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BoneSnapDeez
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by BoneSnapDeez Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:25 am

MrPopo wrote:43. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - PS3

Trails of Cold Steel is set in the same universe as Trails in the Sky, just a couple years later and in a different part of the continent. I first picked up the game shortly after finishing Trails in the Sky 3, but quickly burned out after the prologue because it was just too much of the same game. Now that the third game came out on Switch I decided to go for the series again, though I will be taking a break between this one and the second one to play Halo 3 (as it's about to come out on PC in the Master Chief Collection).

Trails of Cold Steel mostly builds on the gameplay systems of Trails in the Sky, but now things are in 3D and there is a different flow to the story. The game is set at the Thors Military Academy in the Erebonian Empire. You are a member of a new type of class at the school; while normally nobles and commoners are separated your class is mixed. Your class is an experiment for the school's faculty, and engaging in this experiment is what drives most of the plot. The basic layout of each chapter is you spend some time at school running errands and interacting with your classmates, then you go out into the Empire to do some field work helping people out. This is intended to expose you to the world (both in universe and to the player), but as you do so you start to find the beginnings of the overall plot of the Cold Steel games; the tensions among the different factions that make up the Empire that will eventually come to a head at the end of the game. In fact, the game mostly serves as a prologue for the rest of the story in a way not too dissimilar to how Trails in the Sky 1 was a lower-stakes story compared to what would come in the other games.

The combat system builds on what Trails in the Sky did. Positioning is still important, but now you're on a 3D field instead of the isometric field, so there tends to be more encirclement happening. You still have three basic options; attacking, using crafts (special attacks), or casting artes (spells). The game uses the same timeline with bonuses system of the first game, and you still can skip the timeline using an S-Craft (at the expense of all your craft points). So things will be extremely familiar for people who have played the previous game.

The biggest change in these systems is how quartzes work. In Trails in the Sky you would slot various quartzes to get passive stat bonuses and to gain one or more points of a given element. Then, depending on the total elemental points you have on a line (a character will have from one to three lines) you will gain artes, with higher artes requiring more points and more diverse points. Here you instead have quartz that is dedicated for the various spells, in addition to the passive stat bonuses. This has a couple of implications. The first is that it turns the value of lines on its head; whereas in the previous game having one line was advantageous for a caster (as you could get multiple high level spells), here it is all downside. Unlocking nodes costs a greater amount for each node on a given line, so having more lines means you pay less to unlock everything. And the quartzes that can cause stats effects are limited to one per line, but if you have three lines you can equip three different status quartzes. So the character who has a caster setup ends up having their setup feel like more of a liability (though it doesn't really matter too much). The whole thing basically makes it easier to make your characters do whatever you want (though their crafts still will incline them to specific roles). There's also a new master quartz available, which levels up with the character and provides some inborn stats, artes, and passive bonuses; this ends up being the main way to give characters unique strengths.

However, all that stuff I said about spell setups doesn't actually matter, because midway through the game spells get left in the dust. See, the balance of things in this game is that speed is the god stat. But more importantly, they give you a lot of access to delay, which is the ability to move an enemy down the timeline. Basically, after taking an action everyone gets a delay number based on the action taken (so attacks are cheaper delay-wise than high level magic). The game sorts by delay with the smallest delay going next. You can both equip quartz that makes your attacks cause delay as well as certain crafts being able to cause delay, which includes one your main character gets which causes a high amount of delay in an area for a reasonable cost. There are a grand total of two boss fights who are immune to delay. All others can be permanently delay-locked so they never get a turn. Once you realize this and build for it (max everyone's speed and delay causing ability) you will steamroll the game, aside from the aforementioned two boss fights. And one of them is really just a long endurance fight and isn't actually difficult (the other one though, hoo boy). I understand it that they nerfed this tactic in the sequel; we shall see.

It's a long game (60 hours), but it builds towards an interesting storyline that I'm looking forward to seeing unfold over the coming games. They do a lot of hint dropping towards this game's plot as well as the deeper sweeping events, and you will be rewarded if you've played the previous games by cameos and hints at plotlines that were first introduced in those games. I'm not sure how much was preplanned when they started the overall world and how much they've made up as they've gone, but there are a lot of twists and turns that are going to keep things interesting.


Based and Falcompilled.

Popo, you play the original Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes on PCE yet?????????????????????????????????????
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by MrPopo Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:36 am

No, but it's on my shelf. I'll get to it eventually.
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Games Beaten: 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Blizzard Entertainment Software Developer - All comments and views are my own and not representative of the company.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by Ack Mon Jul 13, 2020 12:04 pm

1. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Switch)(Adventure)
2. Final Fight [Japanese Version] (Switch)(Beat 'Em Up)
3. Ziggurat (PC)(FPS)
4. Magrunner: Dark Pulse (PC)(FPS)
5. The King of Dragons [Japanese](Arcade)(Beat 'Em Up)

6. Captain Commando [Japanese](Arcade)(Beat 'Em Up)
7. Knights of the Round [Japanese](Arcade)(Beat 'Em Up)
8. The Witcher (PC)(RPG)

9. Tenchi wo Kurau II (Arcade)(Beat 'Em Up)
10. Dark Sun: Shattered Lands (PC)(RPG)

11. Lichdom: Battlemage (PC)(FPS/RPG Hybrid)
12. Star Wars: Republic Commando (PC)(FPS)

13. DOOM 64 (PC)(FPS)
14. Half Dead 2 (PC)(Adventure)

15. Powered Gear - Strategic Variant Armor Equipment (Arcade)(Beat 'Em Up)
16. Torchlight II (PC)(RPG)

17. Battle Circuit [Japanese](Arcade)(Beat 'Em Up)
18. Hard Reset Redux (PC)(FPS)

19. The Stanley Parable (PC)(Walking Sim)
20. Waking Mars (PC)(Adventure)
21. Requiem: Avenging Angel (PC)(FPS)

22. Night Slashers (Arcade)(Beat 'Em Up)
23. Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD (PC)(Action Adventure)

24. Strikers 1945 (Arcade)(SHMUP)
25. SiN Episodes: Emergence (PC)(FPS)
26. Crysis Warhead (PC)(FPS)

27. Metro 2033 (PC)(FPS)
28. Good Job! (Switch)(Puzzle)
29. Blasphemous (Switch)(Action Adventure)

30. Two Worlds: Epic Edition (PC)(RPG)
31. Chex Quest HD (PC)(FPS)

32. NecroVision: Lost Company (PC)(FPS)
33. Icewind Dale (PC)(RPG)

34. Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter (PC)(RPG)
35. Icewind Dale: Trials of the Luremaster (PC)(RPG)

36. Ravenloft: Strahd's Possession (PC)(RPG)
37. Singularity (PC)(FPS)
38. The Witcher 2 (PC)(RPG)
39. Still Life 2 (PC)(Point and Click Adventure)
40. Myst IV: Revelation (PC)(Point and Click Adventure)
41. Gato Roboto (Switch)(Action Adventure)
42. Painkiller: Overdose (PC)(FPS)

43. Battle Realms (PC)(RTS)

I picked up Battle Realms some years ago when it was being given away free on GOG. It's an RTS that features a mixture of Japanese and Chinese mythology and culture mixed together. The game takes place on an island continent, with multiple provinces that are ruled by either the evil warlock-led Lotus Clan or the barbaric Wolf Clan. Previously, an evil clan known as the Serpent had also dominated part of the island nation, but with the death of that clan's king and eldest son, it has scattered.

Enter the second son of the dead Serpent Clan king. You get a choice: either restore the evil Serpent Clan or instead become leader of a new Dragon Clan, a noble one which thinks of its people and wishes to bring peace to the island through war and bloodshed!

Yes, while the plot has various twists and turns, it ultimately boils down to the usual Make War for Peace storyline you get in an RTS. However, it also offers up some player agency through the game, starting with your decision in the first level: do you help a group of bandits attacking peasants and thus work to restore the Serpent Clan or aid the peasants and create the Dragon Clan? Along the way, you'll receive the chance to decide where to invade, who to protect, and what sort of allies you want. There are also sometimes hidden conditions on levels which will reveal Hero units you can also utilize, some of which are incredibly useful. Others...not so much. I found it best to rely on certain Hero units for invasion and others for base defense, though not always; one of the best siege Heroes is unfortunately absurdly slow, so he ended up on defense duty most of the time.

Battle Realms uses a training mechanic to build units. You must harvest rice and water, but your basic workers, peasants, may then be sent to attend training in various buildings. Want spearmen? There's a barracks. Archers? There's a range. Then you take these warriors, and to build them further, you send them to the other place to crosstrain. This enables the creation of tier 2 units, and once you have access to the third training building, tier 3. For Dragon Clan, the tier 3 unit is a samurai, so I soon began setting waypoints between training facilities so that my Hero units could lead samurai squads, always with a geisha, which is the Dragon Clan healer. Manage combat correctly with a geisha, and you can massacre an enemy squad without losing a man. It's great...when it works.

Unfortunately, the AI is familiar with this tactic, so it loves taking fast troops and running them straight at the healer. Geishas in melee cannot heal, so you only need one enemy to distract them to result in a squad wipe. The AI knows this and will try to do it often. In fact, the AI is actually a pretty smart cookie; during my playthrough, I noticed coordinated attacks on my base on different fronts, enemy waves taking the long route to hit weaker base defenses, and enemy peasants running off to establish new bases while their old one was being destroyed. Often times the game will also force you into a corner where you have to expose yourself on multiple fronts to enemy onslaught because those are the only places to get resources, so get used to constant invasion. The (better) alternative is to take your initial group of warriors and rush at the beginning against weaker enemy forces who have not yet been able to build up while your peasants rush to build you healer reinforcements. I had to do this to get through multiple levels.

Now while I have covered training up units, I haven't yet talked about actual upgrades, such as ensuring units hit harder, have better health, use less stamina for running or abilities, etc. To do this, you have to build up Yin-Yang points. These points get generated through combat, and you tend to earn them faster the further you are from your base when you engage in said combat. In short, the more aggressive you are, the more powerful you become. So much for giving peace a chance, eh? It also forces you into the base rush mindset early on, because you not only can severely hinder an opponent's ability to produce, but you also gain faster access to upgrades, thus enabling you to better crush your enemies.

In short, Battle Realms doesn't want you to turtle.

Do I like it? I have mixed feelings. Some of the approaches I appreciate, like having a separate resource for upgrades and seeing units grow more powerful through consistent training. Some approaches, like the forced aggressiveness, I'm not as big a fan of because it limits what playstyle options I am allowed. I do admire being able to make decisions over the course of the game that impact how events unfold and even which units I can employ. But would I come back to it? Only to play the expansion, which I'm already doing.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by dust_hound Tue Jul 14, 2020 12:03 pm

@Ack - great write-up of Battle Realms. I'd heard of it but never tried it, so thanks for fleshing out my mental picture of what it'd be like to play.

13th July 2020 - Prince of Persia: Rival Swords (PSP, played on PS Vita)
Let me preface this by saying that I know my past "games beaten" entries have been fairly negative about the games I played, but that's because I'm in the process of whittling down my backlog via trying to clear games that I might have given up on before.

Anyway, you know how when you play certain games you can really feel the care and attention that the devs put into the production? Like Donkey Kong '94, Zelda: LTTP, Front Mission, Sega Rally, Final Fantasy IX etc? Well Prince of Persia: Rival Swords (the PSP port of PoP: The Two Thrones) has absolutely none of that. If competently-handled, it would have been a solid way of playing the final chapter of the Sands of Time trilogy of 3D platformers. As it stands though, it's a beyond-shoddy port of what was already merely an OK game, and had basically the bare minimum of work done to make it run "acceptably" on PSP.

Graphics have taken a serious hit - where PoP: The Two Thrones on PC and home console had relatively nice visuals for its time, the translation to PSP was NOT kind. The landscapes and lighting are passable, but the main character and supporting cast look terrible, even by PSP standards, with beyond low-res textures. Animation is still relatively smooth though. This whole package is further let down by a fluctuating frame rate that I'm not sure goes above 30, and often jarringly dips to what looks like the 20s and probably below. Another let-down is more from the game's setting itself. The first Sands of Time focused on creating a beautiful atmosphere despite limited locales, with colours, architecture, and lighting coming together cohesively to compose some really vivid environments. The Two Thrones on the other hand fails in this regard, as it focuses on a journey through rather boring city streets, rooftops, and sewers. There are technical problems too - during my playthrough there were at least two occasions where the game failed to load the graphics during cutscenes and subsequently froze. Sounds also fare badly - often cutscene audio is missing or out of sync, and sound effects sometimes don't finish properly. The ambient sounds are still good though, and music is also fittingly atmospheric.

The gameplay itself is still mostly decent. The focus is on traversal of the environments, where the puzzle is how to get from point A to point B, making use of the landscape features and avoiding traps. Unfortunately, combat features a lot and is as bad as it always was in the other games of the Sands of Time trilogy. The Prince has various combos to use, and can fight with weapons picked up from downed enemies, whilst the other playable character has a chain whip and is more powerful. That second character's segments are different from the Prince's in that their health is continually declining and must be replenished by absorbing the sands of time either from killed enemies or breakable containers in the environment. It's basically a timer to keep you moving, and that fact is exploited in way too many sections which have lengthy platforming segments without opportunities to refill in between so you have to race along. It's here that one of the worst parts of the game comes into play - damage during these segments doesn't just slow you down - it also reduces your 'timer' even further. Both characters also have opportunities to stealth kill enemies, but sadly these also feature that worst of emissions from game-satan's fresh pink asshole, the QTE. Not only do you have to sneak up on an enemy to kill them, you have to then activate the stealth kill and successfully complete a QTE to complete it. This in itself would be bad in cases where the tougher enemies have several steps in their QTE, but there are also parts where special enemies guard portals and can summon more guys to ruin your day. If you mess up their stealth kill QTEs, you're forced to fight several enemies at once, with more spawning in after you beat each one. Whoever thought that the above "features" might be fun or good "game design" is hopefully no longer working in the games industry and can't hurt anybody else. Predictably the final boss also features QTE elements, on top of a lengthy platforming sequence where they can knock you off causing an instant death. Whilst the game has the time rewind and slowdown elements from the rest of the Sands of Time trilogy to help overcome difficult parts, I found them to be fairly insufficient in mitigating the frustration.

Pacing is also utterly abysmal - often the more difficult sections have no checkpoints, forcing you to complete them in one go (or not in my case - my PS Vita is hacked so I could use save states, because fuck that noise) and in other sections with very little danger checkpoints are over-used. It's as though they didn't even playtest it. That said, there is one thing I will say about this version in its favour: On the PC version of Two Thrones, there's a section where the Prince has to race a chariot, battling enemies along the way and featuring instant death at several points, followed by a tough boss battle, but there's no save point in between so even if you've mastered the chariot part you still have to play through it each time that boss battle defeats you. Thankfully, the PSP version adds that save point in. I know lots of people would say that they didn't have any difficulty with this part, completed it first time etc., but it's often acknowledged as the most difficult part of the game, and it's what caused me to rage-quit the PC version last year.

Having reached the end, I can't say that I enjoyed the experience very much, so it's certainly a one-and-done game for me. I did like the story elements, and the ending provided great closure to the Sands of Time arc, featuring a brilliant callback to the first game. Regardless, unless you're really curious about the story and have no other means to play PoP: The Two Thrones, I'd advise everyone to steer well clear.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by BoneSnapDeez Tue Jul 14, 2020 3:02 pm

1. ACA NeoGeo: Cyber-Lip (Switch eShop)
2. Pengo (Atari 2600)
3. Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)
4. Knights of Xentar (PC)
5. Hoshi o Sagashite... (Mark III)
6. Dead Zone (Famicom Disk System)
7. Samurai Sword (Famicom Disk System)
8. High School! Kimengumi (Mark III)
9. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)
10. Sindbad Mystery (SG-1000)
11. Steins;Gate (Vita)
12. Champion Boxing (SG-1000)
13. Squidlit (Switch eShop)
14. Skyblazer (SNES)
15. Tokyo Dark: Remembrance (Switch eShop)
16. Bubble Bobble (Famicom Disk System)
17. Steins;Gate Elite (Switch)
18. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Returns (Switch eShop)
19. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Express Raider (Switch eShop)
20. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis)
21. Sword of Vermilion (Genesis)
22. Steins;Gate: My Darling's Embrace (Switch eShop)
23. Oink! (Atari 2600)
24. Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa (Famicom Disk System)
25. Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
26. Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast)
27. Chaos;Child (Vita)
28. Scar of the Doll (Steam)
29. Kirby's Adventure (NES)
30. Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (PlayStation)
31. Hangman (Atari 2600)
32. Metal Slug (Neo Geo MVS)
33. Metal Slug 2 (Neo Geo MVS)

34. Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man (Intellivision)
35. Shark! Shark! (Intellivision)
36. Videocart 1: Tic-Tac-Toe / Shooting Gallery / Doodle / Quadra-Doodle (Channel F)


Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man
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Games released during my birth year are always a real hoot. Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man is an Intellivision release, fittingly developed by Mattel, based on the He-Man action figures and media. The game was also ported to the Atari 2600 under the "M Network" branding, with an unaltered title. As a licensed game, this one's not available on the Intellivision Lives! compilations or various Flashback systems, though the original cartridge isn't especially difficult to track down.
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Gameplay is reminiscent of the likes of Dragonfire, where each stage is split into two distinct "phases" to be played one after another. The first phase involves the "wind raider" which is some sort of battle hovercraft. Here He-Man must travel 30 miles, which only takes a minute, to complete a segment. This feels almost like a horizontal shmup, though it has that same sort of old school "scrolling" seen in shooters like River Raid. He-Man is essentially locked into a vertical axis in the screen's middle, and pressing right or left on the controller disc causes the mountainous backdrop to scroll along the screen's bottom. Hazards come in the form of fireballs, these take one or several laser blasts to destroy based on the chosen difficulty level. The fireball AI is actually rather clever; dodging them is tough so it's recommended to blast 'em all instead. These hovercraft segments move left to right, and while He-Man can scoot left to avoid a fireball, doing so wastes precious fuel. Naturally, colliding with a fireball or a complete loss of fuel equals a deduction of one life. Additionally, Skeletor scurries along the bottom of the screen. He can be pelted with bombs for additional points. Controls are fluid, and this is one of those games that doesn't use the "telephone" buttons at all, outside of selecting a difficulty level. The top "side" buttons (which exist on each side of the controller) are used to fire the laser cannon, while the bottom buttons (again, on each side) drop bombs. Note that, as is common among most shooters this ancient, the player is only allotted one shot onscreen at a time. This means, for instance, that He-Man is unable to fire a laser to the right if a bomb dropping towards Skeleton remains onscreen, so maintaining a good rhythm is pertinent. He-Man does not mash buttons.
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The second phase of each stage consists of a "ground attack" launched against Skeletor. At this point He-Man must traverse through three environments (mountains, forest, Castle Grayskull) to catch his perpetually fleeing rival. At the start of each of these top-down rounds, He-Man is positioned on the left side of the screen, with Skeletor on the far right. He-Man's progress is thwarted by the lightning balls hurtled by his nemesis. Touching one of these does not deduct a life, but pushes He-Man back a distance, thus granting a time penalty. Fail to reach Skeletor within the allotted 90 or 120 seconds, and He-Man is whisked away (literally, in a tornado) to a prior hovercraft segment. A press of any one of the four side buttons allows He-Man to lift his shield. This will protect him from a lightning ball, at the expense of a few precious seconds of time. While the shield can be wielded liberally at first, at higher difficulties it's more useful to try to simply weave around the lightning. There is a time extension item that appears in the form of a sword, but chasing after one of these can ironically become a time-waster. Reach Skeletor to witness a very amusing (and automated) sword battle, and the game loops -- but at a tougher difficulty.

The game's graphical presentation is simple, but pleasing to the eye. There are some amusing "cutscenes" observed when Skeletor flees to (and from) his castle and when He-Man lands the wind raider. The backgrounds feature some surprising little details, like the animated flags in Castle Grayskull. The sound design is equally competent, with some great effects (particularly a bomb colliding with Skeletor), and the He-Man theme song jungle is played at various pivotal moments. It's unlikely that this is anyone's favorite Intellivision game, but it's certainly "good enough" -- and since it hasn't been reissued console owners would be wise to give it a shot.


Shark! Shark!
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This is probably one the best games available on the Intellivision, and you play as a fish that continuously gets fatter. As a first-party Mattel title, Shark! Shark! is also easily found on compilations and a reboot is planned for the Intellivision Amico. Who's excited? I'm excited.

The concept here is incredibly simple. It's an "eat or be eaten" scenario, where the player takes control of a small fish that can consume other sea life to grow in size, and must avoid those those larger, stronger specimens. The battle is waged within a single screen watery arena; the ocean floor at the bottom functions as a foreground and can be passed through. Any fish smaller than (or even equal to) the player's can be eaten while any contact with a larger fish will cause the player's fish to be eaten, plus a life deducted. It's like the first stage of E.V.O. minus the Creation allegory. Points are granted as fish are gobbled up. At every 1000 points, the player's fish grows in size, with "size 5" being the largest. There are some additional lobsters and crabs that can be eaten as well, though their size is a bit ambiguous, so it can be hard to tell when it's safe to grab them. The instruction booklet does clear things up a bit in this regard, clarifying that the player's fish must be at "size 4" to safety consume crustaceans.
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The titular shark makes occasional appearances as well. This cartilaginous beast can't be eaten outright, but can be defeated if its tail is repeatedly munched. It's a tricky affair, as the shark will turn around instantly once bitten, so perfecting a hit and run strategy is essential. There's also a jellyfish that's completely indestructible and most be avoided outright. The "difficulty level" chosen upon booting the game really just corresponds to overall game speed, with the humorously titled "medium slow" being the default. The control disc is used for swimming, while button presses can be used to stop the player's fish on a dime, or to cause it to "dart" for a moment. The controls are admittedly a tad clunky, especially since the disc cannot be depressed at the same time the player tries to initiate a stop or dart, and Shark! Shark! novices will probably be inclined to avoid these speed alterations altogether.

The AI is well-programmed with sea creatures either charging the player or fleeing, based on their stature. An additional two-player mode is where the game truly shines, as players can eat each other and are thus competing to "get big" quickest. The graphics are pleasing and colorful, with a rainbow of critters perpetually cascading across the screen. The sound design is great: there's even a simple but menacing tune that commences when a shark enters the ring. It may or may not be a nod to a certain blockbuster film released several years prior.

Shark! Shark! well represents the best "type" of second generation title. The "rules" are clear, but, much like the ocean itself, there's a deceptive layer of depth to be found here, and the most successful players will have to consistently weigh risks vs. rewards. Forgotten (or undiscovered) by most gamers today, anyone exploring the Intellivision library should consider this entry essential.



Videocart 1: Tic-Tac-Toe / Shooting Gallery / Doodle / Quadra-Doodle
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Videocart 1: Tic-Tac-Toe / Shooting Gallery / Doodle / Quadra-Doodle (just rolls off the tongue...) failed to make a huge splash in the video gaming scene, then and now, but it is notable for one thing. Arriving in the year of America's bicentennial courtesy of the Fairchild Channel F and one Jerry Lawson, this is the first removable game cartridge released for home use. Undeniably antiquated, this comes from an era where the concept of a "video game" was still vaguely defined, and the ability to manipulate any object on a television screen felt like an absolute marvel.

While those initial Atari 2600 releases each felt bloated by the 800 various game "modes" many of the earliest Channel F games consisted of a series of discrete minigames. As the full title of Videocart 1 unambiguously indicates, this one is no exception. The individual minigames are selected by pressing one of the numbered buttons on the console as the cartridge boots up. First comes Tic-Tac-Toe, where a single player faces off against the computer. The human player goes first and the AI is quite exploitable, so the excitement wears thin quickly. Plus, the controls are rather clunky, as you're only allowed to move horizontally, row by row. It is worth losing once, just to see the YOU LOSE TURKEY message -- one of the earliest examples of "comedy" in a video game. Next comes the highlight of the cartridge: Shooting Gallery. Before playing, one must first select speed and time by using the console's buttons. The player is given a rifle, suspiciously shaped like a Pong paddle, and must attempt to shoot as many vertically-dropping "dead ducks" as possible before time runs out. The rifle's position remains fixed while shooting, but after each successful shot the rifle's location and angle are changed. Bullets ricochet off the ceiling and floor, and success is predicated on proper timing. It's relatively fun, though I can't stomach the thought of attempting mode 4, which lasts for twenty minutes.
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Doodle is a primordial paint program, which takes full advantage of the Channel F's idiosyncratic controllers. Through a combination of moving the controller's "top" in cardinal directions -- as well as twisting and "plunging" it -- one can design an image with varying line widths and colors. It's essential to read the instruction booklet before diving into this one, as it's all too easy to delete an image by mistake. Finally we have Quadra-Doodle, which feels like a graphical tech demo, where the game itself creates a series of symmetrical geometric shapes, which can then be modified by the player. "Great for parties" boasts the back of the box.

Game visuals are plain and beyond primitive, but the color choices are much less garish than those seen in Atari's pre-1980 classics. The sound design consists of nothing but boops and beeps, which are emitted by the console's speaker, rather than the television. Overall, it's impossible to rate this sort of thing "objectively" in 2020, but I find the Channel F and this accompanying launch title quite charming. And, needless to say, the creation of ROM cartridges was an enormous innovation.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by PartridgeSenpai Tue Jul 14, 2020 6:58 pm

prfsnl_gmr wrote:Second, I’m glad you enjoyed The Messenger, Partridge. All of your criticism’s are 100% valid, but I still loved that game to death. It was so challenging, so fast, and so fun.


Totally! After I finished Picnic Panic, I just started a NG+ and just kept playing until I had a thing I had to do. It's a game that's just so fun to PLAY, and mechanically I think that's why it reminds me so much of Shovel Knight. They're both games I've finished after many hours and just been like "I could play that again, sure" :lol:
I identify everyone via avatar, so if you change your avatar, I genuinely might completely forget who you are. -- Me
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by alienjesus Tue Jul 14, 2020 7:16 pm

prfsnl_gmr wrote:First, awesome reviews, AJ. Just amazing. I really like it when someone goes on a kick with esoteric games on an esoteric system.


I have a couple more Game Gear games to get through still too, but need a little more time to get through them. I have an strategy game and an RPG in the wings.
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prfsnl_gmr
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by prfsnl_gmr Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:25 pm

alienjesus wrote:
prfsnl_gmr wrote:First, awesome reviews, AJ. Just amazing. I really like it when someone goes on a kick with esoteric games on an esoteric system.


I have a couple more Game Gear games to get through still too, but need a little more time to get through them. I have an strategy game and an RPG in the wings.


Sweet! I’m looking forward to your reviews! (Also, I hop the RPG isn’t Phantasy Star Gaiden. That’s the last GG game I beat, and it was terrible...)

@pidge

Agree completely. The Messenger may not do everything right, but the action platforming is amazing. I’m really looking forward to the developer’s next effort.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by Ack Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:26 am

dust_hound wrote:@Ack - great write-up of Battle Realms. I'd heard of it but never tried it, so thanks for fleshing out my mental picture of what it'd be like to play.


Thanks for the kind words, dust_hound. It's not bad, but I did find some of it frustrating. I'm still working my way through the expansion, but so far I have enjoyed it considerably more.
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Re: Games Beaten 2020

by BoneSnapDeez Wed Jul 15, 2020 5:32 pm

1. ACA NeoGeo: Cyber-Lip (Switch eShop)
2. Pengo (Atari 2600)
3. Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)
4. Knights of Xentar (PC)
5. Hoshi o Sagashite... (Mark III)
6. Dead Zone (Famicom Disk System)
7. Samurai Sword (Famicom Disk System)
8. High School! Kimengumi (Mark III)
9. Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom (NES)
10. Sindbad Mystery (SG-1000)
11. Steins;Gate (Vita)
12. Champion Boxing (SG-1000)
13. Squidlit (Switch eShop)
14. Skyblazer (SNES)
15. Tokyo Dark: Remembrance (Switch eShop)
16. Bubble Bobble (Famicom Disk System)
17. Steins;Gate Elite (Switch)
18. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Joe and Mac Returns (Switch eShop)
19. Johnny Turbo's Arcade: Express Raider (Switch eShop)
20. Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (Genesis)
21. Sword of Vermilion (Genesis)
22. Steins;Gate: My Darling's Embrace (Switch eShop)
23. Oink! (Atari 2600)
24. Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa (Famicom Disk System)
25. Super Castlevania IV (SNES)
26. Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast)
27. Chaos;Child (Vita)
28. Scar of the Doll (Steam)
29. Kirby's Adventure (NES)
30. Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (PlayStation)
31. Hangman (Atari 2600)
32. Metal Slug (Neo Geo MVS)
33. Metal Slug 2 (Neo Geo MVS)
34. Masters of the Universe: The Power of He-Man (Intellivision)
35. Shark! Shark! (Intellivision)
36. Videocart 1: Tic-Tac-Toe / Shooting Gallery / Doodle / Quadra-Doodle (Channel F)

37. Haunted House (Atari 2600)
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As the game's title and (excellent) box art indicate, Haunted House (1981) is a horror game. The protagonist, who is enshrouded by darkness save for a pair of panicked eyeballs, deemed it wise to explore a haunted mansion once inhabited by one Zachary Graves. Apparently Old Man Graves possessed a magic urn that split into pieces during the earthquake of 1890 (yes Atari backstories are incredibly detailed). The game's goal is deceptively straightforward: simply grab and reunite the three urn segments, and then escape through the east door on the mansion's first floor. Haunted House is notable not only because it's one of the primordial horror games (though amusingly an unrelated Odyssey Haunted House predates it) -- but for also being among the earliest survival horror titles. That is, the game doesn't just showcase a "spooky" motif, but offers up gameplay predicated on strategizing and sneaking.

All new players should begin with the default gameplay mode 1. Here we see (literally) the full size and scope of the Graves mansion: four floors, each with six rooms, for a total of (gets out calculator) twenty-four total rooms. Each floor has two "columns" of three "stacked" rooms, with hallways and doors serving as connectors. Staircases will lead the player up and down floors. However, there's no sprite difference between the staircases that ascend versus those that descend. The urn pieces appear to be scattered randomly, generally with a maximum of one per floor, requiring a full exploration of the mansion. Collected urn pieces will automatically fuse together, thus "the urn" always consumes but one item slot. Spotting items requires one illuminate a small segment the player's surroundings, by lighting a match with "the button" -- blessedly, the supply of matches is infinite. As a lovely side effect, such match-lighting causes the protagonist to resemble a meatball with eyes.

Of course, there are enemies to contend with. Specifically, tarantulas, vampire bats, and the vengeful ghost of Mr. Graves himself. These are ruthless and will track down the player without mercy. The ghost is especially brutal as walls do not hinder its progress. The player is allotted nine lives, which sounds more generous than it is. Moreover, enemies will enter a room with the flurry of howling winds, which temporarily snuffs the match, leaving one to stumble around in the newfound darkness. There is a reprieve to the ghoulish assault, which comes in the form of a magical scepter possessing a monster-repellent effect. The catch is that only one item can be held at a time, so those who pick up the scepter must also set down the collected urn pieces.
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As far as early console games go, this is a stroke of genius as it presents multiple avenues to the player. One can search for the scepter immediately and, while invincible, make a note of the urn pieces to be collected thereafter. Or, one can alternate between carrying the scepter and individual urn pieces, periodically dumping said pieces by the mansion's exit. Particularly intrepid players may choose to forgo the scepter altogether and instead rely solely on reflexes, and perhaps a modicum of luck. Of course, anything can change in an instant, due to the randomization of both enemy and item placement. Upon finishing the game, one is granted a score based on remaining lives and match use.

Flip that switch to gameplay mode 2 and the fun really begins. Now the mansion is completely dark, those nice color-coded walls now the deepest shade of blackness. The status bar numeral referencing floor number remains, however, and crafting a mental map is critical to efficient exploration. Mode 3 introduces a master key, placed in the opening room, and (you guessed it) the addition of locked doors. Now things get downright nasty. The "one item at a time" rule still applies, so those using the key will have to temporarily dump the urn or scepter. And yes, things remain pitch black, including the doors themselves. Additional modes move the key's starting position, add enemies, and grant enemies special abilities. For instance, bats will eventually be able to steal items and the ghost becomes impervious to the scepter.

Graphics are "good" -- most specifically in the first mode where the mansion layout is actually visible. The enemies are well-drawn and recognizable, and the darting eyeballs are a real hoot. The pupils always align in whatever direction the player is headed. The sound design is brilliant, with its creaky footsteps and eerie winds. Distinct noises are made when bumping into walls or locked doors, and staircases will play either low or high notes depending on direction. As the mansion becomes darker and more complex due to door-locking, it becomes vitally important to rely on audio cues to navigate. As an added bonus, those who complete the game are treated to a rendition of The Twilight Zone theme, copyright be damned. With its deep gameplay and visionary aesthetics, Haunted House remains one of the top Atari 2600 games and serves as proof that the system could handle nuanced adventure titles. Absolutely essential.
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