Sunday, September 30, 2012

Game of the Day - Sky Fox

It's Phoenix meets Gorf.  How could that being anything but fun?

Sky Fox is a vertical shooter that has enemies that like to vacillate back and forth (like Phoenix) and come at you in distinctly different stages (like Gorf).

You control your ship with the joystick and two fire buttons.  One for your normal weapon and one for your more powerful/rapid-fire weapon.  There is a big difference between the two.  The main weapon can only fire one missile at once, it's slow and plodding.  The rapid/multi fire is great. You can fire as often as you'd like and at times there are two or three missiles fired simultaneously.  The problem is that this weapon has a limited number of shots.  There is a count at the bottom of the screen called "power".  That is how many shots you have left - but not exactly.  You see, when your power count is greater than 100, you shoot 3 missiles at once (for each button press) - that's cool, except it subtracts three from your supply.  So, if it was 150, you push fire once and it's at 147.  Once the power drops below 100, you only fire two simultaneously, and it subtracts two from your count.  Under 50, you simply fire one at a time, but you can still fire rapidly and have as many in the air at the same time as you want. Run out and that's it until you replenish.  The way you replenish is by capturing the power-up "P" that floats down after defeating certain enemies.

The enemies are cool.  Dragons are the first you encounter and they slink and curve all around - you have to hit them in the head.  On the second level, the baddies sets up in formation, a little like Galaxian.  Some of the enemies are Space Chicks who are only vulnerable when they open up their coat (I'm not making this up). Yes they have clothes underneath (bathing suit?) and that's when you can kill them.  Hit them when their coat is closed and you simply drive them back up the screen towards the top.  Cool.  Then, more dragon/birds and some spaceships and some asteroids.  Then, like Gorf, it's lather, rinse, repeat.

Like all good games, you get rewards at the end of the cycle based on time completed and hit rate in firing.

The graphics are not special, but fit well with the game that looks a little more old school than it is (1987).  The shooting action, jittery enemies and thoughtful management of your better weapon make Sky Fox a good time.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Dual Joystick Celebration

Friend of the blog and fellow MAMEr Harveybirdman has pointed out that there was no convenient way to locate all of the GOTDs that use dual joysticks for controls.  Considering how much I love DJ games, that's an embarrassment to me and the whole MAME world!  As such, I have now tagged all the GOTDs with the keyword "Dual Joystick" where appropriate.  I have also changed the setup of the keyword section in the lower part of the right column.  It is now all alpha with the size of the font relative to how often the keywords are used.  It's messy and not entirely effective, but I still like having it there for you to browse.  Keep in mind that each post also has its own keywords at the bottom that you can click on to explore.  So, without further ado...

Of course, in the future you can now just click on "Dual Joystick" in the keyword listing in the right column.

Retro Face-Off

Retro Face-Off is a cool website that pits two randomly generated arcade/video/computer games against each other and you choose your favorite.  The site then tracks the all-time wins and losses for each game and ranks them accordingly.  It's fun to choose a winner in each battle and a very interesting measure of a game's popularity to see how often it wins. You can even limit each "face-off" to specific genres and choose winners in as many battles as you'd like.

This link is to see some of the most frequent winners...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Game of the Day - Heated Barrel

Old West shoot-'em up, side-scrolling, platforming action. It's not just cowboys vs indians.  Heated Barrel is cowboys vs other cowboys and indians and bandits and bears and bulls and all kinds of other crap.

You are the protagonist with an itchy trigger finger.  Drawn of cartoony-type early 90s graphics, you plow your way thru different western towns and scenes, inevitably facing bosses that take some time to vanquish.

The controls are simple.  Along with your 8-way joystick, you have two buttons, fire and exploding barrel (bomb).  You can fire in any direction (so that's good), and use the barrel bomb at any time - you turn into a barrel and explode outward, killing everything in a small radius.  The number of bombs is finite but you can always collect more.  The number of bombs you have left is displayed in the bottom left corner of the screen.

Power-ups are plentiful, but simple.  Lots of "double-shot" and bomb power-ups.  A few for increased speed and occasionally, you get a 1-up (extra life).  Other stuff is infrequent.

The game has good action although is a little easy to start.  The difficulty level definitely starts to increase in earnest on the 3rd level (after you defeat the bull).

There are little thoughtful touches... For instance, when some of the bosses throw grenades or dynamite at you, after they explode they turn into your power-ups.  But, mostly, this is a straight-forward scrolling shooter with light, fun graphics.

A word about display,  On the MAME setup I play, the default choice for aspect ratio is the typical 4:3.  In many games that is not the native (correct) display for that game.  In Heated Barrel, the game's actual ratio is 1:1 and by changing the display, the game gets much better looking (as you can imagine).  Sometimes, graphics aren't great or look a little less than sharp and I don't always think about changing the video aspect ratio.  That's a mistake.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review - Cybernetrix

The books I read are a weird mix of genres.  I read memoirs, sci-fi, contemporary fiction, business, etc.  I have no real loyalty to any one type of book.  Recently, a book came to my attention from a genre I never heard of called "bizarro".  It's a genre filled with weird, apocalyptic, tragic, zombie/Mad Maxian stuff that has an edge I usually would find a little too far out for my taste.  Anyhoo, a guy named Carlton Mellick III is a prolific writer in this genre that has many books whose titles themselves are completely gross (not to mention the content).  BUT, one of his books is called Cybernetrix and it is a short, quick read that is a parody of the movie Tron.  By the author's own admission, it is his most normal work.  In the book, the characters work together and spend their nights in a quasi-virtual reality that they download their minds into that is just like the world in Tron.  As you can imagine, things go very wrong.  The book is funny, quick-witted and most importantly has a very fun and interesting story arc.  I liked it a lot.  Incidentally,  I have also read one other book by him that was also fun, The Morbidly Obese Ninja.

Game of the Day - Insector

Insector is an old school bug chasing/shooting game by Gottlieb programmed by Tim Skelly.  The developer who did both Screw Loose and Reactor - both games having already been featured as GOTDs.

Unfortunately, both Screw Loose and Insector never saw the light of day - dying in prototype stage.  Thankfully, they have been resurrected by the magic of MAME.

Like many old school games I like, Insector benefits from a creative concept an interesting, open design, and unusual controls.  You are an aerosol can of bug spray (not many games use that as your avatar), constantly shooting out a stream of death no matter where you go.  In fact, you don't even need to push a button to shoot out your cloud of goo, it just is happening all the time.  There is one other weapon that fires when you push a button, a bomb (sort of).  It shoots out left and right from you simultaneously when you push the button.  That means left and right as far as the screen is concerned - regardless of what way you currently face.  It is a powerful weapon, but it is inhibiting that it only shoots out along the horizontal parallel.  Your main weapon, the cloud coming out of your can, is always firing in the direction you are facing, thus leading you all the way.  This can help protect you as you run around, but it can be difficult as you are being chased (and running away like a wuss) because you can't fire behind you, only the direction you face.

The levels progress nicely.  You have to collect jewels for points and kill all the bugs.  Later come Queens and snakes.  The snakes are everywhere and difficult to battle.  Also, soon the game becomes two levels.  Grey bricks make up an upper level and crawly things harbor below.  You have to use your bombs to blast the bricks, exposing the lower levels.  It's cool to see the color outline of the bugs and snakes through the edges of the bricks.

There is also a bounty zone - kind of a bonus zone but you can still die if a bug munches you.

The music is a strong indicator as it ramps up in pace and pitch as the round goes on and the bugs get faster.  I can't be sure of this, but it SEEMS like the more you use the bombs (they are unlimited) the faster the bugs chase you.  Either way, they certainly do get faster as the round progresses and you kill some of their friends.

Insector is another example of an interesting game that quickly becomes compelling.  It doesn't have great graphics or sound, but the inventive gameplay - especially the constant running away and between the crazy bugs - makes for a fun time.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Game of the Day - Lethal Thunder

The tagline for Lethal Thunder should be "YOU are the power-up!"  Lethal Thunder is a vertical shooter with one of my favorite features (that is also pretty rare) - the faster you press the fire button, the more powerful your fire becomes.

Let's back up a minute... LT is a pretty normal early 90s very shooter with fun, quasi-cartoony graphics and some imaginative enemies.  You have two buttons to use along with the joystick.  The buttons are fire and bomb (of course they are).  You have to have picked up a little satellite and have it following you to use a bomb.  That satellite is what launches and explodes as your bomb when you push the 2nd button. So, there is never more than one bomb in your arsenal, you simply currently have one to deploy or not.  When you do, soon enough another starts floating onto the screen for you to procure.

There is also one other condition for when you can launch a bomb and it has to do with your firepower...  As I said before, the great feature of this game is that the faster you push the fire button, the more powerful your shot becomes (with most weapons, it increases how many shots come out simultaneously).  There is a gauge on the left side (right side for plyr 2) that shows your current power level, the gauge has arrows next to it at certain levels indicating where you achieve the next level of power.  So, you can watch the power bar increase as you pound the button, trying to get it to the max.  Now, back to the bomb, the bombs are only armed and able to be launched when your firepower achieves the third level (2nd power-up).  The bomb will change color to indicate you can now launch it.  BUT!!!  Here's the catch - when you launch a bomb, your firepower resets back to the minimum.  So only use it when you need to.  This thoughtful restriction in bomb arming and the penalty for using it adds a lot to the strategy of the game.

There are other colored orbs to collect and they change your weapon type (there is a nice assortment).

And don't forget the data.  If you read the blog regularly, you know I likey the numbers.  LT reports at the end of the stage how many enemies you took out at each power level and the total shots taken and then gives you bonuses proportionally.  Sweet.

So, the fun of the game is trying to break your button and grow your bicep.  It is very difficult to press so quickly as to achieve max power.  And while it's true that the plentiful firepower can make the game seem easy, soon there are enemies everywhere to counteract all your power.  So, you are tempted to bomb them, but if you do, it's back to square one for your firepower.  It all adds up to a very unique twist on a very overdone genre.  Play it and measure your arm muscles before and after.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Game of the Day - Screw Loose

If Robotron met Bender from Futurama and they had a love child, it would be Screw Loose. Screw Loose is a goofy dual joystick game sprinkled with a little imagination.  And man, I do love my dual joystick games.

SL plays with the same mechanics of Robotron.  Left stick moves, right stick fires. You are a roboty thing shooting at weird, arbitrary enemies of all types: CDs, reptiles, bees, etc.  There are little colorful light bulbs that circle the playfield.  When you vanquish an enemy, a bulb lights.  Light all the bulbs surrounding the playfield and the stage is over.  This can go on indefinitely, because it is hard to shoot the enemy.

Now, onto the weirdness.  Your avatar scampers weirdly around the playfield and has hands sticking out in up to three directions.  If you are hit by the enemy, a hand falls off (thus the loose screw).  You have to go retrieve the hand before a little pink snakeworm slithers over, picks it up and carts if off the screen.  If he leaves the screen with it, the hand is lost forever.  Lose all your hands and the game is over (unless you can become Edward Scissorhands).  So, if this weren't a robot, it'd be pretty damn sick.

On the plus side, if you pick the hand back up in time , it reattaches.  And as such you could play forever.  In fact, even after the snakeworm has your hand and is heading of the screen, you still have time to overtake him to get the hand back (you can't shoot him, just catch him and it's yours).

There are bonus items (a la Pac-Man) and other types of baddies.  There is a cherry bomb that hops around after your ass.  If it gets you, you immediately and permanently lose a hand.

There's also a secondary problem to losing a hand... As I wrote above, you have to light up all the bulbs to finish a stage (you light bulbs by killing stuff).  However, if you lose a hand, the bulbs all go out and you have to complete the stage from scratch.  I've played several stages where I was close to finishing, lost a hand, had to start over, only to have it happen again.
The gameplay itself can be difficult.  The collision detection of your shots is not very forgiving and it can go a while in between kills sometimes.  Also, just to add a little more to the game, the playfield is actually a little bigger than one screen, go to the edge and it will scroll some.  One last point, there is a super-charger feature that makes you go and shoot faster, this is activated by pushing two buttons.  In the arcade, they were on top of the joysticks.  So unless you are playing with an Xbox controller or have dual buttoned joysticks.  It's gonna be hard to activate it in MAME.

Of course, as with most games, the levels quickly increase in difficulty.  Soon you will have trouble completing stages because you can't kill many enemies when you are constantly retrieving your disembodied hands.

Crazy, cool fun.

Mario Mobius

I dare you to tell me you've ever seen anything like this... It's a mobius strip (a 3D surface with ONLY one continuous side) that is printed with the first level of Super Mario Bros.  I could now retire from looking for cool stuff as I have now seen it all (but I won't).  Maybe I should tag it with the keyword "mobius" because of all the other billions of posts in the future that will contain the term.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Game of the Day - Night Striker

If the guy from Space Harrier hopped in a futuristic hovercraft and threw in some sweet graphics and some even faster-paced gameplay, he'd be Night Striker.

Night Striker is a 3rd person "over-the-shoulder" shooter that, as the name implies, takes place mainly at night. You have many different scenarios to trudge through. Cityscapes, seascapes, tunnels (tunnelscapes?) are all part of the game - and the beauty is that you can control (some of) your destiny as the game's levels branch out in a pyramid style and allow you the choice of which way to go after each level.

The graphics are good and what you'd expect in this era from this type of game.  But it can be hard to really appreciate them as there is always and I mean always something to shoot or avoid.  Controls are very simple - analog stick (I tried both my joystick and trackball) and two fire buttons.  One of the fire buttons in MAME is for rapid fire, the other is for single fire.  I tried to determine what the game config was like originally and had a little trouble.  The flyer refers to guided missiles - maybe that's what button 2's shots are, but they look just like the regular fire to me.
Your lives are translated into shields in NS.  It clearly shows you at the bottom of the screen your current shield strength.  As you might have guessed, each hit taken reduces your shield strength by one.  If you lose your shield altogether and are hit... you are croaked.  To help, with each finished level, you are awarded a bump in your current shield strength.

There are bosses of course, and they look great (especially like the dragon).  They take some number of hits, but not tooooo many.  There's also a boss timer counting down, so get on with it.  Finally, upon completing a stage, there are bonuses that reflect how well you did (the world of Night Striker is a meritocracy).

The controls are very smooth.  I enjoyed the game equally with my 8-way joystick and my trackball. The joystick providing a better feeling of cockpit action and the trackball providing more subtlety in the control.

Night Striker is remarkably simple and straight-forward, and therein lies the beauty, because it is extremely well-done. You jump in, start flying and shooting stuff and enjoy the scenery.  It's a good way to burn some time and 14 calories.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Where are you from... originally?

The web stats from my blog show the breakdown of where everybody is from who is reading it.  This is just the last 3,500 visits, so any given snapshot might look different. Fascinating.  Keep in mind, this 3,500 represents about the last week's worth of visits.

By the way, the title of this post is stolen from Bill Murray in Ghostbusters (thanks).

Don't know what the hell that last country is....

Monday, September 17, 2012

Game of the Day - Darwin 4078

Time to evolve.  Darwin is a mid-school vert shooter with more tricks up its sleeve than a Vegas magician.

You are a ship flying through all kinds of wacky craziness (not normal craziness) - blasting as you go.  The beauty of Darwin is two-fold - your ship is ever changing (yeah, evolving) and the enemies are myriad and extremely variable.

You play Darwin with the joystick and two buttons.  The buttons are the familiar fire and bomb.  Although both of these change types as you gather power-ups.  The main and most frequent power-up is the "E" (get it?).  Your ship changes/morphs/evolves into the next creation or adds some new weapon. Meanwhile there are other power-ups - in fact, some are so unusual that I played the game several times before I realized some of them were power-ups at all. On the first level, there is a radar looking sort of thing that spins and sends off grid thingies.  Yes, they can kill you, but if you fly into the radar thingy first, it attaches to your ship and enhances your bomb type.  This is the crux of Darwin - so many different ships/weapons/bombs and discovering them all.

Now, a little about the enemies.  If you've read my blog much, you've seen that my favorite feature in a shooter is the variability of the enemies.  And Darwin has that in spades.  I can't even begin to tell you all the shapes, sizes and differing flight patters and behaviors the little bastards show up in.  And I haven't even seen much of the game yet.  They skittle and skuzzle and grow and shrink and morph and anything else Dr Seuss could have imagined.  They come from all directions, circle, fly right at you, fly away from you, everything you've ever seen in an enemy happens here.

Another variant in the game is what happens when you get hit.  Sometimes, depending on what hits you (enemy fire or craft) and how powered-up you are, you simply are knocked back to a previous version of the ship - sometimes you die.  You'll get the hang of when and how you die versus just losing the power-ups.

One other things to explain about your weaponry...The bombs are the kind that are dropped below you (land vs air) NOT bombs that blow up everything on the screen like some games.  Darwin plays with both land and air enemies and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which, so keep firing ahead and dropping bombs.

The possibilities are so numerous for evolving in Darwin, I had to copy and paste the following from the MAME history file:

* General sequence :

1) When you are not invincible -> (get hit by a bullet) -> PISTER
2) All states -> (fixed time without collecting power-up) -> degenerate
3) PISTER -> (get hit by a bullet) -> die
4) All states -> (get hit by an enemy) -> die

* Evolution sequence (when you collect a power-up) :

* Degeneration sequence (at fixed time without collecting power-up) :

* Mutation sequence :
1) All states -> (hit the orange smoke released by the 'bird' alien that flies from the screen bottom) -> SUPPURATE (bullet invincible) 
2) SHARRU -> (degeneration) -> BASUM -> (collect power-up) -> LAYSPER (you front shot is invisible)
3) KUES -> (degeneration) -> ZUGAU -> (collect power-up) -> MEASA -> MALTO -> SEAS -> DEAME

* Opposite evolution :
DEAME -> (get hit by a bullet) -> BLACK DEAME (bullet invincible)

* Bomb upgrade :
1) Shoot horizontal stick aliens the right number of times and they will drift slowly down the screen. Dock with this to get extra firepower. This also works with the aliens that have extendible poles that spring out from their sides : just shoot them until they flash and dock with them.
2) You can also dock with the rectangular aliens (after you have shot them a few times). These appear close to the start of the game. It seems anything you shoot that then drifts slowly down, you can dock with (which increases the bomb power).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hungry Hungry Koopas

This is what you get when you combine, extreme creativity, precise craftsmanship, a love for all things retro and too much time on your hands... Very cool...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Game of the Day - Blazer

Blazer is a console-esque looking tank/chopper game with interesting gameplay mechanics.  In fact, something old in the design makes for a game that requires a little more thought and savvy than it otherwise might have.

You start as a tank and the strange (old) thing is that you can only move in four directions (up, down, left and right). Meanwhile, you can also fire your tank either forward (button 1) or up (button 2) - up will be because of all those pesky helicopters trying to attack you.  The fact that you can only turn the tank in 90 degree segments makes for some interesting fights.  You sometimes have to go right up alongside an enemy tank and then turn 90 degrees to shoot him point blank.  Or, you wait until the coast is clear, move into the enemy tank's sight line and then quickly turn the 90 degrees toward him to fire - then, turn again and high tail it out of there.  This absence of diagonals makes for a less smooth, but tougher game - and for some hilarious "just in time" encounters.  What's weird is that the flyer shows controls that I don't understand that seem to be 8-way.  Unfortunately, it is in Japanese and I ditched that day in school.

There are several power-ups.  Those that upgrade the whole tank (T-2, T-3 buildings) and those that simply make you better or faster (oil, health, etc).  When you upgrade to T-2, your tank shoots in all directions simultaneously (as you can imagine, this is very helpful).

Go far enough, and you come to a heli-pad. Park your tank, and it's off in the chopper in a part of the game that plays like the old game "Desert Strike".

Now, your chopper shoots forward and DOWN (drops bombs) instead of up like your tank did.  Fly far enough (and kill enough dudes) and you land again and get back in the tank - can I get some back-up here???  Apparently, still later in the game, you operate a boat - but I haven't gotten that far.

Blazer isn't particularly beautiful but has a look about it that hearkens back to great early console games.  And for that matter, the gameplay isn't particularly fast or chaotic, yet strikes a great balance wherein you know where every shot is going and can focus on everything you need to blow-up.

In all, the total package makes for a very fun game that you will play repeatedly,  And if you figure out what the fuck the flyer is trying to tell me, let me know with a comment here.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mini-Replica Arcade Cabinets

The folks at Emdkay make these little wooden arcade replicas (they don't play, they just look cool).  Amazingly, there are 68 different ones to choose from. Most are around $30. Haven't seen one in person, but they look cool...

Game of the Day - Iron Horse

Not to be confused with baseball's Iron Horse (Lou Gehrig), Iron Horse is an early platform-scrolling-fighter game with a western theme.  You can channel your inner Jesse James while fighting bad guys on a train with some simple but fun play mechanics.

Along with the joystick you have three buttons.  They are attack, use special power, and crouch.  The special power comes into play upon collection of a power-up (the first one looks like a glowing lantern).  And sure enough, when you use it, it throws down some cascading fire at the feet of your enemies (dance!).  There are other special powers you can collect and you will always know when you are imbued with a power because you will flash continuously.

When you start Iron Horse, you choose your weapon (fists, whip, gun) and they are all used effectively in slightly different ways.  I like the punch (it's just more satisfying).  Anyway, once you choose your weapon, you are off to the fight - and it's on a train.  The whole game takes place on a moving train.  You can run back and forth and move up and down into the nooks and crannies of the sections of the train.  In fact, when you move "up", you can hide behind walls and other obstacles and you are facing "out" - that is, facing the screen.  Then, when unsuspecting guys run by, you can clock them easily from your hidden spot.  This added dimension gives the game more depth than just being able to attack left or right.

There are timers for each stage, and the end of each stage has you facing a tougher battle.  But really, the whole time there are enemies coming from left, right, up and down constantly.  "Up" in this particular case is both the sky as well as the top level of the train - and yes, you can use ladders to climb and bring the fight to the roof of the train. All this adds up to the fact that most of the time playing IH, you will be moving constantly and fighting for your life breathlessly.

The graphics are fun, cartoony and simple, but work very well with the western theme.

If you get to the end, you get to rescue the damsel and jump onto your white horse - who wouldn't want to do that?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Game of the Day - Last Mission

I'm a cheater.  I tried to get past the first boss in Last Mission at least 4 times.  I couldn't do it.  I had to change the dipswitch settings to get past the first level and see a little more of the game for this post.

Let me back up and start over... Last Mission is a shooter that can be described as Time Pilot on crack.  You fly your ship in any direction (8-way joystick) shooting all the enemies down, but there are many details in the game.

Besides the joystick, you have 3 buttons: Fire, Bomb and Change Weapon.  You have any array of 4 weapons and use the button to shuttle between them a la Gradius.  Of course you have to earn all the extra weapons by collecting power-ups.  Power-ups become available after you shoot the bigger/mothership-esque enemies.  What's cool is that you can see where they are to go hunt them.  There is a map/grid on the bottom right corner of the screen.  It breaks down the screen into 16 grids and indicates with a number how many big-ass ships there are in that area.  Destroy them and then collect the power-up they crap out.  The weapons vary a little, but are not so different in their overall effectiveness.  Also, when you get a power-up weapon, you immediately switch to using that one and a bar graph/wick appears showing you how many more shots you have with that weapon before it disappears.  Cool. And don't forget about your bombs (button 2), you have three to start and they blast everything on the screen.

The other interesting aspect of the game is the enemy kill counter on the bottom left.  It's actually a bar graph made out of stars.  As you kill the enemies, the stars fill up.  Then, when you have filled all the stars, the boss for the level comes out.  Kill him and go to the next level.  If you get all the way to the boss but die, then when you are reincarnated, you have to kill some more enemies before the boss reappears - by filling up a shorter version of the star bar graph (have mercy).

It's fun and tough, just how you'd want it to be.  The graphics are simply mediocre (1986) and there isn't a lot of difference between levels, but Last Mission will keep you entertained with 360 degrees of action and many details to steal your attention.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Best of the GOTD - Puzzlers

In honor of the most recent GOTD being Ixion, these are my favorite puzzle games that have already appeared as Games of the Day.  They are all innovative and fun (nice going unnamed programmers of the world)!  This is a broad category, some of these games are more action-oriented and some require more brains (uh-oh).  Keep in mind, only games that have already been GOTDs appear on this list.
It's Tetris masquerading as a shooter
2. Klax
Collect approaching blocks in a myriad of ways
3. Aqua Rush
Upside-down watery Tetrisy fun
4. Phozon
Mega-nerd alert, use joystick to build molecules
5. Motos
Bang into crap and knock it off in a bug-mech-based demo derby
6. Reactor
Use the trackball to smash little sparks into the barbifried wall
7. Loco-Motion
Rearrange the track to keep the train moving
8. Ixion
Maze Shooter with spinner controlled firing

Friday, September 7, 2012

Game of the Day - Ixion

Another sad story - Ixion is a prototype that apparently never saw the light of day - and it's a shame.

Ixion is a maze/shooter/puzzler with a four-way joystick to control your movement and a dial/spinner to aim your gun (and a button to fire it).  So, to play it well in MAME, you would do well not only to have a spinner, but also one with switches in it like the push/pull spinner I have mentioned before.  It makes all of these types of games more playable.  Alternately, you could use buttons to rotate left and right and another to fire, or use an Xbox 360 controller, but the spinner would be best.

So, you drive up, down, left and right on the tiles to collect the letters that spell "Ixion".  Do so, and the round is over and you go to a bonus round. However, there are all sorts of things that fuck up your plans on the way.

Tiles can be missing and more can go missing.  You can't drive where the tiles are missing and therefore have to go around.  Luckily, there is a device on the playfield with you that repairs the tiles when it drives over the empty spaces.  YOU control this device by hitting it with gunfire.  It doesn't get destroyed, it simply moves from the energy of your fire and repairs tiles as it goes.  Hit it with fire to make it go where you want - but watch out, if it runs into YOU, it kills you.  (By the way, your gunfire ricochets off of walls - so you have that going for you)

And speaking of being killed, there are enemies all over the place.  They scoot around the grid firing at you and you have to avoid their fire and destroy them with your own fire.  Interestingly, while you can't drive over empty spaces in the tiles, the gunfire has no such restrictions, so you need to watch out at all times for attacks.

Remember that your goal is to collect the tiles to spell "Ixion".  You can only get them one at a time.  Get the "I" and the "x" materializes, etc...  At the beginning of the round, the game shows you where all the tiles are going to appear, you just can't see/get any of them until you get the previous one.  Take too long, and another evil device comes out and starts destroying more tiles (again, you can hit the other thing to go repair them).  In fact, in one game, the "n" was completely isolated in that all the tiles around it were destroyed and I could not reach it.  I had to hit the little repair vehicle with gunfire to knock it over to the "n" and repair the adjacent tiles. (See the pic on the right)

Finish a round by spelling "Ixion" and you go to the bonus round.  In a timed sequence, you have to hit the little repair vehicles to repair as many tiles as you can until the clock runs out.  It starts all black and you get a quick glimpse of where the repairers are.  Blast them and they start taking off and repairing all the tiles.  Bonuses are based on how many you get repaired. Then, it's on to the next, different-looking and tough playing level.

It's a totally different and brilliant challenge.  It's got several things I love in a game including innovative goals, fast and infinite gameplay, and most of all, an interesting control scheme.

Play it and you'll long for the days of trackballs and spinners.