Thursday, December 31, 2009

iPhone App Game Development Blog #18

iPhone App Game Development Blog #18

Happy New Year's everybody! A late entry here, I just wanted to squeeze some last-minute 2010 mobile gaming predictions in here before the clock hits midnight.

(Copied from our thread over on the TouchArcade forums)

-Activision and EA step up their stakes in the mobile arena, in a BIG way.

-a MASSIVE oversaturated market that makes 2009 look like it was a deserted wasteland by comparison. With Flash being ported to the iPhone, expect to see 10X as many releases of middle-ground indie product.

-a clear winner in the "social gamespace" war (plus+, OF, Agon, etc). My expectation is going with OF, but it is honestly pretty early to tell. Someone has to spend some serious money and they could dominate it. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the Big Guys wait to see who is the clear leader, and then outright buy them (-ahem- Activision or EA)

-MMO on iPhone - it's been tried before, I think someone will step this up to the next level. It still won't hit big, but it will sow some pretty impressive seeds.

-Farmville-style game on the iPhone - this social PC game is the most popular in the world right now. You can bet we will see a serious effort on the iPhone as well, I'd imagine by no later than middle of summer.

-Sony Ericcson, M$ Zune will still be scrapping for leftovers. Sorry guys. You snoozed!

-E3 will actually care about the iPhone this time, in a BIG way. It was not even represented at all last year - 2010 will be extremely different.

-Apple is working on some kind of console. They must be! I'm not expecting that it will definitely ever show up, but I know they must be into some serious R&D in their dark cobwebby corners.

-Google, Droid, etc - won't get their shit together fast enough in 2010. They are still trying to position themselves as "trendy alternative" to Apple Haters, but their network is still nowhere near as pervasive. Just outright copy iTunes and make it super-accessible and people will slowly come - in the meantime, it's just going to be a big mess. they don't care, they are still making money - but they aren't going to unseat Apple.

-Microsoft is juggling so much right now but you can bet they are extremely butthurt by missing out on this party in a big way. Unlike Sony, they are very capably forward-looking - I expect them to announce something big that will put them back on the map (it ain't gonna catch with Zune HD, as stated earlier). Can you say "MicroPhone?"

-Nintendo will continue "operating rogue" doing things their own way and only that way. The DS will start to get pretty stale this year, as their competitor's games will be getting more and more quality. Their lack of any decent online experience will start looking amateur. DS and Wii will still have a good year, but unless they make some really bold moves.. they are going to mothball once again. Too much milking of old tech - all the casual gamers they "created" are going to be woo'd by all the competition. Note, I am not trying to diss Nintendo, I am a fan..

-A successor to iPhone will be talked about in hushed tones. But it's gonna rest on it's laurels this year.

-Headcase Games' new iPhone puzzler "180" will top many people's "Top Ten Games of 2010" - just you wait! The buzz should start in mid-to-late February. Just remember you knew us way back when...

Also, time for some shout-outs to our friends! We made lots of great connections in real-life and online in 2009, the first year that we've been doing this. Big thanks to lots of Twitter buddies - java_king, Grizdakillr, magisterrex, edbertin, RustySabre, mr_elmore, JeppeKM, shimmer418, RetroGames, dotarray, UberDorkGirlie, TheSocialGamer, UnionMade, iPhone_Queen, weclock, joshdcoyne, iphonedevnews, DeltaDreamer, SaintBastard, AnjelusX, TanukiSuit, JasonArnopp, Nobuooo (let's get back to the Sushi Joint!), frederictessier, 2DX, rappsodystudios, GavinBowman, AshMcConnell, chrismwaite, gogukaizer, dibely, jbr05ki, my buddy Asau at Neversoft, aileenv at Tecmo, Bryagh at Obsidian, GeoffHathaway, OTGGamer, 8bitJay, NerdBalloon, pierrepradal, joshgeeksix, Knusper2000, the multi-talented and generous tjslater, kitkatbrown, mattarevalo, Joylia, shoob, Guilhes, UrbanTogs, GBGames, kittychix, PeterSkerritt, rpninteractive, mikejstein, johnemersons, and all the other twitter buddies and re-tweeters who have helped us out these past months - thanks for spreading the word!

Shout-outs also to StarSlay3r for helping with promo + dev stuff, MrWalrus from Race2theMoon, Larry and the guys at GoPlay Games, Jeff, Skillz, and Todd at Last Legion, the awesomely-talented Pauline Laciste for helping out with our soundtrack, Ben for putting up with me, Cat at N4G, all of our dedicated beta-test staff and loyal blogreaders (that's YOU!) my folks of course, our very patient girlfriends, and.. uh.. that's it. Have a great 2010!

(apologies to those I missed.. it's late and I need to pick up a pizza!)

Retro Game of the Day! Ms. Pac-Man

Retro Game of the Day! Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-Man by Midway, released 1981. It is the last day of the year (and the decade..!) What better idea could be more fitting than to bring up one of the most important games in history?

Ahhh.. Ms. Pac. Just looking at these screens still brings me back to the Papa Gino's Pizzeria on Rt. 20 in Marlborough, Massachusetts - that's where I got my introduction to this historic game. I remember the pizza grease smears from little kid hands all over the control panel. It didn't matter. Ms. Pac-Man was revolutionary! I was a Pac-fiend when I was 5 or 6 yrs old. I loved the game. I loved the cartoon. I had a Pac-Man birthday cake and bookbag and trashcan. You get the idea.

This game has such a strange story - there's no way I can do it justice. Suffice it to say that Ms. Pac was actually an American bootlegged hack of the original Japanese-developed Pac-Man game. I've never seen Crazy Otto, but supposedly that was the original moniker. I am not sure if the game upgrade was being distributed and Midway (original Western Pac-Man distro) caught wind, or what - all I know is that there was a lot of angry lawyers, and General Computer (the punks that made the bootleg) ended up working for Midway to convert this to a genuine Pac-sequel. Mind you, this was not kosher with the original Pac-developer (Namco) and I would suspect there was a great political rift between the two companies as a result - though Namco's most likely "forgiven" the dalliance seeing as how they've made millions of dollars in the process (they release Ms.Pac-Man games still to this day!)

What's the hot air all about Ms. Pac then? Here's a simple rundown for those of you who don't.. oh who am I kidding. Everyone knows this game! The original Pac was a hungry yellow mouth who cleared a single screen by eating all the dots, picking up stationary fruit prizes, and avoiding ghost monsters. Ms. Pac improved on this by not only modifying the maze, but adding 4 colorful variations in total. Also, the fruit is no longer stationary - it enters from a side warp, trots around the screen, then leaves through the other side if uneaten. As for the ghost monsters, their patterns are far less predictable this time around.

Many folks know (and love) the famous "sped up" Ms. Pac-Man mod. Normally, as in the original Pac, the game would start out extremely slow and pick up speed as you blazed through the rounds. In the speed-up hack, you start out with a Ms. Pac who is absurdly faster than the ghosts - providing a nice boost for the casual player, but completely destroying the balance and rhythm of the game!

There's so much to say about Ms. Pac-Man, but I like to keep these reviews brief, so I'll just leave it thusly - few games have managed to penetrate our culture continuously since they first appeared, and still can be considered universally acceptable and enjoyable so many decades later. The styles of Ms. Pac-Man - gameplay-style, visual-style - are still very approachable and successful today as they were when this was a new game. Anyone who sits down to a game and puts a little time in will find a very deep arcade experience, one which can be tailored as the specific player grows with the game. There's been many games spun off the Pac-formula, but in my opinion (and I'll say it's likely the general consensus) that Ms. Pac-Man is and always will be the best version by a clear shot.

This is it - the final day to take advantage of our FREE offer! Go on and download Headcase Games' original release of iFist right now, friend - it's the last day of 2009, and after today we will charge for it once again! Enjoy our game - and thank you for your patronage!

(iTunes Link Here)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Galaxian

Retro Game of the Day! Galaxian

Galaxian by Namco, originally released THIRTY YEARS AGO in 1979. That's right.

So, there are some games which have perhaps not aged too well, and are rather difficult even for an old-timer like me to still sit down and find "the bottomless quarter-pit" with. Galaxian falls in this category, as it is simply an old-as-time-itself arcade game. Not to say that it is bad, but it was certainly the stopgap between some very necessary iterations of its genre.

Galaxian is the best-known followup and evolution to competitor developer Taito's "Birth of a Nation" advancing aliens shooter, the famous Space Invaders (1978). That game was followed by several tweaks and modifications of its own, but Galaxian was the first game to really advance the whole formula forward. Downward-swooping alien attackers, multicolor characters, background music (grating and wretched as it was!), these were all firsts with Galaxian.

And so, moving from the ultra-primitive Space Invaders to this must have been quite an experience (I wouldn't know, I was 4 years old when this was released.. I had another couple of years to even get exposed to this stuff!!)

Of course, 2 years later Namco followed this notable effort up with the penultimate twist on the whole formula, the much-loved Galaga. The release of that game was very much a watershed moment, as the game went from being a simple "shoot-and-dodge-fest" to a much more careful game of strategy, timing, and dexterity. Anyone familiar with both titles can easily see the correlation between the two.

For me - a Galaga buff, and one who didn't even give that game a chance until much later - Galaxian is a game I very much want to like, but pulling it out after all these years - it is tough to love! I can still sit down and enjoy a few games of the original Space Invaders, it has got that "certain something" which still will entice me. Galaga is so well-balanced and figured out, that I don't think I need to start explaining why that game is still very relevant and playable. But Galaxian - it is forever relegated to being an in-between game. Not a bad game, just one which belongs firmly planted in the time period from whence it came. A good game, and absolutely a notable landmark that is representative of its place in history. And yeh, the title still sounds cool, you gotta give it that!

Make sure to download Headcase Games' original release of iFist while it is still FREE for the holidays - one day to go, and then we will crank the price back up!

(iTunes Link Here)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! The GG Shinobi

Retro Game of the Day! The GG Shinobi

Shinobi for Game Gear, Sega's OG portable System, released in 1991.

Oh, poor little Sega Game Gear. Don't know if you really qualify as "little," I mean the thing was rather huge especially if a small-ish kid was trying to play the thing. Even so, Sega's 8-Bit portable system has not been treated too kindly by history. Like the console Sega Master System which (indirectly) preceded it, this device has been largely forgotten and nearly escapes most modern lists when discussing retrogaming nowadays. Fear not, wistful Game Gear fans, for Retro Game of the Day has you covered...

In spite of the rest of the universe's neglect, some would say that the Game Gear actually sported some pretty decent software during its heyday. GG Shinobi would have to rank up there among the best it had to offer.

The game was basically a sized-down sequel to an earlier Sea Genesis 16-Bit hit, The Revenge of Shinobi. Big shoes to fill - especially since there was a significant hardware downgrade to contend with. Sega handled the job quite well, and rather than rehash what had come before, we got a whole new adventure.

I must shamefully admit at this point that I've never got too far with this game - in fact, many of the Shinobi games pretty much sent me home crying after a point. I think the only one I properly trounced was Revenge - but every other iteration (including this one) showed me the door. I guess I used up all my ninja skills on the Ninja Gaiden NES games - to be fair, I never owned a game gear myself, and so I didn't ever put in the appropriate time necessary to put GG Shinobi through its paces.

At any rate, the game closely resembles the Revenge mold with a few twists - round order is now selectable (Mega Man fashion) and when you beat a level, you free a captive ninja who will join your team. Each ninja has a unique special ability (Pink Ninja - ahem - can throw bombs and stick to ceilings, while Blue ninja is a master of the grappling hook, and so forth). This is very cool and mixes the whole Shinobi formula up quite a bit.

To wrap up, as I've never got too far through the game I can't promise that it's a completely fulfilling experience, but based on the game's pedigree I will give it the benefit of the doubt. In fact, when i have some free time (oh, in about 4 or 5 years from now.. you know, when I am in prison, or something) this and GB Zelda are near the top of my play-through list!

Make sure to download Headcase Games' original release of iFist while it is still FREE for the holidays!

(iTunes Link Here)

Monday, December 28, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Robotron:2084

Retro Game of the Day! Robotron:2084

Yep, today is Robotron:2084 by Vid Kids (aka Eugene Jarvis), published by Williams - arcade release in 1982.

So, this is one of the comes-around/goes-around classics of all videogamedom, I would assume that there aren't many people out there who've still not heard of Robotron but then again - what I don't know often surprises me.

"Save the last human family" - you are a warrior tasked with destroying wave after wave of robot enemies, and protecting/preserving the remaining humans in each level before they are destroyed by the same (killed, or turned into murderous mutants themselves). Each level is a single screen of nonstop mayhem, passed only when the last opponent has been eradicated.

The game utilized a revolutionary control layout - two 8-way joysticks, the left controlling movement and the right controlling aiming for your unlimited firepower. Few (if any) games have since made such a notable, yet simple, modification to a control scheme and been so noteworthy just in that fact.

Robotron is an extremely simple game on paper, in execution it is quite complicated and requires a combination of strict attention to the onscreen action, hyper-charged reflexes, and deft hand-eye coordination to pull off split-second movements in order to avoid death.

This is a game that chews players up and spits them out - a small, but devoted, fanbase still proclaims that this is one of the true "videogame tests of champions." I find it hard to disagree!

Make sure to download Headcase Games' original release of iFist while it is still FREE for the holidays!

(iTunes Link Here)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Super Bomberman 2

Retro Game of the Day! Super Bomberman 2

Today's game is the stupendous blast-a-thon Super Bomberman 2 by Hudson for the SNES, released in 1994.

Ah yes. What can be said of Bomberman? Well, as a self-proclaimed "retrogamer," I feel I have much to say, or at least much apologizing to do. I was very late to this one - I never played a Bomberman game until this one, and even then, not until a good year and a half ago (2007).

I'm not sure what to blame here. I think Hudson always sat strangely with me as a company (not for any good reason). "Bomberman" always seemed kind of like a goofy name. The character designs looked dull to me. On top of that, I rented the NES original way back in the late 1980s - the boxart looked pretty mean and intriguing. The game, when I loaded it up, was quite cutesy and rather not what I was expecting at all. So... take your pick.

Whatever the case, I have heard this game raved about for years and years as I got older - so at some point, I had dusted off my old SNES and stated picking up carts once again (good old eBay!) and Bomberman made it onto my short list of things to track down. 2 requirements: 1. Don't wanna spend an arm and a leg, and 2. It needs to have the multitap adapter. The deal I found on eBay had Super Bomberman 2 with the tap, for @ $30 so I ponied up - and it was mine!

So one night after an evening on the town, my friends and I settled in front of the famed Bomberman. Some of them had played before, but I was a newb. Anyway, the game was rather easy and didn't take long for me to get the gist (if anything, the most difficult issue was getting the &*@&*@#ing tap to work properly.. wha?) So basically, the game consists of you and up to 3 other buddies trying to blow each other away within a time limit. Pickup items to move faster, throw or kick bombs, increase your blast radius, and so forth. Everyone's main weapon is a plant-able bomb, which can kill anyone (you can die at your own hands! so be careful) Many of the different levels have themes and obstacles (conveyer belts, ice, transport tubes, etc) which can add to the frustration and difficulty. Drag the match on too long and the screen itself starts closing in to kill whoever is left!

Anyway, this is all detailing the multiplayer - there's always been a strong single-player component of these Bomberman games, or so I'm told. Personally I've yet to go there.

All things considered, I am still what you'd call a Bomberman noob - I have not really got much of the strategies down, I just like to get into the game with my buddies, have a few beers, and talk some trash while we try to blast one another to Kingdom Come. I have several other Bomber games to pick thru (they've released so may of them!) but for some reason #2 on the NES has my eye. And there are those who stick to the notion that Super Bomberman 1 on the SNES is the superior product. I suppose time will tell - I am excited to see what else this series has to offer. Even now, in these days of much more complicated gaming - Bomberman is still a great time!

Make sure to download Headcase Games' original release of iFist while it is still FREE for the holidays!

(iTunes Link Here)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! TomyTronic 3-D Planet Zeon

Retro Game of the Day! TomyTronic 3-D Planet Zeon

Greetings Programs! And Happy Boxing Day! And from the "File Under: Ghosts of Toys of Christmases Past," I give you - TomyTronic 3-D Planet Zeon! Released in 1983 by Tomy.

Ah would you look at those things? Back when I was a kid, videogames came in all shapes, sizes and colors. You had your big-mother arcade machines, your sit-down "cocktail machines," your home consoles, your home computers, and ten of course you had your portable systems. Prior to the days of GameBoy, "standalone" units were the norm (that being single-game devices) often utilizing some form of LED or LCD technology, as opposed to any kind of dot-matrix (again, such as the GameBoy). This means rather than proper raster graphics of any sort, you'd be looking at etched pictures illuminated by light-emitting diodes or shapes burned into liquid crystals or what-have-you.

The TomyTronic gimmick was two-fold - 1. The images were the LED style, but they got their light-source externally (so you'd need to stand under a strong source, such as a room's main light, or outside in the sunshine) to see it properly. Easy enough. Number 2 Gimmick was that the games were in THREE-DEE, BAY-BEE.

That's right - outfitted to resemble a pair of binoculars, you'd hold the unit up to your head and each eye would be confined to looking at its own little screen. Each screen was basically showing the exact same image as one another, though with minor appropriate differences in perspective foreshortening so as to give the false perception of witnessing depth. It worked rather well!

Zeon put you in control of an X-Wing lookalike, flying through a space trench and blasting away at the enemy armada. You'd need to dodge enemy fire and their craft, and be sure to obtain fuel or you'd crash and explode in the silence of space. And no one would ever know your fate. Your memory would be lost to the cosmos... to infinity. Forever.

The game was quite simple, all you could do was dodge and shoot - some rudimentary sound FX supplemented the action. It was a simple little game, as many of its peers were back in the day - and it was primarily intended for little kids to enjoy - but the game was quite fun for a spell, and the 3D effect was certainly unlike anything else available. We had one when I was a kid (I suspect it exists buried at the middle of a landfill somewhere) and I recently re-acquired a new set of the original 3 TomyTronic 3-D games for a few bucks on eBay. Good times!

Got yourself a new iPhone or iPod Touch as a present for the Holiday? Celebrate the Season with a download Headcase Games' original release of iFist while it is still FREE for the Holidays!

(iTunes Link Here)

Friday, December 25, 2009

iPhone App Game Development Blog #17

iPhone App Game Development Blog #17

Merry Xmas everybody!! (says your favorite iPhone-developing Jew!) Man, so it has been a few weeks since I have contributed a development blog, you'll have to pardon me faithful readers as I have been quite busy with life - aside from already-exhaustingly writing the Retro Game of the Day entries (yes, every day.. for REAL!) since like.. June, and working on developing and supporting our already-released and Work-in-Progress titles, I have been busy as well working with a small startup group (as I have alluded to several times in these notes). And trying to maintain some kind of semblance of a social life. And running a hefty amount of the behind-the-scenes bizdev that any company requires to be any kind of forward-looking. So, 2009 has been incredibly busy for me.

That all being said, if you've tried to be in touch with me and I've been slow to respond, I hope you can not take it too personally!

So, seeing as how it's been awhile since a development update of any sort, and it's also a good time to submit some kind of general year-end-wrap-up, let's get this all under way, then.

180 Development - Things are coming along quite well with our new title. It's been quite a rollercoaster of a Hellride, this one - but it has all been worth it! HcG has deployed a very playable beta to several testers at this point, and by and large the feedback has been extremely positive. I regret that we're not actually done with the title yet (believe me - I am quite ready to move on to something else!!!) but I'd rather take the time to polish and properly wrap up the game so it will be in an appreciable and fully enjoyable state, rather then be another developer who just poops something half-finished out. As has been the case for awhile now, our gameplay is quite polished and deep, but we have a good deal of the shell and such to fine-tune - and that all takes time. The biggest thing we need to nail is that first impression, so that when the player first gets their hands on it they are intrigued by that sense that there is something special in the game they are exploring. The follow-through, I am not at all worried about :)

iFist - Our debut title, released last August, has sadly been languishing on the iTunes Appstore since just past its release. This is no surprise, as the store is literally bubbling over with.. ahem, thousands of high-quality apps available for just a song! Still, we put out a good game (and complete experience) for our first title and HcG stands behind it. Most importantly, we learned a lot from the experience, which is all very useful in understanding how to handle our follow-up projects. So, all-in-all there are no regrets. For the holidays, we decided to cut the price from $1 to FREE in an effort to actually get our work seen and potentially appreciated by the masses. It's been a few days now since this all has been underway, and again, a big learning experience! After the price-change I spent a good 12 hours sending out press releases touting "get iFisted for the Holidays!" (you can imagine how well this has gone over). Actually, all things considered, it has been going really well. I would like to see >1000 downloads of our Free App before we return it's price (hiked wayyyy back up to one dollar!) We get lots of DLs each day, but as our programmer is outta town, I can't get an exact estimate - in the few days it has been free (and I have been working hard pimping it), I estimate we got a good couple hundred downloads.

HcG Bizdev - Things have been largely quiet, but making good contacts with some important connections, and this has increased in volume as of late. The most recent notable one was a fairly important sponsorship/cross-promotion opportunity which, though sort of experimental, might potentially be one of the big things which could really help us break out. It's really exciting! Also of note, we submitted 180 to the Indie Games Festival's mobile competition, as noted recently. Its got a screenshot up on their site, and at the very least this could hopefully help us to get some good press coverage! Because I will say this, getting coverage from any major source is no small feat!

I am going to pass on the usual "recent app reviews" as I don't want this entry to get to lengthy, so maybe I will do a two-fer and touch that in a couple of days. In the meantime, here's a

2009 Year-End Summation Extravaganja!

2009, the year a lot of things in my life changed. Headcase Games, rather indie/iPhone development in general, was not even a sparkle in my eye exactly one year ago. I was on shaky ground in my last studio job, this was not a surprise, but I was planning to get elsewhere anyway. Slowly but surely the wheels came off the wagon and my job actually ending at the ass-end of January 2009 very suddenly dovetailed quite nicely with the economy completely peacing itself it for a good long while. I was outta work and tired of the stress, and hooked up suddenly with some folks to get some small-time indie development going as I realized there weren't many other larger studios exactly welcoming more Production Artists around town. As this new development started up - and it was quite exciting - I got a call from a programmer who I worked with at my last job, he'd just got let go as well. "Ron, would you like to make iPhone games with me?" he asked, as I was flying down the 405 en route to meeting my other new partners. "Sure why not?"

Long story short, just as my new startup was petering out, Headcase Games started getting interesting. Ben and I had some meetings, he turned me onto iPhone (I didn't have one, though my girlfriend did - and I didn't pay it any mind!) He got me tuned into things like Flight Control, Doodle Jump, and Tower Defense titles. Pointed me at websites like TouchArcade and SlideToPlay. All of a sudden there was this crazy new world popping up, mobile gaming had an exciting new sector that didn't just mean Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.

We weren't fools, we didn't expect to hit the ground running and be basking in riches within two months' time. Ben had never programmed on a Mac before, for an iPhone, etc - and neither of us had really done the small-time development shtick (doing everything by yourselves!) Fortunately, we'd both been around the block long enough to figure out the basics and it wasn't really too rough to fill-in-the-blanks.

It's been a blast - for me, iPhone represents a return to a simpler period of gaming, when small teams pooled their resources and creatively wrestled to pull imaginative work out of rough brew. I love how there are so many iPhone games struggling to find their new innovation with all the hurdles to jump over - lack of financing, lack of manpower, lack of sponsorship/financial backing, huge competition, lack of a damnd D-Pad and buttons! But what it does have going for it, is huge. Such a strong, powerful and friendly sense of community (iPhone is a giant love-in!). Healthy competition. A chance for the little guys to take on the big guys on equal footing, in a way - we compete with the likes of Namco-Bandai and Konami (and even EA and Activision) in pricing and banner space. It's so wild - and its not really even that hard to compete. The iPhone touch-screen interface is scorned by many, but it also represents a brave new world and it's barely even been utilized in an interesting manner yet - it's a treasure chest just opening up now. I love that there's so many new ways to design games using these features that developers would not otherwise even consider, had they not been forced to act creatively in this way.

I could go on (as you know) so I will leave it at this, then; 2009 was the beginning of a crazy new adventure for Ben and I, and 2010 is going to be an even more exciting follow-through. Thanks for sticking by us and watching what we have been up to - we are "the little guy" and the support of every individual is absolutely what powers us at this point. Every time someone sends me an email "I love your game!" or a tweet "Retro Game of the Day makes me happy!" it really makes me feel like we are onto something here, and totally justified with this path we have chosen. Thanks again and let's see what happens next!

And Merry Christmas!!!

As usual, here's the part where I plug our iFist App and request that you download it and spread the word - especially while it is still free :) If you have friends who just got iPhone/iPod Touch for the holiday, tell them to grab this!

(iTunes Link Here)

Retro Game of the Day! Gyromite

Retro Game of the Day! Gyromite

Gyromite was one of the very first things a gamer would see when unwrapping their NES on a bright, snowy Christmas Morning back in 1985, the year the NES launched in the US. This game and Duck Hunt, a shooting game, were the pack-ins of the Deluxe NES Set.

A bit of a strange story here - The 8-Bit Nintendo Entertainment System was launching into a domestic marketplace which had very recently suffered a large crash of catastrophic proportions; Video games had been huge in the marketplace, multi-million dollar industry in the early 1980s, but like so many other things of the day (Cabbage Patch Kids, Transformers) it was considered a "fad," something which would be explosive for a short time before everyone lost interest and moved onto the next thing. As a result, lots of companies closed up, countless dollars were wasted, landfills were loaded up with unwanted discount cartridges that no one wanted. This was the world that the Nintendo was born into; and they wanted to rebuild a world where games would be here to stay in the wake of all of that, and they would be the King of the Hill.

Long story short - Nintendo needed a gimmick to get retailers to stock their product, as no one was keen on selling videogames anymore. They took their state-of-the-art brand new home console and partnered it with a fancy-shmancy looking "Robotic Operating Buddy," R.O.B., to sell as a Game and Robot combo. R.O.B. was the "Trojan Horse" desgined to get Nintendo's control deck into American kid's homes; Gyromite was the pack-in game you'd play with R.O.B.

And so, as a result we got a very strangely designed platformer, the very definition of "early Nintendo console" style. You controlled a professor in his lab, tasked with disarming dynamite from each level before the timer wound down (and everything exploded, violently killing everyone and everything you held dear!) In Professor Hector's way were deadly little critters called Smicks, whose touch would lose you a turn - though you could distract them with radishes (of course!) or kill them by squishing them with movable tubes.

As for these "movable tubes?" This is where things got interesting. You controlled the Professor's movements with your directional pad, but you could really only walk or climb - to control the movements of these red and blue tubes, making up part of the lab's structure, you'd need to send commands to R.O.B. who would then "activate" the tubes via his Rube Goldberg-ian setup - he would spin-up small tops attached to his base, and then drop the tops onto little "pedestals" also attached to his base. If a spinning top is on the pedestal, the tube goes down. If the top is off the pedestal, the tube returns to the up position. The player would need to make sure not to let the tops sit on the pedestals too long, or else the spinning momentum would wear down and the top would fall over (requiring some non-robot to replace it into its original holster). Sound confusing? It sure was!

Confusing, but not without novelty. R.O.B. was remarkable in that he was essentially wireless, receiving commands optically transmitted from the TV screen (though his output was relayed back through a wired control pad, sort of dampening the impressiveness of the feat). Most gamers tired of the whole ordeal after a few minutes, sticking R.O.B. on a shelf somewhere and handing the second controller to their buddy (or trying to do double duty with feet or something). The game was cute and its style endearing, but overall it became clear that Gyromite was just a 100% gimmick!

Still, this game is a very important footnote in gaming history, particularly in Nintendo's history. If not for these early unconventional "non-"games, there's a good chance we wouldn't have all got sucked under Mario's spell in the following years and the course of American Videogame History could have been drastically different. At the very least, R.O.B. has gone on to become an iconic reminder of those early days and what Nintendo was up against as it attempted to rewrite the script of what videogaming was supposed to mean in our culture.

Merry Christmas to the fans of Retro Game of the Day from your friends at Headcase Games! Celebrate the Season with a download Headcase Games' original release of iFist while it is still FREE for the holidays! No, there's no Robotic Operating Buddies in our game, but its still more fun to play than Gyromite (Stack-up, on the other hand, I cannot yet vouch for...!)

(iTunes Link Here)