Friday, June 15, 2012

"The Itchy and Scratchy Game", 1994

The Simpsons was just a license in the right place at the right time to be subjected to endless horrifyingly tepid video game adaptations -- barring Konami's 1992 arcade brawler, just a re-skinned approach to the success they'd enjoyed there two years earlier with TMNT, a similarly hot-and-cold franchise. (The TMNT arcade game, to further a tangent, marked my debut as a popular writer, penning a walkthrough in the elementary school C64 lab. Truly how far we have come!) Developers Acclaim cast a similar pall over virtually every product associated with them -- thus when the Simpsons' license fell into their hands, prolific mediocrity was to be expected. They went to great lengths to deliver the appropriate flavour -- I always appreciated their 8-bit rendition of Matt Groening's cartoon typography -- but the games ended up uniformly unexceptional except in their mediocrity. And of course the superfecta of "buy it now on SNES, Genesis, Game Boy and Game Gear" was always a bad sign of a certain lowest common denominator. I never played this one. Who knows - it might be the exception to prove the rule. But the review scores suggest otherwise.
Kitty Litter!


They fight, and bite, they fight and bite and fight! Get ready as Itchy & Scratchy slice, dice, crash and bash their way into your home. This cat's gonna need more than nine lives to survive bazookas, grenades, chain saws and flame throwers. There's more than one way to skin a cat... So, are you mouse enough!!!???

The most interesting thing about this ad to me is that upon seeing it, I recognized its central image from a piece of artwork released in the computer art group MiSTiGRiS I ran back in 1995. That's right, kids, in the pre-scanner, pre-digital-camera era, for kicks, people would try to reproduce, freehand, images they saw in other sources. This one advertises a BBS I was co-sysop of, The Screaming Tomato. Ehh... you had to be there. Side by side like this for the first time I get to see where the computer artist took some liberties interpreting the original image.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fellow travelers - pre-Prometheus

Dark Horse comics usually didn't have much for ads, which raises many interesting questions: was this a matter of artistic vision and editorial choice, or were they merely unable to land the advertisers that plagued Marvel and DC's offerings? And if the former, how were they able to fund their publications through cover price alone when Marvel and DC comics apparently couldn't? Anyhow, this comic came up during the scan spree and even though it had no real video game connection, I knew that Prometheus was coming up and here was something I could tie into it -- another, earlier interpretation of the Engineers. (If only I could manage to make the blog post while the movie was still fresh in people's minds!) Since I collected in a scattered, furtive fashion, I can't really speak to the plot events that led up to this calamitous state of events, but it sure is a hum-dinger! Canny use of the Aliens franchise really made Dark Horse. They cast wide nets, turning numerous film licenses into comics of varying interest, and getting extra mileage out of them by lumping in thesis and antithesis for a new, novel synthesis. This Hegelian dialectic process didn't yield much in their "RoboCop vs. the Terminator" miniseries, but they took the flimsiest easter egg in Predator 2 and ran far with it. Then a decade or so later, after video game makers had explored the Alien vs. Predator phenomenon and exhausted it a few times, filmmakers discovered the mash-up also. Sorry for the crappiness of the scan! And sorry for the general off-topicness of this post. I promise to be back to video game ads soon!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Video game arcades in the landscape of the popular imagination

I get a kick out of seeing video game arcades depicted in comic books. Though comics of course pre-date arcades, they seem kindred spirits in the annals of alternative, somewhat underground culture for youth and delinquents. Seeing one represented in the other really hammers home the association. That said, with the extinguishing of the video game arcade, scenes such as this may soon only appear in "period pieces". (I also get a kick at seeing comic book writers and artists come up with names and designs for fictitious set dressing games. The Simpsons does a great job at this.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Dr. Chaos", NES, 1988

The terrific artwork for this game jumped out at me as I was scanning the ads, though it's a bad sign that its name didn't ring any bells in the mind of this onetime emulation fiend. Likely then it was unexceptional, neither a great game nor a terrible one, but perhaps a median, run-of-the-mill NES game from the median developer FCI.
Do you dare open the doors to doom? The warp zone experiments of the brilliant Dr. Chaos have gone horribly wrong. They've unleashed armies of bloodthirsty creatures, trapping him in his remote research facility. Now only his brother Michael can rescue him. To succeed, Michael must brave a haunted house filled with vicious monsters. Can he fight his way through dangerous passageways? Track down the concealed weapons? Find the secret vials of strength? And assemble the ultimate weapon, Canbarian?
  • Thriller graphics
  • Three different screen patterns
  • Graphic score pad tracks life force, weapons found, weapons in use
  • Memory capacity saves your score and restarts the game at any point.

I might just be prejudiced, but if my last name was Chaos, after I earned my PhD I'd probably stay out of the bloodthirsty creature business -- it would just be too much of a cliche. Still, it's refreshingly rare to have the cause of the problem and the victim in need of rescuing be the same person! Some of those selling points make me a bit dubious, though. Your graphic score pad and three different screen patterns don't impress me! And the bit about the memory capacity restarting the game at any point makes it sound a bit like it randomly reboots. Canbarian warrants a snark, and the WCW t-shirt tie-in warrants two, but I can't be bothered at the moment. You might notice that things have been slow here lately; we've just had a baby (anticipation of which precipitated the scanning and dispersal of the comic book collection) and the pace will probably remain sedate into the future. But when I get a spare moment, I look forward to continuing this Quixotic look back!