July 20, 2006
Perhaps one of the worst kept secrets in the industry right now is the that Microsoft is working on a portable iPod-type device. Well I managed to find out from a reliable source that tomorrow Microsoft will officially announce the existence of the Zune. I don't know all the details of the device, but I have some pretty solid info on a few details.
First and foremost, the Zune will not be a portable game playing device. Once again, no games. Its core function will to play music and videos as well as provide "social networking capabilities". So those of you waiting for a Microsoft PSP/DS device will have to keep waiting.
Other tidbits -- the Zune will tie directly into Live Anywhere (I guess that's the "social networking capabilities" functionality), it will come with a 30GB hard drive, have WiFi capabilities, come in three different colors, and should be on the market by this November.
Look on the news wires tomorrow for more information and the official existence of this device.
September 27, 2005
I was wondering what was taking Microsoft so long from shoving the Halo brand down everyone's throat and in every medium possibly imagined. Sure we have Halo action figures and the upcoming Halo movie but where is the other pointless Halo crap? Where are the Halo Colorforms Playsets, the Halo Coloring Books, and the Halo Crunch Cereal? I mean if in this day and age we can have a Mr. Potato Head Darth Tater why can't we have a Master Chief Magic 8 Ball?
Well, at least we're one step closer as mobile phone game publisher In-Fusio has announced a three-year licensing deal with Microsoft to release new mobile phone "applications" based on Bungie's Halo first person shooter game. According to the press release the first Halo products will be available later this year and will include mobile games and other mobile products such as ringtones.
In-Fusio is no stranger to creating mobile phone "applications" based upon existing game licenses as they have created Age of Empires II, Zoo Tycoon 2, and Tomb Raider: Elixir of Life for mobile phones. I can only imagine how much fun a quick-paced FPS will be to play on my cell phone!
September 8, 2005
Every week I make sure to check out the weekly game releases. What's really amazing is even though I read about 50 gaming web sites a day, subscribe to every gaming magazine imaginable, and even watch G4 (ouch, it hurts!) every week there are a couple of games released that I've never heard of before. Carl the Caveman? Danny Phantom: The Ultimate Enemy? NHL 2K6? Okay, I think I've heard of that last one before...
But one game which is being released total and took me for surprise was Rebelstar: Tactical Command for the Game Boy Advance. This little hidden gem was developed Codo Technologies, the very same people who developed X-Com and Laser Squad Nemesis for the PC! How on earth did a portable version of X-Com go hidden for so long? It's like waking and find out that it's Christmas in the middle of July!
Now I know nothing about how this game plays, and I can't find a single posted review, but from what I've been reading on the Rebelstar forums sounds pretty promising. It sounds like, well, the lovechild of X-Com and Laser Squad Nemesis born onto the Game Boy Advance ... and that sounds pretty good to me! And the best part is that it retails for only $19.99, what a deal!
Excuse me while I run down to my local EB and get a copy right away. Expect a full review on my next podcast and if anyone else gets a copy please feel free to post your thoughts of the game play here or on the forums. It's Christmas in September!
July 7, 2005
Summer is usually slow for the world of gaming, but this has to be the slowest summer in recent memory. And with no big news articles expected in the upcoming months I hereby declare this summer as "The Summer of Retro Gaming” in which I will regularly focus on classic games and systems of the past. And to kick things off I bring you the Portable Video Game King … Football!
Yes, that’s right … Football. That's it. That's the entire name of the game. Football. Not "NFL Football" or "Smash'em Up Football" ... just Football. It might not sound very impressive but of all of the handheld game systems this is perhaps the most recognizable and most beloved handheld game systems ever made.
For those of you out there who don't remember life before the Gameboy you actually had to buy your portable games one at a time with one game per system. In the late 70s through the 80s hundreds of these systems were released, each centering around a single game and the "graphics" on these systems usually consisted of nothing more than blinking LED lights. And let me tell you ... we loved these things!
As for Football, it was one of the very first handheld games ever released. Originally released in June of 1977, Football was released by Mattel (it was their second handheld release, the first being Auto Race) and was sold only through Sears stores (yes, in those days you actually had to buy your video games at Sears). Initially Football game sales started out slow, with Sears selling only a few thousand copies a week, but once school started and kids starting bringing these red blinking demons into the classrooms, sales took off. By February 1978 Mattel was selling 500,000 units ... a week! These things were everywhere and were being played by everyone -- if you were alive in the 70s you played Football.
When it first came out in 1977 Football cost around $35. Adjusted for inflation Football would cost $110 today! And you think the PSP is expensive?
As for the game itself, everything on the screen was portrayed by a red blip -- you, the ball, your players, the other players, everything. The controls were simplicity itself, up, down, and forward, that's it. The goal, what else? Start from your 20 yard line, run down the field as fast as possible and score a touchdown. Of course, running down the field actually consisted of you rerunning the same field over and over again since there was only space on the screen for 9 yards (yes, 9 yards, not 10), so you got to the end of the screen you would just wrap around the screen to the other side and keep on running! Surprisingly the real rules of football were well represented in this game. The game would keep track of your field position, the down, the time remaining in the quarter, and your score, pretty amazing for the time.
You always played offense (the bright red blip), the computer always played defense (the slightly dimmer red blips) and the defense touched your blip play stopped. Believe it or not, the defense AI was actually pretty sneaky and could require you carefully plan your trip down the field. Of course, the entire field was just three pixels high so there wasn't a huge amount of space to maneuver.
"If the game malfunctions, try fresh batteries" ... so smashing the game to the ground after my buddy scores a game-ending touchdown isn't part of the problem?
Another great feature of the game was that it allowed for two-player action. In fact, that was the only option. You played both sides, so after you scored a touchdown or were stopped by the defense you would take over as the other team. So to play against someone else you just passed the game to the person you were playing after your turn was up. Again, this might not sound like much, but being able to play against someone else was freaking awesome for the time and is easily responsible for hundreds of hours of lost time.
So what on earth made this game so damn popular? First, it was simple. Sure it was insanely abstract, but there was a strange elegance to this game and you could pick it up and figure out how to play in seconds. Second, you could play against someone else, which greatly helped the social aspect. And third, it was addictive as hell … like Tetris-addictive. Let me tell you, once you got that open lane and could run all the way down the field, you would pound that run button like a woodpecker on crack. Forget about "cell phone thumb", I'll put my “Football" thumb up against those cell phone jockeys any day of the week. Ah, nothing compares to running an 80-yard touchdown in Football, where you get into that "Tetris zone" where everything goes into slow motion you become one with the blips. Nothing.
So much fun in such a tiny package.
Of course, this game became so popular it basically started the entire handheld gaming market still seen today (hello PSP, meet your great-grandfather). Football sported the sequels "Football 2" (yes, even back then sequels were a big deal) and "Head to Head Football" (two-player action!) as well as few million other Mattel sports games (Baseball, Hockey, Soccer, etc.).
Football was actually reissued a few years ago both as a full-sized replica as well as a keychain(!) version. Definitely pick it up if you want to get a good laugh/relive your childhood, and don't blame me if you get addicted!
May 17, 2005
Wow, the news is coming in so fast that it's nearly impossible to keep up with all the new systems and games being announced. Not getting lost in the shuffle is the new Nintendo Game Boy Micro. Not a ton is know about it yet but here is what is known: