sábado, 28 de fevereiro de 2015

Video Games based in Oscar Winning Movies for Best Picture - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#40

Directed in 1972 by Francis Ford Coppola, The Godfather won three Oscars: best picture, best actor in a leading role and best screenplay. 

Several years later, in 1991, came from US Gold the first game based in this marvelous movie franchise. The Godfather, available for DOS, Amiga and Atari ST, has 5 levels to offer in which were depicted some scenes and locations taken from all three films. In this side scrolling action game, with some occasional first person shooter sequences, we’re invited to roam through the streets of New York City, Miami and the Italian village of Corleone. The objective is quite simple: shoot all gangsters and reach the end of each level. Be careful, though, not to hit the innocent people that can also be found on those perilous streets.
I don’t quite remember to play this game when it was released. But I can say that, when I first tried it for the purposes of this video, I was entertained for quite a bit!

Also more recently, in 2006, Electronic Arts released a new game based exclusively on the first  movie of the franchise. Available for Windows, PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox, Xbox360 and Wii, this new and fresher vision of The Godfather includes the amazing voice performances from a few members of the original cast: James Caan, Robert Duvall, Abe Vigoda and Marlon Brando himself, but, because of his health state, the audio quality needed wasn’t achieved. Al Pacino was also absent from the game, ‘cause his image was already being used in “Scarface: The World is Yours”, released in this same year. The gameplay style is something already seen in Grand Theft Auto, Mafia, the True Crime franchise.. you know, that kind of free roaming / sand box / mission based type of thing, but in a Godfather environment. Great sound, great music, great graphics, but gameplay and controls could be a lot better.
This game had average reviews, probably because all the fuzz about the disapproval from director Francis Ford Coppola that publicly stated that Electronic Arts’ main goal was to profiteer from his 1972 masterpiece.


The 1975 Academy Award Ceremony contemplated The Godfather Part II with 6 Oscars: best picture, best actor in a supporting role, best director, best screenplay, best art direction and best original musical score.
Only thirty five years later, in 2009, we’ve had a video game based on it. Electronic Arts was, once again, the developer responsible for this mediocre conversion of one of the best movies ever made. Shame on you, Electronic Arts! This masterpiece should have been treated with more respect!
Released for Windows, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, this open world action-adventure game is, obviously, the sequel to the 2006 Electronic Arts’ Godfather title, that tries to expand and improve its own gameplay, but fails drastically! The “fatality” mode, a la Mortal Kombat, is completely unnecessary in this type of game. Also the squad type of gameplay, where we can command a group of four thugs, was introduced in this sequel and, in my honest opinion, it was so easy to engage and eliminate the enemies that I get easily bored very quickly.
Although, critics gave it average reviews praising the squad thing that introduced in the series a cool kind of strategy type of approach.

ROCKY (1976) 

The 1976 boxing movie with Sylvester Stallone won 3 Oscars: best picture, best director and best film editing. Three years later, in 1979, was released a sequel: Rocky II. In 1982, another: Rocky III, followed by Rocky IV, in 1985. So, inevitably, the Rocky franchise spawned various video game titles and, only in 1987, was released, exclusively for the Sega Master System, Rocky: The Video Game. Prior to it came, in 1983, for the Colecovision, Rocky Super Action Boxing, based in the third movie.
So, back to the Master System title, we confront opponents in a specific order but, before each fight, and to improve our skills, we need to practice with a sandbag, a punching ball, etc. Rocky Balboa’s opponents are the ones from all first four movies: Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang and Ivan Drago. The game also includes a two-player mode and it was extremely well received upon its release.

Later, in 2002, from the hands of Rage Software, another title based in this movie franchise was made available for the PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance. Besides plenty of references to the first four movies, this one introduces, as well, the fifth Rocky title, from 1990, and, in Europe, the game was even bundled with the very first Rocky film on DVD. Due to the average reviews from critics and the good reception from the public, a sequel was soon planned and released two years later, in 2004, obviously from the hands of the same team, now re-branded Venom Games and published by Ubi Soft. This new game, entitled Rocky Legends, brought a new approach to the series, placing the action and events before and between the films.

PLATOON (1986) 
One of my favorite films of all time is Platoon, from 1986, which won 4 of the 8 Oscars for which it was nominated: best picture, best director, best sound and best film editing.
Ocean Software, eighties specialist in movie conversions, grabbed the license and released, a year later, Platoon the Video Game for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, DOS, Amstrad CPC and, in 1988, for the NES.
The versions that I’ve played back then were the C64 and ZX Spectrum ones and I’ve found those extremely well made and with some outstanding music and graphics. For some reason, the ones for the Amiga and DOS passed unnoticed and, just recently, had the opportunity to try those for the purposes of this video.

In 2002 Platoon was again remembered through a Real Time Strategy type of game that could have been much better than it ended up being. Developed by Digital Reality exclusively for the PC, it has a sentence on its cover stating that it’s “the first strategy game about the Vietnam War”. Well, that’s completely wrong! The first Vietnam strategy war game was ‘Nam 1965-1975, published by Domark in 1991.

Finally, until today, only one more game was based on a film awarded with the Oscar for best picture: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. It’s imperative to mention that Peter Jackson’s zenith won all the 11 Oscars for which it was nominated: best picture, best director, best screenplay, best film editing, best art direction, best costume design, best makeup, best original musical score, best original song, best sound mixing and best visual effects! Such an amazing accomplishment! And, just before the premiere of the movie, Electronic Arts released the game based on it.
Available for Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, Game Boy Advance and Mac OS, Return of the King was extremely well received by critics and public in general praising the game’s combat system. Graphics, THX audio, animations, music, cutscenes and voice-overs, all of this was superbly mastered by the programmers.
During the development of the game, an Electronic Arts representative would travel to New Zealand once a month to present the last build of the game for the filmmakers to play and give back their feedback. Even the same guys that made the stunts in the movie were hired by Electronic Arts giving their contribution to a more realistic approach towards the game.
The result is astonishing. We’re practically playing the movie and no cut scene on the game would spoil the movie itself for those who had not seen it. Remember, the game was launched more than 20 days before the premiere of the movie.

If I’ve missed something, please let me know! Leave your comments below with your thoughts about movie and video game industries. Which Era was, for you, the richest in movie conversions in general? Was it the eighties? The nineties? 2000snds? We’ve reached a point where we’ll be seeing the other way around. Movie studios are more and more exploiting the video game panorama. They’ve already noticed the amazing plots and stories that will certainly make awesome big screen blockbusters.

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terça-feira, 17 de fevereiro de 2015

Castlevania: Spectral Interlude [2015, ZX Spectrum] Review - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#39

Just take a good look at this awesome piece of pixel art!
Isn’t that gorgeous?

This particular loading screen was inspired by the North American NES box art of the very first game released in 1986.

Back in the day, Konami should have released a ZX Spectrum version of the amazing and tímeles Castlevania. 

They’ve completely missed the chance.

So, the homebrew Russian developer Rewind has just made available Castlevania Spectral Interlude.

Stories like these are what made the ZX Spectrum so popular in early 80s, back then all youngsters were creating their own games in their own bedrooms!

Castlevania Spectral Interlude was intended to be a port of the second installment of the game, subtitled Simon’s Quest and released for the NES in 1987, but it turned out being a totally new game and exclusive for the Zed X Spectrum.

If you’re a fan of the franchise and never had the opportunity to play around with a ZX Spectrum, here’s your chance. The story of this totally new and exclusive game is centered on the disappearance of Belmont from later Castlevania games.

This is kind of a slap in the face to Konami that always underestimated the European market and, mainly, the 8 and 16 bit home computers.

So, what’s the main features on this new Castlevania independent title? Once loaded, the very first thing to point out is the extreme high quality music that simply blown my mind away! The 12 song soundtrack, composed by Vladimir Tugay, is also available in Soundcloud and is simply brilliant. The graphics, by Aleksey Golubtsov, are also high quality stuff with more than 150 colorful game screens including hidden rooms, and, let’s not forget the coder behind this project, Aleksander Udotov. Without him, all these great pieces probably wouldn’t fit in this awesome puzzle.

This is definitely a “MetroidVania” type of game: 2D action-platformer with exploration, backtracking and RPG elements, and I invite you all to try it out and beat this monster!

The game was released for free and can be played either on a 128k ZX Spectrum or with the help of a ZX Spectrum emulator.
I’ll post all the direct links below for you to check out.

Homebrews are becoming very popular and an awesome way to dust off our old hardware. Who would have ever imagine that the ZX Spectrum would ever have a Castlevania game in its library! Finally, in 2015, that dream became reality!

Follow the links below to grab this awesome exclusive gem!

Visit the "official" web page to download the game and, you liked it, please support de developer: http://spectralinterlude.com

Soundcloud direct link to the awesome 12 song Soundtrack: https://soundcloud.com/michellekg/sets/castlevania-spectral-interlude

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sexta-feira, 13 de fevereiro de 2015

15 Video Games for Valentine's Day - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#38

First of all, there’s some rules that we need to, somewhat, respect:

1 – Buy a game with your significant other and avoid sequels;
2 – Prepare some snacks and other surprises;
3 – Be patient with your explanation of the controls and gameplay;
4 – Take lots of breaks to avoid getting too tired;
5 – Lose on purpose from time to time;
6 – If your loved one isn’t enjoying it, you need to stop immediately;
7 – If you lose because of your partner, don’t be mad! Just laugh it out loud!

So, here’s my list, without any specific order, of awesome games for Valentine’s day!

Starting with LEGO series of games: 

All of us have grown up playing with those LEGO blocks that have that amazing feeling of transporting our mind to this alternative reality.
Boys and girls, we all are familiar with those cute little characters that are around since 1949. I used to play with these way before I placed my hands on my first video game.
LEGO games are available for a handful of platforms: PS2, PS3, PS4, PSP, Vita, Xbox, XBOX360, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo DS, 3DS, Game Boy Advance, Game Cube, Wii, Wii U, and this is one awesome way to spend Valentine’s day!


This is a funny mascot-based racing game in which players race against each other using characters from various Sega franchises. There’s also several varieties of weapons to pick up and use against your opponents, just like in the beloved ReVolt, from 1999.
Sonic is such a cute video game character that will certainly be recognized right away and even bring back some good old memories of playing the very first Sonic game on the Master System or Megadrive/Genesis!
Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed is available for PS3, PS Vita, Xbox360, Wii U, DS, PC and Android and iOS portable devices.

And, what about a good old arcade game from 1982?
Here’s: Ms PAC MAN 
If you have an arcade cabinet in your home, this is one good way to spend some time with your loved one! There’s hundreds of co-op games that you could play with your soul mate. Imagine how hard it is to choose just one.
Because of that, I’ve chosen Ms Pac Man. That way, you’ll be letting your significant other play and you’ll just stay there, watching and be thrilled for getting in return some smiles and laughter.

PLANTS VS ZOMBIES is one of those original ideas that turns certain games into great classics. 
Just imagine having a variety of different plants protecting your brain from getting eaten by zombies! Well, that’s what this game is all about!
Originally available for PC and Mac and, later, for portable systems, XboX live and PlayStation Network, this is a highly addictive and funny game to play alone or in co-op mode.

FEZ is such a beautiful indie puzzle platform game that utilizes pixelated art style with plenty of references to other classics of video gaming like, for instance, The Legend of Zelda, Tetris and Super Mario Brothers.
Available for download since 2012 for Xbox360, PC, Mac, Linux, PS3, PS4 and Vita, this kind of unique two-dimensional puzzle platform game set in a three-dimensional world is so amazingly beautiful that you and your partner will find yourselves stopping to smell the roses for countless times!

Set in a beautiful and challenging world, Rayman Origins  is one of those games that you can’t miss when trying to get someone into gaming.
Released for the PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox360, Wii, 3DS and PS Vita in 2011, this amazingly colorful side-scrolling platformer is playable with up to four local players, but, for valentine’s day, 2 players is enough, don’t you agree with me?..

ROCK BAND series 
is another great opportunity to bring people together. Just form a band with you loved one and choose which instruments both will be using and free yourselves playing and singing some of the most charismatic, influential and brilliant songs ever made!
Grab a PS3 or Xbox360 and start making some noise!
In the end, you’ll be hugging and kissing!! That’s guaranteed.. or your money back!

Another cute and awesome little puzzle game ideal to play with friends and, above all, super special friends, is Critter Crunch, released for PS3, PC, Mac and all iOS devices between 2008 and 2012.
The concept is quite simple, control this furry creature named Biggs and, with his long tongue, we must clear each screen launching smaller critters into the mouths of larger ones filling them up. By doing this, you’ll be helping the continuous flow of the food chain.
Ahhhh.. such a cute game, with regurgitation scenes and all…

Castle Crasher, 
with its unique cartoon art style, is a side-scrolling beat-em-up, with some RPG elements thrown in, that’s so amazingly fun and addictive set in a medieval scenario where a dark wizard has stolen a mystical gem and captured four princesses. Stories like these, of knights in shining armors and damsels in distress, are always welcome in such an important date as valentine’s day. You and your partner will be, for hours, fighting these hordes of funny looking enemies just to breach the castle and save the day!
It’s available for Xbox360, PS3, PC and Mac.

Diner Dash: 

In this strategy and time management type of game we’ll find ourselves working hard on a diner, seating and serving people. You just drag and drop customers on any available table, serve their meal and, when they finish, take the correspondent check. At this time, customers leave you a tip and all the dishes on the table for us to clear so other customers can use that particular table.
This is an ideal type of game to get someone into gaming and it is available for PC, Mac, Wii, DS, PSP, PS3, Xbox360, Android and iOS devices, and it spawned numerous sequels.

I couldn’t end this video without pointing a Mario game. So, my favorite is the New Super Mario Bros. for Wii.  It’s a highly addictive super colorful game that needs absolutely no introduction.
This little gem sold over 10 million copies and was considered the fastest selling single-system game ever made! That’s one hell of an accomplishment! Just fantastic.
And this game is enjoyed by all genders, from youngsters to senior folks! So, once again, you won’t miss with this one! Your soul mate will certainly fall into your harms just begging for one more go.

Is this what you really want to do on valentine´s day?...

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domingo, 8 de fevereiro de 2015

Video Game Pick Ups #3 - 24 Games+Stuff - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#37

Let's take a look at the 24 video games, and other gaming related stuff, that I've added to my collection over the last couple of months! There's games for the PC, XBOX 360, PlayStation 2, Megadrive/Genesis and Commodore Amiga!

Check out Ivan's "History of Videogames" book: http://www.blurb.com/b/5451321-historia-dos-videojogos-4-a-edicao

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segunda-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2015

Assassin [1992, Amiga] Review - It's a Pixel THING - Ep.#36

TEAM 17, best known for their Worms franchise, was also responsible for other amazing titles like this one.

Developed in conjunction with Psionic Systems and released in 1992, Assassin’s plot is simple: infiltrate an high-tech underground fortress and kill the main villain – Midan.

In the process, there’s countless of genetically-engineered mutants that we must destroy in order to reach and conquer the main objective.

The programmers gave Assassin a number of friendly options: the ability to choose the number of lives – one, three or five – and the game’s difficulty – Rookie, Arcade or Ultimate. That way any player can try out Assassin and, even if this type of game isn’t your thing, you can really advance and be thrilled for doing so!

Five main levels awaits us and one final battle in the end with Midan himself.
We start off being dropped in a forest that surrounds Midan’s fortress. In this area the enemies are quite easy to engage and take down, but, as soon as you reach the construction zone, they will be alerted to your presence and tougher to kill. The third level is set in the missile control where Midan’s personal security guards are literally waiting for you and power-ups and bonuses are really scarce around here. Succeeding this you’ll find yourself in the genetic asylum, home of some nasty genetic experiments. I advise you to get out of this hostile place quickly! Those nasties are really hard to beat! Finally, right before you’re face to face with Midan, a final test awaits us: a maze-like warren of corridors and shafts filled with Arnie’s terminator-like endoskeletons and wall mounted laser cannons.

As an Amiga fan, Martyn Brown, founded Team 17 to make games that required 1Mb of RAM, as he was tired of seeing 512k ones being made for machines that would be able to do more.

Assassin was the least successful game from Team 17, mainly because of some bad reviews and a “special edition”, released 2 years later, that didn’t bring anything new to the game. On the contrary, various gameplay elements were even removed! What were they thinking? Even the box art from the original game was way better and appealing than the one from that supposed “special edition”.

Besides this, I think that this game deserved more recognition. Back in the day I thought that it was a huge hit. How I was wrong.

Being an Amiga exclusive, not all of you will be able to try it out, but you can always use an emulator for that purpose.

Graphically enjoyable and extremely playable, Assassin has also the most impressive atmospheric sound effects in a video game from British composer Allister Brimble, author of over 100 amazing tunes for the Amiga.

Speaking of playability, the fluid animation and the control that the player has over the main character, with some astonishing moves with a simple flick of the joystick, is just overwhelming.

Assassin was one of those gems that Amiga users would brag and made Atari ST owners explode in anger! But, again, I can’t understand why it didn’t sell well.. piracy?.. It is way better than U.S. GOLD’s Strider arcade conversion for home computers. No doubt about it!

Anyway, try it! It’s an amazing title and, with those awesome sound effects, you’ll be immersed in it for many hours!

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