Review of

11 10 2009


GameTap is something of a marvel. For years, several players would watch as their favorite games fade into obscurity, with nothing they could do about it. Try as they like, most of the systems that house these games would eventually break, ending any chance they had of playing their classics. It wasn’t until the arrival of the XBox Live Arcade that players had the chance to purchase and download earlier titles. Since then, Sony and Nintendo have provided services of their own. Taking a nod from them, GameTap, owned by Turner Broadcasting System, decided to provide a service to old-school gamers by offering a service in which to download some of their favorite forgotten games, spanning systems from the Atari 2600 to the Dreamcast. However, is the company at the point where it is worth looking into?

Look ahead to find out.

Now, of course GameTap doesn’t have modern hits like Halo 3 or Bioshock for purchase, but there is more than enough here to play around with. For a fee of $9.95 a month, you have hundreds of classic titles at your disposal, from 1942 and Deus Ex to Toy Commander and Grandia II. Role playing, action, sports, puzzle, FPS, no matter what you are into; GameTap should have what you are looking for. Of course, there are some limitations though. If you do not have a monthly subscription, you will only have a few dozen free games to play around with, which mostly consist of low budget arcade titles. Also, if you are looking for any games from the Sony or Nintendo platform, forget it. There is always the Virtual Console or Sony Store for those though.

Nevertheless, it was quite the nostalgia trip to go back and play through some of my favorite titles from the 80s and 90s. Mega Man X3, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, Tomb Raider III, Crazy Taxi, Deus Ex, EverQuest, and several more of my early non-Nintendo favorites were all there for the taking. It doesn’t just end with games though; GameTap also has several music and television options as well. Examples being Sealab 2021 and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, with the latter still receiving new episodes exclusive to GameTap. Every Thursday the GameTap crew updates their roster of games and episodes, with well over 1400 total media options available as of today.

I suppose the only negative that the site has going for it is the fact that several of the titles offered on it can be purchased for pocket change at used game shops. Especially titles for the Dreamcast, Genesis, and 8 bit systems. Also, a broadband connection is required in order to play the games you download, so if you happen to still be on dial up – forget about it. Requirements are needed to play games from GameTap, but they are pretty minimal. Pentium 4, Windows 2000 or better, and US/Canadian residence are really the only guidelines you have to worry about, but odds are 9 out of every 10 people meet all three of these requirements.

All in all, GameTap is a service for those who want to acquire classics from primarily the Arcade and Sega platform. The purchase of games or movies from GameTap is 100% legal, so if you always skipped out on the illegal emulator route then good for you. They may not have every single title you are looking for, primarily because they have only been around for a couple of years. However, if you are a fan of arcade classics, role-playing games, or fighting games, GameTap is the company to go with. So grab a broadband connection and ten dollars, and be apart of a service that is reliable and well worth the investment. It’s only too bad that something this convenient didn’t come around until this decade.


Retro Review: Time Pilot

4 05 2009


Time Pilot (Xbox Live Arcade)

Original release date – 08/30/06

In the far-off future of 2001, the earth is under constant turmoil. As some of us may or may not remember, five years ago, an invasion of UFO’s nearly annihilated all of earth. Hordes of unidentifiable aliens cycled around the planet amongst the hundreds of asteroids that somehow magnetized near the atmosphere. How the hell did this happen? One can’t be too sure. However, hope arrived in the form of a technologically advanced jet fighter, equipped with a time traveling device that made the Delorian look like a 19th century carburetor. With this, the fighter was able to clear out the tyrannical forces that occupied each decade, leading up to the final confrontation right above our heads.

The year is 1982.

Ah, it truly was an epic battle that people will remember for ages and ages to come. Wait, it never happened? Oh that’s right, yet another stereotypical prediction made by the geniuses of the eighties. Back in the good old days it seemed that everyone thought the year 2000 would bring about so much. Kids would hover around the television, watching “The Jetsons” until the early hours of the morning, awaiting the day the flying car and moving sidewalks would suddenly appear in reality. Unfortunately, those days never came, and aside from computers, cable TV, and annoying Indie music, not much has really changed. And the same can be said for the latest addition to the XBLA library, Time Pilot.

Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since Time Pilot remains as one of the best retro shooters of all time. Taking different elements from games like Asteroid and Galaga, Konami was able to form an eloquent shooter with plenty of fresh features. The game was fairly obscure, but those that found a machine in their local arcade knew just how great the game was. 360 degrees of motion, adequate difficulty, and a unique presentation awaited the challenger, with plenty of memorable moments to be had along the way.

The premise of Time Pilot is pretty simple. You control a jet that stays centered on a vertically oriented screen. The title sports five levels, taking you from the early nineties through the dawn of the 21st century, where you will be confronting different aerial adversaries along the way. From the biplanes of 1910 to the missile-filled helicopters of the disco era, there are plenty of things to decimate, with lives and achievements waiting for the best of the best. Your objective in each of these levels will be to destroy as much as possible until the requirement is met. Afterward, a boss will appear, but to be honest, they feel more like mini-bosses. Most of the early missions are extremely easy, and half of the time, you will finish a level without even knowing it.

This could all be attributed to your jet’s rate of fire, which allows you to spray out three shots per action. Also, the game makes the most of the joystick. The ship doesn’t just point in eight directions, but actually takes the time to turn completely around when instructed to. This gives you a wide range of motion to fire, similar to the circle shooting game-play featured in Geometry Wars. Hit detection is a bit off at certain times, with some shots going through certain enemies, but as a whole, the game feels almost exactly like the arcade original.

My personal favorite part of the game is the UFO which emerges from the hectic background of 2001 to rain hellfire on your ship, all the while sending countless minions in to suicide-ram your ass into oblivion. Time Pilot’s boss encounters may be incredibly simple in premise, but the moment one appears on the screen changes everything for the better. Frantically trying to keep those last few lives in check while dozens of missiles and lasers light up the blackness of space around you, truly molds quite the dynamic moment. And those who played the game back in the eighties will be glad to know that the charm is still there.

Probably the most admirable change implemented into Time Pilot would be the audio and visual updates. When you first fire up the game you will notice the title is displayed in the classic setting. Changing that option to advanced will open more detailed ship designs, cloud layers, and add several new musical tracks as well. The game really looks good with better graphics, lessening the age of the title by quite a few years. Hey, why play a 1982 game when you can play a 1987 game, am I right?

One last thing to note is the extra couple of online features that Xbox Live included into the mix. Alongside a two-player alternating mode through the story mode, you can also get online to compete against another pilot. Unfortunately, no head-to-head combat is available, and the key way to win each round is by getting a better score than your opponent; which is obtained by alternating turns battling the AI. It is disappointing that there wasn’t more added to this mode, but it is to be expected for an arcade port. Also, the game is surprisingly lag-free, which is a sigh of relief after playing the mess that is Street Fighter II’ Hyper Fighting.

No matter what the future holds, one thing is for certain: Time Pilot is worth the 400 point purchase. Whether it is to quell that curious nostalgia or to acquire all 200 achievement points the game has to offer, Time Pilot emerges as one of the best titles on XBLA. The single player is over relatively quick, but the frantic premise will pull you in again and again, proceeding not to let go until you vaporize every last alien bastard. So get your head in the game and shoot stuff soldier. We wouldn’t want a repeat of 2001 now would we?

Verdict – 8/10

Why the Video Game Industry is Reaching New Heights

4 05 2009


The underrated ancient of the gaming industry

Video gaming has come a very long way since the late seventies and early eighties. No longer is gaming simply known as the smaller side-venue to television and movies. From greater technology and the insertion of DVD players in systems to character icons and game based movies, the industry has risen to unbelievably popular heights. What makes this rise in popularity so amazing is that just twenty-five years ago, the industry was on the verge of collapse. Hundreds and hundreds of horrendous titles flooded the Atari and Intellivision systems, with just about every random person trying their hands at developing a game. From porn simulators to notoriously bad titles such as E.T. being the prime suspects, things couldn’t have looked any bleaker. However, one particular gaming company had something in mind and it was this organization that turned things around.

linkThe Hero of Time…and the video game industry

Yes, the company that I am referring to is none other than Nintendo. Originating as a card making company in the late eighteen-hundreds, Nintendo tried their hand at the gaming industry going into 1981. With classics like Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and the Legend of Zelda, Nintendo quickly established themselves at the top, dominating the market for years. Soon after, Sega arrived, and a new, healthy rival made its way into the fray. These two companies brought something along that the industry desperately needed: quality. Both gamers and non-gamers alike could now purchase titles confidently, knowing the games they were purchasing were by trustworthy organizations. With more and more companies joining in and newer technologies on the rise, the video game industry was on its way up.

It is that rise that has brought the video game world, as a whole, to the commanding state it is today. Online gaming, motion sensing, rumble sensitivity, and more, all represent the advances companies have made over the last two decades. With compact discs and newer formats, companies can now make games with longer length, better graphics, and more intricate physics. AI is a lot more intelligent, giving players a much greater challenge. Sure, there is still a lot of trash in the mix, but that is to be expected. And for any gamer that has been involved with the industry since the eighties, they can surely attest to the insurmountable leap in quality. Hey, when you look over your friends shoulder and notice he is taking on over twenty gamers from all around the world, you can’t help but be impressed.

With the buzz going on in the industry now-a-days, it is easy to understand why it has even outgrown the movie industry. The potential for developers is limitless and it is much easier to get your foot in the door with companies like EA, Blizzard, and Sony present. From game designer and software engineer to programmer and story writer, the jobs available certainly contain variety, with enough to go around for any educated gamer. If making a game isn’t your thing then why not write “about” games. Companies like CNET and Ziff Davis watch over popular gaming sites like Gamespot and 1UP, each with their own style of writing and content. And for those a little younger, you can always work for retail divisions such as Gamecrazy or Gamestop (not to be confused with “Gamespot”).

Bringing the topic back to Nintendo, what they have done with the Wii is certainly astounding. With its stock constantly sold out of stores and nearly twelve million purchased worldwide, it is on pace to be the greatest selling console of all time. What makes this so incredible is that the system has only been out ten months. The appeal comes from the motion sensing feature present within the controllers. With a flick of the rest, you can swing a sword, tackle an adversary, or move a race car. The visual appeal this brings to the table is unique and brings people of different ages together a lot easier. Don’t be surprised if you walk into your room and find your grandparents playing your copy of Wii Sports. You may be a little creeped out though.

ps360wii1The Seventh Generation

All in all, what was once considered childish and meaningless by many is now a mainstream phenomenon. With just two decades of advancement, video games are now looked at in the same picture as movies and television. With sleeker console appearances, better visuals, recognizable characters, and DVD compatibility, there should be no confusion to the industry’s broad appeal. Sure we may occasionally want to relive the classics, but that is why it’s wise to hang on to those older systems. Even if you’ve lost them, modern systems like the PlayStation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360, all have an online service where you can download those forgotten favorites. It is the strong foundation, advertising, technology, and claim to quality, that has pushed the video game industry to new heights, and the sky is the limit.