One of the things I find kind of interesting about how gaming culture in general has developed over time is how people feel about “arcade games”.
Back in the 8- and 16-bit eras of computers and consoles that I grew up with, the seemingly unattainable dream was to have “the arcade experience at home” — or, well, more accurately, an authentic arcade experience at home. This was kind of strange when you think about it, because a lot of home computer and console games already offered experiences of greater complexity, depth and duration than your average quarter-muncher, but still the dream persisted.
Once we got to a stage where our home gaming hardware was more than up to the job of providing an “arcade-perfect” experience, however, many people had become so accustomed to those longer, deeper experiences that the dream of “arcade games” kind of fell by the wayside for a significant proportion of the gaming audience. And consequently, I suspect a fair few people missed out on highly enjoyable cheese like Sega’s Ghost Squad.
Continue reading Wii Essentials: Ghost Squad
One aspect of gaming we’ve lost sight of a bit over the course of the last couple of console generations is the idea of a game that is “nothing but fun”.
I’m talking about mechanics-centric games where the aim is to just have a good time and challenge yourself; games that aren’t trying to “say something”; games that aren’t trying to be artistic in a narrative sense.
This kind of game hasn’t died out completely, of course, but at the time of writing they remain primarily confined to the independently developed, digital-only sector. Capcom’s Under the Skin for PS2, meanwhile, reminds us of a time not so long ago (2004) when this type of experience would get a full retail release and no-one would bat an eyelid.
Continue reading PS2 Essentials: Under the Skin
Dig Dug represents a type of game that doesn’t really exist any more, at least in its original form: what I shall refer to from hereon as “Dirt and Boulders” games.
The idea of a Dirt and Boulders game is that you dig through a bunch of dirt while trying to accomplish something, attempting not to get squashed by inconveniently placed boulders, and occasionally trying to use said boulders to your advantage.
Dirt and Boulders games were big in the ’80s, with titles like Mr. Do!, Boulder Dash and numerous clones of both keeping people entertained both in arcades and at home. But 1982’s Dig Dug was the game that established the template for all subsequent Dirt and Boulders games to follow — and a template that modern offshoots of Dirt and Boulders games, such as Minecraft, Terraria and suchlike, have somewhat drifted away from in favour of crafting and exploration.
Continue reading Namco Essentials: Dig Dug
When you think of Japanese shoot ’em ups, it’s easy to get hung up on nothing but classic arcade and console titles.
But over the years, the PC has played host to a wide variety of its own unique titles, too, with many developers specialising in this highly flexible platform thanks to its ease of digital distribution and free marketplace.
One such developer that has come to prominence over the last few years is Astro Port, and its title Satazius is one of its best, alongside the similarly excellent Zangeki Warp.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Satazius
Shoot ’em ups are one of the oldest types of video game, having been around pretty much since the birth of the medium. So in order to stand out in this modern era, a new shmup needs to either do what it does really well… or do something unusual.
Triangle Service’s Minus Zero, originally released as part of the Xbox 360 compilation Shooting Love 200X in 2009, opts for the latter approach. It’s one of the most unusual shoot ’em ups out there — and one of the most addictive.
It’s a completely abstract game, consisting entirely of geometric shapes accompanied by a background and soundtrack that increase in complexity as you progress, but its main twist on the usual formula is that the only weapon you can use is a “lock-on” similar to that used in Sega’s Rez.
Continue reading Shmup Essentials: Minus Zero