The Castle of Cagliostro (8/10)

Posted on

I was familiar with about the first fifteen minutes of this movie from the old laser disc video game, Cliffhanger. I always preferredCliffhanger to Dragon’s Lair because you were given move hints on screen. Anyhow, it turns out that Stern just used footage from this Miyazaki film and shoehorned a game on top of it. The movie is actually really good and doesn’t have the heavy-handed back-to-nature message of Miyazaki’s more recent films. It’s just lots of action and well-paced fun.

Darksiders on PC (7/10)

Posted on

Darksiders is a game that is utterly derivative of Zelda. You are tasked with exploring various “castles,” each of which gives you a new power that will open up new areas on the map. Some of these new powers include Link’s hookshot, Eopna the horse (named Ruin here), a magic musical instrument, double jump, and the Portal gun is thrown in for good measure. However, unlike a Zelda, this game is supposed to be dark and edgy. It’s kinda like a modern superhero movie where they try to make a kids’ franchise dark and brooding. I can’t wait for the reimagining of The Wonder Twins.

You play War−one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse who snarls his way through the entire confusing story. As far as I could tell there’s a war between Heaven and Hell and the seven seals have been broken or some such nonsense. Honestly, I had no idea what was going on. The characters are stupid and undeveloped and the fictional world makes no sense. It seems like every dialogue sequence contains a line or two about, “you know this is the law!” followed by a meaningless battle in order to stay within regulatory boundaries of this unspecified law. Apparently, the world beyond is a boring government bureaucracy.

Story aside, the game isn’t that bad. How can you go wrong when you rip-off one of the best games of all time? The castle puzzles are pretty good, and the boss battles are satisfying. What this game lacks is the sense of exploration that you get with Zelda. There weren’t many moments when I was tantalized by some seemingly unattainable treasure that required a power I was yet to aquire.

One final complaint is that this was a super sloppy PC port. Controller support was crap. I had to download an xBox controller emulator to play the game. The game ships with a corrupt intro video that prevents the game from launching. The fix is to delete an AMD video in the install directory. Lastly, a recent Windows update broke the video in the cutscenes. Only the bottom half of the screen was visible. That required rolling back a Windows update which did all sorts of weird things to other programs. I own the sequel, so I hope they fixed those issues for that game.

Profile: The Ultimate Sparks Collection by Sparks - CD (10/10)

Posted on

This two-disc compilation was my introduction to 70s era Sparks. It covers their best songs all the way from their inception as the band Halfnelson through Interior Design. With the exception of maybe one or two tracks, every song in this collection is great and I would recommend this as a starting point for anyone wanting to find our more about this fantastic band.

Exotic Creatures of the Deep by Sparks - CD (8/10)

Posted on

I wasn’t sure what to think of this album when I first listened to it. It feels more like a straightforward rock album than their last two with their weird, off-kilter arrangements. But, now a few years away from its release, this CD has grown on me. The album starts off strong, but somewhere near the last third of the CD tracks like “Lighten Up, Morrissey” and “Photoshop” start to drag the album down. Thankfully, the album closes with the excellent, “Likeable” which redeems it.

Graveyard Disturbance (5/10)

Posted on

Graveyard Disturbance is a silly, made-for-TV quality horror film from Lamberto Bava, and it’s surprisingly bloodless considering the director. At times the dialogue becomes self-aware and there’s the potential for some good horror-comedy moments, but this is mostly squandered. There is some 80s cheese appeal here and the monster makeup is pretty solid. Unfortunately, the monsters don’t do anything in this except walk around and then sit at a dinner table.

Imaging My IIgs Personal Data Disks

Posted on

This evening I took the time to archive all my old Apple IIgs floppies. This is something I have been meaning to do since I got my CFFA3000 card. I have been pretty lucky in that, having been told since the early nineties that floppy discs will just disintegrate over time, all of my disks are in good shape and I have never had one fail on me. But I know it will eventually happen, and probably soon. Ripping floppies to disc images on the CFFA is a piece of cake. Each of these discs took about 3 minutes to pull down onto a thumb drive as a .PO disk image. The most difficult part of the process was scanning the actual disks into photoshop so that I could have a nice digital record of my horrible teenage handwriting (seen above). The best labels are the ones where I crossed out the name of some old pirated game and reused the disk for my files. You’d think there would be a nice application on the IIgs for printing disk labels?

For as much as I loved my old Apple IIgs (and the Apple ][+ before that), I didn’t really have that much personal data to save. I guess I wasn’t using the raw computing power of the Apple II for productivity and content creation and was more focused on gaming. What I do have is a bunch of college term papers and essays that are filled with the grammatical atrocities you’ve come to expect on this Web site. There is also a fair share of musical compositions that my brother and I churned out in Music Studio. Classics like “Robert is Coll” (sic) and “Ultra Coolness.” Yeah, I was really concerned about my cool factor in those days (but too lazy to fix my coll typo). Finally, there are a few discs of drawings and images that we created in Deluxepaint and PaintWorks Gold. I may post some of those in the near future. They are quite.. ahem… cool.

Dragon’s Lair Trilogy on Nintendo Wii (7/10)

Posted on
Dragon's Lair Trilogy

It took about twenty years, but I finally beat Dragon’s Lair. That’s twenty years of dying for no reason, guessing moves and general hair-pulling frustration. Dragon’s Lair is not a good game. It breaks just about every rule of good game design. What it does have going for it is beautiful visuals, the novel concept (well, novel for the early eighties) of an interactive cartoon and tons of nostalgia for middle-aged gamers.

The Wii version is, as far as I can tell, identical to the original laser disc version with the added bonus of optional infinite lives, move hints and a special extended cut. The disc also includes the follow-up game Space Ace and the long-delayed sequel Dragon’s Lair II: Timewarp. Both of these follow-ups fix some of the broken mechanics of the original such as moves being more clearly indicated with flashes. Space Ace adds a little variety in choosing your path through the movie and Dragon’s Lair II adds special items which can be grabbed (but which have no apparent effect on the path of the story).

However, there’s not much to make this game appealing to modern gamers. It takes the lamest gameplay mechanic from recent games, the quick-time event, and stretches it out into a giant ball of frustration, repetition and rote memorization. Those of us who grew up in the eighties will enjoy it purely for the nostalgia, and some younger players may get a kick out of just watching the cartoon play out in its entirety without the gaming. Now I want to get a Wii version of favorite laser disc game, Cliffhanger.