quinta-feira, 31 de julho de 2014

5 PlayStation 2 (PS2) Underrated Games

Almost 4000 titles have been released for the PlayStation 2 and, as you can imagine, there’s hundreds of hidden gems out there.
These are my 5 underated PS2 games that must belong on the shelves of every game collector.

Splashdown was one of the first games that I’ve played on a PlayStation 2. Back then, I was really impressed with what they’ve accomplished. The water effects and player’s animations are marvelous and superbly done. 

Released for the PS2 and Xbox in November 2001, it was published by Atari and developed by Rainbow Studios, the same guys that, a year earlier, released the fabulous Motocross Madness 2 exclusively for the PC.
It was the second Rainbow Studio’s game for the PlayStation 2, after ATV Offroad Fury, and they’ve managed to create a similar Wave Race kind of game, that was exclusive for Nintendo machines, and bring this awesome water mayhem for the Sony and Microsoft fans.

It has a superb and exciting split screen 2 player mode, and there’s 18 exotic locations, from Hawaii to Bali. We can choose to start a career, do some free riding or play the arcade mode of the game. Obviously, career mode is the way to go. Besides all this, there’s an extensive number of tricks that you can pull off while in the air, just like in Motocross Madness and ATV Offroad Fury, but way more realistic, and a freakin awesome soundtrack to keep the player motivated.
Check it out! You won’t regret it!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, by Konami, brings the memories of the arcade saloons of the eighties.

This 2003 creation is based on the animated TV series of that same year and its gameplay is inspired by a dozen of season one episodes.
The game features a single or 2-player co-operative mode in which you can play has Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo or Michelangelo and each has his own unique set of levels to complete. There’s also a versus mode where two players can fight head to head. We’re given the option to choose one of the turtles and, as well, Splinter, Casey Jones, Hamato Yoshi, The Turtlebot, Hun, Oroku Saki and Shredder.

It’s a basic button slash type of game, just like its old brother from 1989, and was criticized for that simple fact. The music, sounds and animations are great and faithful to the series. It keeps the player hunger for action, and there’s plenty of it!
If you’re a fan of beat-em-up games, this one is a must have! And with co-op mode, there’s no excuse!

Finest Hour was the first console installment of the Call of Duty franchise, and was a PS2, Xbox and Gamecube exclusive. 

Developed in 2004 by Spark Unlimited and published by Activision, it has a completely different storyline from the original PC game, the very first Call of Duty from late 2003. It’s based in real events from World War 2 and we get to experience the action from the US, British and Soviet point of view.

If featured an online multiplayer mode for up to 16 players simultaneously.

The audio is of exceptional quality, from de sound effects to the music itself. It looks like we’re watching an interactive movie. The voice of Sergeant Starkey, one of the British commandos, was provided by AC/DC singer Brian Johnson.

Playing first person shooters on a console maybe awkward, but Call of Duty: Finest Hour is an essential add-on for all the fans of the franchise.

True Crime New York City follows the footsteps of its predecessor, True Crime Streets of LA. But, sadly, critics gave it average and poor reviews. 

For me, though, the vast depiction of Manhattan and its many landmarks, the innovative transportation options, like using the New York City subway system, and the simple fact that many buildings are accessible to the player, are extreme good qualities that sets this game apart from previous open world titles.

Ok, maybe there’s some bad frame rates from time to time and minor technical issues here and there that seemed to have resulted from a rushed release. It became available before Christmas of 2005 and was published by Activision.

In this game, you’re the cop. You need to avenge the murder of your mentor and take control of the streets. You can arrest, interrogate, use informants, extort, frisk, and more. But, at the end, your fate will be tested: your actions may turn you into a Bad Cop.

Due to its bad reception, a planned sequel named True Crime: Hong Kong was canceled. Luxoflux, the team behind the development of the True Crime franchise, was even shut down in 2010.

I enjoy sandbox/open world type of games and I’ve had a blast with True Crime New York City.

Rainbow Studios returns to their heritage with MX Unleashed, the next generation leap from its older brother, Motocross Madness 2. 

For the despair of PC gamers all over the world and devoted followers of the Motocross Madness series, this title was only available for the Playstation 2 and Xbox. But, for the record, if Rainbow Studios hadn’t been acquired by THQ, MX Unleashed would have been called, with no doubt, Motocross Madness 3 and also available for the PC.

Published by THQ in the beginning of 2004, MX Unleashed is one big off-road playground. There’s Supercross and outdoor Nationals series to participate, just like in Motocross Madness. But, newer stuff was obviously included, like taking a monster truck, a helicopter or a bi-plane out for a ride in the massive freeworld environments. But be aware! There’s a limit for your exploration!

MX Unleashed features an accurate physics engine. The bike and rider react to the surface in a natural way and your speed, the angle of the bike and how you’re balancing the weight, all of this affects how your bike responds to the terrain. The controls are sharp and accurate and the trick system is simple and fairly basic to execute. To be honest, everything feels right in this game.

It also has an awesome soundtrack, but, in game, I prefer to listen only to bike’s engine and all other sound effects.

The PS2 has a great library of games. I’ll be covering much more titles from the best-selling video game console in history.

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quinta-feira, 24 de julho de 2014

Fuzzball (1991/1992) Commodore Amiga Review

Developed by Scangames Norway and published by System 3 Software – Europe’s number 1 name in original games -, Fuzzball is platforming cuteness that you could even play with your girlfriend!

"In one particularly stormy night, the great Wizard had stepped outside for a drink with his buddies leaving his apprentice all by himself in the mighty castle. He had this great chance to snoop around through one of the wizard’s chambers. The chamber had a strange aura about it and the apprentice could feel the electrical energy generated within the air by the heavy storm blowing outside.
The mischievous apprentice had come to the chamber to have another look at the big old chest, the contents of which had been a closely guarded secret by the wizard for years. The apprentice wanted to know why the wizard would not show or even tell him what was inside.
Through the book of spells, he found one to “open”. He thought “this is it”! After reading the spell, a magic glow appeared in his hand. But he forgot to read the entire spell. The storms outside were higher and the boy’s eyes lit up with excitement as the magic began to appear in his hand. He aimed the glowing energy at the lock on the chest and then launched his creation at the target.
In an instant, the lid of the chest flew back and hundreds of strange fluffy balls began to leap from the chest. Fuzzball after fuzzball leapt to their freedom and began to fill the chamber. “What have I done”, screamed the young apprentice. The stream of fuzzballs seemed endless, and as they hit the floor they began to grow and grow.
Trying to reverse the spell, he brought another spell. The magic energy engulfed the young apprentice in a huge blue flash of light. He turned himself into a large blue fuzzball.
The great wizard returned to find his castle full of fluffy balls and told his apprentice that he could only return to his human form once he had collected and returned all the fuzzballs and all the jewels they took with them, back to the strange old treasure chest from whence they came."

This is the premise of Fuzzball and to complete each level, you'll have to collect all the items, food and treasures, while, at the same time, avoiding, or killing, various enemies. You will face mostly other fuzzballs, but also other creatures.
Each level is only a single screen filled with platforms, and can take a while to complete.

Throughout the castle there are several areas that are decorated in different styles. As well as the standard medieval decor you will also visit the gardens, an oriental type of place and a rather cold dungeon that has ice over the floors. 

Each of the areas is filled with loads of rooms to make a grand total of 50 levels.
Touching an enemy once means instant death, so, to survive in Fuzzball, you'll have to plan every move carefully, otherwise you'll die very quickly.

As you rush around the platforms collecting the gems, a clock counts down. When the time runs out, a gate opens and the level becomes infested with flying insects that will hunt your ass down.

Fuzzball was also planned to be released for the commodore 64 and a two level preview was even available to the readers of Commodore Format magazine but, because of inside conflicts, the game was abandoned in its final stages.
Back in late 80s early 90s, System 3 software was also responsible for publishing other extraordinary great titles, such as: Myth History in The Making, The Last Ninja trilogy, Tusker and Flimbo’s Quest.

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quinta-feira, 17 de julho de 2014

Commodore and the Amiga Mistakes

Since Commodore took over the original Amiga Incorporation company, marketing and development strategic errors succeeded in flurry.

The Amiga Lorraine - the first Amiga, shown in 1984 - was initially thought to be a computer solely for gaming, but it’s development turned it into a complete home computer based on the Motorola 68000 processor that deviated it from the concept of console gaming.

It was at this point that Commodore entered the game and made ​​their first mistakes. They focused Amiga’s marketing into business and companies, despite their known multimedia capabilities. The Amiga also forced its users to acquire a dedicated colour monitor.

Only upon its release, Commodore realized that the Amiga was a creative machine and not to be used in dark offices with piles of paper to process.
Noting that, an external TV modulator, with a weak inspiration in terms of design (the A520), was announced after the release. However, its high price scared many customers.

This obstacle was only overcome a year leter. They started to include the A520 TV modulator inside the Amiga 500 package as part of a bundle thus making it less costly to purchase.

In July 1985 the original Amiga was renamed and marketed as A1000. Two years later, in 1987, the brand new Amiga 500 was a sales success. Besides this, it also appeared, in this same year, the Amiga 2000.

However, the development of a new chipset and a more visually appealing AmigaOS stagnated for years until the arrival, in 1990, of the A3000. This allowed the competition to catch up and even surpass the Amiga extraordinary features leaving Commodore in their dust. This lead to an accelerated development of the brand new ECS chip and the AmigaOS 2, which took about a year. Thus, theoretically, the A3000 could have been released in 1988, in other words, two years before its actual release, as well as future Amiga models, the A4000 and the A1200. This interregnum of two years in the shadow of the success of the Amiga 500 was the first big hole in an extraordinary vessel that started, at this precise point, it’s fast sinking.

In 1990 was launched the Commodore Dynamic Total Vision, best known has the CDTV. The company knew that this product was a total flop and forbid retailers to place it next to other computer products in their stores. They just did not want for it to be referred to as an Amiga.

The CDTV was basically an Amiga 500 inside a CD player case with a CD-ROM drive. The simple addition of a floppy drive and a keyboard would have allowed users to enjoy much of the existing Amiga 500 collection of software. But Commodore would not budge. For a year, its high price and the attempted removal of the product from the Amiga family was a mistake for which the unit and the brand itself never managed to recover. Commodore eventually renamed it to Amiga CDTV. But it was too late.

Due to the huge and unexpected sales success of the "A500 Cartoon Classics" pack, Commodore was obliged to anticipate the arrival of the Amiga 500 +. Needless to say, it resulted in an awful surprise to resellers. The Amiga 500 + was, without notice by Commodore, included in bundles and put on sale, which caused embarrassment to stores and driven customers to despair, because much of the already released software was incompatible with the new ECS chipset and AmigaOS 2.04 operating system from the A3000 model.
It was a very unhappy Christmas for many, and just the opposite for others, because they were unknowingly given a machine updated with a new chipset and OS.

The year was 1991 and a plan to replace the bestselling Commodore 64 was on the move. This would probably be Commodore’s biggest mistake: the Amiga 300. It was even referenced by the brand itself as a "complete and utter fiasco".
The company was desperate to withdraw Commodore 64 after 10 years on the market, despite the huge success that sales continued to demonstrate mainly in Europe. They intended to sell the Amiga 300 with a slightly higher price tag than the Commodore 64, but at least €120 cheaper than the A500+. It was, however, the first to include an IDE interface for hard drives and, to keep the price low, the keypad was eliminated. The Amiga 300 had its launch scheduled for spring 1992 and would refresh the line of 16-bit computers preparing for the arrival of the Amiga 1200, with a more advanced AGA chipset, which came in the autumn of that year. Commodore UK's strategy for Europe was to enter the holiday season with a good amount of A1200 and A300 machines at around €450 and €250 respectively. Bundles with Lemmings and Deluxe Paint III were planned and organized in a newly converted Timex factory, in Scotland, acquired by Commodore. When the machines were about to go into production, Commodore International pulled the rug forcing a 180 degrees sharp turn. The manufacture of the A500+ was becoming too expensive and their production is, therefore, canceled. The A300 was repositioned as a substitute for the A500+ and, to obtain a quick profit, was labeled at the same price of €350. To be seen by the public as the successor to the A500, the A300 was simply renamed to Amiga 600. The first motherboards still have 300 printed on them. Unsurprisingly the machine did not sell well, and to drain the huge stock of A600, the start of production of the Amiga 1200 was postponed. As a result, the available A1200 units for the 1992 Christmas sold out quickly leaving many customers angry and disappointed.

Commodore had, in 1993, the opportunity to emerge and prosper in the world of consoles with the Amiga CD32, but, once again, missed the chance.
Two years before the rise of the PlayStation, the CD32 had more than half of the emerging European CD-ROM market, annihilating, by Christmas of 1993, not just the PC CD-ROM but as well the Philips CD-i and Sega Mega-CD. Due to financial problems, Commodore was not investing in software development and the console could not stand out from the remaining Amiga family, as their extraordinary abilities were not being exploited. The first units also came with an annoying problem in the CD player lid that pulled the disc up preventing it from rotating. Just putting something heavy on top could be a solution for this situation. A very serious manufacture flaw. It would have made more sense to use a drawer for the CD, just like the one used, three years earlier, by the failed CDTV.

After all these strategic errors, the inevitable eventually take over Commodore International. It filed for bankruptcy in April 1994. Auctioning of the company was completed in March 1995 with some stakeholders. Escom appeared in a position where they could take the reins of the company, but its future intention was simply to use Commodore’s logo on PCs. In the other corner of the ring were the managers of Commodore UK - David Pleasance and Colin Proudfoot - who possessed the necessary funds and a well-designed strategic plan relocating the company's headquarters to Maidenhead - UK - as well as changing the name of the company itself. Evolving technologies would be resumed which included an upgraded A1200 with an integrated CD-ROM (repeatedly dubbed A1300), a renewed CD32 with a CD drawer and a new Amiga CD64 that would support HDTV.

However, the auction was won by Escom who kept everything, but it ended itself also in bankruptcy a year later.

Before that, Escom had managed to reintroduce the A1200 and the A4000 on the market, but unfortunately due to growing economic difficulties that the company was being targeted, only at the beginning and 1996 could market the A4000. This was identical in all respects to the Amiga 4000T, the tower model that Commodore had developed shortly before being sold at auction. However, due to Escom’s tough financial time, the model was never announced in advertising. Worldwide, it is estimated to have sold just about 2000 units.

Mistakes are costly. Commodore paid really hard for them all and, unfortunately, the Amiga family was the main victim.

We could today be facing a completely different reality in the personal computer panorama.

Amiga was a fairly resounding name in the late 80s, early 90s. Electronic saloon games of the season were the major drivers of the success of the Amiga 500 due to extraordinary conversions of arcade classics made ​​for this machine. All children and youngsters wanted to have an Amiga, despite its price being an obstacle to most families.

It has currently legions of fans around the world and Amiga family products are greatly coveted by collectors.

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quarta-feira, 9 de julho de 2014

Big Red Racing (1996) PC (DOS) Review

Initially planned for a bunch of different systems, the only version that has seen the light of day was the PC one.

Developed by Big Red Software and published by Domark, Big Red Racing was released in the beginning of 1996 and, when I play it, I still laugh so hard that I end up losing all the races!

There are 6 cups and 24 courses to master, that covers various points of the globe and, also, the Moon and planet Mars and Venus. To drive through them you must choose one of two vehicle options available before each race. Speaking of vehicles, there’s 16 and they range from a normal car – mini or beetle – helicopters, monster truck and dumper truck, and even hover craft. In some tracks it is also possible to ignore the path and discover other areas with jumps and various obstacles. Just imagine the craziness present in this game!
Also, in the selection screen, you can customize your player and vehicle colour and decals.

It was released only on CD-ROM and it takes advantage of the extra CD storage space to give you some groovy themes by Hangnail and Gerard Gurley.

It offers also a split screen multiplayer mode and the possibility to play through your home network with up to 6 players. So, there’s a lot going on in this crazy title. And the game is incredibly fun in multiplayer mode! You and your buddies just can’t stop laughing because of all the craziness and dumb commentaries!

It can be, sometimes, a bit disgusting to some people, because of all the farting, belching and smart-ass remarks that assaults the player almost all the time. If it starts to irritate you, just turn it off at the options menu. But, commentator’s in-your-face lines during the race are that little extra stuff that makes all the difference and turns this game into a classic.

It might not be a great looking game and have these sometimes awkward controls, but it sure is great fun!

Unfortunately and spite all these good or bad or disgusting arguments, Big Red Racing kinda passed unnoticed back in 1996. Don’t know why..

I think that this game was the last Big Red Software title before they merged, in 1995, with Eidos. It was, perhaps, because of this fact that all the other planned versions were canceled.

It surely would have been great to play this game on the Playstation, Saturn, 3DO, Nintendo 64 and Atari Jaguar.

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quinta-feira, 3 de julho de 2014

Ugh! (1992) Commodore Amiga Review

Back in 1992, the guys at Play Byte decided to publish a Lunar Lander and Space Taxi pre-historic clone. And I’m glad they did! Because, even today, this is a truly freakin awesome game to play!

"Life in the Stone Age was nice and peaceful. Sitting on your ass all day long, food everywhere and even a gorgeous girlfriend to play naughty games with. But she's eager for money and jewelry, so you need to think of something to appease her needs. In the meanwhile, a huge apple falls onto your head giving you the idea of creating a flying taxi kind of business to help your fellow cave friends travel faster and, consequently, make you rich."

Originally developed by EGO Software for the Amiga, it was also available for Commodore 64 and DOS. You control a muscle-powered helicopter kind of elevator and, to make some money for your future wedding with your pretty lovely cave girl, you need to transport passengers from one place to another through 69 – yes, 69 – levels of pure joy.

You only need to land near the cave people and they will automatically board your vehicle and tell you which platform they want you to fly them to. You’ll get extra bonus points for getting passengers to their destination before time runs out. In the process, you need to avoid all kind of hazards that will try to finish you off.

Besides natural obstacles, you must evade hostile dinosaurs, pterosaurs – the so called “birds” – and rising water level. Also be careful maneuvering your flying vehicle; touching obstacles with its rotor, as well as hard landings or colliding with solid surfaces, will result in mechanical damage.

Once it’s you, the player, that fuels the helicopter/elevator, you will become more and more exhausted. Your energy may be recovered by picking up fruit that can be knocked off the tree with blinking eyes using the stone that also blinks its eyes, both appear on every single level of the game. The stone can also be tossed over enemies making them unconscious for moments. But be careful how you use it! If you lose the stone, the more difficult it will be to finish that particular level.

There’s also present a very entertaining two player cooperative mode, where you and your cave buddy will most likely fight for the passengers rather than help each other!

Sound effects and music are very soft and relaxing and you’ll find yourself playing this game for hours.

What makes Ugh! a lot of fun is the devious layout of levels, all of which are filled with various traps, switches, doors and other things which will either hinder or help your progress. Some levels feature strange physics that affect your control of the taxi, while others contains magnetic fields and wind.

At the end of each level, you’ll be given a code for keeping track of your progress.

Being initially a boxed game, it was later re-released as shareware mainly on magazine cover disks.

Playing this title won’t certainly make you day boring!

If this game were made for today’s smartphones and tablets, I’m sure that it would make its creator a millionaire, just like Flappy Bird did to Dong Nguyen.

Ugh! is the perfect example of the good ol' reflex-coordination puzzle/arcade game.

If you’re after a good old enjoyable and relaxing Amiga game with beautiful graphics, Ugh! is the game to play!

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