Old School: Zombies Ate My Neighbors

2 03 2009


In Old School for the next few weeks I’m going to take a look back at games that are still fun to play today. In today’s competing video game culture there are so many prolific and graphically amazing games to play right now i.e.; Killzone 2, Call of Duties, and Fallout 3. But some video games were perhaps the best games I had played in my entire life. And I’ve been a gamer all my life. These games all focused more on story and broke a lot of ground without the gimmicks. The games I will be playing will be reviewed not only in there past merits, but did they stand the test of time? Can they still stack up to the games of the next generation? I’ll decide but let me know what you think. And if you can find these rare Super Nintendo gems, buy them. Go on EBay and bid for them. It’s time to get nostalgic.


Zombies Ate My Neighbors


What a true classic (1993) is one takes me back that’s why I started with it. What a 2-D trip in its purest form of pick up and play. Which you could pick up for SNES or Sega Genesis. And you could find a friend and survive the zombie apocalypse together. They called it a horror game but that is quite a stretch. Was it the first survival horror, perhaps? The real Resident Evil, without peeing your pants when the mutant Doberman crashes through the glass. Well you start of as Zeke, a tiny spiky blonde sprite with 3-D glasses on. What a total badass with his black shirt and pistol-water gun. You can also play as the female protagonist Julie. The main premise is that the zombies can be destroyed with water, but then how can they eat people who are 80% something that can destroy them? Well I was thinking about THAT when I was 14 years old. I was diving into to levels titled Mars Needs Cheerleaders, Evening of the Undead, Horror on Isle 5, and attack of the 100 foot Baby. Every level had at least 10 neighbors you have to rescue ranging from babies, cheerleader, children on trampalines, dogs, and a math teacher waving a paper you flunked in you face. All these people will be eaten by baddies that swarm the stage. Baddies ranging from the titled Zombies to Vampires, Mummies, Werewolves, Giant Ants/ Babies, Sandworms (Dune), maniac killer dolls, and chainsaw wielding psychopaths. Each with there own weaknesses with zombies getting killed easily with the water pistol, vampires hate the crosses, toss silver spoons and forks at werewolves and sometimes you just run from the  guys with chainsaws. The game offers a plethora of weapons as mentioned above there is also tomatoes, a bazooka which clears walls, a fire extinguisher, and ? Potions that can change the player into a huge purple zombie eater. If you can take anything from this review its that this game still packs a wallop of replay ability with over 43 different levels all coded with passwords. The game that starts my old school replays will get the benefit of being a top-tiered game. Picture you and a friend blowing up inflatable balloons to halt the onslaught of hockey mask-wearing chainsaw wielding bad guys swinging to carve you up as you run for your life in a hedge maze. Or a evil doll factory caught on fire as maniac dolls laugh maniacal cackles from every corner slinging little hand axes every direction as you fight back by hurling popsicles at the flaming doll demons!? It just doesn’t getter any better then this in a zombie apocalypse thriller that was one of the first survival horror romps back in 93. I know Resident Evil 5 will be available soon, but what was the first game to use chainsaw wielding bad-guys. This game is highly comes highly recommended on the replay scale.




**Tips from a Pro**

1)      Save the child on the trampoline, adult wading on a float and people locked in houses last. Most of the time save the neighbors in more dangerous circumstances. After saving all your neighbors you receive a bonus and sometimes you even get an extra life.

2)      Each enemy has a weakness but they each correspond to there folklore. Vampires hate crosses, Werewolves hate silverware, and the blobs hate being frozen. With the Chainsaw hedge maze it is best just to run from the guys, freeze them, and plant inflatable dolls.

3)       Save by writing passwords down all the time. Each level has at least 10 neighbors that can survive at a time, but you only need to save one for each level to move on.




Sony Phones Home

1 12 2008


I was fortunate enough to be able to access the beta for Sony’s program Home. An online massive multiplayer experience very similar in the fashion of Second Life. The program has incredible features that rival any online community. The Nintendo Wii for instance have chibi (anime-like) avatars who would only capture a brief glimpse of your character but it presents a wider generalization of your persona.Xbox and Sony opted for more detailed avatars. These avatars were the first things that struck me when I entered the game. Highly customizable avatars which start off with presets that fit many different flavors and styles to  fit your personalizing needs. You’ll notice there is a whole array of footwear,jewelery,hats, and various apparel that will be made available. I’m almost positive the game will feature some kind of online currency, to purchase all those “essential” needs for you avatar like a phone that matches your new shoes or what-not.

So you start off with your own beautiful plot of virtual space, a studio apartment right next to a harbor . You can customize all of your furniture add couches and chairs, but like I said, the variety of the items will cost you in the future. But the real joy is going outside to visit the Home community.

Out in the central plaza you will meet the majority of people walking aimlessly typing and talking through there Blu-tooth headsets. Your avatar will respond to character and can easily interact with the passerby with simple gestures or greetings. All around you find various posters and video screens constantly playing game trailers which is pure marketing genius.

At the local bar you can bowl with a friend or shoot some pool. You can play checkers at the mall and simple games at the arcade. The pool physics are a little difficult to grasp,but the arcade games are rather simple and addictive.Bowling is great with a group of friends. There is something highly amusing like walking over to a techno streaming from your speaker at a rave dance party with your avatar and then breaking out the robot or the worm, which leads to the creation of clubs.

Clubs are offered at first for free, but this will be changed when the game is released. The club offers players there own little slice of customization and such, similarly to the sandboxes of Second Life. They even offer similar building tools with boxes which will be customized in shape and diameter in  the future, but are now inaccessible. The placing of furniture and appliances is simple enough as pointing placing and clicking. But the real thrill is from organizing an actual club with a message board and your own music streaming twith bubble machines only adding to this surreal virtual reality.

Home is going to be a huge endeavor for Sony. Bringing together a whole online community where you can virtually access your buddy list and invite friends to play in a match, or watch streaming videos of Navy seals playing SOCOM, this is truly riveting technology. Almost in comparison to one of my favorite animes Ghost in the Shell, directed by Mamoru Oshii. Everyone will be linked to computers, playing out there entire lives as virtual avatars and humanoids, forever leaving reality for the escape of the Digital Dawn.



WWRFD?: Moral Choices in the Digital Age

18 11 2008


The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

-Stephen King “The Gunslinger : The Dark Tower”

He is Marten Broadcloak,  Walter O’ Dim, Randall Flagg, but mostly he is the man in black. Stephen King’s key antagonist in several of his novels. He started as a villain trying to reshape the wastelands of Stephen King’s The Stand in his image. He is the underlying traitor to the king of Gilead in King’s Dark Tower series, and is often seen running from the gunslinger.

So why does this man,this fiend,this beast hold any significance? He is the epitome of all that is evil. He is the lasting villain in most of King’s novels re-spawning and taking a new form and name every time. But he also dictates my characters “moral choices” in the post-apocalyptic video game/immersive experience which is Fallout 3.

Very recently video games have implemented a sort of moral compass for their players. Pitting them with moral choices stretching beyond boundaries of good and evil. Really the choices made in certain video games  held great weight over the character. But to be honest I never cared much for moral compasses in video games(It’s always more fun to be bad). Usually you were always forced  to be the hero, be the savior, so I believe most players found out that switching sides would be more enjoyable, less conventional. I’ve never had a problem with these choices until this damn developers  pushed moral choices with outcomes that would stretch along the entire game-sphere.

Now sometimes things could be simple. I remember the original Fable had direct consequences of your alignment to good or evil. But these were exciting choices. Steal from the pauper and shopkeeper, they simply charge too much. Kick that helpless chicken and let’s test how far he flies now. Let’s lead a group of followers to the nearest pagan church to be sacrificed, decisions which pushed all conventional games(well not quite). But then things started to blur.

Welcome to the grey area, which is most recently BioShock, which is a greatly scripted, powerful, and quite riveting game. There are these character’s these “Sisters” who are really just little girls going around collecting the lifeforce  from dead bodies thrown about the underwater labyrinth. There are choices where you can choose to rid their bodies of virus that eats at them, or you can put them out of their misery and collect substantially more Adam to increase your abilities and magical capabilities. But when you find these little girls they beg for their life. The crawl away from you screaming, writhing in their child-like state. These developers have actually tapped into my moral compass to choose what is right or wrong with virtual characters who feel no pain, but she’s begging you for her life don’t you see?This is some serious development into the psyche of the gamer.

So what would Randall Flagg do in the wastelands of Fallout 3? That has been the key question I ask myself every time I come to a moral decision in Fallout 3. The Fallout series was incredible, they actually had an early model of moral decisions which led to certain characters allying with you, or that you could only compete in certain quests with your alignment. Fallout 3 goes above and beyond with the moral choices that resonate in the virtual world. I started off simple enough a pubescent simpleton roaming around the wasteland with my tail between my legs. But in this harsh environment I had to be bad, and be bad fast or my very bones would be but crushed to sand, a sand lost in the wasteland of the post-apocalyptic nightmare.

I killed, I stole, I pick pocketed( and dropped a few grenades in their pants for good measure) , I drank, I did drugs. I was living this raucous truly evil life of Randall Flagg, one of my favorite everlasting villains in King’s books. All culminating with the entire destruction of a village called Megaton(One of my favorite video game moments). See it was I, on top of Tenpenny Tower. I pulled the detonator in the suitcase on the top of the tower. Tenpenny was there laughing and drinking and I saw the mushroom cloud in when the sun began to break over the horizon. I felt the pulse of the wind brushing past my cheeks as an entire town was wiped out. Woman and children and all. Just a heap now, a smoking crag of radiation.

But there was a change, there has to be a redemption even for virtual characters. The news of the destruction of the town spread. All over the radio my escapades were broadcasting to everyone outside in the wasteland. People survived the fallout and actually became these zombie-like ghouls. They really never forgave me for that. I traveled to a town one day and they asked me if I remembered certain people from Megaton. The news had spread and everyone knew now. Even the children being the best moral indicators could see my evil from afar. I had become an outcast in a world of scattered with outcast just trying to survive day-to-day.

I started giving beggars fresh water, I helped and completed missions for positive people. I freed slaves from Super Mutants, I helped those in need even if it costs serious caps. There was a serious turn around and I stopped asking WWRFD, but what the hell will the future bring for moral choices in video games. Do evil people perhaps have an inclination to be a positive character in video games, perhaps they don’t play, they’re just too damn evil. Does the bloodthirsty Ork in the heat of battle go to his computer to play on his account on Second life. Does he abandon his ax and armor for his tie and briefcase. For he sells insurance in his virtual world in a far off fantasy land of Utah. He doest kill or destroy he mows his virtual lawn.

Spore Study: Wadrin (2)

27 10 2008

With the Wadrin species sprouting legs it was only a matter of time before they frolicked to land. The creature were still very much in they’re simple cell-like form with the old appendages attached and fresh pair of legs the time to become land conquerors drew near.

A pack of your fiercest survivors make the journey to land. they create a sort of nests where they begin to sing and dance and procreate to further the existence of the Wadrin. So they give you the task of the explorer.Adventuring across the lands of Gaia in search for food and other species that inhabit the planet. At first I began walking straight up a large hill. On the other side of the hill was another pack of simple creatures with at least one leg and a mosquito-like features. At first they strayed from me and backed off in fear of the new creature they have discovered. But when I approached them they began to do simple steps almost like a rhythmic dance that I could copy. After imitating them I ha gained they’re trust. They now allowed me to roost in they’re nest if necessary and would even follow me in search of other creatures on the island.

So it was me and my mosquito-like companion will call me Mcfly for short. We were wondering around the planet which stopping to much on vegetation and various fruit spread throughout the landscape. Also found scattered about were bones and fossils which could be broken down to release new abilities and “parts” for my ultimate vegetarian alien. After some wondering I stumbled upon a giant geyser omitting this gas which belched from the earth. Mcfly was eager to show his courage, being that he was the alpha of his pack so he chose to step on that geyser. With comical action Mcfly was jetted up to at least 30 feet in the air. He landed unharmed but a llittle confused. I was too curious and decided to feel the feeling of flight which thrilled me so much I went and evolved and gained wings.

Now me I glided lightly hoping from hill to hill with a small pair of wings. I also had sprouted a bit of a bird-like beak which helped in cracking fossils and eating the various fruits in the area. After some more travels Mcfly and I stumbled across a pack of four-legged trunk nosed vermin. Who in first response to are arrival began to spit and spew at us. Mcfly was injured and couldn’t traverse much farther. I happened to glide away towards a more “friendlier” nest when to my surprise Mcfly had followed me diligently instead of returning home. But behind him lay the rat-like creatures on his trail following and spitting still obviously angry at us for no apparent reason. But hey folks this is survival.
So when the Atts stumbled upon the new nest they began to attack and spew they’re venomous bile from they’re lips on my new found allies who resembled a bit of large outstretched dogs, which at least two different mouths. A great battled ensued between the Cerberus like pooches and the venomous vermin. Let’s just say me and Mcfly did not stick around for the spoils of war. We withdrew to another crevice where we were bombarded with hunger. We had to find food fast because we were both fading fast. I did not want to eat my poor friend but if it came down to it…

Finally we came across another pair of fruit trees very relatively close to Mcfly’s own nest. So I bid my ally farewell for now since it was time to return to my own mate. We parted ways with a little sadness. As he left I stumbled upon a small pack of almost complete fuzzed creatures and saw a miraculous light in the sky. On of the creatures was being sucked into what looked like a giant-disc-shaped spaceship by a tractor beam. Which made me question what the future holds for  my wadrins ?
I arrived at the nest to find it abandoned. Some large predator ,no doubt, had sent them fleeing to find another reliable nest. Damn them to leave me with nothing in my absence but they did leave a bit of a trail to follow. Now in search of my wadrin I follow the trail of their own despair. My mate I pray for her passage in this rough world. May the new found wings we sprouted bring some hope to my species.

Spore Study: Wadrin(1)

24 10 2008

Recently I have purchased Will Wright’s revolutionary computer game Spore. But rather then break it down or review it in the traditional sense, instead of discussing things such as sound or gameplay, I will develop a story creating two very different species in this remarkable game.Will Wright of Simcity and Sim’s fame is no stranger to putting the player in control of every detail in the sense that the player is also the creator and perhaps even the writer. For the stories that emerge from the creation of an endless array of species is remarkable in itself.

You simply start by clicking on a planet, there is a wide variety of settings and landscapes from a traditional Earth to dark recesses that can only bear a resemblance to classic Startrek planets such as Vulcan or Starwars’ Tatooine for that matter. So after selecting a planet you name the planet. I named mine simply Gaia(Greek for earth) which is appropriate because they’re is lush vegetation and plenty of water on Gaia. After that you pick an evolutionary stage to start.I want to start at the begging and further stages will be explained as I progress through them. So I chose to start from the beginning at the Cell stage. After that you are prompted if you would rather be a herbivore or a carnivore. This is where you choices will significantly alter you abilities and the way you play the game. So these journals will be of the race of creatures I have created called the Wadrin( an anagram of Darwin)who are strictly on a plant diet. The race of species will be covered latter for their story is very different because they will be galactic warlords and meat eaters. The Wadrin are in fact very different but they’re evolution now rests in the hand of me.   So without further ado; a story of life, a story of creation, the story of the Wadrin evolution.

Floating spilling into the primordial liquid of life the first of the species known as the Wadrin is alive. With a quick shreek the Wadrin goes about swimming and looking in its vast primal ocean. The creature is but a simple amoeba-like specimen. The prim is flowing with life of all kinds. Some very large creatures floating and collecting krill and other vegetation in their large jaws sucking and gasping to extinguish life. Other creatures float to other large branches which contain fragments of plant life budding with algae and plankton. Being a consumer of plant-life I swim over to these patches but I must hurry, other specimen understand the importance of food and they’re existence. After eating my fill I witness the death of a unique creature which leaves behind a glowing token of some sort for a boost in the evolution. It’s time to start climbing the ladder. It’s time to collect more plant life.

After a few narrow misses I am finally killed when a pack of ravenous creatures attack a group of my own species I interfere and soon become fish food to they’re gaping jaws. But not to worry, I am quickly respawned and the evolution can commence, but now it’s time to mate! After finding a special mate, I am given opportunities to help my species by evolving and “growing” new parts. I arrange my own vertebrae and make a squid-like creature with writhing flagella to trap plant life in my mouth. I have tentacles on my back used for gripping and propulsion’s through the aquatic abyss. Cilia on the side of my head which act as rudders which help to steer this vassal of a creature. Also on my ass I have to latest in jet-propulsion to jettison me through the water to avoid the numerous predators. Let’s not forget my two button eyes. Now unleashed on this world with more to match up with the predators who are left in my trail of bubbles. But the occasional giant monstrosity can always attack and follow me for long period of time less I avert they’re attention on a pack of other helpless sea brine. With the new tools equipped and evolution in my sights.

More plankton and algae is consumed and I’m on my journey to collect more “parts” to evolve through broken masses of meteorite that crash into the pools. Sacrificing protection and an offensive attack for speed and evasiveness I kept coming back to the basic animal instinct to fight or take flight. I choose the latter when it comes to these denizen of the deep. After a period of at least 600 million years(time flies) the Wadrin can finally sprout legs and race for the surface/ But what horrors await the simply minded Wadrin on land? IS the future simply ready for the Wadrin, or is land a whole new adventure in itself. Tune in for more entries as this evolution continues and check back for the next line of galactic marauders in my Spore stories.

A study in”Good Writing” for Games

1 10 2008

Writing for video games is diverse for the interactive nature of video games is not JUST something that informs the player of the story;it’s the proposed foundation of the process.It must enhance and compliment the gameplay. I want it to alter the story depending on my actions.The players actions must define the story, amplyfying the game mechanics and giving purpose to the player. I want control over the fate of the character in a non-linear fashion, as I am the active participant of the story. I believe a strong narrative is very important to a game, the players must interact with the narrative. Both the dialogue and cutscenes are used to help convey the story more now then ever in video games. Cutscenes and dialogue which break the game into segments coincide to shape the outcome. A video game writer must maintain strong narrative them while making changes necessary to compliment gamplay. Move away from long CG movies and cut to the freedom of conversations. Dramatic storytelling serves the need of the gamplay.