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.