Category Archives: Games

Pixel Perfect Memories: World Class Track Meet

The Top 100 NES Countdown will be over before the next PPM column.  Today's game at #22 is R.C. Pro-Am.

Release Date: September, 1987
Platform: NES
Developer: TRY

I think my parents fell for the marketing ploy that the power pad would give us a reason to exercise while playing the Nintendo.  We got one game for the terribly expensive pad, and that was World Class Track Meet.  It's not a terribly good game, and it did not make my list of best one-hundred NES games.  But we played it quite a bit, especially when we wanted to get our "exercise" in without going outside.

The game has several track events which start off fairly easy and get increasingly difficult as you face tougher opponents.  The idea is that you basically run on the pad, and jump if the game calls for it (e.g. with the long jump or triple jump).  It didn't take us very long that there were ways to easily cheat the game.  One could jump off the pad, then jump back on after insanely long jumps.  And getting on your knees and hitting the pad with your hands could speed things up.  Of course, if the game were awesome in its own right, finding ways to cheat it wouldn't have been at the forefront.  But the game is so limited, as are the uses for the power pad, that there's little reason to use it for exercise or any other reason.

I still haven't played any new games of note recently.  What's keeping you busy this past month or so?


Pixel Perfect Memories: Electronic Baseball

Today begins the Top 50 of my NES countdown.  Today's featured game is Dragon Warrior.

Release Date: 1988
Platform: LCD Handheld
Developer: Tiger

Yeah, the entire Tiger system is painfully outdated, with it's blippity bloop sounds and constantly flashing graphics.  But I spent way too much time playing it.  How about you?  There's really no need to review the game, but here's a picture to refresh your memory.

This month's questions is as follows: What were your favorite Tiger handheld games?


Pixel Perfect Memories: Betrapped!

For anyone who missed it, the Top 100 NES games countdown has commenced over at Death By Troggles.  Today's game, Cobra Triangle, is #74 on the list.

Release Date: 2004
Platform: Windows
Developer: Oberon

Murder Mystery and Minesweeper.  It took this long for someone to combine the two?  Your guess is as good as mine.

BeTrapped! is the brainchild of Jane Jensen, designer of the Gabriel Knight series.  You play as Mr. Parker, solving a mystery in a manor filled with hundreds of booby traps.  Each time you enter a new room, you must play minesweeper, determining which spots on the floor have traps and deactivating them.  Once you’ve cleared a room, you can talk to houseguests to unravel the case of the murdered estate lord.

Unlike minesweeper, you are allowed to screw up on occasion and still not die (though there are a few local time limits), and even if you do, you can save your progress.  And unlike most games that pass themselves off as mysteries, you actually do have to take notes and deduce the murderer at the end of the game.  Though reaching the end is incredibly easy, winning requires an acute mind, as the clues are devilishly woven throughout the game.  Sadly, if you’re wrong, the game will tell you who the murderer is anyway.

Overall, this game is quite fun while it lasts, though it’s short and leaves little reason to replay it.  You can create your own rooms of booby traps to practice in (and to best one’s own speed records), but after a while I longed for the original minesweeper that accomplishes the same goal while being less tedious.  But BeTrapped! is a clever idea that was given the execution it deserved by one of the genres most original minds.

Whatcha playing?

Pixel Perfect Memories: Worst NES Game Ever

Hey ya'll!  Sorry I was absent last month.  Maybe the wedding got in the way.  Either way, I wanted to give everyone a head's up on what's going on over at my website.  I just recently finished the Star Trek countdown, and coming soon will be the Top 100 NES games.

So far this column has talked about great games and my site will follow suit.  So today let's discuss terrible games.  Won't limit it to the NES, but if you have a nomination for worst NES game, let it fly in the comments.

Without counting unlicensed games, like Action 52 and Bible Adventures, there's still plenty to choose from.  Of games that were somewhat well known, I'd have to nominate Bart vs. the Space Mutants.  Awful graphics, shoddy game control, a botched license with little humor, and overall confusion as to the goal pretty much sums it up for me.  Of course, the above description could apply to about 100 games on the NES.  So what do you say?

Also, of course, feel free to discuss any awesome finds you've come across recently.

Pixel Perfect Memories: Tron

Release Date: 1982
Platform: Arcade
Developer: Bally Midway

As I mentioned here last month, I found this game at the Pinball Hall of Fame.  I remember playing this a lot when my family was holed up at a Sheraton hotel for a week when I was six.  We had a house fire and the insurance company was putting us up there.  And we got plenty of quarters.  My brother and I played this one probably more than any other (though Hogan's Alley made a run for the top spot).

It's hard to explain this game for those who haven't seen or seen the movie, but I was surprising to find it holds up pretty well today yet.  Scenes from the movie are emulated the best they can, including entering the Input/Output tower, Tron's battle against the MCP, and the light cycles.  The graphics are solid and the sounds are pretty impressive as well.  In fact, one magazine awarded Tron the best coin-op game of 1982.

If you ever find yourself in an arcade that has this game, I highly recommend giving it a quarter or seven.

So whatch'all playing?

Pixel Perfect Memories: Yar’s Revenge

Release Date: 1981
Platform: Atari 2600, GameBoy Color
Developer:  Atari

I grew up with Atari, which is to say it was the system we had until I was seven years old and the NES came out.  Then we kind of stopped playing.  And there's not really any games I go back and play anymore.  I loved Pitfall 2, and Moon Patrol, and Missile Command, and especially Keystone Kapers.  But my favorite may have been Yar's Revenge.

It's quite simple really.  You control a fly called a Yar.  You have to destroy a laser base named Qotile (and get REVENGE).  There's shooting and force fields and lasers and missiles and all that.  But for 1981, the game play was very fluid and the sound and graphics were pretty sweet.  As far as games go that repeat seemingly endlessly with little variation between levels, I enjoy this way more than Q*Bert or Pac-Man.

In addition to what you're playing, what was your favorite Atari game and why?

Pixel Perfect Memories: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game

Release Date: 1989
Platforms: NES, Xbox 360, many computer systems
Developer: Konami

I never really cared for the port to the NES.  The graphics were okay, but not great.  You could only use two turtles at a time.  There were new levels and bosses, but it always felt a bit flat to me.  I honestly like the original TMNT game for the NES better, despite its flaws.  Regardless, I'm not here to talk about the NES.  Today we're talking arcade.

When I was a kid, my mom brought me to Circus Circus about three to four times per year, usually around report card time (they gave out extra tokens for good grades).   I pretty much played the same games every time.  Double Dragon (a hundred times better than the NES port), Arch Rivals, the basketball and pitching games, Skee-Ball, and a few pinball games like Joker's Wild.  But the game I put the most quarters into was TMNT.

The cartoon series was an absolute perfect choice for an arcade game, as you had four primary good guys in Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo.  They had different weapons, different moves.  You had colorful bosses in Bee-bop, Rocksteady, Krang, and of course, the Shredder.  The graphics were awesome, the sound was mesmerizing, and the cinematic sequences made my eyes light up.  But my favorite part of this game is how it could make complete strangers become instant friends.  Whenever I saw an opening (hoping it was Donatello so I could use his bo staff), I'd rush to the console and plug in tokens until the game was won.  The satisfaction felt at winning was palpable.

I never cared much for winning tickets.  All they were good for was cheap, plastic prizes you could get cheaper at the dollar store.  Winning TMNT was tangible.  And if I saw it an arcade today, I'd be hard pressed not to plug five bucks into it.

Whatcha playing?


Pixel Perfect Memories: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

Release Date: 1993
Platforms:  SNES, Genesis
Developer: LucasArts

Not really an obscure game, but still probably not as widely played as it should have been.  From one of best game developers of all-time, Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a quirky but difficult game that forces you to try and save the world from an invasion of zombies, mummies, vampires, and gigantic babies.  Weapons include water pistols, bazookas, and everything in between.  Each level is self-contained but generally detailed and fun to look at, with locations ranging from beaches, to museums, to pyramids.  The game also combines horror and humor at the same time and does it quite well.  And because it's LucasArts, there are about 40,000 easter eggs to be found as well.  The soundtrack is also quite catchy, with appropriate tunes for each themed level.

My favorite part of this game has always been co-op, even though it possibly makes the game more difficult.  But it's a blast to go through this hilariously crazy universe with a buddy and a drink.  "Now, get on the trampoline and jump over to where I am.  No, not that direction.  Damn!  Now I have to backtrack and do this all ov...oh crap, alien!  Die!"

There is apparently a download available for the Wii, which is the SNES version.

In addition to what ya'll are playing, what's your favorite game that stars the undead?

Pixel Perfect Memories: Kid Icarus

Release Date: July, 1987
Platform: NES
Developer: Nintendo

Kid Icarus has an odd place in the history of the NES.  It seems to be one of those rare games that has a massive following but remains underrated. Part of the problem is that it was developed by the same people who made Metroid and was released not too long after.  The game have similarities and it's hard not to compare them.  However, when this guy compares them, Kid Icarus comes out on top.

You control Pit, a little dude with useless wings and a bow and arrow.  Traversing both vertical and horizontal scrolling areas, Pit must upgrade his skills and collect the three treasures stolen by Medusa and her minions.  Since I already brought up Metroid (and since many who would consider playing Kid Icarus have already played it), let's compare the two games.

While Pit has some difficult jumps to make, the control is absolutely fluid.  He responds quickly to every command, so getting past difficult parts is left completely to the player's hand-eye coordination.  In Metroid, Samus responds fine to player input but RAM issues cause some serious slowdown issues in delicate areas.  Also, when Samus gets hit she bounces back a good half-mile, often into a lava pit.  Pit just stays where he is.

Level Design
Metroid essentially has one level with different sections that you can move in and out of.  In other words, it is mostly a non-linear game.  Kid Icarus is linear and has defined levels, so it's hard to directly compare them.  Each have their faults, however.  Some of the areas of Metroid begin to look samey, and the insane amounts of backtracking one has to do can get irritating.  However, when one learns the game, planning can be done to avoid this.  While this problem is avoided with Kid Icarus, it's ridiculous in that on vertical levels, you cannot fall below the bottom of the screen even a centimeter, otherwise you die.  Otherwise, I found both games to be quite creative.

Both games have many sets of enemies that act similarly to one another.  Metroid has basically a few categories.  Enemies that crawl along walls, ones that come out of pits, and ones that fly down from the ceiling.  Kid Icarus has enemies that crawl, fall out of the sky, or come at you with a zig-zag pattern.  However, where Kid Icarus shines are the three dungeons.  The highlight is the eggplant wizards, who throw eggplants at you that turn you into a whale, making you backtrack through several rooms to find a nurse.

Kid Icarus has the cerberus, the dragon, the floating bubble, and Medusa.  Metroid has Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain.  While there is a bit more variety in the Kid Icarus bosses, all of them are insanely easy to beat.  Medusa is insultingly easy, possibly the easiest final boss in all of video game history.  Kraid and Ridley are a bit similar for my tastes, but at least they are hard.  And Mother Brain is appropriately difficult as well.

Metroid is dark, dark, and more dark.  Kid Icarus is more colorful, but has some truly awful backgrounds.

Metroid has beautiful, haunting music appropriate to the game's setting.  Kid Icarus has an annoying, looping tune that is just a bit too chirpy.  And the sound effects when Pit hits an enemy with an arrow are shrill to put it mildly.  The dungeon music is good.

Pit mostly uses his bow and arrow, which he upgrades by getting more points.  He also can win many a helpful item by winning games of chance, enduring skills trainings, or buying them in stores (or the black market).  Perhaps my favorite part is that in the dungeons, he can use hammers to break free centurions (turned to stone) who can then help them in boss battles. Metroid also has many awesome upgrades, my favorite being the screw attack.  All things said, I just like the variety with Kid Icarus a bit more.

While this only a minor concern for both games, it is always nice for the player to be rewarded at the end of the game for a job well done.  With Metroid, you find out you're a girl.  Pit rescues some princess, and the more points he has, the beefier his muscles get (and presumably, the greater the chance of him scoring further).  There are several endings, at least.

Kid Icarus is quite difficult, for about four stages.  However, as Pit upgrades, the enemies don't get harder.  Thus, the game gets progressively easy until the final stage, which is the easiest yet.  Meanwhile, Metroid has above average difficulty that is consistent throughout, becoming even harder in the final room.   Unfortunately, part of Metroid's challenge is with the control.  At least both games provide great fun with unnecessarily long passwords you can copy, take ten minutes to input, and then pray you get your game back.

While Metroid is technically more proficient in a lot of areas, the game requires immense patience as the player must slowly learn a map that is difficult to traverse while at the same time struggling with some pretty mediocre controls.  Many of the problems with this game were fixed in Super Metroid and further releases.  Kid Icarus still holds up well over time and it's disappointing that it wasn't popular enough to spawn numerous sequels, settling for one mere Gameboy release twenty years ago.  It certainly had the makings of a storied franchise right from the beginning.

Whatcha playing?


Pixel Perfect Memories: Earthbound

Release Date:  June 5, 1995
Platform: Super Nintendo
Developer:  APE; HAL Laboratory

Considered a cult classic, I have never known anyone personally to dislike this RPG.  In fact, I am not sure I know anyone who doesn't love it like crazy.  But when the market for RPGs was still trying to gain steam in America, Earthbound had no place and the sales figures were awful.  Released in a huge box with a huge strategy guide, Earthbound was obviously quirky from the start.  While on the surface the game seems little more than a goofy parody of American culture and other RPGs, herein lies a high-quality adventure with a gripping story and superb game mechanics.

Controlling a kid named Ness, you unwittingly go on to save humanity after a meteorite crashes in your hometown.  Along the way you pick up some of your friends and hobnob with aliens, dinosaurs, talking moles, and ruthless businessmen.  With weapons like baseball bats and healing techniques like prayer and eating hamburgers, it is obvious the game is not concerned about the typical fantasy world RPGers play in.  You call your parents to save your game.  You access ATM booths for cash.   And for the most part, the kids you control talk and act like kids.  It's charming as hell.

Unfortunately, I think the unconventional theme along with simple (but colorful) graphics and music turned a lot of people away.  But there's more to like beyond its originality.  It was the first RPG I played that had a rolling hit point meter, meaning if your allies could heal you before your HP got down to zero, you'd be okay.  The learning curve is gradual, but the game is certainly not easy (like say Mystic Quest).  Battles have to be planned, and there's a few spots, especially late in the game, where's there an ass-kicking (yours) or two in store.  There's also some high-quality, dynamic puzzle solving involved, thus the game doesn't mindlessly send you from point A to point B from beginning to end.  And quite unlike most RPGs, the last half of the game isn't nauseating side-questing-until-you-completely-forget-to-go-beat-the-final-boss nonsense.

There really is little more you could ask out of Earthbound.  If you love RPGs and you haven't played this, it's a damn shame.  You'll spend a lot of time grinning from ear to ear when you do.

Two months in a row now I've recommended a classic but unheralded RPG, so now I'd like to hear from ya'll.  What is your favorite RPG?  What gem have I perhaps missed that I should really get around to playing?