.  EA has long been criticized for releasing slap-dash titles based on licensed properties and repeated iterations of the same basic sports games that "only" include updated play rosters from year to year, but with this new Madden players will actually be able to throw and kick and catch with the new controller.  GameSpot has the story and a few words with EA's John Schappert.

Players will hike the ball by mimicking a quarterback receiving the ball from the center, and then pass it to a receiver by making a throwing gesture with the free-hand controller. The faster the passing motion, the more of a bullet pass it becomes (in previous Madden editions, bullet passes were made by holding the passing button down longer).  Kicking the ball will be accomplished by sweeping the controller up as if it were a kicker's leg striking the ball. A fast, level swing will make for a hard, straight kick.

Like a lot of announced Revolution concepts, I'm curious to see this game in action.  I can't help but wonder if it will put fans of the conventional Madden titles off.  As much as critics lash out at Madden for unoriginality, it does sell a bundle each year.  Obviously a lot of people like playing football by pressing buttons.  Will this audience embrace having to actually move in order to play the game?

Dopefish Lives!

DopefishHe's big, he's green, and he's stupid.  He swims, he eats, and he burps.  He's Dopefish, a beloved character from the classic PC game Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy!  Dopefish appears in the Well Of Wishes level and pursues the swimming Commander Keen with the intent of swallowing the lad whole.  According to Keen lore, Dopefish's thought pattern is a never-ending refrain of "Swim, swim, hungry; swim, swim, hungry".  You've problem come across him before, but you just never knew it.  Fans of the beloved character keep a vigil at where every official appearance and cameo of the character is noted and cataloged (with screenshots!).

Dopefish is the product of the fertile mind of Tom Hall. It was one of 24 drawings he did of ideas for characters for Commander Keen: Goodbye, Galaxy! while part of id Software. Dopefish was one of the characters from these drawings that made the cut. According to Tom, "I just drew this stupid little fish," and the rest is history.

Dopefish Mania soon followed as the character popped up in games such as Wacky Wheels, Duke Nukem 3D (as a hidden text message), Quake II, and even Max Payne.  Dopefish has gone silent recently, but rest assured that if Commander Keen ever returns, Dopefish will be there right along with him (trying to eat our hero, no doubt). 

Revolution's Other Big Secret

Nintendo Revolution controllerWe've been talking behind the scenes at AMN for the past few days about the Nintendo Revolution's supposed "other" big secret.  We've known about the remote controller's motion abilities for a while now, but word reached us that the secondary controller also had a special function.  After confirming the rumor with a trusted developer, the news is starting to break.

Last week, a rumor hit the net claiming that the Nintendo Revolution’s nunchaku controller features a built-in accelerometer allowing it to sense it being tilted left or right, or being moved up, down, left, right and in a number of other directions as well.  Today, AMN has confirmed through a developer incredibly close to Nintendo that this rumor is in fact true. The nunchaku peripheral does feature this secondary function.

Interesting stuff, although I was still holding out hope for a little slot on the console that dispenses tasty candy.  But kidding aside, this adds another dimension of control to the Revolution's capabilities.  Imagine using the main remote controller to attack and the secondary controller to move and look around at the same time.  No more "Z lock-on" or automatic aiming, it seems.  Wait, hold it - I'm a terrible shot without lock-on or auto aiming!  Looks like it's back to game training camp for me.

Farewell To Xbox Classic

Microsoft Xbox It is with regrets and a heavy heart that Microsoft seems to have taken the original Xbox console off of life support, allowing it to die quietly while its big brother Xbox 360 attempts to become the darling of gamers everywhere.  Circle of life, I suppose.  GamePro has word that finding a new sealed straight-from-the-factory Xbox console is becoming a near-impossible task.  Stores apparently don't have any in stock and aren't planning to get any.  While we were all watching the Xbox 360 take a bow, the original Xbox was shuffled out into the alley and shot.  Or taken off of life support.  You can choose your favorite mixed metaphor there.

While I was never a major fan of the original Xbox, it's always sad to see a console close up shop.  Yes, classic Xbox games will be around for a while longer and chances are you'll always be able to snag a console on the used gaming market, but I'd thought the Xbox would have stuck around in the gaming mainstream for a while longer.  Sony had great success with keeping the original PlayStation console alive after the PlayStation 2 walked among us, and we all remember Sega's attempt to keep the Genesis alive with upgrade after upgrade.  Even Nintendo has clung to the original Game Boy technology over the years.  To see Microsoft dump the Xbox this quickly makes me wonder how history will remember the console: as a good console in its own right or just a stepping stone and learning experience on the way to the Xbox's successor.

(via Retrogaming)

Good Idea, Bad Implementation

Duck HuntAs gaming's detractors in both politics and private law practice speak out against our favorite game franchises, a common talking point is that parents need to take a more active role in raising their children.  The argument is that parents need to be aware of what games their children are playing and should step in if excessive gaming becomes a problem.  Sometimes people take this advice to the wrong extreme.  People like this guy, for instance.

A Dunedin[, FL] dad probably made his point about his son spending too much time on the computer. Pinellas Sheriff's deputies say he shot at the monitor as his son sat near-by. Forty-four-year-old Joseph Langenderfer was arrested Monday afternoon at his home on Frances Street.

One caveat to this story, however: the son who was nearly shot is actually twenty-two years old.  At that age he's an adult who can make his own gaming decisions.  At least he can once he replaces his monitor.  I hear that the new bulletproof plasma screens don't come cheap.

(via Fark)

Be A Part Of The Next Mario Super Show DVD

Super Mario Bros. Super ShowOnce upon a time Nintendo licensed their popular Super Mario and Legend of Zelda characters to animation studio and production company DIC.  The result was the Super Mario Bros. Super Show.  Now jump ahead fifteen years or so.  Nintendo (for some reason I'll never understand) is embarrassed about these animated productions.  So embarrassed, in fact, that the company has declined participation in planning special features for the Super Show DVD sets.  Last month Shout Factory released the first volume of these classic cartoons and is now hard at work on volume two.  However, with Nintendo giving Shout the shutout, the DVD production crew is turning to the dedicated fan base for some help with the special features.

The producers are looking for photos of fans dressed up as Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool, Toad, King Koopa... basically any Super Mario character or element from the original cartoon.  Take note of that qualifier there: the original cartoon.  Shout only has the license to use character iterations from the original cartoons from the first two Super Mario games, so no Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World allowed.  I should dig up my old pictures from a childhood Halloween long ago when I dressed up as Mario.  My father even built a large mushroom for me to carry made out of high quality foam.  Apparently I still have the knack.  A former girlfriend once told me I looked like Wario.  We were still together at the time, so I took it as a compliment.