Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sound Test: The Epic Fail Edition

As the 6 readers of this blog that aren't writers of this blog know, our most consistent feature is our monthly Sound Test where we (Timo, and one time me) pick some of our favorite video game music in order to share our favorite tunes with you. Timo and I were recently discussing this segment and came up with an idea for a fun little twist, we are also going to start sharing some of our least favorite songs with you. I don't know if this will be as regular an occurrence as the normal Sound Test blogs, but it should be fun none the less, so lets get started by cranking up the volume and listening to 2 of my least favorite pieces of 8 bit diarrhea.


First up on the plate we have the over world music from Friday the 13th on the NES. Unfortunately, this song is such an affront to the ears that no one has taken the time to give it its own youtube video, so we will have to make due with this video that compiles all the songs in the game. The song we are after is the first one in the video so don't worry about scrolling to look for it. That 4 second looped pathetic excuse for music is the main song in the game. This is the song that you will be listening to for over 70% of your play time. I guarantee you that if you play this game for more than an hour (which would be amazing the quality of this song pretty accurately reflects the quality of the game) you will forever have this piece of putrid garbage burned into your brain. I swear sometimes at night I can't sleep because every time I lay in a quiet room all I can hear is DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH DUH, and I know that it is impossible for you to interpret the text that I just wrote as music since it has no indication of pitch or rhythm, but I don't care because this piece of crap loop isn't music. In fact I honestly believe that my text interpretation of it is more satisfying to listen to, because listening to nothing is infinitely more satisfying than subjecting your ears to the vomit inducing vileness that is the Friday the 13th over world music.

Now my next pick for the worst of the worst that video game music has to offer may surprise some of you, Mega Man 2 Dr. Wily's music. Now don't freak out I am not talking about the balls to walls Stage 1-2 music, obviously that song is beastly and one of the best pieces of music that the NES ever gave us. I am talking about the insult that is the next song you will hear in Wily's Castle. Just listen to this garbage. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!!! You are all pumped on the edge of your seat full of adrenaline from the face melting power of the first song in Wily's castle, and then the game is like C-C-C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER! I can't even imagine what they were thinking with this one.

"Well gee that last song was awesome, I guess since we can't write anything better than that we should just try our best to produce the most mind numbing thing we can. I got it we will just take a boring 6 second piece of ass, and then sequence it higher and higher 9 million times!"

I will never be able to fully impart on you people how much I hate this song. Whenever I put the Mega Man II OST on to listen to while I walk to class I feel super pumped, and then this disgusting joke of a song comes on and I just wanna lay down in the middle of the street and let a bus run me over.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Sometimes I find myself all alone in the Xbox dashboard, with no friends online and no desire to play the games I currently own all by myself. Usually, this just means I must wallow in slightly pathetic misery until I turn my Xbox off and find something else to do. However, if the planets are correctly aligned and somewhere in the world a child enters the contra code on an NES controller, I happily realize that I have microsoft points with which to buy an Xbox Live Arcade game. When it comes to these precious points, I am often stingy on what I should spend them on. I download a bunch of free demos, play them, and then buy whichever game sparks my interest. This is not what happened recently. I downloaded the demo for a game called Super Meat Boy, thinking it had a strange title and cover, and by the time the introduction movie had finished I knew that I would be purchasing this gem of a game.

The story is an archetype of video games: A bad guy snatches your girl and it is up to you to stop him. In this specific case, you are a boy with no skin who loves a girl who happens to be made of bandages, and the bad guy is a fetus in a jar wearing a tuxedo with a knack for flipping you off

But the brilliance of this game is not in the story; it is in the gameplay. Super Meat Boy is a platformer, and unlike scores of games that have come out recently, it is hard. Like, really hard, and this difficulty is a wonderful thing.The controls in Super Meat Boy are of a dream-like quality. Each and every death you face (and you will face thousands) feels like it is entirely your fault, which slightly enhances your focus, and eventually your rage. While most games give you a brief delay between deaths, SMB puts you right back in the action (at the beginning of a level, checkpoints are for n00bs) almost instantly, leading you to try again and again until your iron reflexes and quick wit eventually overcome buzzsaws, lazers, rockets, fire-slugs, and some flying enemies that look like poop.

For an arcade game, Super Meat Boy also has incredible depth. Scattered throughout the levels are hidden bandages, which unlock new characters if you can manage to get the bandage (which is always placed in a challenging spot) and then go on to complete the level. These unlockable characters all control differently (yet still sublimely) and have different abilities, such as double-jumping and rewinding time, which causes each character to bring a different feel to the game. Also included in a few levels are hidden warp zones, which are levels done in an 8-bit style that pay homage to classic games. All in all there are around 340ish levels in the main game, along with free DLC levels that get updated regularly (you don’t even have to download them, it’s magical). The bottom line is, this is a fantastic platformer that feels like an old game with all the bells and whistles of a new one. If you own an Xbox 360 (or a PC) and like platformers, you need this game. Period.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Four-Player Split Screen Blues

As many of you know (because I wrote about it awhile ago and soooo many people read our blog), I don’t own any newer consoles.  This is going to change very soon however, as I will be purchasing an Xbox 360 within the week.  This is not really important to the overall agenda of this particular post though. 

The other day, willtacular and ProtoScott came over and played Halo: Reach alongside my girlfriend and myself.  I have not played any Halo game in about a 2 years and my girlfriend has never played one.  Needless to say, the two of us were severely outranked. 

I own a decently large TV (50-something inches) so playing high definition games looks reeeal good.  Sadly, we were cursed with the four-player split screen curse. BUM-BUM-BUUUUUUUM!!!! I know, it’s scary: one screen, four players, and one couch.  There was a lot of squinting going on, but there is always a silver lining.

The four-player split screen may have its many downsides.  First, it is nearly impossible to see anyone else on your screen, making any form of distance shooting nearly impossible.  Secondly, it’s terribly easy to mix up which screen you are playing on.  This leads to many hilarious outbursts, such as, “Why isn’t my controller working?!” and, “I can’t make my guy shoot!!”  The split-screen leads to a lot of anger, plain and simple.  No one enjoys not being able to see anything besides their own gun.  No one likes constantly squinting at the screen trying to see if anyone is twenty feet in front of them.  It is an evil thing.

Strangely, the four-player split screen has its upsides. If you enjoy video games for their social aspect, the split-screen can only lend to the level of joy.  It forces you to interact with the person sitting beside you; sometime even to the point of looking on their screen to figure out where they are if they are being attacked.  If you are playing against the person next to you, you might as well give them a shove or a punch in the face in an attempt to distract them.

The split screen boosts the communal feeling of gaming, which is important for many gamers.  There is something to be said about being able to play someone on the other side of the world through the online multiplayer format, but this will never replace the joy that is found in a group of people sitting on one couch trying to invade a base together.   

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sound Test 6

It's a little too soon to do another of these, but I've been plagued by this song for days now. It is truly a magnificent piece of music.

It is somewhat timely that I dwell on this work. The Mortal Kombat series is making a comeback this month with its newest installment; thus, it is the perfect time to look back on the series. Often, the special music of the Mortal Kombat games comes from the fleshy uppercuts and the tortured screams of the fighters. Truly, the sound of an uppercut connecting to my opponent is considered music to my ears (reinforced by a recent visit to a local arcade that just so happens to contain a UMK3 machine ). However, the actual soundtrack of the games is worth a visit.

This month, I'm going to look at this tune. All I can say at first is: wow, what a piece! The song somehow combines an ominous tone with a sense of urgency. It propels the kombatants to fight for their deepest ideals. You cannot avoid this battle, but you deeply wish that you could. The fighters are arrayed against each other with absolute resolution: they are also at their strongest. The arpeggios express a vicious clash between irreconcilable parties. They clash on a battlefield that grants maximum strength and power: a holy place. What a truly magnificent theme! I dare to admit that I get goosebumps upon listening to this moving work.

Excuse me, I have gotten insufferably (nauseatingly) emotional about a piece of music from a video game. But please, listen to this with the same sort of reverence that you would a sacred hymn. I would like you good folks to really get involved in this tune: make it enter your very souls. It represents the struggles that you face every day. You are a kombatant, a warrior. Take pride in that, and keep listening for cool tunes!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Ecco the Dolphin is an awful awful game.

When you look back on the games you played as a child, no doubt you think of them with great fondness and nostalgia, as these cartridges and discs from the past were a part of your beloved childhood. Sadly, I’ve found that occasionally when you return to these games to give them another run they are abominations that you should have destroyed when you had the chance, yet the innocence of youth blinded you. Such is the case with Ecco the Dolphin: The Tides of Time.

Before I get to a play-through, allow me to ask you a question. You decide to make a game about an evil vortex alien queen that comes to earth in order to destroy it. The only way for the hero to destroy this dastardly villain is to travel through time and gain powers and abilities that will allow him to defeat the evil queen in the present. Seems like a good enough story for a 16 bit game, right? Now, who would YOU pick to be the epic hero on a quest such as this? A man clad in green who wields a sword? An anime-looking hero with spiky hair and a headband with some sort of flying talking critter as a sidekick? Nah, those ideas suck. Better go with a DOLPHIN WHO CAN ONLY SWIM FAST. Best idea ever, right? Wrong. Yet this is the exact plot premise (as far as I can tell) of The Tides of Time.

Maybe this awful story could be forgiven if the game had some sort of coherent, enjoyable gameplay, however, the gameplay flat out sucks. Not once in the game is anything told to you, which led to childhood Will swimming around really fast and jumping out of the water to do flips in the first level and thinking the game was awesome. I will still maintain that this is the best part of the game. But in order to truly understand it’s horridity- a word I just made up, you have to play the game. Since you probably don’t have a Sega genesis lying around with a copy of it, I will do the dirty work for you and try to put into words the frustration and awful gameplay that abounds in ETDTTOT.

Level 1:

I just turned on the game and I already have a complaint. The main theme for this game is dark, mysterious, and by all means awesome, but does this really belong in a game where you play as a dolphin? Also, on the demo that plays if you don’t hit start, Ecco gets hurt. N00b.

I start off by swimming really fast and doing flips so that I can at least get minimal enjoyment out of this disgusting romp through the deep blue. After doing a bit more exploring, a dolphin comes up and I cant swim past him until he tells me the sea is filled with teleport rings. Cool dude. I pass by him, swim through a ring (Hey! That dolphin just told me there were rings! How convenient!) and the level ends. At least I wish it did. Instead it goes to a long, boring, racing game perspective and you have to swim and jump through a bunch of rings. Level 1 done. How exciting.

Level 2: Crystal Springs

Password: CDEXZXEB

Now the fun really begins; this level just flat out sucks. I start out next to a dolphin who tells me to follow him. Once we arrive at a completely random spot, he asks if I can feel the energy pulling. No, I can’t. Now, from past experience I know I need to knock the crystals scattered throughout the level down and bring them to this spot, however they REFUSE to move, and will eventually just go when they feel like. After I bring them all to this spot, I can move on to the next level. It’s 1:55. Lets see how long this takes. By the way, your only clue that this is how to beat the level is that the dolphin now says “Do It” when you speak to him. What a helpful guy. Okay it took until 2:02, far too long for somebody who knows exactly what to do.

Level 3: Fault Zone

Password: IOFPADZA

This level is pointless. Rocks fall down, then a dolphin comes and tells you you cant breathe underwater anymore. Oh awesome, lets make a game that takes place in water where every few seconds you have to come up to breathe! This is a perfect example of why I don’t like realism in video games. Ah well, level finished.

Level 4: Two Tides

Password: WZGOYUYA

This level starts off with some dolphin buddies sayin’ they are scared. Cool. Once again I’m going to blitz through this level because I know exactly what to do, but the point here is that if you didn’t know, you’d be stuck and rage would force you to quit. Basically, there are bubbles that push you away from places, and you have to scare a turtle and hide behind his shell to get through them. Because a turtle shell can get past raging tides and a dolphin swimming as fast as it can can’t. great idea programmers. When you reach the end, a freaky dolphin from the future comes and takes you to its time because you have to sing with “an old friend.” So to be clear, you have to go to the distant future to see a friend you made a long time ago in the past. What a wonderful plot.

Level 5

Well, no level screen came up, but I am going to count this as a level. Okay, the freaky looking dolphin told me to use the water tubes to find my friend. It’s 2:18. When I figure out how to beat this level, I will write more. Now it is 2:32 and I figured it out. One crystal eats some rocks that lets you shoot another crystal that says “The Glyph that is a door is now open” apparently crystals are called glyphs now. You swim through the broken crystal (quickly, there is a time limit) to dash into another crystal and quickly run back through the other crystal and now you can shoot the crystal blocking the exit! All this with no hints (and yes i talked to every dolphin in the level. They just told me I look funny. Jerks.) What a great game.

Level 6: Skyway

Password: AYYLXRCB

Uh, you shoot four crystals. How original.

Level 7: Sky Tides

Password: KLSKFQCB

Wasn’t I supposed to find a friend two levels ago? Ah well. This level is similar in style to a space shooter, as in, the screen is constantly scrolling from top to bottom. You have to stay in the tunnels of water or you fall out and die. Within two seconds you have to move right or left. There is no possible way to know that the first time playing through. Great design. Many times, you have to switch tubes by swimming with enough force from one to reach the one beside it. After quite a few tries, i make it through.

Level 8: Tube of Medusa

Password: AOPPSKYA

I’ve never made it this far. The music is pretty darn cool in this stage. It is similar in style to the last level, but now the screen does not constantly move…okay I was about to say I was starting to dig this level, when a GIANT jellyfish came, attacked me, and I fell out of the tube and am back at level six. I’m done.

Obviously, I have no idea how much of the game this represents, and maybe after this it gets to be really cool (though I doubt it). The average person will never know. The cryptic puzzles, unnecessarily frustrating level layouts, a bad story, and controls that are somewhat difficult to execute lead to a game that shouldn’t be played by you, your friends, your family, or even your enemies. Because I played it as a kid, I feel a nostalgic connection to this game, one that might even cause me to power through the pain and complete it someday. You, however, are living in ignorance to its crappiness, and I hope you remain that way.

P.S. I tried looking through google images to find some pictures of this game i could post. Understandably, there aren't very many, so you'll have to use your imagination. Just imagine mediocrity.