Monday, October 8, 2012

Review--Pitfall (iOS)

Ah, Pitfall. One of my all-time favorite games, Pitfall is one of the reasons I fell in love with gaming so many years ago. When I got it for the Atari 2600 back in 1982, I became obsessed. At the time, Pitfall was more complex, had better controls, and looked a heck of a lot better than pretty much everything else out for the 2600 at the time. Not to mention, Indiana Jones hype running wild due to the movie a year earlier, and playing as Pitfall Harry was as close to being Indiana Jones as I was going to get.

Activision had a brilliant marketing campaign to go along with the game, and they offered one of the famous Activision patches for anyone who scored 20,000 points and mailed in a picture of their TV screen. I never got there, but man did I spend hours and hours trying.

There have been Pitfall sequels and ports over the years--some good and some bad. The latest take on the classic game is a running game for iOS devices, and it's not half bad.

Other than the opening sequence that features the classic Activision logo and a nod to the original 2600 classic, this Pitfall plays quite differently than it's predecessor. The game is an "endless runner" like Temple Run, where Pitfall Harry will run through the environment, and players tilt and swipe to make him move, jump, duck and use his whip. The controls work really well, and the environment is full of classic Pitfall obstacles like snakes, crocodiles, pits and more. There are some twists thrown into the classic formula as well, with some motorcycle and mine cart sequences that borrow more from Indiana Jones than anything from the classic game.

The game features a leaderboard system, where you can compare scores with friends and the rest of the world. There are also microtransactions, through which you can buy ability to earn in-game money faster, or start from checkpoints in the game. That's kind of my gripe with the game, as it costs $.99 to begin with, and is designed to get you to spend right out of the gate. You can earn enough in-game currency to use the checkpoints, but it means repeating sections over and over again, which can get quite tedious.

So, while Pitfall on iOS is a fun evolution of the original game, it also represents the worst of the microtransaction design model. If you've got the willpower to refrain from spending after the initial $.99 investment, there is some fun to be had. But much like an 80s arcade machine, the goal is to get you to spend in a lot of little increments.

2.5 out of 5 Traps

Saturday, September 8, 2012

NBA Jam is Still Great After All These Years

My 6-year old son has recently taken an interest in some of my old video games. I have an FC Twin system, which is an NES/SNES clone and a bunch of old game cartridges. This weekend we dove into a few of those old games, and the one we spent the most time with was NBA Jam for the SNES.

I think what people remember most about NBA Jam is the crazy dunks, the “en fuego” animations, and the long list of cheat codes that could unlock everyone from the NBA mascots to Bill Clinton.  What often gets overlooked about this classic though, is it’s fantastic gameplay. The controls are simple and tight, and the learning curve to becoming decent at the game is very minimal. Within five minutes of picking up the game, my 6-year old understood it, and was able to compete with me. By the time we were done playing, he had beaten my Danny Manning/Ron Harper led L.A. Clippers with his Horace Grant/Scottie Pippen Chicago Bulls.

NBA Jam has made a comeback in the past couple of years, and you can now download the new “On Fire” version of the for the PS3, XBox 360, Android and iOS devices. Of course, the rosters have been updates, which is why I prefer to play my SNES version, where Sir Charles and Kevin Johnson can still tear it up just like the old days.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Game Informer Visits the Classic Gaming Expo

Game Informer has a cool article up featuring some of the retro classics they saw at this past weekend's Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. From old arcade machines, to tabletop versions of our favorite classics, the Classic Gaming Expo has a little bit of everything. One of these years, Jimmycakes and I are going to make it out to Vegas for this show, although I fear for my savings account if we do.

Check out the article here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Spider-Man Pinball at the Boardwalk Arcade

We're on vacation in Wells, Maine this week, and me and the kids washed no time in getting to the Boardwalk Arcade. One of the first games we hit was a Spider-Man pinball game featuring the villains of all three movies.

The table is pretty interesting, and was a blast to play. My son even matched the numbers at the end to win a free game.

He's couple of pics:

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Retro Review--Balloon Fight (NES)

Last August, Nintendo launched its 3DS Ambassador Program as a way of recognizing early adopters when they cut the price of the 3DS. Anyone who had bought the handheld at its original price of $250 was able to download 10 NES games and 10 GBA games for free, some of which will not ever be showing up on the eShop.

The Ambassador games were a fantastic bunch overall, with classics like Super Mario Bros., Zelda and Metroid leading the way. For me, one game that got lost in the shuffle from that bunch was Balloon Fight, and I’m sad it took me so long to play it because it’s pretty great.

If you are a child of the 80s like I am, then you will immediately realize what game that Balloon Fight is a clone of as soon as you start it. There is no mistaking that the 1982 combat platformer Joust was the inspiration for Balloon Fight, right down to the physics of the game. Each stage consists of several platforms of different height that are suspended over water, which is a deadly hazard to your player. Whereas in Joust you were a mounted on an ostrich battling other mounted warriors, in Balloon Fight you are a guy with two balloons tied around him trying to knock other balloon-assisted fighters out of the air. By tapping the A or B button, you keep yourself aloft, and failing to stay aloft results in your plunging into the icy depths. As you navigate around the screen and the platforms, you try to pop the other fighters’ balloons by hitting them with your feet. They’ll do the same to you, and if they pop one of your balloons, it’s that much harder to stay aloft. lose both, and you’re done for.

When you knock another fighter into the water, a bubble rises from the surface, which you collect for bonus points. Your goal is to clear each stage of enemies. When you clear three stages, you get a bonus stage where you pop balloons for points.

The game can be played by one or two players, and there’s an additional game mode called “Balloon Trip” where you navigate through a side-scrolling level collecting balloons while avoiding lightning clouds. It serves as a nice change of pace from the regular game.

At the end of the day, Balloon Fight is really just Joust in a more charming and whimsical package. The physics are solid, and there’s a lot of replayability, especially with the extra game mode. After all these years, the game still holds up well.

4 out of 5

Monday, July 2, 2012

Nintendo - Mario Themes on Guitar!

One of my pals decided he was going share a video of a guy playing Mario themes and sounds on the guitar. I watched the first video, coin sounds and all, and was amazed. It started a frenzied search for more renditions. They just got crazier and crazier. Here are a few for your reading pleasure.

Here's the first, which is amazing.

Two guitars? At the same time? What!?

Not only is the engineering on this guitar amazing, but look at the way he plays it!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nintendo's '8-bit Summer' Starts Next Week

In a recent Nintendo Direct press conference, Nintendo announced a summer promotion for 3DS owners that should make retro fans very happy. Dubbed the "Summer of 8-bit," the promotion will see Nintendo releasing retro Virtual Console titles on the 3DS eShop for each week in July. Here is the list of games and dates they've put out so far:
  • The Legend of Zelda (NES) - July 5
  • Kirby's Pinball Land (Game Boy) - July 12
  • The Sword of Hope II (Game Boy) - July 12
  • Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (Game Boy) - July 19
  • Tumblepop (Game Boy) - July 19
  • Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 (Game Boy) - July 19
  • Sonic Blast (GameGear) - date TBA
  • Sonic Labyrinth (GameGear) - date TBA  
Not too shabby of a list, and it's great to see not only NES games, but GameBoy and SEGA GameGear games as well on the list. For me personally, I'll be picking up Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters, Wario Land and both Sonic GameGear games.

Nintendo also released a trailer for the promotion, which you can check out below.

Which system do you like best!?