Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Mystery Sprite" Contest!

"Mystery Sprite" Contest!

And so, it is time for us here at Headcase Games to get experimental with it, once again, to paraphrase Will Smith, as we dip our toes into the waters of yet...another... contest.

Yes, we are the only developer who's contests far outnumber the actual amount of products we've released. But enough of the self-reflection! And on with the skinny..

Periodically, there will be a "mystery sprite" from Gaming's Past posted over on the wall of our Headcase Games Facebook Page. I will grab a character from some previously released game (usually a retrogame, shocking I know, but to mix it up we will feature some modern games as well, particularly iPhone games). I won't get too obscure with it, but it's not gonna be namby-pamby easy either!

How to win? Simply identify the sprite (or mesh, if you insist) by name (proper name if applicable) and also note the game it is from. This means if the character has an actual name you must correctly state it (you cannot just say "oh it is one of the bad guys from River City Ransom" or "the ship from Xevious" or something, if I can locate it's actual name then you must give it!)

Incomplete answers will be disqualified. Once you have the name/game, then post a comment under the Facebook entry, that's it! (discussion of the character/game under the entry is encouraged)

What's the prize? Glad you asked my friend, glad you asked. That would be a $1.99 iPhone app, any app of your choice, so I hope you have an iTunes account! Of course you can play if you haven't, but I am not going to substitute a different prize.

Good luck, have fun, and pass the word on!

Support us and pick up our hit game 180 for iPhone! 99 cents gets you some of the most enjoyable action-puzzle fun you could have!

Retro Game of the Day! Monster Party

Retro Game of the Day! Monster Party

Monster Party by Bandai, released for the NES in 1989.

Absolutely one of the stranger releases to appear on the NES, leading up to its arrival the game was touted as a mix between Castlevania and Super Mario Bros. The screenshots looked a little bland, but this lead-in was certainly noteworthy.

I decided to give MP a rental to see what it was about. Whoa.. in one of the more out-there setups in videogaming, the yarn goes that you are a kid walking home from baseball practice one evening. A an armored-gargoyle-looking monster approaches you from the heavens, and asks your help in saving his distant "Dark World." You agree, and he scoops you up to return to his homeworld; and the two characters "merge" into a single body. You'll spend the majority of the game running around as Mark the boy, but temporary powerups will transmogrify you into Bert the Monster, capable of flying and shooting projectiles.

From that point on, the game just becomes strange. The monster's homeworld is covered with all manner of oddities, singing plants and dancing zombies and flying shrimp and medusa heads. The levels are typically coated with (very cartoony) pools of blood.

Levels are not terribly complicated, you simply run around and dodge the critters who would do you in - awkwardly attacking them with your weak baseball bat, though in some cases you can swing their projectiles back at them. The game is big, colorful and long, with a strange style (sometimes it looks good, sometimes it's a garbly mess). Overall the game has a look and feel all its own, with a particular brand of macabre humor not usually seen on any system at the time.

This has to be one of the stranger detours down the NES superhighway that you will come across, for one reason or another. It's not really a wonderful game, but the interesting premise and bizarre style certainly make it memorable (and it's got just about the creepiest ending you'll find on the system!) The game brings me back to a time when the industy didn't take itself too seriously, and unusual offerings like this could have a place in a console's library. I would love to see a 3D reimagining of Monster Party today, it's a great concept and a wonderful world that would stand out like a sore thumb against a lot of the me-too product otherwise filling the shelves.

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Shinobi

Retro Game of the Day! Shinobi

Shinobi by Sega, first released in the arcades in 1987.

Before Ryu Hayabusa reared his head on the gaming scene in Ninja Gaiden, Joe Musashi was the original side-scrolling tough guy. There were plenty of ninja platformers that appeared before Shinobi, but none so stylish, difficult, and memorable.

The first Shinobi outing introduced players to a world where ninjas weren't merely cutesy or relegated to being feudal period pieces - this told the modern-day tale of a man fighting an evil terrorist organization, comprised of all manner of thugs and artillary, and even a bit of the fantastic (cyborgs, Spider-men!) As was typical with sidescrolling far, you'd advance from left to right and dispatch your foes, throwing ninja stars for distant attacks or kicking and punching up close. Rescuing hostages would power you up, and grant you more powerful attacks as well.

The game was well-produced, with a sharp array of characters and levels accompanied by a high level of difficulty. There were even some very pretty bonus rounds to add to the package's appeal (as a NES player, seeing the bonus round shown in the TV commercial made me realize that SMS had quite a technical edge over my chosen console!)

The original Shinobi is considered a time-honored classic by modern gamers, with a decent legacy which followed in the years after. Shinobi himself (or Joe Musashi, if you prefer) became one of the staple "mascot franchises" in older Sega days, as all the games in the series were usually hi-quality and very well-received with their own unique take on the "modern day ninja" theme, which was a little less over-the-top fantastic than what was being presented in the rival Ninja Gaiden games.

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Pulstar

Retro Game of the Day! Pulstar

Pulstar by Aicom/SNK, released for the Neo Geo in 1995.

SNK's Neo Geo is generally as the powerhouse monster console of the 1990s, and with good reason. Nearly every game released for the system went to great lengths to make sure you were in awe of the graphical fidelity. Upon it's release, Pulstar was one of the most incredible looking shooters ever put forth.

It is worth noting that the game was developed during a period when the aesthetic was starting to become enamored with the pre-rendered CG look, as opposed to pure pixel art. The look was popularized in games like Donkey Kong Country and Killer Instinct, and was regarded as "above 16-bit." The style was used to a degree in this game, with mixed results; sometimes it looked wonderful, and sometimes it just seemed to clash with the rest of the game's style. The novelty carried it through, but in hindsight I rather wish they'd gone with a purer pixel art style.

The game is regarded as a super-charged homage to the best of the space-shooter genre (specifically R-Type, a game which shares much in common with this title). There is some thought that the two games share a development lineage, as Irem became quite closely intertwined with SNK, though we will never know for sure. A play of the game does present some particularly familiar elements, however.

A lot of Neo Geo shooters are regarded as being quite easy (are you kidding?) and Pulstar is considered to be on the far end of that spectrum; also true to its heritage, a lot of pattern memorization and strategic play is necessary for survival. Make proper use of your weapons and powerups and maybe you'll stand a chance..

Pulstar is on a short list of must-see games for the Neo Geo which aren't fighters or beat-em'ups. Although many gamers are very tired of horizontal scrolling shooters after all these years, interested players eager for some fresh sights and sharp challenge would do well to step up and experience this game!

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Cameltry

Retro Game of the Day! Cameltry

Cameltry by Taito, original arcade release in 1989 and ported to the SNES 3 years later (released domestically as "On the Ball").

These are the game ideas that I love, where a very familiar concept is turned on its head (nearly literally, in this case) and a whole new game is conceived. Cameltry recalls the old-fashioned "wooden labyrinth" game where you must manipulate a ball by controlling its environment, to pass through a maze and reach the exit.

Taking full advantage of the "Mode 7" graphical capabilities of the Super Nintendo (particularly, the system's ability to mathematically rotate game elements) the player guides the "hero" ball by rotating the entire background using the L and R shoulder buttons. It's a very novel control setup, and it works wonderfully.

The original arcade supposedly used a rotary spinner similar to the setup from Arkanoid, something I've not personally seen although it sounds like a great deal of fun to play that way!

As for the game itself, you must steer your ball to the goal area before time runs out; special obstacles bar your way, and certain impediments will even knock extra seconds off the clock. It is a very simple idea but nicely and colorfully executed. Sadly, the game is skewed rather easy and doesn't present much in the way of a lasting experience, but for what it is this is a nice game for puzzle fans and those looking for something different than the usual SNES fare.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Pac-Man

Retro Game of the Day! Pac-Man

Pac-Man by Namco, developed by Toru Iwatani and his team and released in the arcade in 1980.

It is hard to think of a more classic, iconic videogame character than good ol' Pac. Not the first "collect the dots" maze game (I couldn't tell you which one was!), although Pac-Man certainly popularized the trend more than anything which came before.

Central to the game's appeal was the notion of power-ups, which enabled you to turn the table on your pursuers. For the majority of the game, Pac-Man is vulnerable to his enemies and must flee them constantly. Grabbing a large flashing "power pill" would temporarily allow Pac-Man to eat his opponents and rack up huge points. The addition of this novel mechanic was absolutely genius, and elevated the game so far above the "maze-collect-and-avoid" themes it otherwise presented.

Pac-Man truly resonated with gamers all over the world, 30 years ago as much as today. This was one of the first games which could truly appeal not only to hardcore action players, but also young kids and females. It was also so perfectly designed with extremely limited input (a 4-way joystick, no fire buttons) and completely defined "pick up and play" like no game before; plunk in a quarter and you're off.

Pac-Man was ported to countless platforms, following its released all the way up to the present. The questionably-designed Atari 2600 cartridge came very close to sullying the brand forever, but the game was able to transcend that infamous port and dominate on various other formats. In my house, we had the Atari 400 cartidge (with its "interesting" illustrative box and manual art) and stretched-out maze layout. The game wasn't a close match to the arcade, but it was still quite fun (my Dad and I would compete against one another's scores for hours!). This will always be the definitive Pac-Man of my childhood.

Pac-Man has survived through various incarnations and still continues to captivate audiences all over the world in various formats. Ms. Pac-Man may have topped him in the arcade as the most well-designed game of the sort, but the recent Xbox 360 Champion Edition receives high marks for bringing the old design an exhilarating new relevancy. If you haven't played it yet, be sure to do so.

Want to win ANY Free App of your choice for your iPhone, care of Headcase Games? (LINK)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Journey to Silius

Retro Game of the Day! Journey to Silius

Journey to Silius by Sunsoft, released for the NES in 1990.

Another anomaly in the history of the NES. Silius, by all rights, should have been a game I would have rushed out to buy immediately, considering its lineage (I was a super-fan of the developer's other games put out in preceding years). Still, even just seeing the prerelease screenshots in the game magazines, my Spidey-sense tingled and I knew to stay away. I never even ended up renting the game!

I say this with such surprise, since their earlier effort Blaster Master was one of my favorite game experiences of all time - it played very much like Sunsoft's answer to Metroid, and this game looked like it should have been their follow-up to games like Mega Man. It was a great time to be gaming on the NES and all these wonderful titles had been out and stirring up everyone's imagination. What went wrong?

In spite of the tone, Silius didn't turn out to be a bad game; it was just very bland. The intention might have been there, but the result felt very phoned-in. The other games mentioned al had unique characters that were well-designed, each wrapped around relatively compelling mythos. This game, while not hurting for visual detail, lacked any real strong style and all of the characters felt very flat and soulless. Coming off of such a strong lead-in, this was strongly apparent, and if the developer didn't really care about their own game, why should the audience? Underneath the aesthetic design, a competent platformer was in place, but again it wasn't enough when compared to contemporary games to be terribly enthralling.

It's interesting to consider the game's foggy history, apparently at some point it was ot have the Terminator movie license grafted onto it; for whatever reason that deal didn't work out, and this way their backup plan. To be fair, Journey to Silius presents a challenging action game with multiple weapons and difficult fights with detailed bosses. The real star of the show here, interestingly, is the soundtrack - you will be hard=pressed to find much better on the NES, other than the usual staples. It's a must-listen, even if the game is kind of a chore.

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Retro Game of the Day! Slime World

Retro Game of the Day! Todd's Adventures in Slime World

Todd's Adventures in Slime World by M. Peter Engelbrite (for Epyx, creators of the Lynx), published by Atari in 1992.

Slime, Slime, Slime.. in the late 80s, Slime and Ninjas were all the rage apparently. Although there was no shortage of Ninja-themed games, Slime-themed games were quite unusual... save for one particular example...

Even in previews, Slime World looked and sounded like one of the strangest games ever. Dark, foreboding, lonely and gooey, it seemed like a disgusting and unpleasant game world to have to spend some time in. Even so, Lynx games were always scarce and whenever something unusual was announced it always ended up being worth a look. I forked over my money and picked up a copy of Slime World.

To my surprise, I found a very enjoyable experience, a distant cousin of the Metroid games but totally rewritten with a more archaic, Western style. The same sense of desperation and creepiness was there, the stark backgrounds, the alienation of it all - but also the empowerment, the feeling of this strange world and it's inhabitants to understand and conquer. No, SW didn't have the wonderful powerups that Metroid had, and the control was a lot looser as well - but they really captured the feeling alright!

Slime World really came out of nowhere, especially for a portable game. The world really felt alive, and it was constantly bubbling, oozing and shapeshifting around you. You dodged obstacles and engaged enemies, collected gems, and constantly journeyed deeper into the madness (thankfully a rebolutionary auto-map made the experience a lot easier to get a handle on). A strong array of multiple game modes were included (puzzle modes, action modes, and so forth) that made the player really sense they were getting their money's worth of content packed into the game; and a mind-blowing 8-player simultaneous mode (competitive or combative) was also supported. Slime World did everything.

Of course, showing up on the Atari Lynx did it no favors, as the system was never as popular as it's rivals; and the 16-bit Genesis port was lazily slapped together and never really marketed to strongly. What could conceivably have been one of the more well-respected classics from the period completely flew under the radar. To those of us who played it (and endured the ear-splittingly tortuous audio!), Slime World was an excellent and rewarding experience, and a testament to what could be done on the Lynx.

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