The Joy of Gaming with jfe2

Posted on Dec 15th 2009 at 01:06:01 AM by (jfe2)
Posted under jfe2

I'm still alive! I haven't posted anything in quite awhile, as I've been working a lot lately, but I have been playing some new stuff. Dragon Age: Origins on the Xbox 360 has been taking up a lot of my gaming time, as well as Pacman C.E. on XBLA. I've been playing some stuff on the DS and the Turbografx-16 a bit too.

I plan on reviewing Nanostray for the Nintendo DS this weekend. It's a vertical shooter that I think is totally underrated!

Posted on Nov 8th 2009 at 04:25:01 PM by (jfe2)
Posted under Astro Boy, Omega Factor, GBA, Gameboy

I took my son to see Astro Boy over the weekend. He's only two, but ever since he saw the commercial for it on TV, "Astro Boy" are the only words that I've heard coming out of his mouth. He loved the movie, and my wife and I actually thought it turned out to be pretty decent. There was enough action to keep the kid happy, and enough humor to keep us amused. I've never watched the Astro Boy anime before, or read the manga, but I have played the Astro Boy: Omega Factor game for the Gameboy Advance. After watching the movie with my family this weekend, it totally gave me the itch to go back and play it again.

Astro Boy was developed by treasure, which right off the bat should tell you its going to be fun. The game is mainly a side-scrolling, platforming, beat-em-up game, with some of the levels wandering off into the horizontal 'shmup category.

In the beat-em-up parts of the game, Astro Boy can punch and kick his way through enemies, as well as having the abilities to shoot a laser from his finger for ranged attacks, and being able to fire a machine gun that pops out of his butt to hit everything on screen. Yes, that's right, he has a machine gun stored in his butt. He IS a robot, so its not as disturbing as it sounds, but still... In the 'shmup parts of the game, Astro flies horizontally across the screen uses his laser finger as his primary attack. It's not the most in depth 'shmup gameplay ever, but it IS enjoyable. These segments keep the gameplay from becoming stale by offering up something different every once in a while.

Yeah, it all sounds a little weird, but it actually fits in with the rest of the bizarre world this game takes places in. Astro Boy takes place in a world full of robots and talking animals, so machine gun butts sort of fit in. Astro Boy is a robot who was created in the image of his creator's dead son, and is treated more as a weapon than a sentient being. During the course of the game you fight terrorists, travel through time, fight aliens, and run the gauntlet against some fellow robo-sapiens. The story is a bit complicated, but I assume fans of the source material would probably love it. I wasn't totally sucked in by the story, but it was entertaining enough to keep me wondering what was going to happen next.

The tone of the game reminds me a lot of Megaman, which is one of my favorite game franchises ever. The side scrolling aspects are similar, and the characters share a lot of similarities, which was one of the things that drew me to the game in the first place.

The graphics are bright and colorful, and the sprites are really fun to look at. Some of the enemies are just giant versions of the smaller guys, and they look a bit blocky, but they don't look horrible, just kind of out of place. The game does also suffer a bit of slowdown when there are tons of enemies on the screen. It is a bit annoying, but isn't necessarily game-breaking. It actually makes the game feel more retro to me, as most of my favorite games from the past also suffered from a little bit of slowdown. Remember Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts for the SNES? That was some hardcore slowdown!

Astro Boy: Omega factor is an enjoyable game, and was a real pleasure to play through again. It gets rather difficult near the end of the game, and presents a solid challenge for anyone who may be looking for an old school style beat-em-up. If you've been looking for something that plays like Mega Man meets Gunstar Heroes... meets a little bit of R-Type, then this game deserves your time.

Posted on Nov 7th 2009 at 05:15:29 AM by (jfe2)
Posted under Nightmare in the Dark, arcade, zombies

Bubble Bobble is freaking great. I have loved Bubble Bobble since I was a wee gamer, playing in the arcade tent at the festival that ran in my neighborhood. The gameplay was simple enough for a little kid to pick up then, and is hard to master even now that I'm older. Snow Bros. is another game that I have fond memories of playing at the same arcade tent. The images of the little Snow dudes jumping around on platforms is something that has stuck in my memory for years.

By chance today, I discovered a Neo Geo arcade game called Nightmare in the Dark. It looked interesting enough at first glance, with big, colorful sprites and amusing looking characters. After watching the game play on the screen for a bit though, I realized that this game played almost just like Bubble Bobble and Snow Bros! Some would maybe blow it off as a cheap knock-off because of that, but being the simple-arcade-platformer fan that I am, I knew that I had to play right away.

Nightmare in the Dark puts you in the shoes of an old cemetery gravedigger. The story is pretty slim, and plays out through a simple narrative on the demo screen that tells you about how the gravedigger is an outcast in his town due to his fugliness. When shit goes down at the local cemetary however, he checks it out and becomes their hero. The dead have started to rise from their graves and its up to him to figure out why. Simple premise, but the story admittedly isn't the strong point here.

The addictive gameplay is what really makes this game a gem. Each level is set up with various platforms that are occupied by a variety of different enemies, including the standard zombie, fast little top-hat-wearing hunchbacks, flying ghosts, and crazy undead ostrich things that lunge at you from a distance.

You are tasked with eliminating the various beasties by throwing magic fire stuff from your lantern at them, which freezes them in their steps. When you hit them with enough fire, they turn into a giant fireball that you can collect and toss at other enemies. When tossed, the fireballs will bounce off the walls a few times, annihilating whatever is in their way, before finally exploding and leaving behind a nice power-up for you to use. Power-ups consist of different potions that can upgrade your movement speed, the distance you can throw your magic fire, and the power of said magic fire.

The gravedigger can only jump up to the platforms above him, and cannot drop down to a platform beneath him, which means that you have to use a bit of strategy in this game. The time limit, which starts at 99 seconds, also helps to ramp up the challenge. When the timer hits zero, an invulnerable pumpkin monster will chase you around the screen until he kills you dead.

The bosses in this game are a real treat for anyone who loves sprites. There is a Frankenstein monster that can summon grunt zombies, a huge mummy-head-car thing that has knives sticking out of its head, and a sorcerer who floats around the screen summoning TONS to raise the chaos level. The bosses can all usually be beat by hitting them with the giant fireballs made from the grunts that they summon, but some of these bosses can be quite challenging to actually hit.

It took me about a half hour to forty five minutes, and about eight bucks in quarters, to play through to the end. There are roughly twenty five levels total, and it goes by pretty fast. The game does manage to present a fun challenge though, especially towards the end. Although the game is rather short, it has tons of replay value. This is the type of old school arcade game that is meant to be played over and over again, with the goal of achieving huge scores. I think I had a total score of around 500,000 when all was said and done, but I know that I could destroy that number in the future.

I would really recommend giving this one a shot if you ever get the chance. I had never heard of it before today, and am so glad that I found it. This game is a throwback to a time when games were fun and dangerously addicting, and achieving that high score was the most important thing in the world.

Posted on Nov 5th 2009 at 06:47:38 AM by (jfe2)
Posted under House of the Dead 4, zombies, arcade

I recently went to the movie theater with my wife, my sister, and her boyfriend to check out the much hyped Paranormal Activity. We were going on a Saturday, so I knew that it was going to be packed. I didn't want to risk sitting in the front row, straining my neck to see what the hell was happening on the giant screen five feet from my face, so we resolved to get there about an hour early... which I guess wasn't early enough, seeing as the showing we were aiming for was sold out. We picked up tickets for the next showing that was like two hours from then, and went to go sit in line.

My wife and sister were pissed... My sister's boyfriend and I, on the other hand, knew that we would be fine, since the movie theater we were at had a great selection of arcade games to hold us over!

The first thing I saw when I walked into the arcade room nearly brought me to tears of joy. It was a House of the Dead 4 cabinet. I've been a huge House of the Dead, and rail shooter in general, fan for a long time, and have probably pumped more quarters into HOTD cabinets than any other, but I had never seen an actual House of the Dead 4 cabinet in person anywhere before. Needless to say, we cashed in some dollar bills, filled our pockets with quarters, and started 'sploding some zombie heads.

The first thing that I noticed about this game was the awesome light gun. It is a big orange uzi that has some nice weight to it. The gun fires automatically, which is great considering how many zombies the game throws at you, and reloads as most light gun games do, by firing off-screen. There is a small button on the side of the gun that tosses grenades, which you have a limited supply of.

House of the Dead has never really been known for its story, and the its the same old song and dance here. You play as some government agents or something, who are investigating an underground lab when they suddenly find the evidence they need, use it to prosecute the mad scientist they are looking for, and go home safely to their loving families...

No, actually they are attacked by zombies. Wouldn't that be something though? Nobody would have expected that from a game called House of the Dead 4. Sega should have thrown us the curve ball in my opinion.

This game throws TONS of zombies at you. Like, a million zombies. Maybe more than that. It's insane, but luckily you have a few cool tools at your disposal. If a zombie grabs hold of you, you can shake the gun up and down like a Wii-mote to throw them off. This tactic is even used in some boss fights, and makes for some rather tense situations. You can also be pushed down to the ground by enemies, which makes situations where you are being attacked by multiple enemies even more intense. You can also toss grenades at groups of enemies to help thin out some of larger zombie crowds.

The enemies consist of your usual HOTD suspects, including normal zombies, big zombies, jumpy annoying zombies, projectile tossing zombies, weird swamp monstery zombies, flying bat creatures, and those annoying leech things. All pretty run of the mill stuff, but the game really shines during the boss fights. Now THESE are some bosses.

The bosses range from a giant, four-armed, Goro looking zombie that chases you through a sewer system, to a badass ghoul that assaults you in a train with a gigantic dual-sided chainsaw. There is even the token giant spider, which chases you up an elevator shaft! These guys really make the whole experience what it is. You feel a real sense of dread while fighting these guys, especially since its your quarters at stake!

There are plenty of power-ups to be had, which can be found by shooting at secret areas throughout the stages. The setting of these stages changed up enough to keep me interested, and I never really get bored of my surroundings. The game even lets you choose your path at certain points, which should make for some interesting replay value if I ever get the chance to play it again.

We made it to the end of stage four on our play through, where we were killed by an obese titan of a zombie boss, that rolled into a ball to mush us into goo. Between the two of us, we probably spent at least $25 on the game, and really couldn't justify spending much more. It's not that we didn't want to, but as fun as the game was, we didn't want to empty our wallets on it.

The true fun-factor of this game comes from the overall experience. It literally takes you on a ride through various levels, ranging from an underground lab to a European city in ruins. The hordes of zombies popping out from everywhere, the terrifyingly huge bosses, and the camaraderie you feel with your fellow zombie hunter, all while frantically pumping quarters into the coin slot, sum up to create an exciting and unique experience.

House of the Dead 4 is such great interactive experience, and you owe yourself to try it out if you ever get the chance!

Posted on Nov 4th 2009 at 05:54:07 PM by (jfe2)
Posted under Nintendo DS, Zombies, Touch the Dead, Little Red Riding Hoods Zombie BBQ

I love zombies. I'm dead serious. Like, I would actually dance a celebratory jig if a zombie apocalypse happened.

My fascination with zombies started way back when I was around three years old. Michael Jackson's Thriller video nearly terrified me into a coma at the time. It scared me so bad that I had recurring zombie nightmares well into grade school. As I got older I overcame my fear by watching Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead with some friends, and I've been obsessed with zombie pop-culture ever since.

Needless to say, if you put a zombie in a video game, I'll probably play it. Zombies Ate my Neighbors took up all of my free time when I was a kid, House of the Dead is one of my all time favorite games, and Left 4 Dead and Call of Duty: World at War's zombie maps have given me endless hours of entertainment. I'm always on the lookout for new zombie games, and have even recently decided to pick up Dead Rising for the Xbox 360.

Going through my collection of dust covered DS games that have been neglected worse than the Jon and Kate Plus 8 kids, I came across two games that I should have no excuse for not having played through to the end. The first one is called Touch the Dead.

Weird name, right? This game is an on-rails shooter that plays a lot like House of the Dead, which as mentioned before, is one of my all time favorite games. It obviously doesn't support a light gun, and instead takes advantage of the touch screen. You shoot by using the stylus to tap your zombie attackers, and reload by dragging a clip across the screen to your gun.

It's actually a lot more challenging than it sounds, and gets chaotic when you are being attacked by multiple enemies of different types. Some just shamble up to you and take a swing, while others are can be more aggressive. There are huge zombies that deal a bit more damage, and even some that will toss there heads at you. You are forced to decide which ones to attack first, as tapping and reloading takes more time than you would think, and you have to be quick to dispatch of them in the right order lest you have your face eaten.

The story is kind of meh, but the atmosphere did keep me intrigued. The main character, Rob Steiner, not to be confused with Rob Schneider of Deuce Bigalow fame, is sitting in a prison cell when his cell door suddenly opens up. Like any sane criminal would, he decides to cheese it on out of there. He is greeted by a bunch of empty cells and a few prison guards that have a hankering for brains. The game does a good job of maintaining a creepy feel, as the place feels totally deserted, and just when you start to get comfortable a maggot ridden corpse jumps at the screen.

The graphics are reminiscent of the blocky stuff that we used to see on the Sega Saturn, but they don't make the game unplayable by any means. If you are a graphics whore then it would probably be pretty bothersome, but otherwise it doesn't take away from an overall fun game.

In the end, I had a blast with this game. It gets very challenging as it goes on and I honestly had a hard time putting it down, even after dying a few times. The game is a bit short overall, but its perfect for a portable console like the DS. There are enough secrets and hidden power-ups to keep someone interested for a while. This one is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a House of the Dead fan.

The next game that I played may have an even weirder title. Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ. Let that one sink in.

Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ is a vertical shooter that uses touch screen controls to shoot and dodge incoming enemies. You control either Little Red Riding Hood, who totes a machine gun, much like B.B. Hood from Darkstalkers, or her friend Momotaro, a Japanese folk hero who shoots ninja stars out of a gun... Yeah, it is as awesome as it sounds.

Enemies attack from the top of the screen and you mow them down with bullets by holding the stylus in the direction you want to shoot. You reload by lifting the stylus from the screen and pressing it back down. There is also a grenade launcher that has limited use and can be fired by quickly double tapping the screen. Your character can move horizontally across the bottom of the screen between seven positions. Your enemies will attack from the top of the screen and you can either use the d-pad to move left or right to an adjacent square, or you can tap any square to quickly move to it in order to dodge attacks. You can also duck under some attacks by tapping your character.

Enemies vary between slow shuffling zombies, head tossing ghouls, huge rotting monsters that explode into a shower of corrosive goo, and evil toy soldiers that fire continuous lasers. There are explosive barrels and crates full of power-ups to help you fight the zombie hordes. Power-ups include flamethrowers, shotguns, which have short range but pack a huge punch, and lasers that rip through enemies to hit any that may be behind them.

The boss battles are by far the best part of the game, and include battles against Red Riding Hood's possessed grandma, a gigantic zombified Gretel, of Hansel and Gretel fame, and a giant evil Pinocchio who throws his head at you. These battles involve a lot of strategy, and you have to get the bosses' complex patterns down right in order to avoid being demolished.

The graphics are really fun and remind me of the old Neo-Geo and Capcom shooters, but with some enemies rendered in 3D, and with 3D rendered backgrounds. The enemies are big and colorful, and help to increase the overall fun factor of the game.

I personally had a lot of fun with this game. If you like retro styled vertical shooters such as the old G.I. Joe arcade game, or if you are just a fan of zombies in general, you need to give this game a shot. It is a fun little game that doesn't fail to entertain.

Happy hunting!

Posted on Oct 30th 2009 at 06:58:10 PM by (jfe2)
Posted under Nintendo DS, Nintendo, DS, Dragonball Origins

I've been trying to pay more attention to my Nintendo DS lately. I have so many games for it and my GBA, some still in the shrink wrap, and it just feels wrong to let them sit in a shoebox to collect dust. I went through them yesterday and picked a few that I would try to commit to playing through. I love gaming, but I hate when a game starts to feel like work. There's nothing worse than getting half way through a game to find that its just boring and feels like a chore to play.

I decided to start playing Dragonball: Origins, and was really hoping it would make me want to play all the way through. I wasn't quite sure what I would think of it when I started, but I am happy to say that I am really enjoying it so far.

I was a big fan of the original Dragon Ball back when it first aired in America. I remember it being on something like the WB, and they only aired a few episodes from the first season. I had never seen any anime before, and it really captured my attention as a kid. There was something really charming about the characters, and I enjoyed the weird relationship between Goku and Bulma.

Goku is a weird little kid with a monkey tail and super strength. He rides on a sentient flying cloud and carries an extendable staff. The odd little dude is loosely based on the Chinese folk character Sun Wukong from Journey to the West. Goku is out training one day when he encounters a teenage girl named Bulma, who is in search of the legendary Dragon Balls. If someone finds all seven of them, they get a wish, and it just so happens that Goku has one.

I was into Dragonball Z as a teenager (who wasn't?), but in my opinion it never really recaptured the magic that Dragonball had. It was too angsty and I got sick of hearing about aliens and "power levels". The original Dragonball was the bees knees as far as I'm concerned.

Dragonball: Origins plays similar to Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass, using touchscreen controls to move and attack. You can use the d-pad to control Goku, which is a nice option, but I found myself just moving him around with the stylus. You place the stylus where you want to move to, and tap nearby enemies to attack them. There's a stronger dash attack, which is initiated by placing the stylus on him and then quickly sliding it towards the enemies you want to attack.

Goku also has an extending staff (giggity) which he can use to attack enemies or smash rocks that may be in his path. There is a window at the bottom of the screen that can be tapped to quickly equip the staff, and it comes in handy depending on which types of enemies you are facing off against. The staff has a sweeping attack that can be used by placing the stylus on Goku, sliding it out in front of him, and sweeping it towards the group you are attacking.

Goku has a dodge move which can be done by quickly tapping where you want to roll to, and apparently it becomes a teleport if done right before an enemy attack. I can never get the timing right on the teleport, but I'm sure it will get easier after doing it a few times. Hell, I just learned how to pull of a shoryuken in Street Fighter, and I've been playing those games for years. I could only do them on accident before...

The cutscenes are really enjoyable, especially if you were into the show. They keep me wanting to play just so I can see how closely the shows story will be followed. Considering I'm not the worlds biggest anime fan, and was into the show more than ten years ago, Dragonball: Origins has me hooked. I'm about two hours in and it has done a lot to compel me to keep playing.

I'll try to play through it this weekend so that I can get a more solid impression, and then maybe I can write a proper review.

Posted on Oct 30th 2009 at 12:45:33 AM by (jfe2)
Posted under Lucidity, XBLA, Lucasarts, Xbox Live Arcade

I recently downloaded Lucidity, the new XBLA arcade title by Lucasarts. I hadn't really heard much hype surrounding the game, but when I saw a screenshot I had to at least give the trial a shot.

I fired up the trial version and the first thing that I noticed was the art style, which grabbed my attention right away. The imagery is just downright beautiful. It reminds me a bit of the recent stop-motion film Coraline, although I don't feel right comparing the two. Lucidity is definitely its own thing.

The story revolves around a little girl named Sofi, who is dealing with the loss of her grandmother. Sofi is constantly running through her own dreams in search of some form of closure. It's a theme that I personally could relate with, and as much as I hate to admit it, the game did tug at my heart strings. Yeah, I know, I'm a wuss. I also cried at the end of Benjamin Button... So what, wanna fight about it?

The atmosphere of Lucidity was initially the main draw for me, but the gameplay really surprised me and warranted a purchase after just a few minutes of playing the trial.

As mentioned before, Sofi is literally running through her dreams, and actually isn't even controlled by the player. She will run right into a giant frog monster or go skipping off of a ledge, and the only thing that can save her is the quick placement of the various tools that the game provides you. Sofi can take a few hits from the basic grunts, and can actually replenish her health by collecting fireflies as she travels through a level.

Lucidity is a bit like a blend of Lemmings and Tetris. It offers many unique pieces to help you protect Sofi, like basic platforms and staircases, and more advanced items such as fans, which throw Sofi vertically into the air, or bombs, which can destroy walls and enemies. That is where the similarities to Lemmings ends though.

Like Tetris, the game provides pieces to you at random. This is where the real challenge comes in. It shows you the piece that you can currently use and the one that you will be able to use next at the top of the screen. Sofi may be headed for a ledge, about to leap to her death, and you may have something like a bomb at the ready, with another useless piece on deck. You can bank one of your pieces to be used later, and can switch between your banked piece and the piece that the game provides you with the press of a button.

This game became really challenging towards the end, and kept me entertained for a few days. It kind of sucks that nobody is really talking about this game, as it is one of the most unique titles to come out in recent memory.

If you have an Xbox 360, do yourself a favor and at least download the trial. Or better yet, do what I did and take a look at a screenshot. The art alone should at least pique your interest.

This is jfe2's Blog.
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I'm a 23 year old husband, father, and gamer. This blog is an outlet for all of the random gaming thoughts that I have, and will also allow me to express how gaming impacts my life. And yes, the blog's title is a Bob Ross reference... That'll be our little secret.
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