Archive for the video games Category

America’s love affair with a man named Pac

Posted in 80s, Pac-Man, pop culture, reviews, video games with tags , , on August 6, 2008 by Paxton

Okay, this was meant to be the article I posted after my July 3rd opus on the Perfect Pac-Man game.  However, circumstances being what they are (me = ADD) other things grabbed my attention and I’m just now getting around to posting this followup.  In the last article I discussed a little bit of Pac-Man’s history and also covered Billy Mitchell’s achievement in 1999 obtaining the first perfect game of Pac-Man.  There’s a lot of pop culture crap that happened between Pac-Man debuting in 1980 and Billy Mitchell cementing his status as “king of the nerds” in 1999.  And this is the stuff I love to cover; pop culture crap.

In the ’80s, Pac-Man was HUGE.  He was everywhere.  The Pac-Man logo and video game character were licensed on hundreds of products to capitalize on what would become the most famous video game of all time.  We’ll take a look at some of these products, but first, let’s look at the video game’s lineage.

Pac-Man Sequels

I’m sure you know a few of them, but I doubt you knew there were about thirteen of them, many being exclusive releases on home video consoles.  Let’s take a look at some of the more notable sequels in the pantheon of Pac-Man gaming.

Pac-Man screenshotAfter realizing they had a hit on their hands, Bally-Midway decided to sell the video game rights to Atari to develop a port of the game on the extremely popular VCS 2600 in 1981. The media blitz surrounding the impending release was monumental to say the least. Ironic, because next to ET the Extra Terrestrial, this was the worst game ever created for the Atari 2600. And yes, I owned it. The music was awful, the graphics were terrible, the ghosts were dumb and the fruit you normally eat in the middle changed to a “vitamin pill”. Awful. Needless to say, this game was one of the three reasons, in my opinion, that Atari went bankrupt. The other two? The games ET the Extraterrestrial and Donkey Kong. No company could recover from that Trinity of Unholy Suck-i-ness.

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Pac-Man Perfect: 1st Perfect game of Pac-Man played on today’s date, 1999

Posted in 80s, Pac-Man, pop culture, video games with tags , , , , on July 3, 2008 by Paxton

On today’s date, July 3, in 1999, the first perfect score was achieved on the arcade game Pac-Man. This feat was accomplished by the very controversial figure, Billy Mitchell, at the Funspot Family Fun Center in Weirs Beach, New Hampshire. Mitchell was competing with a partner in a US vs Canada video game competition over the Fourth of July weekend. It took him over six hours to complete his “perfect game”.

What, you may ask, goes into getting a “perfect score” on Pac-Man? To reach the maximum score of 3,333,360 points, one must navigate 255 mazes, or “boards”, eating all dots, power pellets and point giving fruit. You must also devour all four ghosts every time you eat a power pellet. After successfully navigating the first 255 boards you will reach the final 256th board, or what is known as the “kill screen” (see pic below). On the 256th maze, there is a bug in Pac-Man’s internal code that affects how the screen is drawn. Half the screen is perfectly clear while the other half is a mess of random characters and symbols. The interrupted drawing of the maze renders this final maze nearly unplayable. You finish your game by acquiring as many points as possible on this “kill screen” before you eventually die.

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Defending the Galaxy: Reviewing the video game bible of 1981 Part I

Posted in 80s, books, humor, pop culture, reviews, video games with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2008 by Paxton

Cavalcade Arcade

As some of you will recall, I went to the Jacksonville Book Fair a while ago and found a bunch of really cool books, all for about 50 cents each. One of these finds was my favorite. it was a video game book from the early ’80s called Defending the Galaxy: The Complete Handbook of VideoGaming.

Defending the Galaxy front coverDefending the Galaxy back cover

This book, according to the cover, lets the readers in on how to “blend in” and “look like” an elite video gamer. Seriously, it’s written with the assumption that the reader is not currently in the video game crowd, but let’s them in on the secrets of looking and acting like a top tier gamer. Needless to say, the book is funny. Ridiculously so. The book’s assumption that non-gamer folk even want to be “in” with the gamer folk is very presumptuous, but it leads to some really funny “tips and tricks”. What is a non-gamer supposed to do once they’ve assimilated themselves amongst the video game crowd? Study them? Learn their habits? Is this a National Geographic special? What if, while posing as a gamer, the non-gamer is asked to play a 2 player game of Defender? How do they fake their way through that? The answer is, there’s no faking your way through a game of Defender as it’s widely considered one of the hardest games ever created. You’ll have your backside handed to you by the real gamer and then be ostracized by the gaming community. So teaching you to look like a gamer when you aren’t is also teaching you to be a poseur. But, if you follow the instructions in this book, the road to becoming a poseur is awesome.

I was 8 when this book was released. At that time I was a huge video gamer and loved to go to the arcade and play whenever my parents would let me. Any trip to the local mall meant I got to play at Aladdin’s Castle. I could play Donkey Kong or Asteroids at Dino’s Hot Dogs. There was a stand alone video arcade named Wizard’s Palace that I rarely got to visit. We’d go to Six Flags on a family vacation and I’d want to spend a few hours in the video arcade instead of going on rides. My dad kept saying that he didn’t spend 40 bucks to get me in the park to play games I can find in the mall at home. That’s how much I loved video games. In my defense, there were several games in that Six Flags video arcade that I never saw at my local arcade including Super Punch Out!, Return of the Jedi and Mad Dog McCree.

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Slot Machines: The Next Generation Part II

Posted in casinos, pop culture, reviews, slot machines, technology, video games with tags , , , , , on September 8, 2006 by Paxton

Thank the almighty blessed Lord it is Friday.
Friday morning, 8:40am EST, and I’m already dying a slow death of boredom. And this has only been a 4 day week. Ugh. Calgon take me away.

Since I don’t have Calgon to take me away, I have to settle for a blog article. Continue on for part 2 of my slot machines reviews. If you missed part 1 just click here.

I’ve been to many different casinos in several different places over the years. Las Vegas, Albuquerque, New Orleans, Atlantic City. During my travels I’ve seen some pretty cool and pretty funny character based machines. I began taking pictures and collecting some of the best. In the second part of this slot machine article I’ll show you some more of my favorite slot machines.

Star Wars – This is one of the coolest slot machines out there. Very nice graphics, cool game play, and I love the bonus games where you try to blow up the Death Star. Even the chairs you sit on have Star Wars written on them. Very, very cool. It’s even fun to just sit and watch someone play.

Monster Mansion/The Munsters/Ghost Island – I love these Halloween/monster themed slots. There are usually several on the floor at all times. Monster Mansion is actually branded with the Universal Studios logo so it is using the fully licensed Universal Monsters. The gameplay is okay, but the visuals are really cool. The Munsters machine is obviously based on the tv show, which I loved. Unfortunately it is the old 3 reel type slot and not the graphics heavy video game like slot like Monster Mansion. Other scary themed slots include Ghost Island where you are trapped on an island, go figure, full of ghosts. You have to capture them all to win bonus games. Very neat.

Texas Tea – I’ve actually seen this slot in almost every casino I’ve been to. Apparently, for the last few years, this has been the most popular slot machine. More people play these slots than any other. Surprising to me that it’s so popular. It’s vaguely based on the tv show Dallas, showing big Cadillacs, oil wells, rich Texans, etc. Entertaining, yes, but still very middle of the road.

Dam Lumberjack Beavers – This is it. My piece de resistance. My coup de grace. If I were Orson Welles, this would be my Citizen Kane. Dam. Lumberjack. Beavers. Not much else needs to be said. It’s like Snakes on a Plane or Sharks in a Honda Civic. Simple, to the point. Awesome.

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Slot Machines: The Next Generation Part I

Posted in casinos, Elvis, slot machines, technology, video games with tags , , , , , on August 20, 2006 by Paxton

The grandfather of the modern slots, the Liberty Bell slot machine, was developed in California in 1887. Since then the basic premise has stayed the same; three reels, multiple prize symbols per reel, one lever to spin the reels. Originally payouts were given as complimentary items by the bars they were in but as electronic parts replaced the mechanical parts, slot machines started paying out hard cash. Even with that development, the basic idea and design of slot machines didn’t really waver, that is, until the mass-producing of microchips and the widespread use of computer software.

With the proliferation of the micro-processor, most modern slot machines became software based and play like a complicated computer video game. As a matter of fact, I see modern slot machines as the newer cousin to the upright arcade video game. My formative years were all up and down the ’80s. I loved video arcades. My friend Steve and I would search out video arcades in which to play our favorite games like Pac-Man, Ms Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, Zaxxon, Tecmo Bowl, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, etc, etc. I am, a video game phreak…..a Super-Phreak, if you will. So it should come as no surprise that I am fascinated by the new virtual slots seen in every casino. Not only do they look and play like a video game, they have graphics, sounds and images from popular entertainment like TV and movies. The old 3 reel system has been replaced by virtual playing reels running between 30 and 50 paylines that a user can select. The software and intelligence to run these machines has become intensely complicated. Click here for a really good interview with Michael Shackleford, The Wizard of Odds. He is a slot machine designer and he de-mystifies some ideas you may have about the One-Armed Bandit.

I’ve been to many different casinos in several different places over the years. Las Vegas, Albuquerque, New Orleans, Atlantic City. During my travels I’ve seen some pretty cool and pretty funny character based machines. I began taking pictures and collecting some of the best. In this 2 part article I’ll show you some of my favorites.

Monty Python & Holy Grail – This is easily one of the best machines I’ve ever played. The graphics and gameplay were phenomenal. I actually didn’t care that I lost 20 bucks playing on it. There are tons of movie clips and quotes that are thrown about you. If you touch certain parts of the screen neat sound effects go off. Lots of fun and one of my favorites. Click the image for a larger pic.

Antique Appraisal – Very interesting slot machine based on the popular tv show Antique Roadshow. The money reels have pictures of appraisers and antique objects on them. So you could conceivably get a pasty-faced man with professor glasses in one reel and a beat up looking armoire in another. The bonus game is interesting too because you have to pick out the most valuable item from a group of antiques. Very wierd premise for a slot machine, but very interesting.

Lucky Larry’s Lobster Mania – This machine rocks. The idea of a slot machine based on the continuing adventures of a lobster by the name of Lucky Larry is patently absurd, but I LOVE IT!!. This typifies many of the silly generic slot machines you will find in big groups on the casino floor, but it’s very cleverly done. Cute characters, lots of colors, subtle theme of one being lucky or having lots of money. This one really makes me laugh because the idea is so random.

Elvis – Being a huge Elvis fan, I had to put this. These are slightly disappointing because they are the old-school three reel slots and not the virtual video game slots. They have Elvis images all over them and some of the reels have guitars and cadillacs on them. I only played about 5 bucks on these because they are labeled Elvis, but the Monty Python slots above were calling my name.

That’s about it for today, I’ll post more pics of my favorite slot machines soon.

Click here for Part II of this article.

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