Previous month:
November 2009
Next month:
January 2010

December 2009

2009 Box Art Walk Of Shame

My Ballet Studio While everyone has their own favorite aspects of video gaming that set us apart, one thing that brings the gaming community together is that we love to gawk at truly horrible video game box art.  Be it due to low budgets, a lack of artistic talent, or over-reliance on the magic formula that the marketing department believes consumers obey, 2009 has seen its fair share of ghastly imagery.  GamesRadar has taken a look back at the madness of partying hamsters (plus one gerbil), CGI people from the uncanny valley, humping monkeys, one smug sheep, and the horrible stone cold visage belonging to the ballet of the damned.

Hey, if you can think of a way to sell ballet games that doesn’t involve creepy little girls and badly Photoshopped heads, you’re… well, you’re probably anyone else besides the people at 505 Games.

Most of the games on the list are cheap shovelware slapped together over the course of a week and shoved into stores on a hope and a prayer, but some of the artwork here sinks to new lows of disgrace.  The fact that artwork like this for My Ballet Studio for Nintendo's Wii which features a ballet child assembled from raw parts made it to the front of the box means that someone had to look at this image and decide "Yes, this is just what we need!".  Moreover, whomever created it had to like it enough to consider it ready for review.  Surely the image passed through a few extra hands as it was submitted up through the ranks.  Didn't anyone look at it and feel their sense of calm shatter?  Didn't anyone notice that the child's head is the wrong size compared to her body?  What about her neck?  Didn't they see that her left arm is too long and that her right arm has gone AWOL?  And those fingers; my god, those fingers!  If you're not horrified enough, feel free to jump into the Wayback Machine to review the worst box art abominations from 2008 and 2007, too.

Gizmondo, EyeToy, And n-Gage Among Worst Gadgets Of The Decade

EyeToy It's been a wild ten years, so as 2009 draws to a close, Gizmodo has taken a look back at fifty of the worst gadgets to reach the market since the dawn of the twenty-first century and eleven dishonorable mentions.  While most of the items held up for pointing and laughing are misguided Internet gizmos, a few familiar gaming products are keeping company with the online-capable refrigerator and the combination Taser/MP3 player.  Let's say a final "haw-haw!" at the Tiger Telematics Gizmondo, Nokia n-Gage, Nintendo Game Boy Micro, and the Sony trio of PlayStation EyeToy, Universal Media Disc, and Memory Stick.

There were never more than eight PS2 games a year designed for the EyeToy, and the majority of those ended up being hugely unpopular. Whatever functionality it had was either limited or unappealing or both, and now the only new titles EyeToy owners are left with have names like EyeToy Play: PomPom Party. So maybe it's not all bad.

While there are some really dumb products on the list, plenty of them were just the first iteration of technology that would go on to become more refined and useful.  The EyeToy technology grew into the PlayStation Eye for the PlayStation 3, for instance, which has become a staple of every... hmm, nope, sorry, never mind.

A Taste Of Mega Man: Official Complete Works

Mega Man and friends (and foes) Those of you with an unquenchable appetite for behind-the-scenes information for Mega Man games should get READY and check out the recently published (in English, no less!) Mega Man: Official Complete Works which contains pages and pages of official Mega Man concept and promotional artwork along with little tidbits from the creative talent behind the series.  Protodude's Rockman Corner has sample pages and quotes for your perusal.  Here's a taste:

- Keiji Inafune on the subject of Mega Man's inability to 'crouch':

"I often heard people say, 'Mega Man can't crouch,' but we actually had a dot graphic of him crouching while we were working on '1.'  On the NES, with only a split second to see the slight height difference, the player wouldn't really be able to differentiate between a projectile that could only be dodged by jumping, and one that could only be dodged by crouching. That was the reason why we decided to go with a jumping-only system for Mega Man 1and 2, and I think we did a good job refining it."

- Inafune discusses the decision of releasing
Rockman and Forte on the Super Nintendo as opposed to a PlayStation or Sega Saturn release:

"When we made the shift in hardware to the PS and the SS, there were many children who couldn't play Mega Man 8 because they didn't own either of those consoles. As kids, they didn't have the ability to go out and buy consoles.  Even though 'X' had opened its world up on the SNES, the original Mega Man series only went to '7' on that console.  That's why we decided to bring out a new title for the SNES that was based on '8.'  Even though trying to bring out a new title on the SNES was a little backwards at the time, we didn't want to make a halfhearted attempt at it.  We decided to reexamine the game from the ground up and make it something that our players could really sink their teeth into."

I was on the fence about picking up this book, but after seeing a little of it, I'm sold.  There's a Mega Man X volume as well, each carefully translated from the original Japanese publication.  If you're interested in this kind of stuff, be sure to support it if you want to encourage more of these sorts of books.  Wouldn't you love to see similar books like these with a focus on Castlevania, The Legend of Zelda, or Super Mario Bros.?  I know I would.  We need more material like this on the bookshelf.  Specifically, on my bookshelf.

(image via The Mega Man Network)

Family Feud With Attitude

Family Feud Whenever I see that a publisher has turned a television game show into a contemporary video game, I always come away with "Really?" as my only thought.  Games based on quiz shows never age well (and in some cases grow stale after the first round of play), but GameTek's Family Feud for the Super NES takes things to an entirely new level by playing fast and loose with the concept of correct and incorrect answers.  Check out this video full of hilariously bizarre wrong (sometimes coarse) responses that the game somehow considers to be correct.  See if you can find the method to the madness.

Have you figured it out?  The game is looking for the proper letters to the correct answer, but it doesn't care what other letters happen to get in the way.  How else could "I bathed Keanu Reeves" equal out to "baker"?  Or "beaver and duck expert" turn into "banker"?  Survey says that's one hell of a design decision.

(via Reddit)

Mini-Review: Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth

Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth Konami's Castlevania franchise left its traditional 100% action roots behind over ten years ago, but the aging-yet-beloved format has made a return in Castlevania: The Adventure ReBirth for Nintendo's WiiWare in which a creaky old 1989 Game Boy game is given a 1995ish coat of Super NES-inspired paint in this final project from series helmer Koji Igarashi before a different development team reboots the franchise next year with Lords of Shadow.  When Dracula rises yet again, it's up the era's local vampire hunter, Christopher Belmont, to enter the haunted castle, clear its six 2D side-scrolling mostly linear stages of monsters, and slay Dracula once and for all (until he rises again next century).

Despite sharing a name with the original Game Boy game, much of this adventure consists of new material mixed with content from other Castlevania games.  The giant rolling eyeballs are back and Christopher has his trusty fireball-spewing whip, but the stage designs are new and the soundtrack is lifted from Haunted Castle, Belmont's Revenge, and Dracula's Curse among other franchise entries.  Interestingly enough, with the exception of series staple "Vampire Killer", the rest of the music is downright obscure and forgotten, so if you're not deeply familiar with the totality of the Castlevania musical library, then most of what the soundtrack has to offer will be new to you.

Not everything is full of nostalgic goodness.  There are still plenty of pixel-perfect jumps that are difficult or frustrating to pull off, and while the original game did not include save abilities or a password system, the lack of either is sorely felt here.  I like Stage 1, but I don't necessarily want to play it every time I want to play Stage 2.  In the end, however, this is traditional old-style pre-Symphony of the Night gameplay, and while it's not the best that the series has to offer, it's certainly worth the time and ten dollar entry fee if you're a fan of the original action format in which the series began.  Why tell you when I can show you though?  Here's a trip through Stage 1 combined with a little extra commentary from me.

Mario Meets The Tetrads In Tuper Tario Tros.

Tuper Tario Tros. Have you ever played Nintendo's classic Super Mario Bros. and thought to yourself, "Hey, this game needs more falling blocks!"?  Newgrounds member Swing Swing Submarine has answered your calls by combining the great taste of Super Mario with the less filling qualities of Tetris to produce Tuper Tario Tros., a single level proof-of-concept demo that requires switching between traditional Mushroom Kingdom antics and slowly dropping tetrads in an attempt to reach the goal.  It's a fun little demo that gets a little slow in the middle, but make sure that you stick around long enough to jump on to the flagpole at the end of the level.  There's a fun post-game puzzle that mixes things up a little.  While I don't think this gameplay idea would work as a full game, it would have made a dynamite addition to 2006's Tetris DS.

(via Waxy)

More Uncharted 2 Co-op Multiplayer Possibly On The Way

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Nathan Drake fans rejoice!  Developer Naughty Dog is apparently going against their previous statements that any future new multiplayer content for Uncharted 2: Among Thieves for the Sony PlayStation 3 would not include co-operative maps, as G4 has word in a very interesting interview that due to co-op mode's popularity, there talk of adding new Survival and Gold Rush arena challenges.  Best of all, there's additional discussion underway regarding new objective-based co-op.  Why merely discussions and not full-tilt progress?  The objective segments require more than just new map design.

"The objective-style co-op that we have where we have those little narrative moments... it's something that we are considering and we'd really like to do, but it's a much, much bigger investment of time because we have to do a lot of motion capture with the actors and record a lot of voices. So we would absolutely want make sure that we talk to our community and make sure there was the proper demand for it."

If Naughty Dog happens to be listening, consider this my vote for more objective-style co-op.  I am outmatched and outgunned in every deathmatch mode that Uncharted 2 has to offer, but there's nothing better in this game than teaming up with two friends and shooting our way through hordes of enemy grunts together.  So, get the band back together and do what you have to do to make it happen.  I bet that most dedicated co-op players would be willing to kick in a few dollars at the PlayStation Store when the time comes if that's what it takes.  I know I would.

(via Kotaku)

Weekly Poll: December Loot '09

Poll122109 How's everyone enjoying their new, recently acquired video games?  As for me, after all of the medical drama my family has been through lately (there was my surgery adventure last month, and this month is my grandfather's turn), everyone decided it'd be best to not do anything for the holidays, so I've mainly been working on my backlog of games in addition to one or two new titles I picked up or rented over the last few weeks.  The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 with the Wild! and Soaked! expansion packs (thanks, Steam sale!), Saints Row 2, the ModNation Racers beta, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, the Netflix streaming disc for the Sony PlayStation 3, and a handful of television shows on Blu-Ray are how I'm spending most of my holiday-related quality time.

As we do every year it's time to take a moment and reflect on the true meaning of the December holidays: gifts!  Especially game-related gifts.  So, once again, I ask you: did you get all of the games you wanted as presents? Vote in the poll and share your stories of holiday acquisition.  As always, feel free to brag a little, too.

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks Musical Train Moment

The Legend of Zelda: Spirit TracksThe recently released The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks for the Nintendo DS is a worthy follow-up to 2007's Phantom Hourglass that corrects most of the original game's design flaws, but one aspect in which it exceeds its predecessor has to be its memorable soundtrack, particularly the main overworld theme that plays whenever Link and Princess Zelda are headed from Point A to Point B aboard the Spirit Train. One of the elements that makes a Legend of Zelda game a true Legend of Zelda game is a majestic, memorable overworld theme, and Spirit Tracks delivers with a song that stands out from the rest of the game's soundtrack. Check out this excerpt as you imagine yourself riding the rails (ghostly princess optional).

What I find especially impressive is how appropriate this tune is to the game's setting. Take note of the steady rhythmic percussion that approximates the clack-clack-clack of rolling along railroad tracks, for instance. The melodic whistle matches up with the sound of the game's Ocarina-like musical MacGuffin, the Spirit Flute. Moreover, most train trips last only a minute or two, so only those players who take detours will hear the downbeat, almost melancholy breakdown that begins around the 2:20 mark in this clip. I can't get enough of this song, and while playing Spirit Tracks I find myself taking the long way from place to place just so I can hear more of it.

Mobile Mega Man Game Disappoints

Mega Man Rush Marine Following in the footsteps of console franchises such as Castlevania, it's Mega Man's turn to star in a lackluster adventure for mobile phones.  Mega Man Rush Marine puts the blue bomber and his robot dog in a ten-level Gradius-style 2D side-scrolling shooter exclusive to non-iPhone devices from AT&T that is done in the beloved Nintendo Entertainment System style, but without the extra frames of animation or memorable music.  Check it out for yourself in this YouTube clip from DrakonusNeXt:

This could have been a fun little mobile diversion, but what I mostly see is the missed potential and lost opportunity.

(via Protodude's Rockman Corner)