Send in the clones! STP cites Snood as an often ripped-off game

Before this mini-rant, I should point out that I like Slide To Play. It’s one of the few iPod gaming websites that’s got things largely right, and it offers reviews that don’t make me want to claw out my own eyes with a spoon—something of a rarity online these days.

Sometimes, though, a whopper of a clanger slips through the net, and such that it is with the site’s review of Snood. “Who can resist a game filled with disembodied cartoon heads? Certainly not us,” it begins, which we rather liked and had a little chuckle about. And then it all goes horribly wrong at the start of the next paragraph: “Snood has been around for over ten years, and has been available on PC, Mac and Game Boy Advance. A game this good is always in danger of being copied, and Snood has definitely had its share of knockoffs made, including South Park Snood for Mac.” (My emphasis.)

Yes, you did read that right. In a review of Snood, a reviewer said: “A game this good is always in danger of being copied.” I’m sure the Pazuru Boburu (Puzzle Bobble/Bust-a-Move) guys think much the same, what with Snood being a blatant and massive rip-off of Taito’s game. I can only hope the writer was being ironic, but I somehow doubt it.

What this likely shows is how short people’s memories are when it comes to videogames, and also how a younger generation of writers is seemingly unaware of anything that happened before 1995. If I had 2p for every time I’ve read about some iPod shooter being a rip-off of Chillingo’s iDracula, despite iDracula being a straight update to Eugene Jarvis’s Robotron (from 1982), I’d… well, I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d be able to nip over to the garage and buy myself a couple of Double Deckers, and let the chocolately goodness take away the pain.

August 18, 2009. Read more in: Gaming, iOS gaming, Opinions, Retro gaming

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Chuck chucks Missile Command history out the window

While watching the latest Chuck last night (‘Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer’, which, knowing UK TV, aired sometime last year in the USA), Missile Command became a major plot point. Chuck (the show) is harmless fun, but it did highlight a problem in taking history and messing with the truth with merry abandon.

The episode was mostly quite well-written and the revisions not nearly as irksome as, say, Titanic taking First Officer William Murdoch and turning a guy who saved lives into a murderer, but I was nonetheless decidedly uncomfortable at times. The reason? Missile Command is essentially a pacifist game. As ex-Atari guy Greg Rivera mentioned to me in a recent interview: “One of the goals [of the Missile Command team] was to teach the futility of war. No-one ever won Missile Command,” adding that there’s no ‘game over’ in the production, just an ominous ‘THE END’ when all your cities are destroyed. In Chuck, however, Dave Theurer is turned into Atari’s Japanese chief engineer, with terrorist ties.

All shows take liberties with history, and I’m sure no malice was intended by the scriptwriters. But in an increasingly hostile age, it’s a shame to see a fantastic satirical, pacifist statement by a true giant of classic videogames misrepresented in such major fashion. Then again, the concept of a living, breathing, vibrant and bustling Atari HQ in the USA almost makes up for it.

Chuck

Crazed Atari fans try to get back at Chuck’s inaccuracies the only way they can—retro-videogame-style.

July 15, 2009. Read more in: Arcade, Gaming, Retro gaming, Television

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The need for speed: the majesty of S.T.U.N. Runner

S.T.U.N. Runner

Some gaming experiences stay with you forever. I’ve played more videogames than I care to remember, on many different platforms, but I distinctly remember ambling into a very small arcade in Clearwater and, among the beaten-up and half-dead machines, spotting S.T.U.N. Runner.

Akin to smashing a futuristic bobsled game into a rollercoaster experience with a hammer, S.T.U.N. Runner got over the feeling of speed in a way no games had done before and few have done since. The pace was breathtaking to my younger self, and the game over incredibly quickly. But on getting to grips with the game’s mechanics, S.T.U.N. Runner became a fantastic means to while away an hour, escaping from the hot Florida midday sun.

Snapping back to more recent times, Ed Rotberg was kind enough to chat with me last year about his classic tank game Battlezone, and we then talked about S.T.U.N. Runner. Preparing for the interview a day earlier, I fired up the game in MAME and had forgotten how pretty it is. Sleek vector-based designs shoot past at breakneck speed, and even when using a PC, control of the craft is just perfect.

Perhaps this is nostalgia putting the boot in, but I think it’s a massive shame that the game has never been done justice on home formats (with the exception of an astonishing and surprisingly faithful Atari Lynx effort), because even in today’s rush for increasingly extreme gaming experiences, S.T.U.N. Runner still impresses.

My interview with Ed (and co-conspirator Andrew Burgess) is in the current Retro Gamer.

S.T.U.N. Runner

April 8, 2009. Read more in: Arcade, Gaming, Magazines, Retro Gamer, Retro gaming

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Retro Gamer on NowGamer

Imagine’s answer to EuroGamer, NowGamer, went live recently. With the publisher having a dedicated retro magazine—the rather spiffy Retro Gamer—it should come as no surprise that NowGamer offers a dedicated retro section.

Most of the section appears to be reprint, but there’s some great stuff in there, including a slew of making-of articles, a smattering of company profiles and a couple of ‘def guides’ to videogame series. A fairly random selection of my own articles has been reprinted on the site, including The Making Of: Hitchiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, where I interviewed Steve Meretzky about his collaboration with Douglas Adams.

The game itself remains one of the meanest, toughest and funniest pieces of interactive fiction to date, and with the original article buried away in an old issue of Retro Gamer (and not making the cover nor even the contents pages), it’s great to see it get another airing, not least because Steve Meretzky was a wonderful interviewee. I hope that we can one day talk about the controversial Leather Goddesses of Phobos, which would make for a fun making-of in the mag.

Elsewhere, you can also read my making-ofs on seminal soccer title Sensible Soccer, ubiquitous action puzzler Tetris, US platformer Miner 2049er, fantasy/chess mash-up Archon, and overhead bouncing ball action game Bounder.

As for the magazine itself, Retro Gamer’s on the stands, priced £4.99, and can be bought from retrogamer.net. The current issue includes a making-of Space Invaders, Amiga and Mega Drive retrospectives, and my interview with Ed Rotberg and Andrew Burgess on their classic S.T.U.N. Runner.

April 6, 2009. Read more in: Gaming, Magazines, Retro Gamer, Retro gaming

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In the (Battle)zone

Late last year, I had the good fortune to interview Ed Rotberg, creator, among other things, of the groundbreaking Battlezone. This vector graphics tank simulator was the first truly immersive 3D environment in videogames, and probably the first 3D update of a 2D classic, what with it being heavily based on Kee/Atari’s various overhead Tank games.

The current issue of Retro Gamer, 59, includes portions of the interview in ‘The Making of Battlezone’, and the game is featured on the cover as a beautifully rendered faux-vector scene.

This seems to have been good timing by Retro Gamer, since all kinds of Battlezone-related things seem to be cropping up right now. First, there’s Vector Tanks, a heavily Battlezone-inspired blaster for iPhone, written by the supremely talented Peter Hirschberg. Secondly, Wade Shooter’s video for Fujiya & Miyagi’s Sore Thumb dresses the band and instruments in vector ekoskeletons, occasionally cutting to scenes of vector tank warfare.

Battlezone video

The kind of band Red Dwarf’s Kryten no doubt dreams of.

January 27, 2009. Read more in: Arcade, Gaming, Interviews, Magazines, Retro Gamer, Retro gaming

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