Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Whack-a-Mole Video Game/System Review: Game & Watch Vermin

Vermin was the third game in the popular Game & Watch series, Nintendo Research & Development 1's first series of handheld consoles. Like the other Game & Watch games, it is an LCD frame-by-frame style of game.

Vermin is a whack-a-mole game. The vermin come through the dirt toward the character that is now known as Mr. Game & Watch. He has to keep the vermin from coming to the surface by hitting them with the hammers held in his left and right hands. As mentioned above, the game is a frame-by-frame style of game. The vermin will move bit-by-bit in the dirt piles on the screen, and the goal is to simply hit the left or right button at the right time to whack them back down into their holes. As the game moves on, more vermin will have to be hit, with the speed getting progressively faster.

Vermin is an antiquated style of game, but it has been remade in both antiquated versions and in more advanced forms several times. The first was in the European-exclusive Game Boy Gallery for the original Game Boy. This version had better graphics, although still in black and white. It now has background art and the player character was given a face. 

It is in Game & Watch Gallery 2 for the Game Boy, only in Japan, and for the Game Boy Color worldwide. Vermin is available in two versions. The first is the original Game & Watch game with Mr. Game & Watch. In the modern game, the graphics are improved and Yoshi is the character with the hammer. In this version, Yoshi protects Yoshi eggs from the vermin that try to steal them.

Nintendo released several accurate conversions of Game & Watch games for the DSi, including Vermin.

The most recent remake is one of the three games in Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda. This version is the original Game & Watch version that contains the stick figure of Mr. Game & Watch with the head of Link. He hits vermin common in Hyrule with his hammers which are known as octoroks.

Like all Game & Watch games as well as all whack-a-mole games, Vermin is entertaining in short bursts. The original Game & Watch version has antiquated graphics and gameplay. The 2009 re-release adds the option to turn the bleep-bloop sound effects off, which is a much-needed addition. The version in Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda is the easiest to obtain as of the time this review was posted. However, despite the addition of Link's head and octoroks, it still has the same antiquated graphics and gameplay. The best version, by far, is in Game & Watch Gallery 2. The modern mode adds the gameplay change of keeping six eggs from being stolen as well as varied vermin such as fly guys, para troopas, and boo buddies. 

Because of the enhanced graphics and different vermin types, as well as the ability to play the original version, Game & Watch Gallery 2 is the version I recommend trying if you want to play it. It is available for Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and the 3DS Virtual Console. It will also soon will be available for the Game Boy emulator on Nintendo Switch's online service. Whack-a-Mole has always been a fun timewaster in arcades, and Vermin is an entertaining twist on the classic game.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

Monday, February 27, 2023

Action Video Game/System Review: Game & Watch Mario Bros.

Mario Bros. by Nintendo Research & Development 1 was the twenty-fourth Game & Watch console. It was actually the first game that included both Mario brothers, Mario and Luigi, as it was released before their eponymous arcade game.

It is a frame-by-frame game on a liquid crystal display. In the game, Mario and Luigi work in a factory packing bottles and loading them on a truck. In the unofficial sequel for the Commodore 64, as well as the officially released Game & Watch Gallery 3 for Game Boy Color, the brothers pack up cakes instead of bottles.

Mario is on the right and Luigi is on the left. Mario loads the base on a conveyor belt, it goes through a machine and comes out the other side. Mario and Luigi have to go up and down ladders in order to keep the packages from falling to the ground. When the fully packed items get all the way to the top, Luigi tosses them in a shipping truck. 

In the Game & Watch Gallery 3 remake, Wario also sometimes messes with the process, and Luigi has to pull a lever to the left in order to fix it. Also in the remake, the truck takes off and a new one comes back to start the process again.

Like all Game & Watch games, Mario Bros. is simple. However, despite its simplicity, the game works well on double screens of this version of the Game & Watch system. Game & Watch Gallery 3 is the best way to play it, whether it is on the Nintendo Game Boy Color, Nintendo 3DS, or Nintendo Switch. The addition of Wario throwing a spanner in the works adds more complexity, and the more advanced technology allows for color graphics as well as animation. This is much less remembered than the arcade game of the same name, which is a shame, as this is actually one of the most fun Game & Watch games.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Arcade Run-and-Gun Game Review: Thunder Hoop

Thunder Hoop is an arcade game by the Spanish game developer Gaelco. It finally arrived in homes when it was included in the first Gaelco compilation cartridge for Evercade consoles.

The game is an arcade run-and-gun game. The plot of the game is delivered through text during the attract mode. After a scientist named Dr. Daniel Genbreak is expelled from his laboratory he released thousands of nigh-uncontrollable creatures and created a virus that threatens the entire world. 

Thunder Hoop, a very strong, angry being, was created specifically to defeat the creatures. He has to overcome the creatures and defeat Dr. Genbreak. His defeat would allow the distribution of a vaccine created by New Life Laboratories that would work as an antidote to the Genbreak Virus.

The game takes place in factory-type levels, but there is a good amount of detail, such as melted beams, graffiti, and city backdrops. The creatures are, for the most part, bright and eye-popping, sometimes literally. 

You can shoot enemies and can pick up powerups to make his gun more powerful. Most enemies can also be jumped on, which not only defeats the enemies after several successful hops but can also be used to get out-of-reach items.

Thunder Hoop is exactly the type of game that makes me love the Evercade. The English in the attract mode is a bit rough, but the game itself is enjoyable. It's great to be able to play obscure video games, and sometimes you'll come across gems. This game is not among the best run-and-gun games, but it is actually a lot of fun. The Evercade version is the best way to play this game. Enemies come hard and fast as Thunder Hoop gets to the later levels. This is where the save and restore feature of the Evercade comes in handy. If you get a chance to play Thunder Hoop, give it a try. 

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Arcade Shoot 'em Up Review: Donkey Kong 3

Donkey Kong 3 ditches Mario and platforming and pits Donkey Kong, and bugs, against Stanley the Bugman.

As with most games of the era, Donkey Kong 3 has a simple plot. Donkey Kong takes over a greenhouse. Stanley uses his bug spray to chase Donkey Kong away and to keep the bugs from ruining the flowers.

It plays like a static shooter. Stanley can run across the floor and jump up and down the platforms at will. Donkey Kong inches down the vines he is on, and Stanley needs to keep spraying him to chase him out of the greenhouse. Making this task harder is multiple bugs that get in the way of his spraying as well as try to steal his flowers. So, Stanley has to spray the bugs that try to take his plants and spray past the bugs crawling on the platforms to shoo Donkey Kong away. Stanley will lose a life if the bugs take all of his flowers. More lives can be earned by reaching 50,000 points.

Once Donkey Kong is chased away in one level and he returns again in the next. There are three levels that repeat with each progressive level getting harder than the last. 

Donkey Kong 3 is acceptable as a concept, but fans didn't take to the game, and it's easy to see why. It is weird that Nintendo followed up two popular arcade platformers with an arcade shooter. Stanley the Bugman was relegated to history, other than in a Game & Watch game, a Hudson Soft shooter, and minor appearances in the Super Smash Bros. games. Like other games in the Donkey Kong series, Donkey Kong 3 has been ported to many platforms. If you want to try it, the arcade version remains the best and, since it was finally released by Hamster for the Nintendo Switch in 2019, is the version to play.

Final Verdict:
3 out of 5
Donkey Kong Junior reviewMario Kart 64 Review

Friday, February 24, 2023

Action-Adventure Television Series Episode Review: Agent Carter - The Blitzkrieg Button

In the fourth episode of Agent Carter Peggy and Jarvis get in contact with Howard Stark while the SSR continues their investigation of him.

Peggy Carter and Edwin Jarvis deal with black-market smugglers in order to get in touch with Howard Stark, who is still successfully avoiding capture by living off the grid.

Peggy keeps Howard from being caught when she discovers agents are covering even his better-hidden residences. Because of this, she has to sneak Stark into her apartment despite her landlady's extremely strict rule restricting men above the first floor.

Meanwhile, Captain Dooley leaves Jack Thomas in charge as he goes to Germany to get information by talking to the Nazi killer in charge of the concentration camp at Finow, the same place from which their two deceased suspects hailed. He is scheduled to be executed via the electric chair, so Dooley leaves quickly in order to get there in time.

The SSR looks through Stark's inventions, which leads to a humorous scene where Peggy stealthily takes pictures of Stark's confiscated equipment with the pen camera Stark invented while two scientists keep setting themselves on fire. 

Peggy and Howard turn her apartment into a dark room for developing the film she took at the SSR, while Peggy goes downstairs to have lunch with Angie, the waitress at the diner Peggy frequents and who is her only female friend. When she returns to her apartment, Stark reveals that one of the photos is of a weapon he called the "blitzkrieg button" that destroys the electrical grid of an entire city.

Sousa, an agent who was injured in World War II, conducts an investigation on his own. However, because of his disability, he is looked down on by Jack and the rest of his colleagues. Sousa investigates a homeless veteran from the pier.

Thompson comes in and offers the man a bottle of liquor, and he gives Jack the information, which disappoints Sousa as he was trying to respect the man for being a veteran but he fits the homeless stereotype instead. He tells the agents that a fancy man and a woman were involved. He tells them that she had dark hair, inching the investigation closer to Peggy. 

The double investigations in the United States and Germany are interesting because the US investigation pointed towards Peggy, and the German investigation took them closer to Howard Stark. 

On top of that, Howard told Peggy to prevent the destruction of the power grid which led to a great heist scene. Jarvis and Peggy work great as a duo, and I'm glad Jarvis is getting more to do. I also loved the twist on who the real villain turned out to be. It honestly caught me off guard, in a good way.

"The Blitzkrieg Button" was one of the most fun episodes of the run so far. It also included a Stan Lee cameo, which added to the fun. One of the best parts of the episode was Howard Stark's return. Dominic Cooper is always great at bringing out the smarmy charm of the Howard Hughes-inspired character, and he certainly doesn't disappoint here.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Agent Carter Season 1, Episode 3 ReviewAgent Carter Season 1, Episode 4 Review Coming Soon

Adult Animated Comedy Television Series Review: The Simpsons - Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scrapes

The Simpsons: Sex Pies and Idiot Scrapes review was previously published on Jupiter Beagle on September 29, 2008.

Primetime animation is commonplace today, but in the 1980s that wasn’t the case. The Flintstones aired in primetime, but it wasn’t until the breakthrough success of The Simpsons that primetime animation became the American television staple that it is today. True, the Simpsons no longer seem fresh or innovative, but it’s amazing that a show that is in its twentieth year on television can still elicit laughs.

Sex Pies and Idiot Scrapes, the twentieth season premiere, finds Homer once again trying a new profession for size. This time, after being arrested for taking part in a St. Patrick’s Day brawl, Homer visits a bail bondsman to post his bail. After getting a taste of the life of a bounty hunter, Homer decides to become one himself. On his first hunt, Homer is accidentally saved by Ned Flanders, and the two decide to become a bounty-hunting duo.

The unlikely pair unsurprisingly get themselves into some very funny situations while they attempt to catch crooks. Long-time fans of the series will be pleased to see a plethora of character cameos in this episode.

The side story has Marge also trying out a new profession. She meets an Irish baker and agrees to bake cakes for him at his bakery. I’m not going to ruin the twist, as this is only a 22-minute episode and I don’t want to give it all away in a review. But, Marge’s job turns out to be quite different from what she was expecting. I was very pleased to see that the side story actually worked well in this episode. It was also nice to see that the writers managed to mesh both stories together in a believable and in-character fashion at the end of the story.

This episode wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start to the new season. Some of the jokes fell flat, especially during the beginning of the episode, but I actually found myself laughing out loud at some points. There wasn’t any character development, but everyone stayed in character throughout the episode. It’s not a series classic by any means, but Sex Pies and Idiot Scrapes is an enjoyable, if somewhat average, episode.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

I Will Only Purchase Hogwarts Legacy and Atomic Heart Used from the Trans-Supportive Goodwill and Won't Review Them for 10 Years

Sorry about the long title, but I wanted to make sure my policy comes through on all of the feeds from this blog. The title sums up my position, but I'll go into detail by re-posting the comments I made on Mastodon about the games.

I won't buy Hogwarts Legacy new. My reasons are in the Mastodon toot listed below, minus the hashtags.

The main reasons I've heard to buy Hogwarts Legacy are that J.K. Rowling isn't directly involved, she won't get much from sales and she'll be a wealthy TERF with a big megaphone regardless.

But, some of her money goes to people opposing laws to ban conversion therapy for trans people. I don't want my money anywhere near that.

If I'm offered a review code, I'm going to refuse it. I plan to wait and get it used from Goodwill as they're trans-supportive. I recommend everyone else do so as well.

I also won't buy Atomic Heart new. My reasons are in the Mastodon toot listed below, minus the hashtags. 

Atomic Heart is a no-buy for me since this game is said to be Russian propaganda with Kremlin involvement.

It is telling that the developer, Mundfish, hasn't denied it despite being asked directly.

Russia is in the middle of an unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the genocide of the Ukrainian people. It is also guilty of human rights violations against LGBT people.

The composer of Atomic Heart, Mick Gordon, was caught off-guard, though. He's donating his fee to the Red Cross Ukraine fund.

I founded West Elmira Computers Museum which is all about the preservation of all computer software, so it will definitely have them at some point. However, I have decided to only buy them for the museum used from Goodwill since they are trans-inclusive. 

As I've been linking the museum and this blog together on game pages, I will likely review them at some point as well. However, I have decided to impose a ten-year period after they release before I review them. I'm doing this to limit any impact this site may have, as little as it would be, on the sales of the games.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Turn-Based Role-playing Game Review: Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

In the early 1990s, Square and Nintendo had a good working relationship. Most of Square's games were on Nintendo consoles, from the Rad Racer series to Square's bread and butter, the Final Fantasy series of turn-based role-playing games.

It's the latter that served as the inspiration for one of the most surprising team-ups at the time of its release. Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars plays like a Final Fantasy game. It is played in a turn-based style with a party of three selectable from a total of five characters. The character's traits can be leveled up in a manner that should be familiar to Final Fantasy players. HP, or heart points, are represented by a bar that displays the number of hits that a character can take before they pass out. S stands for star and represents the amount of energy any character has to do a skill or perform magic, similar to the MP magic points or mana points in Final Fantasy games. POW, represented by a hammer, is the amount of total power a character is capable of using against enemies. These statistics can also be influenced by weapons and armor that can be purchased from shops in the game's towns. The Final Fantasy series similarities don't stop at the gameplay style, as there is an optional boss fight with remixed music straight from those games as well as a design inspired by them as well.

The story is about an evil force in the guise of a sentient sword named Exor who crashes into Star Road and then takes over the castle of Bowser, King of the Koopa. Star Road is the place where wishes turn into wish stars to grant the wishes of the people of the world. When Exor crashed down, Star Road was shattered into seven pieces.

Smithy's minions stole all of the star pieces so Mario teams up with Princess Peach, Mallow, a fluffy being that was raised by frogs, and a sentient doll named Geno. He also reluctantly teams up with his arch-enemy, Bowser, King of the Koopa, because he wants to get his castle back from Exor.

As this was released on the Super NES, the characters only speak through text, with one exception. Mario doesn't speak at all, instead communicating via pantomime. However, it works surprisingly well. This is helped by some spectacular character animation.

The game is presented in an isometric world with pre-rendered three-dimensional graphics converted into sprites. The process and appearance of the sprites are reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country. Super Mario RPG was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1996, the same year the Nintendo 64 was released, so the choice of art style made sense since gaming was well into the three-dimensional era by that point.

The backgrounds are beautiful and fit in perfectly with the pre-rendered sprites. They also match the cheerful aesthetic of Super Mario games. The worlds Mario visits with his team really do feel right at home in Mario's universe. The new characters also fit in perfectly as well, as they have over-the-top personalities. The enemies range from characters that are the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles mixed with the Power Rangers, to the delightfully insane Booster. I really hope that Nintendo and Square work out a deal to bring Booster back into the world of Super Mario someday.

Super Mario RPG is an excellent game that merges Super Mario with Final Fantasy-style turn-based role-playing games surprisingly well. The music is spectacular and really memorable and the art is as cheerful as Super Mario games should be. The characters, both old and new, are really entertaining. On top of all of this, the game, from the tone to the storyline, sets up two different series of Super Mario RPGs and does it remarkably well. This is a game that should be played by all fans of Super Mario and role-playing games.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Google Stadia Exclusive Game Availability

Since Google's ill-fated game streaming service shut down on the 18th of January, I thought I'd do a list of the availability of Stadia's exclusive games in the same manner that I listed the Telltale game availability after the collapse of the original Telltale Games.

Gunsport, an action volleyball game by Necrosoft, is available for Windows in an offline version via the Steam beta channel of its sequel, Hyper Gunsport. A video on Twitter shows how to activate the original game.

Gylt, a horror adventure game by Tequila Works, will be coming to multiple platforms in 2023.

Hello Engineer, a racing and vehicle creation game by tinyBuild, will be released on Steam in 2023. 

PixelJunk Raiders, a space exploration roguelike by Q-Games, has an unknown future. In an interview with The Verge, the founder and CEO of Q-Games stated intentions to bring Pixeljunk Raiders to other platforms, but a publisher is needed to help with the costs of doing so.

Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle, a sixty-four-player battle royal by Heavy Iron Studios, has not had any updates about its future. However, this is Pac-Man we're talking about. I'd be really surprised if Bandai Namco doesn't re-release it in some form at some point in the future. 

Outcasters, a multiplayer shooter by Splash Damage, sadly looks like it will be lost to history. Splash Damage tweeted that it would be difficult to port to another platform because its features are too tightly integrated into Stadia's infrastructure.

Worm Game, Google's multiplayer take on the Snake game, was released as a surprise just before the service shutdown. Since this was the game Google used to test the Stadia platform, this one is also likely going to be lost forever.

Luckily the Stadia exclusive game list is short. One game is already available outside of Stadia, two games are coming to one or more platforms soon, two have uncertain futures, and two are likely going to be lost forever. As someone who is involved in video game preservation, those last two hurt. 

I'll update this list if anything changes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Action-Adventure Game Compilation Review: The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition

It's not common, but Nintendo occasionally releases compilations of their video games on physical media. That is the case with The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition for GameCube, which has become highly sought after in recent years.

It contains four classic action-adventure games in The Legend of Zelda series across two different platforms. The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link are Nintendo Entertainment System games while The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, are Nintendo 64 games. 

These games were not ports as they were presented through emulation. The Nintendo Entertainment System emulator was previously used in Animal Crossing while the Nintendo 64 emulator was previously used in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Master Quest compilation.

The Nintendo Entertainment System emulation is fantastic, as the games play nearly identically to the original releases. The differences include changes to reduce the amount of flickering to prevent seizures and numerous translation corrections in The Legend of Zelda. These changes were originally made for the Classic NES Series for the Game Boy Advance.

The Nintendo 64 emulation, however, isn't quite up to par. There are slowdowns in both games, which can be forgiven as the Nintendo 64 was only one console generation behind the GameCube. It is honestly quite impressive the emulator runs the games as well as it does. Less forgivable, however, is the fact that Majora's Mask is known to be prone to crashes.

The compilation also contains two videos. One is an advertisement for The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker while the other is named The Legend of Zelda: A Respective. The latter video includes logos and gameplay from all of the games in The Legend of Zelda series that were released up to the point of its release in 2003. As it includes only the games that Nintendo deems part of the series canon, there aren't any outliers included here such as the CD-i games.

The Legend of Zelda: Collector's Edition was a great compilation in its time as it included four The Legend of Zelda games in one package. The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventures of Link are emulated remarkably well, and the localization fixes and flicker removal in the first game are a welcome inclusion. However, the Nintendo 64 games, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, are not as well emulated. The crashes in the latter make this compilation more of a collector's item than a way to play the games. All four games have been emulated in re-releases much better in the years following this compilation. The video advertisement for Wind Waker and The Legend of Zelda: A Retrospective are really barebones and aren't enough to make this compilation worth recommending.

Final Verdict:
3 out of 5

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Action RPG Mega Review: Yakuza 5

Yakuza 5 takes the idea from the previous game in the series, that of additional player characters, and bumps the number up to five, mirroring the game's title. 

The protagonists this time around include three from the previous game, Kiryu Kazuma, Shun Akiyama, and Taiga Saejima, It also includes a new character, the Kineicho nightlife reporter, Tatsuo Shinada. For the first time, the Like a Dragon series has a playable female character, none other than Kiryu's own adopted daughter, Haruka Sawamura. She doesn't fight, instead, she dances and sings her way across Sotenbori on her path to becoming an idol.

The game's plot involves, as always, a plot that involves the Tojo Clan and brings Kiryu reluctantly out of retirement. He does earnestly try to stay retired in this game, though. He is working as a taxi driver in Nagasugai under the pseudonym Taichi Suzuki. As he shares his name with an orphan at the orphanage he managed, I wonder if he chose that name because of him. As he's the one that is a fan of fighting, it's possible that he sees himself in the boy. If that is the case, that's heartwarming and makes me like Kiryu as a character even more.

The events that pull Kiryu from his taxi driving job are definitely strong enough to make Kiryu shed his relative anonymity. The sixth chairman of the Tojo Clan, Daigo Dojima, is missing and the Omi Alliance is believed to have nabbed him. If this was the case, it would bring the Tojo Clan and the Omi Alliance into a full-out war, which could bring collateral damage to civilians, including those that Kiryu cares about most.

The first four main characters are all fighters with their own style. Kiryu and Akiyama retain the style of fighting from the previous game. Kiryu is a good all-around fighter and Akiyama is fast with his feet. Shinada is a great grappler. Saejima thankfully gets an upgrade. While he is still strong as a tank, he no longer moves like one. His quicker moves mean that he's no longer a liability when enemies attack in groups, which happens a lot in the Like a Dragon series.

My favorite storyline and play style is Haruka's. She dances and sings through quick time events, but they are somewhat forgiving in terms of timing and are lots of fun. She also has jobs to do as an idol, including meeting fans and appearing on game shows. The best part about her story is that the animation of Haruka and her competitors is excellent, and is definitely among the series' best. The bonus is that her songs are actually great and definitely could be part of an idol's repertoire.

After Saejima escapes from prison, again, he finds himself in a small village in the mountains and must hunt to get the villagers to warm up to him. This leads to a fun hunting minigame. I never thought that there would be hunting in a Like a Dragon game, or that I would like it. But, it is definitely there and I actually really do enjoy it. It's a shame his exclusive city, Tsukimino, isn't as approachable as the small village due to it having way too many invisible walls. It's annoying, but the always weird and wacky sidequests made me able to ignore them after a while.

I finally see why Saejima is liked by many fans. He was as personable as plywood in the previous game, but he's actually likable here. In some parts, especially when interacting with the villagers in the snowy village, he even comes across as cute. With Haruka's dancing minigames and Saejima's hunting, Yakuza 5 has the most variety of any mainline game in the series up to this point.

Yakuza 5 is my personal favorite. The storyline is interesting, the characters are enjoyable, and Haruka's climb up the idol ladder is a great break from the usual gameplay the series was known for, at least at this point. The only drawback is the major city in Saejima's story has way too many invisible walls. If it weren't for that, the game would be nearly perfect.

Addendum February 22, 2013: I forgot to mention Yakuza 5 Remastered. This version has high-resolution graphics, but unlike previous remastered games, the translation didn't need to be updated. Yakuza 5 was the first game in the series that was translated by Atlus, and they did their usual fantastic job of localization.

Final verdict:
4½ out of 5

Like a Dragon: Ishin! Remake Is Out Now

Like a Dragon: Ishin!, the Yakuza samurai spinoff with Yakuza characters has finally made it to the west with a Kiwami-style remake. The Japanese version actually is called Like a Dragon: Ishin! Kiwami.

I'll be playing it and reviewing it soon. I've had the Japanese version for a while, but it will be great to finally play it with English subtitles.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Platform Game Review: Super Mario 64

In the mid-1990s, video games turned toward polygonal three-dimensional experiences in contrast with the sprite-based games of the previous console generations. Super Mario 64 was a seminal game that inspired countless others.

The storyline retains the simple story of previous Super Mario games where Bowser, King of the Koopa, kidnaps Princess Peach. However, there is a bit of a twist here, as Bowser used the power stars within the castle to imprison Peach and her servants inside the Mushroom Kingdom castle. Mario has to collect enough stars to open the three locked doors and defeat Bowser once again.

The game starts with Mario out in an open field outside of Peach's castle. This is the game that pulled the princess of the mushroom kingdom's two names together, as she's referred to as Princess Toadstool, Peach. Mario can run in three hundred and sixty-five directions. With the increase in movement also came an increase in moves. Mario can now slide, backflip, long jump, wall jump, ground pound, and front flip after jumping three times. If Mario has a wing cap, which is unlockable by hitting a red switch in a hidden level, Mario will begin flying after the third jump instead of flipping. Most of the classic powerups are not found in this game, however, the different caps with time-limited powers, which are unlocked through hidden levels, make up for it. There is the aforementioned wing cap, the metal cap that turns Mario into Metal Mario allowing him to walk underwater, and the vanish cap that turns Mario invisible.

To get inside the numbered doors, a specified number of stars must be collected. These are spread throughout the castle. There are one hundred twenty stars in total. Inside the doors are levels, which are represented as paintings Mario can jump into. There are also hidden levels, which are entered by jumping through windows, or by performing a specific task to get to them.

There are fifteen regular stages with six stars each, as well as a bonus star in each stage for obtaining one-hundred stars. To earn the stars, Mario must perform specific tasks mentioned under the star in the level selection screen. These tasks include things such as using the ground pound power to knock four wooden posts into the ground, racing characters to a point in the stage, and defeating bosses by picking them up and throwing them or jumping on their backs.

There are also three challenge doors that contain castle levels with a boss fight with Bowser, King of the Koopa, waiting at the top. Defeating Bowser here leads to Mario obtaining a key that he can use to unlock castle doors to ascend stairs up to areas he couldn't reach before.

Alongside the one hundred-five stage stars are fifteen hidden stars that can be obtained by entering hidden secret levels, chasing characters, or speaking to specific Toads out of the handful that remains inside the castle.

One of the best parts of any Super Mario game is the music, and Koji Kondo doesn't disappoint here. He makes full use of the increased number of electronic instruments available on the hardware of the Nintendo 64. There are some real gems here that will get stuck in your head forever, my personal favorite being the Slider song that plays when Mario slides down slippery slopes. I get that music in my head often, and it is the song that I immediately remember when I think about Super Mario 64.

Super Mario 64 is an absolute classic that deserves its place in the pantheon of great games. Because it is bright and cheerful with characters with proportions more like cartoons than actual people, the graphics have stood the test of time better than some of its contemporaries. It's still full of jagged edges and blurred textures like other games of its era, but the fantastic art design and level design makes up for it. Add in the fantastic memorable soundtrack, and it is a game that children and adults of any generation can enjoy. There is also an enhanced port for the Nintendo DS, but that version is so different, that it's worthy of a review all on its own. 

The best official version of the game, in my opinion, is the enhanced emulated version of the game included in Super Mario 3D All-Stars. This version increases the resolution to high definition with some improved textures although it is still presented in a 4:3 format. It also uses the rumble version that was previously only available in Japan. This version fixes some of the bugs that speedrunners use to play the game quickly, so your opinion on the best version may vary based on your needs. 

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island ReviewMario Kart 64 Review

Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance Games Now on Nintendo Switch Online

I'm late to the party, but Nintendo has finally released the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance emulators that data miners had discovered were coming long ago.

There are two emulators, one for Game Boy and one for Game Boy Advance. Nintendo has always counted the Game Boy and Game Boy Color as part of one product line when they calculate sales, and they have done so for the Switch emulators as well.

The Game Boy emulator includes nine games so far. The games include the Game Boy Color games Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, Game & Watch Gallery 3, and Wario Land 3, as well as the Game Boy, games Gargoyle's Quest, Kirby's Dream Land, Metroid 2, and Tetris. Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare isn't available in Japan and Hong Kong, however, the batch of games in Japan and Hong Kong includes the Japanese Game Boy game Yakuman

The Game Boy Advance emulator includes six games so far. These games include Kuru Kuru Kurin, The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3, and WarioWare Inc.: Micro Minigame$!

The emulator that includes Game Boy and Game Boy Color games is available for all Nintendo Switch Online subscribers while the Game Boy Advance emulator is only available for subscribers of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Platform Game Review: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins is a bigger game that is more aligned with the mainline Super Mario games than its predecessor.

In this game, Mario's nemesis Wario appears for the first time. Wario is an evil doppelganger of Mario who stole the latter's castle. Mario has to complete many levels in order to collect the six golden coins that are needed to confront Wario and take back his castle.

Mario's sprite is aligned with the Nintendo Entertainment System sprites and the flowers once again are fire flowers that grant the ability to throw fireballs rather than bouncy superballs. This removes the ability to collect coins in small places, but the levels are designed in a way that wouldn't need them anyway. As in Super Mario Land, the rest of the power-ups from the main series are here including the super mushroom that makes Mario large and starmen that grant temporary invincibility. Due to the monochrome graphics of the Game Boy, the 1-Up that grants an extra life is a heart rather than a green mushroom.

The game makes up for this by making the game huge compared to the first Super Mario Land. Mario traverses the island that makes up his titular land, traveling through six zones with a total of thirty-two levels. This is much larger than the twelve levels within four worlds that were in the original game.

Like Bowser, King of the Koopa, changes radically in size depending on the game, Wario does so here as well. In the boss fight, which is the first time Mario confronts the twisted thief, Wario is gigantic. This makes it a more satisfying ending, however, as beating a large opponent felt like a win for our mustache-sporting land owner. Wario would take his defeat toward higher heights as the next game was Wario Land, and Mario land became a relic of history.

Like Super Mario Land before it, fans have released a fan patch for Super Mario 2: Six Golden Coins that converts the game to full color for use on the Game Boy Color. As with the other fan patch, this colorization is extremely well done.

Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins is a great game that improves on every aspect of its predecessor. If you are able to play the game using the Super Mario Land 2 DX fan patch, such as playing the cartridge on the RetroN 5 with the patch loaded from an SD card, I highly recommend playing the game this way. However, even if you are only able to play it with monochrome graphics on the Game Boy cartridge or on the Virtual Console for Nintendo 3DS, I still highly recommend it. This game is a game that deserves to be played by all Super Mario fans.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Gameplay Trailer for The Expanse: A Telltale Series Released


LCG Entertainment's Telltale Games YouTube Channel Released a gameplay trailer for The Expanse: A Telltale Series, the choices and consequences video game based on the Amazon Prime/SyFy series which itself is based on a novel series. The game is being co-developed by Deck Nine and LCG Entertainment's new Telltale studio. 

The Expanse: A Telltale Series and The Wolf Among Us 2, the latter of which is being co-developed with AdHoc Studio, both are a series of firsts. They are the first games to be co-developed and released by the new Telltale. They are also the first games to bear the Telltale Series designation to be developed with Unity rather than the Telltale Tool.

We'll find out if the games were worth the wait when The Expanse: A Telltale Series and The Wolf Among Us 2 are released later this year.

Adult Animated Comedy Television Episode Review: Simpsorama

Simpsorama is a crossover between Matt Groening's two most popular creations, The Simpsons and Futurama. While the two had crossed over in comic books, this was the first time they did so on television.

The episode begins with the children of Springfield Elementary in the twenty-first century putting objects into a time capsule that will be opened in the thirty-first century. When the hole is dug for the time capsule, nuclear ooze flows in from the nuclear plant owned by the town's money-pinching billionaire, Mr. Burns.

During a thunderstorm, the lazy robot Bender arrives from the thirty-first century. He has amnesia until his processor is reset, at which time it is revealed that he was sent back in time to kill Homer Simpson due to the Simpson DNA from the time capsule that mixed with the nuclear ooze to create mutants that wreak havoc in the thirty-first century. The main crew from the Planet Express in the future, Leela, Fry, and Professor Farnsworth, are sent into the past through Bender's chest compartment.

This leads to funny interactions between characters with similar personalities, such as Bender and Homer, and Professor Farnsworth and Professor Frink. It is stuffed full of humor that is more of Futurama's style than that of The Simpsons. That doesn't mean that there isn't anything here for Simpsons fans as there are plenty of jokes from Simpsons characters as well.

The Simpsons and Futurama worlds are fictional in the world of the other, so it's best that don't overanalyze it. If you just sit back and enjoy the comedy, it is a lot of fun. The comics still contain the best crossovers between the two properties, but this one is really enjoyable as well. The only drawback is that some characters didn't get many interactions. It's too bad the Family Guy crossover, The Simpsons Guy, was given an hour instead of Simpsorama as this crossover is much better.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

Friday, February 17, 2023

Free Open-Source Point-and-Click Adventure Game Review: OpenQuest

I converted Michael Sheail's tutorial game to Wintermute from Adventure Game Studio, so I could learn how to use the engine, in 2016. However, I have decided to do a regular review rather than a retrospective. I had no hand in the actual game design, which was released in 2007, almost a full decade before I even laid eyes on it.

OpenQuest is a two-room adventure game about aliens searching an office for an artifact. There is only one person in the vicinity with which to communicate, the cleaning woman Carol, as well as Zif, your commanding officer.

The game was created by Michael Sheail as a tutorial on creating an adventure game. It accomplishes its goal so well that it was converted from Adventure Game Studio two times. It was converted to SCUMM with ScummC in 2008, and then to the aforementioned Wintermute Engine eight years later.

It contains all of the traditional aspects of graphical point-and-click adventure games. There are objects that can be found by opening a storage container, combining objects in inventory, talking to the cleaner to get access to somewhere you weren't previously allowed, objectives that are only available if an event is accomplished, a door puzzle to get in the other room, and finally, a jigsaw-style triangle puzzle.

All of the conversions of the game contain these aspects, except for the SCUMM version which contains everything except the triangle puzzle. In that version, once you access the monitor, the game goes straight to the point in the game after the triangle puzzle would normally be found.

The game also has three music tracks that work well for the game's atmosphere, suitable sci-fi sound effects, and one instance of a vocal track when one of the aliens laughs. The SCUMM version includes the sound effects but doesn't include the music.

OpenQuest is short and bittersweet, as it contains only two rooms, however, it works well in its purpose as a tutorial game. The music and sound effects work well with the game, and the puzzles are well done, and, depending on your skill level with adventure games, can even be a bit challenging. It is a fantastic look into how to make games for all three platforms to which it has been converted. However, if you just choose to play the game, go for the Adventure Game Studio or Wintermute versions as those are the most feature-complete.

Final Verdict:
3½ out of 5

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Open World Action-Adventure Demo Review: What's Shenmue?

What's Shenmue? is the Dreamcast demo for the open-world action-adventure RPG, Shenmue. Released in 1999, it's my favorite type of demo, which is one that demonstrates a game's characters, locations, and gameplay, but has its own unique storyline.

Like Shenmue, What's Shenmue? takes place in Dobuita street in the city of Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture on the island of Honshu. In the demonstration, Ryo Hazuki has to locate Hidekazu Yukawa, who was the Senior Managing Director of Sega at the time.

The demo includes all of the gameplay mechanics found in the Shenmue games, such as asking people for information, chasing suspects, and quick-time events that appear as button prompts that have to be hit at the correct time.

Ryo has to ask people from the game proper if they had seen Mr. Yukawa including Tom the hotdog vendor and Nozomi Harasaki, the granddaughter of the woman who runs the flower shop. Because Shenmue I and II were developed concurrently, Ryo also can talk to people who would not appear until Shenmue II such as Izumi Takano, the teenage Tomato store clerk who blocks an area that is only accessible in the full game.

The storyline is simple, yet it reflects an actual scene in Shenmue which will be obvious to anyone who played the full game. Even though it contains a common trope, the ending is satisfyingly wacky and works well as it does make you want to play the full game.

What's Shenmue? was only released in Japan, so it is only available in Japanese. However, fans from the Shenmue Dojo forums released a Japanese-to-English translation patch. The fan patch is well done so it is a satisfying way to experience the demo.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Shenmue review

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Platform Game Mega Review: Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island

Like Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 for Game Boy, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island was the beginning of a new series and was more of the title character's story than Mario's.

Unlike the Super Mario series proper, Yoshi's Island has a unique story that doesn't involve saving Princess Peach. A stork is crossing over Yoshi's Island on the way to drop off two babies, Mario and Luigi, to their parents in Brooklyn, New York. Kamek, a powerful Magikoopa and a high-ranking member of the Koopa Troop, looks into the future. Kamek foresees that when the two babies grow up they will repeatedly thwart the plans of Bowser, King of the Koopa. Kamek tries to steal the babies before they can reach their home, but only succeeds in kidnapping baby Luigi. Baby Mario drops down to the island below where he is rescued by a yoshi.

The yoshi carries baby Mario on his back through many worlds to reach Koopa's Castle and rescue his twin brother. If Yoshi is hit, baby Mario floats in a bubble, crying, and a timer counts down until he is picked up by the yoshi or when the counter reaches zero. The latter causes Kamek's cronies to swoop in and carry the baby away.

The yoshi can do the standard platformer moves such as running and jumping. The yoshi can also hover by doing a flutter jump. The yoshi also throws eggs that are abundantly scattered inside each level. Six eggs can be held at a time and can be thrown in the direction indicated in the graphical user interface by a line with a circle at the end. Egg blocks can also be hit and grow to create boxes to get to areas that normally can't be reached.

The game has a pleasing aesthetic that includes a unique and colorful pastel palette with graphics that look hand-drawn. Each world is colorful and the flowers and numbers at the end of each level intentionally look like they were drawn by a child There are forty-six levels with a boss battle at the end of each of the six worlds.

The five flowers within each level can be collected to give the yoshi an extra life. It also counts as 50% of the level score. Twenty coins within each level nets 20% of the level score. The rest of the score is calculated by the star bar which begins each level full and drops depending on how long baby Mario was separated from the yoshi. The object is to obtain the flowers and red coins and to have a full star bar to get a 100% rating for each level. However, getting 100% is not required to complete the level and open up the next. Each level can be revisited to attempt to make the percentage go up.

As with all Super Mario games, the music is fantastic. Baby Mario's crying sound effect is objectively a good sound effect as it does sound like a baby crying. However, this sound becomes annoying as it is more likely than not that this sound effect will be heard a lot.

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island has a look that is really a joy to experience on the original game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, as well as its emulated re-releases. The remake, Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3, retains the wonderful aspects of the original albeit with a lighter palette due to the original Game Boy Advance lacking a backlight. Super Mario World The pastel backgrounds and hand-drawn aspects really evoke a feeling of childhood. That is a really nice experience, even, or to be even more accurate, especially, as an adult. As with all games in the Super Mario series, the music is pleasing and fits the game even if none of the tunes are as memorable as the standard Super Mario platform games.

There is only one drawback, and it is, unfortunately, one that might turn people off from the game. The crying sound effect can become grating as it is most likely going to be repeated a lot while playing. If you can play the game without being too annoyed by Mario’s crying, it is a fun game.

Final Verdict: 
3½ out of 5

Super Mario All-Stars ReviewSuper Mario RPG Review

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Platform Game Review: Super Mario World

Super Mario World was the first Super Mario platform game released on a 16-bit console when it was released on the Super Famicom, known in the west as the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, in 1990.

The storyline of the game, like most Super Mario games, is very basic. Bowser, the King of the Koopa, once again kidnaps Peach, Princess Toadstool of the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario, and optionally his brother Luigi, have to travel through eight worlds in order to reach Koopa's Castle. As he had previously done in Super Mario Bros. 3, the Koopalings guard the castles at the end of the first seven worlds, while Bowser himself guards the last.

The power-ups common to all Super Mario titles are here, including the super mushroom that causes Mario or Luigi to grow in height, the fire flower that gives the ability to throw fireballs, and the starman, which grants invincibility for a short time. There is now a box at the top of the graphical user interface which allows for the holding of a powerup, which can be used when shrunk into small Mario or Luigi or at any time by pressing select.

The costumes from Super Mario Bros. 3 are unfortunately dropped, so the Mario bros. won't be able to get a frog, raccoon, or tanooki costume. The good news is the flying raccoon and tanooki suits are replaced with a cape, which can be worn by getting a feather. This cape allows the Mario brothers. to fly throughout a level, which could not be accomplished in the previous game without using a P-wing. By running at full speed, jumping, and then tapping the back button at the right time to collect wind in the cape to cause an updraft, the cape can float the plumbers in the air until flying into an object or enemy.

The graphics all have been improved from previous games, taking advantage of the 16-bit hardware. The sprites of the Mario brothers and the enemies are all more detailed, and the backgrounds now have more detail than they ever had before. The music has also improved, as the tracks have more instruments than before. The final fight with Bowser, looks and sounds great, as the booming soundtrack is matched with a fight that uses the sprite scaling abilities of the Super NES to their full potential.

Super Mario World is one of the best two-dimensional Super Mario platform games of all time. The sound qualities of the Super NES create an experience that still sounds great today. The graphics are much improved over its predecessors as well, creating an overall experience that remains a joy to play to this day.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Dr. Mario (Game Boy) ReviewSuper Mario Kart Review

Monday, February 13, 2023

Adult Animated Comedy Television Series Review: The Simpsons - Treehouse of Horror

The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror review was previously published on Jupiter Beagle on October 15, 2008.

Treehouse of Horror is the annual Halloween-themed episode of The Simpsons. It has become a place for the Simpsons’ creators to do wonderfully bizarre things to their characters without having to worry about series continuity. But, here, in the second season’s Treehouse of Horror, things started off much more innocently.

This episode takes place in Bart’s treehouse (hence the name). The Simpsons kids (Bart, Lisa, and Maggie) are up in the treehouse telling scary stories while Homer eavesdrops on them. The episode is really a series of three short cartoons, interspersed with scenes showing that the kids are the ones telling the stories.

The first story, “Bad Dream House”, has the Simpsons family moving out of their familiar home on Evergreen Terrace in Springfield. Their new house turns out to be alive and decides to get the Simpsons family out by possessing the family members, turning them into psychopaths who want to try to kill each other.

The second story, “Hungry are the Damned”, parodies the episode of the Twilight Zone TV show called “To Serve Man”. The Simpsons are abducted by two aliens known as Kang and Kodos. They give the Simpsons huge amounts of food and take pleasure in watching the family stuff themselves. This makes Lisa suspicious, so she searches the ship to find out the aliens’ true intentions.

The last story is a retelling of the short story “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe. This is easily the most memorable segment of the whole episode. Here Bart is the raven that drives the main character, Homer, crazy while he thinks of his lost love Lenore (who is shown in a portrait as Marge). The story is spoken from the text directly from Edgar Allen Poe’s story and is narrated by James Earl Jones.

The first episode of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror is excellent. But, the best episodes in the series are still to come. Even so, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror has become a Halloween tradition in many American households (mine included), and this is the one that started it all. Everyone should see this at least once.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

Boxing Game Mega Review: Punch-Out!!

Punch-Out began in the arcades, but most gamers know it from the Nintendo Entertainment System version.

The game features the boxer Little Mac who is coached by Doc Louis. The game took you through three circuits, the Minor Circuit, Major Circuit, and the World Circuit. Mac has to notice each fighter's patterns and hit them when possible. If Mac hits an opponent by surprise, he earns a star. A star can be used for a super uppercut that, when done properly, can cause a knockout. Mac also can become tired if he loses too many hearts by hitting an opponent while they guard. 

The goal is to either knock out the opponent so many times that he can't get back up which earns a knockout, or KO, from the referee, Mario. If a boxer knocks down his opponent three times in one round, a technical knock-out, or TKO, is called. There are three rounds. If the timer runs out in all three rounds, a decision will be made based on how many knock-downs a boxer has made.

Each opponent is cartoonish and enjoyably flamboyant. Each hails from a different country and is based on common stereotypes of that country. However, like Mario's stereotypical Italian speech patterns, the stereotypes are not portrayed in a way to offend. There are three boxers in the Minor Circuit, starting with Glass Joe, which lives up to his name. The Major Circuit has four boxers beginning with the super-flamboyant Don Flamenco. The World Circuit has six boxers, including three that fight Mac for the first time and three rematches from the Major and Minor circuits. There are ten boxers total in the three circuits.

The original Famicom version is different from all of the other versions, It ends with the World Circuit boxer Super Macho Man (sadly not related to Randy Savage). A newspaper is displayed touting Little Mac's triumph. In the other two versions of the game, after the newspaper, there is an eleventh boxer Mac fights in The Dream Fight. This version was released for the Nintendo Switch Online Famicom emulator.

The first version released on the Nintendo Entertainment System was Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! This version had Little Mac fight the then-heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson. This fight was harder than all of the others since you could not get a KO on him and if you went through all of the stages, the judges would usually declare Tyson the winner. You had to have a TKO, knocking him down three times in one round before the three-minute timer ran out.

The last version was Punch-Out!! Featuring Mr. Dream. This version still featured the Dream Fight, except this time the boxer matched the theme as he was named Mr. Dream. He was an edit of Mike Tyson, making the boxer a caucasian man with perfect teeth. This is the version that is usually released nowadays, such as on the NES Classic Edition and the Nintendo Switch Online Nintendo Entertainment System emulator.

Punch-Out!! is a classic that can still be enjoyed, especially with the rewind and save features of the modern Nintendo emulators on the NES Classic Edition and Nintendo Switch Online. The characters are humorous and the animations are silly and enjoyable. It does give you a sense of satisfaction once you figure out the patterns of the boxers, and it is a lot more fun in Nintendo's emulators because you can save and load instead of using passwords. If you don't mind NES-era graphics, it's worth playing.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5
Super Punch-Out!! Review Coming SoonDoc Louis's Punch-Out!! Review
All Night Nippon Super Bros. ReviewSuper Mario Bros. 2 Review

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Animated Superhero Action Web Series Episode Review: What If... Captain Carter Were the First Avenger?

What If...? is an animated version of the Marvel Comics title of the same name. It offers alternative events to those portrayed in the sacred timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first episode shows what would happen if Peggy Carter was given the super soldier serum.

The episode is narrated by Jeffrey Wright, who portrays Uatu the Watcher. The Watchers are a race of aliens that watch and record events in the universe without interfering. They were previously seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 getting information from a man known as the Informant, played by the late great Stan Lee. If Marvel Studios brings Uatu into live-action, I hope they continue to use Jeffery Wright. He has a commanding, yet soothing voice that fits the character perfectly.

Oatu explains that just one different decision is enough to cause a new universe. In this case, the Nexus point that creates a new timeline is when Peggy decides to stay with the military men watching the super soldier experiment rather than going to the viewing area upstairs. This causes Carter to notice the man with the bomb that was meant to distract the crowd. It causes him to detonate it before, rather than after, the experiment. This leads to Steve Rogers getting shot, which left the chamber without an occupant. Knowing that doing nothing would cause the experiment to be a failure, Peggy enters the chamber. Howard Stark pulls the lever, despite the objections of Colonel Flynn. The experiment was successful, giving Carter a taller, more muscular physique.

This leads to a dustup with the colonel, who feels the experiment was a failure because the serum went into a "girl", which is what would likely have happened in the United States in the 1940s, and reminded me a lot of the excellent Agent Carter television show.

She is finally convinced to go out into the battlefield by a still skinny and short Steve Rogers, who is recuperating in physical therapy. As she is not being touted out into USO shows, she managed to take the mind stone within the tesseract to Howard Stark.

This leads to a fantastic sequence where Peggy busts the Howling Commandos, including Steve's friend Bucky, out of their prison cell. When the Captain and the Commandos fight their way out, they are joined by Steve in a Howard Stark-designed, tesseract-powered, mechanical suit dubbed the Hydra Stomper. It was fun to see this early Iron Man suit designed by the elder Stark, and its inclusion made sense as, in the main timeline, Howard had said that he was restricted by the technology of his time.

We then get a scene as 1940s music plays over a montage of Captain Carter's accomplishments, as well as those of Steve Rogers in his Hydra Stomper suit. 

The most fun part of this episode was the ending, as Captain Carter's showdown with the Red Skull didn't go anything like Captain America's. Red Skull truly showed Captain Carter just what his organization meant with the name HYDRA.

I'm glad that Marvel is willing in phase four to show events that differ from the main timeline films. With Marvel slowly building up to the weirdness levels of the comics, we're really past the halfway point now, and it's brought us some truly great things. Captain Carter is a fantastic character that I hope we see a lot more of in the Marvel Cinematic Universe moving forward.

Final Verdict:
5 out of 5

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Action Television Series Episode Review: Agent Carter - Time & Tide

In the third episode of Agent Carter, Peggy settles into her new apartment at a ladies' only residence while still investigating the Leviathan and trying to stay one step ahead of her co-workers at the Strategic Scientific Reserve.

The SSR investigated the license plate that was pulled from the 10-ton ball of concrete and metal. After running the plates. they discovered that it was registered to a vehicle owned by Howard Stark.

They bring Jarvis in and interrogate him, but both he and Peggy have to pretend that they don't know each other. Jack Thompson, the SSR's best interrogator, reveals that Edwin Jarvis was found to have committed treason. He threatens to deport him and arrest his wife. The latter causes him to break his cool demeanor.

Carter pretends she lost the missing car report, which caused Chief Dooley to chew her out and make her apologize to Thompson, a huge misogynist. 

Peggy Carter was originally going to let the revelation go unsaid, but decided she didn't want to have anything further to do with Jarvis until he told her why he was charged with treason. He revealed he did it to get a Jewish person away from the Nazis and that Howard Stark used his influence to save both the Jewish person Jarvis tried to save as well as Jarvis himself. This improved her opinion of both Edwin Jarvis and Howard Stark.

After she's satisfied, Jarvis and Peggy head to the docks to look for a ship that is reportedly connected to the theft of Howard Stark's inventions. They find dangerous inventions, but not the nitromene. Not wanting to let the inventions fall into the wrong hands, she has Jarvis disguise his voice to phone in an anonymous tip about their location.

Meanwhile, one of Peggy's co-workers is killed along with the man that he was bringing into the SSR office, which only tightens their resolve to bring down Stark. 

Meanwhile, Peggy decides to work on her personal relationships as she finally confided in the waitress who had been trying to be her friend while a new resident named Dorothy Underwood moved into Peggy's apartment building.

Tide & Time is another fantastic episode. The action is once again fantastic, as is Peggy's quick thinking against men that are much bigger and stronger than her. The reveal of some of Edwin's background makes Jarvis a much more sympathetic character, and the dynamic between her and Peggy is quickly becoming one of the best parts of the show.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5

Friday, February 10, 2023

Board Video Game Mega Review: Spot: The Video Game

Spot: The Video Game was essentially a four-player version of the ancient Chinese board game Go with elements of Reversi, also known as Othello. It was the first video game that featured the 7-Up mascot Spot.

Dave Crummack and Craig Galley originally developed it for Wise Owl Software as Infection in 1988, before they sold it to Virgin Mastertronic. It was then licensed to Leland Corporation and released to arcades as Ataxx. The Infection version was released into the public domain by developer Gary Dunne in 1994. This public domain version was included on the pack-in disc of the forty-ninth issue of Amiga Power magazine.

The Spot version, which was expanded on by Virgin programmers, was the most fully developed of the many versions of the game. While the other versions of the game featured up to two players, the Spot version had a maximum of four. In this version of the game, if there is more than one player, each player takes turns using the same controller.

In all the versions of the game, the players were given different colors of chips. The goal was to build your chips outward one by one until you reach your opponent's chips. After that, the goal becomes to flip your opponent's chips until they are all your color.

The Spot version has a fantastic background tune that is so memorable that I would remember it from time to time even years after my last playthrough. The animations in this version are really fun, with Spot jumping, walking, and diving into other colored chips to flip them over. All of the versions are fun, but because of the additions to the Spot version, this is the version I recommend if you want to check it out.

Final Verdict:
4 out of 5