Category Archives: Games

Igloo Command High Score Competition!

I’m pleased to announce that a new version of Igloo Command for iOS that features worldwide online high score leaderboards via OpenFeint and Apple’s Game Center is now available! Also available via OpenFeint: achievements!

Download it free now, and if you already have the game, update it via your iOS device today! (Sorry Android fans, Igloo Command leaderboards are not available for Android yet…)

To heighten the stakes (and to reward those players who have been practicing without their scores being recorded) I’m offering some prizes (in a style reminiscent of the Bobby is Going Home 2 ‘pleasure pak’) to the player who has the highest score listed on either OpenFeint or Game Center at 12 PM EST on July 7, 2011. You’ll also be awarded worldwide acclaim by yours truly.

Dreamcast Pleasure Pak...This new millenium retro-gaming ‘pleasure pak’ includes:

* A Sega Dreamcast console with all necessary A/V and power cords.
* One controller pad with VMU unit.
* Three games: Marvel Vs. Capcom 2, Sega Smashpack, and NFL 2K.
* Championship Edition Igloo Command T-Shirt.

Let the games begin! And don’t forget to rate the newest version of Igloo Command via iTunes!

Igloo Command reaches 1,000 Downloads!

Igloo Command in 1080p!

Igloo Command in HD!

A sincere thanks to everyone who downloaded Igloo Command, my first mobile game! In a little over 2 weeks time, there have been over 1,000 downloads! Wheee!

Right now I’m hard at work bringing the most needed and asked-for feature, online leaderboards, to the iTunes App Store. With any luck, there’ll be an update available within the next week with both OpenFeint and Game Center leaderboard support.

To sweeten the pot, I’m also plotting a high score competition with some tasty prizes for those most avid of players as my way of saying thank you for giving Igloo Command a try. (You may or may not remember the rad Bobby is Going Home 2 high score competition…) I’m looking forward to bringing some more complex games your way in the coming months.

I was also fortunate enough to be able to debut Igloo Command properly (in HD!) at the ITP Spring Show where probably a few hundred tots, young adults and old folks got to get their hands on an iPad and defend some igloos. I personally witnessed a new high score by young Ben, with 32,700 points!

Stay tuned for Igloo Command update next week. Also, enjoy this video of Mr. Ham tip-tapping away in HD pre-show.

In Defense of the Atari 7800

The Atari 7800 is a truly underrated and oft-overlooked game system.

It is the only Atari machine that truly fulfills the promise of every game system before it: arcade-perfect ports of classic games. No longer would classics such as Ms. Pac Man be butchered beyond recognition by hardware that wasn’t up to the task. Seriously, the versions of Dig Dug, Ms. Pac Man, Food Fight, and Donkey Kong Jr. for the Atari 7800 are *the* kinds of experiences you would want from anything called Atari.

Unfortunately this achievement came just one generation too late. With the NES in full-swing, players were no longer thirsting after perfect ports of arcade classics. Thanks to Nintendo and Sega, they now had access to great original software developed for the home a la Super Mario Bros., Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. It was at this moment in time that the arcade experience was finally surpassed by the home video game console, a blow from which arcades were never able to recover.

I still think the Atari 7800 represents a good deal for the retro enthusiast on a budget. Despite the tragically small library of Atari 7800 games, the Atari 7800 features backwards compatibility with the Atari 2600, only the most popular video game system of all time. Not a bad feature to boast. Two systems for the price of one.

So here’s to you, Atari 7800! Shine on you crazy diamond!

Why the iPhone/iPad can't be the future of videogames.

The iPhone and iPad are not the future of gaming. Ironically, it took a rather spectacular game, Castlevania: Encore of the Night, to help me fully conclude this.

You’d think Castlevania: Encore of the Night would be as convincing a title as any as to the promise of iPhone/iPad gaming. Its got great 2d visuals, awesome music, and familiar RPG elements all wrapped in a thoughtful Puzzle Fighter-esque sort of puzzle game. It’s a card-carrying member of one of traditional videogaming’s longest running and most well-regarded franchises, Castlevania by Konami.

What’s the problem, then? It’s a puzzle game, albeit a fine one, which really begs the question, why aren’t we playing a traditional Castlevania game on the iPhone/iPad? It’s because we can’t. With the lack of tactile controls, use of a traditional directional pad and buttons aren’t available and movement would either be reduced to a tiresome tap and drag affair or to a pathetic on-screen representation of a directional pad and buttons.

Even Castlevania: Encore of the Night, despite its good design, is rather a chore to play. (You have to click on each block to rotate it and ‘swipe’ to move it left or right). What does it say about the iPhone/iPad that it can’t even play Commodore 64 games properly (via the admittedly cool Commodore 64 emulator now available in the iTunes store). The player has to use an onscreen representation of a joystick and button, thus impairing control and reducing screen real-estate dramatically. Think about that. A 30-year old gaming machine with 64k of memory can outperform this machine at certain gaming-related tasks.

You might argue that I can’t expect ‘traditional’ games to work in the iPhone/iPad, and that these platforms require both developers and gamers to think of new types of games and new ways to play them. You might insinuate that the days of directional pads and buttons have gone the way of the Atari 2600 joystick before it, deep into oblivion or into nostalgic fantasies, whichever comes first.

You’d be both right and wrong. Yes, the iPhone/iPad enables new types of games, many of which have not been done before, and that’s great. It’s bringing new people into gaming, which is also great. Does this mean the old games are inferior or past their prime? Not a chance.

The “traditional” videogame (with tactile controls) has been around for over 30 years producing countless genres, variations, experiments, and experiences. Can a touch screen provide the same diversity of experiences? Color me unconvinced. The gestures just seem too imprecise on such a small screen and with such fat fingers.

I think the time is ripe for a mobile phone with simple gaming controls included to help bring a more complete gaming experience to the masses. A directional pad, two buttons, and perhaps two shoulder buttons would certainly suffice.

One wonders why Nintendo didn’t every attempt such a hybrid device. At the time of the Wii launch with the Nintendo DS riding high, Nintendo’s reputation was sparkling and it seemed that they could do no wrong. Even the simple, glossy white look of their peripherals, consoles, and interfaces was downright Apple-esque. A Nintendo DS with even a marginal phone built in, courtesy of a partner in the mobile phone industry, seems like it could have been a success, or at least an interesting failure.

Nintendo was probably wise not to make such a gambit, as navigating Nintendo’s online store via the Wii leaves a lot to be desired from a user interface standpoint. Designing a full-fledged phone would certainly have been biting off more than they could have chewed.

The iPhone/iPad might be great for simple games on the bus, but they’re not the future of videogaming. Not until they can play Castlevania. The Castlevania from 1986, that is.

Castlevania in 1986. Inexplicably better than today?

Play Minotaur China Shop

Minotaur China Shop is in many ways everything a good online game should be. Crisp graphics, simple gameplay with a subtle sense of strategy. These attributes are paired nicely with a solid soundtrack and a completely unique and humor-filled premise.

What’s that premise, you ask? You play as a entrepreneurial Minotaur interested in running his own china shop. Serve customers their desired items to earn a profit. Along the way, your bumbling Minotaur will inevitably knock over shelves and stomp your own valuable wares. When this happens, you can opt to pull the videogame equivalent of “shooting the moon” by entering a rage and destroying your entire shop (or as much as you can before security takes you down) to collect insurance payments.

You need the Unity Player Plugin to play the game through your web browser. Since I’ve been poking around game development, the issue of universality and platform compatibility is an important one. To me, Flash games are perfect in this regard since Flash is already installed on upwards of 90% of web browsers. The Unity Player, although reputable, has far less of an installed base. The great majority of players will have to download the plugin to play. Despite the high quality of games produced with the engine, this makes distributing and getting people to try your game exceedingly difficult. How many of you who read this, for instance, will decide not to try the game due to this seemingly simple yet undeniably disconcerting requirement? If I’m the developer- probably too many.

Play Passage

You owe it to yourself to play Passage.

Passage is an art game. Although I deplore the term, it is actually the most consistent term we have to describe this genre of game: there is no right or wrong way to play, no stated objective, and, ultimately, no way to win. The game lasts only 5 minutes and represents your character’s condensed lifetime.

The game is an interactive (another term I despise, ranking up there with “multimedia”) reflection on life, the tradeoffs between achievement and exploration, and death. Despite admitting its own purposelessness (the creator notes that even your score “looks pretty meaningless hovering there” in the end) the result of playing even one round is surprisingly powerful. But I won’t draw your conclusions for you…

So go ahead, try Passage. Even if you don’t like games, you have no excuse. It only will take 5 minutes, it runs on PCs and Macs, and takes up a svelte 5 MB. Read the creator’s statement before or afterwards: there are some interesting thoughts on the representation of death in video games as well as explanations of some of the game’s various metaphors.

A reminder…

Your chance to win this is coming to a close. Submit your score by this Friday or forever wonder what could have been…

A little (more) about Bobby…

It must have been around ought-three or ought-four when I first discovered the original Bobby is Going Home while casually surfing some Atari 2600 ROMs by title. The exceedingly simple premise intrigued me:

Who is Bobby? What is his deal? What’s the hurry to get home, anyway?

Who knows? Who cares? Wherever he is, Bobby is getting the hell out of there and is going home, and it’s your job to make sure it happens.

The game itself offers no further contextual clues. Bobby must merely waddle his way, stage after neon-colored stage, past feeble winged creatures and gaping holes in the ground. All of this must be achieved with the use of only his wits and some surprising hops n’ hangtime.

The more I thought about it, the more this ridiculous and slightly pathetic little game exemplified the Atari 2600 era* in my mind: forget story, cutscenes, or characters- hell, you’re lucky to even be entrusted with the control of a vaguely humanoid shape. After all, you could be stuck navigating a colored square, or something.

Enter Bobby is Going Home 2. Originally conceived as my first attempt to create a game free from the trappings of a story or high expectations, it eventually grew to encompass far too much of my life. So here it is, a side-scrolling platformer with 40 “mind-bending” levels and 5 “awesome” powerups; bigger and badder than the original (at least in some respects) and enjoyable to me if only for its homage to delicious obscurity.

* It should be noted that I am in no way opposed to simplicty and elegance in game design- in fact, I generally classify overwrought “storylines” and bloated cutscenes alongside low-carb beer, cheap merchandise, and “Access Hollywood” on life’s grand barometer of desirability.

Let the Games Begin

Can you get Bobby Home?

As you may know, Bobby is Going Home 2 is (finally) complete! Although it may seem to be of questionable taste to bribe you to play my game, I’m interested in seeing what sort of scores you can come up with. The player who can send me a screenshot of the highest score by November 15th, 2007 will win this refurbished Nintendo Entertainment System (Bobby is Going Home 2 Edition)!

This veritable and truly unique ‘pleasure pak’ includes:
1 refurbished NES system (Bobby is Going Home 2 ed.) with replaced pinset
All necessary cords
2 original NES controllers
1 Tetris cartridge
1 Super Mario Bros. / Duck Hunt cartridge
1 Super Mario Bros. 3 cartridge

I believe this package is all you need to have a quality retro gaming blast in your pants. Although the prize is straight notable and although it would be easy to do so, somehow I trust you heady members of my inner circle to abstain from doctoring screenshots.

Goodluck and godspeed, Bobbys-

Who says video games aren't educational?

Real Americansminibanner.gifI’m usually not one to fawn over flash and web-based games, but this deserves special mention. The Anti-Bush Game, from the good people over at, manages to be hilarious, inspiring, offensive, disgusting, and depressing all at the same instant. Your team consists of ‘Real Americans’: Hulk Hogan, Mr. T, and an obsese He-Man, (along with ten ‘secret’ characters.) The game is a typical side-scrolling affair deep into the bowels of the White House, Hell, and other pertinent locations. Most fascinating are the educational nuggets scattered throughout; each stage is preceded by an animated lecture on the (disastrous) effects of certain Bush Administration policies, with the first half of the game focusing mostly on (irresponsible) tax cuts. Sound dry? It’s anything but. Well-written and often savage rhetoric combine with good research and poignant facts that need to enter the American consciousness. Throw in some brilliant and well-placed 80s video game sound effects and the perverse joy of leg dropping Tom Ridge and Karl Rove and you’ve got a near-classic, despite the button-mashing gameplay. “Hulkamania is running wild like never before!” It sure hasn’t. (more…)