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September 28, 2005

Told Ya

Great minds think alike.
'Nuff said.

Hey There! Hi There! Ho There!

Hi there, little Mouseketeers. My new Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure review is up on GameDAILY Family.

Why don't you...wait for it...SKATE on over to check it out (oh, my side!).

Sorry. I hate sucky humor, too.
But sarcastically sucky humor, that's funny.......................right?

Hello? Is this thing on?

September 25, 2005

CASUAL GAME REVIEW: Gold Miner Special Edition

You're a grizzled old prospector diggin' fer gold** in them thar hills. Blocking your way are boulders, bats, bones, TNT, & evil little pickax-wielding leprechauns.

Gold Miner Special Edition is one of those fun little games we stumbled onto in RealArcade (though you can find it on any of several websites - see "Games For All Ages" on the right sidebar) a couple weeks ago. During the free 60-minute demo alone, we cleared 52 levels, and earned exactly $51,701, for whatever that's worth.

Actually it is worth a little something, because you need to earn cash to buy things to aid you in your quest. For example:

  • Dynamite, which allows you to abort when you've hooked a large, very slow-moving boulder with your winch, instead of more lucrative and fast-moving cargo.
  • 4 Leaf clovers....... to improve your luck (duh!)
  • Various & sundry other useful things.
But watch out for the shyster storekeeper (below). He'll charge you $87 for a stick of dynamite one round, and $387 for it the next. Be judicious in your spending, and you're good to go. He also gets really pissed when you don't buy anything. By "pissed," of course I mean that he just gives a little growl. My kids thought it was funny.

Of course, the game is basic enough that your kids should be able to pick all of this stuff up as they go along.

OK, run along and play, now. Go on. It's okay, I'll call you in for dinner.

** FYI, in addition to gold, you're aiming for bags o' cash, and gems, which can be either free standing or carried by rodents. Good times.

Oh, yeah. There's also a slot machine bonus game, but you have to nab little silver coins to earn your shot at lady luck.

September 21, 2005

We Heart Co-Op Mode

Although I had today circled on my calendar since E3, I actually forgot about why until I saw Robin's post this morning.

We Love Katamari is Keita Takahashi's follow-up to 2004's insanely popular and delightfully original Katamari Damacy. Looks like it'll be out-freakin'-standing! And with the new co-op mode, it even teaches teamwork. *dreamy sigh* Is there anything this game can't do?

If I get the go-ahead from upper management (i.e. the kids) to interrupt our Mario cavalcade, I may have to bump this sucker up to the top of my GameFly wish list.

Happy Happy! Joy! Joy!

September 20, 2005

Another Day (er... week), Another Mario Post

I've started new posts about a dozen times since my last one a week ago, but every time I came up with something clever or pithy, I invariably sneezed it away (lovely imagery, eh?).

So while I'm still not feeling super-swell, I couldn't leave you hangin' forever. If this isn't my best writing, though, please forgive me, as I write out of love. *pats self on back. nauseates readers in the process.*

As a gamer and parent, I lead a binary existence. *uses pretentious language. nauseates readers in the process.* I rent and play games that are appropriate for my kids, as well as games that I wouldn't let them play until they turn my wife and me into empty nesters.

The best way to judge which way the ESRB pendulum is swinging is our GameFly account. At any given point, and depending on who's playing, of course, we could have 2 E-rated games, 2 M-rated games, one of each, or one each of anything along the game rating spectrum (..uh, to a maximum of 2 on our account).

Recently, we've been all Mario, all the time. The GameCube was the last of the 3 consoles to bring gaming joy into our lives, and recently, we've been playing a little catch-up.

I bought Super Mario Sunshine with the console, and in recent weeks, we've rented Mario Power Tennis and Mario Kart Double Dash!!. Since we've played the tennis game for over a month, we're returning it for the just-released Mario Superstar Baseball, and when we return Mario Kart, it'll be time for a little Mario Golf Toadstool Tour. I'll review all 5 Mario games (there are many more Mario games (e.g. Mario Party & Paper Mario). I'm talking about these 5 for now) in the coming weeks.

One of the fun things I like to do is to turn the "reveal" of the new game into an event. When the kids see an orange envelope in the mail, they can barely contain their excitement as they show it to me. As they ask which game I got for us to play, I make a show of taking the disc out of the envelope and putting it into one of the consoles. The first moment they find out which game we'll be enjoying together is when the opening graphic appears on the screen. And there is much rejoicing.

In case you were wondering about setting the kids up for disappointment, I always let them know beforehand whether the game is for kids or grownups. That way, when I've got a hankerin' for Resident Evil 4, God of War, Halo 2, etc., they know not to get their hopes up when the mailman comes. FYI.

September 13, 2005

No Beer 'Til Next Year, Young Man! (a.k.a. Happy 20th B-Day, Mario!)

Like Cabbage Patch Kids, Teddy Ruxpin, Tickle Me Elmo, Furby, Pokemon, the Razor Scooter, Bag O' Glass, and Super Bass-O-Matic '76, Nintendo was the must-have present for the 1985 holiday season.

EDIT: In the words of Ralph Wiggum, (and as a recently-engaged friend of mine is fond of saying) "Me Fail English? That's Unpossible!" I should have caught this earlier, but I just realized that I wrote that paragraph as though all of those items were from 1985 (and that incudes the Super Bass-O-Matic '76). My bad. Sure, I could just correct it, but then that would go against my policy of never passing up a chance to quote from The Book of Ralph (amen).

This feat was all the more amazing, given that the entire retail industry was beyond convinced that the video game "fad" was dead, after the arcade and home console crashes a couple years earlier.

So armed with an intrepid plumber as its mascot (and a savvy distribution deal with Teddy Ruxpin maker Worlds of Wonder), Nintendo hoisted the entire industry on its shoulders, and made it crystal clear that video games weren't quite ready to be buried (say, in an Alamogordo, New Mexico landfill) just yet.

While I could have put off my Mario 20th birthday post until October 1 (the 20-year anniversary of the U.S. launch on the NES), today seems to be the official "big day".

20 years ago today (September 13, 1985, for those of you who aren't in the mood to do the math), uber-mazing game designer Shigeru Miyamoto introduced Mario to an adoring Japanese public on the Nintendo Famicom (Family Computer) console, which is identical to the North American Nintendo Entertainment System, but with a different casing & color scheme.

In honor of the occasion, here are some nuggets & tidbits about the birthday boy:

  • ...the famous plumber was originally a carpenter...
  • ...his name wasn't even Mario yet. He was called Jumpman...
  • ...he later was renamed Mario after Mario Segali, who was the landlord of Nintendo of America's offices at the time...
  • ...legend has it that Jumpman and Mr. Segali bore a striking resemblance to one another...
Here's a visual Mario Timeline for you, courtesy of Gametopia.

Here's a more complete and info-licious timeline, but I forgot where I found this one.

Finally, Dark Watcher has even more on the graphic evolution of Mario.

September 12, 2005

Super Vegas 64

A few weeks ago, my wife and kids went to visit family in Las Vegas, while I stayed at home to care for our ailing pooch, Otter.

The kids had a great time playing with their cousins, and in addition to the general rambunctiousness, they played some video games together.

They loved Dance Dance Revolution (not sure which version), and several other current-gen games. But the highlights of the gaming portion of the trip (notice I didn't say the highlight of the whole trip - most of their fun was of the analog variety) were none other than Nintendo 64 classics Diddy Kong Racing, and... drumroll please... Super Mario 64, which they proclaimed to be the "best game ever!" (I'm so proud *sniff*).

On the way back from the airport, they excitedly asked if we could get those games too, and I had to be the bearer of bad tidings - that we didn't have a Nintendo 64.

As a "consolation prize", I told them that since I did still have my old NES (it survived the basement purge that claimed my old Intellivision), we could play Super Mario Brothers at some point. Naturally, they wanted that point to be the very moment we walked back into our house. In hindsight, I probably could've managed their expectations a little better.

I had to explain that while the console works just fine, the actual cartridge itself - Super Mario Brothers/Duck Hunt combo (the original NES Action Set pack-in game) - wasn't really working so well. So if the trusty ol' blowing-onto-the-connectors didn't work, I'd have to find a new game somewhere, and that might take a little while.

Fast-forward to the following day (and more poorly-managed expections), and they asked if they could play the game yet.

Since then, they've asked a couple more times, but by now, they're probably reasonable in thinking that surely I've made significant progress by now.


All right. You wore me down, kids. I guess I'll head on over to eBay to find a used copy of Super Mario Brothers......... or maybe I'll try the blowing test one more time.

September 06, 2005

Of Caterpillars & Butterflies

Once again, I've taken something raw and immediate that I wrote here, and punched it up a smidge for GameDAILY Family.

And thus, the fuzzy "Are Games Important?" caterpillar becomes the majestic "Do Games Matter?" butterfly.

Okay, so that's ridiculously over the top, and, truth be told, patently false. This isn't the major revamp that my other GameDAILY columns have been, but if it ain't exactly new, it is improved. Plus, they have cooler graphics. So let's call it an incremental improvement, shall we?

September 04, 2005

Are Games Important?

As I sit here, pondering what to write for my next GameDAILY Family article (due tomorrow - D'OH!), I find myself glued to the television, flashing back to almost exactly 4 years ago, when I watched my TV with a similarly profound sense of loss and helplessness.

When a tragedy of this magnitude occurs, it's natural to wonder just what we can do, if anything at all. So we cry, pray, grieve, volunteer, donate...
    ...and hold our own children close and make sure they know how precious they are to us, over and over and over again. We find ourselves holding that hug or that kiss goodnight just an instant longer.

    For some people, this is the kind of overwhelming tragedy that makes them question just what they are doing to contribute to the common good. "Are video games really so important?" they wonder.

    A few days ago, as I watched the Astrodome begin to fill up as it played its role as the new sanctuary-of-record, I was struck by something one of the Houston volunteers said. She told a reporter that other than food, water, beds and medical care, their most important task was to round up as many fun, kid-friendly DVDs as possible.

    She and her fellow volunteers understood something very important. The many displaced children who were thrust into their caring arms are going through what no one on this earth should ever experience. And they understood that these children needed, if only for a moment, to feel like kids again.
    To laugh.
    To cheer.
    To imagine.
    To fantasize.
    To play.
    To dream.
    To hope.

    And while she only mentioned DVDs in particular, just imagine how happy those kids would have been to put aside the misery, pain and fear, to spend a precious few moments with, or better still, as SpongeBob, Jake, Buzz Lightyear, and The Prince.

    What this said to me, loud and clear, is that even in the midst of hell...
    Fun is important.
    Play has value.
    Games matter.

    While there is more I could say to expand on these thoughts, I'll leave it at that for now, because I hesitate to use this catastrophe to further my own politically-charged game-related agenda, right though it may be. :^)

    I'll write more on this topic down the road. For now, I'm going to kiss my kids goodnight again. Then I'm going to say a prayer for the past, present, and future victims of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Then I'm going to back to my TV.