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Wallet Abuse Wednesday 4-7-10: Squishy Tank, Ununseptium, Game Room Sucks

Posted by nfinit on April 6, 2010

There was a huge new player announced on the gaming scene this week, something that looks to revolutionize not only the way we play games, but the way we think about games, and also possibly the way we think about playing games, as well as the way we game about thinking plays.

I speak of course of the discovery of ununseptium, the 117th atom to be discovered in the Periodic Table of Elements. Ununseptium hasn’t officially been named yet, and won’t be for some years to come, but it’s discovery and subsequent production will serve as a bridge between the most exotic currently known heavy elements with half-lives measured in milliseconds and the hypothesized “Island of Stability” wherein superheavy elements may be found with half-lives extending for millions of years.
In honor of this monumental achievement, I will rank this week’s list of games by their nearest appropriate Transuranium Element.

Squishy Tank
Publisher: Natsume
Developer: Probably Also Natsume
Platform: Nintendo DS

When I first saw that this was bases on a Japanese tank mascot game I had high hopes that it was in some way ripping off Squeenix’s criminally underloved Rocket Slime Adventure. For a fleeting moment I believed that perhaps Squishy Tank was but the tip of an iceberg of cutesy tank combat sims just boiling beneath the Japanese import scene. After all, with Squishy Tank we’d have Rocket Slime and Tachikomas and that awesome little tank from Metal Slug– Surely Squishy tank would be the herald of a bold new future filled with mascot tanks cheerfully spraying the napalm of love into our hearts and other various flammable organs.

Nope, it’s just Bubble Breaker with powerups. Laaaaaaaaame.



Much like Squishy Tank, Ununquadium has proven to be a bust.  Although researchers have pinned hope on the 114th element’s high, wide fission barriers as a hedge against an impractically short half-life typical of the transuranium element family and thus a possible waypoint along the line to the Island of Stability, Ununquadium has thus far proven reluctant to manifest itself.  This is doubly frustrating, as our nation’s top scientific minds have long theorized that the mass production of ununquadium is all that’s holding humanity back from hoverboards, arc reactors and self-defogging car windshields.


SPLINTER CELL CONVICTION checks necks, immediately break… wait a sec?

That’s the list?

Yup, that’s the list.  And I didn’t even get to Darmstadtium!

So while I have this time I’d like to bitch and moan about Microsoft Game Room, or rather how badly Microsoft botched Game Room and why it’s probably already fucked and should be thrown into a lake and our points refunded so we can buy more Idolmaster avatar rewards Castle Crashers.

I want to love Game Room.  I honestly do.  Cheap, faithful arcade classics built inside a customizable arcade/trophy room that other Live members can come visit and issue challenges through?  That’s hitting a lot of very good things, things I hold dear to my heart in the same place as the Chaterham Super Seven and Cheers-Era Kirstie Alley.  The system would launch with thirty games– Thirty games!– with a promised seven games released each week thereafter.  Even if only a third of all games released for it were decent there would still be something worth picking up every single week.

Then Microsoft went and fucked all that up the very next week.  The seven games per week?  That’s not actually starting until sometime in late April.  For an entire month, no new games will appear in Game Room.  The reason for Game Room to exist– a constant stream of new, obscure, classic games– is broken out of the gate.

Add to this is that the first batch of thirty games had far too many 2600 and Intellivision games that were of questionable quality even when they were released.  Seriously, Outlaw?

No one wanted to play Outlaw back in 197whatever, and that was back when you had a choice between Outlaw, Pong, or sitting in a running car in a closed garage.

On the arcade side you wound up with far too much cruft like Batlantis (amazingly Konami took the idea of “bats” and “Atlantis” and managed to turn them into a mid 80’s Space Invaders ripoff) and Red Baron, which is neat as a historical oddity, but including it in the initial set of 30 games and asking us to pay as much money for it as Tempest isn’t just short-sighted, it’s downright insulting.

Not that there weren’t worthwhile games in this batch, but seeing as these games come from the early 80’s and late 70’s, few of them were ever designed to use a joystick.  Crystal Castles, for instance, is an undeniable classic, but it’s broken and unplayable on anything other than a trackball.  In fact, I’d say there are only two unquestioned classics in the first batch of games that aren’t completely broken via use by the 360 control pad– Tempest and Centipede– and Tempest feels clumsy with a pad instead of a paddle.

This is a problem that will plague Game Room through it’s entire existence, provided Microsoft intends to produce anything past this first batch of thirty games.  Yes, the emulation is spot on– you even get the ghostly afterglow from Red Baron’s early vector graphics– But due to that precise emulation anything that’s not directly controlled via joystick is going to feel awkward, if not rendered unplayable.  And then there’s the issue where there’s no game in the bloated and diseased 2600/Intellivision library that anyone in their right mind wants to pay three dollars to play in 2010.

Anyway, the most damning thing for Game Room is that on April 14th, this thing will exist:

This is Final Fight: Double Impact.  It’s Final Fight, it’s arcade perfect, it features a remixed soundtrack and this neat arcade cabinet overlay to keep the screen resolution from looking weird in HD, and it’s not going to be in any way shape or form associated with Game Room.  Oh and it’s also going to feature Magic Sword because I mean,  why not include motherfucking Magic Sword

Same deal as above.  Arcade perfect, some graphical filters to make things look better in HD if you want to turn them on, and a remixed soundtrack.  All in one package, all with no Game Room integration whatsoever.

Beyond Game Room’s questionable games selection, beyond the uneven pricing that places Atari 2600 Millipede at the same value as arcade-perfct Centipede, beyond the infuriating lack of optimized 360 gamepad control, this is going to be Game Room’s biggest problem– convincing publishers that stuff like Final Fight Double Impact belongs on Game Room and not part of Capcom’s own piecemeal service.  I mean, what appeal does putzing around in my own virtual arcade with Football for the Intellivision have when Capcom wants to just sell me Final Fight on its own service?

All this is ignoring that Microsoft is going to have to convince publishers like Capcom that vast swaths of their retro library is no more valuable than Lunar Lander.  I’m not sure that’s ever going to work, and if Game Room is doomed to be limited to obscure western pre-Crash “classics”, I’m not sure what the point of the whole exercise is supposed to be.  And not to bring up the E-Word, but Mame is sitting right there.  Any computer capable of rendering this webpage is capable of emulating every game currently sold on Game Room.  If Microsoft can’t get Tempest and Magic Sword under the same roof, why aren’t I just loading ROMs off my hard drive instead?
NEXT WEEK~! (for realsies this time)

SPLINTER CELL CONVICTION is number one in my heart; in busting dude’s heads through urinals

I predict heavy flow with BLOOD BOWL oh god that was terrible

GTA 4:  EPISODES FROM LIBERTY CITY exposes that Microsoft has only a vague, sketchy understanding of the term “exclusive content”


Posted in Science all up ins, Wallet Abuse | 12 Comments »

Wallet Abuse Wednesday 11-25-09

Posted by nfinit on November 24, 2009

Man, I don’t even know where to begin this week.  I mean, just look at this pile of shit:

Foto Frenzy
Hello Kitty Party
Fighting Fantasy
Karoke Revolution
Yourshape Featuring Jenny McCarthy
Rogue Trooper
Reader Rabbit Kindergarten
Tekken 6 PSP

These are the games that are coming out this week.  All of the games that are coming out this week.  Now admittedly, you can’t expect any blockbusters on Thanksgiving week, what with shipping schedules blown all to hell and there being no time at all to build hype prior to Black Friday, but c’mon.  With the possible exception of Tekken 6 PSP, there’s not a single game there that I would not ordinarily shove into the shovelware pile while I talked about some bullshit retro DS game that released that week that’d sell maybe fifty copies.
But it occurs to me that that pile o’ crap above represents the very backbone of the gaming industry.  Without mainstream friendly palp like Karoke Revolution paying the bills for Konami you don’t get new Suikoden games.  Plus, I’ve been looking for a platform to make fun of Jenny McCarthy for a long time now.
So with nose pinched firmly shut I present to you the first ever all shovelware edition of Wallet Abuse.
Foto Frenzy (DS)

At some point a couple years ago those “spot the difference” puzzles that were relegated to the section of Highlights reserved for very special children became something you could make videogames out of.  I’d like to blame this on Nintendo allowing the DS to prey on the lowest common denominator and imposing no quality control whatsoever on whatever is shat out for their systems, but the honest truth is something like this was bound to happen when you’re dealing with a society dumb enough to turn Stephanie Meyer into a wealthy woman.  We didn’t just create the situation that allowed Foto Frenzy onto our shelves and sell more copies than Contra 4; we deserve Foto Frenzy.
What’s worse, you can’t even look to Foto Frenzy to fund something interesting.  No, this is being excreted by Storm City Games via some Beijing-based development studio, these are the same guys who gave us System Flaw last week– you remember, these guys:
Yeah.  This is just a pile of the worst possible things related to gaming right now, the only thing it’s missing is Facebook integration.  And it’ll probably sell more copies than Chinatown Wars.
Hello Kitty Party (DS)

A party game for the DS?  What is this, a party game for shut-ins?
Looking at the press release on IGN, it’s not even a proper party game, it’s a game where you’re getting ready for a party.  I’m not kidding, you play Hello Kitty and have her preparing stuff for a party full of her creepy hydrocephalus-stricken friends.
Let me make this clear– Writing about this game creeps me out.  Typing in the words “Hello Kitty Party” into google as it results in birthday party decorations for 9 year olds.  Three black vans just pulled to the curb outside my apartment while I was typing this.  I downloaded 4 gigs of Umineko hentai over the weekend and now I’ve gotta go throw my hdd into a pail of magnesium after this update is done.
Fighting Fantasy: The Warlock of Firetop Mountian (DS)

Wait.  Wait.  Warlock of Firetop Mountian?  Hang on– if that game   is based on:
then this game might be…

Oh man just look at that mace! I bet it's just full of stats!

IT’S (maybe) A GOOD GAME!  SWEET MOTHER OF MERCY IT’S (possibly) A GOOD GAME (maybe)!  Or at least an interesting game; and with the dreck we’re being served this week I’m willing to take what I can get right.
Actually it sounds downright cool.  Fighting Fantasy was a series of prot0-rpg choose-your-own-adventure books co-created by the legendary Stephen Jackson that eventually morphed into an old school pen-and-paper RPG dungeon crawler , and this is the DS game based on that.  So we have a western-style DS a single-player real-time dungeon crawler, something like a portable Oblivion, or at the very least a new look Eye of the Beholder.  It’s decidedly niche, but those people who would be interested in the game were sold at the words “Portable Oblivion”.
Karaoke Revolution (PS360, Wii)

Look.  This is asking too much of me.  I’m taking a mulligan on this.

Yourshape Featuring Jenny McCarthy (Wii)

You remember Jenny McCarthy, right?  Playboy model, cute, huge boobs, picks her nose, co-habithing with Jim Carrey?  You remember, this chick:

It's my theory that her breast reduction surgery negatively impacted her already-questionable IQ score

Yeah, her!  What’s she been up to besides sticking her name on godawful EA Sports Active ripoffs?  Oh, just killing kids by discrediting vaccination.

A few years back Jenny disclosed that she believed her little boy, Evan, was an “indigo child”, one of the breed of the next step of human evolution.  The whole “Indigo Children” movement was, of course, new-age hippie claptrap and a short while later she revealed that Evan was just autistic.  Whats more Evan wasn’t just autistic, but it was the mean evil vaccinations forced (forced!) upon her child that “turned” him autisitic, Jenny claimed she could “see the lights go off in his eyes” or some such nonsense.

Jenny and her ilk like to point to a spike in autism rates and tie them, for reasons as yet unclear, to vaccinations for diseases that we had all but wiped out– smallpox, measles, polio, mumps, diseases that killed hundreds of thousands of children every year at their height.  Yet you don’t see a correlating “spike” in autism rates as compared to populations that have had more or fewer vaccinations– for instance, if vaccinations were causing a spike in autism rates you’d expect fewer new cases of autism diagnosed in the elderly than you do to people of my generation or to kids being vaccinated today.  You simply don’t– the increase in diagnosis has held steady across all ages.

The problem isn’t that there are more cases of autism, it’s that we’re now capable of diagnosing it better, in combination with a broader definition of the word “autism”.  It’s quite possible that if I were a kid today that I could have been diagnosed with a variation myself, or if not that at the very least with some form of ADHD.  I can point to maybe a dozen other kids I grew up with that would have been diagnosed as well, and they were never considered “special ed” kids.

But Jenny McCarthy and others like her– Generation Rescue, Dan Burton, even Oprah Winfrey, for fuck’s sake– have convinced themselves that there’s an autism epidemic at work an that there’s a vague, nebulous cause for that epidemic that’s somehow related to vaccinations that have kept childhood diseases at bay for decades.  Mercury and Thiomersal have been missing from our nation’s vaccination stores for years.  There has been no change in the rate of autism diagnosis.  But as with anyone who’s wedded themselves to a conspiracy theory, no amount of evidence, proof, or hard science will convince them– either your research is wrong or your part of the conspiracy or it’s Something Else that’s not been discovered yet.

In the 20th century alone, smallpox killed nearly half a billion human souls.  Today, smallpox is all but eradicated.  We are on the verge of doing the same to polio.  Thanks to vaccinations, your children and your children’s children will never have to worry about those horrors.

Think about that for a while.  Polio, eliminated from the ranks of human misery forever.  As your parents or grandparens about polio. What they remember of it.  My momma could tell you about polio.  She never lived through it, but she remebers.  Twisted limbs, iron lungs, humans living in constant misery– We can get rid of that.  We’re almost there.

We could do the same to measles, to rubella, to Hepatitis B and A, to Chickenpox– we can do that.  All that’s required is time, vigiliance, and a basic understanding of science.  The only thing stopping us is fear and uncertainty and doubt.  Jenny McCarthy and Operation Rescue are killing children. There’s no two ways around that.

Yoga (Bullshit Practitioners of Alternative Medicine; Wii)

Speaking of new age clap-trap…

I guess spending thirty bucks on this is better than joining some creepy Dahn Yoga cult and at least someone’s making use of the Wii Fit Balance Board; but the developers claim this helps cure the common cold, headaches and arthritis, so fuck those guys.  It’s digital snake oil.  If you need something to cure your headache and cold and need something to play on your Wii, buy a bottle of grape ‘tussin and buy Mad World instead.  You’ll feel better and experience some awesomely fucked up fever dreams.

Before I go though, I’d like to point out the Wii’s remarkable streak of sexy young barefoot women in spandex on game boxes with any hint of sex appeal completely stripped from the proceedings.  I can’t remember if I’ve made this joke already, but it’s sorta like if John Harvey Kellogg were trying to produce porn.  It’s uncanny.  Also I’ve gone entirely too far into any sort of detail about my sick fetishes.  Moving on.

Rogue Trooper (Wii, Xbox 1 circa 2006.  No, seriously)

Rogue Trooper, Rogue Trooper, why does that sound so familiar…

Wait. this is that game  based on Richard Marcinko’s hilariously jingoistic Rogue Warrior series!

Richard Marcinko poses for the covers of all his books. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP

No wait, this is a Wii game.  Also, I’d actually like to talk about that game one day so I can make fun of Marcinko’s horrible, horrible writing, so that can’t be it.

Wait, I know!  Sarah Palin commissioned a videogame based on hunting wild game from a helicopter!

Note: Miss Palin did not actually kill the crab in the photograph; Alaska's gubernatorial seat lies 20 meters underwater.

No that can’t be it, she’d fire the development team three months before beta–oh you have to be shitting me:

Not to be mistaken for the Dolly Parton-sponsored Rouge Trooper

They remade this?

and it still looks like that?!

It would have cost you five bucks to buy the rights to Psi-Ops: The Mindscape Conspiracy from whatever mail catalog company owns Midway, and you chose to remake Rogue Trooper?  It got 71% at Metacritic!  No one liked this game!  Who greenlights shit like this when Winter by N-Space gets stuck in development hell?

If you’re that eager to relive the parts of 2006 better left forgotten, dowload Superman Returns and buy a box of Jimmy Dean Pancakes on a Stick.

Reader Rabbit Kindergarten (DS)

Somehow still more compelling than Tony Hawk Ride.

Tekken 6 (PSP)

Do I really need to come up with something to dissuade or encourage you to spend money on this?  Chances are if you’re the sort of person in the market for a PSP game you’re not the sort of person in the market to buy a PSP game, if you catch my drift.  It’s Tekken 6 for the PSP and it looks suspiciously decent.  Chances are if you were going to play this game you’re already playing it.

Instead I’m going to take this moment to point out that due to Disney’s laughably archaic views on digital distribution, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep will be completly shut out to *ahem* legitimate PSP Go consumers as Disney refuses to allow the game to be distributed digitally.  You know, because keeping a game on physical media is the only possible way of making sure it’s never ever pirated.  Also I’d be much obliged if someone could point me to a working torrent for Assassin’s Creed Bloodline.

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