Maze Craze: A Game of Cops and Robbers Retro Review

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A-Maze-ing Gameplay!

Maze Craze was released for the Atari 2600 in 1978. It was released only one year after Pong for the 2600. So while it’s a simple game by today’s standards, that was par for the course at the time. That being said, the fact this game is nearly 40 years old, doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

The gameplay consists of players controlling a red or blue little person and navigating a maze. You start on the left and make your way to the exit that is always on the right. Like many Atari games, it has many gameplay variations. Some modes make parts, or all, of the maze invisible or give you the ability to make fake walls to confuse the other player. Others modes introduce different squares that wander around the maze. You must avoid touching them or face getting slowed down or outright losing.

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A mode where part of the maze is invisible.

If you read the manuals in Atari games you’ll find the background story. The story in Maze Craze is that your red and blue squares are cops navigating a maze of city streets. The other squares are armed robbers trying to get you. None of that really matters though. All you really need to know is: You need to get your little square butt to the exit before the other guy.

There really isn’t much that’s bad about the game so I have to knit-pick a little here. First, the screen that comes up when the maze resets is awful. Every time you finish a maze, it resets and briefly flashes a bunch of random colors. It’s bad enough that I could see myself getting a headache if I played it for too long, especially if its being played in the dark. Second, like I mentioned earlier, it’s a simple game. You play as a poor representation of a person, and pretty much everything else is a square. There’s no music and very little in the way of sound effects. I mean, there’s literally four different sounds in the game.  A sound when you bump into a wall, one when you touch a robber, one when you exit a maze and the sound of the Officer’s footsteps. That’s it. When you’re actually playing the game it’s not that noticeable though. The lack of sounds never bothered me very much and I actually think the footsteps are a nice touch.

My brother came over recently and I decided to break out the old Atari. We ended up playing Maze Craze for half an hour. Even though the game’s pretty simple and probably in need of an epilepsy warning, we had a blast. To me this game is a great example that if the core of a game is strong, it doesn’t need Xbox graphics to be fun.

Friday the 13th: Retro Review

Friday13thTitleKilling your nostalgia

For those who have lived under a rock for the last 30 years or so, Friday the 13th is a series of slasher films in which teenagers at a summer camp get murdered in various ways by a serial killer in a hockey mask named Jason. That being said, one would think that this would be a horror game, but what it mostly succeeded in being was a generic, repetitive, frustrating side-scroller.

The game has you taking control of one of six camp counselors each with their own attributes, such as running or swimming, that they are better or worse at. Your job is to keep the teens at the summer camp alive for three days or to kill Jason three times before he kills the people you’re protecting.

The game starts you along a side-scrolling path that goes around the lake. At some point Jason will attack one of the cabins and you have to make your way along the path to the cabin and fend him off. When you enter a cabin it goes into a bizarre 3D-ish environment. The only reason I can see for this is to add a small amount of suspense because you don’t know if Jason is around the corner. When in the cabin you may or may not fight Jason. You then go back to the path and wait for Jason to attack again. Rinse and repeat.

The graphics aren’t terrible, what makes me not like them is that everything is so repetitive. There are only a handful of backgrounds and they are repeated over and over. There is also a forest in the game that you can go into and fight Jason’s mother and get the best weapon in the game. I wouldn’t recommend it however, because the forest backgrounds are all so similar that it’s near impossible to find your way out.

Even worse than the graphics is the music. The music mostly consists of a few 6 second loops that repeat constantly throughout the game. You know it’s bad when you play a game for all of thirty seconds to hear the entire soundtrack.

Some of these things could be forgiven if the game was fun to play, but it’s not. The side scrolling parts, while running from cabin to cabin around the lake, feel clunky and poorly made. The battles with Jason, which should be a highlight of the game, end up being battles of annoyance as Jason dances back and forth taking cheap shots at you.

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Seriously, it looks like he’s dancing.

There are bats and zombies that spawn continuously along the path and the only weapon you have at start is a rock that’s both hard to hit enemies with and very weak. The best way to get a better weapon is, I kid you not, to jump around aimlessly. After jumping around a bunch a floating knife will appear and you can grab it. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. It’s just that the few good ideas in this game such as choosing between counselors, get drowned in a wave of bad execution and monotony.

 

In video games, as with movies, there are two types of bad. A few games like E.T. are so bad that they’re entertaining and then there are games that are just plain bad. Friday the 13th is the latter.

Dark Souls 3 Collectors Edition Contents Review

The third game in the renowned Dark Souls series released today in the parts of the world that aren’t Japan, and it’s just as hard as you’d expect it to be. I will be writing a review on the game itself after I’ve had enough time to get to grips with it’s systems and see if it’s another great game that From software has given us

But for now, were going to look at the big box that was given to me by the nice Mr. Postman.

The box itself is a major beast, showing a possible face for the unkindled one (the player character). It’s a very nice image, with the orange/green glow giving a sense of hope, tying into the theme of embers and fire that the dark souls games revolve around. What were really interested in lies within this cardboard tomb

1. The Art Book

 

Firstly we have the a4 hardback artbook which, as you can see, covers the whole trilogy. The book itself is separated into three sections, one for each game, and contains box art, area art, monsters and characters for each game. It lacks a lot of the text that the previous individual art book releases have had that explain why things were done the way they were, but as a collection of good artwork from the three games it’s still a very nice piece.

2. The Map and Patches

Continue reading

Warner Bros. Gives PC Gamers The Cold Shoulder over Mortal Kombat

blueboardNWarner Bros Interactive have had a bad time with PC games recently, what with the abysmal release condition of Arkham Knight, a game that was removed from the steam store for months before coming back, still in a broken state, and the the release of Mortal Kombat X which saw some people unable to even play the game, and others only getting parts of the game as it refused to download the whole thing due to a poorly integrated “play as you download” system.

Yesterday, it seems WB finally showed their thoughts on their PC owning player base when they released a trailer for the upcoming complete edition of the game, which also showed off the next pack of DLC, containing such cameo characters as leather face and the Xenomorph from Alien. The trailer advertised the release for Xbox One and Playstation 4, but notably absent was any mention of PC or steam. When asked about this, a representative from the company simply stated that the content would not be releasing for the PC platform. No reason was given for this decision, it was just done.

For WB to do this is a very low blow for a customer base that has paid for their games KNOWING that this game was being released with future content in mind, even to the point of dlc being offered as pre-order incentives before the first actual gameplay trailer for the thing was released. They cannot in good conscience say that they delivered everything that they promised, because from the start they sold Mortal Kombat X as a platform for more content to be added to in the future.

What do you think about this? Do you think that they have every right to throw in the towel after their bad history of launches, or do you think that the PC gamers deserve the same content as the console gamers, the content they have just as much of a right to? Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts

Worst Game Ever?

A Retro Review by Steven

 

E.T. will probably be one of the more well known games that I’ll write about in this series of retro reviews. Many people know about it not because it’s good, like Mario, but because it’s bad–really bad.

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As far as gameplay and sound go, you have to dig pretty deep  to find anything good to say. The sound consists of a couple short snippets of the E.T. theme (played on the opening screen and when you “die”) and beeps that are annoying even by Atari standards. The game play isn’t any better. You explore a confusing world in hopes of finding 3 dots aka ship parts so that E.T. can go home. The entire time you are chased by a man in a trench coat who will take your precious dots and carry you to a jail that you can simply walk out of.  You will also repeatedly fall into holes that are both surprisingly hard to get out of and to avoid. There is also a limited number of steps that E.T. can take before he dies. This ends up being one of my favorite parts of the game because if you lose track or you try to kill yourself by running out, E.T. turns into a pile of ash. Elliot then appears out of nowhere and the theme starts playing. As soon as Elliot reaches E.T. the music comes to a hilariously abrupt end and POOF! he’s gone and E.T. is perfectly fine and has plenty of steps. The game is terrible and you can’t even kill yourself to end it.

 

What’s actually more interesting than the game itself is it’s place in video game history. The movie E.T. had just come out and Atari gave a man named Howard Scott Warshaw the impossible task of making the game in just 5 weeks so that it would be out for the holiday season. Well, unsurprisingly the game was bad.  Many customers demanded refunds, and a huge number of the games went unsold. So many E.T. and other Atari games were going unsold that Atari famously ended up burying them in the Alamogordo desert. (For more information watch the very good documentary Atari: Game Over) This ended up being the last straw that pushed Atari into debt and started the video game industry crash of ’83.  Atari never fully recovered from this and it is often cited as being one of the worst financial mistakes in video game history.  Atari’s decline left the door open for Sega and Nintendo to get a major foothold in America and in doing so, changed the world of gaming forever.

 

Although many people call E.T. the worst game ever, I wouldn’t agree with that. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s bad, but at least it’s playable.  Even if half the reason to play it is to make fun of it, that’s still more reason than a few games I know of. So I would actually recommend people play this game, if they get the chance. It’s worth playing just to see how bad it is and to experience this small, but important, part of video game history for yourself.

Steven Mente

Dice: Bringing Lightsabers to a Gunfight

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I’ve always loved Battlefront but I also always thought that it was bit like a Battlefield game in a star wars skin (even down to the name.) So I thought it was a great idea when Dice, the makers of Battlefield, picked up the license to make a new one. I mean, who better to make it than the people it had been practically copying from the beginning?

 

Now, Dice has been known for having great sound design and visuals and that’s certainly true here. Battlefront has been brought to life with a painstaking level of detail. Everything looks and sounds exactly like the original trilogy should. The environments are actually so impressive that I’ve stopped in the middle of a game to admire them, only to be snapped out of it by an equally impressive explosion.

 

The gameplay in Battlefront is, obviously, very similar to Battlefield. Anyone familiar with modern shooters should quickly feel right at home. One noticeable difference from Battlefield is that Battlefront eschews the class based upgrade system where it’s tough luck if you want the medic’s gun while playing as an engineer. Instead,  you use the credits you earned during battles to pick and choose which guns and stat. boosting cards you want to equip. It’s a change I personally like, but the progression doesn’t seem to go as deep as in some other contemporary shooters.

 

That being said, It’s not all sunshine and daisies with Battlefront. For instance, some maps could use more spawn points. As such, I’ve had some occasional issues with spawn-killing. It’s frustrating to respawn only to immediately die in an orbital strike. Also the hero’s one-liner’s are corny to begin with and, if heard enough, get annoying. However, what is possibly the biggest downside to Battlefront is the lack of any real single player or campaign mode. This and the fact that the upgrade system isn’t quite as robust as some games has led people to say that Battlefront may have less longevity than other shooters. Dice makes up for some of this though, with an abundance of game types. There is a a single player or two player co-op survival mode where you face increasingly difficult waves of enemies. There’s also 9 different multi-player game types, some of which I think are fantastic and some that are a little more hit or miss.

 

A few gameplay types that stood out for me were Walker Assault, Supremacy, and Drop Zone. Walker Assault is an asymmetrical gametype where the imperials attack with an AT-AT and the rebels have to destroy it before it reaches their base. Supremacy is the closest to traditional Battlefront with 20 vs. 20 games focused on capturing control points. Drop Zone is the faster paced, mini version of Supremacy. It has 8 vs. 8 matches where you fight for control of cashed drop pods. The other modes are: Cargo – a capture the flag mode; Blast – a team deathmatch mode; Droid Run – king of the hill where Droids that move around are the hill; Fighter Squadron – an aerial dogfight mode; Hero Hunt – a juggernaut mode where everyone is against one hero and whoever kills them gets to play as the hero; and Hero’s vs. Villains where the only playable characters are hero’s such as Luke Skywalker or villains like Boba Felt.

 

There are 12 different maps included with the game at launch with two more to be released before the movie in December in the free “Battle of Jakku” DLC. Most of the maps are based in the familiar locales of Endor, Hoth, and Tatooine but there are also maps based on the Imperial planet Sullust, which until now was only mentioned in Return of the Jedi. All of the maps are incredibly detailed and seem to do a good job of encouraging different play styles. The tight maze-like streets of Mos Eisley encourage close quarters combat while the ample hiding spots and bridges in the forests of Endor encourage longe range and sniping. The maps also have lots of different paths to get around so they don’t fall into the bad habit games sometimes have of funneling everyone into one area to be slaughtered. All together, the maps are equally well crafted and balanced.

 

Battlefront has a lot going for it. It’s easily one  of the best looking and sounding games so far this generation. It has excellent gameplay and several new game modes but, with some minor gameplay annoyances, the lack of any single player and some questioning it’s staying power, it’s not perfect. In the end, one of the things I like most about Star Wars is the world it inhabits, and Battlefront does a fantastic job of picking you up and putting you right in the middle of that world. So if you like shooters and have even a little love for Star Wars, it would be hard to go wrong with Battlefront.

Steven Mente