-----------------------------------------A1 DEATH ARCHIVE------------------------
help! i’ve been shot and killed forever! a-aahhh… - a1revies.
GAME REVIEW: A BANJO-KAZOOIE LEVEL, RARE, 19XX
”[..]he unfastened his wristwatch and scrambled the setting, then slipped it into his pocket. Making his way out to the car park he refected on the freedom this simple act gave him. He would explore the lateral byways now, the side doors, as it were, in the corridors of time.”
Hypothetical complement to thinking about strange videogame spaces would be strange videogame time, how it’s represented and how it’s perceived. Chopped up, sped up, deferred, halted, looped and reloaded, cross-sectioned across menus and SHOP screens or projected flatly across static locations, happening tangentially to player experience or else too close to it like the unnerving seasonal events in Animal Crossing. the ballard quote above works by applying the language of nonlinear space to time, in a way not unlike rpgs using continuity of event and dialogue with your own ingame activities to provide the illusion of continuous time to the modular network of frozen cities that flicker past in the background (not the least unnerving part of Ghosts Of Aliens was the sense of crawling across a huge, flat, essentially static drawing of a world and being totally dissociated from any of the cool events depicted therein, like writhing around on a big painting while fighting snails). 100 HOURS OF GAMEPLAY is a threat rather than a promise. Where do they go? Where do 100 hours spent reading the internet go? Chattering dissociated microevent chains plugging straight into the unconscious. If people talk too much about the things they played as a kid part of it could be that those experiences can only be understood retroactively. Psychic filter removes the hours of haltingly progressing through dialogue trees and turn-based battles, breaks down the original thing into a collage that makes more sense but which crucially still relies on the artificial reference points of meaning and context that got hammered monotonously into yr brain like nails through a pine board over long hours in front of a teevee.
Some things that play around with time: Vesper .5 and Harvest Moon with their circumscribed rituals of progression, any videogame with a target audience of wealthy immortal teenage aliens eg Kingdom Hearts, text adventure and hyper-link/-card games shuffling blocs of static content around to simulate a continuous chain of events eg Crime Zone. The last world of Banjo Kazooie consists of four seasonal representations of the same location, accessed via a branching hub. The continuity between them is embedded in the level architecture - the lake freezes over and you can walk on it, there are piles of leaves or fields of wheat, a beehive (as well as the beehive health-container game objects) is built and destroyed. The events that change are totally static within the individual timezones, which are otherwise populated by the usual charging monsters and NPCs and quests and puzzles and things. But the monsters and characters are essentially restricted to each area - or else destroyed and recreated again with a different prepared speech and animation. The four seasons are unlocked one at a time but after that can be accessed in any order and the player character does not register any change between each: the continuous moment-to-moment process of doing things and moving around within the game remains oblivious to the supposed temporal change that happens around it. The attempts to build causal links between the sections - gathering nuts for a squirrel in autumn so he doesn’t starve in winter, etc - are insufficient. I would count three different representations of time happening here - the environmental changes from season to season, the actions that happen within each season, and the continuous experience of the player - and all of them overlap erratically if at all. I find the effect unnerving. Is this the Last Year At Marienbad of videogames? Tough to tell. Want to consider all the options.
some banjo kazooie level: “the last year at marienbad of videogames” - a1reviews as quoted on kotaku dot com Whither Videogames conference and buffet
Devil Is The Best
Go, Go, Snakey
Debra Has A Temper
Get Keys To Win
Eyeball Saves The Day
Snakey Uses The Drill
Slowpoke Has No Moral
Don Orlo Tries To Win
Strike While Orlo’s Sleeping
Pokey Loves To Win
Avoid The Ghosts
Ouch! Sam’s Pokey
Make Friends With Spike-Spike
Eyeball Is A Slowpoke
Duc-Duc’s Tough But Fair
Watch out! Pokey Listens
It’s True What They Say About Eyeball
Shh! It’s Octopus
It’s Wrong To Tickle Spike-Spike
Burgo Evaluates Decisions
Loplop Runs The Civic Profession
Kiss Kiss! It’s Pogey
Octo Has No Manners
Ghost Loves Whistles
Orbs Protect The Central Weapon
Rolling Balls Resist The Ray
Shy Sam Runs From The Fray
Beware The Wizard’s Secret
Staircase Is Untrustable
Too Late! It’s Masko
Snakey Loves To Dance And Sing
A1 Reviews First Annual Report
€21 boom box that plays “Heart Shaped Box” when i write my posts.
Innumerable benefits to brand recognition.
Healthier blood levels - at what cost?
I’ve learned a lot and made friends ::)
help. abandon enterprise.
“Back in those days all trade was gov’t controlled and people used to smuggle a lot of electronics. There were no copyright laws and actually, Radio Student would “broadcast” a game once a week. For about 5 minutes all you’d hear in the radio was a lot of squeaking and if you recorded it all on a casette, you could play the game at home.” - http://www.carniola.org/2005/03/old-slovenian-video-games.htm. How do I access this wonderful technology.
New ways to produce videogames are great but it’s the distribution of them that’s always been close to my heart. Type-in paper programs, ziplocked floppydisks, cereal box giveaways, things tucked into a menu of the factory-setting school computer, strange vaguely manipulable webzones parsed as areas to explore and discover, compilation packs of a hundred seedy anonymous entries, paper paks sold in local shops, games released numerous times under mutating titles, hidden websites and the crudest mass culture. The Glorious Trianwrecks compilation karts mean more to me than any coherent single game - culture as argument, call n response and continuous mutation rather than a set of marble statues lying in a desert, same as how nearly any given punk song is less interesting than the totality of all punk songs: a mosaic of self contained four-letter telegrams fighting with each other and the world. FUCK SEXP HAHA NWRA JENY CULT UREI SDEA THXX HIDA FUKR COPS IKNO DOGS WHAT HAHA YESY LOVE NOWH EMPT MOMM CRAB FUKR FUKR FUKR. The Dil’s “I Hate The Rich” was immediately followed by Vom’s “I Hate The Dils” but they’re both songs, it’s not a zero sum thing. All those depressive self-critiquing artgams, I don’t dislike them but I dunno if it’s the right approach to try and internalise and hold fast what should be a constantly fluctuating community process because what is critique or endorsement directed at if not an imagined community? Say yr piece and fall back into the churning slop to be devoured by the others, content in knowing that others will get to say all you never got around to, as well as all you wish they wouldn’t, have said or are going to all that is sayable.
I think the vague discomfort about those museum exhibitions featuring Games Of The Aeon was partly due to the implicit specialisation in experience. NO FUN OUTSIDE THE FUN ZONE. More interesting are all the different ways these things can bleed into the waking life and in doing so change it.
A1 postscript: I don’t like discussions over nomenclature but do feel attached to all the variants of -ware, abandonware shovelware scratchware freeware casinoware trashware megaware demoware fuckerware chrisware dinnerware, as infinitely extendable and basically meaningless yet still suggestive of many different systems of production and distribution. I’m also a fan of giving things weird suffixes to make them sound futuristic.
At 10.28 this a.m. I recieved the intructions from Central Command and travelled to the Pigeon House out past Ringsend and Irishtown. This is a marginal zone close to the old power station that encompasses beaches,cliffs, marshes, rockpools, piers, grassy stretches, the sea. There is a bracing smell of sewage resulting from the nearby water treatment plant. There were a few people around and the tide was out, having deposited crab and bird skeletons up the shore as far as the ragged grass strip along the beach, as well as large piles of dead scallops on the strand. I went out along the long pier leading to the lighthouse, being soaked through by the large waves crashing on the walkway and then returned, and lay down on a small mound in a grassy hollow concrete structure (ex-military?) to dry off, in the sun & out of the wind. I felt a deep joy and remembered how much these kinds of mongrel spaces meant to me growing up - marshy, uncertain areas, clamboring on slimecoated rock structures in seach for weird animals, act of movement being filled with shrewdness and compromise. On my way back out I walked through a large area populated in a kind of genteel-industrial style: old brick buildings and facades with corrogated iron roofs sitting next to polished metal tanks. I was the only person there. Near the water treatment plant was a foaming vat of sludge with seagulls floating near. After a while I was back in the limits of the city and once more had to position myself with reference to the central bus system. A man shouted something at me from a taxi as he went by and when I got home I listened to “Heart Of Glass” 10 times. Central Command… what does any of this have to do with videogames?!?
GAME REVIEW: GASSY CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE WEIRDO, RAGNAR, 20XX
[ed. note: A1 Reviews was hospitalised in the course of writing this review due to terrific brain lesions. What follows are his unedited and hysterical notes.]
1. Meaningless vermin experiences have potential to exist outside of the economy of sensation by which time is strategically invested in things so as to optimise profit in either enjoyment or knowledge; a process which transforms the raw matter of life / perception into a kind of uniform casino chip, worthwhile only as means to an end! Purposeless and scrappy things can only trade one kind of equivalently valueless experience for another and thus highlight being as an act in itself rather than a kind of empty space to be filled with other things. This is why it’s important to leave the house.
If finding a value in these experiences is therefore a contradiction in terms it also highlights more ways in which they differ from canonical culture: distintegrate when they’re touched like bubbles.
2. The discovery of the punks was that the only breathable space for art is that beneath even contempt! An “insect politician” very different from a political insect (note to self: is this true? hit the books.)
3. Well, Gassy Choose Your Own Adventure Weirdo is the top new game from A1 Reviews favourites Square-Enix. This is actually a compilation of previously unreleased material from all of their games. When pressed a company representative said no context was included for the pieces as it was felt they were compelling enough in their own right. No comment was also given as to persistent rumours that the company was beginning to stockpile ammunition or how this squared with persistent rumours of financial disarray.
4. Reportedly Angela Carter’s favourite parts of Shakesphere are the awkward throwaway lines that just exist to baldly move the plot forward to the next collection of speeches: “The King’s ship has arrived in Spain.” It can be very strange reading novel synopses and realising how much convoluted junk narrative is involved in communicating the ostensible real meaning. Similarly Final Fantasy games which are about all kinds of things asides from the moral stated at the end: all that running from place to place! The most elaborate thing in GCYOAW is the Dragon Quest style interaction menu, which is alarmingly never really used for anything in particular. Scaffolding without a building - the strange involuted structure of narrative without communication..?
5. Consider structuring review as platonic discourse. May lend gravitas. Also, people will think that I’m popular.
Note #12: I am slowly drifting through the walls of the castle due to unspecified tileset errors.
7. Author’s statement for GCYOAW: “
[….]for some reason teleports teleport you into trees and water and stuff in Gassy Choose Your Own Adventure Weirdo so you need the No Clipping in Test Mode where you hold down ctrl. Also you need to set Switch 1003 to ON or you can’t explore the town.” What is Test Mode??????
8. Most ethics of vidcon design based on humanistic principles eg not wasting a person’s time or money, not being coercive. A hypothetical offshoot or degeneration would consist of not even daring to take up any of the player’s time, of tactfully assuming he or she has better things to be doing, building games presumed upon the natural disinterest or contempt of every possible audience - things not meant to be played, but if they should be, that would consist of trivial meaningless activity spaces for people to tinker with if they should so graciously deign while occupied with their own infinitely more important thoughts and emotions, like a philosophical conference hall which is also a jungle jim[sic?]. Nonlinear and nongoal oriented due to excessive modesty but also no real aesthetics as that would imply the submission of viewer -would just consist of vague presence moment-to-moment. Recall the quietists who thought that to make any change to the world was in some way to defy god.
Possible that such sect already exists, in abandoned angelfire.com ratnests and untagged tumblr pages, or working on Advanced Dumptruck Simulator 2013 in hyperspecialised german forums. How would we know?
I’m stuck in a dead-end game loop with excellent music.
9. found it very sensuel[sic] moving around as the saucer note don’t put this in review
10. Aiiiieee!!!! My brain!!!!
Gassy Choose Your Own Adventure Weirdo: 400 Stars
the little yodelling break at 0:52 made me think of The Ballad Of Dorothy Parker which is another song that seems to break down into glossolalia at certain points. music slipping and sliding on the edge of buzzing insect soundworlds delights and unnerves me, like leaning in close to hear someone talking and having them blow a raspberry instead, sudden intrusion of social world by the material presence behind it, gorilla jumps from wardrobe.
GAME REVIEW: RAGE OF THE SUN-MAD DEATH BASTARDS, PUMA CORP., 1988
After a promising beginning, Rage Of The Sun-Mad Death Bastards turns out to be a disappointing clone of the popular title Poki Poki Slam!. 8 Stars.
Keep an eye out for your friend A1 at the annual GDC afterparty where we all roadtrip down to New Mexico and cut apart an 8-year-old on the barren mesa where they buried those ET cartridges.
PUCK MAN HAD HIS NAME CHANGED IN TRANSLATION TO PREVENT IT BEING DETOURNED INTO “FUCK MAN”.
This is the key to everything I know. From this point on, I cannot help you.
Proposed revision to opening paragraph of the wikipedia article on hands (“The human hand is a wonderful object with a variety of uses”) rejected due to partisan language.
discrete activity objects combine to form a microworld chiefly distinguishable from our own by autonomy of the participants and the clarity of purpose embedded in their hardcoded repetitive actions. we commence bombing in part 2.
GAME REVIEW: OUGON NO HAKA (GOLDEN GRAVE), MAGICAL ZOO, 1983
Magical Zoo were a japanese adventure game company who are probably best known for popular hit ”The Screamer”, which is notable for the inspiring exhortation to dehumanise yourself and face to bloodshed as well as for the excellent character bios. Golden Grave was an earlier release with more of a traditional text adventure setup. The graphics are exceptionally beautiful and mysterious with crisp lineart framing large blocs of abstract violent colour.
as well as showing admirable contempt for mimesis the pictures have a simultaneously angular and loose quality that sort of reminds me of the early strips in gary panter’s “Dal tokyo” although i might be pushing it. i like seeing pixel art without a desire to dither every surface and fill every void. the strange flattened perspective is very exciting too - lateral projection onto a flat screen. would it be overstating the case if i were to say that images form this game have haunted and excited me ever since i first saw them? well, we can’t help how we’re made. a larger archive can be seen on this fabulous website: http://oldavg.blog.shinobi.jp/%E3%81%82%EF%BD%9E%E3%81%8A%20-20-%E3%80%80%E9%BB%84%E9%87%91%E3%81%AE%E5%A2%93/%E9%BB%84%E9%87%91%E3%81%AE%E5%A2%93%E6%94%BB%E7%95%A5%E3%80%80-%E5%AE%8C%E5%85%A8%E3%83%8D%E3%82%BF%E3%83%90%E3%83%AC-
as far as i know the game has never been translated and a google translate of the above page is very unhelpful: “Pyramid, but it appeared to both, is to kill Orochi concludes with a look a little also. Because the pupil Khufu said at the opening, must be the Great Pyramid of Giza. I said to spend a little more time to visit even travel tours. It is terrible to have been treated in the title of one of it’s just something “mystery of the pyramid. I did not come out for this game tomb Come to think of it, I do not know the meaning.” I think it’s reasonable to assume the plot had something to do with stealing treasures from a pyramid although that may not mean much and we might remember that “Salammbo” has a very similar synopsis.
I cannot find much information on Magical Zoo. Here are several of their other games, each of which looks similarly startling although in different ways.
Golden Grave 2
Mystery of Mu
Mystery of the Pyramid
ougon no haka: 100 stars
Extracts from the abandoned 21st-century bildungsroman tentatively known as Donald Fuck
What do you love? Circuits? Do you really think you could love a circuit? How typical! But listen, I want you to be totally in earnest with me. Do you really love circuits? It’s no good - I just can’t get through to you. Yet how in keeping with the century!
It’s certainly true that there are things I don’t know.
Watch out! A rattlesnake!
It was a fine day in Dublin 20XX. The highly skilled insurance expert “S.” paused to admire his appearance in a passing mercury cloud in the act of straddling his cybercopter. All is vanity, he mused. And he was right.
It was a cold, cold night - - brrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!!!
“Can we ever know the true path of the century” she murmered erotically. I was upset with the question and started talking about videogames again.
Striding forth to open a cupboard, “S.” remarked “We must never confuse our knowledge with the World’s Knowledge.” Suddenly, a rattlesnake
While premature to speak of it as such, it is certainly true that something may well have occured at some point within the century and that it may yet be possible to speak of this thing. “How true,” thought “K.” as she effortlessly straddled her cybercopter
What? What? You’re breaking up! What? Hello? What? What? Hello? What?
We must form a destiny commensurate to our fate, thought “S.” as, unhooking his laser unit, he blasted a hole into the technocatacombs of Megacorp S. Inside the catacomb, there were one hundred million rattlesnakes.
GAME REVIEW: WILL YOU EVER RETURN TWO, JACK KING SPOONER, 2012
reminiscent of anarchopunk album covers or david dee’s political cartoons both in the grungy collage artwork and the relentless, overwhelming hostility of the world it depicts. i am fascinated by the universe as refracted through the better class of political cartoons, which is to say, the ones that have least interest in providing a pissy and impotent commentary on whatever’s cluttering up the news cycle at any given moment as opposed to giving free reign to a more generalised class of bile. once you photoshop a giant facehugger and leeches onto the statue of liberty which is holding a big tablet that reads DEBT and is being laughed at by alan greenspan from an illuminati helicoptor i think it’s reasonable to say that you’ve gone past some unstated boundary of topical issue-based humour and into a stranger, more intense realm, and the necessity of drawing daily or weekly depictions of imminent catastrophe can make many of these things read like Mark Beyer’s Anxiety comix as monstrous cartoon figures shriek affectless dialogue and slogans while murdering each other against unremitting urban dystopia for day after day. “I’LL MAKE GOOD $$ FROM SELLING YOUR HEART”. “MORE CARBON CREDITS.” HEY, DID YOU HEAR? IT’S ILLEGAL TO BE ALIVE.” Raimond AZ is another free videogame which gets this tone via depictions of horrible cop labyrinths and unpassable crime syndicates underneath an empty city but Will You Ever Return 2 is probably funnier and slyer than all these examples, less crankish, more interested in a sense of the grotesque that can incorporate everything it touches. biscuit tins and little plasticine guys and cutlery and scavenged net images and scraps of thought all go in and make up a little world with a feeling of malevolent pastiche. many of the animations and at least one joke are excellent also. i would recommend playing this videogame in between hurling knives at each other in your local infinite tenement complex.
will you ever return ii: 666 star$
my favourite videogame website is hardcoregaming101 because most of the pieces read like the last dispatches of quiet and studious research types who have been sucked into this garish, screeching consumer nightmare culture and who still don’t quite understand what happened.
GAME REVIEW: PIM & FRANCIE: THE GOLDEN BEAR DAYS, AL COLUMBIA, 2009
what’s uncanny about fiction isn’t so much the idea of a distinct and seperate world existing harmlessly side-by-side with this one as the way that the two domains feed into and produce one another, that unreality is actively cranked out by reality - often by grown-up and unfrivolous people in office blocs and studios, often with large financial backing, both following and competing with a vast market of others - while at the same time being consumed, purchased by surplus capital to fill up actual hours, modifying human lives and hence modifying the circumstances of its own production. artifice can seem more real than everyday life because it highlights both the concrete aspects of its own existence as well as the immaterial affective content that hovers above the circumstances by which it was made. i think part of the reason why some of the most unregenerately commercial culture can stick with us so much is exactly this sense of not so much an escape from reality as an overload of it, a kind of doubling. the strange imagery of a cartoon or videogame existed in a format which highlighted the ways in which that imagery fed back into the waking world: sandwiched between advertisements, sold in little cardboard packages from overloaded racks at the video store, reproduced on t-shirts or little plastic guys. think of all the freeware videogame developers who ironically or not reproduce commercial formatting which is no longer relevent to the context they work in, fake corporate splashscreens and jingles. think of me, at 8 years old, drawing without any selfconsciousness homemade comicbooks that had no actual comics in them, but rather character bios and cut-out trading cards and fake subscription notices and spurious cheatcode / letters pages.
i think there’s a long tradition of art that plays on the phantasmagoric aspects of imaginary experience arising from violently material objects, like the torn letters and journal scraps in Frankenstein, Melmoth the Wanderer and the stories of MR James and Lovecraft, as well as gory media playing with the violent rupture between a human consciousness and the sticky material organs which generate that consciousness, i guess i bring these as examples up in particular because Pim & Francie combines both: the images are grisly but they’re also very fragmented, both narratively and materially, with many of the individual pictures showing tears and damage which are reproduced on the unmarked pages of the book proper. some of the pictures are just sketches, while more complete ones may still have surplus half-erased characters or snatches of dialogue floating around the edges. there are tiny stories that appear and fade out suddenly, there are clusters of pages arranged around particular images that suggest they were produced in some larger context the details of which are never provided. a lot of the art plays on the incongruity of old studio animation techniques. pim & francie cycle through stock costumes and gestures, frozen in goofy walk cycles and superimposed over stock backgrounds that seem increasingly disconnected and horrific, and where even the body horror seems like direct continuation of rubbery, infinitely plastic old disney and max fleischer toons. (walter benjamin’s comments on famous movie celeb mickey mouse are directly appropriate here: http://marklow.blogspot.ie/2005/08/mickey-mouse-fragment-by-walter.html ”here we see for the first time that it is possible to have one’s own arm, even one’s own body, stolen.”) there’s a peculiar horror of multiplicity in the comics, of identical images reproduced over and over and shown to occupy the same scene: flowers, cats, trees, clouds, monsters. as the book goes on the situations degenerate as if they no longer have the energy to keep up the simulation, until pim and francie are eternally jazzhandin’ their way across rotting wooden boards nailed together across a void, the scenary reduced to a decrepit curtain just behind them, possibly being chased, possibly not, over and over again, for page after page. it feels like an exorcism.
pim & francie: multiple rating unit
kicking against the pricks
SIRS: I am writing to express exteme dissatisfaction with the “My Pal Goethe” lifesize animatronic headbust with really working voicechip that I purchased from your website on Feb 12, this memorabilia was advertised as containing over 1500 recorded aphorisms and inspirational sayings yet recieved Goethe unit just keeps telling me to “RUN, COWARD” while skittering around the floor with eyes flashing & also I think it threatened my wife. I am unable to locate any kind of power source for this object and am helpless to stop it. I don’t think this is like Goethe at all.
- Highly skilled kultureindustrie worker A1 Reviews
Move On Up
Excited to report that A1 Reviews has been referred to as “The ne plus ultra of dog shit” by yop gaming tastemakers gamasutra.com, unfortunately I do not speak latin so I’m not sure what that means but I’m pretty sure it translates contextually to “[g]reat web site… keep the hits comin ;p…” and in which spirit we’re going to be unveiling our spring itinery of all the top new games to have opinions about. UPCOMING REVIEW TIMELINE:
- Mario 2
- Sonic 2
- Sonic 3
- Mr Do
- Sonic 4
- Mario 3
- Mario 4
- Mario 4
- Sonic 3D Blast
- Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle
- Mario 5
- Sonic Adventure
- Assault On Police HQ (event)
- Mario 6
- Mario 7
- E3 coverage!!
- Mr Do 2
GAME REVIEW: DRAGON SLAYER, NIHON FALCOM, 1984
newmedia exponents trying to identify novel and distinctive structural characteristics within chosen sphere must then face more difficult task of placing said characteristics within a history of art and culture that considerably predates them, which is part of why videogame criticism is so dopey. are vidcons notable for any reason other than historicity?? does the medium have qualities seperate and above from acting as a kind of runoff slurry for contemporary economic developments?? should we consider the contemporaries of Goethe as spiritually impoverished because they lacked the ability to move beeping lcd homunculii across imaginary doom landscapes to pilfer orbs?? having played dragon slayer i am pleased to report that the answer is an enthusiastic “aber ja!”. well, this game grabbed me by the neck and didn’t let go until i was violently killed. you play a squat little knight person in a vast wasteland littered with inexplicable block structures. there are many monsters and skeletons crawling around, every one of which has the ability to easily destroy you. gameplay consists of being chased around the plains and into caverns while searching for enough powr orbs and swords and things not to be killed immediately upon fighting with anybody. the world has many little incidental object graphics which don’t seem to do much other than be arranged in mysterious patterns, which lends a great air of discovery and place as you’re chased around by the tiny monsters. the empty, abstracted game overworld and initial hostility are reminiscient of that first zelda game with the important difference that instead of gaining inventory items you are violently killed and instead of the gradual degeneration of the gameworld into a set of lock and key puzzles you are violently killed. admittedly if you last long enough it turns into a generic huntin killin lvlup grind game but i just keep runnin. in terms of that social context that the kids are all talking about this game scores 100% as the emphasis on spotting & avoiding predator attack patterns would surely have been a great help to the cavemen as well as anyone who lives a violent life.
DRAGON SLAYER: 10 horrible skulls out of corpse
GAME REVIEW: SECRET OF MANA,SQUARE-ENIX-GOYA,199X
Well, it may come as a surprise to all of you to hear that your old friend a1 has some aspects of his gaming history that he isn’t too proud of, primary amongst which is the genre of japanese roll playing game, or “jrpg”, in which I invested many childhood hours that may well have been not unhappy, to the extent that hearing the synthesized handclap sound from the Secret Of Mana soundtrack was capable of returning me instantly and involuntarily to my tiresome youth, and to the delight in shrinking boundaries of the perceivable universe to that of a squat humanoid beeping and hooting as it slides around colourful grass plains,falling in n out of holes & caves, doing unintelligible things for bullshit reasons, through closed systemic videogame universes that in some way exclude consciousness via structural self-sufficency or simulacra of same, offering the spectral image for a life without oneself,proclivity for which I attribute to some basic ground-level desire for oblivion or death. I haven’t had an erection since I started making videogames. I just keep thinking of Sonic.
secret of mana: 8 stars
“KHKKHKKo such thing as game design…. made up in 2004 to scare film studentsKHKKHH you’re free, you’re- no!! help!! they’ve got me!! not the pipe!! aiiiiiieeee!!!KHKKHKHKKHHHHKKH”
intercepted message from planet x… cuts out…
best to ignore…
GAME REVIEW:GUARDIAN WAR, MICRO CABIN CORP., 1994
the graphics to Guardian War are this totally wild, incoherent mishmash of prerendered screenshots and scanned photographs and 3d models and image-manipulation effects and pixel art and the sky changes to a different garish colour with every change of scene and meandering voiceovers are saying something about the “power of darkness” and the music suddenly changes into some jarring heavy metal pastiche and back while you’re chasing skeletons around a desert in jerky tactical movement/turnbased combat and the game’s name is Guardian War and it was produced by Micro Cabin Corp and the currency is listed in gems. the fact that what you experience of a videogame is just an outwards manifestation of some invisible computer pokery working away under the hood is part of what gives the impression of a secret order or coherent world behind what you see, but it’s also what can give the unnerving/exhilerating feeling that the disparite multimedia scraps you’re looking at are not necessarily held together by anything at all and that they could at any given second degenerate into t o t a l m e d i a a p o c a l y p s e . guardian war is every videogame, every videogame is guardian war.
microcabin corp were also involved with abstract 3do living unit constructor “the life stage” as well as many other fine titles. i’m sorry for joking about their name. i’m sorry.
guardian war: 1000 gems
communication is impossible in the 21st century… what’s that? you want to know what i’m talking about? i see… you still don’t understand that communication is impossible in the 21st century…
incredible saddest story - this young boy does NOT understand the word “happiness” - sad and true - read the story that tore up two continents - he just doesn’t understand - shrugs amicably, shows no response - “ich spreche kein englisch” he says bravely- awful - scientists try to mime - but they’re too sad - judges bang gavels - weeping - before packed courts - that are also weeping - crowds in the street - see the plight of this sad boy - off reading, picking at walls - while president weeps at him - building blocks spell out H A P P Y - knocked down, rearranged into fort - PAHYP at best - read this abysmal legend of the young sad boy - “wer bist du menschen” - chief scientist just cries harder, pulls him into bearhug - the amnesty court criminalises this heartbreaking story - nation holds hands as captivity tank rolled into the sea - too sad for this world - “mir bitte zu einem funf-sterne-hotel” - as swallowed by the waves - please take a minute from your lives to think and cry over this sad tale -
[reblogged from astonishingtruesadtales.tumblr.com]
extremely pleased to announce a1review’s first ever kickstarter campaign! every penny you send goes towards funding “HORROR HUT”, our gift back to the gaming community and the next level of immersion. kickstarter goals listed below:
$1,500,000: industrial production of “horror hut”. “horror hut” sent to arcades around the world, with 40 units set aside for use in selected police actions.
$2,000,000: initial stretch goal! pneumatic feet attached to the cabinet will allow it to actively search out customers during down periods, while glowing, red lcd eyes make it easy to locate. larger, armored “horror hut”s distributed to tactical locations.
$2,500,000: “horror hut” upgraded with new, bleeding edge “livingBrain” technology to better meet and anticipate player actions. “horror hut” becomes self-aware on 18 august 2014. the horror council don black masks and declare end to age of reason.
$3,000,000: voice acting..?
stay tuned for more exciting updates!
a1reviews spring preview
i deliver an impassioned harangue about how to “fix” the popular zelda franchise after strapping a bomb to my chest and walking into the
designing appealing and visually immediate characters is simply a must for videogames of all nations. who can forget such great characters as Blubbo, Dripply, A Ninja or Horrible, Screaming Murderer? these images can often maintain an embarrassingly persistent hold on our imaginations and fantasy sex life long after the game ends and so it’s important to “get it right” the first time. to this end, a1 reviews has constructed a helpful annotated set of examples for iconic and profitable character design for you to consult as you produce the blockbusters of tomorrow!
1. the large, vacant eyes and smirk bear the unmistakeable hallmark of the petit-bourgeoise. this character may make a good shopkeep or weapons merchent.
2. wow!! can you say “ip”?! the lack of visible orifices suggests a stoic, powerful demeanor, while the visor symbolises futurity. can you say “action figures”?! can you say “regrettable tattoo”?!
3. economy can be important on a budget. properly rotated, this face can form at least eight more visually distinct faces.
4. this face consists of a pair of shades in a blob. a good name for this character could be “shades” or “shadesy” and he would be a very hip, streetwise individual.
5. the green and dark blue colour scheme simply pops off the screen and screams design quality. the arrangement of the dots recalls superman’s famous enemy, brainiac.
6. the angry eyes and stylish racing stripe suggest a hot temper and streak of flashiness. it would be good as a minor antagonist that would do anything to win (suggested dialogue: “no… i’m too stylish to lose…” “i would do anything to win”)
7. black and yellow symbolise death while the question mark symbolises mystery. in other words……. all the ingredients for a great gaming villain ;o). whoosh!!
- pro a1 reviews
GAME REVIEW: GOTCHA, ATARI, 1973
’[…]some members of Atari jokingly mentioned that joysticks curiously resembled a phallus. As a result, it was decided to create a “female game”[…]’
the gameplay for Gotcha consists of a square “pursuer” that chases a plus-sign “pursued” through a maze - in the original cabinet, players controlled these via a pair of manipulable pink orbs mounted on the control panel of the machine. as the pursuer gets closer to the pursued an electronic beep rises to “a feverish pitch”. controversy led to later versions of the cabinet returning to joystick-based controls but i like to think that part of it was the dim suspicion that just openly bolting a pair of squeezable rubber breasts onto a beeping, flickering cube of metal and lcd was somehow giving the game away.
gotcha: 100 stars videogame future of media
GAME REVIEW: I WALKED HOME IN THE RAIN AND A DROP HIT ME IN THE EYE WHILE MAKING GLANCING EYE CONTACT WITH A WOMAN WALKING PAST AND I WINKED INSTINCTIVELY AND SHE LOOKED HORRIFIED
where is the oneirism theory of videogames, it’s too late, i’m claiming it, i’m establishing control as the original backdated source of oneirism theory in videogames, oneirogames, videoneirism, the quality of being videoneiric, an illuminated guide to oneirism in videogames, the right to be identified as the founder of oneirism in videogames either legally or informally (eg ‘a1 oneiric’,’ mr oneirism’, ‘a1 father of oneirism’ or similar) and to legally identify myself as such without feeling ashamed, the single legitimate source for oneirism theory in videogames, the right to be cited in derivative works and content, access to a panel, access to a podcast, where i will speak with great gravity on the crucial and continuing importance of oneirism theory to videogames and be allowed one  bizarre ad hominum attack on an ethnic group of my choice, to be met with awkward laughter from the hosts, who quickly move on to discussing the future of oneirism in videogames, the right to decide the future of oneirism in videogames, curating a seminal list, curating a seminal refutation of lists, the right to generate puckish lolcat photographs about oneirism in videogames, such as “i can has oneirism” and “im in ur videogames propagating ur oneirism”, the right to attack another theorist of oneirism, the right to attack anybody, online or physically, clawing them and screaming, reddening, loping after pigeons, deeper the night, posting many illuminating text pieces, feeling on the crest of some glorious wave, being identified as the crest of some glorious wave, full ownership to the quest64 soundtrack, photographs from gdc where i’m never quite in shot, an unmarked url, to find out how to stop miserable nerd fuckers from deleting my wikipedia entries. don’t try to be a hero. nobody leaves this room alive.
GAME REVIEW: MASTERS OF DOOM, DAVID KUSHNER, 2003
masters of doom is a book about the game Doom by id software and how it was developed and by whom. it’s fun and readable, there’s lots of good detail on that john and that john carmack and interesting stories of the videogame generation culture of the late eighties. floppydisks sold in ziplock bags and magazines filled with printed code to plug in ‘n’ play at home. it’s a very inspiring story about some enthusiastic young people as they “make a go of it” - they eat pizza! they make friends! they listen to dokken! - that gets more sombre as the team begins to fall apart. did money change them? well, you have to read it to find out. as in many art biographies the actual game of Doom doesn’t so much emerge from this record so much as overlay it strangely, an invisible structuring influence that the narrative circles around. stories of young technology wizkids having adventures and pulling in the dough share space with brief asides describing the bizarre imaginary architecture, computer brutality mazes, flashing lights and secret tunnels that make up their accomplishment. the fact that this is a true story does never quite reduce the sensation of glimpsing some monstrous parable.
MASTERS OF DOOM: 100 STARS
SELECTED STORIES, ROBERT WALSER, 1878-1956
The sentimental is a sensation of being imbued with some of the static and assured character we ascribe to other people’s lives. The dream of an imaginary community that allows total identification with ones role within it to an extent that rules out interiority or doubt, the fixity and clearness of an external image or cliche as opposed to ephemera of lived experience, a life as it looks from the outside. I think Robert Walser’s prose voice is that of someone deeply fascinated by this image of community and deeply doubtful of his own right to participate in it. He uses cliches constantly - every woman is “undoubtably charming”, every landscape is “exceptionally beautiful” - and with a genuine relish, as if overwhelmed and delighted by the confident sureness of each phrase
“If I now exclaim in a booming voice ‘Natureleh!’ - I have in mind the artist of aviation who, with an energy to be wondered at, flew across the ocean; and of course I number myself among the innumerable people who revere this happy dominator of difficulties.”
Look at the strange, contorted syntax of this sentence, the way it almost bends double on itself to accomodate more happy adjectives, so that a pilot becomes an artist of aviation, revered by not just people but by innumerable people. It doesn’t gel; the slight meaning of the sentence loops strangely around the grand phrases, like a stream through boulders; there’s a mixture of the dolorous and the discomfited which lingers throughout all his works, a kind of ambiguous catch in the voice talking on autopilot. The opening lines to his story “Nervous”:
“I am a little worn out, raddled, squashed, downtrodden, shot full of holes. Mortars have mortared me to bits. I am a little crumbly, decaying, yes, yes. I am sinking and drying up a little. I am a bit scalded and scorched, yes, yes. That’s what it does to you. That’s life. I am not old, not in the least, certainly I am not eighty, by no means, but I am not sixteen any more either. Quite definitely I am a bit old and used up. That’s what it does to you. I am decaying a little, and I am crumbling, peeling a little. That’s life.”
Grinding, chattering, circling, the rote words, hastily modified, the string of declaratives, overshadowed by adjectives that seem to stand apart from the text as a whole, that have to be juxtaposed and reiterated and taken back and put forward again in order to express anything at all, like a binary chain of tiny, exhausting affirmations and negations trying to approximate something more complex, squirming, like on a hook.
Walser’s short stories are for the most part entirely lacking in characters, dramatic situations, or discernible structure - there are exceptions but the form I associate most with him is that of the brief, essayistic nothing, in which a trivial fragment of anecdote, argument or narrative is brought up only to be nearly immediately overwhelmed by digressions, doubts, elaborate description, self-mockery and excuses before being quietly dropped again after maybe a page. Bold statements are hurled down, tactfully modified, drawn out while the author acknowledges the respectable possibility of contrary sentiments being held by the intelligent and unredoubtable reader, and finally retracted. Sentences, paragraphs, pages that seem to exist only to politely extinguish themselves, silently imploding, every trace of meaning hunted down and graciously annihilated.
“We don’t need to see anything special. We already see so much.” is a quote that the critics favour for containing the essence of Walser the scrappy miniaturist and outsider artist. I think it can be read a different way, in the context of works that frequently feel overwhelmed and crushed by an intrusive yet irreproachable weight - of language, of nature, of everyday experience, crowding out thought and being. The strange collapsing structure of the stories suggest a world where nothing is too small to annihilate us.
Robert Walser can be found in all good electronic stores, he has 12 levels and comes with a cloth map of nowhere in particular. You wouldn’t know it from reading this but he’s the funniest writer I know.
ROBERT WALSER: A MODERATE AND CERTAINLY NOT UNDULY EXCESSIVE YET STILL EMINENTLY RESPECTABLE 5 BILLION STARS
GAME REVIEW: ASTROLOGY SCRAMBLE, UNION PLANNING, 1983
“Of what really went on there, we only have this excerpt.” Union Planning made games for the PC-88 and PC-98 Japanese computer consoles in the early 80s, some of which seem to be released under the name Riverhill Soft, which information i do not know what to make of at this time. I cannot find much information on their games but many of them look beautiful and strange. is this a matter of a single idiosyncratic publisher or just a cross-section of what the japanese pc game scene was like at that time? Here are some of their games which I found details of online.
ASTROLOGY SCRAMBLE, 1983 http://www.uvlist.net/game-80187-Astrology+Scramble
KURONEKO MURDER, 1984 http://www5f.biglobe.ne.jp/~apaslothy/product/unionplanning/KuronekoMurder.html
THE STRAY STORY, 1983 ttp://www5f.biglobe.ne.jp/~apaslothy/product/unionplanning/TheStrayStory.html
ADVENTURE IN HAKATA, 1982 http://www.uvlist.net/game-171804-Adventure+in+Hakata
ZOOM IN SPACE, 1983 http://www.uvlist.net/game-80188-Zoom+In+Space
GREAT EARTHQUAKE, 1983 http://www.uvlist.net/game-171798-Great+Earthquake
WHITE ROSE MURDER CASE, 1984 http://pc98library.tistory.com/1690
MURDER WEREWOLF, 1984 http://fullmotionvideo.free.fr/screen/G2541.html
GAME REVIEW: LIBBLE RABBLE, NAMCO, 1983
just throw some bullshit words together, the kids’ll love it. excelsior. smellovision. awopbopalubopalopbamboom.
LIBBLE RABBLE: MANY STARS
GAME REVIEW: BIO ATTACK, TAITO, 1983
the human body, a place of many mysteries and crevices, can any of us say we truly know the secrets of the body? we are dependent upon its inexplicable functioning and spend our whole lives wandering the corridors without coming any closer to the truth. king lear’s famous announcement that he was “bound in a nutsack / of infinite space” remains man’s most enduring recognition of the horrifying and eternal hold of the body, this heavy and remorseless hand we cannot shake loose. BIO ATTACK contains both a cheerful affirmation that the innermost recesses of the body may yet be explored by the conscious mind with a representation of the internal structure as a vast, sealed labyrinth of indeterminate application.
BIO ATTACK:88 STARS
GAME REVIEW:CRASH BANDICOOT, AUSTRALIA, I DON’T KNOW WHEN
strategy guides of inane or incomprehensible actions recorded in elaborate detail are trying to recount the plot of a movie to a friend as closely as you can are a highschool book synopsis are trying to sync the smooth and comprehensible experience of playing/watching/reading those things with the cumbersome and unlikely manifest content that they actually consist of and which we gloss over and forget about to lodge in our brains and form the vocabulary of our dreams. when i was young i drew a bomberman for the fridge (with a “spider bomb” that shot out spiders from a stickerbook i had of different kinds of spider(?)) and a classmate of mine would draw the nickelodeon logo over and over in the back of a copybook
CRACH BANDICOOT: 1100 CRATES
in the beginning you will be confronted by a jagged violet ray. you aren’t powerful enough to get by right now, so ride it out by moving across the X axis while keeping the star to your left azimuth. time your jet bursts with the crests of the waveform and you should emerge into a kind of encompassing green plateau with whirlpooly things set at regular intervals. keep going in any direction - the i-beams in this sector will begin to disorient your notion of a static self but if you purchased the armor you should be able to make it to the western core. this takes the form of a series of rotating spheroids with a gas field on the rightmost side. don’t touch the gas, but if you did, don’t freak out about it either. turn around until you locate crystal road which can only be seen from certain directions due to texture errors. at this point your battery pak will be pretty low and you should go outside and walk around, maybe to a park, if you live near a park, or maybe to a friend, if you have any friends. ahh-hh-hh… refreshed. great, now it’s time to get back to the game. at this point you’ve probably spent several days floundering around the turquoise thing and wondering how to get out of it. well, the turquoise thing is actually a space ship that’s taking you to the next thing, so you’ve actually been making lots of progress, it can be hard to disentangle this notion from ideas of human will and consciously directed activity so i’d recommend reading a walkthrough if you get stuck. you’re now moving very slowly through a field of ambivalent crystals. just use your wheels for this part as you likely won’t have enough move juice to break free of the pull. gravity here is so high… well, i’m learning to adapt to the conditions. consider building a base [100gp], a defense base [150gp], an attack base [75gp] or a mobile base [220gp] to consolidate your units while also striving to retain awareness of how everything you’re doing or want to do is pretty trivial and seedy. when solstice comes you can break through the outer layer and enter the gem zone. past the gem zone you enter the emerald zone. keep moving along the negative-Z axis to reach the x zone. the x zone looks like a kind of flickering red car. it’s actually smaller than it looks and you can probably see everything that’s there in a matter of hours. consider travelling north away from the city into the hills above the beach. well, they look nice, but this area is also pretty developed so you’re probably standing in somebody’s garden, so maybe it’s not worth the hassle, so keep hanging around the x zone until your train comes in. the train looks like a moving negative space and can be difficult to make out. don’t worry about asking the attendents but equally don’t be a pain. after you disembark from the train you’ll be in a flashing plane of many colours with large, dignified lizards holding orbs on every third unit. by now you’re probably wondering what you’re getting out of this experience and may be increasingly aware of your own life draining away along with all of the feelings or perceptions you’ve been working so hard to claw back from the world. well, that’s it for this section. don’t forget to come back next week as we discuss the best way of navigating the infinity gauntlet as well as weapon locations and hidden costumes. i will also attempt to deal with the pernicious Nude Mode rumour which shall be my absolute last word on the subject and i’m not answering any more emails about it.
a stereotypical nerd tells me pixel art is overused while crushing my larynx between his strong thighs.
game review horrible house 5
well, i think this is a cool game. there are lots of levels and alternate costumes for the fans. overall i would say this is a good game for the fans or for everybody.
hhv rating: cool
GAME REVIEW: HORRIBLE HOUSE 4, SPUTSOFT, 2012
well, it looks like your old pal a1 is still having trouble emerging from patterns of compulsive and destructive behaviour. i’ve been having bad headaches for the past several days since playing the new installment of this series, i’m gaining weight, my hair is falling out, sleep cycle becoming increasingly erratic and i aleays feel tense and snippy. well, i’m still doing it. well, good news for you afficionados of the series, this has all the horrible house gameplay you’ve come to know and love and all your favourite characters return such as StrangleMan727 and the Vice Grip Killer. the scene where julie is fed into the combine harvester is a clever callback to HH1 and there are lots more references and jokes to please the fans.
horrible house 4: 85 stars
GAME REVIEW: HORRIBLE HOUSE 3, SPUTSOFT, 2012
why did i play this?? i have a terrific headache and there’s some kind of lump on the back of my skull. running the installer for Horrible House 3 makes a window jump up for half a second before closing again and a window comes up to scold me and demand money for “PRO VERSION” or else it will call the police. this is far from the 80 HOUR OF INCREDIBLE HORROR ACTION advertised on the box and i havent even found one of the EIGHT INCREDIBLE WORLDS TO EXPLORE. even the box is yelling at me. i’m outta here.
horrible house 3: i don’t want to hear it
GAME REVIEW: HORRIBLE HOUSE 2, SPUTSOFT, 2012
even more horrible than the original house. retching, weeping uncontrollably, stumbling through corridors while the zooming polygon thing rolls against my body and knocks over the camera and keeps triggering a popup dialogue box asking me for ID and making the ding noise that plays to tell you you have a new objective. trying to find exit button causes game crash from memory overload degenerating into triplesized corner of application frame incrementing at 2fps every second while a shuddering echoing sound comes out while i’m still pinned to the computer and trying to do anything.
horrible house 2: negative stars
GAME REVIEW: CUM FU, XXXX?, XXXX?
famous FBI taskforce on dirty lyrics in Louie Louie just a delayed official recognition of something already picked up on by the surrealists, burroughs, whoever made all those tijuana bible comics with big veiny dicks drawn onto tracings of donald duck and popeye - that process of smoothing, abstracting and standardising images or language for use in commercial culture leaves feeling of a lingering absence like something sickly or obscene being papered over, one made more noticeable by the distortion in message which has almost always been a factor in technological reproduction. blurred photocopies, tape hiss, fuzz, noise, artifacts, even the names used to describe this process are uncanny. blow in cartridge to expel dire spirits. mickey mouse remains haunted both by early incarnation as a gangly teen rodent as well as the possibility of being corrupted by unclean media replication. obscene bootleg versions created by the audience combine both of these fears to suspicious degree. are nude romhackers just following through on visions implicit in the original that the developers were too chickenshit to follow through? what is this strange dialectic and where will it take us? give me all your nude earthworm jim romhacks. it’s for a project.
CUM FU: 30 STARS
GAME REVIEW: DIE PYRAMIDE, CP VERLAG, 1989
known monsters of die pyramide: a knife murderer, a dracula(?), a bat, a terrible puma, rolling skull, flame thing, there may be others hidden in the noncanonical rooms not depicted here. opening scene of this game is your guy taking a piss on top of the pyramid, which is an image of extraordinary power. i would say the overriding sensation of this game is that of helplessly tumbling ever deeper into a bleak pit, there are alternate paths to take but they all just lead further down and the initial excitement of the cool monsters turns into a dulled wariness as have to you deal with them again and again. in the final screen of your quest you find….. a woman! there’s a giant woman who lives in a crypt at the bottom of the pyramid and she picks you up and makes some kind of grinding noise and carries you away. if i had to pick a genre for this game it would be “film noir”.
DIE PYRAMID: 50 CURSED STARS
JUST SOME ADVICE FROM YOUR PAL A1
don’t fuckin trust any videogame website that doesn’t have the word Chthonic right there in the manifesto.
GAME REVIEW: HANGLY-MAN, HANGLY-MAN SOFTWARE CO., 19XX
a lot of the same people who would dismiss ”naive realism” in videogame graphics also spend their time arguing for similarly idealised and fictitious representations of human time and causality. detailed and exciting narratives you can shape but also step outside of at any given moment to grab a beer or equivalent, monuments to choice that you can still look back on with the detachment that comes of not really belonging to the world in which it occured. miniaturised visions of completion and enclosure in lives that remain contingent and mostly devoid of any liberating objective vantage point. maybe it’s a good thing, a teachable thing, these fictional worlds where you can get totally invested in the decisions you’re making before it winds down to creditscreen acting as a kind of regressive lesson in the right way to think about your own experiences. but more & more i feel attracted to things which don’t try to break down the contrast between fiction and real life so much as amplify it to a ridiculous and offputting degree that emphasises the ridiculous and contradictory impulses involved. “liberated from the tyranny of being useful”. the monumental self-absorbtion of final fantasy games which play out on a timeframe basically antagonistic to any kind of human life or thought. is this how the dinosaurs felt? 80hr chocobo subquest. i age and die while the hangly man continues gobbling up those dots and the sociopathic mercenary teens from a square enix game are still running around a field searching for red crystal. they’ll keep doing it forever. put the savefile on a disc, put the disc into a sealed container, fire the container to the moon, to make sure that the sociopathic mercenary teenagers are still complaining about insignificant shit after you’ve passed on or given up on dealing with these worlds. embrace gap between visions of banal chattering infinity and the fleeting nature of your own experience and perceptions. that this contrast in some perverse way can be used to maintain your awareness of the stakes involved. the dying soul and the immortal animal. folders full of roms that you can never play in a single lifetime. use the fixity of corporate icons to gauge your own continuing sink through the muck. eat what you kill. face to bloodshed. did you know the “hangly” in hangly-man is a corruption of “hungry”? right on.
hangly man: 40 star
GAME REVIEW: A FOX, OTHER FOXES(?), 2012
walking home from work i cut through the old Royal Hospital (i have always attributed my natural skill at videogames to growing up in the vicinity of several abandoned military bases), i saw something lurking in the parking lot and went to have a look. i couldn’t work out whether it was a dog or a cat and then i realised it was a dog that moved like a cat which is a fox! it was licking itself and ostentatiously ignoring me. well, i’m not talking about videogames. i’m talking about important stuff.
a cool fox: 100 stars
GAME REVIEW: PERFECT DARK, RARE, 2000
so why am i talking about a big-budget shooty thing. well, i think that this was one of those games that were generated in the weird transitional periods when technology is suddenly open enough to do more shit without the traditional workarounds but where nobody has gotten around to taking full advantage of that yet. if you look at the graphics or music for old Amiga games, they had a much higher resolution + soundcard then the guys were obviously used to dealing with, so there’s this awkward feeling of trying to fill up the newfound space: cartoony spriteart suddenly gets pillowshaded and there are gradients everywhere, goofy chip music where all the instruments sound like weird keyboard presets and there’s this hollow void around each note. i think perfect dark is basic’ly a straight descendent of stuff like Quake but it comes at a point where all the additional details added were at a point where they were kind of grinding against the core of that system. you’re still this faceless murdergod zooming around corridors at 90mph, effortlessly sucking up bullets and killing everybody, but there’s suddenly all this superfluous detail in the guys you’re shooting. you can disarm them or their guns can misfire or you can shoot them in the leg and watch them limp around or you can keep plugging bullets into the corpses to generate more bloodsplatter and make the limbs twitch. there’s no real reason to disarm people except to see them freeze up with their hands above their heads while you draw down your lastersighted pistol on their crotch or legs or head to see the specific death animations or just to hold them there while they whimper. the discrepency between this fast-paced arcadey shooty game and enemies carefully programmed to simulate detailed responses to being maimed or killed is very unnerving to me and the fact that it’s entirely unremarked upon in the narrative or objectives just heightens this feeling. i think i felt something similar crushing skulls and pulling out eyes by the eighth or so level of hotline miami. being so obviously able to go further in these things than your opponents means being more aware of a power imbalance built into the structure of what you’re doing and the fiction in which you’re doing it, which in itself can be enough to fuck up the default narrative of the Heroic Underdog / One Against The World. i guess later on people came up with cover systems, recharging health, the importance of creeping around etc, these things which restore that feeling that of fair play, as if you’re a neutral actor in the scene rather than the obtrusive, tyrannical thing that everything else must revolve around. pk dick’s idea of fictional worlds which fall apart a week later. theres’s probaby been too much written about these things already, i guess maybe if we keep adding more shit to the heap it could burst into flames like a bad compost pile. dreams…
perfect dork: 8 stars
GAME REVIEW: JUNGLE MISSON, HARMONY CORP., 20XX
i don’t know whats the gameplay in this because i can only move a few screens in any direction before being eaten by the jaguar.
jungle misson: 25 stars
A1 TIP KORNER:
- unlimited lives: next time you’re waiting for a pc game to install put on Frankie Teardrop in the background then sit facing the screen, watch the little bar go up as alan vega shrieks away. feel your body moving unstoppably forward in time to some horrible destiny you don’t understand while staring at a glowing LCD plane that seems to exist entirely outside of time, churning and breaking it up into an endless succession of tiny interruptions and microevents happening on a timescale totally antithetical to human reference and understanding. feel the allure of this alien form of being as your physical body decomposes and renews and decomposes faster than it renews, as the little bar continues inching along, as the song peaks, grinding your brain against this imaginary wall in search for an opening still implicitly defined as an antithesis to the limits you’ve already internalised, that all these things are related to each other but cannot be tied up in a way which fundamentally changes the nature of each. you now have unlimited lives.
- x-gun: enter a1Ond9Hskk on the title screen to get the x-gun.
GAME REVIEW: THE BOOK OF MARVELS AND TRAVELS, SIR JOHN MANDEVILLE(?), 13XX
“Another island in the Great Ocean has many sinful and malevolent women, who have precious gems in their eyes.” this was actually the pull quote on the back and contributed significantly to my purchase of this item. the travels are kind of a strange scrapbooky mix of travel guide, folk wisfom, biblical apocrypha, rumour, and bullshit. the first part consists of instructions on different ways to travel to jerusalem from france and all the different relics and miracles you can pass along the way, some of which you may know and some of which you mayn’t (did you know charlemagne was said to own a “holy foreskin” belonging to jesus christ? the appendix notes that “up to 32 different foreskins were claimed by medieval churches”), but it starts really kicking off when it starts moving further east to talk about India, China, and the realm of Prester John. giant eels, blooddrinkers, people who hop around and shade themselves under one big foot, cyclops island, crocodile islands, diamonds that ward off negative spells and attacks from wild animals, island of people whose testicles hang down to the knee due to “physical degeneracy”, people who only eat snakes and regard worldly possession as totally unimportant, the guys in the pic above are in there too. it’s all totally exoticist, “then why should we read it?”, well i’m not saying you should read it i’m saying i did and i liked some of what it contained. the fact that all of the the Marvels & Travels are all related in this very matter-of-fact and unsensationalist tone does a lot to endear them to me and gives a sense of great curiosity. it’s not telling you all about these things and letting you pretend you’re really experiencing and knowing them, it’s just saying that this stuff exists somewhere in the world and that this is interesting enough for anybody (even when it doesn’t!).
“From this island one travels to another island called Natumeran, a large and pleasant island. Men and women from this island have dog’s heads and they are intelligent. They worship the ox as their god. They go about stark naked except for a little cloth in front of their private parts. They are good at fighting, and thet carry a large shield with which to cover their bodies and a spear in their hand.”
well, that’s the part of this that i liked. my big criticism with The Book of Marvels And Travels is that it’s not very good as a videogame. i found it extremely hard to manipulate the controls through the pulpy binding and the graphics are no good. i tried to visualise about what i was reading and then i started imagining a blue triangle moving through an endless purple void and when i woke up my pillow was gone. “this isn’t the 80s guys”. overall i think it’s important to pay attention to the things that make a game a game if you want to create a meaningful experience and push the medium forward and i hope sir john mandevilles next game takes this advice to heart.
book of marvels and travels: 40 stars
A A1REVIEWS EXLUSIVE: SECRET BETA FOOTAGE FROM THE WORLD’S TOP BLOCKBUSTER VIDEOGAME “GOBLET’S GROTTO” WHICH HAS ALREADY SOLD TEN MILLION UNITS AND EARNED THE PERSONAL APPROVAL OF YU SUZUKI.
WE ARE UNABLE TO LOCATE GAMEPLAY FOOTAGE OF THE PISS SYSTEM…
GAME REVIEW: A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, MONARCH SOFTWARE, 1989
“if i jerk the handle you’ll die in your dreams” - this and the friday the 13th game, something exciting about these goofy horror franchises playing with obtrusive switches in modes of representing what’s going on as well as turning “real world” locations (suburbia, a summer camp) into huge empty videogame danger zones. from mobygames: “Before the game begins, the player must first choose one of available five characters in an attempt to free Joey who, as informed by this selection screen, has been already been captured by Freddy. Spending too much time during this section will allow Freddy to capture random character, until all but one selectable character is left, so choose a character quickly!” menu screens infected, become unsafe. “he’s waiting…. in the gap between systematic representations…” hell night had disposable secondary characters who could be ground down by hellmutent unless you thought on your feet. was quest 64 a horror game before somebody lost their nerve? don’t know. too soon to say.
a nightmare on elm st: 10000 Stars
GAME REVIEW: ZELDA OCARINA OF TIME, NINTENDO(?), 199X
being able to change your clothes and shoes in the menu screens gave me a weird sex dream when i was nine years old but it may have just been the physics system.
ocarina of time: 100 stars
GAME REVIEW: RUGRATS 64, SOME ASSHOLES, 199X
talking about games-as-weird-mass-media, as an injection of berserk and tasteless novelty into the mainstream that temporarily provides a ghostly alternate universe image of what popular culture could conceivably look like, eg that it could be weird and funny and exciting instead of totally homogenised by a weird mandarin caste of media producers and that thinking in terms of some asshole isolate Auteurs vs The Masses is in itself a self-enforcing symptom of an atomised retreat from the public sphere, remember Prince and his achievements, etc, but the problem with this is that during time of prime interest with these things i mostly engaged with them in the same brutally stupid way i did with everything else. watching a movie when you’re 8 years old, when you kind of don’t care about a lot of the stuff like dramatic subplots and musical numbers but you accept them anyway as possibly appealing to a kind of phantasm audience that you don’t belong to but which presumably exists, and which has needs and tastes far more defined than yours. the fact that this structure seems so consistent across the board just heightens this feeling. playing videogames and feeling that anything awkward or silly about them was just you failing to get some kind of reference that would undoubtably be picked up by the people that the game was REALLY made for. i remember having an extremely hard time dissociating actual videogames with the idea that there was some all-explaining context behind them which just never made it to Ireland, sort of like back-issues of Spider Man. people who make these things have Real Jobs and a logo and live in LA, so they must know what they’re doing. i think i was something like 18 before i realised there could be such thing as a bad videogame apart from me not understanding things correctly. most of the weird stuff is only picked up in retrospect. thinking about something like the odd, great music for kennco superman or equivalent, part of the reason it’s so striking is because this is something that was designed for Mass Media that doesn’t fit with the audience or atmosphere you’d associate in your imagination with same. what can you take from this? if you’re gross you can keep trying to identify with the contemptuous all-seeing eye of an ideal consumer and maybe put some scathing game reviews up on youtube. if you’re a different kind of gross you can get a kick out of thinking about how this stuff must have really freaked other people out, as if they didn’t just roll right over it like you did. if you attach whatever other weird value to the experience then maybe you can use it to think about how the idea of “real” culture is put together from the intersecting pieces of a million ridiculous pieces of garbage, or that capitalism will continue to occasionally throw up strange and bewildering shit in its wake as it relentlessly grinds through human culture like the dumb archeologist in a horror movie who unleashes dreadful spirits in the quest for ducats. the spirits get put down again by the end of the movie but maybe there’s enough of a trace left in memory to remember where they’re kept, the promise of something exciting and unexpected and scary that could break through the boundaries of sanitised experience. i’m not sure if it’s worth talking about this stuff or else if celebrating it as an unexpected alternative to the boring garbage we expect is just part of the process of naturalising and accepting the latter. if you want to see public culture that’s exciting and challenging and inventive you can download Glorious Trainwrecks Dot Exe or flick through freeindiegam.es but that would involve a break with being able to use this feeling of a distorted, half-comprehended outside world to give context and definition to your own idea of who you are.
well, i’m sorry i flew off the handle. Rugrats 64 is an adaptation of the Rugrats cartoon series that sees you playing as tall your favourite characters as you try to get the treasures. it’s probably ok if you stick with it and has lots of puzzles to really tax your brainworm. in terms of timeline it is set AFTER the rugrats tv series but BEFORE the rugrats movie. this is important. do not fuck this up.
rugrat 64: 99 Stars
GAME REVIEW: PET SEMATARY, CENTRAL UNIT GAMES, 20XX
this is a videogame adaptation of the famous movie Pet Sematery starring dale widkif as the dad. overall i would say this game is quite faithful to the source but makes some necessary expansions to the world of the pet sematary in order to make better use of the innate qualities of the gaming medium, eg there is now a volcano level and also an ice world. the jump key in this game has a lot of lag and i became extremely agitated when playing it as i kept crashing into the giant mice. the 3d graveyard demonstrated in this video is unquestionably the highlight.
i have made it known in my will that i don’t want to be buried in a pet sematery but well they just keep right on doing it. they pull me up from the dirt again and tell me, a1, it’s time to review some more videogames, and they put me back in the chair and place my hands upon the levers and i watch the shapes move and try to remember. and when they come back to read what i’ve written they mutter and walk off into the corner and ask themselves quietly if there’s nothing do be done and me still staring asking, when can i rest? when can i rest?
pet semarary: 65 stars
GAME REVIEW: SIM BANDAGE, “DAVE”, 199X
did you ever notice that weird tar smell when you’ve peeled off an old bandage?? pretty weird, right?? well, sim bandage is out to re-capture that experience for the digital age. there are a lot of different bandages to apply and peel and the “challenge mode” will test your knowledge to the limit. i’m told that a limited physical release actually came with a set of bandages so that you could peel along at home but it got banned from the stores in case it was encouraging children to self-mutilate. can you say “”political correctness”“??? i would recommend purchasing lots of bandages in order to more truly immerse yourself within the author’s vision for this game.
Sim Bandage: 90 Stars
GAME REVIEW: GRUMPS 2, NEXT GEN, 1990
this is the second installment of the grumps franchise which ditches the puzzle aspects of the first gane in favor of a more action-oriented approach. all your favourite characters are BACK, grumpy, lil-gro and whizz kid and they all have unique skills that can help or put you behind on your mission. the gameplay part of the game is an action/racing hybrid where you must avoid(?) crushing pedestrians with your vehicle while trying to collect and deliver the ice cream cones. at the end you’re ranked on the level in the form of the customer’s reaction to the ice cream which i thought was a nice touch but they all just kept having heart attacks when i arrived so i dont think i was playing correctly? if this happens three times you go to the slammer so i didn’t get past level three.
overall this was a pretty good game and is recommended for people who enjoy the action genre.
Grumps 2: 85 Stars
why can’t i stop talking about videogames? i am frankly delighted that you have asked me this question. an indulgent dreamy smile plays about my mouth as i lean back in my rich leather armchair and withdraw an open bag of m&ms from the cabinet to my rightmost side while pondering an appropriate quote from thomas browne. suddenly i blanche- my face slackens- my eyes lose their lustre and stare wildly ahead- i become drenched with sweat- my bones collapse into a wet and porous slime- and i remain planted in this spot- for the next two million years.
GAME REVIEW: ADAM ANT THE VIDEOGAME, KAMEL, 20XX
I’M ENTERING THE COMPOUND
KHHKK ALPHA UNIT, DO YOU COPY?
PROCEED TO BASE POINT 3
SOME KIND OF MAGAZINES
WHAT WAS THAT NOISE?
I’M PROCEEDING TO THE CENTRAL UNIT
THIS MUST BE THE HEATING DUCT. I CAN USE THIS TO ENTER THE MAIN VENT STRUCTURE.
WHO’S THERE! WHO’S THERE!
WHAT? NO! AIIIIIEEEEE!
Adam Ant: one billion Stars
ROBOCOP 3, OCEAN, 1992
robocop 3 is about the continuing adventures of a murder victim who comes back to life as a giant action figure with a bulletproof torso and no genitalia. you can still see his pale human lips beneath the robot stuff which gives him an air of great mystery. was that a shy smile?? the dream of having calcified your social role into a dependable, indestructable human tank implicitly involves an alienated and fearful vision of public life which is seen as a ritual it might be possible to learn at best or an active threat to your own selfhood at worst. in robocop 3 the outside world is represented as a sprawling hell slum filled with inexplicably aggressive hoodlums who nevertheless have very rigid movement and attack patterns. the trick as in many things is to be cautious and act from a distance. this game has 20 levels and contains an interesting repair and upgrade system for the robocop as well as a reactive command-line system which tells you all the stupid shit he’s obsessing over.
Robocop 3: 10 Stars
THE LAWNMOWER MAN, SALES CURVE INTERACTIVE, 1994
“BY THE TURN OF THE MILENNIUM, A TECHNOLOGY KNOWN AS VIRTUAL REALITY WILL BE IN WIDESPREAD USE. IT WILL ENABLE YOU TO CREATE WORLDS AS VARIED AS THE IMAGINATION ITSELF.” the incredible potential of ‘VR’ is here demonstrated by pushing buttons when a voice tells you to in order to start the next wild CGI cutscene. in the famous, popular videogame ‘skyrim’ the evocation of a seamless and exciting virtual world is in part accomplished via one hundred thousand exploreable boxes each of which seams to contain some combination of [wheat] [yarn x2] [rough fabric] or [trowel]. if you click on people the same box appears except it contains [1 gold] [fabric] [dagger]. if you murder a hellmonster and click on it the same box appears and it contains [bone] [monsterheart x2] [dagger]. opening containers and moving things from one container to another is an extremely important gameplay mechanic and the basis for many quest’s. the romantic computer fantasy world is built upon the most advanced wardrobe simulator that mankind has yet produced.
the rhetoric of immersion and interactivity in museums, films, work practices speak to the persistence of the dream of sinking wholly into an invented digital world. everything aspires to the condition of videogames, with the important exception of videogames themselves, which remain strikingly awkward and clumsy, all those tutorial systems and menus and [apple x2] and dialogue trees that nobody really likes but which linger on regardless. i think that this awkwardness shouldn’t be reduced to “bad design” or the failings of a few specific companies or methods because they’re so telling - something like the famous “freudian shits” that show the disavowed elements of consciousness poking through official speech. the contrast between this dreamed, seamless, virtual reality and the jarring pedantry of actual technology, actually navigating the invented worlds, actually figuring out how things work is an important one, and i think that holodeck fantasies like skyrim and mass effect are only worthwhile to the extent that they fail in following through with their entirely banal visions. in doing so, they critique themselves.
the soundtrack to the lawnmower man videogame was produced by Steve Hillage of Gong - right on!
LAWNMOWER MAN - 800 Stars
GAME REVIEW: SONIC 3D BLAST 5, SONIC CORP., 199X
“the distortion of a distortion is the truth” - a lot of bootleg games feel like attempts to replicate the superficial appearance of playing a videogame without entirely understanding what’s happening in them. in doing so they emphasise and highlight all the latent strangeness that gets internalised in the quest to collect orbs or whatever. walking slowly through hostile prison worlds, soundtracked by abstract electronic beeps and whistles, successions of images that don’t cohere into anything in particular. the context of their production is significant too: familiar brandname companies replaced by faceless adhoc operations, the implied linear progress in quality / technology / narrative of sequel naming conventions scrambled into a meaningless blob of signifiers, videogames as crafted events replaced by videogames as unstoppable sediment of hostile mass culture, trademarked corporate IPs become strange fetish objects replicated limitlessly to sell units. which of these is the real world?? you have ten minutes.
SONIC: 150 Stars
DAVE’S DILEMMAS - M. HODGE, 1987
realisation that my liking for this game has more to do with aestheticised image of workingclass life as sentimental drabness ”local colour” or Hovis advert than any actual social content has little impact on sudden awareness of how the faces, places, voices i grew up with and which mean something to me are entirely absent from every videogame ever made. this is a “power game” and surprisingly sharp in sections.
Dave’s Dilemmas: 100 Stars
PAPER BUS - IPODTOUCHMAN, 20XX?
increased access to usable 3d development software and the mutations that result thereof may mean a great deal to our future conceptions of space and time. what’s really happening when we lose ourselves in the sensation of flying, zooming at impossible speeds, through imaginary landscapes without limit, as mediated through static glowing screens constructed by exploitation?? am i really a scifi monster?? things i feel watching the paper bus slide and roll strangely across this landscape: exhaustion, nausea, sex(?) tension, desire, something like a void being circled, a finger lightly tracing the rim of a wineglass. the sight of the perfectly straight highway suddenly rising up and heading over the void to unknown or nonexistent destinations really tweaked my third eye (set to open completely with the release of Platform Masters) as did the desperate struggles of the slippery bus to stay on course. i would rate this game “GOTY” for whatever year it came out to. 3d rag.
Paper Bus - Goty
LAST NINJA 2 - BACK WITH A VENGEANCE, SYSTEM 3, 1998
the dream of the ninja is that of enclosing yourself entirely in black felt and running around the grounds of your school for 2 hours. having the mouthless but expressive head in the lower right react to what’s happening in the “action” segment of the screen really highlights the struggle of the impassive ninja as he tried to move around the many convoluted cube rooms and do basic things. the world can’t be surmounted, it can only be endured. FULL DISCLOSURE: i was the “oriental arms consultant” for Last Ninja 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=50aTLlIGKmc#t=103s
Last Ninja 2: -12 Throwing Stars
GAME REVIEW: SPACE SPY, VASILY ZOTOV, 2009
gui (or “graphical user interface”) elements can be layered on top of each other in increasing order of abstraction to frame and contextualise the action onscreen, providing a sense of depth and perspective. putting all the gui elements on the same plane where they grind against each other, where they resist being mapped to a hierarchial space that assumes the distinction between the universal and particular can be easily distinguished or even distinguished at all, where modular representation cannibalises itself, why would you do this? why can’t we get along?
Space Spy: 199 Stars
GAME REVIEW: COUNT DRACULA, PELICAN SOFTWARE, 19XX?
i identify with count dracula a lot because he never learns from his mistakes. this is number 100 of the 100,000 games about dracula and his adventures.
Count Dracula: 666 (inverted) Stars
GAME REVIEW: RAINBOW ISLANDS, OCEAN SOFTWARE LTD., 1991
the music for this game is very beautiful and moving. this game might have a different title in other countries.
Rainbow Islands: 1 million Stars
GAME REVIEW: STONE SOUP
i hear a lot of people talking about things like Win Conditions but i still don’t know what’s meant to be interesting about one. using it as a framework for other things, if it’s meant to be meaningful at all then doesn’t it still just amount to teaching people to get uptight about another arbitrary non-event?? and isn’t your game implicitly about teaching people to jump through hoops to avoid being told you’ve failed at anything at all, no matter how dumb? sometimes i hope that all the game design people will migrate to talking about chess or something and leave videogames as inchoate multimedia blobs, shorn of personality or the tyranny of being USEFUL and left to wander freely upon the strange currents of mass consciousness, computer dreamz, oneiric murder simulators, our terrible histories indefinitely repeated and refracted as disposable trash produkt.
STONE SOUP: 100 Stars
GAME REVIEW: ROADWAR 2000 - STRATEGIC SIMULATIONS, INC, 1986
how would you handle a road war? what if everyday actions became dangerous and strange? i don’t think i could last long - i’m so reliant on infrastructure.
Roadwar 2000: 58 Stars
GAME REVIEW: AMERICAN TRUCK - TELENET, 1985
really simulates the feeling of an american truck. “i’m on the road again..” signs, places, bonuses, fly past in a dream haze. the notion of a static “self” with a history is left behind me on the road and i can feel my psyche rearranging to better fit the stark, endless geometric figures of this american road. suddenly i realise i’m just staring at a computer screen thousands of miles away!! alas brief vision that disappeared too soon!!
American Truck: 75 Stars
GAME REVIEW: CRAZY FIGHTER 2 - SEGA, 1992
the narrators in borges stories always remind me of bit-part actors in horror films, the warehouse workers and museum guards who are allowed one or two seconds of routine activity before being killed or eaten alive to demonstrate some danger. the contrast between the transparency of their fixed structural roles and the opacity of their inner lives gives whatever smaller details we can glimpse about their lives we see a heightened sense of intimacy, tiny bedrooms carved into a large, bleak cliff.
in the third level of Streets Of Rage 2 the generic “punk” enemies are napping on park benches as you approach. if you get close enough, they stand up and attack you, as usual, and get beaten to shit, as usual, but the detail lingers on longer than they do. many shoot games include the ability to read email exchanges supposedly written by the people you’ll be shooting, diary entries, audiobooke, dialogue trees, movement schedules, the astonishingly open level of access you have to these things signposts the extent to which they’re used as another way of ensuring the feeling of total control over a gameworld, being able to explore every area and person and glide effortlessly over every halfassed boundary, omnipotent god-king pulling apart subjects to see how they work. the melancholy aspect of barely seeing the little details before having to glide past them on your impossibly stupid mission to punch + kick every dude in the universe is a better “critique” than attempts to humanise enemys by voyeuristically piecing through logbooks at their own will because the impossibility of pursuing them highlights your own limited role in the simulation, as you punch + kick past unlimited thugs as you’ve done for two levels before, while the city skyline continues indefinitely scrolling past in the distance.
Crazy Fighter 2: 99 Stars