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Podcast: Ghouls, Ghosts, ‘N Goblins

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This week Fred and Jam are discussing the Capcom series Ghosts’N Goblins (or Makaimura if you prefer).  Easily one of the most punishing franchises ever created, the boys tackle the trials and tribulations of Sir Arthur on a never ending quest to save his girlfriend.  Along the path he will traverse to various worlds, see terrible beings, and of course battle the many derivatives of the Devil.


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And just for fun, have a video of me cussing out the original for two hours:

Podcast: Silent 3vil: No Escape

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This week Fred and Jam feature special guest Vos5 to discuss the third installment of both the Resident Evil and the Silent Hill series.  Where RE3 was more of a side story to try out new mechanics, Silent Hill 3 returned to its roots to be the official sequel for the original and maintained most of the gameplay mechanics.  Both have high regards with the fans but are also shadowed by the more popular predecessors.


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Written by spydersvenom

October 1, 2014 at 11:00 am

Version: Doom

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I was gonna write a retrospective on this, but honestly in podcast form we’ve covered Doom not once, but twice!  From those episodes came a project that has taken six months and over six hours to put together in one near 15 minute video.  I compare the PC, 32x, Jaguar, SNES, PS1, 3DO, Saturn, and GBA versions of Doom so you don’t have to, complete with bad language and snarky remarks (sorry parents).  Check out this version of Versions for Doom, but fair warning: there is some adult language.

Written by spydersvenom

September 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds

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buffycb_boxSo after already saving the world in the first Buffy game on the Original Xbox, I was curious when the apocalypse beeped me for the sequel. My main interest was to see how the creators did and if they were able to improve on the issues of the first game. Developed by Eurocom, these guys had their work cut out for them as not only was this game released just a year after the Xbox exclusive, it was also multiplatform released on PS2, Gamecube and Xbox in 2003.  Lets cut to the chase and find out if this game was doomed to the hellmouth or was it everything Buffy fans wanted?

Chaos Bleeds is set during season 5 of the TV series and is actually believed to be based on a lost episode of the show. This time the big bad is “The First” – anyone familiar with the TV show will know this nasty. The basic storyline is: The First has a bet with Ethan Rayne (another popular bad guy-who worships chaos) and they must each summon five heroes or villains to fight it out. The winner of the bet gets the ultimate prize of a nice little condo overlooking the sea. Naturally Ethan goes for Buffy and her Scooby gang, except they want to find a way to destroy The First so at present no one can win the bet.  Once again the story is engaging and certainly feels like it could exist in the same universe as the TV show. It’s just a shame that much of the plot is ruined by some bad voice acting, but we’ll come onto that later.

buffycb_xanderAs well as playing fan favorite Buffy, this time you control a whopping six characters throughout the campaign: Willow, Xander, Faith, Spike and Sid the dummy – who incidentally was only in season one for a single episode, but sure why not.  While it was a nice idea to have you playing as other protagonists, there is little variation in the way each one controls.   It really takes you out of the experience when Xander is just as strong as Buffy, but combat is switched up with Willow casting spells and Sid the dummy being small but not very combat savvy. There was an opportunity here to create a more unique experience for each character, such as a stealthier approach for Xander,  but sadly that’s not the case.

The graphical style in some ways feels improved, the death animations of the vampires look really good this time around with added extra bones, however in another more prominent way the graphics also fail to hold up. A lot of the models for key characters appear off and don’t resemble a believable likeness to the actors.  The game once again features areas from the TV series, but they just don’t seem quite right in comparison to the show. One little gesture of credit has to go to the developers who  thought to put posters of films Josh Whedon had written like Alien Resurrection and Titan A.E in the Sunnydale cinema. This was possibly my favorite part of the game and a great bonus.

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To the games credit they trim the awful platforming segments from the original game down to two segments.  Instead, we get these small puzzle sections where you’ll quite often find yourself backtracking through levels to find certain items to complete. Along the way you will also have to check everything, as it’s never clear what can and cannot be interacted with. While doing your backtracking enemies will infinitely respawn making each segment more frustrating and an added obstacle this title could have easily done without.  One major improvement is the game features checkpoints during levels which are reasonable and not too far apart.

buffycb_zooCombat seems to be a lot easier than the original, but also similar in that you just beat up the bad guys a bit and stake them.  Staking the bad guys has also been made a lot easier with the use of a single button. Even if you have another weapon equipped a press of L1 (left trigger on Xbox) will automatically switch to the stake and go for the heart.  A lot of the times it will look like your character stakes the enemy somewhere else like the leg, but it still seems to kill them – kinda weird but apparently gets the job done. This even works for any other enemy, whereas before you’d just punch them till they died. Instead of throwing a few enemies at you, the game decides to just bombard you with enemies back to back. This makes it comes across as very cluttered especially when vampires, werewolves, demons and zombies seem to be teaming up to take you down. It gets boring pretty quickly and only suits to prolong the game experience; in this case the term “less is more” feels appropriate.

Chaos Bleeds also features a generous amount of boss battles and all the boss characters are infamous villains from the TV show.  Most are pretty decent and require a little thought to conquer, however some go for the whole “lets throw tons of enemies at you while you are trying to do something important.”  This leads to cheap deaths and game rage. Bizarrely, I found the final boss encounter in the game to be way too easy and possibly the easiest fight in the whole game.  It’s almost as if the developers just gave up at the end.  Even the end cut scene itself seemed pretty anti climatic, especially when you look back at the original.

buffycb_willowThe voice acting is a mixed bag.  Giselle Loren once again fills in for Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy and a lot of the actual TV cast also lend their voice talent to the game.  One huge mistake is the voice actor for Willow: Kari Wahlgren.  I guess she tries to catch that nervous Willow feel from the show but instead comes across as really irritating and oddly sexually charged.  If Willow didn’t talk much it would be easy to ignore but for some reason she is given a lot of dialogue and it just doesn’t work. This probably wouldn’t sit well with fans of the character in the TV show, especially since the Willow in series five has come into her own. The writers made the right move in reducing the repetitive puns from the first game but instead replace it with dialogue that occasionally just doesn’t fit to the scene.

Music is pretty forgettable in the game. The infamous theme is featured in the main menu but you aren’t treated to an awesome montage this time around. Occasionally through the game you would hear memorable scores from the TV show but not much else. The sound effects are ok, but the best part is still staking the vampires which gives the familiar death scream from the show.

The single player game will probably keep you busy for just over ten hours of game time and there’s only one difficulty setting.  It’s not too difficult, though I recommend playing this in short gaming bursts due to the areas of frustration mentioned earlier.  Once you’re done you probably won’t ever play this again unless you want to go back and search for every secret. There is also a multiplayer for up to four people and a couple of game modes like survival and bunny catcher, but I really didn’t give much time to this. What modes I did play came across as random and maybe something you would bring out at a gaming party for a bit of fun, somewhat similar to bringing out a bad film to watch with friends just to laugh at it.

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Overall, I guess Eurocom did an impressive job making three ports of the game in a very short period of time. The sad part is the game feels like it could be something so much more with polish and a bit more time. What we have instead though, is a game with a decent story but cringe worthy voice acting. Gamplay elements have been improved from the original but have been substituted for many more problems which is a shame. Hardcore Buffy fans will look through the errors and play this game anyway for everyone else, this game just doesn’t seem to hold up not even in a guilty pleasure way.

Now-what is left to say but…Grrr-Aaarrg.

Final Score: 2 out of 5 stars

Written by jamalais

March 7, 2014 at 11:28 am

Podcast: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Game Club

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In the late 1990s Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer television show became a phenomenon.  Along with its grand success that launched quite a few television careers, the show’s unique take on both teenage and adult themes coupled with a “monster of the week” outline was perfect for a video game.  A sordid development that delayed the title more than two years and migrating over two systems, Buffy found a home as an Xbox exclusive that both charms and makes you want to rip your hair out.


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Written by spydersvenom

March 5, 2014 at 11:00 am

Know This Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

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As I was looking into doing a history on this fantastic studio I came upon an excellent reference that was so good there’s no point in me doing one.  While it’s easy to rag on big media conglomerates, IGN’s Mitch Dyer did a fantastic story of the origins of Ubisoft Montreal that includes stories of Splinter Cell‘s origin, the reinvention of Prince of Persia, and the visual treat that is Far Cry.  It’s a fascinating story that documents the major franchises you can thank that studio for and a must read for gaming history buffs like ourselves.  Head on over and check out House of Dreams: The Ubisoft Montreal Story when you can.

 

Written by spydersvenom

February 27, 2014 at 8:44 am

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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buffy_boxInto every generation a review is born, one review in all the world, a chosen one…that will play Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the original Xbox. If you haven’t already guessed I’m a huge fan of the original nineties TV show, so, was already quite excited to start playing this.  TV to game conversions, similar to film to game conversions, are a rather common trend, especially if there is already a fan base behind the source material. However, again similar to film conversions, the outcomes of these games often have rather mixed results.

As you would expect you play as Buffy Summers, the chosen one, destined to take down all of the nasties that go bump in the night. One of the main highlights for me, was that the game brings in the main characters from the show. This includes main bad guy The Master who, of course, is up to no good and its up to Buffy and the Scooby gang to sort it out. Overall the story feels like a several part episode of the show and for those who are interested, the story sits within season three of the Buffy anthology. Despite being released in 2002 (season three aired in 1998) the plot of this game still ties in really well. The writers did a great job to make this appeal to fans, with characters regularly bringing up stories or incidents that happened in the TV show. If you are totally new to Buffy, on the other hand, it’s possible some of the dialogue and plot will throw you a bit as it doesn’t come across as particularly friendly for newbies. That said, the basic story is pretty straight forward and self contained: there’s a bad guy that needs taking down and you’re the good guy to save the day.

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The game scores big right off the bat as the opening theme from the TV show is also in the game. Other than that the music wasn’t particularly engaging or memorable but it fit in well enough for the cutscenes and level design. The voice acting is just fantastic, pretty much every actor from the TV show lends voice talent to the game except for Sarah Michelle Gellar (reasons unknown), which is odd. Instead Geselle Loren provides the voice work for Buffy and does a fantastic job. The only problem with the voice work – and this was an issue for a lot of games from this era – is Buffy and other enemies will spurt out with the same one-liners constantly. Though its fun to hear Buffy say “Come on, kick my ass,” after hearing it several times in the same level it gets old really quick.

Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.netAt its core this game is a 3D beat-em-up with some platforming thrown in; at a glance the fighting looks tedious as you’re mostly taking down the same vampires or demons over and over again. Surprisingly though, I rarely found the combat boring at all. You have a basic punch and kick system that also includes a combination of inputs to perform special attacks, which drains your slayer power (that increases by killing the bad guys) and sits just above your health. Once the enemy is worn down you need to stake them with a sharp object – I favored the stake of course – but you can throw them into environmental hazards which will also take them out. Buffy automatically focuses on the enemy closest to her, which helps simplify things, but you can easily move from one enemy to another with attacks should you get surrounded.

Most of the time you will have a stake in hand with the press of the Y button, Buffy will aim for the heart whether the enemy is standing up or on the floor, but if the enemy hasn’t been worn down enough they will block this attack. There’s a handy enemy health bar in the top right of the screen that will indicate the right time to use it, but you also have a couple of additional weapons at your disposal. There is a crossbow, which sound’s cool but I found it next to useless because you have to use it in first person view and aim for the vampires heart. If you aim the crosshair at the heart you will hear a heart beat to indicate the shot will find its mark, but this process is incredibly slow and the beast has usually spotted you and begun pummeling away before you can get a good aim on it. Another weapon is the water pistol, which can be filled with hellfire and holy water, but I rarely used it because the game has these doors which can only be destroyed with hellfire or holy water and if you ran out of the correct solution you would have to backtrack through the level to refill it. This was incredibly frustrating and given that it used 25 percent of the solution on each door I didn’t dare waste any on enemies that could be dispatched in other ways.

Check out the useless water gun!

Check out the useless water gun!

The levels and environments are a mixed bag in this one. On one hand, fans of the show will appreciate familiar locations brought to life in the game; on the other, there is a fair share of standard levels, like the docks and the train yard, which look just boring. One level I particularly admired was the one just before the last boss: a “dreamer’s realm” that showed some excellent creativity but sadly – like all things awesome – it was over way too soon and it’s a shame the game didn’t make better use of it.

Buffy was released very close to the launch of the system and the character models in particular, look very impressive even today. Mouths move when characters talk and character models look very much like the actors from the show. The enemy characters are mostly vampires and demons with the odd spider thrown in to keep you on your toes. There’s not a huge variation in enemy character models, but they still look good and the overall design of the creatures is similar to the show. On a side note, I did find the gothic or grunge clothing choices of the vampires brought back some great nineties nostalgia of my younger years.

This game is surprisingly long. There are many levels with a handful of boss fights thrown in, which will keep you busy for several gaming sessions. It automatically saves at the end of each level but can’t save anywhere else in the game, which seems kind of silly especially if you need to suddenly shut the game off because you will have to restart the level from the beginning. Once completed, can load any of the levels again to replay, but its unlikely you’ll be running back to it and you receive nothing for completing the game aside from the bragging rights.

buffy_4A simple control system in Buffy assures that you can easily return to it after a long break, but it doesn’t always work out as well as it sounds. There are platforming sections, which really don’t work with the controls; Buffy has this over the top long jump that works well in combat but determining where she lands in platforming segments was tricky. This setback is accentuated by the lack of checkpoints previously referenced, so if you die you start the level at the beginning.  Although most levels are not too long there were a couple of areas where you have to jump from ledge to ledge, and of course this usually happened near the end. This lead to some pretty aggressive rage quits. Buffy would have been a lot more entertaining without these sections entirely. It is probably worth pointing out, however, that I love the Game Over screen for this game: you hear evil laughter from The Master, mocking your failure and reminding me of older games that used to do something similar.

Overall, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a pretty solid game with quite significant faults. Fans of the TV show will love the use of characters from the show and how the story could believably fit in with the actual cannon. The combat is entertaining and by far the game’s strongest mechanic. Unfortunately the combination of awful platforming segments and a lack of a true save system means lots of gamers will unlikely see this game through to the end, both due to utter frustration and cheap deaths. Though I praise the combat aspects, the additional weapons you receive in this game are not well implemented and thus feel pretty pointless. Those who are not fans of the TV show may enjoy the design and combat of the game, but there’s no denying that this is a much more engaging experience for fans the TV show as well.

Grrr….Aaarrgg…

Final Score: 3/5 (See our review policy here)

Written by jamalais

February 25, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Posted in Xbox

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Perspective: The Guy Game

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guygame_boxThere are times when a game comes around that is seemingly so transparent that the public can shun it on general principle.  Perhaps it’s the fact that I can be more honest about my morbid curiosities or maybe it’s just the fact that I am into stupid things that the rest of the world can dismiss, but I still want to know if a game that has such a reputation is abysmal.  One such title is The Guy Game.  Developed by Top Heavy Studios – of which it shocks no one that this was the company’s only title – but what you may not know is that the man behind the studio is Jeff Spangenberg, most notable for Iguana Entertainment and Retro Studios.  Take-Two Interactive released this title in 2004 and it was accompanied by the likes of Serious Sam and Manhunt, so the company wasn’t unfitting.  Needless to say the game tanked, but not before strumming up a slew of controversy and had me interested in just what the hell it was.  Now that I’ve gotten my hands on a copy I can sadly report that there is no meaningful purpose for this game to exist…well, except boobs.

As if Top Heavy looked at the worst stereotypes of gamers and “spring breakers” all at once and weaved them into a shallow shell of a game, this title offers little value even to those that accept its very nature.  You and up to three other people get to compete in a sort of mini-game/quiz show hybrid where the stakes are topless young ladies.  Outside of the actual program proper each player is given a series of mildly homophobic rules about how to behave while playing the game and it is expected that all other players in the room assist to police each person, the penalty being to drink.  Even your player avatar reeks of desperation as you select one of eight models to represent you and if you play well enough, you guessed it, she too will get naked for you.  There are a total of 20 episodes, each one containing three rounds, and of course the mini-game that makes up round two in some derivative of beer pong is entirely optional (there’s a “skip” button at round start).  The other two rounds consist of watching young bikini-clad girls answering trivia questions that range from flat basic to college level academia.  Your task is simple: answer the question and then guess in round one whether the girl gets it right or wrong and in round three what wrong answer she gave for each question.  If you personally get the question right you get arbitrary points that hold no meaning to main game and by its own admission aren’t even considered.  On the other hand if you guess what the girl is going to do correctly the reward is that you get closer to seeing her topless without the game’s signature censor bars or mosaic.  So basically you’re playing a Magic 8 ball to hopefully see a set of breasts for one or two questions (it takes 8 perfect guesses out of 12 total questions to remove censorship).  I guess the long term reward is that you permanently unlock censorship for that episode, but if you don’t you have to play every other episode before getting the opportunity to play again.

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It all smashes together into a not fun, not really a game mess that makes you go, “what’s the point?”  There are so many ways in which this basic stupid premise could be better utilized into something resembling fun, regardless of nudity.  The fact that your guessing of the girls’ behavior dictates the nudity is stupid and just further pushes the concept that Top Heavy and Take-Two actually expected you to play hours upon hours of this game with a topless coed as bait.  If this had come out in 1985 – when naked ladies were hard to access and kids pined over a torn Playboy among each other like it was solid gold – then I can totally see the value proposition of this title, however nefarious it may be.  In 2004, however, pornography and naked teens on spring break was so easily accessible with high bandwidth Internet that it was more work than any teen would bother with and no rational adult would even take a glance at.  Not only that but the game isn’t simply a bunch of knuckleheads asking girls questions for boob shots; it’s quite clear that not only are these girls not explained the full purpose of the video being shot before signing the consent form (ie: false pretenses) but that the sole goal of the questions is to make them look like idiots.  I don’t think any human being deserves to be treated that way and it goes on to suggest that all gamers are interested in being elite, out of shape pricks that just want to see arbitrary nudity while cutting down the very soul of a human being.  It’s objectifying and it’s stupid.  In conclusion, The Guy Game lacks value not because it’s a bunch of teenage girls showing their breasts for a video game, but because it succeeds in being a sleazy exploitation of gamer stereotypes while simultaneously cutting down women for participating (something essential to the product) and failing at being any fun in the process.  So you see, it’s not just one problem, but rather the fact that this title has almost zero entertainment.  If you really want to put in the time to guess your way into 20 videos of girls showing boobs for a few seconds, it does succeed at that, which I can commend developers for because it’s the one goal they actually accomplished in the mess that must have been the design document.

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Because…boobs

What would The Guy Game be without the controversy that made it “famous”?  Four months after the title’s release one of the girls in the game (she was Diane from episode 20) sued Take-Two and Sony over the fact that they used her without consent because she was only seventeen at the time and had signed the consent while drunk and with a fake ID.  Since any decision involving this video game has been historically without merit, my only guess is that this girl wanted to follow suit by suing the involved parties to either get the game removed from existence or make a bunch of money – neither happened.  While a Travis County judge (the game was produced at South Padre Island in Texas) did order the game off shelves for PC, PS2, and Xbox, the game garnered a decent circulation on the used market and was sold at smaller retailers that were unaware of its status.  Hell, I found it at a local brick and mortar shop in the suburbs of Kansas City.  This does explain its relative rarity and popularity.  It seems like the case was settled out of court because I could not find any documents on the eventual outcome and I know it wasn’t a substantial payout even if there was one at all.  This girl Diane also probably earned a valuable lesson because not only did the game continue to be available after all this, it was highly sought out after the controversy, spawned a re-release of the footage in DVD format, and continues to be on countless YouTube videos to this day.  In trying to undo her mistake she instead brought it into the spotlight.  In the end the game disappeared into obscurity and I’m betting no one really cares about it today.  Still, I had to know.

Written by spydersvenom

February 20, 2014 at 9:05 pm

Podcast: Heroes in a Half Shell

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You can’t have grown up in the late 80s and not been struck by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  It apparently transcends geographic location as co-hosts Fred (@spydersvenom) and James (@Jamalais) both had similar experiences growing up in different parts of the world.  In this episode we dissect TMNT’s roots, marketing, and obvious integration into video game culture, covering the games that made the surfer-style pizza-eating New York crime fighters a pop culture sensation.


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Written by spydersvenom

February 12, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Podcast: Excelsior!

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This week Chip Cella (@CaptinChaos) and Andy Urquhart (@damien14273) from the Agents of Shieldcast join Fred to discuss retro titles featuring Marvel Characters.  They learn that the distinction of titles early in gaming were almost nonexistent and perhaps Marvel having Disney behind it may actually be a good thing.  Listen on true believers!


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Written by spydersvenom

January 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

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