terça-feira, 27 de janeiro de 2015

Richard Burns Rally [PC, 2004] - It's Play Time! - Ep.#3 - It's a Pixel THING

Richard Burns Rally (RBR) is simply the most accurate driving simulation ever released. There's also versions of this game on the Xbox and on the PlayStation 2, but it's on the PC that this awesome piece of software takes enormous proportions, due to the Rallyesim and Czech mods available and, consequently, thousands of online championships that, even today, still has legions of fans around the world.
In this special "It's Play Time!" video, I'm playing with an xbox360 controller for windows, but, to get the most out of it, RBR must be played only with a set of pedals and wheel.

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domingo, 18 de janeiro de 2015

Personal 10 Best 8 & 16-bit Intro Tunes [Home Computers] - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#35

I must first remind you that, in this video, I only make reference to titles from 8 and 16 bit home computers of late eighties and early nineties. At that time these were THE gaming platforms here in Europe.

In that Era, the Amiga was the pinnacle, not only in terms video, but also in the audio department. As for the 8 bit machines, and spite the superior audio chip of the Commodore 64, my preference goes directly to the ZED X Spectrum.
Let’s dive right into my Top 10 Intro Tunes from 8 and 16 bit home computers!

Developed by Scangames Norway and published by System 3 Software in the beginning of 1992, Fuzzball features music from composers Tomas Dahlgren and John Carehag. The intro music is a really platform friendly tune that fits right into the mood of this Amiga exclusive title.
Watch the video.

Back in 1988 I was blown away by Dark Fusion’s drum style intro music on the ZED X Spectrum! I recall questioning “is this even possible in such a limited machine”? It is such an awesome intro tune that, most of the times, I just loaded the game only to listen to its music! By the way, the artist responsible for it is Ben Daglish and the game was published by Gremlin Graphics.

Based on the movie of the same name and, obviously, developed and published by Ocean Software in 1991, this intro tune was written by Matthew Cannon, also known for other great musical pieces of other astonishing movie conversions made by Ocean, like, for instance, Batman the Movie and Robocop 2.

Right after Xenophobe is loaded, this super-fast pumping audio track shoots awesomeness everywhere!
The original arcade game from where it was ported gave three players the opportunity to, simultaneously, exterminate all aliens. It was so much fun!

From Spanish developer Creepsoft and publisher Dinamic Software came, in 1989, this amazingly colorful arcade shoot-em-up that, in the ZED X Spectrum version, we’re contemplated with this amazing tune, from composer Jose Antonio Martin Tello, right after the game is loaded.

Midnight Resistance’s soundtrack needs no introduction. It’s simply one of the best ever created for a video game and, on the megadrive/genesis, is where it really shines!
Even so, I’ve found the ZED X Spectrum intro music the most enjoyable and the game was considered one of the best ever made for this platform. Published by Ocean Software in 1990 for all available home computers of that time, Midnight Resistance was a conversion of another awesome arcade original. Credits for its music goes to composer Keith Tinman.

In 1988, Probe Software developed this awesome 8 and 16bit gem: Savage. By that time, I was simply blown away when I first heard the intro music for this game, and I simply stood there, listening to it over and over again. David Whittaker, responsible for this great tune and for others like Shadow of the Beast’s, was known as the composer with the largest amount of work in this area in late 80s.

Faithful to the arcade original, the intro music for The Ninja Warriors on the Commodore Amiga is one of the best I’ve ever heard since I began playing video games. This tune continues throughout the first level and it has an extremely high quality taste from its original composer, Hisayoshi Ogura of Taito. 16 bit versions were the responsibility of Ronald Pieket Weeserik and they sound really faithful to the original.

Written in 1989 by Dave Rogers, Stormlord’s 2 intro music is a really gorgeous tune and different from all other available at that time.
Watch the video to listen this awesome tune!

Finally, my number 1 intro tune and number one video game soundtrack is from Turrican 2: The Final Fight, from award winning composer Chris Hülsbeck.
Released in 1991 by Rainbow Arts, the game is an audiovisual masterpiece and one of my top 10 titles of all time across all platforms.

Please let me know, on the comments section below, your personal top 10 intro tunes that keep playing on your head over and over! Amiga, C64, Spectrum, CPC, MSX, Megadrive/Genesis, NES, everything goes!

If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING

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sábado, 10 de janeiro de 2015

MX vs ATV Unleashed [2006, PC] Overview - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#34

Following the worldwide success of Motocross Madness 1 and 2 exclusively on the PC and, a few years later, in 2004, MX Unleashed for the original Xbox and PS2, Rainbow Studios brought us, in 2005, MX vs ATV Unleashed.

Firstly on the PS2 and Xbox, it eventually came out, one year later, in 2006, for the PC, but, this time around, with an awesome track editor!
This will be my main focus in this video, ‘cause all the other racing stuff is already covered all over the internet.

The creators of this great title saw the overwhelming reception of both Motocross Madness games and the huge fan base created around them, and felt the urgent need to replicate that success on the PC all over again. To make it even more irresistible to the fans, Rainbow Studios decided to include on the same disc, and only on the PC version, a friendly track editor!

I won’t be showing here how to create tracks or something like that. It’s just a quick look at some of the great stuff that fans can do with that awesome tool.
The game features an extensive single player career that you can complete using motocross bikes and ATVs. There are also other types of unlockable vehicles available to take out for a spin like, for instance: golf karts, monster trucks, trophy trucks, off-road buggies, sand rails, biplanes and even helicopters. These last two types are extremely difficult to control, so I advise you to stick with the off-road stuff, it’s so much fun!

As for the controls, you can use the keyboard and re-map it to whatever best suits your preferences, but the best controller around that you should use is, with no doubt, the XBOX360 controller for Windows.
As usually, in this franchise, you can pull off some tricks whilst in the air to get extra points. Use those on the store to grab some new rides and gear, besides other great stuff.

I simply hate stadium events, but love the outdoor nationals. It’s here where all the fun begins. Those natural elevations and bumps are so damn enjoyable to ride! Remember to use the clutch at the start of the races and in those tight hairpin turns; that way you can maintain your momentum with short bursts of speed.

Another important move you can make to stay ahead of the pack is the suspension pre-load for the jumps. Learn how and when you should use it and you’ll certainly start winning races.

The soundtrack can be switched off, but there’s some nice licensed music from, for example, Nickelback and Papa Roach, that really fits into the action. As for the sound effects, those were taken from real life vehicles and they sound really good.

But none of this is that relevant. What really matters are those hundreds or even thousands of user made tracks and the main source for these files is still mcmfactory.com.

MX vs ATV Unleashed is also one hell of a good and enjoyable game to play with your friends over network, and with all those user-made tracks, you’ll be fighting for first place for quite a while!

Graphics could be better, with mud and dust covering the bike, but the fun factor present in the game is huge and makes us forget those tiny little things.

If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING

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segunda-feira, 5 de janeiro de 2015

sexta-feira, 2 de janeiro de 2015

Dakar [Off-Road Rally] Games Overview - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#33

Every year, when the world’s greatest off-road race is about to begin, nostalgia hits me in an unimaginable way.

Back in the glorious Sinclair ZX Spectrum days, one of the most important games in my collection was Paris-Dakar, developed and released by the Spanish company Zigurat in 1988. 

When I finally got my hands on my brand new Spectrum +2A, few were the games that worked. That caused me some frustration. Never crossed my mind to return it for repair or replacement, such was the desire to play games. Maybe it needed just a slight adjustment on the head of the incorporated tape recorder.
Slowly and gradually, I was able to play the many games that I already had in my collection, but the infamous Paris-Dakar game persisted in presenting that "tape loading error" demonic message.

One fine afternoon, I placed the tape once more in the machine and hold the "enter" key just to see what could happen. I couldn't believe my eyes! The game worked! Total joy! Jumps, smiles, complete hysteria!

In short, Paris-Dakar in the ZED X Spectrum is, until today, one of the most absorbing racing games I've ever experienced.

It unfolds in three stages: Europe, the deserts of Sahara and Teneré bound for Dakar, being each step an incredible challenge. The Road-book had the correct directions to take; 5 km to the North, 2 km to the East, 15 km to the South, etc.. We must reset the partial kilometre counter after every change of direction to get it right. Much attention also to the level of water, state of the gearbox and the fuel tank! Along the way there are areas of supply and repair for us to stop. But even with all these precautions, reaching the chequered flag intact and well classified was almost impossible, but achievable!

Every time the game is loaded, the circuits are randomly generated. This means that we could never know to which way was the first curve. In that time, this simple feature was enough to keep me hooked to my Spectrum making its longevity almost endless. And even after a withdrawal, the mere label "game over" was not enough for the programmers from Zigurat. Thus, when we press the "quit" key, a helicopter appears on the screen, picks up the pilot and disappears in the horizon. Simply brilliant!
The game was also ported to the Amiga and DOS personal computers, but never grabbed as much attention as it did on the 8 bit machines, MSX, Amstrad CPC and, of course, the ZED X Spectrum.
A year later, in 1989, the arcade saloons received a 3D rally racing arcade game entitled Big Run, Jaleco’s attempt to take down Sega’s famous Out Run. There was also an Amiga and Atari ST port and, as well, a slightly newer version for the Super Famicom, in 1991 but I believe that this last one was only released in Japan. 

In this game we’re granted access to a Porsche 959 and participate on this six stage Dakar race. The other opponents’ cars that we can also find in Africa’s natural terrain depicted in this game, resembles the Peugeot 205 T16 and the well-known Mitsubishi Pajero.

There’s a little nice feature incorporated in the cabinet: a horn that we must sound when we’re planning to overtake other cars. That way, they will allow you to pass. Otherwise, Gandalf appears and “YOU SHALL NOT PASS”!! Just joking ;)

In 1990 there was a title for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST, named Paris-Dakar 1990, that the only nice thing to watch a babe showing her nice attributes (watch the video)... 

Moving on, the next Dakar game that really deserves being brought up in this video, was only released 11 years after the last one that I’ve mentioned here.
From the developer Broadsword Interactive and publisher Acclaim came Paris-Dakar Rally, in late 2001, where we’ve got the chance to participate in this mythic off road event with a dirt bike, ATV, dune buggy or SUV. 

Press reviews were unanimous: what a piece of crap this game is. And that’s kind of true. Controls are painful, sound is awful with also some irritating music, but, there’s something of a challenge that makes me come back to it year after year right before the real race starts. I believe the reason for that is its difficulty that is what the real Dakar race is all about. The extreme and complicated riding engine implemented in this game, turns it into an awesome challenge even if the game is painfully horrible! Am I insane? Believe me, it’s like a drug! Every year I try to get to the top 10 after all those stages, and there’s a lot of them, but I simply cannot achieve that! And I just love those free roaming desert stages, where you must find the checkpoints and, also, pick up those repair icons in the form of wrenches.
Give it a try, only if you’re a fan of the real thing!

Two years later, in 2003, Acclaim decided to develop indoors and release another Dakar game. This sequel named Dakar 2, and also subtitled as The World’s Ultimate Rally in certain places of the globe, was a huge step up from its older brother. 

It has pretty nice Graphics and music, but sound effects could be better. Another not so good feature is the fact that, in one stage, our co-driver is a girl and, on another, she changes her voice and sounds like a man! Isn’t this kind of weird?..

Again, the desert free roaming stuff is what makes this game so enjoyable. Those are beautifully designed and gameplay on these special stages are so freakin’ awesome and we need to be extremely careful to avoid rocks, grass that hides nasty sand banks, etc. Unfortunately this good stuff ends really fast, ‘cause stages are quite short in length and the clock is ticking.

There’s the mighty trucks, SUVs and dirt bikes to pick and embrace the desert, but I found the SUVs and pickups the more suitable and an easy way to finish victorious in this 12 stage race that you can complete in about 50 minutes.

This game was intended to appeal to the arcade racer and simply accomplishes it very well.

Aside from some walls, in a couple of stages, that works as some kind of a magnet that insanely attracts our vehicle, this game is quite enjoyable to play, but don’t expect it to have a Colin McRae or DiRT type of gameplay. It’s really far from there.
Once again, play it if you’re a real fan of the world’s greatest off road event.

In 2005, French developer Asobo Studio was working on something big: Grand Raid Offroad. But, as part of the publishing deal with Codemasters, they ended up transforming the code to what we know today as FUEL. If you haven’t watched my thoughts about it, just click on the rectangle. 

But if you’re eager for some desert racing, you’ll be much more satisfied with 2XL’s BAJA Edge of Control, only on XBOX360 and PS3. It was developed by the same team that brought Motocross Madness 1 and 2, and MX and MX vs ATV Unleashed games. 

Will we see more Dakar games in the future now that the race is no longer a European and African exclusive event? Will the next DiRT game have some desert racing stages or championships? I would love to see these questions answered.

If you're into retro - or not so retro - stuff, please subscribe at http://www.youtube.com/user/ThePixelTHING and visit http://www.facebook.com/PixelThing & http://twitter.com/Pixel_THING

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