Article 8 Middle Earth PSAs
Though we stand behind our first tribute to snow levels, we realize we overlooked a bunch of really great ones. So here's part 2! Enjoy our second tribute to the greatest wintery levels in videogame history. And if we missed one, maybe we'll make a part 3!
But don't count on it.
Few games seem so easily adaptable to the videogame world as Scott Pilgrim probably because Scott Pilgrim itself was so deeply influenced by videogames. Whether you think the Michael Cera film version was awesome or the awesomest (it's actually a little of both), it's hard to deny how great this throwback, beat-em-up game was and this level was a pretty fantastic introduction. It's games like this that make me wish my girlfriend had evil exes for me to defeat. And that people I beat up would turn into coins, instead of assault charges.
Ice Man may look like a relatively nonthreatening, slightly-deformed, neckless eskimo, but looks can be deceiving in the world of Mega Man. His stage is one of the most challenging in the original much moreso than the barely-not-copyright-infringing Bomb Man or the effective-against-Paper-Man Cut Man. The most challenging aspect was that nagging question: Why are there frozen-over palm trees in the background? Was it a bold statement about climate change, or did Capcom just try to lazily re-use some beach level sprites? You be the judge.
A MacGuffin was originally a film concept, defined as "an element that drives the plot of a work of fiction." Basically, they are cheap ploys that make a hero want to do something, and they've never enjoyed more prevalence than in the video game industry. Why do you want that princess, star, or weapon you can't even use? Because you do, you benighted controller monkey! Here's our tribute to the MacGuffins that deserve recognition for being awesome, terrible, ironic, or just confusing.
6. Triforce (Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
The Triforce was left behind by three goddesses (supposedly) and has the power to grant wishes, but only to a person with equal measures of courage, power, and wisdom. This seems to be one of those built-in after school special messages, as someone who already has all three qualities wouldn't have any trouble getting anything they wanted. Or even if you just had power, that's probably enough to put you on the road to success sans a set of wish-granting golden triangles. Of course, if you have no wisdom, power, or courage, presumably that's still equal measures, so we can only guess that Link is forever on a quest to prevent stupid, cowardly, unimportant people from touching the Triforce.
What would have happened without it: Ganon would have been forced to ruin lives by some other, less elegant method, like forming a standing army of desert people who are not so afraid of Master Swords, pretty ponies, and wind instruments. This situation would be moderately less difficult to navigate than the Water Temple.
They say "Never judge a book by its cover," but they never said we couldn't judge videogames that way. Terrible videogame covers have a lot of explanations: laziness, confusion, the desire to depict an airbrushed photo of Tommy Lasorda that came to the artist during a night terror, etc. But they all share one common factor: they are hilariously awful. Here are 20 of the worst offenders of all-time.
(Note: We are excluding the Mega Man games, since we already covered them extensively.)
Ultimate Duck Hunting
Somewhere down the line, game developers decided they weren't satisfied with just making games. They wanted to put games in their games. Miniature games. Some of them break up the single player experience, some of them add multiplayer and some of them are just something to do when you're bored (but not so bored that you want to turn the system off, go outside and meet other people). On rare occasions, minigames can be even more fun than the games they were packaged in. This is a tribute to the minigames that shamed their macrogames.
6) Original Pitfall (Pitfall: The Mayan Adventures)
I was alive in 1994, so I remember when there was only one videogame genre: platformer. Back then it wasn't a videogame if you weren't jumping over death pits to move the screen right. Pitfall: The Mayan Adventures didn't bring anything new to the table. It was full of cliches like jungles, vine swinging and runaway mine carts. While not a bad game by any means, you'd pretty much seen everything there was to see by the third level. The developers must have realized this because that's where they snuck in a secret portal to the '80s, one that stripped away all your bits and let you play the classic Atari version of Pitfall. It's still got the cliche vines and pits, but that's only because it invented them. Pitfall was the game that defined the genre. For better or worse, every platformer that came afterwards owes a lot to the original Pitfall, none more so Pitfall: The Mayan Adventures.
Not all video games have the benefit of million-dollar advertising campaigns and giant corporate monoliths to shove them forward into the spotlight. And not every gamer has $60 to drop on a triple-A title. But if you look around, you'll find plenty of small scale operations churning out gaming gold at little or no cost to you. Here are six of the best homemade games that you need to be playing.
6. Sleep is Death
What is the object of Sleep is Death? I can't tell you. No, not because I'm a dick. It's because it depends. It depends on who you're playing with. Sleep is Death is unique in that one player plays as the player, and the other player plays as the game. The game will be unique every time because of the person playing as your game.
Hold on. I know what you're thinking: This sounds pretty artsy fartsy pants. You're right. Sleep is Death is artsy. It was made by Jason Rohrer. You may be familiar with Rohrer's previous game, Passage, where you walk towards the right side of the screen until you grow old and die. Don't let that discourage you; this game's a lot more fun.
Sleep is Death is a point and click adventure on it's surface, but what you're really doing is working with a friend to create a story. It's kind of like Dungeons and Dragons, if Dungeons and Dragons didn't have any real rules or goals. Not only can this result in some pretty ridiculous scenarios, but the 30 second turn limit practically enforces it.
It's hard to even call Sleep is Death a game. It's more a fun creative outlet. The learning curve for playing as the omniscient game-god is rough, but I recommend giving it a shot. The experience is wholly unlike any other video game. The only limit is your imagination! Only for real, not like when we say that to little kids.
Buy Sleep is Death (pay what you want)
I was a couple years too young to have gone through the D.A.R.E. program that so much of my generation fondly remembers in the form of ironic t-shirts. Somehow, though, I learned to respect my body and keep myself on the straight and narrow, and like all of the best parts of myself, I chalk my drug-free lifestyle up to spending my formative years playing hours and hours of video games. While drug education relied on horror stories, video games maximized the coercive power of fear by letting us live the nightmare of a drug-filled lifestyle firsthand. Here's a rundown of the reasons to stay off drugs, as taught by gaming.
7. They'll Make You Explode
In Grand Theft Auto III, the Colombian cartels have introduced a new drug called SPANK to the streets of Liberty City, and it's a doozy. Something like cocaine on PCP, SPANK is highly addictive and causes paranoia and insanity, which is fine, if that's what you're into. SPANK starts getting problematic, though, in the mission "Kingdom Come," where you're attacked by "SPANKed-up madmen" with explosive vests and a passion for blastin'. The only thing more terrifying than combustible junkies are combustible junkies who won't shut up, and the SPANKed-up madmen have that pegged: they laugh like jackals and repeatedly yell "COME TO PAPA!", among the grossest interjections in the henchman's catalogue. I consider myself an adventurous guy, but if I'm starting my night with something I think is safe, healthy, mom-and-pop cocaine and ending it screaming my way across a parking lot with a C-4 shirt on, I might just pass this time.
All heroes of nerdy franchises become more powerful over time. They start out as rookies, then eventually become masters by training with a wise sensei or being corrupted by a cursed sword; you know the drill. The transformations are rarely realistic, but at least they offer some kind of explanation. Here's our tribute to six characters that got major upgrades for no apparent reason.
6. Claire Redfield (Resident Evil: Code Veronica)
Through Resident Evil 3, the main characters of the series were above-average survivors with a lucky streak. They had a slightly greater skillset than their idiot comrades and survived by utilizing teamwork and well-timed saves. Claire's first appearance in Resident Evil 2 painted her as the naÃ¯ve, but tough, little sister of Chris Redfield. She was by no means a damsel in distress, but definitely wasn't outrunning helicopters or killing 50 armed guards with a single bullet. Until Code Veronica, that is.
And the trend didn't stop there. By later games, Leon was dodging lasers like a Matrix character and Chris looked like he'd been shooting horse steroids directly into his dick after every meal. And don't even get me started on Wesker. I miss Barry.
Most videogame antagonists are pretty one-dimensional: they're content to twirl their mustaches, tie the hero's girlfriend to the tracks and drink milk straight from the carton. But every now and then a villain comes along whose motives run a little bit deeper. Maybe these "evil" characters are just misunderstood heroes with bad PR. Or even a true-blue villain who repents and hitches his wagon to the good guy caravan late in the game. We love these guys especially, because villain-turned-heroes are awesome: They dress better, they don't take any crap, and they still have that aura of lingering badassery that a Mario or a Crono is never going to achieve. In honor of our one-time enemies that fought alongside us, here are our candidates for the prestigious Vegeta Award For Excellence In Being Less Evil Than You Used To Be.
The jury's still out on what exactly an echidna is, but if they're at all like Knuckles in Sonic 3, we can assume they're a race of pointy-fisted animals that occasionally flip switches that make you fall off waterfalls. Then laugh about it. A lot.
As it turns out, Knuckles isn't actually that much of a dick. He had been tricked by Robotnik into thinking that Sonic was trying to steal the Master Emerald. And as the last surviving Echidna on Angel Island (thank you, Wikipedia), it was his sworn duty to protect it. Eventually he grew wise to Robotnik's evil ways (the army of robot slaves didn't tip him off initially) and joined up with Sonic. Nowadays, Knuckles is one of Sonic's greatest allies, even earning a title credit in the follow-up game, "Sonic & Knuckles," after only one appearance. See, this is why Tails drinks.