Posts Tagged ‘sports’

Game 58: Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis

Posted: June 1, 2011 by mulholland in Games
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Game 702/1001 according to the list

Genre: Sports
Platform: Xbox 360, Wii
Year of Release: 2006
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
Publisher: Rockstar Games

If ever there was a game that could be inspired by an AIR song it would be this one. Yes ‘Kelly Watch The Stars‘ is not exactly the sort of song you would associate with gaming but when there is a realistic depiction of table tennis on offer you can bet Moon Safari will be playing in my mind.

Our Thoughts

And so here we already go full circle, from table tennis game to table tennis game. I think the weirder thing to note is that of all the Rockstar developed games on the list we have first chosen to do the only one where you are unable to maim people. Unless you count the possible trajectories of rogue ping-pong balls. I suspect they won’t do more than leave a bruise. Unlike paintballs which, as Byker Grove taught us, can blind you. Or hurt you far more than a ping-pong ball, as a particularly fierce game taught me.

The title of the game really says all about what it is, and that’s pretty much what it is. No complicated submodes, no special features, just playing table tennis versus CPU or player. In the race to make games with all the features under the yellow sun it is somewhat a breath of fresh air to have a game which is so focussed on one thing and decides to do it very well. Some would say that it was a test-run of the RAGE gaming engine which would later go on to power the likes of Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption. However, one thing that I would say about this is that it was a rip-off at the original release price. Since we got this second-hand in a Game in York I feel we got it for a steal. Yeah, 5 pounds for this game is a very good deal. Full price for a game like this… Because it does the one thing well, it doesn’t do more, and while it’ll hold your attention, it doesn’t do it in a way that, say, Fallout 3 does. It’s a good game, and a great try at the engine, but it’s not a full game. Well, not in the current climate… in the amount of gameplay, this game lags a few years. This game was released a bit before downloadable content made it big. If this was made now I can see it being up on offer on Xbox Live instead. Yeah, that makes sense for this game. Perhaps they should, it would be worthwhile if they could do it. We appear to be underselling this game (excuse the pun). In a way, yes, but it would serve as a good warning not to expect ten storylines and lots of background. There’s less of a storyline than your standard fighting game… and that’s saying something.

What the game does, it does well: allow you to play table tennis, in a way that works well despite the limits of the controller. I have to admit that I was very impressed how they were able to bring table tennis to life using shoulder and coloured buttons as well as the joystick. During the tournament mode I actually felt my heart beating fast as I got further and further into it. It was quite frustrating to see him do not entirely 10-0… Someone… was not happy. True, this was not a cakewalk of a game. Each player has their own strengths and weaknesses which mean some can be hell for amateurs like us to play against.

One way you can try to level the playing field is with focus shots which, on the 360, are activated using the right shoulder button. This slows time down and allows you to make difficult shots which can either allow you to win the point or to stretch your arm out to prevent your opponent from scoring a winner. Making for not just an easier moment, but also a fairly exciting more cinematic game. Even more interesting to watch that way – even if you’re not playing. It also makes for better screenshots. Very true. Except for the blur, of course. It also helps to showcase the graphics, which are pretty damned good. As the game progresses your player actually begins to glisten with sweat.

In the end this is a nice little sports game to waste an afternoon on but not much else to be honest. However, it stands as the best and arguably most realistic attempt ever made to bring ping-pong to the home console. And with it being available for cheaper now you know where to look, it’s worth going after it to spend an afternoon on it. And possibly another one too. Pick up, play and try more. All available from your local second-hand game retailers.

Final Thoughts

So many people have sold this game off to the likes of Gamestation, Game, CEX and HMV (all fantastic stores) so they can invest in the newest games. This is great for the likes of us and is also for the likes of you. If you can pick this up for less than a fiver I suggest you to pick it up as it is well worth it as both a sports title and a mild video-gaming curiosity.


Game 32: SSX Tricky

Posted: February 23, 2011 by mulholland in Games
Tags: , , , , , ,

Game 492/1001 according to the list

Genre: Sports
Platform: Playstation 2, Gamcube, Xbox, Game Boy Advance
Year of Release: 2001
Developer: EA Canada
Publisher: EA Sports BIG

Multitasking is considered by some to be the spice of life, this is especially so with this blog. At any one time we typically have 2-3 games on the the go and SSX Tricky is a perfect candidate for a game you can just pick up and play on multiplayer whenever you want. This in stark contrast to games like Uplink and the forthcoming Final Fantasy VII which are best to cover in either one or two long sittings.

If you have previously read my profile you will know that SSX Tricky ranks as my favourite sports game of all time. Since the only sports game we have covered to this previous is this blog’s namesake it would be fair to say this is the first sports game we have covered that feels even slightly true to life.

Our Thoughts

So here we go, a sports game, and not for one of the largest sports out there; one that says that I am “full of class”, unless I suddenly find myself careering headfirst into a mailbox. It is a very revealing game and quite on the ball too as well as being the only sports game that I will defend to the hilt.

This playthrough has been greatly helped by me finding my old memory card on which is a file where I had unlocked all the tracks as well as master rankings for two snowboarders. Yeah, it’s been a great hep in seeing the game, although the fact that you almost completely ignore the male characters means that there was still plenty of early gameplay for me to pick up on. What do you mean? I had the rankings for both a male and a female. Well, okay, you did something for one male. The others were completely ignored. Even if he did seem to be the cutest one anyway, so that would explain that…

I mean when you view her level-up video it’s no wonder that my favourite is Kaori. Who wouldn’t love a panda backpack that break-dances? Yeah, breakdancing pandas sound… cute. Not that I had a chance to see that now. Just click the link a few lines ago. Ah yes. How did that get there? Well, in any case, it’s worth checking out.

One thing that I think needs to be noted is that this one of two snowboarding games on the list (the other being 1080° Snowboarding). It was during this time that there were quite a few snowboarding games out there and I was a bit of a fan despite no inclination to take to the slopes. The only main franchise absent here is Coolboarders… and if you have played them it’s pretty easy to see why when compared to the sublime madness of SSX Tricky.

It is insane, in a good way Mind you, you can tell this game is from the early noughties, as the characters would have been hip then, while now several seem, well, dated. The characters (and the voice actors behind them) are one of the main reasons that SSX Tricky is so fantastic. So much time was taken to flesh each of them out and make them as distinct from each other as possible. With voice actors as varied as David Arquette, Bif Naked, Lucy Liu and Macy Grey lending their talents you can get an idea of the different personalities on show. This is further elaborated in the making of videos that are packaged on each disc (with the explanation behind Brodi being particularly eye-opening). And the care put into the characters does show. They’re distinctive personalities, and you do start to like and dislike some of them – further helped by them actually being friends and enemies of you during the game – more likely the latter than the former.

The friendships actually matter in the games since an enemy can actually sabotage your chances by knocking you over. also the cutscenes watching the prospective boarders bicker can be fun. Especially since every boarder speaks in their native tongue (or at least in the right accent). This global view is a nice touch and one that the makers of Dead or Alive should heed when marketing their games abroad. Something actually taken a step further when they replaced one American character (Mac) with a German one (Marty… so cute) for the European release of the game. Then there’s the next step of customization, outfits and boards. With the latter being actually useful, and the former just… looking cute I guess. Some of the female’s outfits just scream fan service. (The females’) Not just them. You can have Brodi ride shirtless and he is nicely toned. We need to play more when we’re done with our writing then (oh jees) but yea a perfect example of the fanservice is Elise’s PVC policewoman outfit.

The next part, then, are the tracks. A nicely varied bunch, although some of them can get somewhat confusing. Some of them are truly insane. I mean Tokyo Megaplex is essentially a giant pinball machine with sections of zero gravity (with possibly the greatest potential for tricks). Then there is Hawaii’s Aloha Ice Jam where you are racing down a giant iceberg, which by sheer coincidence is melting (with a lot of tricky jumps and fast slopes.) The amount of thought that has gone into the construction of each track is mindboggling. It will take weeks of playing to uncover every conceivable route and discover each hidden shortcut. One of which means you have to dodge marauding penguins. Something Peter obviously wasn’t great at, as he squeed audibly several times over (imagine me glaring at him) …it’s cute. And yes, the later courses get worse. The early ones are fairly easy, but as you get further, you’ll be falling down ten times a minute.

That can depend on your ability though. There is a steep difficulty curve, but it’s done in such a way that warrents replay upon replay of the tracks. I cannot begin to count how often I have played the first track… It’s very true, and it’s not a bad thing – figuring out more ways to get through the tracks and do more tricks is very rewarding and the game does reward you for it.

The most rewarding aspect of the game, however, has to be the tricks. Even after years of playing this on and off there is a great deal of satisfaction that can be derived from executing a truly magnificent trick. It is, and it really makes you happy when you manage something like a 900 degree turn. Followed by a rail 50/50 and whatever more there is?

The best ones are tricks that simply defy the laws of gravity. Like executing a double back flip whilst doing the worm on the board. Kaori pirouettes, JP break dances and Marisol… well I am not really sure how to describe what her personal uber trick is. Yeah, it makes you wonder how that works. But then, at times, when you’re that high in the air, it feels like time slows down as you’re up there. Once you max out your characters stats and equip them with their uberboard then the tricks you can accomplish are stunning. The best one being where you do such acts of insanity that it can only title it as “???”. That’s quite insane, as I’ve never reached that, despite doing some impressive stunt even excluding the faceplants.

And if you do it well, you get ‘rewarded’ with Run DMC. Just an example of the great music used throughout. Each track gets their selection of songs which help add to their overall feel. There is also commentating by beat boxer Rahzel. Some of the quips that they have him come up with (depending on your boarding expertise) are genius. Mostly assuming you’re good enough. He is invaluable to the game’s atmosphere and was sorely missed in this game’s sequel SSX 3. I can see why that would be.

If there’s one criticism I’d have to give of this game, then it’s the learning curve that makes that a lot of the cool stuff stays locked just a bit long. Especially the cooler tracks are a long wait away. If you are more skilled with racing games then it makes a real different to the amount of time it takes to unlock all the tracks. Theoretically it may only take a few hours if you give it a good enough go. Thanks. It doesn’t help that the practice sections were not covered for the purposes of this review. The slope used to practice tricks is especially useful as it helps you realise how much of them rely in the timing.

As I mentioned in my profile this is my top sports game and I really hope Jeroen can see what I fell for. I can absolutely see that, and it might well be the best I’ve played so far. But we do have California Games coming up. As well as another 45 sports titles… Joy! Well, if this is part of the best, then these should turn out to be okay. But whether they’ll beat SSX Tricky… we’ll see. It’s a good start.

Final Thoughts

How can I finish now, having already mentioned everything there is to mention? The characters and level design of this game stand out, and it sets it apart from more normal sports game where you keep running around the same field with football players whose only differences are the shirts and hair colour.  The graphics are good – sure, it looks outdated by now, but it’s on that edge where it’s actually quite good still. And then there’s the sound, and I keep humming along to the songs I do know.

If you feel you have to try a sports game, this is the one you’ll want to go for. Truely. Until the next one that’ll make us change our minds, of course.

Game 1: Pong

Posted: November 22, 2010 by Jeroen in Games
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Game 2/1001 according to the list

Genre: Sports game
Platform: Arcade
Year of Release: 1972
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari

The year is 2184 and evolution has brought us to our pinacle. Humanity consists of paddles and has but one goal in life: Stay entertained by throwing balls at…

Okay, never mind. There’s no story in Pong. There’s no real point. It’s an early form of table tennis. Move a paddle up and down and bounce a ball back and forth. Don’t hit it and when it hits the back wall, it explodes and the opponent gains a point. That’s it.

Our playthrough

After a false start, we did the one thing we could with this game: A straight 1 vs 1 Pong match to the death. Or to the end of the game, which ended up being 11-5 for us. In Peter’s favour. In my defense, I won the first trial match. He did win the second one, but I clearly have the intuition advantage here.

Our Thoughts

I still can’t believe that you broke the bloody thing. If you play a game like this, you have to push it to the limit. blah blah blah.

Probably an integer wraparound that caused a wrong position on the screen. In layman’s terms he magicked onto the top and the bottom at the same time and because of a neat trick in the original design the paddles do not go all the way up or down, apparently to make sure a game could not go on infinitely.

Well, it was just at the top, it just made it look like it was also on the bottom. Yea, but the paddle could not reach all the way to the bottom in our version and I exploited that sweet spot with a wicked shot. Just once, though, and I got close a few times.

Yea but you never succeeded and that’s why I won 11-5. You’re more easily fooled by a sudden last second move you made out of nowhere and you’re more easily able to break an Atari classic. That’s me, I suppose.

And a classic for sure, by the way. It’s cool to play it on laptops… if a little awkward.

The book features one earlier game, but this is the game that really started it all. The only previous one is The Oregon Trail. A game only I have played before since it came installed on my first PC. And no I am not a time travelling journalist from the 1970s, sometimes I wish I were…

… Yeah. Anyway, Pong’s certainly the game that entered the public consciousness and is known as the early video game, and one that’s still replicated in other situations, often as some Easter egg or similar. I remember it being included as bonus game in some of the Commander Keen games.

I remember it for being in an advert with Andy Roddick where he had to play tennis against it. A lack-lustre volley always defeats Pong. That’s not exactly playable… but really? It’s like playing badminton against a brick wall, a weak shot and you always win.

Anyway, it’s clear to see why it would become a game that lasted that long. These days, we’re used to more, but it’s a fun, simple game. And if you’re not careful, it can get quite addictive.

It still stands up in the face of realistic graphics and RPG storylines that make you cry. It’s a classic example of K.I.S.S. which still endures to this day. Granted, there was a lawsuit about the originality of the game… but that’s for Wikipedia to educate.

Yeah, that’d be interesting to look up. As another testament to its simplicity – the game is entirely done in hardware, no software, no code was written for it. In other words, there are no microchips or anything like that involved – it’s all based on how things were soldered together. That’s an impressive achievement too. Like a bicycle. Yes, and unlike a car these days.

Right, so it’s time to break out the Wii Balance Board. You’re investigating Wii Fit! Seemingly so. From the oldest game to something quite new. Although both still seem to feature bars and hitting them, just in one case with a featureless 3D woman in the background. …and both have a chance of causing a sports injury. Fun times…

I look forward to watching you try the yoga. Of course you will. I will see whether it’s actually going to be fun doing any yoga. I am not yet convinced.

Final Thoughts

As first game played, this is obviously the best and worst played so far – a list we will be making later as we get more into it. If nothing else, this is the classic that started a lot. That, as well as its gameplay, fun experience  and the sheer delight of letting a square miss your opponent’s rectangle, will mean this game will most likely outlive the vast majority of games now out there and coming out now.