Thursday, December 14, 2017

World's Smallest Tiny Arcade: Ms. Pac-Man

Recently I met some family at Cracker Barrel for dinner with my family. I can never go into that place with my kids without buying something in their store. I usually could care less for the store and just let my wife and kids rummage through everything, but on this trip I saw something that caught my eye...a Tiny Arcade.

At first I thought this was just a novelty keychain, then I saw the hole in the plastic and the "Try Me!" starburst on the packaging. I had to remove the plastic tab from the rear battery compartment and then the game loaded right up. The classic coin-op title screen and gameplay...all squished down onto a very small screen.

This whole arcade machine is only about two inches tall by one inch wide. Yes, this thing is small. To my surprise when the game turned one, the marquee lit up! The screen is a nice, bright, LCD screen. There wasn't much blur if any by Ms. Pac-Man or the ghosts. The game played fine, something that I wasn't expecting. The little joystick is more of a rounded nub than an actual joystick, but felt it had a micro switch inside. It was really responsive, something that is needed if you are going to play a game such as this...especially on such a small screen. Of course the buttons weren't needed during gameplay, but those too seemed firm and responsive. The music and sound was spot on and had a good volume. There wasn't a switch to control the volume or the brightness of the screen, but it doesn't seem as if those are needed.

The best part of this is the fact that I introduced my youngest daughter to Ms. Pac-Man. She actually really enjoyed the game and I had a hard time taking it from her when it was time for bed. I believe this Tiny Arcade was $19.99, but that might have been a marked up being that it was in a Cracker Barrel store. Your mileage may vary if you can find this at local retail or online. Overall this is still more a novelty type item than an actual handheld game, but the quality of this pleasantly surprised me. I believe there are a few more classic arcade games in the series, including Pac-Man and Space Invaders.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New Acquisitions: November 2017

Going into the month of November I didn't plan on picking up so many games...but here I am with a stack of new games...and for a change most of them aren't retro.

I was hoping to selfishly pick up a game or two during the Black Friday sales, but all month long I kept finding deal after deal. Sometimes I go hunting for the deals, but this time around the deals found me. Literally ever retail store I stopped in I seemed to find a good clearance. It if wasn't a sale or clearance in the store, it was online, such as I hope to have some downtown around the end of December that I can actually enjoy playing some of these!

When Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack was first announced, I didn't think it would get a US release. Since the Switch is region free, I pre-ordered the Japanese version through Stefano Bruni on Facebook. At least it came with some cool extras. I'll have to show those off in a later post. I've never played the 3DS game this is based on, but from all the videos I watched it looks like a ton a fun. Now that it's been released in the US, I'm debating trying to sell or trade my sealed Japanese copy. Still undecided at this time.

Sine Mora EX is a horizontally scrolling shmup with a twist. Instead of having a life bar, you lose time when your plane takes damage. It's a challenging game for sure and one I somewhat enjoyed when it was originally released digitally in the Xbox Live Arcade. When I heard it was getting a physical release I was intrigued, especially with the Switch version. Problem was I couldn't find the Switch version...anywhere. Sold out online and most stores didn't carry it. I almost caved and bought the cheaper PS4 version, then I found a listing on of all places. It was $19.99 as well, $10 cheaper than most retailers. For $20 I'm sold...but more than that is a waste of money in my opinion.

This was a must have. Both of my young daughters have really showed a lot of interest in Mario lately, thanks to the many hours they've put into Super Mario 3D World on the Wii U. I've been waiting for this game to be released for several months. I had a Amazon Prime membership that was about to expire so I pre-ordered this at the last minute and save about $18 off the regular retail price of $59.99. Worth every penny. Already towards the end of the game. So much fun, hard to put down. Even picked up the Peach and Bowser amiibos for the game.

The Switch is quickly become a home for indy and small developers. Looking to expand my Switch library, I came across the news that Retro City Rampage DX was getting a physical Switch release. I'd seen the game before on other platforms, but never really paid it much attention. After figuring out what type of game it actually was, I jumped in on grabbing the regular version of the game from Vblank. Haven't made it very far in the game yet, but now I can see what all the rage was about this game.

The one Black Friday game that I managed to pick up for myself. This is my first 360/Xbox One hybrid game I've purchased. I've only played a very small bit of Red Dead Redemption and I've never played the zombie DLC so this was an easy buy...especially for $8 at Walmart.

Not a purchase during the month, but my Kickstarter edition of Friday the 13th: The Game finally arrived in late November. I finally got the game installed over the weekend so I'm hoping to give it a try later this week or during the weekend. Despite some of the negative press the game has received, I'm hopeful it will still be fun to play.

I had heard that Cuphead was getting a "physical" release, but I couldn't remember what the release date was. I was in Best Buy over the weekend and I stumbled across the last copy. By now I had heard this was one of those releases with a digital code inside, but it only set me back $10 as I had a few dollars left on an old birthday giftcard and a $5 Reward Zone gift certificate. Got it installed the same time I installed Friday the 13th and looking forward to some run and gun fun.

I knew I shouldn't have signed up for's newsletter. Ever since I did I've been enticed to take advantage of their sales and exclusives...such as this limited edition of Caveman Warriors. The gameplay looked fun and something that I could possibly get my wife to play with me too, so I got in on their early pre-order.

For $12 how could I pass this game up? Originally I found it for $15 at Best Buy, but when I took the card to the cashier they couldn't find the actual game in their security camera. A few days later I found it on so I did that store pickup option and grabbed it the very next day.

I absolutely loved this trilogy on the 360 and I've been wanting to at least re-play the first game...if not all of them. I'd rather play FPS games on the Xbox One, but I thought I could make an exception here.

I love a good clearance, but Target stores in my area haven't had many clearanced games lately. All that changed recently when I found Yooka-Laylee for $9 and Yakuza Kiwami for $15. I've heard good things about both. I bet my youngest daughter will want to play Yooka-Laylee.

Speaking of clearance, I found Runbow for $9 at my local Walmart store. This is a game that I normally wouldn't have bothered with, but I rarely pass up a clearanced game for the Wii U. That console has quickly become one of my favorites. So much so I've pondered building a complete library?

Last but not least is my first Japanese PS2 shmup. I set up several searches on eBay for Japanese shmups and recently I found a US seller that had this game for about $15. Really excited about sitting down w/ this one.

I also grabbed a few other things that I didn't bother to picture as they were gifts for my youngest, Winnie, 6. I grabbed her the New Super Mario Bros. 2 Nintendo 2DS bundle and Super Mario Maker for the 3DS as her main Christmas present. Looking forward to Christmas morning when she can finally open those games. The waiting truly is the hardest part!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Adventures of Dino Riki (Nintendo)

Adventurs of Dino Riki
Hudson Soft
Hudson Soft, 1987

By all definitions, the Adventures of Dino Riki is a shmup. The screen scrolls vertically and you manuever your character around the screen, destroying anything that gets in your way. 

I remember this game making me all sorts of frustrated when I was younger due to it's difficulty level. I recently sat down to play it again after a very long time to see if it was just me and my skills back then or if this game truly is a pain in the butt.

You take control of a little caveman, Dino Riki. He has the ability to move left and right, as well as up and down on the screen. One button lets him jump while the other lets him attack. You start off the game with rocks. As you can imagine these rocks don't offer much in the way of firepower and have a limited range. You can pick up icons in the game that will boost your weapon. The axe is the next weapon in line, then a boomerang and finally a torch. 

The axe flies forward like the rock, but goes a greater distance. The boomerang has a wider range of attack as it doesn't stick to a straight line like the rock or axe. The torch is the most powerful weapon and when used it covers an even great area, spread out in front of your character. Caution though as when you are hit you are downgraded one weapon. Get hit while you have the rock and you lose a life.

There are other items you can pick up in the game that will help aid you on your journey. Wings give you limited flight and speed boosts do just what they should. I never cared for the boosts however as it seemed as if the game already ran at a faster speed that I was comfortable with. Speed up your character too much and it's near impossible to control, especially if you have to navigate your way through a level by jumping.

The gameplay in itself isn't bad. Again, it's basically your standard fare vertically scrolling shmup game. What makes the game so difficult, at least to me, is the fact that there are sections where you have navigate your character by jumping on lillypads or ledges. Keep in mind the screen is always scrolling so you can stand still very long before you have to make your next jump. Get too close to the top of the screen and you can't see where you are jumping to, nor can you see the oncoming enemies or their bullets.

If you could take away the jumping aspect of the game I may find it to be more enjoyable to play, but as is it's very difficult. I'm sure there are Game Genie codes that you could use to make yourself invincible, but I've never checked. 

The game has 4 worlds, with the first three (thankfully) having checkpoints. The last level is very long and if you die at any point, you must start over from the beginning. At the end of each level is a boss, usually a dinosaur or other giant monster. If you have a controller with turbo, you'll find the game is a little easier. However this game should offer the best of gamers a real challenge. Not one of my favorite Hudson games, but still a worthy addition to anyone's NES library.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Friday the 13th: The Game - Kickstarter Edition

Just before Thanksgiving, a small package from Limited Run games arrived in my mailbox. Inside was the Kickstarter version of Friday the 13th: The Game for the Xbox One. Like many Kickstarter campaigns I've previously backed, I had no idea if this one would ever see the light of day. Delay after delay the game kept being pushed back...well at least this version. I could've walked into any Target or Walmart and purchase the retail version of the game and saved money. So what exactly did I get for my $75 pledge?

The game shipped in a cardboard sleeve, which looks like an old VHS rental. They also tossed in a poster, a sticker of Jason and a logo magnet. I think those were added because of all of the delays, but I'm not 100% sure.

The cardboard sleeve is pretty cool, but when the campaign said the game would have exclusive cover art I just assumed the game case would have different art, not a sleeve. Oh well, at least it's laid out well.

The game case itself appears to be the standard retail changes. It does say on the cover that it does include an exclusive bloody Jason skin & counselor clothes pack. I haven't installed the game yet, but hope to do that over this Thanksgiving holiday.

The included folded poster is small, but I do like the art work on both sides. I don't know what I'll do with this, but again its a nice included freebie.

I should also mention that I received a free digital code for the game, but since I knew my physical copy was coming I decided not to ever use the code. I believe my name should also appear in the Thanks portion of the game credits. Again, I haven't played the game so I haven't seen my own name.

Overall did I get my money's worth out of the Kickstarter? I've got to say "no". If my pledge helped in any way get this game created, then cool...however was there really any chance this game wouldn't get created? I really don't know how to feel about video game Kickstarters. I've backed three others that are way past their delivery date and while two of the campaigns has been good to update everyone (Bloodstained & Henshin Engine) the other I haven't heard from in awhile (Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs).

After this debacle I'm not sure I'll be backing any further video games on Kickstarter. Oh well, time to start the long download so I can hopefully dive into the game tonight. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Zombie Apocalypse (PSN / XBLA)

Zombie Apocalypse
Nihilistic Software
Konami, 2009

I'm running a little behind this Halloween season finding games to play, but for some reason this twin stick shooter from 2009 (available on both XBLA and PSN) came to my mind. According to the Achievements I've unlocked in the game, I don't believe I've played this since 2009!

At the beginning of the game you get to select one of four playable characters. As far as I can tell, all four play and control the same. Your basic weapon is an assault rifle that has unlimited ammo and your secondary weapon is a chainsaw. The chainsaw has two forms of attack...standard "hack 'n slash" and execution. The latter attack grants you more scoring multipliers, but leaves you open for attack.

The left analog stick controls your character while your right analog stick fires your weapon. You can wield your chainsaw using either the left or right triggers. The left puts the chainsaw in execution mode, holding it above your head until you drive it right down onto an enemy. Holding in the right trigger you can run around with your chainsaw running at full speed.

Periodically other weapons will drop that have limited ammunition. Shotgun, twin pistols, molotovs and mini chain guns have all dropped during my gameplay.

Survivors will also appear from time to time and if you can defend them while a helicopter flies in above and drops a rescue ladder, you'll be rewarded with a large chuck of points as well as a bait. The bait is none other than a stuffed teddy bear. Throw it and you'll hear the beat say "I'm full of love...and C4"...then explodes. These come in handy when you've overwhelmed or if you need to divert the attention of a horde while you are trying to rescue someone.

I should also mention that while you don't have a life bar, it's not instant death if you are touched. You can spin the left analog stick if a zombie(s) grapples you and if you're quick enough you can escape their grasp.

There are 7 different areas and a total of 55 levels. You'll fight in a graveyard, an airport, a small town, carnival, vehicle junkyard and an industrial plant. Each level has a hazard of some type that if you can get zombies close enough to and shoot them into that direction results in more points and a bloody death.

As you advance through the game the difficulty ramps up. You are faced with hordes of special zombies mixed in with the regular zombie fodder. They may be big construction workers that you can escape their grapple, or an old granny zombie that flings knives at you. Get hit with a knife and it's instant death.

The game plays and feels like Robotron 2084...with zombies. It's a fun game in short spurts and I'm sure it's even more fun playing co-op or online. My Xbox Live subscription isn't active, but I can almost guarantee that this game may be getting some play this evening for Halloween.

Despite the different playable characters, different weapons and zombie types in the game I find that there just isn't enough in this game to keep my attention. Once you get 15 levels into the game it's just more of the same. The daylight may have been replaced with night where you have limited sight, but it's still the same game. If you like twin stick shooters, zombies or bloody games then this may have something to offer you, otherwise the game just falls into obsecurity in a crowd of better horror themed games. The game did get a sequel, Zombie Apocalypse: Never Die Alone, but it doesn't appear to be an active download in the Xbox store.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

d_skin Protective Disc Skins

Growing up in the age of video game cartridges, you really didn't worry too much about damaging your game. Yes, you had to keep the cartridge contacts clean and I can remember the various cleaning kits that used to be on the market.

Then ushered in the age of video games being on compact discs. While this afforded many advantages when it came to the games, it also brought along new worries of your games being damaged easier.

Long before I ever heard of disc rot I was worried about scratching my discs to the point where the game would mess up or just not load all together. When I started down the road of importing games from Japan for my Sega Saturn for instance, I paid good money for some of the titles I still own in my library. While I'm generally really careful with my games, I was still worried about scratches and was looking for something to help me out.

I honestly don't remember where I first came across the company called d_skin (this was before social media was the norm), but they had a product that I thought was too good to be true. Protective Disc Skins, a piece of plastic that had a semi-rigid plastic edge that clipped onto your discs. If the protection was enough, d_skin claimed you could leave the skins attached to the disc while you played it in your DVD or game console. Was this true? I had to find out for myself.

The skins were sold in various quantities at most major retail stores. I only have a few so I'm guessing I must've bought a 5 pack when I first tried them out for myself. I really thought this product was too good to be true. I had to give it a try first hand for myself to see if they lived up to how they were advertised.

I don't know of all of the skins had a bright, neon orange edge to them or not. Upon taking the sleeve out of the packaging I thought it looked pretty cheap and fragile. The plastic in the center does appear to be thin and if not careful I would imagine would wrinkle pretty easy. There is a hole in the center that perfectly aligns with the center of the disc. The edges are about as thick as a CD and easily clip onto the edges of the disc. That's it. That's all they do...they clip onto your disc. 

Once attached to your disc, I have to say the skin looks pretty good. I would have preferred the edges being a differnet color...white, black or just clear...but the orange has grown on me. The skin comes off just as easy as it went on, but I don't see it just falling off the disc on it's own.

I've used these skins on both DVDs and games and in each case found zero issues. The DVD movie played fine in a few different players and the Saturn and PS2 games I tried played w/ the skin with no problems.

Truth be told I really forgot about this product. At the time I discovered them I didn't own many games that I deemed necessary to protect. Like I said early, I'm pretty careful with my stuff and just didn't see the need. However I recently came across some games in my library w/ these skins on and it got me to wondering if I should invest in more of these or something similar. I've added several pricey (import) games to my ever growing library that I would be devastated if something were to happen to them.

So, what's your take on this product? 1) have you ever seen them before? 2) If yes, how well did they work for you? If no, would you be up to using a product like this? I'm not sure if d_skin is even in business anymore. I could only find a few Amazon sellers that had this product in stock so I'm going to guess it didn't sell very well and has fallen to the wayside. Would you use something like this on your more expensive disc based games in your collection? Why or why not?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Demon's Crystals (Sony Playstation 4 / PSN)

Demon's Crystals
Badland Games
Badland Games, 2017

I'm not a huge fan of digital download games, but while setting up my PSN account on my somewhat newly acquired PS4, I browsed the store before I powered down the console to see what games were available. I ran across Demon's Crystals in the sale category. It was only $2.49 and when I realized it was a twin stick shooter, I decided to give it a try. Having the 1 TB model PS4 I'm not as concerned about downloading games as I am on my Xbox One that has a smaller (already full) hard drive.

The game plays like your average twin stick shooter. Think Smash TV or Robotron 2084...just controlling a demon girl with a graveyard or castle level design. You get the chose from 1 of 4 different characters...

I initially chose to play as Adora, hence her level is much higher than the others. At the time I didn't realize your character would level up as you play the game. I find this to be a nice addition as it'll add to the replayability of the game. I noticed there was a trophy/achievement for getting all 4 girls to at least level 30.

Each "world" consists of 10 levels, with each level having 3 rounds. The first level takes place in a graveyard. The goals for each round vary, from destroying a set amount of enemies to collecting a set amount of diamonds to both requirements.

The left analog stick controls your character, while the right analog stick fires your weapon. If you've played any twin stick shooters, then this control scheme should be familiar to you. During the game, additional weapon icons will appear. I picked up spread guns, homing bullet guns, rocket launchers and a freeze ray. Other items will also randomly appear such as screen clearing attacks like lighting or hellfire as well as hour glasses that give you additional time to meet your objective(s).

The environment on each level is somewhat destructable. I'm not sure the purpose of this, other than each destroyed building, etc. nets you a small amout of experience points. Once you destroy say a tombstone, the rubble is still there and you must navigate your character around this otherwise you will run into it and your motion will halt.

The 10th level was a boss fight. The first boss (and only boss I've fought thus far) was pretty cool. Not overally hard once I figured out his attack pattern.

As you kill your enemies, you are awarded a certain amount of experience. I found as I leveled up my character I was plowing through the enemies in the 1st world. However the difficulty took a big step forward with world 2, a castle.

Demon's Crystals doesn't really bring anything new to the table. However at only $2.49 (normally $4.99) during the month of October (at least on the Playstation Network), the theme fit the month of October. My 6 year old daughter enjoyed playing the game too, though the controls did throw her for a loop a bit.

The game offers co-operative play online, as well as a survival mode where you compete to see who can stay alive the longest and rack up the highest score. I haven't tried those modes yet, but I do plan on checking them out. In the mean time, I'm going to keep coming back to this game - trying to level up the other characters. This is one of those games that is perfect to play when you don't have a lot of time to sit in front of the TV. If you're a fan of twin stick shooters, you may want to give this one a look.