31 December 2009

Banjo Kazooie To Appear In SEGA All-Stars Racing on Xbox 360

The latest trailer for SEGA's "Sonig & Sega All-Stars Racing" for the Xbox 360 was revealed today and it came with some "shocking" news.

Not only will the racing game feature "Avatar Racers", similar to what Activision did with Guitar Hero 5 (and Ban Hero) the game will also feature RARE'S main character "Banjo" and his sidekick "Kazooie" and judging from the trailer (which can be seen below) the concept of their car (or kart) was taken from the recent "Nuts & Bolts" game.

So it seems to me that SEGA are now starting to trail off down NAMCO's route of putting "exclusive" characters into different formats, this was first seen with Soul Calibur 2 when the Playstation 2 got Heihachi (from Tekken), Xbox got Spawn (DC Comics) and Gamecube got Link (Legend Of Zelda).

So the question remains - if the Xbox 360 is going to get Banjo Kazooie and Avatar's as an exclusive (or extra character) then what will the Playstation 3 (and other formats) get. Either way the latest trailer for the game can be seen below:

Rolling Thunder 2

Retro Game of the Day! Rolling Thunder 2

Today's Retro Game of the Day is Rolling Thunder 2 by Namco - a rather sharp run 'n gun, or "slow Contra," that appeared in arcades and then ported to Sega Genesis in 1991.

Let me start by saying this - Namco, have I got your ear? Headcase Games would loooOOoove to produce a current-gen reboot of the Rolling Thunder franchise. After spending a year and a half of our lives (apiece) working on Obsidian's "Alpha Protocol" (Action Spy RPG) we definitely have some chops in this area! And there's some great ideas kicking around in my head with where to take it. Contact me at ron@headcaseGames.com or just paypal the first milestone payment to me if you like. Whichever you prefer.

Maybe a free download code for Pacman CE. Something. One of those Pacman hats that the cute booth girls wear at conventions. I dunno.

Back on track - Rolling Thunder 2 was a sequel to an earlier Namco hit, unsurprisingly titled Rolling Thunder. A staple of my bowling-alley videogaming days, I never heard (or expected) a sequel to the slow-paced but stylish blaster, but suddenly one appeared out of thin air for the Genesis (I never crossed paths with the arcade). It looked pretty funky in the magazines (funky as in.. I don't know if I am interested in this!) and a further rental cemented the notion.

Turns out I was wrong! Years later on a long plane trip, I picked up an old copy of this to keep occupied "it's Rolling Thunder, how bad can it be?" I put the first stages through their paces and got a little more into the meat of the game. I was surprised to find a very enjoyable and well-put together little adventure in there. Under my nose all of this time!

RT2 puts you in control of a high-class secret agent, Bond style, or his femme fatale accomplice - or the both of you at once (bonus!) in a quest to save the world from some funny-looking alien invaders (think mid-1970s Japanese Robot Show bad guy pilots..) Unlike the first outing, which placed you in a vast complex, this episode sends your agents all over the globe (colorfully) as they take down the enemies.

I was shocked to play through the levels and see how different and varied they got. Not outstanding, but definitely bigger and more involved than I had expected. The design got pretty tight as well, with decent platforming/shooting and a special front/back technique that is unique to the series. That was a further iteration of the "ducking into a doorway/closet" seen in the first game, and it lends itself to some pretty interesting gameplay elements this time around.

All in all, Rolling Thunder 2 is one of those games which represents the best of what I love about a game or film experience - I come in with little or no expectation, and come out pleasantly surprised and eager for more. I am very curious to pick through the 3rd installment at some point! In the meantime, a big thumbs up for number 2, give it a play and enjoy!

Non RTS strategy games

An update so quickly? Behold the Free Gamer world is coming to an end. :p

So, we mentioned some promising RTS games in the last update. OK, I forgot to mention Spring1944, but I am also a bit reluctant to mention Spring and its mods since it is such a pain in the backside to get it running correctly. :(

Back on topic... there a quite a few really great non RTS FOSS strategy games. I guess I don't really need to mention the classics to the typical reader of this blog, but Wesnoth, FreeCiv, FreeCol and UFO:AI are all very playable and good looking games! However there are others that get less attention and also some that show great promise!

Advanced strategic command

Advanced strategic command is one of those that gets relatively little news coverage, even though it is a really playable game. Granted, its graphics are pretty much the same as its big inspiration, the classic Battle Isle series, but that doesn't necessarily make them bad, right?

A new version was just released a few days ago, which finally also includes a tutorial for those new to this type of game.

Also interesting is the (German) Project: Battle Planets, which could be described as a MMOTBS based on ASC. It is not quite what you would expect from this description as most of the MMO part is done manually by human game moderators, which exchange ASC games states between players (sorry, it is a bit hard to explain exactly ;) ).

A similar game to ASC is Crimson Fields by the way, which has found its way to many mobile platforms.


Another often neglected game is Widelands, which is obviously based on the classic game the Settlers (no not the Settlers of Catan, check Pioneers for that).

The graphics could still be improved a bit, but it is shaping up to be a very faithful and fun re-implementation of that great classic game.

Unknown Horizons

While we are at FOSS re-implementations of great games... Unknown Horizons is continuing to become a Anno1602 clone of epic proportions. ;)

It is not quite at the point where it could be described as a fully playable game yet, but you can expect it to become one relatively soon, I guess! (Another not quite playable but really promising game worth surely mentioning is FreeOrion by the way).


Last but not least, there is 8Kingdoms, which really is one of those games people don't even try after having a short glance at the screenshots. Yes, it's programmers art, albeit one that at least tried to hide it by having a plastic-like style for the figures. ;)

But if you actually try it, you will realize that even though it is a bit rough around the edges (why can't I set a custom wide-screen resolution :( ), the game play and the engine is already quite advanced.

What this game clearly needs is an artist taking over the graphical matters, and then this could quite quickly become one of those true FOSS strategy game gems!

Army Of Two: 40th Day Demo - Now Available on XBL and PSN

EA's second installment of the "CO-OP" Based "Army Of Two" game isnt set to be released for quite some time, however recently on Xbox Live Marketplace, and on the Playstation Network a decent size Demo has been uploaded for all other us gamers to download and enjoy.

The demo itself is 1.81GB in size and is apparently "only a small part" of the first level of the full game.

Not only that the demo can be played either in single player or in co-op mode. Whether or not this means "online co-op" is left to be seen.

Either way this demo is only a small taste of what we can expect to see in the final game, and on that bomb shell - check out my favourite trailer of Army Of Two:40th Day below:

30 December 2009

Dick Tracy (Genesis)

Retro Game of the Day! Dick Tracy (Genesis)

Dick Tracy for the Sega Genesis, released in 1991 and based on the previous year's film.

Early in the 1990s, Sega was enjoying the luxury of being the new Big Cheese with their Sega Genesis/Megadrive system. The only "true 16-Bit machine" on the block, at least until Nintendo rolled out their SNES a couple of years later, Sega tried padding their release lineup with lots of "big name-brand" titles featuring well-known sports stars (Tommy Lasorda, Arnold Palmer) and Superheroes (Spider-Man) and the like. It was still particularly hard for them to woo big names away from the Nintendo stable - which pretty much appeared to have all the exclusive rights for anything notable pretty wrapped up, as that was where the money was - still, a few got through.

After the Tim Burton-directed Batman movie release in 1989, Superheroes(and their fantasy worlds) experienced a huge rebirth in marketability. No longer seen as just "a kid's property," it became huge business and the stuff of Summer Movie Exposition/Cultural Landmarking - and all the crossover money that would mean. Dick Tracy was another very old property to be "rebooted" in a similar fashion, directly following this new legacy, in an attempt to cash in. Of course, some video games followed in the ensuing rollout.

Dick Tracy tells the story of a highbrow police detective who's sharp with his wits and sharper with his pistol, set against a bright and colorful 1930s metropolitan backdrop. The gimmick here is the atmosphere, which is very refreshing and unusual (and not really seen anywhere else these days). As with any other good superhero, Tracy's world is filled with a larger-than-life rogue's galley of villians, all appropriately cartoony (over the top - if a character was named "Lips" Johnson, for example, he'd literally have huge 5-foot puckered lips on his mug).

It all sounds like a promising setup for both a film, and a video game - unfortunately, neither turned out to be much more than a half-hearted effort. The Bandai-developed NES game was one story, and this Sega effort was another.

As for the game itself? Basically, they took the most generic side-scrolling blaster and skinned it with a Dick Tracy theme. This could have worked out, but considering Sega's similarly-developed efforts at the time, there was a bit of an expectation there. Dick Tracy was pretty easy on the eyes in screenshots - still, something was amiss. I picked up a rental one weekend and got my dose. There was the whole game - walk to the right. Shoot at enemies. Don't die. That's about it. Pretty graphics? Meh - colorful and clean, but mostly lacking pep. What was cool? There was a 2-layered depth system implemented. You could take out enemies up front with your pistol, but if someone showed up trying to blast you from across the street, you could whip out your tommy gun and open up on that sucker. That felt cool. Sadly, it was never really capitalized on, and just felt like another wasted effort in this whole drab game.

Why even bring up Dick Tracy at all, then? Well, some people liked it. It did represent a misstep of a young and eager Sega, who was making several right moves in many other directions of the time. I would say most people forgave them for putting out also-ran's like this when we got exceptional titles like ESWAT at the same time. In fact, I was really hoping that this title would end up like a 1930s ESWAT if that makes any sense. Not a "bad game," and one which is definitely fun to load up if you've not seen it - the theme alone makes it noteworthy, and some mindless blasting has its place as well. Just an empty effort with a wisp of what could have been. Moving right along!

Xbox Live Daily Offers - New Year Countdown

Starting yesterday Xbox Live now has a new "daily promotion" where for the next 12 days Xbox Live Arcade Games, Downloadable Content, Avatar Gear and other "downloadable content" are being offered at reduced prices.

This new Xbox Live Promotion all started yesterday with the "Christmas 2010 Glasses" were given away as a FREE Download to your avatar (which usually cost 40MS), now today Worms 2: Armaggeddon is now half price at 400 MS, instead of the usual 800 MS.

Obviously the deals are "one day only" and each deal will only be available for 24 hours before going back up to its usual marketplace price. In order to find these deals you will have to go to the "spotlight" section of the Xbox Live Dashboard (when currently connected to Xbox Live), Along here you will find a section called "countdown to new year" - inside here you will find a miniture advent calendar with numbers - each being locked apart from todays offer.

So the question remains - what will go on offer tomorrow? - Happy shopping!

Batman (NES)

Retro Game of the Day! Batman (NES)

I've not been very secretive of my love for Sunsoft and their brilliant work on the NES. Batman, released in 1989 to coincide with the Tim Burton film, is among the highlights of their portfolio of games.

A very straightforward action-platformer, Batman NES fell right in line with other titles of that mold of the day - Strider (NES version), Castlevania, Ninja Gaiden. You had a basic punch attack, and several secondary weapons (batarang, rocket gun, and "dirk" - a 3-way spread weapon). To employ any of these weapons you'd need to acquire MP, but usually a good player could make it through much of the game with only his brains and fists - very appropriate for a game based on The Dark Knight, eh?

This was an absolutely gorgeously rendered game, among the best looking on the NES. The sprites, though minute, were exceptionally detailed and well-animated. Each level had extremely lively backgrounds that were carefully and exquisitely constructed. Sunsoft were absolutely at the top of their game here. It's not for everyone (this is a very dark and moody game, steeped in the underbelly of the criminal underworld - no happy Super Mario bushes here!) but I think most seasoned gamers would have to admit that they completely nailed the feeling of a dark, grim Batman theme perfectly.

Likewise, the music is outstanding. Not very Batman-ny, true, but quite catchy and lively. Even all these years later I will still boot up the old .NSF files from this game, once in awhile. It's remarkable to see such thought and care into what could otherwise have been a pretty easy sale (it is a licensed game, after all, based on a very prominent property).

Gameplay-wise, I notice quite a divide in the opinions of people. The average gamer will often refer to this game as being quite difficult - in fact, I'd say quite the opposite. After wrestling with games such as Ninja Gaiden, Batman was really quite a cakewalk - though still much less so than it's 16-Bit counterpart (a visually superior, though gameplay-wise, inferior effort - still a great title!) I breezed through the game fairly quickly, finding it's control butter-smooth with very easy-to-perform wall-jump maneuvering.

That will wrap it up for Batman on the NES then - one of the top games for the system in my book, it was unfortunate to see the IP become so sullied down the road (Batman games deteriorated in quality as the years went on - until recently, of course!) This old NES cart might draw some skepticism, though most will consider it a timeless classic which ranks among the best in the Nintendo catalog.

29 December 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Galaxy Force

Retro Game of the Day! Galaxy Force

Galaxy Force by Sega, original arcade release in 1988 and ported to the 8-Bit Sega Master System a year later, and then to the Sega Genesis in 1991 (and several subsequent systems years later).

Let's face it - back in the 1980s, Sega meant serious business when it came to their arcade operation. They put out no shortage of above-average standard coin-op fare, but they really stole the show time and again with their deluxe units. Space Harrier, Thunder Blade, After Burner, Outrun, Hang-On - each was available in a super deluxe version in addition to the normal uprights, and these deluxe machines were breathtaking. For years, one machine dominated the others amongst them - Galaxy Force!

Essentially a souped-up version of After Burner in space - sort of - Galaxy Force was a feast for the senses. Sega obviously poured lots of money into the tech and hardware of this one, and it was an immersive experience unlike anything else available at the time. That is, if you could actually find a unit to play!

The game was not anything particularly deep, just another behind-the-ship space blaster. Dodge enemy fire, fire your thrusters, launch missiles, try to prevent your shield from depletion - all in a day's work. You'd enter mazelike enemy fortifications and manuever through dangerously tight corridors. It was tense, it was rewarding, it was the king, baby!

The game was ported of course, it was one of the short-list of 4-Megabit carts to appear on Sega's 8-Bit home console. Not much to write home about, as of course there were literally worlds of difference between the home version and what was possible with the full arcade experience - still, for the time, it was a fun title in its condensed presentation.

A couple of years later, a new Sega console released and with it, upgraded versions of their big arcade hits slowly trickled out to be more beefily-represented at home once again, with the power of the new hardware behind them. Games like Hang On, Space Harrier II and Super Monaco GP all made rather impressive debuts on the new Genesis/Megadrive console - when Galaxy Force was announced as coming down the pipe, it was certainly cause to raise a brow.

Unfortunately, the 16-Bit Genesis version landed with quite a thud rather than a sonic boom. The game seemed pooped out, stripped down to a very skeletal state - much of what made the arcade experience so remarkable was gone, leaving a bare shell of a game. Still playable, and not what one would consider an outright failure - but they definitely phoned this in. A shame!

In spite of Galaxy Force's seemingly ruined legacy, the game is still remembered and loved to this day by those who were lucky enough to enjoy the proper arcade monster during its heyday. It's seen re-releases on the Sega Saturn (which still wasn't an appropriate port!) and much more recently on the Sony PlayStation2. In fact, I really need to see about picking up an import of that someday - I've never had the opportunity to really put the game through its paces, and it still looks pretty gorgeous even today.

Space Harrier 3D

Retro Game of the Day! Space Harrier 3D

Once upon a time - Sega made something great. It was called Space Harrier 3D, and in 1988 it was released for the Sega Master System "Segascope 3-D" series.

Space Harrier was already a very popular arcade series in Sega's stock - we've picked apart a further iteration (16-Bit Genesis release) in this column previously. Though that was a higher-tech piece of software, this iteration released prior to that and was a more compelling experience.

Sega developed a unique Stereoscopic-3D system for use with their console, of which a short list of special games would take advantage. Here's how they works - plug the cheap plastic specs into the Power Base (or Control Deck if you prefer), fire up the game, and the system would alternatively flick on or off a dark LCD for either lens - effectively blocking the vision of either your left or right eye, for one second. On-screen, a flickering image would flash in tune with the glasses. So for one second the left eye's screen would be visible as it's LCD was in the "off" state, then the next second the right eye's screen would be visible as the left eye was blocked. Does any of this make any sense?

Regardless, the effect was dramatic. This was a huge jump beyond the Red/Blue 3D effects that were seen in other games. The SegaScope 3-D games were something else! You'd get a true feeling of depth, like you could just reach between your face and the screen and you would almost expect to be able to pluck a game character out of the air.. Not bad for something I picked up for a song at a yard sale, eh?

As for the game itself, this was vintage Space Harrier - very solid, very fun blasting and dodging, with that trademark cheery weird Japanese Calliope music that is so specific on the Master System (that I love so much!). Limited by the technology of this particular platform (as compared to its arcade predecessor), the game was simplified, small, and pastel-colored. Still, it ran as competent a game of SH as the processor was capable of, and things looked nice enough with the usual range of interesting and detailed enemy sprites attempting to blow you out of the sky (kudos for the blatant Tie Fighter rip-offs, and Tomcat Fighters as well!)

In all, I would rank this up there as a "must-see experience," as Space Harrier 3D is certainly one of those games which only the fanboys have ever got their hands on. It's most certainly a treat, as most of the SegaScope 3-D games were, and I look forward to examining some of the others in this column in the future.

SEGA Sale on Playstation Network To Start Soon!

In a recent post on the Official SEGA US Blog, SEGA have stated that a majority of PSP Go, PS3 DLC and Playstation Network games will go on sale for 2 weeks (from 24th December to 7th January to be exact).

Now do not get too excited as this is only for SEGA related games - such as Sonic Genesis Collection on PSP and Gunstar Heroes PSN Game.

No prices have been announced as of yet and at the moment i believe this offer is only available on the US Playstation store - so the EU may get something different (or nothing all together - we just have to wait and see).

Either way here is a list of games that are going on sale on 24th December 2009:

Alien Syndrome
Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars
Full Auto 2: Battlelines
Iron Man
Sega Genesis Collection
Sonic Rivals
Sonic Rivals 2
Super Monkey Ball Adventure
Football Manager 2010
SEGA Rally Revo

Sonic Unleashed Apatos & Shamar Adventure Pack
Sonic Unleashed Chun-nan Adventure Pack
Sonic Unleashed Empire City & Adabat Adventure Pack
Sonic Unleashed Holoska Adventure Pack
Sonic Unleashed Mazuri Adventure Pack
Sonic Unleashed Spagonia Adventure Pack
Sonic 2006: Very Hard Shadow Missions
Sonic 2006: Very Hard Silver Missions
Sonic 2006: Very Hard Sonic Missions
Valkyria Chronicles Edy’s Mission “Enter the Edy Detachment”
Valkyria Chronicles Hard EX Mode
Valkyria Chronicles Selveria’s Mission “Behind Her Blue Flame”
Gunstar Heroes (PS3 only)

You can check out the official blog post here.

28 December 2009

Four New Games For Windows Live Arcade

Awhile ago the "Games For Windows Live Dashboard" was updated with a fresh "Live Marketplace" where full "on demand" Live PC Games (with achievements) could be bought and downloaded straight onto the PC, well not only that Arcade styled games were also added. The first of which was called "Tinker" and was a free download.

So now not only can Xbox Live offer "Arcade" styled games and full Xbox 360 Games on demand, but the "Games For Windows" service can now offer the same stuff.

Well today the Games For Windows Live marketplace has been updated with four brand new Games For Windows Live Arcade games, which are:

  • Mahjong Wisdom (400 MSP)
  • Osmos (400 MSP)
  • Where's Waldo? (600 MSP)
  • World of Goo (800 MSP)

All Four games are now available to download from the US and EU Games For Windows Live Marketplace - the only thing i can not seem to find is the "Trial" versions like Xbox live has, as for Arcade games i like to try before i buy. Happy Shopping!

FOSS RTS games

Hey FreeGamers!

I know, news are a bit slow here lately, but all three of us are a bit busy with real-life issues, I guess. So if you are interested in becoming a contributor to this blog drop us a line in the forum!

We have also recently gotten some readers feedback concerning this blog entry. I have to admit that our background search was a bit short concerning the Hypertension game... and it turned out that this game is surrounded by some controversy concerning the (probably illegal) use of the original Blood art assets (which were only granted by Monolith to the Transfusion project).

Are there any good FOSS RTS?

Well that depends on what you think is good :)
We have had a small discussion in our forums which resulted in a lot of links to all sorts of FOSS RTS. So if you are looking for some obscure (often unmaintained RTS) have a look.

Overall I would say however that currently there is none that can be recommended without doubt. This might change soon however!

0-A.D. Commercial grade FOSS RTS?

We have mentioned this great project before, and especially since they have gone fully open-source earlier this year all eyes of the FOSS community are probably on this gem.
So far a consumer ready release seems to be still distant however, even though some parts of the game look quite playable already:

Development is progressing though and you can have a look at this interview with the current project leader for some background infos and nice new screenshots. Further news can be found on Moddb.com.

Upcoming Warzone2100 developments

Warzone2100 is one of the few really playable FOSS RTS games out there. There are steady improvements and sometimes you can even find someone to play online ;)

With it's Playstation 1 art assets it is quite a chore to look at however. There is light on the horizon though; A new terrain renderer was recently developed for it and is expected to be released with Version 3.0.

Let's hope this will reach us gamers ASAP!

Their forum has also some other nice upcoming features to offer. There are plans to update the GUI, with some really nice mockups.
Furthermore MaNGusT is working on new units:

And there is a nice mod project involving mechs :)

The Game Of Avatar

Avatar: The Game
Avatar: The Game is the official video game based on the same title - highly anticipated film James Cameron's Avatar. The video game will take you deep into the heart of Pandora, an alien planet that is beyond imagination.

Avatar: The GameAvatar: The GameAvatar: The GameAvatar: The Game

Gamers will encounter the Na'vi, Pandora's indigenous people and discover other life forms the likes of which have never been seen in the world of video games before. When conflict erupts between the RDA Corporation, a space-faring consortium in search of valuable resources, and the Na'vi, gamers will find themselves thrust into a fight for the heart of a planet and the fate of a civilization.

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