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Captain Power and the Merchandising of Brand

Video Games | Thursday, December 11th, 2008 | 8 years, 8 months ago

When I was but a wee lad I was as influenced by flashy toy ads and packaging as any kid, but when I saw commercials for Captain Power I was absolutely riveted.

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My parents were kind enough to buy the toy for me and for as nerdy a kid as I it was the zenith of awesome.

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The toy consists of a sort of light gun in the shape of a space ship, and a VHS cassette with a live action introduction to anime-stylized flight combat with which the toy could interact. Aiming and shooting at objects flashing red and black would score you a point, while simply aiming at obstacles flashing yellow and black would subtract a “power point”, of which you had only five until your ship was destroyed and your Captain Power action figure literally ejected from the toy’s canopy.

These low-fi YouTube rips don’t do the original justice, but to stand in front of a big television and guide and careen the ship in response to the onscreen action was really something special.

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In response to excellent sales the concept spun off into a surprisingly mature and engaging live action television series. The premise surrounded Captain Power and his rag tag company of “Soldiers of the Future” whom together battled Lord Dread who strove to “digitize” the entire human population (by zapping them, effectively converting them into computer chips which were added to the big evil central SQL database or something). The show stood on its own merits but was also compatible with the toys! Enemies would have red flashing zones on their torsos which would score you points, and they’d shoot yellow lasers which would damage you. It wasn’t anywhere near as seamless as the proper mission cassettes for this purpose but it was quite a clever work-in, without which I probably wouldn’t have been turned on to the show.

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I can hardly friggin wait

Video Games | Tuesday, October 21st, 2008 | 8 years, 10 months ago

I bought this game used for PS2 and adored it, but couldn’t stand the low fidelity of the console and my TV. I just bought this for $30 on Steam (and I’m getting reimbursed – belated birthday present!). The game even comes with a digital copy of the soundtrack.

In the mean time you can check out the Bully soundtrack on eMusic. It’s free if you download the songs individually. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s one of my favourite game soundtracks of all time.

Go buy this game. Rockstar is an incredible developer with better level designers, gameplay programmers, and storywriters than just about any other studio in the industry. I lose myself in Rockstar games, and so will you.

This will keep me more than busy until GTA4 is out in about 3 weeks.

Any game worth playing comes out on PC, and it always looks and plays better than any console.

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Winkin, blinkin, and warm reboot

Video Games | Thursday, August 28th, 2008 | 8 years, 12 months ago

I’ve been on an indie game kick these past few weeks.  I love indie games, regardless of graphics or sophistication, since they can take such sweeping liberties and diversions from the norm as compared to big AAA titles that are beholden to the whims of publishers and stockholders.

I’ll list some of my recent favourite indie games below, but first my rant:

Sometimes with free indie games you get what you pay for.  Occasionally you’ll find one that doesn’t quite work right.  A few games I’ve tried recently try to invoke a screen mode that either my video card or monitor are incompatible with, causing my monitor to go blank and making its power light blink persistently.  This leaves me with no recourse and no control.  If I’m lucky I can tap the power button on my PC case to shut down Windows gracefully, else I must press the reset button and hope my computer turns back on at all!

I found a pretty easy fix for this in Windows XP – without being able to see what I was doing I’d press alt-tab which would hopefully get me to the desktop, press Win-R to open a run box, type "cmd" and press enter to open a command prompt, and press ctrl-enter to make it fullscreen.  This would usually force the screen to change modes.  I’d then press ctrl-enter again to restore the command prompt to a window, at which point I’d usually be returned to my desktop where I could close the offending game.

I’ve tried this on Vista, but no dice.  I don’t know whether it’s impossible or just takes a lot of coaxing to get Vista to run a command prompt in full screen.  I don’t know where to go from here.  I just tap my power button and cross my fingers, waiting for the hard disk access LED to stop flickering and my optical mouse to stop glowing red, before I can turn my PC back on.

Anyone have a better solution for me?

And now, my list of favourite free indie games du jour! (these all work fine for me BTW!)

Gamma Bros is a 2D low-fi space shooter akin to Robotron or Smash TV.  It has a lot of personality and is very well realized.

Cave Story is a 2D NES-style platform with RPG elements.  The story and characters are endearing, the action and controls are solid, and the music is great.  I’m maybe 4 hours in with no end in sight yet!

Quest for Glory II by AGD Interactive is a remake of the game by same name, originally by Sierra OnLine.  This version is nearly a decade in the making with lovely updated graphics and the famous Sierra point-and-click interface.

Façade is an utterly unique experience.  You play yourself and are invited to the apartment of a couple whose marriage is failing.  This "game" is a marvellous merger of AI and psychology that will keep you playing and replaying for hours.

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