Thursday, December 29, 2011


Merry Christmas to all and to all - well, to all a 4-day belated Merry Christmas that's what!  I've got so many gaming irons in the fire at the moment and so precious little time to play with them lately. But I will be hitting them pretty hard in the next couple of weeks so expect me to babble on about this and that with a little more regularity pretty soon.  For today, just a little rant about a ridiculous little game that everyone knows, but nobody plays - Tic-Tac-Toe. Or possibly noughts and crosses to my friends across the pond. There is a reason this game is on my mind which I will touch on in a moment, but for now a brief history.

Tic-Tac-Toe has been around forever. Invented by the ancient Egyptians - probably.  Possibly even cavemen. I really don't know and refuse to google it. But suffice to say it has been torturing human children for a long time. In the old days the ancient Egyptians had to use the sand, or possibly papyrus if you were well off, to play, but 20th century technology ushered in the fantastic new world of electronic tic-tac-toe!

1952:  "Noughts and crosses" (or OXO) was developed at Cambridge University, England for the EDSAC (Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator) computer and is widely accepted as the very first graphical computer game.  If you'd care to play a game of OXO just like it would have played on the EDSAC you can even download a program that simulates the EDSAC and try it out:

1976:  Seeing the consumer demand for a home electronic version of Tic-Tac-Toe, Fairchild Semiconductor releases the cleverly-titled "Tic-Tac-Toe" for the Fairchild Channel F video game console. But a public clamor arose - "I can't carry my Channel F around with me! Where's my portable version?!"  (I've played the Channel F version. It's Tic-Tac-Toe i.e. utterly without value).

1978:  Parker Brothers releases Merlin the Electronic Wizard - a handheld toy with six different games built into the unit.  Game #1 of course is Tic-Tac-Toe. I still have my old Merlin. Maybe it is because I was already 9 years old when I played with it, but I clearly remember thinking that Tic-Tac-Toe was completely worthless even back then. The other games were pretty cool though. As with the EDSAC and the Channel F, some clever gent has developed an online simulator that will allow you to try out a Merlin. It's actually kinda cool if you ever had one as a kid:

1980:  Finally, someone puts a new spin on the age-old game when Atari releases "3D TIC TAC TOE" for the Atari 2600. The game is almost marginally playable which puts it head and shoulders above the classic Tic-Tac-Toe. Kudos Atari!

Then companies finally realized that electronic tic-tac-toe was a supremely stupid idea so they stopped making them. Years went by which brings me to the reason for this post if anyone is still reading. For Christmas I bought my wife an iPad2 and I was on the app store downloading some apps for her when I stumbled across "Tic Tac Toe" by Optime Software LLC.  Currently version 2.17 - really?  They couldn't nail it with version 2.16??). The app weighs in at a hefty 16.1 MB. 16.1MB for tic-tac-toe!!!  Chessmaster 2000 is rolling over in his grave.

"Put away your pencil and paper - now you can play Tic Tac Toe on your iPhone or iPod Touch for free. Tic Tac Toe Free is the first full-featured, free Tic-Tac-Toe game for the iPhone and iPod Touch!"

Apparently it offers 1-player, 2-player, and network play. Network play? Wow. How incredibly bored must some sad individual be to want to jump online and fire up some good old tic tac toe?

and for only $0.99 you can upgrade to Tic Tac Toe Plus HD!!!  I'm holding out for the 3D version.

So I typed in tic-tac-toe on the search box and sure enough, the app store is LOADED with them! Many of them are free but a lot of them are actually charging $0.99 and some even more than that. Very few of them offer any new twist on the game because all of them agree that it is a "timeless classic". No. Chess is a timeless classic. Hangman is a timeless classic. Scrabble is a timeless classic. I might even be convinced that solitaire is a timeless classic. But no sir. I don't care how long it has been around. Tic Tac Toe is not a timeless classic.

So in the immortal words of W.O.P.R.

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play. How about a nice game of chess?"

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My Latest Retro(ish) Purchase - the GB USB 64M Smart Card

Most of my gaming time the last 2-3 months has been spent on 3 newer AAA titles - Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3 and Batman Arkham City. I enjoyed them all, but as per my usual routine I am now chasing that current-gen gaming binge with a palate-cleansing drink from an older vintage. And for the last few days that involves a formerly forgotten and neglected Game Boy and a new hardware addition to the retro arsenal - the EMS GB USB 64M Smart Card (catchy name eh?).  Mine was an impulse purchase from Kitsch-Bent for $38.

The package came with the Smart Card and a mini CD with installation drivers and a file transfer program. The card is not plug-and-play nor does it come with a setup/installation program, so you have to manually install the new hardware and browse to the drivers on the CD, but then you are good to go.

The card is in the shape of an original Game Boy cartridge and has a small mini-B USB port at the top where you can connect it to your computer via a USB cable and transfer Game Boy and Game Boy Color ROMs from your PC onto the cart, thus allowing you to play them on your actual Game Boy and Game Boy Color. Unfortunately, you can't drag and drop files onto the card like an external USB drive, but their included file transfer application is very easy to use, if a little slow on the transfer speed.

You can of course play the same GB/GBC games via emulator on your PC, but I have very little interest in doing that. I mess with emulators fairly often, but almost never for any of the portable systems. No, the only way I'm ever going to see most of these games is on a real Game Boy to get a more authentic experience.

"If you're so into authenticity then why don't you just buy the real Game Boy carts then dude?  They're cheap these days!"  Well, generally speaking I do prefer to play real carts on real hardware and I do have a stack of GB/GBC carts I bought at dirt cheap prices on Craigslist, but the fact of the matter is that I'm not much of a portable gamer even on my newer devices like my PSP and iPhone and even less so on my Game Boy. So there is virtually no chance I'm going to go out an buy many more Game Boy games even if they were at giveaway prices. Plus, given my relatively low interest level I really don't want to have to deal with their storage demands on my ever-shrinking space either. But that being said, my interest in gaming history does provide me with enough curiosity to want to spend a little time shuffling through these old Game Boy ROMs that are taking up space on my hard drive. And if I DO happen to stumble upon an old game that I really like a lot well there's a good chance that I might just track down a boxed copy of that one off of eBay for my "Game Boy Collection".

"Well you know you can play those ROMs on a GBA don't you? Or by emulator on a DS. Then it's backlit so it's better."  Yeah and that is good enough for a taste, but I decided if I was going to spend a decent amount of time checking out this long list of games I wanted to try them on the original hardware. Somehow having to play these primitive games in a well-lit room on a gray brick that forces me to dial in the contrast on a little green monochrome screen lets me appreciate the game more even though the visual product is arguably inferior to what I could get on other platforms.

I've been playing with it for a few days now and it works great. This little card prompted me to pick up my GB that would have otherwise just continued to sit on a shelf gathering dust and occasionally making me wonder why I bought it in the first place - even as I still occasionally look for a cheap Game Gear, Lynx and Neo-Geo Pocket Color knowing full well they will be begging the same questions later.  I'm currently in the A's and I can tell you from just a few minutes of gameplay on each that Amazing Penguin and Amazing Tater are pretty nifty little games, while Amazing Spiderman utterly sucks.

One potential problem is that all games utilize the same sram to store the .sav file, which basically means that if you store any game-save information to the card it will be overwritten with new save information when you start playing a different game. I'm not sure yet if you can copy your .sav files back to your PC so you can reload them to continue later, but my curiosity on the great majority of these games is satisfied with just a few minutes of play so personally I don't really need any major multiple .sav file support or workaround. It would have been a nice feature though.

The card is advertised as a "64M" card which has confused some folks into thinking it has 64 megabytes (MB) of storage capacity. In actuality it contains 64 megabits (Mb) which translates to only 8 MB. This doesn't sound like much space at first, but only a few Game Boy games were as large as 1MB (e.g. Pokemon), many were only 32K (e.g. Tetris) and most fell into the 128K to 256K range.  So you can easily store about 50 Game Boy games on there and if you go for the smaller ones you could even fit over 100.  Game Boy Color game files are larger, so the card can only hold about 5-10 average-sized GBC games give or take.  The card is split up into 2 separate banks or pages and you can save 4MB of files on each page. When you turn on your Game Boy the list of games on the first page is displayed. To see the second page of games you power cycle the Game Boy by turning it off and then quickly back on, then the second page of games will appear. Then you just scroll down and select which game you'd like to play and have at it.

Apparently a lot of people who buy this card use it to load LSDJ (Little Sound DJ) a program that turns a Game Boy into a programmable 4-channel, 4-bit music workstation that LSDJ-aficionados use to explore Game Boy chiptunes or create their own. It even came with a LSDJ sticker to apply to your card.  You can see a random LSDJ music video here.  Looks kinda cool and has a fairly large online community so I might check out the LSDJ scene later, but for now I'm content to just speed-date a bunch of old games that I would have otherwise completely ignored. I'm off to Alien Olympics.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Shoot - The Day They Took Over

Happy Thanksgiving folks!  For turkey day I thought I'd put the blog crosshairs on an obscure little arcade game called Turkey Shoot. A pretty predictable seasonal choice I suppose but the game is pretty rare - reportedly 450 were made and apparently very few of those still exist - so I'm guessing most folks out there haven't played it.

Turkey Shoot was released by former arcade and pinball giant (and one of my favorite developers) Williams back in 1984. Like most game developers of the mid-80's, Williams' dystopian view of the future involved a mysterious plague transforming humanity into turkeys with a penchant for crime. The game provides the backstory:

The year is 1989, one year after the great gobble blight which plagued the world. One third of earth's populace was transformed into turkeys by the ailment. The side effect of turkey transformation is a tendency toward violence and comradery between these turkeys to organize for rabble-rousing in the urban areas. In February of '89, a group of specially trained agents (the Turkey Terminators) was formed for the sole task of destroying the turkey menace. As a Terminator you must be mentally and physically prepared for a series of missions complimentary to your skills.  Good luck and strength to you!

The game has a gun mounted to the cabinet like on an Operation Wolf or Terminator 2 Judgement Day but the gun operates as an optical/light gun to move your reticle around the screen. The criminal turkeys scurry about in all directions committing various crimes and your job of course is to shoot them to turn them into cooked turkey dinners. In addition to your gunfire once per mission/level you can hurl a grenade at the turkeys to take out several in one blast.  Also, once per mission, you can hit your GOBBLE button which clucks out a turkey call that freezes the turkeys in place for a couple of seconds, allowing you to try and pick them off before they start running again.

Each mission is a little different - in the first one thug turkeys are robbing the theater box office and trying to make off with the bags of loot. In the second mission you guard against multiple thefts by thug turkeys and boss turkeys. In the third mission pilot turkeys fly suicide missions into a helicopter and you have to shoot them before they hit it - and so on. Every 8th mission there is a bonus round where you have 15 seconds of rapid-fire shooting and unlimited grenades to blow away as many turkeys as possible without harming an innocent bystander.

Later on cops start making the scene to help but just get in the way because you have to avoid shooting them, cyborg mechano-turkeys show up that can only be taken out with a headshot, turkeys disguise themselves as businessmen and start grabbing hostages so that you have to shoot the turkeys without hitting the hostages and so forth.  When a turkey escapes with the loot, dive bombs the helicopter, or an innocent bystander is injured you have "fowled up" and you are only allowed 3 fowl ups at which point the game is over.  It gets very difficult very fast playing it on the real cab so the games don't last long at all - which is of course by design. The Turkey Shoot manual even states that "...thorough field and factory research has shown that two-minute games both satisfy players and also keep the quarters flowing." So don't plan on playing for much longer than a couple of minutes.

And my favorite part - at the end of each level a fan blows a bunch of real feathers all around inside the glass in front of the monitor! Those kinds of offbeat physical features always make a cab stand out in my mind. So. even though the gameplay is fairly routine, the wacky nature of the game and the unique feather feature of the cab bump it up to pretty cool in my book. I wish I had taken a video of the feathers flying to post when I used to play it at Joystix because they eventually sold it off and now I suspect I might not ever see another one.

If you can make your way through 100 missions you have defeated all the turkeys and the game is over, but accomplishing that on the real arcade cab seems impossible to me. Unfortunately, given the nature of the gun and the feathers feature, Turkey Shoot is one of those games that is nowhere near as fun to play on MAME as it is to play on the real thing, but someone did upload a MAME video of the game onto YouTube so check it out below. They made it look much easier than it really is because they cheated by enabling rapid-fire on all levels, but they did complete all 100 missions of the game which is still impressive. Now I'm off to eat some ham and dressing (don't really care much for turkey). Later gents!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Another Year Another HAAG Arcade Expo

Well, almost a month since my last post. Too much work lately interfering with my playtime and of course with my chit chat time here on the Gameroom too. I have finished several games in the past month both modern and retro and am just getting way too far behind in my little online gaming journal here so I am taking a break from work to drop a few words and pics about my visit this last weekend to the Houston Area Arcade Group's Arcade Expo.

This was the 10th installment of the annual event here in Houston, Texas and as always a good time was had by all. Over 200 arcade, pinball and console games all on free play, after the initial purchase of the tickets of course. $20 per day or $30 for both days. Entering the hotel and looking around I saw the usual oddball mix of folks with the occasional stormtrooper from the 501st Legion, X-wing pilot from the Rebel Legion, and ghostbuster from the Houston Area Ghostbusters thrown in for flavor. My favorite? The stormtroopers of course!

The first room room is where they have all the vendors, the REALLY old arcade games (e.g. bat and ball games, flipperless pinballs and shooting galleries), an XBox 360 hooked up to a Kinect and projected onto a giant screen, the tournament games, and a large collection of various old consoles and computers set up with individual monitors and games just waiting for you to sit down and play. I played a little Apple IIe, VIC-20, Odyssey 2, Intellivision - pretty good stuff.

As in previous events Atari Age had a nice presence at the show with several homebrew carts available to play - and maybe buy which is what I intended to do but completely forgot to go back and look into it.  Last year's homebrew cart that caught my eye was Halo 2600 - the Atari's version of the modern Xbox classic (that you can try online here).  This year's prize was Juno First.

Juno First is a pretty obscure arcade game released by Konami in 1983 but if you've never tried it you should pull it up on MAME because it's pretty cool - think Defender mixed with Beamrider. And this Atari 2600 port by Chris Walton of Glasgow, UK is an excellent translation. Assuming you don't have a copy of the cartridge you can download the game here and give it a go on Stella. The author himself posted the file for download so I'm assuming he won't mind.

As I walked into the main arcade I recalled the noise. But unlike Joystix which assails you with music to the point where you often can't even hear the game you are playing, the HAAG Expo hits a much happier balance between arcade sounds and 80's music pumping through the sound system. So although it is still very loud, I find the HAAG arcade sound levels to be much more tolerable and historically accurate than Joystix.

All my favorites from the last show were there again like Quantum, Track & Field and Varkon. As always I discovered a few new ones that I quite liked - this time the honor fell to Sega's pinball Apollo 13 and the Terminator 3 pinball. The unique thing about the Apollo 13 pin was the multiball when 13 pinballs flooded down on your flippers at once. It was pretty wild!

Oh, and it's not game-related but I came home with a bag full of goodies too. I won a VHS tape of the Doctor Who episode Warriors of the Deep (points off for starring Peter Davison instead of Tom Baker but still free is free), and I bought a big stack of comics for 25 cents each, a marquee for the old obscure arcade game Shark Attack for $5 and a little spinning/exploding death star toy for $1.

If you are in the Houston area this time next year I highly recommend you check out the Expo. Never hurts to plan ahead you know.  See you there!

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alfred Challenge Maps

Like a lot of gamers out there I'm about to start playing Batman Arkham City. I pre-ordered mine from GameStop because, even though I am not typically a pre-order kind of guy I knew for sure I was going to buy it and love it so I figured I might as well get the freebie. GameStop's came with the Joker's Carnival Challenge Map and I like Joker better than Robin (Best Buy's pre-order came with 2 Robin challenge maps).

But I'm not here to discuss pre-ordering. And don't get me started about that BS unlockable Catwoman content that you have to buy the new game to get the one-time use code for. Like I mentioned to Fallguy I am more tolerant of that one-time pass crap for the online play on sports games that get some tiny incremental update each year (especially since I pretty much never buy those), but locking legitimate 1-player campaign content that is apparently a fairly integral part of a story-based game?  C'mon guys.  Oops - I started getting started after all.

No I just wanted to share with you the challenge map that you could have expected had you pre-ordered Arkham City from Bed Bath and Beyond. Shamelessly pilfered below from the fine gents at Dorkly - the Alfred Challenge Maps:

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Arcades and the Ladies

If there's one thing my old arcade flyers have reminded me of it's how much chicks dig arcade guys. Especially back in the 70's and 80's. Back in those days when a guy walked into an arcade he could fully expect to see at least one hot arcade groupie - or as they preferred to be called - "arcade escorts" standing at each cabinet just waiting for him to come and play with them. It was a simpler time. It was a sexier time. It truly was the golden age of video games. Of course that was before Congress passed the Arcade Fairness Act (AFA) of 1990 that allowed women to actually play the games themselves rather than only participating in the supporting role of escort. It was the just move to be sure, but still I am saddened that by the time Street Fighter II hit the scene you rarely spotted even a single escort in the arcades anymore. The proud tradition of the arcade escort rapidly faded into history and now few people recall them or their seductive cosplay at all. I salute you arcade escort.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

New PS3 Commercial - Michael

Shortly after my last post about a video game commercial that annoyed me I saw the new PS3 TV spot below that I quite liked so I figured I'd do another quickie video post on here to share it.  It features characters from some of my favorite PS3 titles like God of War III, Uncharted (3), Resistance, Infamous, Metal Gear Solid 4 and more. Reminded me of the old Dreamcast commercials that pulled a bunch its games' characters together except those were typically humorous and this one has a more dramatic flavor. Check it out.

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Uncharted 3 Commercial for Subway

In case you haven't seen it yet there is a new commercial for Subway Sandwiches starring Nathan Drake of the PS3 Uncharted franchise. Uncharted 2 is pretty much my favorite game on the PS3 but rather than react with a "hey check it out a mainstream commercial with Nathan Drake in it!" my gut reaction was more a disappointed "what the hell? Oh c'mon.".  I realize everything is a cash grab to the big game companies, but somehow seeing the hero of my favorite game on the PS3 reduced to hawking 5 dollar foot longs left me feeling like a Subway sandwich maker had just stuck his big fat ungloved thumb right in my meatball sandwich before handing it to me.

I guess the bit of what I assume was entirely new animation when Drake was talking to the camera wasn't too bad, but I winced when I saw him running through the same scenes I'd already seen several times on trailers except this time carrying a CGI'd Subway cup and sandwich.

I'm pretty sure that if, many years from now when the PS3 is considered retro, I go back and watch this video again it will bring a smile to my face. But for now while it's fresh it just left me with a slight case of indigestion.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What the Hell is Up With This Arcade Flyer?

Arcade flyers used to have some nice looking babes on them hawking their electronic wares so when I saw an arcade game called Sexual Trivia I figured it would be pretty steamy.  I was quite wrong. For some reason the Kinky Kit and Game Company of Hollywood, Florida decided to go a different route with the spokeswoman in this case apparently being a child sporting a Strawberry Shortcake outfit and blue shoes.

"Sexual Trivia - It's statutorific!" WTF? I mean how old are those girls? Like 12?  Of course I've seen the studies from U.C. Berkeley that demonstrated that approximately 60% of the population of Hollywood California are pedophiles so that's old news, but et tu Hollywood Florida?  A quick scan of the comics in the local newspaper from the sick fucks at Hollywood, Florida confirms my fears.

And there were dozens more like it. So beware - avoid Hollywood Florida at all costs. Go to Orlando instead. Yes, Orlando is brimming with pedophiles as well, but they have some pretty cool theme parks you can check out. Just keep an eye on your kids.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Rick Carter's Nibbler High Score Record Revisited

Recently I posted a piece on Rick Carter's new world-record on the arcade game Nibbler - and even more recently I noticed that a few pieces of it were quoted in the forum over at Classic Arcade Gaming (dot com). CAG is a website all about classic arcade gaming (guess that could have gone without saying) which for some reason I have yet to really explore, an odd oversight on my part given my love for classic arcade gaming. In fact I am about to rectify that oversight if I can get this work finished up - damn real-life syndrome!

Anyway, there were a couple of posts over there about the feat and Rick Carter himself (the record-breaker) chimed in with some insider's thoughts on his effort.  I thought it was interesting as it reminded me that not only does playing a game for 49-50 hours straight take a lot of skill and stamina, it also takes quite a physical toll on your body.  Here is what Rick Carter had to say about the day:

"thx for all of the above and all the congrats all over guys!

It was surreal. I think any marathoner that gets up into the 48+ hour range it gets surreal. I had to reach down within my gaming soul to hit the billion. I experienced in the last 50 million something I never have felt in gaming...taking myself well beyond the "wall", resisting everything my body was telling me and mentally persevering. I was told I was so focused on the game I was standing about the last 10-12 hours of gameplay. I had no idea. I also was barely drinking anything...definitely wasn't eating anything. My body still is paying me back for that now! I am slowly getting my hands back...but my dexterity still is compromised.

At 900 million, I still was playing very well and had 90-100+ men. I was very tempted to take a 40-death break(about 10 minutes) before the final push to 1 billion. I did not take this break though thinking I no longer would be able to build the men back up or even maintain them. I could tell my hand was about shot.

At 950-960 million I was at 50 men and saying I could no longer hold the joystick. It was too painful. I then started holding it in a semi-palmed manner. The ball in my palm and last few fingers semi-wrapped around the side for leverage. However, it took some adjustment for this where I was losing lives but I did manage to get pretty proficient at clearing specific waves with this new hold...but some moves I just could not do well with this new hold.

I started the billion point game at 10:28 pm Thursday. I had arrived ready to play at 12:10 pm that day. I also had played about a 4 hour game to 83 million when something happened to the board where the game had to be reset and boards swapped out. Richie Knucklez fortunately had 3-4 sets of boards so was able to find another one that worked. Props to Richie for all the time he spent getting the game ready and fresh components for the controller installed just before the event.

After the first 83 million game, Richie told me to go to hotel and reset the next day. I would have except I had to work I did not really have the option of starting Friday and playing into Sunday. I would not be able to go back with less than 1 day of rest after a Nibbler marathon.

It took far more out of me than my previous Q*bert marathon of 61+ hours in December 2010.

Some asked me what my next marathon would be....I am considering Q*Bert again...perhaps Richie can get a second system (even if just a loaner) and George and I can go head-2-head...starting exactly same time!

You guys could go stat crazy...have the 2 screens shown side by side for the broadcast... # deaths by each shown...etc. would be interesting and think motivate both of us to keep the gameplay at a high level with increased chance of reaching the 67+ hour time record...and perhaps even break the 33+ million Q*bert score!"

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Long Hard Look at - Bank Panic

Featuring another arcade game today - a really nice one that I discovered quite some time ago on MAME and then actually got to play in person for the first time when I went to Funspot last year - Bank Panic!

Bank Panic! was developed by Sanritsu Denki in 1984 and manufactured/distributed by Sega/Bally-Midway. You've probably heard of the other arcade game that Sanritsu developed that same year - Appoooh.  Stop lying, you've never heard of Appoooh.

Bank Panic! is simple to pick up but quite fun and gets challenging quickly. Gets the blood pumping after a while like a good game of Robotron or Chicken Shift. Tastes like a video game version of hot hands (anyone?), the gameplay is similar to Hogan's Alley but more sophisticated and a far superior control scheme. Hogan's Alley apparently came out the same year but I assume production on Bank Panic! predated it. Anyway, I would say it's a bit like the love child of Hogan's Alley and Tapper if you will. Or don't. It's entirely up to you really.

You are the town deputy and you are stationed inside a huge, apparently circular, bank where it is your job to protect the good townsfolk and their hard-earned money from the no-good scallywags who approach the teller windows with pistols drawn and the intention of absconding with the bank's loot.  The fiends!  The bank has 12 doors leading to the outside and you are looking directly at 3 of them at all times. You can change which doors you are facing by pushing the joystick left or right to position yourself accordingly.

Every so often a bank door will open and most of the time it will either be a customer with money who will make a deposit or a no-good bank robber that you must fill with lead by hitting whichever of the 3 buttons - left, middle, or right - corresponds with the doorway in which the robber is standing. But you have to be sure to shoot him before he shoots you or, quite obviously, you are dead. You can shoot the baddies on sight, but that is considered "unfair" so you get extra points for waiting until they draw to shoot. But don't be too trigger happy because you don't want to accidentally shoot one of the kind patrons who sometimes, Lord knows why, like to dress and act a little like one of the robbers when they open the door to apparently see if they can fool you into blowing them away by accident - but oh do they let you have it if you do! AND you lose a life to boot. When you lose 3 lives the game is over.

At the top of the screen there is a status line/HUD that shows all the doors, which 3 doors you are facing, which doors have already taken in money, and how close the next customer (or robber) outside is to approaching each door so you can quickly position yourself to meet them if you like. Once you take in money from every door at least once the level is completed and you go to the next level which is the same except faster.

They do mix in other stuff too to trip you up - some robbers hide behind a customer and shove them out of the way to shoot you, some bob and weave to make it harder to shoot them, some robbers takes 2 shots to kill instead of 1 so you have to make sure they go down after the first shot or else they can still plug ya, sometimes a kid (or little person?) shows up with a bunch of hats on his head and you rapid-fire shoot all of them off for bonus points, sometimes customers are tied up and you have to shoot the ropes to release them, and sometimes the evil-doers set a bomb on a door and you have to get over to and shoot the fuse off before it blows up. All variations on the same theme really but they add a nice variety to the play. A few other tidbits here and there too like if a robber gets to the door and you don't get there to shoot him they can sometimes steal back money that has previously been deposited, but if you get there in time and shoot him he'll drop it and you get it right back.

I like the unique but simplistic shooting controls and the twitch gameplay. The only real drawback is the music which is a simplified arcade version of Dixie that just drones on and on - that gets a little annoying after a while. Oh yeah, another thing that annoyed me a bit - when you are playing two player they don't display your opponent's score while it is your turn so you don't know exactly how many points you need to beat them until your turn is over - that seems like a stupid oversight.

My high score on MAME is 161,900 if anyone cares to challenge it, but if you're not a MAMER-type Bank Panic was ported to the Sega SG-1000, MSX and the Sega Master System. I tried the Master System version and it is an excellent conversion. I've never owned a Master System but I must say that when I try an emulated game on it I'm almost always impressed with the quality.

There were also a few clones made such as Silver Gun for the ZX Spectrum (Spanish) and Bang Bank for the Atari XL/XE (in Poland).

But the more well-known clone was West Bank.

West Bank was released for the MSX, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, and Amstrad CPC. Since my personal preferences of those 4 systems generally runs to the CBM side of the street I tried the C64 version and it was indeed a very nice clone.

It played more or less like the original with a few exceptions - notably it didn't have the little radar for each door showing when customers/baddies were approaching outside and it added a nice little bonus round where after every bank level you are called out by a trio of banditos that you must face down in a gunfight. The timer at the top of the screen counts down from 5 to 0 then the 3 baddies will draw their guns on you in random order and try to plug you. You have to wait for them to draw (fair play and all that) and then you gun them down. Has some nice animations too and provided a few new colorful characters - here are a few from the instructions screen:

"Jack Vicios, the sponging swindler of the West. Don't hesitate - shoot whenever you see his face.

Julius, the dandy. He is a box of surprises; he may give you a bag of gold or he might shoot you. Take things very careful with this one.

Bowie, the dwarf. He is a constant practical joker. Make holes in his hats, but take care that the bottom hat doesn't conceal a bomb or you will lose a life."

I even came across a magazine advertisement in the February 1986 issue of Crash where Gremlin Graphics was running a contest to see who could invent a new baddie. Winners received a free West Bank sweatshirt!

My only real complaint with West Bank is an area that I usually enjoy on the C64 - the soundtrack. The whiny old west music really started burrowing into my skull.

And clones are still being made today apparently - there is an updated version called Westbang that has been released for the iphone. I've never played and probably won't but it looks nice.

But updated graphics or no, standing in front of the original cabinet banging away at the 3 buttons is the way to go. Unfortunately I haven't seen one outside of New Hampshire so you might have to make do with one of the ports or West Bank which is OK because are all solid games for a bit of quick-hit old west fun with the same flavor. I still enjoy coming back to the game on the MAME cab from time to time. I give it a 7.6.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marvel Ultimate Alliance - Weak!, Cool!, ...OK

Several new games I'm interested in are going to be released in the next couple of months, but in the meantime lately I've been playing through a few other current-gen games that have been sitting on my shelf for a while.  Yesterday I finally made my way around to trying Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the Xbox 360, which I bought quite a long time ago packaged with Forza Motorsports 2 for like $8 - I used to be a big fan of superhero comic books and I figured hey 2 games for $8 you can't really beat that.

Ultimate Alliance is an action RPG where you control a team of 4 superheroes - interchangeable with like 10 backups - and are trying to beat, kick, and zap your way through a colorful variety of Marvel Universe backdrops and ton of bad guys to get to Dr. Doom who is trying to take over the world - or something to that effect. I elected to jot down my thoughts immediately as I played it and it turned out to be a bit of a roller coaster ride of pleased versus displeased for me.  Below are my unaltered trains of thought after 1 hour, 4 hours, and 6 hours of play. Well, unaltered save for a bit of editing to shorten - I do tend to get rather wordy sometimes - maximum verbosity and all that.  Yes believe it or not it was longer before I chopped it. And yes, I realize that it is still way too long to expect anyone to read it but there's no turning back now so here it is.

Hour 1 (Weak):
Well the graphics look decidedly PS2/XBox-gen which is a little discouraging for a current-gen game even one that is several years old. The speech acting isn't too bad but the dialogue is SO pathetically juvenile that even the best voice over wouldn't be able to get much out of it. When the NPCs talk to you in non-cut scenes it shows a little DOS-style picture of the face of whoever is talking next to a transcript of what they are saying with a little 'push A to respond with this canned response" continue mechanic - wow - that doesn't even taste like last-gen that is more NES/GBA.

OK there's an obstacle that we have to navigate around, well no problem Iron Man can fly, so easy enough to... hmm - his jet boots seem to have an altitude ceiling of about 8 feet off the ground - well that doesn't make sense. The camerawork is rather clunky - lets you pan from left to right halfway decently but you get nothing out of up and down. And a couple of time the camera didn't switch to the proper angle so you see your guys disappear around a corner and then you are staring at a wall hearing the sounds of battle in the next room.

And why the hell do all these characters keep writhing around so much when they are standing in place telling me things? Radioactive Man is practically giving me a table dance. And I don't find him sexy at all. Way too muscly.  Oh - and as with a lot of these kinds of team-oriented games where your AI teammates get all up in your space I find myself playing a lot of a game I like to call "get the hell out of my way". I've also already played one brief round of "I'm stuck in the fucking corner".

One nice thing I noticed is that if I decide to start smashing a random piece of conduit or machinery out of nowhere, my team is understandably puzzled for a moment but then starts beating the hell out of it too in support. I like that kind of loyalty - don't ask me why - just hit it!

The story? Virtually nonexistent. I don't have to have a good story to enjoy a game, but don't pretend to sell me a story and then just sew together a bunch of mediocre-to-boring gameplay missions because that ain't gonna cut it.  BUT all that being said it isn't like it's unplayable and I have always been a comic book fan (and more of a Marvel guy over DC) so I really want to like this game.  So even though so far it almost seems like a beta I'm going to hang in there with it. It definitely seems to be more tailored toward kids as opposed to adult gamers though.

My beginning rating = 6.2.

Hours 2-4 (Cool): 
[MadPlanet really wandered off the path into a lot of comic book jibber jabber here - Editor]
OK I decided to go a bit more hipster and switch out some of the Marvel Universe flag-bearers on the team for some of the lesser known B-siders off the bench.

Right off the bat I pick Moon Knight because I used to collect his title back in the day. He doesn't even have any powers he is just a strong but slightly mentally unstable man who has learned many fighting styles with which to kick ass and since he is fortunate enough to be rich he can also afford all kinds of expensive gadgets, vehicles, and weapons - OK he's basically Marvel's version of Batman. Moon Knight does have a pretty cool back-story though - he is a former mercenary who was left for dead out in the desert after one of his mercenary gigs went south.  He finds his way into an ancient tomb where he collapses at the foot of a statue of Konshu the God of the Moon (is that a real Egyptian god?  note to self - Google later) and dies.  Then, a bit later, he is resurrected by Konshu to fight injustice - or maybe he's just nuts - either way he slips into a costume styled on the moon-crested hoodie look that Konshu pioneered and now kicks criminal ass - mostly the lesser grade hoods - not Galactus or anything.

Scrolling through the bench warmers I see... Elektra - meh she's fairly obscure and hot but I was never a big Daredevil fan. Iceman?  Yeah maybe back in the day before the X-Men movies and all the cartoons - now everybody knows that guy. Colossus - yeah - I always liked Colossus and he only has a bit part in one the X-Men movies so he's still relatively obscure - OK added Colossus to the team.

Hey they have Luke Cage!  Or his full name as I used to know it - Luke Cage, Power Man!  He looks a little different now - more normal-looking clothing, but obviously still one bad mother fucker. Luke Cage was the only dude bad enough to be able pull off the look he sported back when I collected Power Man and Iron Fist in the late '70s - early '80s. How many guys can walk around in a bright yellow silk puffy shirt unbuttoned to the navel with blue skinny jeans, a chain-link belt, and a sterling silver tiara headband and still look ready, willing and able to really fuck you up if you even think about saying anything.

That, gentlemen, is self-confidence. My hat's off to Mr. Cage - I never even had the nerve to wear my bolo-tie that I bought back when I was in my country music phase in the early 80's. I think I may have worn it to a Dwight Yoakam concert once (hey didn't you get one too FallGuy or am I imagining that?). So anyway YES Luke Cage you are on the squad. Dude you just keep on dressing like you want to dress and to hell with society's so-called rules!

Speaking of which, I'm still waiting for the Power Man and Iron Fist movie.  It is the tried-and-true odd couple formula spiced up with a good dose of 70's pop culture and a liberal sprinkling of ethnic/cultural stereotypes.  Felix and Oscar, Starskey and Hutch, Tango and Cash - Power Man and Iron Fist. Both New Yorkers - one is a bullet-proof bad-ass street-smart take no shit black dude from Harlem with a heart of gold but who has no problem notching your skull with his chain link belt if you eyeball him on the street. The other is a quiet contemplative overly-docile wealthy white pacifist who when pushed far enough will be happy to demonstrate to you in fashionable green and yellow spandex with ribbon accents that not only is he an expert in the martial arts, but he can also literally make his fist as hard as freaking iron so when he chops your ass with it there can be no doubt that it is going to fucking hurt in the morning. Oh the hijinx they got into. Hell I bet Quentin Tarantino already has it on his short-list of projects.

But I digress - back to the game. Still need one more - OK Ms. Marvel you're up. Moving on.

So right away I'm fighting a guy as Moon Knight.  The game plays some heavy fight music when you go into battle and at first it seemed goofy, but now that I've put myself more in the right frame of mind I kinda like it. After Moon Knight beats this nameless goon he yells out "another victory for you Konshu!". OK more terrible dialogue but it resonated with my comic past and now this stuff has almost morphed into a "so bad it's kinda good" type of deal...

Hmmm - I see the characters all have various XP and stats and gear that you can equip and level up etc - so it's an RPG too eh? (I didn't realize that at the time)  OK, a little deeper than I first thought - might be cool.  Oh shit I just saw an unlockable hidden option in Luke Cage's outfit - I bet it's that classic puffy shirt/jean ensamble. Hell that's almost enough right there to keep me going. OK switching to Luke Cage.

"You lose small-fry!" - Luke Cage after chain-slapping one dude unconscious.
"Next time - run away!" - Luke Cage after smashing one guy's face repeatedly into the ground.
"Guess that means... I win!" - L.C. after... well you get the picture.

Luke Cage does excellent work.

My mid-way rating = 7.8

Hours 5-6 (OK):
Well I have thoroughly enjoyed holding guys off the ground and punching them as Luke Cage and hey Ms. Marvel can kick some ass too, but the the initial shine of the comic book connection is beginning to dull a bit for me. Although I still find the game to be pretty decent and could very well come back to it to finish, the gameplay is getting a little old so I might not. The RPG elements seem to be a little tacked on and you really don't need to even pay attention to them at all to play the game so despite the extra details and options it is really just more of an action game. It basically feels like a Diablo-skinned version of the old 2D X-Men arcade game which is fine but I've never been a huge fan of the beat 'em up brawler.  My favorite part was actually reminiscing about Power Man - so maybe I'll just go dig a few comics out of the closet.

I will say that this another of those games that I feel like would be better if you played multiplayer with some friends, but as is often the case I don't know anyone that has it and am not into playing with random strangers online - so I can only base my opinion on the single-player game experience I had. Either way though I got about 6 hours of pretty good fun out of it for $4 so I feel like I got my money's worth.

My final rating = 7.3

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dow Plummets - Stock Brokers Shoot Tanks

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost another 420 points today. Oh if only someone made an arcade game about stock brokers jumping out of Wall Street buildings where it was your job to position a trampoline below them to bounce them from certain death into a waiting ambulance - how awesome would that be?!  Well not that awesome it turns out - but in my never-ending quest to play every arcade game ever made now seemed the perfect time to hit up "Wall Street".

Wall Street was produced by Century Electronics in 1982.  What?  Never heard of Century Electronics? Well not many have, although it's possible that some of our European readers may have played the Ocean port of one of their other arcade games - Hunchback. Their body of work goes quickly downhill after that though.

There are two different levels in Wall Street - creatively named "City" and "Maze". "City" is the only level that makes any sense - it's not much fun - but it makes sense. In the City level you maneuver a safety net / trampoline left and right to catch stressed-out guilt-ridden stock brokers that have leaped to their deaths. You position the trampoline under them and they bounce off at varying angles and heights depending on how they hit the trampoline. You can continue bouncing them around for points but if you can position it so that they hit near the right side of the trampoline you can bounce them over into the waiting ambulance for big points and one step closer to completing the level.

I guess it is a bit of a cross between the arcade games Kick (aka Kick Man) and Clowns. Or - a complete and utter ripoff of the old Nintendo Game & Watch "Fire" where you are saving people jumping from a burning building. From what I read online Fire came out the year before Wall Street.

If you're able to unwisely save enough of the slimy brokers before the Dow Jones Index reduced to zero you move on to level 2 - "Maze" (I hope the guy that came up with these names got a bonus that year).  Maze is where the game really falls apart. You are now the stock broker (I think) and apparently after being saved you a) discounted the promise you made to God on the way down of being a better person and b) determined to make your money back as quickly as possible.  So you are running around a maze to find bags of money - people's savings that you bilked them out of no doubt - that you must pick up and deposit in your safe. Unfortunately for you, the military has had quite enough and instead of a fiscal bailout have decided to simply kill you this time. And they're done screwing around so they send out a battalion of tanks to do the job, but luckily you had the foresight to bring your anti-tank RPG with you to work this morning so you're good to go. In true Tutankham fashion you can only shoot left and right, not up and down, but it's quite easy. This is a complete throwaway level.

If you're wiley enough to grab all the money in the maze and not get killed by the tanks well then it's back to level 1 for more "City". And actually the second round of City is a little better as multiple brokers start jumping off the buildings at the same time, so it gets more challenging and almost even a little fun. And rescue helicopters start making an appearance on the third time through the City level that you can try and land the brokers in, but I lost interest in the game before I was able to get that done.

And oh lord the music. Grating bleep bloop renditions of Oh Susanna, Dixie, and what I'm pretty sure is Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (..they go uppity up up, they go downditty down down - am I the only one who knows what song I'm talking about here?)  The music made me want to jump off a building myself.

So... I had to play it to rate it and check it off my list because it's what I do, but I certainly wouldn't advise you to make the same investment. My rating? A lowly 4.0.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

New World Record on Nibbler

Over the weekend there were new world record high scores set on four different arcade video games:

Frenzy: Joel West with 4,933,702
Snake Pit: Mark Alpiger with 317,350
Tron:  David Cruz with 14,007,645
Nibbler: Rick Carter with 1,002,222,360

[*12/26/2011 Update: Tim McVey took up the challenge and recaptured his high score crown on Nibbler by crushing Rick's score with 1,041,767,060. Congrats Tim and thanks for setting the record straight about the bogus passing out story!]

Congrats to all those guys, but since I've never been overly interested in the first 3 games I'd like to chat a bit specifically about the fourth one - Nibbler.

Hats off to Rick Carter who took a little over 49 hours to amass that score. 49 hours! That breaks the old high score of 1,000,042,270 set by Tim McVey way back in 1984.

Nibbler was the first game to support a billion point score and to spotlight this Rock-ola offered a free Nibbler machine to the first player to turn the game over by scoring a billion. The early favorite to surpass the mark was U.S. National Video Game Team member Tom Asaki, who came close but failed in attempts at Walter Day's Twin Galaxies arcade in Ottumwa, IA (once when the joystick broke after he had scored 793 million points). Tim McVey (not Timothy McVeigh!) had six unsuccessful attempts before he finally broke the billion-point barrier with 1,000,042,270 points. To commemorate the achievement Ottumwa declared January 28, 1984 as Tim McVey Day.

Tim McVey held the official high-score record for the next 27 years until Rick Carter broke it last weekend. McVey tried to one-up himself in 2009 but only mustered a paltry 648 million. But now that he has officially been dethroned by Carter I'm guessing he will come back out of retirement for another shot.

And now to the game itself - Nibbler is another one of those arcade games that I discovered on MAME and enjoyed but still have never actually seen in person - not even at the ACAM. Pac-Man fever was still running rampant when Rock-Ola released it back in 1982 so it's not surprising that it is a simplistic maze-based eat the dots type of game controlled only by a 4-way joystick - but it far from a Pac-Man clone.

In the game you play as Nibbler the snake and must slither around a maze eating the food that is scattered about. You must eat all the food in the maze before time runs out but with each piece of food you eat, Nibbler gets longer and ultimately starts getting in his own way. If Nibbler runs into his own body or if the time runs out he loses a life. Once you've eaten all the food the level is completed and a new maze full of food begins. Don't ask me what kind of food it's supposed to be - apparently a radioactive fruit of some sort because it radiates with a multicolored glow. I saw someone call the food/dots "croutons" online once, but I have no idea where the hell they got that from - maybe the manual who knows.

Anyway, to make things more difficult the uranium-soaked fruit is evidently laced with methamphetamines because you cannot stop Nibbler and he just keeps going faster and faster the more he eats. He does pause very slightly every time he runs into a wall to let you gather your thoughts but he's tweaking hard so like any good meth head he is off and running in a split second, consequences be damned!

Obviously the gameplay is pretty redundant, but it is somewhat addictive and the mazes change up a little at each level to add a little variety. The second you look at the graphics you say - oh this must be from 1982. Or at least that's what I said when I first played it.  Is that wrong to not only think that but to actually say it out loud to myself while I'm sitting alone playing it?  The sound, though not great, is tolerable for a while. But it doesn't take long for the 8-bit rendition of La Cumparsita to wear on the nerves.  If they'd let the song play on I think I'd have liked it fine but it only loops the first couple of bars over and over and over like a broken record until I just want to tango into the kitchen and stuff my head in the oven. The microwave oven.

The game isn't nearly as easy as you might think. Since you can't stop you have to strategically think ahead to plot your course as Nibbler keeps getting longer and faster and it gets quite challenging very quickly, assuming you aren't Rick Carter, which I am not - my high score is a mere 52,170 (casts eyes down in shame).

Nibbler was ported to the Apple II in 1983 and the Amstrad CPC in 1984. So if you're not a MAMER you might want to check out those ports. In 2005, JMD developed a freeware themable clone of the game (the Amstrad CPC port of the game anyway) for the Sega Dreamcast - although I've never seen that one.

Overall I think it's a decent little game with a certain charm.  Reminiscent of the old Snake games that have been around forever but all Pac-Manned up.  To me it tastes like Anteater (although Anteater is the superior game) with some Tron light cycles thrown in, except there are no ants or MCP hooligans trying to kill you - just your own ever-growing body. I don't hit this game on the MAME cab very often but will brink it up every great once in a while for a quickie. I give it 6.9 bulimic boa constrictors out of 10.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Portable Arcade Cabinet for Enduro Racing

Wanted to share this video I found tonight on Game Set Watch in case you guys hadn't seen it yet.

Brazilian artist Rafael MSP made a very nice sit-down arcade-style driving cabinet built around the Atari 2600 game Enduro. Enduro!  I thought that was pretty wild. And as if that isn't impressive enough - he built it so that it would be portable. So now if he's ever in the mood for some Enduro on the go he just opens up the swanky custom Atari Enduro briefcase and pulls out the pieces like an old-school Iron Man unpacking his armor.

I thought it was pretty darn impressive and cool. Of course it makes me feel kind of bad about myself since he built all that to play Enduro racing and I don't even really want to get off my ass to go to the kitchen and get a Dr. Pepper.  And I'm thirsty.

Check it out:

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Barcadia in Houston, Texas

Well, this post probably won't be of much interest to anyone living outside the Houston area but my gaming pursuits lately keep leaving me with thoughts of "meh - that's not really post-worthy" and as a result I go a month or so at a time without posting anything. Well I'm not goin out like that!  Post or die!

Mrs. MP and I were eating lunch at the 59 Diner last weekend before heading out on a little birthday road trip to Austin to play some vids and pins at Pinballz when it occurred to me that it was a perfect time to check out Barcadia, the still relatively new bar in midtown that serves up not only alkeehawlic beverages but some classic arcade games and giant-sized Jenga as well. I had my usual hesitation about checking out a downtown bar and the associated risk of potentially being surrounded by a douchey/hipster crowd, but trepidation be damned I was ready for some games and some afternoon beer - after all I was on vacation!

Parking was limited along the curb but there was a big dirt lot across the street with plenty of space, although strangely there was some loose barb wire on the ground in the lot. Not sure what that was about but we didn't run over it so OK.

First thing I noticed when I walked in was that the place was pretty small. It was fairly early in the afternoon so there weren't many people and only a couple of people were playing the games, but it didn't seem like it would take too many people to get unbearably crowded in there. Anyway, I moseyed on up to the bar and ordered a brewski to kick things off.

I saw a few guys commenting online that the bartenders were jerks but the guy that was there when I went was quite friendly. Everyone was pierced and tatted but cool. I think some people just like to bitch on sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor.

So now - the games!  The good news is that they had a pretty good collection of 15 old classics and 2 different multicade machines, the bad news is almost half of them had significant mechanical problems that interfered with their play  The games included:
  Asteroids Deluxe (I didn't play this one because people were on it but appeared to work fine)
  Defender (the Reverse button was broken - ever tried Defender without being able to turn around?  It's aggravating)
  Dig Dug (the up direction on the joystick worked about 10% of the time - also aggravating)
  Frogger (out of order)
  Galaga (graphics were messed up and everything was in red - weird)
  Ghosts n' Goblins (Worked great!  Still hard as hell but that's normal for G&G)
  Mario Brothers (I didn't play this one)
  Mortal Kombat (I didn't play this one)
  Ms. Pac-Man (I didn't play it but looked to work OK)
  Multicade (I assume this worked but multicades have lost some of their appeal for me since I have one at home)
  Paperboy (Am I the only person in the world that hates this game?  I think I am. I didn't play it)
  Phoenix (Worked fine and is still a fun classic. Spent most of my playtime on this one.)
  Popeye (Never cared much for Popeye so I didn't play this one)
  Star Wars (Worked part of the time but sometimes the tie fighters would distort and flatten out which made them a lot harder to shoot)
  Street Fighter II (didn't play SFII - although it is one of my all-time favorites)
  Track & Field (worked but one of the run buttons on the P1 side was broken so it was a little shaky)
  Williams Retrocade (meh another retrocade - would be fun to play with friends over beer though)
  Skee-Ball (not a vid but classic fun anyway - 1 of the 3 machines worked fine).

So I was a little disappointed that several of the machines were buggy, but they were all in pretty good shape cosmetically and if they would just put a little more work into them it would be a nice mix of old games with the multicades for flavor. Also, I heard that you had to pay for the games but when I went everything was on free play - they had outfitted the machines with buttons on the front that you pushed to insert credits. So I didn't feel cheated since the games were free anyway and the beer selection was pretty decent for a small joint.

The only problem with the whole 'drink beer while you play games' deal is the same exact issue I have with it at Joystix - there's just nowhere to put your beer while you play!  You have to leave it on a table or the bar which isn't exactly nearby.

So, in a nutshell, I thought it was a decent little joint and I definitely like the idea of a bar with retro arcade games, but they really need to work on their games to get them all working right for me to consider returning. Even then I don't really see myself making the drive downtown with Barcadia as the target destination, but if I was already downtown with friends I wouldn't mind stopping in sometime so I'm officially adding it to the Arcade Journal.

[Updated 4/12/2012]
A while back I heard through the arcade grapevine that the reason Barcadia's arcade games weren't working is that the owner stiffed the arcade repairman who was working on them and so word spread and so no one in the Houston area would work on his games. I don't know for sure if that is true, but now I heard through the ol' grapevine again that Barcadia has officially CLOSED. And word is that the owner skipped out on the landlord and didn't even tell his employees that he was shutting down. They just showed up for work and found the place cleaned out. Class act - this Barcadia. Headquartered in Dallas. Ah. 

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