Game Feature

The Weekly WTF: ‘Snatcher,’ the Manliest Christmas Game You Ever Saw

Snatcher Header

You know how it is with Christmas movies. They’re often of the flowery, namby-pamby, Lifetime TV-y variety. The Grinch’s heart suddenly grows three sizes, breaks that measuring device and he’s not an asshole any more. Everyone has a bit of a dance and there’s jangly music and all that sort of BS.

At no point do muscular dudes stride in and shoot seven shades of shit out of each other. There are very few terrorist plots for Bruce Willis or Sly Stallone to foil, and almost zero explosions. For shame. We are men, manly men with chest hair and everything, and we demand a little good ol’ fashioned violence in our movies.

Now, there’s Die Hard. And I seem to remember Arnold Schwarzenegger punching a freaking reindeer in the face in Jingle All the Way. But we’re not counting that one, because it’s balls. Which leaves our Christmas entertainment at… one movie. And, as it happens, one game. Gentlemen, meet Snatcher.
Read more… »

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Holiday Lemmings

Holiday Lemmings

This could just be plain ol’ Lemmings. It could. But who am I to refuse to follow suit with every freaking TV commercial/show just now? It’s the holiday season, so here comes one more Christmas special for the Scroogetastic bastards among us to whine about.

Don’t worry, Ebeneezer. Once those three ghosts scare you into being less of an asshole, you can get over here and enjoy Holiday Lemmings with the rest of us.

First, a quick refresher, just for those too drunk to remember gaming stalwart Lemmings in its original, non-festive form. This platform/puzzler first hit the Amiga in 1991, and is based on the whole lemmings-over-the-cliff-like-the-crazy-little-dudes-they-are thing. In each stage, a number of them will shuffle along automatically, into, over and through any hazardous obstacles that happen to be present.

Your objective is to save their asses (or at least a certain percentage of their asses) by assigning each of them a skill. This is a sort of job, and affects their behaviour. A ‘blocker’ lemming will stop moving and prevent his fellows from passing, while a ‘floater’ (which isn’t a turd joke) can safely parachute down from great heights. Climbers, diggers and miners are also available, but your uses of each are strictly limited.

With a time limit to work against too, you’ll have to bust your balls to size up the situation and lead these gormless guys to the exit. Lemmings was a huge hit for its unusual premise, nutty charm and cutesy-ass lemmings themselves. The franchise is still doing the rounds today, having been ported to just about every damn machine capable of running it.

And now that we’re up to speed, it’s time for the real star of the show: Holiday Lemmings.

Holiday Lemmings 2

Nine midgets a’climbing.

This originally saw the light of day as the demo Xmas Lemmings. It had a mighty four different stages, and was… fairly wank. A few years after the release of the regular game, it arrived in full-on gametastic form. Over in Merry Olde England, in was named Christmas Lemmings, but that’s a little too on the nose for us in the US of A.

Think of it as Nights: Into Dreams’ ‘Christmas Nights’ spin-off, just with more levels and effing lemmings everywhere.

For all intents and purposes, it’s the same damn game, just with alternate levels and a festive makeover. You know what that means for lazy-ass developers: throw in some snow and jangly music, and you’re there. Just about every platformer does this somewhere or another, but did they have lemmings in santa suits? Damn right they didn’t.

To get a little taste of the holiday spirit, check it out below. But watch out for the most piss-poor rendition of Jingle Bells you ever heard.

The Weekly WTF: A Whole Lot of Creeptastic With Majora’s Mask and BEN

Majora's Mask BEN

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask has long been the black sheep of the Zelda family. With its dark tone, general weirdery and that whole the-mothereffin’-moon-is-going-to-crash-into-our-faces thing it had going on, this was new territory right here.

This was the game that brought us Fierce Deity Link, those crazy dancing freaks, and that thing that lives in the toilet. This was back in the year 2000, and we still haven’t forgiven it. If, fourteen years later, you still check the ol’ WC for disembodied hands before taking a dump, you’ll know what I mean.

And that’s just what’s in the game proper. The urban legends and such surrounding it are much worse. Prepare your eyes, ears and asses for the story of… BEN.

This one’s been doing the rounds for some time now. You may have heard it already. But with the 3DS remake of the game finally inbound, it’s time to revisit the tale of the haunted game cartridge.

The totally-not-BS-at-all story starts with an innocent young dude picking up a second-hand copy of Majora’s Mask at a yard sale. It was battered to hell (not much of an issue for N64 carts; those robust buggers look as though they could withstand a bomb blast), and the owner made enigmatic remarks about the original owner ‘not being around any more.’ Said young dude almost soiled his nerdly undercrackers when offered it for free, and so the legend of BEN began.

Majora's Mask BEN 2

Yup, stranger than THIS sort of thing.

Apparently, this was the name of the previous owner. At any rate, it was the name of the save file left over. Not being a fan of sloppy seconds, this was immediately deleted, and Nameless Young Dude started the game afresh. With no idea that he was about to be thrust gonads-first into The Twilight Zone.

‘Something was off,’ quoth G4TV. ‘The NPCs in Clock Town still referred to him as BEN; music played backward; Link would spontaneously erupt in flames; and he was hounded by a strange statue—the same one that appears when you play the incredibly creepy “Elegy of Emptiness” on your ocarina. Only this one teleported wherever the player went, seemingly taunting him with vague threats and menacing laughter.’

This weird-ass weirdery brings up all kinds of questions. Who was BEN? Who damn well still is BEN? What does he want? How did he fandangle his way into the game’s coding? Most importantly, wasn’t Majora’s Mask freaky enough to begin with?

None of these questions will ever be answered. Not that they need to be, as the story’s all BS anyway. Still, it’s enough to put me off preowned games for a fair while. For a more detailed account of the creepypasta, check this out:

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Alien Soldier

Alien Soldier Header

Treasure, you crazy, crazy bastards. Don’t ever change.

For the uninitiated, Treasure are a Japanese developer from the early nineties. In their history, they’ve ventured into Wario World, classic platformers like Dynamite Headdy and the futuristic badassery that is Sin and Punishment.

Most important, they brought the Sega Genesis such shitstorm-of-bullets madness as Gunstar Heroes. This stylish run-and-gunner was the company’s first game, and introduced us to many of their trademark quirks: unusual weapon/power up mechanics, toontastic explosions aplenty, awesome chiptune music in the eargasmic Mega Man vein… Not forgetting the trippy bosses that make you wonder what these effers are smoking and where you can get yourself some.

A couple of years later, all of these elements were polished up and thrust gonads-first into Alien Soldier. Hold on to your butts as we party like it’s 1995 and take a look.

The game’s a perfect example of the disappointment of the near future. The way the books and games of the past tell it, we should all be dicking about on hoverboards by now. We should be cruising along the highway in pollution-free electric cars, taking vacations on Mars and going forth and multiplying with some four-breasted extraterrestrial hotties. This one’s set in 2015, and sadly it’s all bollocks as well.

In Alien Soldier, everyone inhabits an alternative ‘A-Earth.’ On this planet, smart-ass science dudes have succeeded in developing a race of genetically-engineered superhumans. Which is, y’know, pretty cool, until a angry band of terrorists seek to take control of the planet and the powers of the ‘A-humans.’ In the power struggle, the group’s leader, Epsilon-Eagle, gets his ass whupped and barely escapes with his life.

Alien Soldier 2

In his absence, Xi-Tiger assumes command of the organisation, and soon proves to be an even bigger asshole than the first dude. Dude #1, then, recovers and sets out to defeat his rival and assume control once more.

It’s a bizarre tale of split personalities, weird mutant-things and shitty double-barreled names. But nuts to it all. Let’s just make peace with the fact that we’re a creepy bird man in a spacesuit and move on.

Alien Soldier looks and plays a little like Treasure’s previous run and gun effort, as mentioned. You mix and match power ups to change the properties of your weapon, perhaps something stronger with limited range or sacrificing power for a homing effect. There are also light platforming shenanigans to be done. But it’s the level structure that sets this mofo apart.

Treasure do not give any effs. They know the usual ‘complete a big ol’ level, defeat the boss’ routine, but that’s just not enough for them. In this game, the levels themselves are brief, simple affairs, and the boss battles themselves are the stars of the show. It’s a Monster Hunter-esque boss rush affair, and it’s all the more badass for it.

Take a look at Alien Soldier in action below.

The Weekly WTF: The Horror of ‘Hey You, Pikachu!’

Hey You Pikachu

As we know, nobody pimps out their flagship franchises like Nintendo. Eventually, the world will notice that every Super Mario and Pokémon is the effing same, but until then these wily bastards will keep on raking in the cashtacular.

To that end, the stars of the show have been given cameo appearances and spin-offs-amundo. The less said about Dance Dance Revolution: Mario Mix and other such branded wank, the better.

But sometimes, they take it a step too far. They combine their love for dead horse flogging with their lust for craptacular plastic peripherals (the Balance Board, tennis racquet attachments, the Wii Wheel…). And when this happens, unholy ballaches like Hey You, Pikachu! are born.

This little oddity hit the N64 in 1998. It was one of a mighty two different games to work with the console’s weird voice recognition dealie. Remember that thing? The one that looked like some kind of futuristic sex toy attachment for the robo-whores of the year 3090? Well, here it is, powering one of the most bizarre Pokémon experiences ever made.

It’s a kind of puzzler crossed with a life sim crossed with a dose of what-the-eff-is-going-on-here. In short, it’s every child’s dream back in the nineties: a big ol’ 3D Pikachu as a pet, responding to your voice and dicking about adorably as only this thing can. That was the plan, anyway.

Sure, it heard, but it gave NO SHITS. As usual.

Sure, it heard, but it gave NO SHITS. As usual.

By ‘responding to your voice,’ I actually mean damn well ignoring your voice, like the stubborn little asshole he is. Originally, the game was only available in Japan, so naturally only Japanese speakers need apply. It did make it to North America in the year 2000, but didn’t damn well work here either. As Bulbapedia reports, the device was ‘calibrated for a higher-pitched child’s voice,’ but even those whose balls hadn’t dropped had difficulty making themselves understood.

Without helium or a voice like Joe Pasquale, Hey You, Pikachu! was a festival of crap.

Even when you could get it to work (which you freaking couldn’t), the gameplay rates pretty highly on the balls-o-meter. It’s a series of minigames with the mascot of the ‘mon, based around a schedule of themed days. Discovery Days, Play Days and Daring Days. By interacting with the little dude enough, you earn its trust and it moves in with you.

But screw that. If I wanted to live with an obnoxious ass who completely ignores everything I say, I’d still be married.

Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Dr. Mario

Dr Mario Header

There is nothing –effing nothing– that Nintendo’s mustachioed maestro can’t do. Over his three decade career, he has taught us typing skills, competed in the olympics (both winter and regular-flavored), piloted spacecraft and submarines, done the whole ‘princess rescue’ thing on umpteen occasions and travelled through time with his lanky dumbass brother.

There was even that time he shrunk down and journeyed into Bowser’s colon. And if you’ve ever seen a Mushroom Kingdom public toilet after that huge bastard’s used it, you’ll know how ballsy that was.

But his crowning achievement? His contribution to medical research as his alter ego, Dr. Mario. Watch your ass, ebola. This guy’s on the case.

The good doctor first appeared in 1990, in NES puzzler Dr. Mario. At this time, Tetris owned the world of puzzley gaming goodness, so he had to bring something different to the table of… puzzle games. Or whatever. That something was giant angry mutated viruses, which were in need of some capsules-to-the-face righteous justice.

When the germs are the size of your freaking head, you've got problems.

When the germs are the size of your freaking head, you’ve got problems.

It’s a unique theme, at any rate. Differently colored germs lurk about on the playing field, and Mario throws his two-color pills down to meet them. Your job is to fandangle and maneuver said pills so as to match them with the appropriate virus. A chain of four reds, blues or yellows will eradicate germ and pill alike. It’s your standard match-three (or, y’know, four) scenario, all in all, and one that fans of the puzzletacular will pick up immediately.

But hey, the play field is a medicine bottle, and you don’t see that every day. Much of the time, your objective is different to the usual fare too. In Dr. Mario, the main gameplay is based around individual levels, with an increasingly difficult crew of viruses to murderize. As far as the usual endless modes go, that isn’t the way of the doctor.

The core gameplay wasn’t all that original (and by ‘all that,’ I mean remotely), but this is one hell of a compulsive puzzler right here. Remember The Tetris Effect (it gets capitalized because it’s an actual goddamn medical condition, recognised by sciencey science-dudes and everything)? That’s the sign of a truly affecting game, one that haunts your nightmares and sees vengeful tetronimos chasing you across hillsides to stamp on your face.

Well, Dr. Mario has it too. How many sleepless nights did I have, watching dodgy-looking pills cascading down before my closed eyes? Too damn many is how many. Screw you, Mario.

The Weekly WTF: ‘Stalin vs Martians’ Does Exactly What it Says on the Tin

Yup. Stalin. Versus Martians. What the hell could go wrong with an awesome idea like that? Absolutely freaking everything, that’s what. Buckle up, gentlemen. This is a real slice of shite right here.

You know how it can be with celebrities. After their star has waned and their fifteen minutes of fame is over, nobody is assed any more. You’re like that depressed fat guy at Comic Con, the forgotten has-been from a sci-fi show that got cancelled in 1978. Who wants your autograph? No bastard does.

All that’s left for these guys is to appear in terrible celebrity reality shows. It’s a similar deal for history’s crazy dictators, who have to appear in ballache strategy games like this.

Stalin vs Martians is a parody of the familiar World War II RTS games. You know the sort of thing: tiny tanks and tinier dudes blow each others’ asses off in relentlessly brown landscapes with dramatic explosions-amundo. For this one, though, it’s all a little different.

Stalin vs Martians 2

Yep, this is just how Stalin vs Martians rolls.

Now, I’m no nerdly historian, but I’ve never heard of ol’ Joseph and his Soviets doing battle with martians. But hey, that’s the kind of interesting anecdote you miss when you don’t pay attention in class. The game’s official site sets the scene:
‘Year 1942. Summer. The martians suddenly land somewhere in Siberia and attack the glorious people of Holy Mother Russia. It is a hard time for USSR as you might know from the history books if you ever attended school. The situation is really f**ked up, so comrade Stalin takes the anti-ET military operation under his personal control. The operation is a top secret and virtually nobody knows about the fact of extraterrestial intervention.’

Those goddamn aliens. Was 1942 not enough of a shitstorm already?

Anywho, what follows is some of the most piss-takey gameplay you’ll ever see. The general unit-maneuvering battling and such is relatively conventional, in theory. But then the toontastic Monty Python-style slapstick comes in. As do Red Army tanks against that three-eyed alien dude from Toy Story. And the disco soundtrack, accompanied by Stalin getting his sixties groove on.

I don’t know why this is a thing. I don’t know why promo wallpapers exist depicting comrade Stalin looking at a map of the world, with the thought bubble caption ‘me so horny.’ But hey. Some things just are, and it’s fruitless to question them.

Images via Stalin vs Martians.