Monday, November 16, 2015

Spacewar Simplicity

Just as videogames were advancing past simple lines like Asteroids and Combat, and moving past more complicated stuff like Space Invaders, and into the world of Donkey Kong and beyond, I had a favorite called Spacewar. I liked its simplicity, two ships made of digital lines, flying along shooting at each other, and occasionally going into 'hyperspace' a la the aforementioned Asteroids. Little did I know it had a long and storied history.

The game was originally developed in 1961 by MIT students, inspired by the Lensmen series by E.E. Smith. Two spaceships, the 'needle' and the 'wedge,' maneuver around the gravity well of a star, and try to destroy each other with ray weapons. Based on a simple joystick, there were a few options - thrust, fire, turn left, turn right, and of course hyperspace, that last of which would teleport your ship elsewhere on the screen.

I used to love it, and remember one such machine at the arcade at the Atco Raceway, which we always called The Drag. My friends thought it was boring, and had moved on to the more complex games of the early 1980s, but I always had a soft spot for Spacewar. Apparently Atari made a version of it for the 2600 called Space War, but I don't ever recall seeing it, and therefore never obtained one. I might start looking now that I know about it.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Because I'm a comic book guy, when I say "X-Man" you all probably think I'm talking about Nathaniel Grey, that alternate Cable guy who's the son of Cyclops and Marvel Girl. I'm not a big X-Men guy, so I'm not. I'm actually talking about something a little more game-oriented… believe it or not, an adult game for the Atari 2600.

I had never heard of it until a few months back when my Facebook friend Chico John hipped me to it, but yeah, this is really an X-rated videogame for the Atari. Developed by a company called Universal Gamex, it was their only title, and was banned from most game retailers. If you wanted it, you had to go mail order.

Gameplay was similar to Pac-Man, but you were a naked man pursued by crabs, scissors, and teeth - as you made your way through a maze toward a naked woman at its center. Guess what happens then. Or don't. Yeah, it's exactly what you think. Use your imagination, or Google, but you have been warned.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Silverball 4: The Shadow

Now anyone who knows me knows what a big fan of The Shadow I am. I love the pulps, the comics, the serials, and the radio shows. I even loved the 1994 movie. Yes, there was some terrible stuff in there, but there was also a great amount they got right. Of course like any potential blockbuster, there was a lot of merchandising - like this pinball machine.

This Midway machine was designed by Brian Eddy with art by Doug Watson based on the movie. Over and above the silly and awkward shooter shaped like one of The Shadow's trademark .45 pistols, the game features three flippers, two playfields, optical targeting, and gameplay that followed a story. It was pretty advanced for the time I'm told.

The game is fun to look at, fun to watch someone else play, but as with most games - I suck at it. But still, it's The Shadow, and it's awesome, one of the best parts of the visit to the Silverball Museum.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Silverball 3: Flash

At first glance this pinball machine from the Silverball Museum might appear to be referencing Flash Gordon, with the artist getting our hero's hair color mixed up, but no, this Williams machine from 1979 is an original. The name Flash actually refers to the fact that the game was the first to use flash lamps, displaying a lightning-like effect.

Flash was designed by Steve Ritchie, featuring art by Constantino Mitchell. It was state of the art for the time and common in arcades that were then switching over to electronic games. It also showed a digital score as opposed to rollover numbers. Flash also had a continuous soundtrack that got louder and faster the further you advanced in the game.

Flash was a pinball machine I remember playing back in the day. It was easy and fun for me, which says a lot about the game, both good and bad. I liked it a lot, and was one of the few games I spent a lot if time playing on my visit to the Silverball Museum.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Freemium, Flintstones, and Family Guy

Regular readers here know of my addiction to Simpsons Tapped Out, but that's not the only freemium game of that type out there, nor is it the only one I'm playing. I'm talking about two other animated series, one an inspiration and the other a frenemy of "The Simpsons," yeah, I'm talking about "The Flintstones" and "Family Guy."

The "Family Guy" game, officially and sarcastically (keeping with the spirit of the show) called Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. In the plot of the game, the show is cancelled and a battle between Peter Griffin and Ernie the Giant Chicken (never knew he had a name until I looked it up for this post) destroys the town of Quahog. Much like Tapped Out, you are tasked with rebuilding the town.

To its credit, it's easier to get 'stuff' in this game than others, but I actually found myself bored after a while. Sarcasm only works in small doses, it's like spending more than a day at Universal. Later versions have the Star Trek Next Gen characters and actors involved, so maybe a return trip to Quahog might be in order.

The Flintstones hold a bit more power over me as I continue to play that one. Officially called The Flintstones: Bring Back Bedrock, it is just like the other two freemium games, only with the hangings of that cartoon. Bedrock has been destroyed by a meteor shower (a little close for comfort) and Fred and company have to put it back together. Some of it is fun, and some not so fun, I really just want to get Dino. One thing for sure, it's addictive. Either way, I'll still return to my first love, Tapped Out.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Silverball 2: Oxo

Oxo is a Williams four-player pinball machine from 1973, despite its 1980s New Wave vibe and coincidentally sharing a name with the dance rock one hit wonders of "Whirly Girl" fame.  

Oxo was designed by Norm Clark with art by Christian Marche. Based on the simplicity of a tic-tac-toe game, it's easy, fast, and fun to play.

 Oxo was one of the two pinball machines I had the most fun playing on the visit to the Silverball Museum.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Silverball 1: Beat Time

Beat Time is a Williams pinball machine from 1967, designed by Steve Kordek with art by Jerry Kelley.

This was a Beatles pinball machine taking advantage of the height of Beatlemania.

The caricatures are obviously the Fab Four, borrowing from the cartoon of the time, but predating their slightly modder look from Yellow Submarine.

Fun and basic, this was a nice trip back in time, I dug it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Silverball Museum

Recently I visited the Silverball Museum in Asbury Park with The Bride.

You can read the original post about the trip right here on one of my other blogs, Welcome to Hell.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a closer look at some of the pinball machines on display there at the Museum, so keep an eye out!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Batman: Arkham Knight: First Impressions

The newest of the Batman videogames was released this week. I have tried to play once before but couldn't make heads or tails (or wings) of it, so I gave up. Some folks enjoy it though.

Here are some of the first impressions of the game at Biff Bam Pop!, first up is Mat Langford on the regular game, and then Luke Sneyd on the special limited edition. Enjoy. I'll be over here, playing with my Matchbox Batmobile.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Crap-Out at the Contest of Champions

Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a comic book superhero guy, and a big Avengers fan. I've talked about Avengers Alliance here before, linking to my article at Biff Bam Pop! right here. Since then I've moved on to playing the game on my iPad, much bigger and crisper.

Once I had obtained the perfect Avengers team - Vision and the Scarlet Witch, Giant-Man and the Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America - I kinda stopped playing for a while. After all I doubted they'd introduce the Swordsman and Mantis to the game, the only thing that could make it cooler. And then I discovered Marvel's Contest of Champions.

Contest of Champions combined the comic book fun and character selection (to a point) of Avengers Alliance with the more advanced animated fighting of Injustice. And it rocked, for a while, and I played non-stop for almost three weeks. I loved it.

Then one day I turned on the game on my iPad, and it had logged me out. Not only had it logged me out, it had put me all the way back to the start. So I logged in, twice, several times, and I never got all my levels and characters that I had fought so hard for - and paid for as well, because it's one of those games. Kabam is sort of like the Yahoo! or Facebook of gaming companies. They wouldn't help me. And I'm not the only one this has happened to. Now that app is collecting dust on my iPad, and probably will for another couple weeks until I delete it in frustration.

And it's a shame too, because now they're running a promotion coinciding with Avengers: Age of Ultron. I would have loved that, but alas, I am not starting over from scratch. I guess I'll be going back to Avengers Alliance.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Atari: Game Over

On the surface, this documentary directed by Zak Penn seemed to be about the urban legend of Atari dumping thousands of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 2600 videogames in a landfill in 1983 during the big gaming crash of the time. While event did happen, and the film does cover it, it also essentially tells the story of the rise and fall of Atari.

Much of the doc concerns game designer and programmer Howard Scott Warshaw, who not only designed the E.T. game, but also the equally lackluster Raiders of the Lost Ark game. His real claim to fame is of course one of my favorite Atari games, Yar's Revenge, which in turn was based on my favorite coin op videogame, Star Castle. For no other reason, the man is a legend.

I remember playing E.T. back in the day, or rather back in my Atari day, which was actually the mid to late eighties when I purchased an Atari 2600 wannabe retro system called Gemini. I bought E.T. for a dollar at the Berlin auction (that's Farmers Market for the Cherry Hill folks) from a gigantic stack of E.T. games - obviously copies spared from the landfill.

There's much talk in the documentary about the game being too hard, too complicated, and most of all, just plain unfair. Much is made of the game both being the worst one in history and being a miracle of engineering, having been designed in just five weeks.

Having played the thing both then and more recently, I have to admit to not seeing the allure in either direction for E.T. It's not good or bad, it's just dumb. No matter what you do, you fall in a pit, but that could just be me, as I am just notoriously bad at videogames. Either way, I was bored and frustrated.

This is a pretty cool doc, with lots of insight to the early days of Atari, and what eventually toppled the videogame titan. Bonus - look for Ready Player One author Ernest Cline driving to the landfill site in George R.R. Martin's Back to the Future DeLorean. It doesn't get much more quirky cool surreal than that.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Super Simpsons?

Every month or so there's a new mission in the Simpsons Tapped Out freemium game. As far as I'm concerned the regular game is fun all on its own. If they do these special events too often, it can get tiresome, especially if it's complicated like the last few. Keep it simple. Sometimes I just wanna whack snakes, ya know?

The new mission's theme is comic books and superheroes, so you'd think I'd be all in, right? Not quite. I have issues, pun unintended.

There are a lot of superheroes involved in the Simpsons universe, and I'm not talking about the Simpsonizations of real characters. They have their own heroes. There's Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy, Bartman, Duffman, and Pie-Man just off the top of my head. The last two are even in the game, along with Mr. Burns' Fruit Bat Man.

My problem is that the character you want the most - much like Sideshow Bob - they have removed from the game. You can't have/play Radioactive Man, because they've killed him. Where's the fun in that?

I'm enjoying what I can while I can. I'm happy to have Bartman, Fallout Boy, and Spider-Pig, but I also can't wait to get back to the regular game. Or at least simpler missions. Is it snake whacking time yet?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Powers on the Sony PlayStation Network

Based on the comic series by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, "Powers" the television series has debuted on the Sony PlayStation Network. You can check out my review here. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Daddy and Daughter on Disney Infinity

I will get around soon to writing about Disney Infinity here on the Non-Gamer's Gamer's Blog myself soon enough, but until then, here's something better.

My friend, author, and the editor-in-chief of Biff Bam Pop!, Andy Burns, wrote this piece this Valentine's Day weekend over at that pop culture site.

Not only is it a nice piece about daddy/daughter time, but also the videogame Disney Infinity, both the original and 2.0, but also a new book out from DK - The Disney Infinity: Character Encyclopedia.

You can check out the article here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Super Bowl Pac-Man

In case you missed it the other night (although I don't really get how, it was both the most watched Super Bowl in history, and a hell of a game), here is one of the best commercials of the night, for Budweiser.

Part of their series of #UpForWhatever commercials, a man was put inside a gigantic Pac-Man machine, and made to play the game.

Are we really sure that Marvel Comics super-villain Arcade isn't in charge of the Budweiser's advertising department??

The video below that is the making of the commercial. Enjoy.