Category Archives: Retro Games
Attention, Funkotronian aficionados: A fourth installment of the adventures of the beloved 90’s duo, Toejam and Earl, is officially in the works — or it will be in a month, assuming the Kickstarter campaign meets its fundraising goal by then.
Greg Johnson, co-creator of Toejam and Earl and head of his indie team of four at Humanature Studios, has officially set plans into motion for the series’ next game, Toejam and Earl: Back in the Groove. According to the Kickstarter, the game will make use of mechanics popularized by the first and second games in the series — and thankfully, makes no mention of the third other than to say that the project won’t harken back to it.
“Will it be like game one or game two, you ask? Well… (holding breath)… mainly like game one. We plan to go old school with this one. Fixed isometric camera, 2D sprites, simple controls, and an emphasis on coop [sic] play. It will also pull in some of the more beloved elements from game two… Things like the Jam Out, hidden presents, and buttons and coin meters. Maybe we’ll even be able to bring back the Hyperfunk Zone! … Don’t worry we won’t make you sick and confused with an over-the-shoulder POV camera like we had in game 3.”
In addition, the upcoming game will bring all new elements to the table, such as a 4-player co-op mode, randomly generated levels, character customization, and headwear that modifies the characters’ abilities — or “hats for stats,” as I’ve decided to call them. The project currently has plans for a PC release, but hopes to spread to other consoles once a foothold has been established.
Of course, all of this depends on the Kickstarter reaching its $400,000 goal by March 27th at 3:00 PM EST. Over $150k has been pledged so far, and some truly amazing incentives have me wishing I could throw caution to the wind and empty my bank account. If anyone out there pledges enough to get those TJ&E vinyl figures and for some reason doesn’t want them, my ever-collecting hands are always open.
Obligatory Legal Crap
I am not associated with Humanature Studios and do not own Toejam and Earl — nor does Sega, I learned over the course of researching this article. Toejam and Earl is entirely the property of its co-creators, Greg Johnson and Mark Voorsanger.
I am, however, calling dibs on “hats for stats.” C’mon, that’s catchy as hell.
Is there anything I should know before writing this article?
When it comes to gaming, few genres face more scorn than educational games. “Edutainment,” as it was often called in the 90’s, typically stuck to the style of a third grade textbook with a few bells and whistles (or a licensed character) attached — and as a result, most of them were either awkwardly hilarious or mind-numbingly boring. Part of the problem was the belief that young kids will be entertained by just about anything, which led to a lack of attention to quality.
And then, of course, there’s Captain Novolin.
Released in 1992 by Raya Systems, Captain Novolin is a side-scrolling platformer with the relentless intention of teaching diabetic children to cope with their condition. It is, in my opinion, one of the purest incarnations of an educational game one could ask for. It’s wall-to-wall diabetes information at every turn, but also shows at least some interest in making the gameplay enjoyable by (poorly) mimicking other popular games of the time. In their quest to reach out to children facing a long future of needles and rigid diets, they managed to make one of the most spectacularly ill-conceived video games I’ve ever seen.
If you’ve never heard of this game before now, then it’s your lucky day. I recently decided to re-watch Diabetus’ infamous Let’s Play for the first time in years — and this time around, I tripped over something I’d never noticed before. If you can believe it, the diabetic man in spandex fighting giant alien snacks and divulging personal information to perfect strangers isn’t the weirdest element of this medical adventure.
Well, it’s certainly been a while, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss this place. Between a much-needed foray back into creative writing and concerns over that-which-shall-not-be-named, the Nerdy Activities this site promises have been a bit quiet. Luckily, it’s not been for a lack of inspiration, and I have all sorts of stories and ideas I’m looking forward to sharing with you guys, starting with a tidbit I tripped over in an unlikely place.
Among the various gifts I received over the holidays, one category that saw a noteworthy influx was plushies — 9 new dolls in total, in fact (due largely to one friend getting me an entire collection of Pikmin). In lieu of simply jamming them into my existing nets and calling it a day, I figured it’d be wiser to start a new one. TO GOOGLE!
Honestly, there’s not a lot to say about searching for a toy hammock; they’re essentially all the same item and sometimes even share stock photos of gently cradling a dozen or so generic stuffed animals that nobody wants or has ever heard of. Perhaps it was due to this slack-jawed parade of blandness that something unusual managed to stand out when I checked out Target‘s online selection.
Upon closer inspection of the center of the net…
Yyyyyep, that’s a Banjo-Kazooie plushie.
Considering that all I was interested in were prices, I’m still not sure how I even noticed this. It was an fascinating enough surprise, but even more astonishing was what the minimal amount of research I happened to put into the discovery uncovered. According to Video Game Memorabilia Museum, this particular doll was released back in 1998 to promote the original Banjo-Kazooie for the Nintendo 64. The entry lists this particular doll as “scarce,” and upon a quick search to verify this, I found a single doll on Amazon for $100 and one auction on eBay whose bids have already pushed it over $30.
The obvious question then becomes, how the hell did a 15+ year old super-rare doll end up in a generic toy hammock photo shoot? Obviously the plushies have to be supplied from somewhere, but where IS that? Did they just grab a bunch of dolls from a thrift store and didn’t realize what they had? Did someone bring in a bunch of old plushies from their kid’s toy box? Was someone on-staff a fellow gaming collector and sneaked in a gem from their private collection just for the laugh of an Easter egg?
Out of morbid curiosity, I decided to check the product reviews to see if any shenanigans had gone down; after all, not all companies go out of their way to state that the supplementary items shown with their product are not included with said product, and I could easily see some smartass complaining that their net didn’t come with a vintage Banjo-Kazooie plush. Unfortunately, it seems that the two people who’ve actually bothered to leave reviews either didn’t see it, didn’t know what it was, or don’t have anywhere near as lame of a sense of humor as I do.
However the doll got there, I suppose we’ll never know if it was put there on purpose. I’m still not sure if it’s funnier if they knew or didn’t know, so I’ll leave that for you guys to decide.
Obligatory Legal Crap
I do not own or have any affiliation with Banjo-Kazooie, Target, eBay, or Amazon. I don’t even own the net this article is focused on, let alone the dolls inside of it.
I do, however, own Pikmin. In the plushie sense, that is, not the licensing way.
While July 1st typically conjures thoughts of impending fireworks and barbecues for the average American, there is a certain breed of nerd for whom it’s New Years Day.
Club Nintendo, aka one of the sneakiest vehicles for market research on the planet, is a free membership program offered by Nintendo to its consumers. By registering the PIN codes included with specific game titles, gamers can earn coins that can then be used to for reward items in exchange for answering a short survey. If a user manages to accumulate 300 coins within one calendar year, that user achieves Gold status; those that earn twice that amount achieve Platinum. For whatever reason, Club Nintendo’s calendar begins its year on the first of July. This is significant because it also resets the counter tracking new coins. The previously earned coins are still there, and can still be spent on rewards, but each member’s progress toward achieving Gold or Platinum status is returned to zero after June 30th.
Well, last night was Club Nintendo’s new year’s eve, and I realized that I was still 70 coins shy of achieving Gold for the year. If it was purely a pat-on-the-back sort of ranking, I wouldn’t care if I reached it or not, but Club Nintendo offers a special free gift for its Gold and Platinum members each year. So far I’d managed to reach at least Gold for the last six years, and I wasn’t about to let 230 coins go to waste. Looking over my game shelf, I noticed that I still hadn’t opened New Super Mario Bros. U, which came bundled with my WiiU. I figured that it’d at least get me a big chunk of the way toward my goal (especially since it also contained the Luigi expansion), so I shredded the plastic wrap and cracked open the case — only to find it absent of a PIN code.
Figuring the PIN was simply missing, I decided to call up Club Nintendo to have it manually added to my account. I scoured the website and tracked down the toll free number, and after wading through the menu system, I found myself on hold to speak with a representative.
And that’s when I discovered that Nintendo is brilliant.
Many of you will recognize this as the daytime theme to Hyrule Field in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As it turns out, it’s also the hold music on Nintendo’s hotline.
This is nothing short of genius on their part. Ocarina of Time is not only one of Nintendo’s most wildly successful titles, but it’s considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time. There’s a very good chance that the people calling them up will be at least mildly familiar with the song, and upon realizing that it’s a tune from such a beloved title, they’ll probably be in a better mood. This is exactly what happened to me when I was on the phone last night; I can’t even tell you how long I was on hold, because I was so giddy over the fact that a Zelda song was being used as the hold music that I spent my time jamming along in my seat instead of getting impatient or annoyed.
Furthermore, my attitude once I got to talk to a representative was significantly better than it probably would’ve been otherwise. I ultimately received bad news from the gent helping me; apparently bundled games aren’t eligible for Club Nintendo points, but I was in such high spirits, the news really didn’t bother me that much. Instead I thanked the guy for his help and told him that the hold music was a very pleasant surprise. He chuckled and said that they get that a lot.
In light of what I learned last night, I’m kinda tempted to start calling up other game developers just to see if they too have done anything fun with their hold music. It really is something that more companies need to adopt; if someone’s calling customer service, they obviously have a problem, and given that some waits can be upwards of an hour or more, having good music can probably go a VERY long way toward making customers feel better about their outcomes, even if they didn’t get what they wanted.
Obligatory Legal Crap
I am in no way affiliated with Nintendo, Club Nintendo, or Legend of Zelda. I’m just a geek that found myself wanting to hook up my N64 after I got off the phone with customer service.
Those of you who’ve been around for a while may recall that Respawn Point is not the only group whose charity marathons I follow. The annual Mario Marathon has officially begun its 7th consecutive year behind the controller, tackling all of the main platforming games in the Mario franchise. As with every year, all proceeds go directly to Child’s Play Charity without the team ever touching it, and the cumulative donations unlock levels for the team to play for the duration of the marathon.
As if providing some escapism for sick children isn’t motivation enough, the team is also doing more contests more often this year to help bring in donations and spread the word. MM7 t-shirts are being raffled off every two hours to both donors and Twitter advertisers. To earn a raffle ticket, viewers can get one ticket per every $5 in donations, or a single ticket for tweeting a link to the marathon (no multiples). Other prizes will also be available, but what, when, and how are decided spur-of-the-moment. The only way to find out is to tune in to the show, and if you’re going to be there anyway, you may as well donate!
Obligatory Legal Crap
Mario, Luigi, Super Mario Bros, and all other games in the series (as well as their respective elements) are the property of Nintendo. Mario Marathon is not endorsed by Nintendo, but it’s not opposed by them either, which is why it’s gone on for seven years.
Child’s Play Charity is a non-profit organization that provides books, games, and other toys for children’s hospitals worldwide. I’m not completely sure what is and isn’t their property beyond their name and logo, so let’s leave it at that.
I am not directly affiliated with either Mario Marathon or Child’s Play Charity, but I am enough of a regular to the MM team that they routinely torture me with a ceramic pig.
Metroid: Zero Mission, released by Nintendo for the GameBoy Advance in 2004, is a title that rarely needs a formal introduction. It retold and revamped the original 1986 NES game by introducing graphics, controls, powers, and storytelling in a manner highly reminiscent of Super Metroid. It payed homage to several games in the series while still managing to stamp its own unique fingerprint on the Metroid canon. Needless to say, the game was a huge hit.
But I’m not here to talk about popularity today. I’m here to talk about bugs.
Yeah, these little shits.
While many choose to reign in the new year with the ball drop in Times Square, the Respawn Point team and hundreds of viewers worldwide prefer a slightly different celebration. As I write this very article, the fourth annual Sonic Marathon is just a couple days away from completing its yearly week-long charity marathon.
Sonic Marathon 4 (or as it’s properly named, “Sonic Marathon 4: Episode 1”) is a non-stop barrage of games starring the famous blue hedgehog in an effort to raise money for charity. In addition to the continuous stream of games, the marathon offers various community events, such as donation challenges and daily raffles. At the end of the marathon, one lucky donor will win a grand prize on Saturday, January 4th at 3:oo PM GMT.