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Review: Velocity (Ultra)

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velocity_boxVelocity is one of those games that I remember first trying on my PSP on long commutes between London to Cambridge and had I not played this game I probably would have gone insane with boredom.  It released for the Playstation Network as a mini back in 2012 and then later given the HD make over and released for the PS Vita as Velocity Ultra.

Velocity is a space ship game that impressively mixes shooting, puzzles and speed all into one.  Set in the year 2212 (which is rather clever as this game was released in 2012) the star Vilio has exploded causing a massive electromagnetic pulse (EMP) field, cutting the power in nearby colonies. You pilot the Quarp Jet, a teleporting spacecraft, and your job is to rescue survivors while also shooting down the invading aliens. The story is presented in nice little graphic novel style panels which are short and to the point.  Velocity has fifty missions which are all pretty short – around five minutes, sometimes less – making this a perfect game for short bursts, but with its incredibly addictive nature it is very likely you will play much longer.

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Velocity is fairly colorful with simple 2D sprites; it won’t blow you away but everything looks clear and recognizable. The game really shines on the Vita with the updated HD graphics and use of the lovely OLED screen.  What starts as a simple vertical scrolling space shooter with the main hook being you can teleport your ship anywhere on the map. Not too long into the game you can also lay a warp point on the map what allows your ship to instantly recall to that point no matter how far you have progressed. You have three lives to complete each level should you need them and once you have finished a level you are awarded a medal and experience. You gain more experience by saving survivors, finishing the level quickly and getting a high score. The best part is you don’t have to do all three at once to get the highest amount of experience per level; you can take your time and save all the survivors for one playthrough, then replay the level and concentrate on finishing the level as quick as possible. It sounds like re-playing the levels again would get boring but it doesn’t because the levels are so short and fun you will no doubt welcome the challenge to do better on a second playthrough. Experience unlocks new levels and if you have the PS Vita version you can post your scores on the online leader boards.

vel_2The levels are mixed into three gameplay types.  Some levels are focused on puzzle elements that require you to break colored locks in a numbered sequence to release the same colored force fields. Hitting the locks in the wrong order will cause the process to reset and you have to try again from the first lock. There is usually more than one colored force field in each level so you need to keep track of what locks you have broken. Should you get stuck a handy mini map shows you your progress in the entire level so far. Other levels focus more on the shooting, where you take down alien space ships while they fire a barrage of bullets at you. You’ll find the shooting and puzzle elements tend to mix together quite a bit. Finally you have levels that require you to boost as fast as possible through them with a limited amount of time to complete the level.  All levels also focus on you rescuing survivors and you have to save a certain amount to complete each level. This mix of gameplay keeps things interesting without getting too repetitive or tedious.

vel_3Velocity is not a long game overall. I played it in short game bursts on the train and lunch breaks and it took around a week in total to see everything the game had to offer. Even after finishing the game I still found myself re playing levels to improve my score and get the highest rating possible on each level. This is an incredible space puzzle shooter that you will want revisit again and again. It leaves a memorable  impression and stands out when compared to other space shooters. Though it can be played on the PS3, I found it to be the perfect addition to any handheld (PSP or Vita) and a great game to play in short bursts. Hardcore bullet hell fans may find this game a lot slower paced, but that’s clearly not the genre developer FuturLab was aiming for.

Note: The PS Vita version of this game (Velocity Ultra) doesn’t add much in terms of gameplay save for allowing you to use the touch pad. The graphics have been reworked and look incredible on the PS Vita.

Final Score: 5 out of 5   (You can see our review policy and scoring details here.)

Written by jamalais

April 18, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Posted in PS3, PSP, Reviews, Vita

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Podcast: Project Mercury

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This week we are talking about the Sega Game Gear (Project Mercury), Sega’s first portable console that took on the Gameboy head on.  While it didn’t come close to winning, the Game Gear still stands as the longest running competition for a Nintendo portable.  We also bring in special guests Jason and Mark (from Retro Game Geeks) to talk about beloved titles from the early 90s.



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Written by spydersvenom

April 16, 2014 at 9:17 am

Posted in Game Gear, podcast

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Tetris Aid

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How Tetris Has Been Used in Research To Help Health Problems

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Tetris that famous game released in 1984. Beloved for its simplicity and addictive nature; but did you know that Tetris has actually been used in a variety of medical studies?  There is plenty of research reporting the benefits of gaming despite the media having us believe playing video games turn us into serial killers and dysfunctional members of society. Today’s article focuses on the research studies performed using Tetris.

Tetris good for the eyes.

le_tetOne interesting study carried out in America and even in the UK is using Tetris to treat Amblyopia. You may know this condition more as a “lazy eye”, where one eye is not seeing as well as the other eye and can be accompanied by an eye turn.  It usually occurs at a very young age and current treatment involves patching the good eye to force the bad eye to work. Spectacles are also given to aid this treatment. Unfortunately not all treatments are successful and the lazy eye can remain into adulthood; treatment for a lazy eye in adults is usually ineffective.

A study in in Canada at the McGil Univesity found playing the game Tetris with both eyes open was more effective than patching the good eye¹. In the study participants wore special goggles.  Some of the patients had their good eye totally occluded during Tetris play whilst the other participants had both eyes open and the goggles showed different images of the Tetris game.

The study found vision and depth perception improved dramatically and studies are now under way to see if the treatment can help children with a lazy eye.

Tetris curbs your addictions

.Ever had a addiction?  Smoking? Coffee? Buying too many video games? Well this study from Plymouth University in the UK may be for you².

The UK study on 119 people has found playing Tetris can reduce cravings for people with addictions. Published in Appetite, the study was designed to test Elaborated Intrusion Theory which suggests cravings are not just desire-based, but visual as well. The research hypothesized that performing a visual intensive task can reduce cravings.  In this test participants had to describe their cravings before playing Tetris and once the game was complete they were asked to describe their cravings afterward.

Students who participated in the test found their cravings reduce more than 24 percent compared to people who did not play Tetris.

 

Tetris helps with Trauma

At Oxford University in the UK, Tetris was found to reduce the effects of traumatic stress³.

ptsd_tetIn this study 40 participants were exposed to distressing images and half were then given Tetris to play after a period of time. The experiment then looked into the number of flashbacks experienced by the participants.  The half that played Tetris were found to have fewer flashbacks than the participants who did not.

It was believed playing Tetris helped disrupt the laying down of memories, therefore those who played the game had less flashbacks of the distressing images.  Since Post Traumatic Stress Disorder relies on flashbacks like distressing sights, sounds, or smells of a traumatic event, the experiment worked on the principle that it may be possible to modify the way the brain forms memories in the hours after an event.

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Of course it is important to point out all of these studies require more information and study to prove the theories. It does go to show that there really is proof that video games can actually be beneficial in helping several medical conditions. Of course that probably won’t change the bad press surrounding the media but who knows maybe in the future Tetris will be prescribed on the NHS and Doctors will be handing us Gameboys instead of pills.

References

1: lazy eye

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-22245620

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130422122953.htm

2: addiction

http://www.joystiq.com/2014/03/23/tetris-used-to-help-curb-addictive-cravings-in-uk-study/

3: trauma

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7813637.stm

Written by jamalais

April 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

Posted in Features, Gameboy, NES, PC/Mac

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Retro Fridays: Unreleased Games

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This week for Retro Fridays we are playing unreleased games.  The Sunsoft canceled NES title Sunman, which was really a re-skin of a Superman game. An ultra violent PS1 game that was deemed too violent to release named Thrill Kill.  And finally the stolen never released SNES sequel to StarFox, StarFox 2 (of which most of the gameplay was integrated into StarFox 64).  All of these games were captured on actual hardware, no emulation (and we tell you how to do it too).  Click on the Starfox 2 photo above or here to be taken to the video.

Written by spydersvenom

April 12, 2014 at 12:55 pm

Podcast: Finding An Analog

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interactivevision

When video games started invading toy store shelves the industry was stunned by a product that not only buried traditional products but dominated at generating revenue.  Secretly they all wanted a piece of the pie and the hope was that the dominant video medium, VHS, could be the gateway.  Enter the failed consoles of the Action Max, ViewMaster Interactive Vision, and canceled Hasbro Control-Vision (codenamed NEMO).  Oddly enough these consoles did have roots with some very top people in both toys and gaming in addition to creating the building blocks of the Full Motion Video (FMV) game.

Tetris on a skyscraper video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUFwDqrSI5s

Action Max gameplay vids: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=action+max

ViewMaster Interactive Vision Channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1L81ahLRzf4xIIHIjgAs2w

IGN’s fantastic NEMO article *MUST READ*: http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/12/25/finding-nemo-the-story-behind-hasbros-nintendo-killer



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Retro Game Night: Super Metroid

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In honor of the April game club, I’m giving Super Metroid a try for the first time ever.  Regarded as easily one of the strongest titles on the SNES, if not of all time, I get started to see what all the fuss is about with the title that is responsible for the “Metroid” in “MetroidVania“.  Click on the box art below to see the video.

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Written by spydersvenom

April 5, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Posted in SNES, Videos

Tagged with ,

Podcast: Shmup Game Club

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shmup_post

This week we are joined by listener Jason (@albirhiza) to discuss our Shmup Game Club: Giga Wing 2, Velocity (Ultra), Radiant Silvergun, Power-Up, and Sine Mora.  Campaigns, tactics, high scores, and more are covered as we dissect some of the more contemporary additions to the genre.



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Retro Game Challenge: Radiant Silvergun

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For those of you gearing up for this week’s Gaming History 101 shmup game club, I’ve got the Radiant Silvergun (links to my review/coverage of the game) campaign through to completion on a video here.  Don’t expect the best playing in the world, I’m okay but I’m no match for the one-lifers who take this game on.  It was more like 50 lives in my case, but nonetheless, I managed to complete the game despite some self destructing bosses.  Click on the box art for the video.

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Written by spydersvenom

March 30, 2014 at 1:39 pm

How Product Design has Transformed the Amusement Industry

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The term “arcade game” these days conjures up images of cutting-edge graphics and sound, combined with innovative and interactive technology that can bring any concept to life.  However, good graphics and interactivity have not always been a necessity for a game that is both enjoyable and addictive. I dread to mention the recent phenomenon of the Flappy Bird app but it is an example of an outrageously faulty and basic game becoming extremely popular. This has been seen in the past with games like Space Invaders, Pac Man, Tetris and Asteroids following very basic concepts and graphics, but still being addictive and rewarding when completed.

The Really Early Days

The first arcade games kicked off at amusement parks and are still present at fairs and theme parks, but there’s nothing particularly sophisticated about them. Ring toss, throwing balls at stacked cans, shooting targets, and other simple challenges have been doing the rounds for hundreds of years and can still draw in the punters to this day. Just don’t go expecting an easy win. Perhaps this is what is indicative of a good game – making it appear simple whilst making it actually fiendishly difficult to win. Make it too hard, however ,and you are left with Zelda II.

Pinball Wizard

2The introduction of the electric element into arcade games in the 1930s completely revolutionized pinball, which had existed as a spring-loaded tabletop ball game since the 17th century, and the advent of player controlled flippers in the 1940s solidified pinball’s reputation as a classic favourite amongst arcade gamers. Pinball continues to be a popular game to this day with digitized versions adding to the range of machines available. The Japanese even have their own variant of Pinball called “Pachinko’” which features multiple smaller balls in play all at the same time.

The Beginning of the Computer Age

The 1970s was the dawn of computer-based games. Rather than mechanical amusements, which had up until this point held sway. The seminal Pong was released in 1972 and in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s a swathe of arcade classics were released including Space Invaders, Asteroids, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong. Game cabinets took their lead from pinball table designs but featured digital monitors and player-controlled joysticks and input buttons to control the action on screen rather than physically manipulating items, as in earlier amusement games. Anyone who was lucky enough to be alive at this great time will tell you that Pong was very addictive.

Late 80s Into the 90s – The Birth of the Games Console

SEGA MEGADRIVE – Release Date – October 29, 1988

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The Sega Genesis (or Sega Mega Drive outside the US) saw the beginning of the developed console, bringing games like Sonic The Hedgehog, Pat Riley Basketball and Mortal Kombat to life. This product was unwittingly the start of a new generation of gaming. With most of the games relying on reflex and timing, they relied on the same instincts that were instilled in the general population from old arcade games.

GAME BOY – Release Date – April 21, 1989

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The Game Boy saw a different kind of gaming completely. The handheld device was a revolutionary idea, and the death of every gamers social life. When I was a youngster I would literally take the bulky object everywhere I went, just for a few more goes on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. Again, the product design of the Game Boy was very simple, whilst the hardware and software were complex at the time of its release, showing that product design does not necessarily have to be complicated to be popular.

SNES – Release Date – November 21, 1990

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What a machine. As a proud owner of a SNES, I have to say that the hours spent in front of the console were some of the best of my childhood. If you think this is sad then you obviously haven’t played the original Super Mario Kart, Street Fighter II or Donkey Kong Country. The design of the console and indeed of the games themselves worked extremely well. It never tried to be too extravagant or design based, simply slot the cartridge in the top (after blowing on it, of course) and you’re in gamer land. Nintendo skyrocketed in popularity with games being created in house and by third parties like Capcom. The product design of the console meant that they could improve the graphics and make a significant move from 2D platform games. Eventually this design would give us the hallowed Nintendo 64, which brought out games such as Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye, and Mario Kart 64.

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Shift Towards The Physical

Fighting games such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II gathered huge followings whilst racers such as Daytona USA developed the trend of simulating an actual in-car experience. Gun games also developed so that players held an imitation weapon and fired at on-screen targets. In 1998, Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) marked a shift towards physical actions and computer inputs being combined. Players “dancing” on arrow pads would try to stay in time with a selected track, simultaneously watching the rhythm and timing displayed on-screen.

7This has now led to new product designs and consoles that promote active movement. Consoles such as the Wii and the Xbox One now have the player standing up, moving around, and using themselves as the controller in many games. The future of product design in the gaming industry has never been predictable, but we can see that there is definitely a paradigm shift in the way that people are viewing gaming experiences and indeed the target audience for games.

Increased physical interaction has incorporated all manner of activities that have now been made available in arcade format. Football, guitar, drums, shooting, driving, and many more pastimes have been translated into interactive games with motion control, eye tracking, and other modern features common in today’s games. DCA’s design for the X-Putt, a golf putting game, shows how a design idea and inventive product can combine to create a novel and fun experience for gamers.

Podcast: One Disc to Rule Them All

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cd_post

This week Fred (@spydersvenom) and Jam (@Jamalais) are celebrating the compact disc, or CD.  Aside from the various movie and music industry uses, commercial CD video games changed the face of gaming and drastically increased potential content in retail games.  Join us as we make new site announcements and celebrate one of gaming’s most pivotal technology upgrades.



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Written by spydersvenom

March 19, 2014 at 1:02 pm

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