January 2009

Hall of Classics: Actraiser

It's strange to think that console gaming has been going on for over 30 years. Video Gaming is a fast-moving industry with a fickle audience. Yesterday's stunning breakthrough is today's badly-aged bargain cart, as well as tomorrow's nostalgia trip. In Game Head's new feature, Hall of Classics, we'll be looking at games that went through all three stages. What made them great for their time, why were they replaced, why are they memorable now? The first entry in HoC is Enix's 1990 platformer/God-game, Actraiser. If there's one thing that made the Super Nintendo Entertainment System an excellent console, it was the role playing games. SNES's main competition, the Sega Genesis, never really caught up in that category. There were so many RPG's on the Super Nintendo that it became the foundation of many of the genre's modern-day cliches. Amid the mass of formulaic adventures with predictable characters and uninspired mechanics, a few really innovative titles came out. Actraiser was one of them.

The Sims 2: In-Game Product Safety Recall

If you have played The Sims 2 with the Pets expansion pack for very long, you know that toddler Sims will often fall asleep in the pet bed. Unfortunately, when I was playing last weekend, one of my toddlers became STUCK in the pet bed. Connor fell asleep in the pet bed, and awoke with his "hygiene" need at critical level. He cried and cried, but would not get out of the bed. I sent various adult Sims over and instructed them to pick him up, bathe him, cuddle him, etc, but the action vanished as soon as it hit their queue. At first, I just thought that Connor was pitching a temper tantrum. I tried buying a teddy bear and setting it beside the pet bed, to tempt him out. No dice!

Vampires in The Sims 2: Living with Vampires

Vampires were introduced to The Sims 2 in the Nightlife expansion pack. For information on how to identify vampires and have your Sim "brought across" see my previous article, Vampires in The Sims 2: Identifying and Creating Vampires. Your vampire Sim will have certain, shall we say, "cravings," but it is not necessary for your vampire Sim to feed on other Sims for survival. Vampire Sims are just as happy filling their Hunger need by cooking and eating regular food. (I decided that my Vampire character Bob would probably like spaghetti, since the meat sauce looks like blood.) Vampire characters can fly, although I have never seen an NPC vampire do this. To make your vampire fly, click on the destination and select "Fly Here." Your Sim will transform into a bat, and fly to that destination.

Vampires in The Sims 2: Identifying and Creating Vampires

I sent both Bob and Baxter to college. While they were there, I flipped a coin and decided that Baxter would be the heir. This left Bob (the spare) free for me to goof around with. I decided to make Bob a vampire. Vampires were added to The Sims 2 with the expansion pack Nightlife. After you install this expansion pack, two new NPCs (the Count and the Contessa) will appear in your Downtown lots at night. The vampires can also be identified by their two stereotyped behaviors: 1. "Stalking." A "stalking" vampire walks around with their arm over their face, in the classic Noseferatu pose. You can have your own vampire Stalk somewhere by clicking the destination, and choosing "Stalk here." 2.

The Sims 2 Stories: Generation 1

A little while ago, I decided to play a modified (i.e. unofficial) version of one of the many generational Sims 2 challenges. The idea with a generational challenge is to play an entire blood line through a series of generations. In my case, I decided to go whole hog and play through 26 generations, one for each letter of the alphabet. (My apologies for the poor quality of some of these early pictures. I didn't realize I had my game camera stuck on "medium quality" and "small picture size" for a while.) I started by creating the challenge founders, Aaron and Alice Alphabetti. Aaron was a Family sim, with a lifetime aspiration to have ten children. (Good luck with that one, buddy!) Alice was a Knowledge sim, who wanted to max out all seven of her skill levels. Aaron and Alice had what could well be the single worst wedding in all of history. I lost track of what was happening, and didn't realize that Alice's carpool had arrived to take her to work. As a result, she walked away and drove off to work immediately after the ceremony, but before it was time to cut the cake.

The Sims 3 is coming! The Sims 3 is coming!

I should preface this by pointing out that I am a complete nut for The Sims games. I lost a year and a half of my life to The Sims. I was there for the debacle that was The Sims Online. (I was a beta tester, but dropped out after the first few weeks. My review in a nutshell was, "Blecch.") I gave Spore a whirl, didn't care for it, and switched back to The Sims 2. As you can imagine, I'm terribly excited about the prospect of The Sims 3, which is scheduled for release this February. There is precious little pre-release information about The Sims 3, aside from what you can read on the back of the box or on the Amazon page. (The game went up for pre-release sale not long ago.) There are two features which will set The Sims 3 apart from The Sims 2 you will now be able to follow your Sims to work, and they are no longer bounded at home by the edges of their property.

Physics Games

In my last post I highlighted a few top-of-the-line flash games made in the past couple years. Arguably the most innovative genre of browser accessible games is the physics game category. While a number of console and PC games rely on an impressive physics engine to make the game smooth and pretty, like Valve Corporation's Source Engine, flash physics games make hard science the core of the game itself. Here are three physics games that'll test your ingenuity. Fantastic Contraption Colin Northway's engineering-centered puzzle game challenges players to guide a pink shape (sometimes it's a circle, sometimes a square or triangle) into a shaded "goal" zone. In order to do so, he provides players with the parts necessary to build a machine that can drive, carry, or even toss the shape home. What makes Fantastic Contraption so clever is the fact that it isn't overly complex. There are a grand total of five types of pieces available for your machine.