Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? When there eventually was a wolf, nobody cared and he got his face chewed off. Or, y’know, something to that effect. The moral was don’t be a big ol’ lying asshole, anyway.
So when Grand Theft Auto V finally does hit PC, you’ll excuse us for not quite believing it. By then, we’ll all be OAPs anyway, and the game will be obsolete. Either because we can’t fandangle a mouse or controller with our arthritic hands any more, or because PCs will have been replaced by tiny nanochips in our foreheads.
The same’s true of the much ballyhooed heists, really. Snow across Los Santos and all these other spangly holiday updates are all well and good, but the heists have been ‘coming soon’ for months now.
But anywho, those are the breaks. Here’s the fresh batch of dates. The PC edition has been bumped back to April 14, which is possibly another tentative placeholder. On consoles, meanwhile, it does seem fairly certain that multiplayer heists will hit as scheduled: March 10.
Damn it, Rockstar. You’re a bigger tease than Katy Perry.
Let’s not be snarky about a 2002 release counting as ‘retro.’ When you’re a renegade badass cruising into the mouth of hell on grandpa’s mobility scooter, you have slim-to-zero effs to give about trivial matters like that. And I am one. That’s so me. I won’t even apologize for starting that sentence with ‘and’ back there.
So, to business. Nintendo’s cutesy GameCube didn’t quite set the gaming world alight back in the 2000s. It got a nice crop of first party classics, granted; that’s what these guys do best. At the same time, though, there wasn’t a lot outside of Mario, Link and co. Third party support has long been a weakness of their consoles.
Ports are one thing, but exclusives from outside are as rare as sightings of Bigfoot having his wicked, hairy way with a unicorn in your backyard. Which does happen. So did Silicon Knights’ Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.
This survival horror has a Quantum Leap-ish, protagonist-hopping deal going on. You begin as Alex Roivas, a young woman investigating her grandfather’s fancy-ass mansion for clues to his murder (because the police themselves are being assholes). While cruising about the cavernous house, she finds a hidden room containing a mysterious book, The Tome of Eternal Darkness. Which is where it gets ugly.
Reading from this human-flesh-bound book, she learns of mankind’s millenia-long struggle against the Ancients. These vast, powerful beings look like something that would give H.P Lovecraft nightmares, and they’re out to seize control of the cosmos. Fear not, though, because Alex’s ancestors and their buddies have been working against them behind the scenes.
Each chapter of the book serves as a stage of the game, is set in a different time period and stars a different character. The first tells of studly Roman centurion Pious Augustus, who started all this shit off in the first place by reviving one of the Ancients’ lost artifacts in 26 BC. He is possessed and corrupted by it, and then becomes the antagonist, trying to summon his big ol’ slavering master and destroy the planet in the process.
After his encounter, we move through the timeline and play as everyone from a Persian swordsman in 565 AD to a World War I soldier. Each has their own little piece of the story, which all fits together as a whole. Some of them even meet each other, and it’s all very clever and converge-y and all the rest of it.
Between chapters, you return to the ‘hub’ (the mansion, as Alex), where a little Resident Evil- style light puzzling and exploration turns up the next page. And so it goes on, until Alex’s own timeline meets with Pious’s in the year 2000 and she has to whup his undead ass personally.
Whichever member of this motley crew you’re controlling, the gameplay is unchanged. It’s all very Resident Evil around here, in the puzzling and inventory-wrangling, but with a couple of crucial additions that set it apart. The biggest of these is magic, which each character can cast for a variety of effects. You can simply enchant weapons to increase their power and heal yourself, but it gets much fancier than that. By the end, you’ll be summoning hulking Horrors and effortlessly finding hidden secrets.
The second, and possibly most badass, innovation is the Sanity system. Your sanity has a meter just as HP and magic does, and it’s depleted whenever you encounter one of the stage’s enemies (if you’ve ever seen any of these crazy bastards, you’ll know why). There’s a spell that can refill it, and you can gain a little back by performing a finishing blow on said enemy, but you don’t want this dipping too low. As you lose sanity, all kinds of special effects will occur. Unseen babies will cry in the background, your character will hallucinate, and you’ll even see a message on screen reporting that your memory card has been formatted.
Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem was one of a kind. It did a great job of switching between characters and keeping the story together and engaging, which is an easy thing to screw up. It was a taste of Ye Olde survival horror, and also brought something new to the idea. It’s a little obscure, but this one’s got cult classic written all over it.
With games, as with movies, there’s often a tendency to stick with the sure thing. Sequels, really, or the umpteenth Mario platformer. These are where the cashtacular lies. As we know, when fancy business dudes aren’t racking in the cashtacular, something is very wrong with the world.
This is why licensed games, despite generally being huge steaming heaps of horseshit, sell so well. As long as it has Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean written across the front of the box there, that mother’s getting bought in droves.
But sometimes, the idea’s taken a step too far. The Crazy freaking Frog getting his own kart racer, for one. But for the ultimate in licensed weirdery, feast your eyes on Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit.
We all know Home Improvement. Of course we do. Tim Allen, Pamela Anderson, the show-within-a-show that was Tool Time… what’s not to like? It’s just difficult to fathom how we got from that to a platfomer involving cruising through jungles and temples and such, wanging enemies in the face with a power saw. Who, in any Bizarro World, could have possibly come up with that?
Imagineering Inc., that’s who. These mad bastards brought the game to the SNES in 1994. Strap yourselves in, gentlemen, and we’ll take a look.
It all starts simply enough. Our ol’ buddy Tim sets out to introduce his fancy-ass new line of Binford-Taylor Turbo Power Tools on a Tool Time episode. They’ve been tool-napped, naturally, and the only clue is a note demanding Tim ‘goes back to the Stone Age where he belongs.’
If you want to see Tim Allen cruising through the Stone Age (they’re filming a dino-movie close by, stick with me here) and taking out dinosaurs with power tools, that’s probably as good a setup as any.
Home Improvement: Power Tool Pursuit is a weird-ass one in every possible sense. On one hand, it’s as tediously cliched as it’s possible to be. Familiar level themes, hidden areas behind suspicious-looking walls, collectibles lurking about, weak-but-perfectly-placed-to-screw-you-over-while-making-jumps enemies… it’s all here. But at the same time, you’re Tim Allen and you’re shooting giant prehistoric dragonflies in the face with a nailgun. And that, right there, is something you can’t put a price on.
Certainly not ‘put a price on’ in the sense of actually buy this game, because it’s ass. Still, though, did I mention the nailgun? And the dinosaurs?
Let’s be frank here, studly dude to studly dude… Resident Evil has kinda sorta gone to shit in recent years. The glory days of Jill sandwiches, tank controls and actual survival horror seem to be long behind us.
Since the fourth release, the series has mostly been transforming into an actiontastic TPS. There have been flashes of the ‘old style,’ with 2012‘s Revelations bringing a little of the puzzley-explorey goodness of yore, but otherwise? Nope.
If you are still down with the Evil, you’ll have noticed the freshly-released HD remake of the original. So while we’re diving into that, let’s continue the Ye Olde Resident Evil love-in with a look back at the last release before things started going awry: Nemesis. Read more… »
When the DS was born in 2004, touchscreen doohickeys were not mothereffin’ everywhere like they are today. This was a new, befuddling technology; the sort of witchcraft that almost had a fire lit under Nintendo exec’s asses in the town square as they did in Ye Olde days.
Pokable, strokable, stylus-jabby video games? What the shitballs is this? That was the world’s reaction to the announcement. Two screens? Balls to that.
What the fledgling DS needed to do was show the world that it wasn’t just a gimmick. That the machine’s unique functions really could bring something new to the medium. Microphones, dual screens, stylus control… what a time to be alive. Naturally, with the first wave of DS games, every developer was shoehorning that stuff in there, just to get in on the action.
Racing games with half-assed spinnable steering wheel controls? Don’t bother, that sucks. Bust out some pure madness like Project Rub (or Feel the Magic) and its sequel The Rub Rabbits, though, and we’ll be happy.
The first game was a launch title for the system, a minigame sort of deal from Sonic Team. It was, as the Interwebs like to say, a much better love story than Twilight, or the one Taylor Swift was wanking on about a couple albums ago. It’s a familiar scenario: boy meets girl, girl doesn’t even freaking notice, boy has to massage strangers’ stomachs to extract goldfish and pop creepy bull-men’s heads with the stylus to get her attention. Obviously. We’ve all been there.
Project Rub was a combination of comic cutscenes and brief minigames, all of which used the system in different nutty-ass ways. This one right here, for instance:
The second title, The Rub Rabbits!, took the concept a little further. The story here was that your guy has an admirer of his own, and competition for his lady-lust in the form of performing troupe The Rub Rabbits. There’s druggings, kidnappings, nekkid touchscreen fondlings (guaranteed 100000% less sexy than they sound) and wedding cakes being sawn in two. There’s also a pervtastic, stalkerish game of dress-up involved.
At one point, you’ll have to turn the system upside down to drop coconuts on a huge angry mofo of a robotic crab, which is pursuing you up a palm tree. That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d type, but this is just the kind of BS you have to deal with in these games. You don’t often see something out-weird Nintendo’s own WarioWare, but I think this one about does it.
‘Fart power! Abe can even possess his own farts and blow stuff up,’ quoth the back of the Abe’s Exoddus box. ‘No other game has it… no other game wants it!’ Just so you know what you’re getting into here. Strap yourself in, gentlemen. It’s going to be a bumpy ride; into a bizarro world where you can pilot your own explosive farts.
First, a little background fact-tacular. Oddworld is the name of the planet on which the game is set, its own little universe in another dimension. It’s a vast world under threat by the bastardry of big-business (if there were intergalactic rivers to divert from intergalactic African villages for an intergalactic soft drink factory, these assholes would be on that like a shot), and populated by the weirdest space-weirds you’ll find this side of that bar in Tatooine.
Two such species are the Glukkons and Mudokons, and the assholery of the first to the second leads to the events of Abe’s Exoddus. So let’s take a look.
Abe is a Mudokon, and the player character of this crazy-ass platformer. His people have been enslaved the Glukkons (a second time, following on from Abe’s Odysee), shanghaied into producing the soft drink SoulStorm in an Oddworld factory. The drink, we’re told, is made from ‘Mudokon sweat and tears.’ So, what have we learned so far? These guys are dicks. Naturally, Abe has mixed, mostly rage-based feelings about the whole situation, and sets out to infiltrate the complex and rescue these groovy green dudes.
So, to sum up: part Metal Gear Solid, part Lemmings. If you’re not sold by that, you never will be.
Abe’s Exoddus doesn’t dick around with the usual platformer tropes. It’s not big on snow levels, lava levels, jungle levels or any of that BS. Who has time for that? What we have here is a whole lot of industrial gray and beige. Grimy mechanical doohickeys, angry guards with angrier machine guns, that sort of thing. It’s a dark world, as you can tell from the plot.
In a fight, our buddy Abe would be as much use as a one-legged kitten in a coma. Any hit from the enemies is an insta-death sort of deal, so he has to be a little sneakier than that. Which is fine, because you’re able to possess foes as well as your own ass-gas. By doing so, you can attack other enemies, set their own guard dogs on them or make them kill themselves. Natch, though, the player character is left vulnerable while doing so, so you’ll have to take care with it.
This puzzly platformer can be a real challenge, with an emotion mechanic to deal with as well. The Mudokons you meet can be depressed, ill, hopped up on SoulStorm, angry or blind, and each will need to be dealt with differently if you want to save them. GameSpeak is another feature, which allows Abe to talk to them and console the depressed or tell the angry ones to, y’know, stop that crazy shit (angries tend to slap the hell out of any Mudokons in the vicinity). With this, possessed enemies can also give orders to their minions.
All of this makes for a unique experience unlike just about anything else. Abe’s Exoddus hit the PS1 in 1998, and is still highly recommended for genre fans looking for a deep, challenging and thought-provoking ride. You don’t get that from Mario, that’s for damn sure.
The world of the gametastic is now bigger than ever. Since the Wii and tablets and all these newfangled doohickeys arrived on the scene, everyone’s playing. Grandma may have needed diapers since she had that episode, but she can flail away furiously at Wii Tennis with the best of them. Children a year or two old can also get their game on, inadvertently racking up bills for thousands of dollars in app stores on Ma and Pa’s iPad.
However all-inclusive video games have become, though, there’ll always be those who bitch about them. You’ll usually find them in the tabloids, insisting that Grand Theft Auto is breeding a generation of drug-dealing psychopathic kleptomaniac arsonist pimps. With herpes.
But sometimes, this kind of prejudice takes a crazy goose-step too far. One guy hates gamers so much that he created the most evil game of all time to torture us with. Gentlemen, meet Takeshi’s Challenge. Read more… »