Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

This review, in a slightly altered form, has already appeared on my pop culture blog, Welcome to Hell. Since it's videogame topical, I figured I'd share it here too. Enjoy.

First things first, Wreck-It Ralph being a Disney/Pixar flick, we get a Pixar cartoon before the main feature. "Paperman" was a sweet short utilizing different animation than usual for Pixar, and it also had a bit of a Japanese anime vibe to it. I liked it a lot, a big reason to see this movie is to see "Paperman" first.

Wreck-It Ralph, the newest from Disney/Pixar, is loosely at first glance a cross between Toy Story and Tron. Like the first movie we discover that the entities in our videogames actually live, especially when we're not looking, and like the second flick we discover that they live in their own little universe with its own physical and moral laws, all within the confines of one arcade.

Wreck-It Ralph is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., essentially close to Donkey Kong in many ways. Ralph, shunned by the other denizens of his game, determines to leave his game and make good. He goes off to Hero's Duty, a hybrid of Halo and Starship Troopers, to win a medal, and recognition. When things go awry, he becomes stranded in Sugar Rush, a mix of Mario Kart and Candyland. There, Ralph must decide if truly is the bad guy, or a hero.

It's a complex plot that is quite dark in places, but for the most part, it's an enjoyable journey through 1980s videogame nostalgia. It has a sharp sense of humor, great characters, and the voice work of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, and especially Jane Lynch is first class. There are also many cameos of classic videogame characters that make the flick a real treat.

An added trivia bonus for old school videogamers is the song that plays over the closing credits, "Wreck It, Wreck-It Ralph" by Jerry Buckner, formerly of Buckner & Garcia of "Pac-Man Fever" fame.

I liked Wreck-It Ralph quite a bit, and while I wonder if this might be over or under the heads of some folks who weren't into, or alive for, 1980s arcade games, I highly recommend it. Great flick.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The New PlayStation Store

Since getting my PS3, and writing this blog, I have been quite dependent on the PlayStation Store. It's where I get all the wonderful free trials and demos I play and write about.

As with all things that we rely on on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not, they are just old and lousy. No matter how good we think they are, and how much we live them - trust me, it's all old and lousy. You know how I know? Because invariably, something 'new and improved' will come along. Like today.

Welcome to the new PlayStation Store. I am, of course, hesitant. Both because I am old, and because I liked the old interface. Just because something can be improved, doesn't mean it should, ya know?

All that said, it does seem like a happier, shinier, and most importantly, easier to navigate interface. It gives a good view of everything the store has to offer - movies, television, applications, and (whodathunkit?) games. Use the left side menu if you want to find specific games, or types of games, however.

Nice, for once, it's a new and improved that is new and improved.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Big Pong Theory

My buddy Ray brought this to my attention on the Facebook. This is how Atari celebrates its 40th anniversary this week...

The full story is here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Barcade and the Frustration of Getting Old

A few months back The Bride and I attended a birthday party for two friends, at a place in the Philadelphia/Fishtown area called Barcade. Barcade is exactly what it sounds like, a bar/arcade. It has a couple dozen old school arcade games, and an assortment of local and obtuse brews, all for a quarter - the games, not the beers, that is.

I was stunned to how close to an arcade of the good old days this place was, what with the variety of games and their placement around the bar area. They even had high scores posted. They had a bar menu, but no fries. But it's all good, they carded me, the first time that's happened in years, so I was very happy.

When I looked around at the selection of games, at first I had little interest, then as I walked around, and got a closer look my memory kicked in… I realized I had done time, serious time, with all of them at one point or another in my younger years. Among the games at Barcade: OutRun, Gauntlet, Ms. Pac-Man, Mr. Do!, Golden Axe, Track & Field, Frogger, BurgerTime, Centipede, Double Dragon, Punch-Out!!, Tetris, and Robotron 2084, just to name a few. A full list can be found here.

Spy Hunter, Rampage, Tempest, Dig Dug, Paper Boy, Space Invaders, Galaxian, Joust. I knew them all intimately. And yet I was no longer capable of playing them. The muscles and reflexes honed to each particular set of skills for each game had deteriorated over the years of disuse. Man, playing videogames sure wasn't like riding a bike, you can't just get back on. In other words, I was old.

Lead photo by John Donges.