Collecting Bratz and Catz

For the first time in a long time I find myself justifying a purchase.

Rational thoughts, rational thoughts.

Rational thoughts, rational thoughts.

Last week I bought a Game Boy Advance SP, as seen above. I already have one of course, and it is certainly the dopest form factors for the GBA (though the micro has a better screen). This one came with 15 games that I do not already own, which was the main selling point.  Forget the fact that those 15 consist of two Catz games, two Bratz games and two SpongeBob games. It was a chance to get another GBA SP and 15 games I don't own, so my choice was rational (right?)

When President of the Candid Collectors' Union this purchase would not have been anything even worth commenting on, because back then one would buy a game if it was a game that had not yet been added to the collection, without question or judgement.  This is the first such purchase in years that has drawn me back to those times, and I am experiencing a blend of exultation and mild regret. Yes I have the games, but toward what end?

Many reviews for the Game Under Podcast audience I am assuming.

- Phil Fogg

Collectors' Curse

For some reason I have recently decided to always have a new game coming from Ebay at all times. This is like reasoning that one must always be drunk, except slightly less expensive (for the record I have not formally come to this second conclusion at the time of writing). Since I now must always be receiving new gifts, I was on Ebay last week and saw the Megaman Legacy Collection for the PS4, which includes Megaman 1 through 6. It was a reasonable price, and although I am officially the world's worst 2d Platformer I decided to get it.  Even though my PS4 is constantly ejecting discs. Again.

So I got it in the mail today, and I realised, "Wait a minute!, this feels familiar".  Racing to the library, (with a brief visit to the beer fridge), I perused my PS2 section and found Mega Man Anniversary Collection, which features Megaman games 1 through 8!  EIGHT! Plus two bonus games! That's, mathematically derived, four additional games over the game I just bought.

D-oh!

D-oh!

So the moral of this story, folks, is don't go collecting 3,000 video games.  The secondary take away is that I guess Mega Man at some point became Megaman. Thanks Obama.

They Do What Game Undoesn't*

When there are no new episodes of the Game Under podcast, what is there to listen to, really? The Endless Backlog podcast, sure, but what if you've listened to all their episodes? Then there's literally only two other options, Sup, Holmes and the Bithell Games podcast.

The former is a series of interviews conducted by Jonathan Holmes who, amid being born, getting fat, tired and bald, found the time to interview some of the luminaries of the indie gaming world, from Jonathon Blow to Zoe Quinn. But the best introduction to his work, I think, is his interview with Lorne Lanning. 

Lorne Lanning, co-founder of Oddworld, has no qualms about openly criticising his contemporaries, swearing and making reference to other mediums or—gasp!—the world at large, regardless of the context of the interview. This makes him the perfect subject for interviewing. Yet this completely normal—in the gaming world eccentric—way of speaking often brings out the worst in the interviewer, compelling them to interrupt him, change the subject, or attempt to appear as well-versed in the subject of which he speaks by making contrived references of their own to related articles they've read.

Jonathon Holmes simply lets the man speak or, when relevant, is willing to join in to keep the conversation going by using for reference his own personal experience and opinions—or his own interpretation of outside sources.

- Tom Towers

Phil Fogg here, and since I've been summoned from the grave to contribute something, I'd absolutely endorse the Bithell Games podcast.  Number one, they put up a show on a regular basis, which I've always believed is key to the success of any podcast, it certainly holds true for us.

Secondly, like our podcast, they always keep things concise and on-point resulting in a podcast that is a short, crisp presentation of well-constructed thoughts. Beyond that though, what Bithell Games Podcast provides that you cannot get anywhere else is an insight into how a small development house is run, with interviews with all types of people who are never usually given voice in games enthusiast publishing. Beyond that, Mr. Bithell, (and the other host), are charming enough fellows to listen to.

- Phil Fogg

*Specifically, produce new episodes. Which isn't actually true of Sup, Holmes. - ed

Cibele Review - Phil Fogg

I had a couple of different ways to go with this review, I went with the one that provided the greatest challenge to me, which was to set aside the baggage so I would not have to unpack it.

Due to an annoying checkpoint marker I had to play the last third of the game twice, which may have also given me a unique perspective on the experience, having seen not a dash of variation between the two playthroughs.  In any case, here it is.

The world designs are mostly Inspired by Georgia O'Keefe

The world designs are mostly Inspired by Georgia O'Keefe

Cibele

After reading a top-secret essay by my co-host Tom Towers on Cibele, I downloaded the game and played it for a short while.  I think my meta-meter broke.

Playing a game about playing a game.

Playing a game about playing a game.

Which by no means is a denigration. I mean, I am about four minutes into it and I've forgotten I am playing a game inside a game, and am just playing a game. Which is a lot more involving than the other game I started yesterday Ryse: Son of Rome.

Looks very promising, some more updates soon.

- Phil Fogg

Phil Fogg, Around the World in 128 Days

Well, it's been 128 days since our last podcast, and strangely that is exactly how long it took for me to get around the world in the game 80 Days, which is a touch-pad version of my namesake's voyage Around the World in Eighty Days.

Not be the first time.

Not be the first time.

It is surprising how little interest my name, Phil Fogg, has brought over my lifetime. Fortunately for me all of my schoolyard bullies were illiterate, and even since then my name is rarely recognized name as being shared by one of Jules Verne's most notable characters.

As for the game, which was awarded Time magazine's Game of the Year in 2014, (a selection that only served to confirm that the last time Time got anything more wrong was in 1938), I was left not feeling fully serviced.  But I'll save that for a review.

- Phil Fogg

Jazzpunk Director's Cut

Jazzpunk, what would have been my 2014 Game of the Year had I played it in 2014, is receiving a Director's Cut version on the Playstation 4 next month.

I've exchanged e-mails with the creator of the game Luis Hernandez (as discussed in Episode 60) and found him to be as thoughtful, charming and memorable as his game would suggest.

Jazzpunk is available on Steam for $15 USD and I encourage all listeners to the podcast to play.

- Phil Fogg

Inside Update

From what I can tell I am about halfway through Inside and am enjoying it considerably more than Playdead's debut game, Limbo.

Since it is a game with sparse audio design I decided to make a playlist with songs with the word, "inside" in the title.  This worked out pretty well, with a fair few happy coincidences popping in as I played.

So the songs in my MP3 folder were:
Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again - Bob Dylan
Devil Inside - INXS
Inside My Mind - Groove Armada
Step Inside Love - The Beatles
Inside Job - Don Henley
Inside My Love - Trina Broussard
I'm Hurting Inside - Bob Marley
Deep Inside of You - Third Eye Blind

I have no idea how 80% of that got into my MP3 folder (I actually do, as an I.T. worker in the aughties I used to harvest MP3's off of PC's I worked on), but in any case... it was a mostly satisfying experience, as is playing Inside.

-Phil Fogg

 

"The match was described as 'manly but fair'."

In David Cage's debut game Omikron: The Nomad soul, you play as yourself; possessing characters in the game. Probably. So far, at least.

Anyway, as soon as you arrive in the apartment of the man you are possessing, you may urinate in the bathroom. After you zip his Robocop cosplay up, his girlfriend arrives home.

You inform her that you are not, in fact, her boyfriend. But it's time for some very awkward dry humping nevertheless. In her defence, I wouldn't have believed you either.

Strangely for a David Cage game there is no post-coitus shower scene. Indeed, you don't want to shower! What the fuck?

Now that your bladder and testicles have been relieved, it's time to explore; smelling of God-knows-what. As you enter the first circle of hell, it's not long before you begin to wish you were possessing a body with some new possibilities. Or at least two big ones staring you in the face. And maybe a third: showering in a more suitably David-Cage-shower-scene body?

As you leave the first circle of hell and enter the second, you discover that Minos punishes the lustful with angular dildos...

omikron 7.jpg

..and a spasmodic David Bowie.

I am sorry Dante, but there are more circles to explore yet.

Inside Inside

I really wanted to get a hard copy of this game for a console, because I think it's going to end up being one of the remembered games of the generation. But not wanting to wait for the inevitable limited run collector's edition (possibly including Limbo), I bit the bullet and downloaded Playdead's Inside today.

This is not what it looks like.

This is not what it looks like.

So far, it's visually arresting. Having just completed Limbo for the first time I am finding the controls to be easy to pick up.

More impressions soon.

- Phil Fogg

This would be a great format for a Stranger Things game.

This would be a great format for a Stranger Things game.

The Land Before Time: Great Valley Racing Adventure Review

As promised, here is the first in my two-part series of reviews of the works of Vision Scape Interactive. This is the first game that was released under that studio's banner. The back of the box promises, "Dino Fun on the Run!" read the review to see if the studio delivered on their claim. Link to the review.

Based on the credits the game was completed by a very small team, but like many indy games of today.

Based on the credits the game was completed by a very small team, but like many indy games of today.

 

 

The Works of Vision Scape Interactive

Entertainment site IGN writes of The Land Before Time Great Valley Racing Adventure, "Who knew that dinosaurs could race cars at all, let alone drive so professionally?" To which I ask, "Who knew you can’t spell ignorant without IGN?" given that this is a competitive running game, not a vehicular racer. They also list the developer as being TDK Mediactive (sic) when any visitor to (admittedly now-defunct) lbtgame.com knows that Vision Scape Interactive produced the game.

Only a team on their level could release (just six months later) Razor Racing, and then two months later release X-Bladez.  For their final game, Vision Scape took their time and eleven months later released SeaBlade for the Xbox. 

The company, founded in San Diego, California,  by husband and wife team Tammy and Matt McDonald, had a knack for landing some bankable licensed games.  The McDonalds continued to work at a number of game development houses after the studio closed and have kpet active up until very recently.  Regardless of the quality of their games, the studio demonstrated a disciplined approach, which is likely why they were able to attract so much contract work.

Fortunately for you, dear reader, I have a copy of their first and last game, so I am dedicating a significant amount of time and energy into reviewing the bookends of this studio's work in an upcoming series.

Battlefield: Hardline Review

Phil reviews Battlefield: Hardline, EA's attempt to broaden the FPS military segment of it's gaming line-up by offering up policework in place of insurgent hunting.

Click here for linkage. Important to note that Phil was playing Limbo for the first time when he went through Battlefield Hardline.

Actually that was probably in no way important to note.

Game Under E3 Editorial Staff Wrap-up

Tom Towers coverage appears in normal case (strangely for him). Phil Fogg's coverage is in italics. All image captions are from Mr. Fogg.

Faster Than Light
Was it an angel that descended from heaven, live on stage at E3? Was it Lucifer, losing his wings halfway down? Or was it just Hideo Kojima?

Billy Jean, is not his lover, she's just a girl that says he is The One.

Billy Jean, is not his lover, she's just a girl that says he is The One.

8-Views of Death Mountain
Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Zelda will finally fulfil the fantasies of the multitudes. Bullet points in place of a 30-year-old formula. But how exciting, how wondrous these bullet points appear to be when fully realised.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

But let us not forget in our ecstasy the beauty of a single motif repeated. Each repetition revealing another aspect of the subject, or allowing us the opportunity to revel in the eccentricities of its author[s]; concentrated by the constraints of working to a formula.

Remember! Remember! Remember!

And let us ask, also, what constitutes Zelda? The aesthetic sensibilities, the mythology, the gameplay mechanics…or the formula itself? In retaining the aesthetic sensibilities and mythology sans the formula, do we serve any purpose greater than the gratification of our desire for nostalgic fulfilment?

Remember! Remember! Remember!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Rejoice! Rejoice! Rejoice!

Amnesiac Chameleons
Apparently a series or two made a drastic departure from their roots. Apparently a few series were rebooted in a classical, yet contemporary style. But so closely did they resemble other games, I can scarcely recall what series they were.

It was nice, however, to see God of War 4 introduce a character that the majority of its fanbase could at last relate to.

Son, Get me a beer.  I mean dear, get me a deer.

Son, Get me a beer.  I mean dear, get me a deer.

As the demographic of console gamer contines to age, Kratos, in his flabby-dad period of life, with his less than sensitive parenting style, spoke for the rising anger in the average (really) white male in bluntly un-ironically pulling his son away from his playthings to get him to go kill a deer, providing an aural mnemonic for the familiar refrain, "go get me a beer". 

Besides that, bringing 40-year old Corey Barlog back onto the God of War team is greatly encouraging. He was present for the original and creative director for God of War II, arguably the best in the franchise. He left the studio under strange circumstances, and his return could only be capped by that of David Jaffe retaking the helm.

Moving God of War into an isolated natural setting with a companion at your side seems to be the Sony way these days, and surely God of War's reboot will not be the Last of These, judging by Sony Bend's new game.

The Tortoise and the Hair
Do developers not realise that beards are now a passé symbol of the hipster? Killzone 3 got the timing right. Broken Age got the contemporary depiction right. The former was released in 2011. The latter’s full-bodied beard was sported by a hipster lumberjack.

The millenial pioneers of beard.

The millenial pioneers of beard.

Choruses from E3 (in conclusion):

The world is ending.

We want to be one of the lucky few to survive the world’s end, whether it is brought about by the Spanish flu, The Great War, technology, zombies, the unknown…or Ganondorf. Fulfilling this desire, videogames have now charted the extent of the decline of Western civilisation, going from the Not-Quite-As-Great-but-Still-Pretty-Good War, to The War on Terror and its echoes of The Cold War, to the cataclysmic beginning of the end: The Great War itself; complemented by a general sentiment steeped in the apocalyptical, present in much of the catalogue on display at this year’s E3.

Incidentally, The Last of Us and Tomb Raider were really very successful.

 

Game Under’s (Tom Towers) Game of the Show: Forza Horizon 3

We at Game Under love the way Australia separates earth and sky. Go horizon! Go! Go!

It actually did look quite good, and I enjoyed that for the first time since Midway's Cruis'n' The World, that Australia is being depicted in a racing game, albeit sans kangaroos. Horizon: Zero Dawn was actually a game that came closer for my E3 GOTY, but ultimately I am most anticipating Detroit continuing David Cage's vision of gaming.
 

We'll have much more to say, including my views on Microsoft's approach, in the next episode of the Game Under Podcast.

Tom Towers Reads in May

Link to the feature.

A long time ago, in a opaque e-mail to Phil which I regret, and he accepted with a wow, I'll have to return to this (though he, thankfully, never did), I revealed both the size of the lesions in my brain and the blood supplied to the same organ, by way of describing how they had recently shrunk or flowed rather than grown and ebbed. 
Feebly, and foolishly, I wrote and partially edited what are now the final instalments of the Tom Towers Reads series, a work documenting the return of my literacy (some semblance of successful short term memory creation and processing) yet the absence, still, of my ability to recall long-term memories without some prompting, and the perpetual sense of paranoia and déjà vu which resulted.
 
The series, as a whole, was an autobiography made and presented in the wrong medium. A Pater prose poem, not a Poe. In fact, it is one in the mode of the latter (recounting an earlier such shrinking and flowing) that haunts the style of these supposed reviews; part of a work rendering everything that I had written, post-lesions, up until that point an impotent impression of the whole of the work itself, its festering maggots gnawing their rotting prose.
 
Writers who disavow their own work, beg their benefactors to burn it on their deathbed, but do not burn it themselves, are cowards. So if I am not to move these to the recycle bin (and they are backed-up in so many folders, hard drives and clouds that I can hardly hope to eradicate them completely; as with most infestations, one is at its mercy no matter what one tries) then, out of shame, let me disparage them and publish them in their present—and chronologically increasingly unedited and underdeveloped, as the realisation of their futility slowly dawned upon me,—state, in the internet's very own outhouse, GameUnder.net; where only those whose brains are as damaged as mine are likely to find them...
 
Which is also our new slogan: Game Under, for those whomse brains are as damaged as ours..."

- Tom Towers

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. Until I beame a bobble-head doll, and then it all made sense." - Edgar Allan Poe

"I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity. Until I beame a bobble-head doll, and then it all made sense." - Edgar Allan Poe

Game Under Podcast Episode 90

Phil and Tom talk about Sunset Overdrive (this months Games for Gold offering), Treasure's Gunstar Heroes, their understanding of Sony (and others) attempts to fill the generation gap, as well as a much anticipated review of Killzone: Skyfall from Tom Towers.

Thanks for listening.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, struggling to comprehend the new Towers Scoring System.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, struggling to comprehend the new Towers Scoring System.

Tom Towers Reads in April

Link to the feature.

A long time ago, in a opaque e-mail to Phil which I regret, and he accepted with a wow, I'll have to return to this (though he, thankfully, never did), I revealed both the size of the lesions in my brain and the blood supplied to the same organ, by way of describing how they had recently shrunk or flowed rather than grown and ebbed. 
Feebly, and foolishly, I wrote and partially edited what are now the final instalments of the Tom Towers Reads series, a work documenting the return of my literacy (some semblance of successful short term memory creation and processing) yet the absence, still, of my ability to recall long-term memories without some prompting, and the perpetual sense of paranoia and déjà vu which resulted.
 
The series, as a whole, was an autobiography made and presented in the wrong medium. A Pater prose poem, not a Poe. In fact, it is one in the mode of the latter (recounting an earlier such shrinking and flowing) that haunts the style of these supposed reviews; part of a work rendering everything that I had written, post-lesions, up until that point an impotent impression of the whole of the work itself, its festering maggots gnawing their rotting prose.
 
Writers who disavow their own work, beg their benefactors to burn it on their deathbed, but do not burn it themselves, are cowards. So if I am not to move these to the recycle bin (and they are backed-up in so many folders, hard drives and clouds that I can hardly hope to eradicate them completely; as with most infestations, one is at its mercy no matter what one tries) then, out of shame, let me disparage them and publish them in their present—and chronologically increasingly unedited and underdeveloped, as the realisation of their futility slowly dawned upon me,—state, in the internet's very own outhouse, GameUnder.net; where only those whose brains are as damaged as mine are likely to find them...
 
Which is also our new slogan: Game Under, for those whomse brains are as damaged as ours..."

- Tom Towers

I'm 'enry the eigth I am.

I'm 'enry the eigth I am.