Friday, September 26, 2014


I like games with superheroes, mostly because I'm a big comic book geek. Injustice: Gods Among Us is therefore my jam. You've got known DC Comics superheroes squaring off against DC Comics super-villains, or not.

The fact is, you can manipulate any character to fight any other character involved, even themselves. The story revolves around the concept of multiple parallel universes, a pretty common bugaboo in DC Comics. So you not only have the characters you know, but you also have evil, and sometimes good versions of those characters as well.

The characters at your disposal, at least at first, include heroes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Hawkgirl, Shazam (sooo disappointed it's not Captain Marvel), Nightwing, Raven, and villains Lex Luthor, Catwoman, Sinestro, Solomon Grundy, Ares, Deathstroke, Killer Frost, Black Adam, Doomsday, Bane, Harley Quinn, and the Joker. Later characters were Zatanna, Martian Manhunter, Batgirl, Lobo, Zod, even Mortal Kombat's Scorpion. Additional skins were available for a number of concepts like Blackest Night, Red Son, Earth 2 and others.

The game is very similar to MK, mostly because it's designed by NetherRealm Studios, the folks who did Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, so there you go as far control techniques and the appearance of Scorpion. I found his presence charming, but also a bit distracting. Scorpion isn't a DC character, ya know?

Another bonus is the locations and the background characters. All the choice DCU places are here, Arkham, Gotham, Metropolis, Atlantis, Themyscira, and the Batcave, the Fortress of Solitude, and the Hall of Justice just to name a few. Easter eggs are many, look for characters and the like in the background. My favorite is watching Atom Smasher battle Giganta as you fight your own fight.

There's also some fabulous voicework by folks who have worked in DC Comics animation, videogames, and even in the case of Stephen Amell as Arrow, their live-action properties. Listen for Kevin Conroy as Batman, Susan Eisenberg as Wonder Woman, Phil LaMarr as John Stewart, and Tara Strong as Raven, among others. Great skins have been available as well, covering the New 52, Earth 2, Red Son, and Blackest Night, just to name a few. However, any new characters or skins have been halted in the same manner that Pain was stopped by Sony. They're just not supporting the game any longer…

Monday, August 25, 2014

Simpsons Too Smart for the Room?

Folks who are regular readers here know that I love "The Simpsons." I love the game The Simpsons Tapped Out especially, and yes, I've been geeking out watching Every Simpsons Ever on FXX.

In just the last week however, there's been a new game within Simpsons Tapped Out, and I just don't get it. It seems to have a medieval vibe but that's not all. There's nerds, barbarians, seeming Dungeons & Dragons references, and while all that may seem like it's in my roundhouse, the game is completely incomprehensible to me.

Does anyone know how this is played? I think EA just may have jumped the shark by trying too hard and assuming too much…

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Death of Pain

Pain is one of my favorite games on the PS3. I've talked about it before, and it's always the fallback whenever I play on the PlayStation. No matter what game I'm playing I will always end up playing Pain at some point in the session. It's also a very good game to get your frustrations out on a bad day, after all, it's throwing stuff and destroying stuff - a fun, no pay later, tantrum of sorts.

For the longest time I never used the play online option. Not to sound sad or pitiful, but I really didn't know anyone else who had a PS3, and those that did, were (ahem) adults and didn't use it all that much, so the play online option wasn't much good for me. When the PS4 was announced, my buddy Ken (who visits infrequently and when he does, we have a blast playing Pain) smartly decided to buy a PS3, as he correctly assumed the price would drop with a new updated system on the market.

So we made long distance play-dates to hurl stuff at each other, only to find, much to our dismay that Sony has discontinued the play online option from Pain. Yeah, our favorite game, and we can't even play it together over long distance. What's the use of having high tech if the powers that be won't let us use it? I mean, come on, this isn't a big government secret, it's a ragdoll physics videogame where you get to fling cats, mimes, and other losers against walls at high speeds. Cut us a break, Sony.

You can't even buy characters any more. If you didn't get certain characters before they shut the door, you will never get them. I'm just happy I got Flavor Flav and The Hoff when I could, however, I wish I could have known before it was too late to get Andy Dick. I guess it's Sony that's the real Andy Dick in this one. I want to play Pain online again…

Monday, July 7, 2014

Denny's Remixes Atari

Those of you who read my French Fry Diary blog already know about this, but it's still cool. Denny's has joined with Atari to update some of their retro videogames to match their menu.

They've turned Asteroids into Hashteroids, Centipede into Centipup, and Breakout into Take-Out. This "Greatest Hits Remixed" campaign includes apps on both the iPhone and the iPad as well. The games are just as fun as the originals, just with new fun graphics. Check them out.

And you can read my original blog post at FFD here, and the original announcement here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Fight Club

Now don't get me wrong, even though one of my favorite games right now is Injustice: Gods Among Us, and I have put hundreds of dollars (in quarters) into both Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct back in their respective days, and maybe a little bit of Yie Ar Kung Fu, but I am in no way good at, or could even be considered a fight game guy. If anything, I like the visuals, and am more of a button masher.

That said, we're going to talk about those last two games today. About twenty-five years ago, I made the mistake of joining a bowling league. I was lousy at it, and surrounded by people I did not like, and did not like me. One of the few joys of that time was the Street Fighter II machine in the bowling alley's small and hardly adequate arcade. I was late to the fight videogame, and to be honest, it had been a few years (probably since the demise of the Galaxy in Cherry Hill) since I played any videogame. This was a harsh re-introduction.

In this phase of my life, I really kinda dug playing Vega with his pseudo-Wolverine claws and his Spanish matador moves. After some weeks of practice both before and after bowling, I got pretty good. However, by that time, fight games had moved on while I hadn't noticed. My contemporaries were all Mortal Kombat players. This game opened my eyes with its more graphic special effects and just plain graphic-ness. This wasn't for me.

I was enticed back in a bit later by a game very similar to MK, but just enough of a scifi, almost comic book edge that I dug it… Killer Instinct. This fight game had a plot involving an evil corporation (aren't they all?) running a tournament that included aliens, experimental creatures, metahumans, monsters, and great stuff like that. I didn't have a favorite in this one; I liked playing them all. Hey, anyone know if they have Killer Instinct for PS3?

From there, I kinda drifted away from videogames, or at least fight games until I discovered Injustice: Gods Among Us. And that's a whole 'nother story. But there's my fight history.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Art of Other Springfields

I have talked about The Simpsons Tapped Out numerous times, probably because it's a game I can actually excel at and because I still like it after playing for an extended amount of time. Of course it might have a bit of crack in it like Candy Crush, so who knows?

Anyway, there are folks who do get bored with the constant building and collecting aspect of the game, and need to change things up to keep their attention, defeat boredom, or just for kicks. These folks are making art. Yep, they're making art with the various building blocks in the game, using optical illusions to make them three-dimensional, and other such tricks.

Here are a few examples…

Friday, April 25, 2014

Whatever Happened to the Arcade?

Whatever happened to the arcade? I could just as well ask whatever happened to the mall, as for the most part, that's gone as well, or at least its function as a hangout for teenagers and adults young at heart alike. Back in the day, and I'm talking the 1970s and 1980s, the mall was the place to be. It was where you wanted to be, and where you wanted to work. It had everything. The record store, the fast food joint, the movie theater, the food court, for the nerds the book/game/comics store, and of course the crème de la crème, the arcade.

Every mall had its arcade. Cherry Hill, Echelon, Deptford, Moorestown, Burlington, some had two, heck even the Berlin Farmers Market had its own arcade. As videogames entered its golden age, arcades were everywhere. Malibu Grand Prix took prominence. There was Bally's across from the Cherry Hill Mall, the Galaxy (not the rock club) on Route 70, and even in my own hometown Atco, we had the Sweet Shop on the main drag, Atco Avenue.

Most of the mall arcades began as pinball places but moved forward with the times. The Sweet Shop in Atco started as a penny candy place, thus the name, but soon became something else all together. I remember when they first opened, they had one machine, a tank game, which may or may not have been Atari's Combat. In a very short time they added a poolroom in the back, got rid of the candy counter, and filled the front room with videogame machines. I loved playing Space Invaders and Astro Fighter there notably, and remember how the place was always filled with smoke.

As home video systems advanced beyond Pong and the Atari 2600, there soon was little reason to leave the house to play videogames. It took a long tme, but it eventually happened. I remember seeing my first NES in 1982 at a college friend's house, Donkey Kong, groundbreaking graphics for the time. If you could have that at home, why go to the mall?

While there are some still around, some even as nostalgia museums like Barcade, the arcade is for the most part dead. I think the last tiny one I know of was gotten rid of when the Marlton 8 theatre was remodeled. Malls are dead too, some crushed by 'forward thinking' opportunists, look at what used to be the Echelon Mall for an example of that. That place ironically does have an arcade of sorts, more skeeball and the like than videogames, but still. I guess home gaming and social media have killed the mall and the arcade, and it's a shame.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Welcome to San Andreas

We've talked before about my utter inability to play Grand Theft Auto in its intended form. And we've also talked about my love for the tiny little game GTA: Chinatown Wars that I played on the iPhone for hours and hours until my eyes bled or the battery ran out. Well, I've found another GTA like the latter, that I just can't get enough of.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was originally released for the PlayStation 2 back in 2004, but that's not where I've played it, or even seen it before. I got on board when I first got my iPad, and they were offering it a reduced price. I liked Chinatown Wars, so why not? At first glance, it reminded me a lot of the PS3 game I'd played, lots of things I wanted to do, but was unsure I could make it work - that old bugaboo I have with controls, ya know.

Surprisingly and happily, the controls were similar to those of Chinatown Wars, so easily playable for me, and of course a whole step up from the tiny size of the iPhone screen. The graphics were incredible as well, on par with some I've seen on the PS3. I love this game, and like the iPhone game, I've been playing for hours on end.

Of course, my buddy Ray has pointed out that I'm not exactly playing the game the way that I could. Both he and I hesitate to say 'play the game right,' as it's an open world game… you kinda can play it any way you want. So if I just want to mug folks and take their cars and run from the police forever, it's totally cool.

While I was on a GTA kick, it should be noted I also downloaded Vice City for the iPad. Did not like it. While it's not bad, and it could be fun, I got spoiled by San Andreas and its fancy graphics. They make Vice City look and feel downright primitive. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to crash more cars. If you need me, I'll be in San Andreas.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Star Castle and the Discovery of Vectrex

Back in the day, everyone had an arcade game that they played all the time, a game they could play for hours on just a quarter or two, a game that they had mastered, yet still enjoyed. For me, that game was Star Castle.

I first encountered the game, and conquered it at Malibu Grand Prix some time around 1980 or 81. I would play it dependably every time I was there. When I first went to college, there was a Star Castle machine in the lounge that I'm sure contributed to my low grades that first semester.

I loved it, and sadly, it was not a game I saw again that much in the years since. Star Castle was supposedly the basis for Atari's Yar's Revenge, though similar, and even though I loved that game too, it wasn't the same. I never saw it much because, as far as I knew, it was never available for a home video game system.

Just because I wasn't aware of it doesn't mean it didn't exist. Recently my friends Ray and Justin mentioned they had gotten a Vectrex app for their iPads that included Star Castle. Like I said, this was new to me, but back in the day there was this thing called a Vectrex. A box halfway between the size of a GameBoy and a full-sized arcade machine, so still kinda bulky, but it had a huge selection of games available like Berzerk, Pole Posistion, Mine Storm, and Star Castle.

I have been since able to find Star Castle online, but with keyboard controls, it's just not the same. Check it out here. Then I found Vectrex on my iPhone and my iPad. Granted, it's bigger, and therefore more fun on my iPad. And the touch controls make it easier to work, but for the real thing, I guess I'll just have to break down and buy a real Star Castle machine. I could always hustle folks for the money to pay back the machine…

Monday, January 20, 2014

These Are Still Not the Games You're Looking For…

Last time I talked about Warlords, and how when I downloaded the PS3 demo, it really wasn't what I expected from my memories of the Atari 2600 version from years gone by. This next demo was nothing like what I expected. We're talking about Journey.

Back in the early 1980s, when videogames, the band Journey, and the Atari 2600 were all on the rise, the three merged in a wonderful way - Journey the videogame. At the height of their popularity, Journey lent their images, their music, and some would say their souls to an arcade game, and later an Atari 2600 cartridge.

The graphics in the game, correctly titled Journey Escape, were what they were for the time, the music was midis of Journey songs from the best-selling Escape album, and your job was to get the band, one member at a time, past obstacles (groupies, managers, and standard game menaces) and to the show. The show must go on. If you won, you got a mini limited graphic Journey concert.

The Bride is a huge Journey and Steve Perry fan to this day and loves this game, in both versions. I get it, I do. I feel the same way about games based on comics. It's fun and dumb, but you still love it. When we bought an Atari 2600 knock off a decade or so back, we searched yard sales and farmers markets until we found a good well loved copy of the cartridge, and it still brings joy.

The PS3 demo called Journey is something else altogether, and has zero to do with Steve Perry and company, absolutely zero. Journey is one of those games, similar to Flower, with amazing graphics, ominous soundtrack, and character and scene movement that syncs with how you hold the controller. It is also one of those frustrating games that has you searching online for instructions, or even just an explanation.

You are a little alien dude, looking like a cross between a Jawa and an Imperial Guard, walking through an alien desert. It's pretty, but I don't get it. In my internet search I learned it's won several awards and the score was nominated for a Grammy. The music also responds to your actions, which is pretty cool. The object is to reach a mountain in the distance. Not sure it can be done, but it certainly is a Journey.

The PS3 game is a work of beauty, but not really my thing honestly, and at least Journey the band has won a Grammy. Ha. I know. The PS3 is gorgeous, but the Atari is more fun. Enjoy your Journey.

Friday, January 17, 2014

These Are Not the Games You're Looking For...

There were two PS3 demos that I had high hopes for, mostly because I had fond memories of them, or thought I did.

Warlords, back in the Atari days, was the fo'shizzle. This was after the initial rush was over, and the bloom was off the rose for the Atari 2600, and then all of a sudden there was a buzz about this new game that was soooo cool, could be played by up to four players, and even used the paddle controllers (which were fairly useless unless you played Pong or Breakout). That game was Warlords.

In Warlords, each player (or if less than four, the 'computer' was your opponent) took a corner in which there was a castle or fortress (or the best approximation you could get with the primitive technology, you had to use your imagination more with the 2600 games). You protected your castle with a rolling shield that could circle your corner. Then you would shoot and catch and shoot back little balls of fire to destroy your opponents' castles. It was like Breakout, only draped in coolness.

Warlords has been called one of Atari's most popular games. I know I played it constantly, with friends, with family, alone, and we would play for hours. If I'm being honest, I can remember dates that were arranged around a game of Warlords. It was great fun, and really one of their best games. That's what I thought I was getting when I downloaded the Warlords demo from the PlayStation Network.

In this new Warlords, the concept is there, but filled with crazy heavy graphics, annoying cartoons, and just really unnecessary details. This is a simple game that should stay simple. I'll stick to my Atari.

Next time, we'll talk about Journey, which is even further off the mark...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Zen and the Art of Pinball

Okay, those of you who read this blog, as well as Welcome to Hell and French Fry Diary, know that I was a sheltered child, and that I am no videogame genius. The truth is I was also a pretty dumb kid.

Outside of television, I had never seen a pinball machine until I was around ten, and that was in my uncle's basement. We visited and while the adults chatted upstairs I was supposed to keep myself occupied with the pinball machine in the basement for a couple hours. So I played my three or four balls, badly, mind you, then waited it out down there for my parents to be done visiting. Yeah, that's right, I had no idea there was a button to push to start over.

And that was my first pinball experience. Did I mention I was a pretty dumb kid?

Later, years later, when The Sweet Shop opened on my hometown main street Atco Avenue, and when I started going to Malibu Grand Prix, I did learn the basics, as well as the more subtle ways of the silver ball. I was never very good, but I had come a long way from that dumb kid in his uncle's basement.

While dating the woman who would eventually become The Bride I got my real education. She is the real player, getting multiple free games and lots of play time out of a single quarter. Watching her I learned how to work the flippers, move the machine, and finesse the ball. Damn, she's good. And she would little to no interest in the PS3 game Zen Pinball.

Much like the Atari Pinball game (although with graphics eons ahead of it), this is still a videogame. No matter how pretty, how stunning, how super high def these tables are - these are not real tables. Push buttons all you like, you cannot finesse this ball. Perhaps Zen Pinball is fun for those with no pinball background, but not for those of us even with a limited understanding of real pinball.

It is noteworthy that there are some cool tables, including some based on Street Fighter and Ninja Gaiden, and the graphics are outstanding. Pretty, but not playable in a pinball way.