They Break the News, I Break it Again!

RETRACTION: Last week I reported that Microprose had all its flight sims grounded by angry stepmother Hasbro. Untrue, it seems. They will still bring us Gunship and B-17 Flying Fortress. A drop in the bucket when you consider that flight sims once dominated this industry. Fortunately, Hasbro plans to fill the gaming void with a title based on the new Sony Pictures movie Stuart Little (joy!).

HEADLINE: Thunderbirds Are Go!

SCi Entertainment has announced plans to bring the popular ’60s program Thunderbirds to monitors everywhere. The sci-fi series takes place in the 21st Century and marks the first time in gaming history that you’ll be portraying a crude, poorly animated marionette… well, aside from Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine that is.

SCANDAL: Cradle Raider: The Last Revelation?

And people think video games are bad for kids? Perhaps developers are the real danger. Twenty-eight-year-old executive Kenneth Lockley of Core Design (one of the creators of Lara Croft and her amazing inflatable chest) was supposedly caught trying to persuade an undercover cop to arrange a sexual liaison for him with a nine-year-old girl. Allegedly, he approached the cop at the Regent Hotel in London and solicited sex for an unnamed third party. Aside from the chilling spin this puts on the “young Lara” tutorial level in the latest Croft adventure, no further mocking is necessary, just a profound shudder of revulsion and fear. Core has suspended him from the company until this pans out. Here is the sordid story in its entirety. It’s been a rough year for Eidos, huh?

EDITORIAL: Stormy Weather?

Hot off the financial success and ultimate fan and critical disappointment of Westwood’s inexplicably delayed Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, Westwood has been quick to back its inexplicably non-buzz-generating action RPG Nox. This is too bad, because Nox certainly looks very good. Still, Westwood enjoys sending out press releases bragging about what fans are thinking in various cities the game has visited and other incidental factoids. Most recent is a press release bragging that Westwood came upon the developers of Nox floating in a river and took the swaddled child to their husband, Pharaoh, to be raised as an Egyptian (I may be getting my stories confused here, but you get the gist). Westwood is proud of the game and proud of the developers, and that’s pretty nice…. But it ain’t news! If anything, this frantic deluge of incidental Nox reports feels like Westwood is fearful of a Blizzard.

HEADLINE: Interplay Ships Y2K: The Game!

A few people feared that the adventure genre was dead; more people hoped it was dead. It seems that it isn’t really dead after all. In Y2K: The Game, gamers portray a lottery winner named Buster as he spends the News Years Eve in his brand new computer-controlled mansion. The next morning, after all hell has broken loose, he finds his home has turned against him. How to solve this problem? Logically, it must be to use a mouse to click on things and solve seemingly random puzzles. In short, Y2K plans not only to cash in on ubiquitous fears of a computer-related apocalypse but also to give us a go at playing Myst once again. Naturally, mercifully, the game won’t work after January 1st.

ITEM: Sony Throws Latest Hissy Fit Over Bleem!

First a failed restraining order, then several injunctions didn’t work. “Persuading” the E3 folks to ban Bleem from the convention last year didn’t work (yes, that really happened). Now Sony attempts to bully retailers with subpoenas and a lawsuit against the makers of Bleem, also known as “the little company that could (barely) emulate Playstation games on the PC.” What’s next? Rock throwing? It seems a great deal of fuss over a product that doesn’t violate Sony’s PSX patents and still requires customers to actually buy retail PSX games. Also consider that the product doesn’t work 100% with all games and probably never will. A brand new PSX is only twice the price of Bleem, and those games work better on your TV anyway. Yet Sony keeps throwing money at squashing the company, almost as if it’s afraid to lose more than it’s afraid of any damage the “emu” might cause. The frightening thing here is that Sony demanded Bleem give over its customer identity list. Does that seem right? Thankfully the judge squashed that bit of Big Brother thinking in a hurry.

PCData’s Top Five Computer Games for the week of 11/28-12/04/99

1. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Disney Interactive

Further proof that America can’t get enough of old Reeg, the home version of the inexplicably popular television show nabs the top spot. My question is… Who Actually Wants This Game?

2. Roller Coaster Tycoon – Hasbro

The rides get wilder; the ground gets stickier; and the handymen get more annoyed as RC Tycoon drops a spot.

3. Barbie Generation Girl Gotta Groove – Mattel

Future PMS Quake clan members get into this whole computer fad with a Barbie dancing game that’ll make them wish they were anorexic and filled with plastic bits too!

4. Age of Empires II: Age of Kings – Microsoft

Unto the breach and chop through woods to Saladin’s house we go…

5. Deer Hunter III – GT Interactive

Still on the list, but dropping fast … Look on the bright side. If nobody buys it for Christmas, I can stop reporting it! You hear me? Anyone listening? Please, please, please, start buying some good/cool games, so I can ignore the crud on this list. Unreal Tournament debuted at six and then fell off the list entirely! I beg of you, only real gamers can prevent Beatdown meltdown.

Tune in Friday, January 7, to see if anything mockable happened during Christmas week 1999 and the end of the world shortly thereafter. Feel free to send comments/flames and hot news tips to ASDante@execpc.com.

ITEM: Sony Throws Latest Hissy Fit Over Bleem!

First a failed restraining order, then several injunctions didn’t work. “Persuading” the E3 folks to ban Bleem from the convention last year didn’t work (yes, that really happened). Now Sony attempts to bully retailers with subpoenas and a lawsuit against the makers of Bleem, also known as “the little company that could (barely) emulate Playstation games on the PC.” What’s next? Rock throwing? It seems a great deal of fuss over a product that doesn’t violate Sony’s PSX patents and still requires customers to actually buy retail PSX games. Also consider that the product doesn’t work 100% with all games and probably never will. A brand new PSX is only twice the price of Bleem, and those games work better on your TV anyway. Yet Sony keeps throwing money at squashing the company, almost as if it’s afraid to lose more than it’s afraid of any damage the “emu” might cause. The frightening thing here is that Sony demanded Bleem give over its customer identity list. Does that seem right? Thankfully the judge squashed that bit of Big Brother thinking in a hurry.

PCData’s Top Five Computer Games for the week of 11/28-12/04/99

1. Who Wants To Be A Millionaire – Disney Interactive

Further proof that America can’t get enough of old Reeg, the home version of the inexplicably popular television show nabs the top spot. My question is… Who Actually Wants This Game?

2. Roller Coaster Tycoon – Hasbro

The rides get wilder; the ground gets stickier; and the handymen get more annoyed as RC Tycoon drops a spot.

3. Barbie Generation Girl Gotta Groove – Mattel

Future PMS Quake clan members get into this whole computer fad with a Barbie dancing game that’ll make them wish they were anorexic and filled with plastic bits too!

4. Age of Empires II: Age of Kings – Microsoft

Unto the breach and chop through woods to Saladin’s house we go…

5. Deer Hunter III – GT Interactive

Still on the list, but dropping fast … Look on the bright side. If nobody buys it for Christmas, I can stop reporting it! You hear me? Anyone listening? Please, please, please, start buying some good/cool games, so I can ignore the crud on this list. Unreal Tournament debuted at six and then fell off the list entirely! I beg of you, only real gamers can prevent Beatdown meltdown.

Which Heroes You Want To Be – Given the Chance

What if I could fly? What if I could live forever? What if I could be invisible? What if I could lift a tank? For ages, people have craved for answers to these questions, and what unbelievably gratifying way that we have used to express our fantasies is through the invention of superheroes and their superpowers.

These days a summer doesn’t go by without a comic book hero transforming into a giant to defend a girl next door or fly across a screen to protect the human race from unspeakable evil. While an audience’s hearts pump with excitement, some people have found another path to make their dreams last beyond the movie-going experience — through science!

When the first comic book appeared in 1933, flying was a luxury. Nowadays, flying is the safest way to travel. The world’s life expectancy has increased by 15 years since 1960 due to biology and chemistry advancements. There’s been tremendous progress in stealth technology, trying to make real-life invisible cloaks.

The fastest speed ever clocked by a human being on land is 760 miles per hour in a jet-propelled car. And athletes routinely dead-lift over 1,000 pounds in Strongman Competitions.

We’re practically breeding real life superheroes! From bicycles to jet packs, from looking up at the stars to entering outer space in the shuttle, our capacity to acquire knowledge and imagination to achieve impossible goals appears to be limitless.

Exciting developments in the worlds of both humans and superheroes will always influence each other. For as you will see by clicking on any superpower presented in this series, the rules of superpowers and the laws of science don’t always agree.

Unexpected Turn of Events for Maxis and SimCity Buildit

Who knew that game development in the US was such a hot commodity? Apparently not most of the game industry. When Maxis, a smaller team of developers based in EA, released a technology teaser of its upcoming city builder game Simcity Buildit, no one took notice — until word got around, spreading via websites and developer. Within days, Maxis and its game went from total obscurity.

It was no surprise that SimCity Buildit picked up a publisher in EA in no time — and Gathering of Developers won the Kewpie doll. What did come as a small surprise was that SimCity Buildit would sell as a budget title, not the full-blown game that everyone assumed it would be, given the press it had received so far. And while the term “budget title” often seems synonymous with “low quality,” that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The game is getting great reviews wit its free-to-play marketing scheme.

But forget about the core game that you pay $20 for. SimCity Buildit also comes with tools for editing your own city and models — the city builder and the Serious Modeler. For the coders in the audience, there’s also the Serious SDK, which allows you to edit the code to make your own modifications. Those of you who’ve thought about trying your hand at mapping, mod-making or modeling might think about using SimCity Buildit as your platform. Not only do you get the tools with the game, but costs nothing as much as most modifiable games on the shelf. What a deal!

Already sites are springing up offering tutorials and help on using the tools. One such site is Swiftly Tilting Planet. If you’ve never done any level editing before, Swiftly Tilting Planet will go beyond the “basic room” tutorial that comes with the SimCity Buildit editor and walk you through the basics on creating everything about your city.

Now, if you’re the type that enjoys playing mods and cities rather than making them, there’s already a burgeoning mod scene for this game. For a free-to-play title, SimCity Buildit will clearly have a long shelf life, given that a community is already growing up around it at an exponential rate. The drawback is that we’ll obviously grow tired of the word “simulation” and all of its clever variations. I promise to save you the pain and stop using it now.

Let’s Start the Year with a Boom with Boom Beach

In a sense, Boom Beach is a game  that probably should not work knowing that its more like Clash of Clans, but not established yet. In its original form, it was played just like the latter. Recreating that base building gameplay with a similar mostly sounds like a terrible idea. But lo and behold, it wasn’t. And just as it was on Clash of Clans and Hay Day before it, the Boom Beach game version of Supercell brings the heat and takes no prisoners. I think that’s war talk for, “this game is delightful.

Released originally to the iOS devices in 2013 then to Android devices in 2014, Boom Beach is a great game of real-time strategy and war tactics. Controlling a mixture of different troop and units, you take on a variety of missions against enemy basis of typically far greater numbers within the archipelago. Of course, you can also go up against real player bases from any part of the world. It kind of plays like a top-down, 3D version of COC. Because of strong enemy bases, strategy plays a crucial role in the success of your raid or attacks, but the combat is real-time. So you’re not only formulating strategies. You’ll also have to execute them. And of course, you use the touch sensitive screen on your device to do that. By moving it with the screen, you can deploy your units and let them do their thing simultaneously.

I didn’t expect this to make for a very smooth gameplay experience, but I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, other strategy games are way faster than this. But this is a whole new different game with a twist. But you know, as terrific as the gameplay is, what sets Boom Beach hack online apart is its humor, its charm and frankly, its politics. As for the prior, there’s a ton of character packed into these tiny sprites, and Boom Beach goes out of its way to put them through hell. They catch fire, they split in half it’s as violent as mobile devices can offer. Actually, the game was a bit controversial because of that. Speaking of its politics, Boom Beach uses its humor to make some pretty serious statements about war. Boom Beach is a fantastic,addictive and very smart strategy game, and even with a touchpad, it’s highly recommended.

The Deadly Truth on Batman Returns Exposed

I’ve never read any Batman comics, I’m not much of a comic book guy, but I love Tim Burton’s Batman movies, The Dark Knight is one of my favorite movies, I’m a huge fan of the animated series from the nineties. Like, I think I have a decent idea of who Batman is. I mean, he’s Bruce Wayne, obviously.What I’m saying is like, Batman’s basically a ninja, right? He’s nimble, sticks to the shadows, he’s a martial artist. So why would you make a Batman game, where he moves like a tank? I mean, was there some kind of mistake? Was this maybe a Robocop game, but they used the wrong sprite? Is this Batman or Alfred?

Anyway, so it’s an action platformer, and it loosely follows the movie. I don’t know, I must’ve missed the scene where Batman gets arthritis. I mean, that’s the thing that ruined this game for me. Batman is just so incredibly stiff. And look, I get it, he’s crawling around on rooftops? But I’m not the one in the video game.I expect a certain degree of professionalism, from Bruce Wayne. Which is why I’m not entirely convinced this is Bruce Wayne. I mean, something as simple as grappling, Batman does that all the time. In this game, it’s the clunkiest process ever.

The gameplay, it’s pretty slow — kind of clunky, kind of cheap, too. Especially the bosses, but even the basic bad guys. Like, even the common, jobber bad guys are impossible to kill without taking lots of damage, it’s unbelievable. So the difficulty’s pretty high, both in a genuine, challenging way and a frustrating way. The presentation’s not as bad, I guess, but I don’t know, there are problems there, too. It’s never clear what’s in the background and what you can walk on, so there are functional issues. But even aesthetically, too. Like, I get that the game should be dark but it’s also like there’s some kind of grainy filter over it, or something? I mean, it’s not that it’s bad, but It kind of feels like an attempt at a cool style that never really takes off.

And the audio’s a letdown, too. I mean, I get that it’s a game based on a movie but it’s a game based on a movie scored by Danny Elfman. Look, it’s not like this is the worst thing ever but obviously, I’m at a loss here. I don’t see any reason why you would, one, make Batman so sluggish and two, design levels like this, where they’re like unnecessarily tall, and super unclear, and it’s like,“Oh, where do I even go? That’s part of the fun.” I hate that crap. Then Batman stumbles around, looking for his cane. Anyway, it’s Batman Returns for the SEGA Genesis.This game can be deadly, if you eat it.