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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Black Friday Fix: Friday The 13th

* I realize this is being posted a day late, but hey, that's the holidays for you.

Tis the time of year where people rush about madly shopping for gifts and deals, sometimes having little regard for their fellow man. Yes
Black Friday has a history of bringing out the worst in humankind. So to celebrate the spirit of trampling folks for a deal, I bring you Friday the 13th from the NES.

Friday the 13th is a day that comes around every so often during the year. It is believed to be a day of bad luck. While not an official holiday, it is a day that everyone has heard of, and that was popularized in the movie franchise of the same name. As with most popular movies, it was eventually translated in to a video game in 1989 by none other than LJN. If you read my blog "Why The Fuck Is This A Video Game" you will remember that I said it was often common to take pop-culture icons and translate them in to video games with mixed results. Friday The 13th on the NES was definitely a flop.

Friday The 13th puts you in the shoes of one of six camp counselors at the iconic Camp Crystal Lake. Your goal is to save the 15 children and the other five counselors from the homicidal maniac Jason Voorhees. After selecting your counselor, you start in a cabin, and are told to light all the fireplaces. The cabin you start in of course has no fireplace, so you head out the door, after trying to find your way back to it. Once outside, you are met with an onslaught of zombies that pop out of the ground and chase after you. But don't worry, they can be killed with two hits from your rock. Just remember that it's easier to duck then throw the rock, since it curves on a trajectory, and will usually miss when you throw it while standing. This problem goes away when you finally get a knife or the machete.

So here you are outside, killing zombies. They will sometimes drop helpful items, including a lighter, that you can now use to light those fireplaces. So go ahead and wander aimlessly around going in to cabins, hoping that they have a fireplace. Some do, some don't, and sometimes they have Jason himself waiting for you. If you encounter Jason, this early you may as well give up, he kills you in like 3 hits, and you can't do anything to avoid him. GAME OVER.

Should you not encounter him in any of the cabins, you may notice that the number of counselors starts to diminish. If you reach zero, GAME OVER.

If during all this time of running around aimlessly all the 15 of children die. GAME OVER.

The trick is to listen to the music. When you hear the annoying  "Jason Alarm" switch to the map screen and locate the blinking cabin. This is where Jason is, and it's where you must rush to in order to rescue a child and/or counselor. It's quick enough to walk around the various paths and trails around Crystal Lake, but everything looks the same, so it can get confusing at times to know what direction you are heading. And if the confusing navigation wasn't enough, there is a countdown timer next to either the counselors or children. When it reaches 0:00 they die, and Jason disappears. The alarm also seems to act as a zombie alarm, and when it is going off, and you are rushing to the blinking cabin they will start to pop up by the ton. It takes precious time to fend them off, and you will either die in the process of trying to kill them, or time will expire, and you will lose a child/counselor.

Yeah I never spent much time playing this game, as I usually ended up getting frustrated with dying for no appearant reason. I know of no other games, where the number of lives steadily decreases as the game is played.

My advice. Avoid this game like you do the malls on Black Friday.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Special: Duck Hunt

Okay, okay, I know that traditionally people eat turkey on Thanksgiving, but there is no game that I could find in existence that has the word "turkey" "Pilgrim"or "Thanksgiving" in it. So then I thought why not find a game with the word "bird" in it. Then it dawned on me...Duck Hunt on the NES. In some holiday traditions, it is custom to eat a goose or duck for dinner, so this is as close as I will come to a turkey themed game. Enjoy.
The first place I remember seeing Duck Hunt was in the arcade. I maybe played it
a handful of times, but would usually pass it by for other favorites like Castlevania or RoadBlasters. Then the game started to appear in the basic Nintendo home console system, and was bundled with  the already popular Super Mario Brothers in the only dual cartridge I think I have ever seen. I am quite sure the Super Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt cartridge became one of the most widely available pieces of hardware ever made. In fact, the only times I see the original Mario Brothers for sale these days, it's usually the dual cartridge.

So what exactly is Duck Hunt? Well, it's a game where you blast ducks from the sky using the light zapper gun. You also have an option to shoot clay pigeons if you are a not in to shooting 8-bit animals. In either case, the goal is to shoot as many of the ducks/clay pigeons in the round as you can. The higher the score the better. As you might imagine the game gets old quickly, and if you were one of the billions of people who got the dual cart, you found yourself switching over to Super Mario Brothers rather quickly.

Yeah Duck Hunt is not one of the most popular games made for the NES system, but almost everyone has probably owned it at least once, since it was bundled en mass with
Super Mario Brothers. Even though it's not one of the more popular titles from the NES days, I would argue that it is still an iconic game. It was the first game I remember that used the light gun. To bad you couldn't shoot that damn dog that popped up and laughed at you whenever you missed.

Anyway. That's about it for Duck Hunt. Nothing more than a simple 8-bit target shooting game.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Readers Choice: TETRIS

Well, I only had one response about what game to blog about next. Connie suggested Tetris, so Connie here's your Tetris fix:

Tetris. The very name should conjure up memories for almost everyone on the planet. The 1980's saw this popular game go from the mind of a Soviet Union developer (Alexey Pajitnov)  to the rest of the planet virtually overnight. This might seem normal by today's standards, but considering the fact that the Cold War was still going on, it's really quire remarkable. Tetris  helped unite East and West, at least in the gaming industry, and showed us all that it was possible to tear down walls of indifference.

Originally Tetris was found on early IBM computers and the Commodore 64, but it soon spread like a virus to everything else imaginable. Almost every game console ever released has had a version, or a Tetris inspired version of the game available.

Original Soviet Tetris Game
Gameplay is relatively simple. The objective is to eliminate lines of solid blocks, by rotating and dropping pieces in to the gaps at the bottom of the playing field. The pieces can also be shifted left and right to move them in to better dropping positions. Once you drop pieces in to place, and complete a full line, it disappears. You can even eliminate up to four lines at once in a single play, if you strategize enough. The playable pieces are a simple combination of four smaller
The 7 Tetris Pieces
squares that are arranged in to seven different geometric configurations, the most coveted being the single line of four blocks called a "Tetris stick" by my family. The pieces themselves fall on their own, but you can force them to drop quicker once you have rotated and shifted them to your liking. You advance to the next level by clearing out a set number of lines, usually ten. Each level advancement involves a bump in the rate at which pieces drop on their own. In some versions the level up also includes adding additional blocks to the bottom of the puzzle, causing the level of the playing field to jump up. The game ends when the player either fills the playing field with pieces, thus blocking any new pieces from being able to fall, or by clearing enough lines to reach a certain level, i.e. level 99.

The three versions of Tetris that I am most familiar with were the ones released on the GameBoy (Tetris), the Nintendo Entertainment System (Tetris), and the Super Nintendo (Tetris/Dr. Mario). I will briefly summarize these three versions below.


No real difference between these versions. The GameBoy version allowed you to play from the comfort of the backseat of your car while on road trips, or while sitting in class at school. My dad once spent most of a 5 hour car trip playing Tetris in the back seat of our van. He said three things the entire trip, "Huh?", "What?", and "I need a coke".  The NES version was essentially the same game, but in color, and with an easier 2-player interface.

Super Nintendo:

While there was a Tetris 2 version available on the SNES, the only Tetris game I played was the Tetris/Dr. Mario combination. Tetris/Dr. Mario took two games from the original Nintendo system (Dr. Mario, and Tetris), and combined them in to a single game cartridge. You could either play each game individually, or you could play a mixed match game, where you would have to play through a single level of Tetris, then a single level of Dr. Mario, and then an open game of Tetris. The mixed match games were timed, so the goal was to get through the first two single-stage games quickly, and then try and rack up points on the open Tetris game before the time ran out.

The 2-player mixed match game was the one my family spent the most time playing, although to this day my dad can still be found playing a single-player mixed match game. The 2-player game utilizes the same format as the single player, but you can drop "whammies" on your opponent by either clearing multiple lines at once in Tetris, or by getting a chain virus elimination in Dr. Mario. The only time these are available are when both players are playing the same stage of the match at the same time.

The Tetris whammy added one, two, or three new lines to the the bottom of the puzzle, depending on weather two, three, or four lines were cleared at once. The Dr. Mario whammy caused two or three single blocks to drop down on the opponents playing field, again depending on if they got a chain elimination of two or three different viruses.

The ultimate goal of course was to have the higher score at the end of the timed game, so it was worth it to try and get in as many multiple eliminations as possible, especially in the final open-ended Tetris game.

In closing, Tetris was an icon of the 1980's. It  not only united East and West in the Cold War Era, but brought families together in the spirit of competition. The Tetris theme itself is also iconic, in that whenever most people hear it, they immediately think of the times spent playing a simple game born during the end of the Cold War. So the next time you play Tetris, remember, it was a world changer. At least to me it was.

Side Project

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