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Smash TV Review

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smashtv_boxPlatform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Released: 1990
Developer: Williams
Publisher: Williams/Midway
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010

Smashtv01These days there is a good chance any gamer is familiar with the “twin stick shooter”, a concept where you move with the left stick and shoot with the right.  Back in 1982 when fantastic game designer Eugene Jarvis premiered the concept in Robotron: 2084, it was unlike anything we had ever seen.  The merits of that game, and what it brought to video games, cannot be denied and if you want an idea of how Robotron played you need look no further than recent neo-retro release Rock Boshers Dx.  It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in 1990’s fantastic Smash TV, that Jarvis along with a talented team at Williams created one of the most addicting arcade games from my youth.  Set in the year 1999 – oh how we thought so much was going to change with the year 2000 back then – Smash TV has you and potentially one other person shooting it out in a room-to-room TV studio playing the most violent game show of all time (Running Man anyone?).  It takes the building blocks of Robotron: 2084 and brings it into the nineties by giving you a second player, having you kill tons of humans instead of rescue them like in Robotron, and of course you’re doing it all for cash prizes to selfishly grow your wealth.  I loved it then and I love it now.

Smashtv02Anyone who has played modern twin stick shooters like Geometry Wars will immediately notice that most of your tactics will hold up in Smash TV and you will get quite far on each life.  Don’t get cocky enough to think that this means the game is beatable; it was, after all, a quarter drinking arcade game from the people that brought you NBA Jam a few years later.  Your odds are so stacked and boss battles like the always shown (and here is no exception) bald tank boss will have you cranking out credits in order to finally reach the final bonus level, The Pleasure Dome.  In fact, the game was so crazy hard, long, and expensive that although there is mention in the game text, the original 1.0 version of the arcade shipped without a pleasure dome implemented because the developers didn’t think anyone would beat the game.  They were wrong, dead wrong.  Fans across the country were spending God knows how much money to reach the Pleasure Dome only to be greeted with an unfinished ending.  The development team wasn’t all bad, though, aside from quickly implementing the Pleasure Dome and getting updated boards out as soon as possible, there’s a bonus room south of Arena 3 that will flood the room with keys and potentially get you to the end of the game without costing you too much money.  There’s also a fantastic announcer over your gameplay voiced by Paul Heitsch (known for other Midway greats like Mortal Kombat) and even the line “I’d buy that for a dollar!” from the movie Robocop, so what’s not to love.

Smashtv03It was understandably ported to just about every home console, microcomputer, and even the Game Gear portable by publisher Acclaim (aside from the arcade ports in the Midway Treasures Collection).  While the overall port didn’t lose much in the conversion process, even on the NES and ZX Spectrum, the control scheme took the biggest hit and to this day I feel the SNES is the only appropriate place to play the home version thanks to the four face buttons easily emulating the second joystick.  Once Smash TV came home, much like other home ports such as Revolution X, the challenge was mostly in trying to complete the game with the limited number of credits the game allowed.  Sure, a quick cheat code or Game Genie could overcome your health or credits issue, but I still can’t believe there was a time where a home port of an arcade game designed to screw you out of credits didn’t automatically give you unlimited credits.  After all, you would assume that’s the draw to getting the home port.  Either way, Smash TV has much better ways to play without resorting to the 8-bit and 16-bit era, but back in the early 90s it was the only option and a fun weekend rental.  If you were lucky enough to pick up the online arcade port on XBLA before it was delisted in early 2010, you can even play the game with online co-op as it should be played these days but it appears Midway licensing has eliminated this title’s definitive version.  If you want to get together with a buddy on the couch and have some fun shooting guys for an hour or two, the spectacle that is Smash TV can be a ton of fun.

Final Score: 4 out of 5 (review policy)

Written by Fred Rojas

March 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

SimCity Review

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SimCity_Classic_cover_artPlatform: PC (but was ported to almost everything)
Released: 1989
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Maxis (later part of EA before closing this year)
Digital Release? Yes, far too many to count



simcity1With the regretful closing of Maxis this year and the recent discussions of the value of city simulation games, I thought it was appropriate to return to Will Wright’s massively successful city simulation game that started it all.  Although this game was not the first of Wright’s, that was a so-so top down shooter called Raid on Bungeling Bay for the Commodore 64 in 1984, this seemingly tame and rote concept came from that initial title when Wright was developing map builders for its levels.  From there a few engineering books and some other research led to the genesis of Micropolis, the game about miniature versions of cities and managing the development and monthly activities.  The title was supposed to release years earlier on the Commodore 64 by publisher Broderbund, who had handled Bungeling Bay, but they could not see the value in trying to market and sell a game like this – I wouldn’t have either – so it remained unreleased.  It wasn’t until the late 80s that Wright had a meeting with Maxis founder Jeff Braun and secured the license for a Macintosh port that eventually released in 1989.

simcity2At first glance the concept of SimCity seems quite simple: build and maintain a city as a city planner and make sure all the needs are met.  These requirements come in basic forms as the development of buildings, residential zones, industrial parks, business and recreational districts, roads, communication, and more.  While you are handling all the hustle and bustle of a growing city, many other considerations make their way including budget (and taxes), crime, the well being of the citizens known as “sims” (which will clearly gain popularity in another Maxis series), and my personal favorite the natural disaster.  What starts off as a basic grid-based creation system quickly becomes a game of juggling that would be appropriately scored by Flight of the Bumblebee all while you try not to have a heart attack over the problems you face with a city.  There are even specific map types like building on a peninsula or pre-made scenarios like dealing with Detroit in 1972 at the peak of crime while industries crumble and Japan in 1961 when, get this, a large monster not unlike Godzilla attacks.  Needless to say, it seems unassuming at first but like most phenomenon games it quickly becomes a form of addiction that I can openly admit I suffered in the mid 90s when I was first introduced to it.

simcity_snesAfter finding a home on the Mac and then being ported to just about every computer and microcomputer the world had to offer, including an IBM-Compatible version that supported all kinds of newer resolution and color types as well as the Windows version that introduced the first level editor.  It was only a matter of time before someone tried to bring it to console.  The first issue is that the cursor friendly interface was much better suited to a mouse as opposed to a controller, although it’s still a lot smoother than trying to port that interface these days, and there were even scrapped versions in the early 90s for the NES/Famicom and the MSX.  It wasn’t until 1991 (1992 in Europe) that the Super Nintendo Entertainment System premiered SimCity for the first time on home consoles and it was developed and published by Nintendo of all companies.  This allowed for a hefty dose of Nintendo-themed content like Mario statues erected in a city over 500,000 people, Bowser as the Godzilla-like monster, and a fresh soundtrack composed by Soyo Oka (Super Mario Kart and I personally loved his Ice Hockey music on the NES).  Understandably with the flood gates open, the later ports to other computers (like Windows 95 PCs) and consoles (Nintendo 64) all combined to make for one hell of a run for this seemingly obtuse city simulation game.  SimCity would also spawn a handful of sequels that also shared time with both computer and console gamers alike as well.

From the humble beginnings as Micropolis, which did have its source code eventually released as open source software, to the sequel and spin-off cranking SimCity franchise, Maxis and Wright were set for life with this unassuming and addicting game.  Even now I can’t help but think about the quirky off-shoot games like SimAnt or SimEarth (both on the SNES as well, although a bit rare) and eventually I will do the still impressive Sim City 2000 when I get the courage.  In the meantime, if you have never given yourself the pleasure of experiencing the original SimCity, now is definitely the time.  It still holds up today and can be found on everything from any cell phone to just about all other devices available to consumers that can run games – your refrigerator probably plays it if it’s new enough.  It’s one of those long lasting concepts that while it didn’t sustain the future, is a great representation of the past.

Final Score: 4 out of 5  (review policy)

Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews, SNES

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HuniePop Review

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Please Note: Any way you dice it, HuniePop is a game intended for adults.  There is smoking, drinking, very adult language, scantily clad (and potentially fully nude) individuals, adult situations displayed/discussed, and potentially what could be described as pornographic art of a certain type referred to as “hentai”.  Now, perhaps you already know this, but it’s a warning for those that don’t.  Fortunately this review, while it mentions this content, contains none of these items.  It can be considered safe for work (although someone may make fun of you), including all screenshots, and only mildly discusses themes that would be considered appropriate for, at worst, a teen audience.  This is just a friendly warning from the folks here at Gaming History 101.


I get it now.  For years I have watched my friends, family, and even gamer peers play match three games and never understood it.  Sure, I gave a good couple of weeks to Marvel Puzzle Quest, and I had played the original Puzzle Quest in the past, but I was never drawn into them like others were.  Eventually, I quit playing these games altogether.  But I get it now and I will sadly admit that for more than 15 hours of my life – which may be the blink of an eye to the average Candy Crush addict – I was officially hooked to a match three game.  Unfortunately that match three game also happened to be a hybrid dating sim, and a relatively poor one at that, which also had a readily available uncensored patch that displayed an occasional pornographic hentai image, but a match three game nonetheless.  It may be shameful for some, although I have no shame, in admitting that I not only liked but got addicted to HuniePop, but I did and it was definitely the match three game that did it.  No, seriously, there were easier ways to see the art and out of those 15 hours I spent about 2 minutes looking at art, one total hour playing the dating sim, and 14 more doing nothing but match three.  In fact, the game is pretty terrible at everything it attempts to accomplish outside being a basic match three clone.  But still, I was hooked.

hp3You start off being visited by a magical love fairy named Kyu, where you will always fail, you are sent out on a journey to discover how to pick up women and hopefully score in the process.  To be fair, HuniePop‘s goals and rewards are not unlike many of the more applauded dating sims out there, which often use sex as some sort of benefit to successfully romancing someone.  I don’t want to be all political, but for those that want to criticize this approach, sex is a part of a romantic adult relationship for most people and it will often be a later part of the dating process so HuniePop is not that removed from reality.  The way you go about doing so is in a very basic dating sim fashion of meeting girls, learning information about them, and dating them to make your connection stronger.  Where it differentiates from the dating sim is that whenever anything heavily story driven or more interpersonal would happen in a dating sim, HuniePop hides away behind a more complex match three game and uses that to pass judgement on your dating skills.  That said, the match three game was easily a more deep experience than I had even with the likes of Marvel Puzzle Quest (note: I only played for the first three months of release, I’m sure it’s a different game now) and will potentially get gamers and non-gamers alike hooked to the addictive nature.  I should also point out that HuniePop has a one and done price that is lower than what I spent for the handful of transactions with similar titles in the “freemium” format.

hp1When you go out on a date you will be matching 3-5 bubbles on a grid together, each consisting of one of the game’s eight color/symbol combinations.  Four of these are colors that directly relate to attributes of what I suspect are considered behavior on your date: red for sexuality, blue for talent, orange for romance, and green for flirtation.  Much like women in the real world, each will have an attribute they like, one they don’t care for, and two that they are pretty much neutral on.  Of course you will want to target the color the girl cares the most for, but there will be some strategy in it because you get bonus points based on other factors.  One of those factors includes your passion level, represented by the pink hearts, and works as a sort of multiplier for the number of points you get when you match three or more.  There are also purple broken hearts that will reduce your score needed for a successful date and the bane of your existence.  Then there are bells that give you more moves, which is important because all dates are based off a certain mood.  The final, the aqua teardrop, is sentiment that is used to activate your gifts and cause different effects to happen.  Your goal is to navigate the board as best as you can and get the score within the remaining moves, a feat that starts off easy and gets very JRPG-like as the needed score skyrockets and your items and ability to break the game do as well.  Couple that with a simple leveling up system and ways to unlock stronger gifts and you’ve got a fun balance game that will have you hooked.

hp2As you navigate the dating portion, or as I like to think of it the frontend of the actual game, you will get four times of day for which to visit and speak with your ladies.  During this time you can talk to them and earn hunie, the currency that allows you to level up your skills related to each of the eight color bubbles and two to make the game easier on random drops.  To balance out how much you can speak with them you have to use munie (money) to purchase food to keep talking to them, drink (when they accept it) to increase your hunie earned multiplier, regular gifts to earn return gifts to use in the puzzle portions for special abilities, and unique gifts that permanently increase the hunie earned with each discussion you have.  Provided the girl has at least 1 food bar remaining and that you have not gone on a date with her earlier in the same day, you can go out on a date and enter the match three for a chance at large sums of munie and increasing your affection with her.  After each successful date you will get a selfie message from the girl that starts off tame and simple and can get quite a bit revealing, sometimes with actual nudity, after the third date.  If you get her affection up to four or five and take her out on a night date, you will be able to take her home if you succeed.  The final result there is a fast-paced match three that throws all other rules out the window and asks, very unlike sex, that you match as many items as fast as possible and keep doing so until you literally get the score to skyrocket and end the session.  Once you enter the sex minigame version of the match three I don’t think it’s possible to fail, but it can take a long time if you aren’t fast or careful enough to get the girl to the finish line.  I snicker here as I describe this because it’s the worst metaphor for sex that I could ever think of, but every game has its hook and again I must remind you this game is a match three game and all other factors are fluff to keep you playing.  Of course once you finally perform the beast with two backs on the young lady you are “rewarded” with a mid-coital shot.  This shot will not contain any nudity beyond toplessness in the basic “censored” version on Steam, but the uncensored version purchased elsewhere or unlocked after applying a simple patch in the Steam forums, will provide actual pornographic hentai pics.  To me, this is a personal preference assuming you are of age to purchase and play this game.  I also should point out that from a content perspective, the filthy things – both sexual and just plain vulgar – that come out of these girls’ mouths, not to mention the moaning, are all unlocked in the “censored” Steam version of the game and are potentially more offensive to me than the single flash of a graphic photo.  I could almost see playing this game around my three-year-old daughter provided I was straying from any sex dates and had the sound on mute, but I still prefer to keep anything with potential adult content off until she’s in bed.  My wife, on the other hand, rolled her eyes continually at the random sex stuff but found the game overall to be just as addicting as she found Candy Crush and Bejeweled to be but reminded me that there are alternatives that aren’t so perverted.  Noted.

hp4HuniePop is an adult-oriented draw at the basic match three and I will admit it hooked me.  There’s a lot to be said for the puzzle aspects of this game that integrates basic forms of other genres but I will admit was just different enough to get me hooked.  I also can’t deny that the anime art style, dating sim, somewhat Japanese influence, and sexual content did not assist in enticing me, but regardless of what made me play the game it was the puzzle aspect that kept me playing.  Let’s face it, there are easier ways to see the handful of hentai pics in this game and if you really just want those and somehow can’t find them on Google, purchasing the Art Collection DLC (yes it exists) will net you all those photos and more for a handful of dollars, which is much cheaper than the 10 hours I put in to complete the game.  If you get hooked, there’s a lot more game to enjoy as you are never limited on how many times you can date the girls afterward, there’s a harder “alpha” mode you can begin after successfully sleeping with all the girls (including the unlockable secret ones), and an odd male/female track decision at the beginning that doesn’t change the sex of the people you are romancing but does offer different key art to unlock.  I’m sad to say that the full blown addiction didn’t set in and after about 15 hours my need to consistently start up HuniePop and go on a date or two has subsided, but that’s not to say I don’t jump in every now and again for a game or two when I have 20 minutes to kill.  You’re going to take some flack for it, but if you want a new take on a classic model, HuniePop might be worth your time.

Final Score: 3 out of 5  (review policy)

HuniePop is available on Steam as well as other online retailers and the game’s official web site.  To my knowledge, Steam is the only location with the censored version and the uncensored patch is available in the forums and easy to apply to the Steam version if you wish.  This game was purchased by the reviewer and no review copy was requested or sent.  HuniePop is available for $9.99 for the base game and was completed by the reviewer in approximately 10 hours.  An additional five hours was spent reviewing differences in various options and playing the harder Alpha mode.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 18, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews

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Podcast: Arcade Memories

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This week Fred and Jam wax nostalgic on their favorite arcades from the past.  It’s always been our belief that not only were the cabinet games themselves impressionistic, but the particular arcade you would visit and games you selected at those arcades to be just as significant.  We talk about the locations, interiors, moods, feel, and of course our favorite games.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 18, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Arcade, podcast

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Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number Review


The original Hotline Miami is still a massive indie hit that has a colourful over the top retro look to it with a fantastic soundtrack to accompany it. The goal of each level was simple: kill every enemy on screen by any means necessary. Although that comes across as a very basic concept the game is very difficult and you will find yourself restarting constantly until you finally figure out the magical formula to dispatch all the bad guys in the level. I was hooked to this game instantly when I first played it, and was pretty excited to hear a sequel was on the way.

hm2_3I first got a peek at Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number last year at EGX Rezzed 2014. It was being demoed on the Vita and PS4 and allowed you to play two levels from the game. What appealed to me at the time was the game was notoriously difficult from the get go, almost requiring you to have played the first game to have any chance of clearing each level. Getting hands on with the full game that is certainly not the case now. The game opens with a pretty simple to follow tutorial, then the rest is up to you. Controls are very similar to a twin stick shooter only you really have to make every hit count in this game. You will be switching between melee weapons and guns regularly, and you’ll have to change your tactics constantly as not every single enemy can be taken down with the same weapon. Every enemy you face can be taken down in a single hit, but just keep in mind your own character is equally fragile. It’s basically you versus a house full of enemies and as you take each baddie down you will be greeted with the most gory of pixelated graphics you have every seen in a retro inspired game, and its kinda awesome.  On normal mode the game allows you to auto lock onto the nearest target which makes taking down enemies a lot easier. If you brave the game on hard this ability is disabled and you have to rely on your own skill with the controls to pull through.

At its core the game is basically more of the same with relatively short levels, but you will be restarting them constantly trying to figure out your own magical formula to beat each area. Heres a quick overview of how a level usually went for me: enter the door got stabbed by the first guy, RESTART, enter door hit the guy shot by someone in the distance, RESTART, “ah ha I got that guys gun, oh wait here comes three guys in a row, damn I’m out of ammo”, dead, RESTART, “Finally taken everyone down, wait theres a dog oh fu-“, RESTART. You get the idea. Nothing quite beats that feeling though when you finally conquer a level after having restarted it several times.

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number_20150311151429

If I had a friend playing this game with me I could totally see this being a water cooler discussion on how you managed to get past certain areas. The boss battles in particular bring across that head scratching moment and since I played this game pretty much on release there was no help online at the time (though that would of course have changed now). It really reminded me of those nostalgic days before the internet where you really had no help in figuring out how to get through the game.

hm2_1The sequel does try to bring some changes to the formula. First off, the game is now heavily story focused. In the previous game you just picked up the phone and did a level; a little story was peppered in but the game was very quick to get to the action. This time around you will be reading a lot of text from various characters. It provides that depth some people may be looking for, those who wanted to know what the hell was going on in the first game but if you do just want to get to the killing you can skip these sections. The story contains a lot of twists and it’s really not worth spoiling in a review.  In Hotline Miami 2 you will play as various characters looking at the dark story from different angles. Sometimes you will get to choose between a handful of masked maniacs who each have different perks (e.g. a chainsaw or dual wielding machine guns), sometimes you will play a soldier in the jungle and you have to commit to a specific weapon of choice. This makes the game feel more linear. While it is good to provide the player with a unique challenge, fans of the first game where you had access to various perks in the forms of masks in the majority of the levels might find the new design to the game more limited. It doesn’t stop how much fun the game is and you can still finish the level in any way you choose.

 A large criticism I have to the game was it felt like there was a lot of cheap deaths from enemies off screen. Guns play a big role in this game and your fragile sprite can only take a single bullet. So it was particularly aggravating to go through levels where I was being shot by an offscreen baddie that was out of my line of sight. The game does allow you to pan the camera around to survey your surroundings but even then it might not be enough to see that bugger in the distance. It feels this time around you really need to learn the level and enemy positions rather than just winging it. I guess the reason for this design is to force you out of your comfort zone and take chances.

The retro inspired graphics are colourful and frankly excellent. They haven’t changed at all from the first game and they never needed to. Just like the first game you have a fantastic soundtrack to accompany your killing spree which is worthy of putting on your mp3 player and playing those 80s techno beats while you drive down those fine Miami streets in the setting sun with your shades on. Sorry got carried away there. If you don’t have that luxury you can enjoy this soundtrack outside the game whatever you decide to do.


Overall, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is fast, frantic killing fun. I always admire a developer who tries to bring something new to the table to mix things up for a sequel. To breathe some fresh air into the series as opposed to playing it safe and bringing more of the same. Some changes will sit well with fans of the first and some won’t, but this doesn’t change the fact that the game is still great fun and an excellent buy for gamers looking for tons of replay value in their game. I played this game on both PS3 and Vita, both versions are absolutely fine but the PC version does have the addition of a level editor which I can see as being a fantastic resource for people looking for even more Hotline Miami action.  Especially given that this game is the last in the series, future content is going to be left in the hands of the fans to continue.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (review policy)

Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number is available on PC (including Mac and Linux), Playstation 3, Playstation 4, and Vita for an MSRP of $14.99 and it is cross-buy on Playstation platforms (buying one version releases all versions).  This title was purchased by the reviewer and a press copy was not provided.

Written by jamalais

March 16, 2015 at 11:00 am

Hotline Miami Review

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Getting that “retro feel” in modern games is a particular challenge that few actually nail.  Sometimes the aesthetics are spot on, but at the expense of gameplay, which can feel sluggish or imprecise and the developer often sites authenticity for retro consoles or some other excuse.  Many times the soundtrack is fantastic but it’s the only notable aspect of the game.  By process of elimination there are those titles that get the gameplay down but at the expense of aesthetics and story a la Retro City Rampage.  That’s why Hotline Miami seems such an achievement because it looks like a 16-bit top-down game, plays like a twin stick shooter from the 90s (Smash TV anyone?), and manages to pull off the unreliable narrator concept that usually falls flat.  On top of that, it has a fantastic soundtrack that Dennis Wedin composed for the game and stands as the first thing you experience upon booting it up and the most notable part of the experience.  All the elements are there and the result is an unforgetable title from start to finish.

hotline_miami_1Like the movies of David Lynch that developer Jonathan Soderstrom took inspiration from, you have no idea what is going on right from the beginning and it never gets all that clear.  The facts are this: you are never named, you wear a letterman jacket and a mask, it’s 1989, and random voicemails are coming in with tasks for you to accomplish.  Most of these tasks involve you breaking into a house (you are encouraged to kill everyone inside) and performing a specific task, which is usually fetching an item.  Along the way you will come in contact with three other masked individuals – Richard (rooster mask), Don Juan (horse mask), and Rasmus (owl mask) – that will interact with you in various unique ways.  Beyond that telling any more about the plot would be both confusing and spoiler-heavy so I’ll leave it there.

hotline_miami_2Each scenario has you breaking into a house and while apparently it’s possible to not engage these enemies, I chose to take out every single threat on the premises.  This proves to be quite the challenge and stay away if you don’t like the concept of having to memorize a level and dying over and over again, but in keeping faithful to the retro style I was right at home.  Hotline Miami is violent video game, in fact despite the 16-bit style graphics it may be the bloodiest and most messed up title I’ve ever played, rivaling the likes of Manhunt and Grand Theft Auto.  It works for this type of game, though, because the retro style graphics desensitize you a bit to the graphic violence on screen and the top-down perspective allows you to see the results of your carnage.  It all feels like a bad trip where you are on a confused mission of death and destruction all while not knowing a thing about your purpose.  As you traverse level to level – or rather house to house – that odd phenomenon of more information making you even more confused happens and at least for me pushed me to keep going.  I should also note that since each level is a short isolated mission that you will replay continually until overcoming it, this game was probably most comfortable on the Vita, although I first got addicted to and completed it on PC.

hotline_miami_3I think the least said about Hotline Miami the better so as not to spoil what the game has to offer in terms of plot, gameplay, and even the fun twists that happen.  It’s got a great aesthetic, spot-on graphics, an incredible soundtrack, its controls are so sharp that any death will undeniably be your fault, and it messes with your head.  That’s what I want out of my indie darlings, of which this is an ideal example.  If you haven’t experience Hotline Miami for yourself and you like the retro feel or just plain great experiences from any era, this is a must play provided you can get past the brutality.

Final Score: 5 out of 5  (review policy)

Hotline Miami is currently available on the PC (including Mac and Linux ports), Playsation 3, Playstation 4, and Vita for an MSRP of $9.99.  Purchasing this title on any of the three Sony platforms also makes it available on all others (cross-buy).  This title was completed in approximately 6 hours with an additional two hours for extra content.  A total of almost 20 hours has been played on multiple completions with different platforms.  The game appears to perform the same on all platforms, however gamepad support seems weakest on PC.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 15, 2015 at 9:00 pm

Retro Shop Finds: Mystery Gamecube 10-pack Unboxing

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Fred and Brian unbox a mystery Gamecube 10-pack that could have any game in it.  Check out what they find.  Fred also notes a handful of Game Gear games he picked up for coverage in the upcoming weeks.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 15, 2015 at 6:37 pm

Posted in Game Gear, Gamecube, Videos

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Battlefield Hardline – First 45 Minutes of Campaign Quick Look

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Update 03/20/2015:  Fred decided to play the whole game so now it’s part of a playlist that will autoplay if you start with the original video.  Basically, it’s all automatic if you watch this.

Original Post: So Battlefield Hardline is hitting store shelves in the US on Tuesday and I cannot believe that they have yet to show off more than a handful of minutes of the game’s campaign.  With Dead Space‘s Visceral games creating the campaign, you would think EA would put more push behind it whether or not it’s any good.  Oh well, thanks to EA Early Access we got the opportunity to experience, and get some colorful commentary on, the first 45 minutes in this Quick Look.  Check it out.  (Please Note: This video is unplayable in some countries due to licensing issues, sorry, out of our hands).


Written by Fred Rojas

March 13, 2015 at 3:22 pm

Dying Light Review

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Wait, what?  A modern review?!? Yes, it’s true, we will from time to time be reviewing new games.  It’s not because we got review copies, because we didn’t in this case, and it’s not because we’re changing focus from retro gaming either.  We just wanted an outlet to write reviews on the modern games that we play and frankly, some of the games that were releasing when GH101 started might now be considered retro.  Keep in mind that the site, articles, podcast, and videos will remain focused largely on retro gaming.  


Zombies.  Of all the enemy types out there I’m pretty sick of zombies, but if a game can be compelling enough in its gameplay, I guess I don’t care what the enemy type is.  Parkour.  Now you’re talking, I love parkour.  Not since 2007’s Mirror’s Edge has a game even attempted true first person parkour and despite that title nailing the feel, it did so in very confined linear paths.  Dying Light attempts to blend the gameplay that developer Techland premiered in the Dead Island series with a day/night cycle that drastically changes gameplay and basing the whole traversal system on parkour, and it nails it.  That’s not to say that Dying Light is a perfect game by any means, because the story, side missions, and combat leave much to be desired, but there’s no denying that this world is great to run around in.

dl_01The story opens in Harran, a fictional city in Turkey that just so happens to be based off an actual city in Turkey with the same name (I dunno), and a viral outbreak that creates zombies and has caused the city to be quarantined.  You play as Kyle Crane, a secret operative dropped in to seek out Kadir Suleiman, better known as Rais to his people, a political figure that has incriminating files against the agency Crane works for and has been using them to blackmail a ticket out.  As soon as you are dropped down several important figures are introduced including the tactile and beautiful Jade Aldemir and Amir Ghoreyshi, who I can’t say much about because he is attacked and killed by zombies moments after you meet him.  This pair finds you after you drop in, get attacked by the bandits that loot the city, and a subsequent rush of infected get involved.  You are bitten, Amir sacrifices himself in a no-win situation, and Jade assists you in getting back to the central skyscraper where many of the humanitarians reside known as “The Tower”.  From there you are allowed to roam about, either playing through campaign missions or side quests in the typical open world mission-based formula we’ve seen since Grand Theft Auto.

dl_02While it’s a somewhat interesting premise, the main draw of the game comes from running around and interacting with the living and the undead in Harran.  In the beginning, Crane feels ridiculously under-powered and every enemy you deal with, zombie that notices you, and ledge you come upon will be a complicated task.  It’s daunting to be sure and at first I didn’t know if I would have the chops to complete the game, but I loved Mirror’s Edge so much that I was determined to find the fun in the only other title with similar gameplay.  Given that you are leveling up three different tiers simultaneously – character, agility, and combat – knocking out that first group of campaign missions is probably the best strategy as it will have you jumping around the rooftops to get acquainted with the parkour system, battling smaller batches of isolated infected to assist in learning the clunky melee system, and getting your character large batches of XP to level up and get a handful of special abilities at your disposal.  While there are some side missions, The Tower is riddled with nothing more than long winded fetch quests for a quantity of arbitrary items or going to places and trying to get items you don’t have available to you yet.  This is a problem I see with many open world games and it’s no more appreciated or excusable here; if you’re going to do side missions and introduce them early we had better be able to complete them.  These early campaign missions also allow you to get acquainted with the map of the city, which is essential because there’s no fast travel in the game.  While I get what the developers were going for by omitting fast travel – and for a 30-50 percent of the game it’s a welcome limitation – by the time you’ve completed the story missions for the first map and you’re cleaning up random side quests, this is a tedious curse.  Oh yeah, and as I hinted there’s a second map, but much like other games that throw you a second map about two-thirds of the way into a game, you won’t be there long and the developers gave you little to do there once the story is done.  This is a shame because I found the second map to be a breath of fresh air after spending more than 20 hours in the first map and tactical ways of handling situations could have been possible thanks to the new landscape.  Like the side missions, this is an unfortunate misuse of resources made available.

dl_03As I said, that won’t matter to you for the first half of the game because you’re going to be having so much fun with the freeing parkour system that you won’t be able to get enough of running around the city.  All jumping is tethered to the RB or R1 button (depending on your platform of choice), which was off-putting at first but I found myself adapting to within a small period of time.  Once you get past that initial hurdle the sky is quite literally the limit to the crazy stunt-like antics that Crane can do and you’ll find yourself pushing his abilities time and time again.  There’s little risk to attempting these feats anyway, mostly like in Assassin’s Creed you’ll make a stupid leap from too high and plummet to your death, but you may also just see the screen flash to red and hear that crunching sound of broken bones instead.  All high drops have some sort of soft spot to land on like water, garbage bags, or dumpsters but I always found it difficult to spot until it’s too late or too far from the wall you leap off of to matter unless you’re aiming for them.  In contrast to the great parkour system is the clumsy at best melee combat system that I felt no more confident with at the end of the game than I did mere hours from the beginning.  Given various factors like size, weight, your combat skills, and most likely a handful of other arbitrary variables, connecting weapons with the infected is a more difficult task than you would think.  I never played Dead Island and apparently this is the updated and improved version of that combat, but whatever mess that game had I can’t imagine how you would view this as positive.  Granted, the moves you get for upgrading your agility and the crazy damage that later weapons do make it less annoying, but there’s still a great deal of frustration to be found when you take a on a lone zombie for fun and end up getting eaten alive.  There are guns in the game, and even a few instances where you have no choice but to use them, however with the way they draw infected and the low amount of ammo it’s best to leave them with the bandits.  On the other hand, you are able to craft various items like med kits and elemental throwing weapons like stars that are a lot of fun to use and don’t make so much noise.  Firecrackers are also a great way to get any infected to pay attention to something else as is the later ability to blend in with them.  It’s not completely balanced, but after unlocking a good portion of the abilities, traversal and missions in the game become a breeze.  I also have no idea why your character gets winded by running, jumping, or fighting because there appears to be no major gameplay factor other than temporarily stifling progress that this mechanic serves.


Dying Light, as the name implies, revolves around a distinct day and night cycle that completely changes the way you play the game.  During the day there are merely infected hanging about, plenty of ways to escape, and more than enough light to effectively light your way.  Sure, there are some fast infected (the newly transformed) that get a bit annoying and when tasked with a simple item to grab or door to open the infinitely respawning infected can be a pain, but danger is always avoided by a rooftop escape or frantic cliff jump.  On the other hand the night is a place you want to exercise extreme caution and probably shouldn’t even try for the first third of the game.  New types of enemies emerge that can detect your movement, run in packs, and can kill you quickly if a group finds you.  The world is caked in darkness making your only ability to see being a flashlight or random light posts, all of which will get the infected’s attention and eventually lead to your discovery by the stronger enemy types only the night brings.  You can fight back with a light trap here or ultraviolet flare there, but it’s all just a temporary setback for enemies that in the end will kill you if they know where you are.  Only a few missions are required at night and of those there’s only like one or two in the main campaign, but nonetheless there’s a risk/reward dichotomy that exists with better items, mission rewards, and experience scores doubling that make the night a worthwhile time to be out and about.  I wish they had done more with it, though, because like a few other factors in this game the night is almost always able to be skipped and few will feel the reward outweighs the risk involved.  Still, a good stealth mission at night can keep your heart pumping and put a smile on your face when you earn thousands of points for sneaking out undetected.


Dying Light joins many other games that have come out in the last few years to present great gameplay elements, not to mention gorgeous graphics, but waste them on giving you mostly uninteresting things to do.  This is best demonstrated by the multiplayer, which provides addicting and unique co-op challenges that are far too few in addition to the pathetic competitive Become the Zombie mode that I couldn’t stand for more than half an hour.  Death has almost no consequence, but without a good variance of save zones and fast travel the game may not be enjoyable had you lost much upon each of your many deaths throughout the campaign.  You’ll spend plenty of time with Dying Light, but mostly to perform menial tasks or repetitious campaign missions that only add meaningful plot points as part of cutscenes or canned animations.  When the game does try to switch things up, it’s almost always without value in that you’re doing things like running unarmed from gunfire through an expansive area where only one path allows you to escape alive or you have to use specific weapons or guns to overcome the challenge.  That said, if you’ve been waiting for the next step that Mirror’s Edge started so many years ago and want a game that will give you both freedom of movement and a longer time in the world, Dying Light is exactly what you have been waiting for.  Techland made a great world and some great mechanics, if only they could have figured out how to guide the actual tasks in a better direction.

Final Score: 3 out of 5   (review policy)

Dying Light is available on Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Linux for an MSRP of $59.99.  It took the reviewer approximately 28 hours to complete the main campaign and most of the side missions, with an additional three hours spent exploring the post game and participating in the multiplayer activities.  This game was reviewed on PC with maximum settings and a review copy was not provided.  

Written by Fred Rojas

March 11, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Someone Got Netflix Running on an NES

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Hackers these days don’t necessarily do things because they should, they just see if they can.  That’s definitely the case in this post on Gamespot where a handful of hackers got the Netflix streaming service running on an NES via a specialized cart but on an unmodified NES.  You can watch House of Cards running on it in the video below in all its streaming text and 256 color glory.  Netflix on NES, now I’ve seen it all.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 11, 2015 at 9:31 am

Posted in NES, News

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