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Jeff's Gameblog
Wednesday, 14 July 2004

Topic: Video Games
Last night my wife helped our daughter Elizabeth play her Sesame Street computer game so I broke out Namce gamestick again for a little bit. I played Galaxian, Rally-X, and Bosconian before Elizabeth finished her game. She saw me putting away the joystick and insisted I get it back out. She then sat on my lap and play Rally-X and Pac-Man. Very cute. She's still not too good with the joystick so I helped her out. After she finished playing those she ran to the gameroom and brought back my SpongeBob gamestick, so we got to play some Bubble Pop for a while too. She's a big SpongeBob fan too.

Posted by jrients at 11:02 AM CDT
Monday, 12 July 2004

Topic: Video Games
Tonight while my wife and daughter were at the computer playing Sesame Street Toddler I got another chance to play some video games on my gamesticks. I must really like SpongeBob's Bubble Pop, because I ended up playing that again, though I didn't continue it a bunch like last time. Still, it's got great gameplay. I can't offer much higher praise in a game. I also had another go at Super Chum Bucket, the platformer of the set, and this time I did continue the game a couple times. Chum Bucket is one of those relatively slow, screen-puzzle type jumpers where the main trick is figuring out how to get from point A to point B. Not a lot of franitc action feeling, but a decent little game nonetheless. I wish I could say something nice about Invasion of the Hooks, but I can't. It's just too darn repetitive.

Posted by jrients at 9:20 PM CDT
Friday, 9 July 2004

Topic: Video Games
My wife ran to the store after my daughter went to bed, so like any redblooded gamer I broke out the porn, er I mean I broke out the videogames. Yeah, that's it. I got out both my gamesticks. These are joysticks that have some simple videogames hardwired into them. They plug right into your TV's AV ports, no console or nothin' required. One of my gamesticks plays old Namco coin-op games (Pac-Man, Rally-X, Galaxian, Dig Dug, and Bosconian) the other one plays 5 SpongeBob SquarePants themed games. I figured I'd do a quick run-thru of each game on both sticks before my wife got home. I started with the first game on the SpongeBob stick, entitled SpongeBob's Bubble Pop. I never got to the other games. Bubble Pop really got me hooked. By the time my wife got home I had continued my first game of it like 4 times. SpongeBob's Bubble Pop is based upon the old videogame Breakout, which I've encountered as an Atari cartridge but may have been a coin-op for all I know. A ball bounces around the screen and you have to destroy objects with it. BubblePop expands this basic formula by adding power-ups (like you might see in topscroller shoot-em-ups) and terrain (bumpers, critters, etc). Good game.

Posted by jrients at 9:32 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, 9 July 2004 9:36 PM CDT
Sunday, 4 July 2004
Happy Independence Day!
Topic: Video Games
Going over to the folks again this weekend. I'm taking my Namco gamestick along in case my sister and I find a few free moments to game. Happy holidays to all the Americans out there.

Posted by jrients at 7:34 AM CDT
Friday, 2 July 2004

Topic: Video Games
With my daughter in bed and my wife at the grocery store, I managed to play my new gamesticks some more. I got through one game of everything on the Namco stick: Pac-Man, Galaxian, Dig Dug, Rally-X, and Bosconian. Bosconian continues to impress, while Pac-Man and Dig Dug stand the test of time when it comes to great gameplay. Twenty years later and I still gasp when the ghost monsters on Pac-Man's tail inexplicably reverse course. Galaxian is a great Space Invaders descendant, right up there with Gorf and the Atari cartridge Phoenix. The one thing I take points off for on both Galaxian and Gorf is that the setting for the game is deep space. Defending Earth, visible at the bottom of the screen, seems incredibly important to me with regards to the psychology of Space Invaders style games.

I got in three games on the SpongeBob stick before Amy got back from the store. Super Chum Bucket is a great single screen platformer in the tradition of games like Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., and Wizard, a great C64 jumper. I got a little farther into the sidescrolling shooter featuring Sandy the squirrel. The Sandy game develops very nicely, adding terrain, foes flying in formation, and power-ups that give you more raw firepower. Patrick and the Maze involves running around an undersea labyrinth, using items, collecting treasure, and dodging baddies all while searching for a way out. Overall, I like the SpongeBob games. The graphics have a little too much white in them, making some items look like an overexposed photo, and the stick is very touchy in Super Chum Bucket, but I still had loads of fun.

Posted by jrients at 9:51 PM CDT
Sunday, 27 June 2004

Topic: Video Games
My daughter Elizabeth's cartoon jones was abated sufficiently this afternoon to allow me to give my new joystick games a try. Pac-Man, Dig-Dug, and Galaxian were as solid as ever. Elizabeth tried playing Pac-Man but she doesn't quite understand how joysticks work yet. The other two games, Bosconian and Rally-something-or-other, are both quite good, too. I'm sured I've seen the Rally game before. As a young man I undoubtedly dismissed it as a racecar game, but in fact from a gamemechanic point of view its a great Pac-Man variant. Although I have played plenty of car games over the years (Notable faves being Spy Hunter and Up'N'Down) but I always tended to shy away from outright racing games and other sports simulation titles. My loss. Just cause I'm not inclined to go play baseball doesn't mean I won't like a decent baseballish video game. Back when I was a kid I was too dumb to realize this. A game had to be wrapped up in a fantasy or sci-fi package for me to give it a ringing endorsement.

Speaking of sci-fi, Bosconian is a great deep space shoot-em-up. (The title of this game seems to be an homage to the classic Lensman series of novels in which the evil space menace originates from the planet Boskone.) The game has great terrain in the form of staionary asteroids and spacemines. The goal of the game is to blast the crap out of these large green hexagonal space stations, several of which pepper each level. Your spacecraft stays in the middle of the screen as it moves around multi-screen levels. All in all, it seems like a great little game.

I only got to try three of the SpongeBob games before Elizabeth reasserted her control of the TV. (Yes I do spoil my daughter, thank you very much.) The first game, called Bubble Burster or somesuch, is essentially a nifty redo of the classic game Breakout. The second game involves hook trying to reel in Patrick, Sandy, and Squidward. SpongeBob throws krabby patties at the hooks to keep them at bay. Although simpler in many ways than Defender, I am somewhat reminded of that arcade classic in that both have the goal of "protect the innocents from the Other". The third game involves playing Sandy as she rides her surfboard and throws acorns to dispatch foes. I only got to play this one for a minute or two, but I was immediately reminded of an old Atari 2600 cartridge. I believe it was called UFO. The basics of gameplay of the two games are essentially the same. The screen constantly scrolls slowly right-to-left but the UFO/Sandy may move anywhere around the screen. Foes moving slightly faster (or much faster) than the scroll rate appear on the right of the screen. Most of them simply fly in a straight line, creating an air hazard/points opportunity. I seem to recall that my sister and I enjoyed the Atari game greatly. What was neat about the old UFO game was that for once you played the invader. The targets were airplanes, balloons, helicopters, etc.

Posted by jrients at 4:16 PM CDT

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