Video Game Review: Star Wars (Arcade)

I don’t know if this was the first arcade game I played as a kid but it is the first one I remember falling in love with.

I don’t know if my love of it was because of the great gameplay, the cool wireframe graphics or simply because it was Star Wars and Star Wars was the biggest thing in my life at the time.

Recently, I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, a place I go to every year or two, and I found an original sit-down Star Wars arcade machine in the Pinball Museum there. It was the first time I had played this in over two decades and I found out that when it comes to mastery of this game, I’ve still f’n got it!

Bragging aside, playing through this and beating it again was a hell of an awesome experience and it made me appreciate just how good of a game this was for its time.

There are only three levels but to truly beat it, you need to start on the easiest and then work your way through them all.

The game is pretty simple in that it is a rail shooter that keeps you in the cockpit of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing Fighter. Initially, you fight TIE Fighters in space and then you reach the Death Star, where you have to hit the exhaust port and blow it up.

Each level is the same sort of thing but there are different TIE Fighter formations in the space battles, as well as different parts of the Death Star to explore.

Star Wars is still one of my favorite games of all-time. It’s simple, fun, challenging and it’s aged remarkably well for something as simple as it is.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Star Wars vehicle shooters, primarily those early ’90s ones on PC.

Video Game Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike (Atari 2600)

This game is absolute shit.

I’m not sure what this has to do with G.I. Joe other than it using the franchise’s logo and then having a giant cobra that spits pixels on little army men.

And that’s basically all the game is.

There’s a giant, slithery cobra that spits pixel venom, Army dudes run from one building to another for some reason and then there are two little guns that I guess are used to shoot the snake while you also have to move some Pong paddle around while trying to deflect the pixel venom.

It’s poorly designed with shit controls, an objective that isn’t very clear and nothing but absolute and utter repetitiveness.

Couldn’t they have just made a game where you play as Duke running through the desert punching Cobra troopers?

Rating: 1/10
Pairs well with: jenkem.

Video Game Review: Halloween (Atari 2600)

I never knew there was an Atari 2600 game based on John Carpenter’s Halloween. That could be due to the age I was when this would’ve come out but it’s surprising that I still never got wind of it over the years.

Like most Atari 2600 games, it’s pretty basic. But that’s not a bad thing, as this game is at least really amusing and surprisingly violent and comical.

You play as Laurie Strode (I’m assuming) and you need to evade Michael Myers while trying to save Tommy Doyle (or some other little brat). If Michael catches the kid, the little shit is stabbed to death. If Michael catches Laurie, he decapitates her, which leads to her running around headless with blood spurting from her neck stump.

It’s pretty nutty that this was a mainstream video game and probably sold to kids. However, ’80s kids weren’t pussies and video games didn’t have fascist ass ratings back then. Also, life was better and people weren’t so miserable and overly sensitive.

Anyway, that’s about all there is to do in the game. But it’s still a cool game to mess around with.

Also, the 4-bit Halloween theme is badass.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other old school horror movie video games like the original Nintendo’s Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Video Game Review: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle (Atari 2600)

I did not expect to enjoy this game as much as I did. I mean, let’s be honest, most Atari 2600 games are pretty crappy by 2019 standards. Mainly because they are so primitive and simplistic that it isn’t immediately clear what you need to do in a game.

But for the era, this is pretty solid.

It’s also a bit advanced, as it has two stages to it.

The first stage sees you, in the Millennium Falcon, battle it out with TIE Fighters and Imperial Shuttles while waiting for a hole to appear in an energy shield.

The second stage sees you come face to face with the second Death Star, where you have to dodge the Death Star laser and other Imperial attacks while blasting your way through sections of the Death Star until you hit the reactor core.

Once you do these two things, you watch the second Death Star explode and have to dodge the debris.

After that, the game just cycles through, round after round with each a bit more difficult than the rest.

Like almost every classic Atari game, you work you way through a scenario and then it’s just wash, rinse, repeat. That’s not going to hold a modern gamer’s attention for very long but at least this game gives you a tiered scenario instead of just one repetitive thing.

In the end, I can’t knock the game and I had fun with it for twenty minutes or so.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Atari shooters.

Video Game Review: Pit Fighter (Arcade)

Pit Fighter was kind of the precursor to Mortal Kombat. It’s nowhere near as good or iconic but it gave us real people digitized to create the fighters in the game. To an eleven year-old in 1990, this game looked badass.

However, this is just a straight up button masher. There’s no real strategy, just don’t get hit and hit the baddie more than the baddie hits you. However, if you’ve got a pocket full of quarters or infinite quarters thanks to playing this on MAME, you can just buy your way to the finish.

The controls are fluid and work well. However, the game itself isn’t fluid and the action can be kind of wonky. While it’s a decent attempt at a next gen fighting game (for its time), it’s bogged down by its sloppy play and it’s pretty repetitive. Also, the three fighters you can choose from aren’t really to dissimilar because they don’t really have any sort of unique move sets. You can punch, kick and jump: not much else.

Still, revisiting this and beating it was fun for the half hour or so that it took.

Also, the arcade version is much better than any of the versions that were ported to consoles.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other arcade fighting games from the early ’90s.

Documentary Review: The Commodore Story: Changing the World 8-Bits at a Time (2018)

Release Date: February 23rd, 2018 (London and California premieres)
Directed by: Steven Fletcher
Written by: Steven Fletcher
Music by: Harry Filby, Matthew Fletcher, Tristan Kane

WavemStudios, 120 Minutes

Review:

I never owned a Commodore 64 but I had a cousin that owned one. Every time I went to his house, all we did was play games on it. To me, it was a really cool experience and very different than playing games on consoles. All I owned were a Nintendo and the Atari 5200, so using the Commodore was always a treat.

And while I don’t have a lot of experience with Commodore, I did have some experience with Amiga, as my mum had one for work. I got to play it whenever she wasn’t using it for graphic design and it always sort of brought up the same feelings I got with the Commodore 64.

The reason I bring up Amiga, is that this is just as much a documentary about that company, as it is Commodore. In fact, there’s even a lot of stuff in here about Atari too, as many of the people interviewed worked for two or all three of the companies in some capacity.

If you like the history and culture of the tech industry or video games, this is certainly a worthwhile documentary to check out. It’s certainly a must watch for retro gaming junkies like myself.

This was a crowdfunded documentary that really should have pleased its investors. It’s meticulously produced and presented with great interviews, stellar editing and a really good flow. Plus, it’s incredibly informative, as all the people in this give personal stories and their two cents on the business end of things regarding the evolution of all these companies discussed and ultimately, how Commodore ceased to exist.

I was entertained and engaged for the entire duration. And honestly, it made me want to fire up my Commodore emulator.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other tech industry documentaries.

25 Best Racing Games In History

Racing games have been around since almost the beginning. They have come in several forms over every generation of gaming. Here I am ranking the best ever. In some cases, I am just listing a series as a whole, as some of these have spanned generations and been consistently good over that time.

1. Gran Turismo series
2. Forza Motorsport series
3. Need for Speed series
4. Forza Horizon series
5. F-Zero series
6. F1 series
7. Tourist Trophy
8. Super Mario Kart series
9. Road Rash series
10. WipEout series
11. Out Run
12. Rad Racer
13. Hang On
14. Midnight Club series
15. Pole Position
16. Dirt series
17. Crazy Taxi
18. Blur series
19. Virtua Racing
20. Ridge Racer series
21. Burnout series
22. Project Gotham series
23. Final Lap
24. RC Pro Am
25. MotorStorm series

Documentary Review: Atari: Game Over (2014)

Release Date: November 20th, 2014
Directed by: Zak Penn
Music by: Stephen Endelman

Fuel Entertainment USA, GRAiNEY Pictures, Lightbox, 66 Minutes

Review:

Atari: Game Over is an engaging enough documentary for those who loved playing the various Atari systems before Nintendo came along in the mid-80s.

This documentary follows two narrative paths that weave together.

Initially, it talks about the history of Atari and how it rose to power and then pretty much disappeared. Secondly, it discusses the E.T. game, which many consider to be the worst game ever made. It isn’t the worst game ever made but it seemed to become the scapegoat for Atari’s misfortune. Also, a massive stock of E.T. game cartridges were dumped in a desert landfill and have since become some sort of legendary pop culture treasure, waiting to be unearthed.

Zak Penn takes us on a journey through the history of Atari, while being present for the massive excavation of the landfill, in an effort to see if the game cartridges are actually there. I don’t want to spoil the ending.

Unfortunately, this is a rather short documentary and to be honest, I’d be more interested in a film that tells the Atari story in much more detail than being constantly sidetracked back over to the landfill. While the discovery of the buried E.T. cartridges is sort of the point of this film, it just isn’t as interesting as the Atari story, overall.

Also, the film paints a picture that the video game industry completely crashed and that Atari disappeared and it leaves it like there was some big massive void in the universe. The reality is that Nintendo came along, as did Sega and many other companies. Market share shifted and Atari was no longer a monopoly. Their systems couldn’t compete with Nintendo and Sega and they dwindled away. Consumers ate up Nintendo and were much happier with it. That’s the reality. Also, Atari didn’t just go away, they still made games and had to alter their business model. Atari still exists today.

Atari: Game Over was sloppy and left you grasping for straws. It was enjoyable for its good bits but I felt that it was sort of dishonest and more focused on legends than truth.

Rating: 5/10