On The End Of A Quill

On The End Of A Quill

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Video Game Ads from comic books of the early to mid 80s, Part 2

The second part of our look at some advertisements from the early to mid eighties.

Here Parker Brothers bring foul-mouthed Q*Bert to your Atari. The screenshot alone should be enough to have you rushing down to the shops to buy it.

This is an advertisement for Star Wars: Return of the Jedi tie-in game, Death Star Battle from 1984. A game where you fly the Millennium Falcon through an enemy force-field before taking down the evil Death Star. All in glorious Atari 2600 graphics! Now why doesn't George Lucas go back and tinker with games like these, they were surely not what he envisioned?

Power Lords is a game released in 1983 for the Magnavox Odyssey 2 and announced but never released for the Colecovision. It is based on the toy line and comic book that was around at the time. The toys were generally crap looking and the comic only lasted three issues, so that's why no-one remembers this flop series nowadays. This game is pretty rare I believe, being one of the last games released on the Odyssey.

The sequel to the much loved Pitfall by David Crane arrives for your Atari, Apple, IBM PC and from the Ad above, the mighty C64. Pitfall II Lost Caverns did away with cartoon representation of platforming and instead went with a picture of a man entering a cave. Every young boys dream in the early eighties I'm sure.

Long Ago, In the Distant Future?!? Joust comes to your home Atari systems. The arcade hit is so popular they don't need screenshots to show whats going on, as presumably everybody knows already how to steal giant eggs. For you see as it says... You Don't Play It... You Live It!

The Masters Of The Universe game from Mattel on Intellivision and Atari 2600. The Power of He-Man uses SuperGraphics to bring your battles with Skeletor to life, or as near was possible on the Intellivision anyways. You got a free comic when you bought this too if I remember.

Ghostbusters, the box-office smash hit movie gets converted to home systems by David Crane for Activision. Here we finally get some screen shots of the game in action for the Commodore 64. Brilliant game, brilliant movie, what more could you ask for?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Video Game Ads from comic books of the early to mid 80s, Part 1

I have a large selection of comics going back a number of years, and while thirty years ago kids seemed to be excited by remote control cars, offers of posters of John Travolta, or body building equipment?? Eventually video games start to creep into these pages. So the next number of posts will focus on the ads from the early eighties to the late nineties. It gives me an excuse to use my scanner (yes, it does work) and to look over some classic Swamp Thing and Legion of Super Heroes comics. Aah, the days when Marvel and D.C. didn't need an earth shattering event every six months to screw with continuity and generally mess up their universes.

Atari presents Mario Bros. from 1983. It promises exciting two-player action for your Atari 2600 and 5200 in an arcade port of some sort of plumbing simulator, it'll never catch on.

Wow, Frogger was so popular it had to be released on no less than 8 different systems! The Sega arcade hit from 1983 really could not be avoided (insert traffic reference here). At least they show an actual screenshot from the Atari 5200 version in this ad rather than a sneaky artists impression of what the game kind of looks like that some ads go for. Which of the eight versions is the best? Hell if I know! You wonder why there was a videogame crash!

Here is a spread for Frogger from a year earlier for your Atari Video Computer System. This contains the artists depiction of the game in action. This must have driven Frogger fans into a near frenzy. It's just like the arcade!! Coming Soon! Parker Brothers promised, with little indication that it would spawn (get it?) so many Froggers.

Burger Time was another conversion of an arcade hit, this time by Data East, that would be coming soon to pretty much any system you could possibly have connected to your monitor or TV. It does come with a health warning though, "Graphics vary by system". Why be a knight or a space marine, when you could be a chef flipping burgers?

Look, it's pretty straight forward, you either bump'em or jump'em, there is no third option. Race'em? Don't be stupid, where's the fun in that exactly? Mattel Electronics bring another Data East coin-op to the home with versions for both the Intellivision and the Atari 2600.

Mattel bring Advanced Dungeons and Dragons to your Intellivision. Ignore the archer with the impossibly wide stance trying to down the big green monster and look at that screenshot. Is that a snake? jewel? castle? wolf? Use your imagination... but I don't think the Intellivision control pad has enough buttons to keep up with my imagination!

The sequel to the first AD&D, Treasure of Tarmin would be released by Mattel not long after the first game, which was called Cloudy Mountain apparently. Again for this ad, ignore the archer surrounded by nasties, holding a bow that's taller than he is, and look at that in-game screen. Is that a spider? a Catoblepas? a blue polyhedral dice eating monster? Holy crap it's like Doom with arrows.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Alternative Software catalogue from the early 90s

Alternative Software released games across all the 8-bit and 16-bit computers in the late eighties and early nineties. (They are still going strong today, but seem to have an unhealthy obsession with rugby league games!) They released games for a budget price, usually new releases covering popular kids tv characters of the time, SuperTed, Fireman Sam, etc. Or re-released older games by other companies for the not unreasonable price of £2.99 or some for the shockingly higher price of £3.99.
Here is a look at a selection of games they had for sale in their catalogue all those years ago. I think I remember finding this in a copy of Popeye 3: WrestleCrazy. Popeye+Aliens+Wrestling=What could go wrong? Zzapp didn't think this game was up to much. It was a colourful if a little basic one-on-one fighter, one that I never loaded up more than a handful of times.

It invited you to join the Alternative Software Club for free, so you could get all the information on new releases. Plus if there was a game you wanted and couldn't find it in the shop, just send a cheque or postal order off for £2.99 and it would be sent straight out to you. Don't get too excited C16 owners, as there are only two games in this catalogue for you, Pheenix and Real Stunt Expert, oh well!

Strangely, with this being bundled late in the day of the C64s life with Popeye 3 and after they had carefully labelled the price for you to be able to order games off them. They seem to have made a mistake with the Swords and Sorcery game. Or did they? It shows itself here as being available for the Speccy, Amstrad CPC and the C64. (middle row, fourth from right) Now this game was released originally by P.S.S. in 84/85 for both the Spectrum and CPC. Games That Werent 64 list it as never having been released for the good old 64. See here - http://www.gtw64.co.uk/Pages/s/Review_Swords.php So is this just a mistake or did Alternative port a version over to sell for the commodore when they picked up the rights to the game? Unlikely, but I guess we can live in hope until the truth is revealed.

At the budget price and the quality of some of the re-issues, there was barely a C64 owner who didn't have at least one Alternative game in their collection. As for Popeye 3, maybe I should give it another whirl. In my youth I was blinded by the need to play WWF European Rampage Tour which was awful, and so easy to complete too. I mean Popeye 3 is at least better than the Amiga version isn't it? Score One for the 64!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Official Game Boy Players Guide

Released in 1992 this players guide from Nintendo came out right as the Game Boy was taking off and had a decent library of games. It was published by Nintendo of Europe, Nintendo Power in America released a similar guide for the Game Boy in 1991 but with different games. Coming in at nearly 150 pages it covers twenty six games under six categories - The Incredible Worlds of Mario (which you can see above) - Sports - Motor Mania - Comic Book Heroes - Movie Heroes - and Classics. Why Duck Tales are in Movie Heroes and Bugs Bunny is in Comic Book Heroes, I guess we'll never know?

The guide for each game gives plenty of clear screenshots and often will put multiple screens together to make a handy map for you to follow. There are lots of little illustrations on the pages, the Japanese illustrators would mostly go on to draw guides to pokemon games, which I'm sure gave them a bit more freedom than drawing little F1 cars and 18 holes of a golf course! Here you see Duck Tales, Ghostbusters 2 and Nintendo World Cup. All are scaled down versions of their NES cousins. Nintendo World Cup on the NES is still one of my favourite games.

R-Type got conversion to the Game Boy and this guide shows you how to beat its six levels before warning you that you will have to play the levels over again only this time much tougher. The Bydo Empire still LIVES! The Turtles Fall of the Foot Clan guide takes you up to stage 4-1, but there is still three more levels and bosses to go after that, maybe they thought no one would get there? WWF Superstars is covered in the Sports section of the guide, because back then it was real! There are only five superstars to choose from (two of which have now passed away) but they all pretty much have the same moves. You really need to invest in a link cable to get the most out of this one.

Here are some pics from the guide for Golf. Along with the neat little picture of the layout of each hole you get some advice on which club to use and where. It's like having your own little caddie.

Batman was one of my favourite games on the Game Boy back then, part platformer part shoot'em'up. The guide here dedicates eight pages to showing you how to gain victory, as you can see from the yellow box. I guess the editor preferred this game over the Turtles.


At the back of the book they give the lowdown on some other games you can pick up for your Game Boy. I played the Terminator 2 game a lot too.

Here are some more games, along with these there are guides to Gremlins 2, Tennis, The Chessmaster and lots of others. Apologies (again) for the bad quality pics, I was going to scan the pages but the guide has one rigid spine on it and I just went ahead and used my camera. When I have more time I'll scan them all up properly. Although I've promised that now a few times, I guess I better get my act together! If there is any particular game our page you want scanned, then just let me know.

At the very back of the guide there are two page spreads showing Nintendos home consoles. This being around the time of the death of the NES and the dawning of the SNES. There is also advertisements for other products, who wouldn't want a hip pouch for their Game Boy? and this, the Nintendo Entertainment System Players Guide. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of this guide, nor have I seen much about it on the internet either. Have you got a copy?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

L.A. Noire

So the big game out at the minute is L.A. Noire, it’s out two weeks at this stage. I’m finished my exams, (that’s where I was!) and so I decide to purchase a game on the Friday to tide me over for a couple of weeks. I have a mountain of games to get through but a new game seemed like the just reward for the previous few months’ efforts. I was led to believe this game was the next big thing, hours of solid cop/detective work in a GTA style world within the setting of 1940s Los Angeles, what could go wrong?

You play as Cole Phelps as he rises through the ranks of the LAPD, from patrol, to traffic, to homicide, to vice and then the arson desk. That’s a demotion from vice due to your bad behaviour and the opportunism of your partner Roy Earle, but you get to play as Jack Kelso, a private investigator for the District Attorney for most of this desk, until the end of the game looking into the Suburban Redevelopment Fund. Cole is played by Aaron Staton, best known for his role in the series Mad Men. Quite a few of the characters are also in Mad Men, I’ll be honest I’ve never watched it. And a number of faces are familiar from movies and T.V. shows, the graphics really are impressive and the facial expressions are brilliantly done and are very life like. The voice acting is similarly top notch, aided by the good scripting of each case and the interlinking flashbacks and newspaper headlines; at least it shows that they took the storytelling element seriously. It borrows heavily from the films and crimes of the era, but what game doesn’t borrow elements from something else, RPGs have been peddling the same abandoned youth with patchy memory story for thirty years. People seem to prefer a twist on an old formula rather than anything new.
So why, after three evenings of playing and 91.4% game completion do I feel…, well, feel nothing?

I bought my copy in HMV, it’s a fiver cheaper and I reasoned any extra mission downloads would amount to an hour or twos play so why not get them all later in some sort of game of the year edition. Sneaky publishers! But as I flew through the cases and the discs, (the Xbox 360 version) I was wondering if I was missing something, would the cases be that different if I replayed them to try and get a five star ranking? I was collecting all the newspapers; I’d seen nearly all the landmarks from zipping up and down the map answering all the calls from dispatch. Only the golden film reels eluded me on the first play through. I never had to replay a scene more than twice, I didn’t realise you could skip scenes until I got held up while being chased by a bulldozer in a trench, but I got the hang of that one in the end. Where was this great game that was being lauded in the press?

I’ll explain what I got out of the game after I’d finished it in a little over twenty hours and sit currently with thirty hours on the clock, the last few hours spent running around looking for film reels and revisiting the odd case to stave off boredom, you know where the clues are to be found and can get your partner to do all the driving, leaving you with the interrogating to do and not much else really. I will be spoiling some of the plot, but if you have the game and haven’t finished it at this stage you’re probably staring at the ‘insert disc 2 now’ screen, and I’ll only be doing you a favour. And if you are yet to pick the game up? Well maybe it will all help you to decide.
The game consists of this: cut scene-crime scene-look for clues-ask questions-cut scene-driving-cut scene-look for more clues while someone sits on a chair-ask more questions-driving again- fighting/shoot a guy in the head-cut scene…… repeat. Sorry, I’ve just ruined the game for you there. The fighting isn’t Street Fighter IV, but it works. The shooting isn’t Gears of War, but it works. The driving isn’t Burnout, but it works. The questioning isn’t Phoenix Wright, but it wor…. No wait, it doesn’t. What’s the difference between Doubt and Lie in an accusation, really? And why does Cole say things that have nothing to do with the line of questioning you thought you were pursuing or just outright says things that you don’t want him to say and never expected him to say that break off conversations.

It can’t get away from its GTA roots either. The city is a good representation of the time, but you can’t do anything in it. You can drive 95 cars around, but they mostly look the same, unless I’m missing some gems, I’ve driven 68 of them so far. When I say driven, I mean hopped in and out of while in a car park. To find the golden film reels you will need to be on foot and searching all the little areas you can’t drive to, tables in parks, construction sites, shops in the bus depot etc. I’ve already criss-crossed the huge map in a vehicle looking for land marks, damned if I’m doing it again on foot just for film reels, seeing as you can’t do anything else on foot. You can’t talk to anyone, your partner will be lost somewhere on the map and you can’t answer a call unless in a car and select it from the map screen. But why would you bother, after solving the 40 street crimes, to replay them. They last five minutes and end with you shooting the criminal in the head (most of the time).

It’s really the story that keeps you plugging away at the game. And yes the story is good enough to warrant you playing on, except for the part where your character, Cole, decides to leave his wife and kids for Elsa, the singer in The Blue Room nightclub. That came a bit out of the blue, surely a few scenes to explain this possibility earlier on would have helped, did I just miss them? I played over the earlier cases but it didn’t really shed any light on it. Then the ending, the ending… killing Cole was a bit of a cop out and showing that the cause of the big intertwining stolen morphine/redevelopment storyline was all Coles fault for being a dick in the army, it seemed like a clever twist just for the sake of having a clever twist, it wasn’t needed.

Phew, rant over. Traipsing around L.A. it seems like a missed opportunity within the game that certain places aren’t used. Then again Rockstar could just be waiting to release case after case to help get some longevity (and money) out of the game. I’ll hold off, the only thing I downloaded was a suit for Cole to wear. And that didn’t seem to make a blind bit of difference to how Cole played. If you want to get into a story driven game and have twenty odd hours to kill, L.A. Noire comes heartily recommended. If you’re looking for a sixty hour Fallout, Oblivion, GTA style game then this isn’t for you. I’ll still give it a solid 6 out of 10 though.

‘Shut up Bekowsky’!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mean Machines and Sega Pro review compilation mags

Sega Pro guide to Sega games Vol.4
Mean Machines tries to cover every Sega game
Here we have a quick look at two magazines that released a bumper collection of a year of their Sega reviews. Sega Pros The Complete A-Z of Sega Games from 1995 and Mean Machines, The Essential Sega Guide from 1993. The A-Z covers the early days of the Saturn (Victory Goal and Street Fighter the Movie both score 88%!) and the last death throes of the Game Gear and Mega CD, plus two arcade reviews for some reason. While editors Richard Leadbetter and Julian Rignall do their best to review over 350 Sega games between them, on the MegaDrive, Mega CD, Game Gear and Master System for the Essential Sega Guide.

Here are three pages from the A-Z, Brian Lara can still play a good game of cricket, has there even been a cricket game to match it since? I have never come across Revengers of Vengeance on the Mega CD but it looks interesting. Plus a look at AfterBurner on the 32X, great game. I will put up all the 32X reviews from this book when I get round to it. Eight games in all. (I know, I know!)
Ristar, a cut down but playable version for the Game Gear. Why hasn't poor Ristar been given a recent outing on DS or something? Indy 500 looks rather nice. The other arcade game reviewed was Rail Chase 2 and it got a Proscore of 85!

Considering they had so many games to get through, 374 in total, Richard and Jazza don't do too bad a job. The Game Gear gets the short end of the stick with six reviews per page. The Mega CD pics make it look even grainier than it actually was. While some of the pics don't even match the game being reviewed. Look at the screen shots accompanying Ghouls n Ghosts and Golden Axe Warrior on the Master System? Mistakes like this and some odd choices of font for the game names makes it look a very hurriedly done book in places.

Pit-Fighter 70%?? 'Amusingly Thuggish' are not the words I'd use to describe it. Poor Indy only scrapes a 47% but then Jack Nicklaus out does it with 42%, I didn't think it played too bad a game of golf, but Jaz is right it's no PGA Tour II.

John Madden games sold by the bucket load back then with each new year, and it improved every year too. Not like the phoned in updates you get today because it's the only game on the market. According to Mean Machines, '92 is the version you should pick up, getting a massive 95%. Rich calls Dick Tracy 'a pleasant change from the norm' and handing it 80%. The norm being a good game I presume! At the back of the book are a number of pages showing upcoming releases, if the hundreds of games reviewed that you could buy just didn't do it for you.