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Friday, October 30, 2009

Uzumaki Horror manga review



First off let's get one thing straight, Uzumaki has nothing to do with a certain blonde spikey
haired ninja, if You're looking for that you'll need to go elsewhere. If you're looking for one of the best horror themed graphic novels you can get your hands on, you'll be right at home.

Uzumaki isn't your typical Japanese Horror manga. There aren't long haired shrine
maidens, no forbidden rituals, haunted video tapes, or vengful ghosts, in fact pretty much no religion and no hauntings. What is does have though, is disturbing imagery, bizarre paranormal events and a complete descent into to madness.

Uzumaki translates into Spiral and tells the story of how an entire town becomes fixated, contaminated and possessed by the evil of the spiral. The concept seems completely silly at first, barring the hypnotism angle, spirals seem pretty benign. They are among the common and most primitive of human symbols Additionally, if you believe in Fibonacci's Spiral the entire world is possessed by spirals and most of us to seem to have gone crazy yet. But Junji Ito really pulls it off and while you may not be quaking in your bed after reading it, you should definitely be feeling some mental discomfort.


The story is told through the main character, Kirie. A pretty young girl who lives in the town with her parents and younger brother. One day she comes across her boyfriend's father staring at a snail shell on a wall, she attempts to talk to him, but he ignores her and she chalks it up to a case of mistaken identity. She tells her boyfriend, Shuichi about the incident who is sure that it was his father and that lately he has becomes completely obsessed with spirals and has been collecting them. Shuichi also confides in her that he feels that there's something wrong with the town, something that will drive them both crazy if they stay there. His father's obsession becomes worse and worse, until he decides he no longer needs the spiral collection, because he himself has the ability to become a spiral. This culminates in a particularity disturbing scene of his death. Stranger still, he is when cremated a column of black smoke spirals into the sky before spiraling down again into the dragonfly pond in the center of the city, and right next to Kirie's home. Shuichi's mother is driven mad after her husbands death and fears spirals. She becomes determined to rid body and environment of them, dying in the process. When she's cremated, the same smoke incident occurs and that's just the beginning.

Soon the towns people become stranger and stranger. More bizarre events and unexplained deaths begin happening and with every death and cremation the column of smoke spirals into the sky and down into the pond. Shuichi tries to convince Kirie that the town is contaminated and possessed by the spiral, things happen there that don't happen in other towns: swirling of the clouds, whirlwinds, whirlpools, and curled plants and begs her to leave with him before it's too late. Naturally Kirie believes he's just stressed after the deaths of his parents, but soon she founds out he was right and she and her family become contaminated by the spiral, but it's too late to leave.

The story gets progressively darker and more disturbing chapter by chapter as the true madness of the "spiral contamination" really starts to grip the town. As you follow the characters, it very easy to like them and really feel for their plight. Their circumstances are completely fantastic and not something we'd every really expect to see, but the character themselves react in ways that are human and normal. You believe that these people could really exist, they just happened to have been caught in a wave of bizarre and frightening circumstances. Which is exactly the sort of thing that scares us the most. That being said I do think a couple of chapters were missteps. Medusa in particular was just absurd as far as I'm concerned and really broke the mood. Having a hair battle isn't scary, it's funny. To be fair there's a bit of dark humor throughout, but a whole humorous chapter (if even that wasn't the intent) definitely breaks the suspense. I wasn't a big fan of the "mollusk people" either, it seemed to be going for something Like Kafka's Metamorphosis, but instead of conveying the sort of bleak misery and desperation of that story, the mollusk people just seem silly.

Graphically this manga looks older which might be a turn off to some readers. The character themselves remind me more of old shoujo characters than the sort of gritty style that I'd expect to see in horror. And there's it's not the same slick heavily shaded gore you'd find in something like Battle Royal. However, the imagery is fantastic, it's dark, detailed, disturbing and highly effective. The Mosquitoes, Jack in the Box and Black Lighthouse chapters in particular have some of the worst (the image is from black lighthouse). I won't post it here but there's an image in the mosquitoes chapter that gives a particularly warped and disturbing look at at childbirth and motherhood, probably one of the most disturbing images in the entire series and one that will stick with you long after you've closed it. The characters are extremely expressive, Ito does fantastic job of showing their wide range of emotions. Fear, disgust, horror, sadness, concern, determination and even love are all portrayed with accuracy and believability.

Uzumaki deserves it's place among horror classics, it's go great writing and fantastic imagery. Even if you're not interested in "traditional"J-horror, anybody with even a passive interest in the horror should read this. I've read a lot of horror comics and I can say this is one of the finest examples of the genre, from east or west.

Collection Oddities: Wario the Pooh or Winnie the Wario

So, knowing full well that nothing I could find could likely match the Magic Mirror or the Link Mask, I decided to go a slightly different route. I still choose something seasonable and strange, but not as horrifying. What I came up with was Wario the pooh or Winnie the Wario, I really couldn't decide which I preferred.

What the heck is that!? You may be shouting in anger at your screen (you should really relax, you know I'm bound to tell, this would be a poor entry otherwise). Well it's quite simple. It's an unholy combination of Winne the Pooh and Wario through some evil an insidious science barely known to the world. Or maybe it's just Winne the Pooh in a Wario costume, I'll let you be the judge. Either way, it's straight from Japan of course.

Aww...isn't he cute? He's a key chain too I just neglected to get a good shot of the chain itself. Though honestly, it's a keychain I'm pretty sure most of you are going to have a pretty good idea of what one looks like without me taking shots. What I find especially weird about this, is that it's totally clear that Winne is Intended to look like Wario, but there are no Nintendo logos on him. Mysterious! Regardless of the missing Nintendo logo mystery, I love him. He's so fantastically weird. I'm not quite sure if he was a capsule toy or a UFO toy or something you could just pick up at your local Japanese Disney store. I really can not find any information anywhere about this crazy thing. We bought a whole lot of silly Japanese toys(because you know it's totally hard on us to have to just have extra toys laying around) just to get this crazy thing. It was lust at first sight.

Me: Hmm..I wonder what's in this lot...video game stuff..nothing I really need. Oh wait, what's that? OH MY GOD! It's pooh dressed as Wario! What a perfectly ridiculous item! Jenny come in here!
Jen: WTF? I was doing homework and generally being much more responsible than you what could you possibly need me for
Me: Look at this glorious treasure!
Jen: It's beautiful, we most purchase it post haste.
Me: But it comes with all this other stuff.
Jen: No price is too great for such a glorious item. Pooh was meant for us, we can not let anything stand in our way on our quest to get him.


So maybe I completely made up that entire conversation, but it was based on a true story. So now you maybe thinking to yourself after having moved past that tense shouting of earlier: Gee these people are really insane, Well, that sure is a weird thing, I'm sure I couldn't have lived a happy and fruitful life without knowing it existed. So to you dear people I say you are very welcome, I'm happy to enrich your lives. :)

Seriously though if anyone knows anymore about this I'd love to know, I'd especially love to know if there are other poohs or Disney characters in general that are dressed like Mario characters because I'd need to have them to complete my life and find inner peace, you wouldn't want to deny me that would you?

Also unrelated to this particular post is there is only day left to enter the contest so either get your entry in by tomorrow evening or miss out. Also, I was too busy to post the Uzumaki review on Monday so I'll do it tomorrow instead, it more appropriate then anyway. I'm gearing up for NaBloWriMo so I'm trying to prepare myself for making a bunch of posts. I don't know how long I can last, but I'm sure going to try it so be prepared for a flood of geekery(I hope)!

~Stephanie

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Retro Review Tuesday: Resident Evil Gaiden

This is our first review for a handheld game/system.

Introduction

Most resident evil fans aren't even aware this title exists due to what seems like a large miscalculation by Capcom. It's a mature rated gameboy color game based on a wickedly popular series of games that debuted on the Playstation. Generally most players old enough to appreciate blood, gore, and some good ol' fashioned Zombie shooting fun weren't toting around GBCs. However for those of us who were familiar with both we were rewarded a unique perspective on the Resident Evil franchise.



Overview

Controls are simple. A is your action button use it to pick up items, select them in your inventory and shoot your gun. B aims your gun on the normal play screen or switch characters in the fight and inventory screens. Starts shows your map and select shows your inventory. The D pad moves you around. Controls are pretty responsive, but when a zombie is after you they slow down quite a bit.

Graphics are a mix of good and so-so. The basic play screen has rather fluid sprites, but they're undetailed and the backgrounds leave something to be desired. In the fight screens the backgrounds are much more detailed and the Zombies are rendered quite well and have a lot of detail. They don't move a lot, but they're zombies, they don't have to. The cutscenes vary wildly.Your characters are highly unattractive pixel blobs in most of them, but other times they're incredibly detailed and good looking for the format. There seemed to be no graphics quality control on this game.

Soundwise this is a great GBC game. The music is pretty complex and there's quite a bit of variation including changing tempo depending on whether or not you're in danger. There's also several themes you'll hear depending on where you are and what you're doing and all of them manage to be perfectly fitting. The main theme can get a little bit annoying because you hear it all the time, but it really does a good job of making you feel on edge, no small feat for an old school hand held game. The other sounds are good for what little of them you hear, there's the sound of zombies, the sound of your death and the sound of finding an item, that's it.

This game has enough items to warrant a basic items list here. The things you'll pretty much always have in your inventory are:
Key items you haven't used yet, you'll need to go into the screen to use these when you're in the right location, just having a key in inventory won't open the door for you.
Your PDA it gives your current mission objective helpful if you were distracted during a cutscene or came back to playing after it's been awhile.
Guns and ammo self explanatory. Only one character can use a certain gun at a time. If Leon is holding a gun and you want Barry to have you'll have to do a bit of finagling to make it happen, it's best to get that done before entering a battle you can do it during but it will get you mangled most of the time. Also,you can not pick up ammo for a gun you're not carrying. Apparently your character thinks to themselves, Well I'm sure I'll never find this gun no need to pick up the ammo even though I've got space for it. So try to make mental notes as you will often have to backtrack to get really nice ammo.
Herbs Like all resident evils you find herbs to heal yourself there are 5 different types in this game, but you don't mix them this time, how you receive them is how you use them, predictably there's a manual on the ground with how to use them so I'm not going to describe that.
Armor which is new to this game, there are 3 types to find with varying levels of protection. As soon as you get nice armor you're going to want to put it on, it helps more than you could possibly imagine.

Gameplay

You start off as Barry, who you may remember from such situations as constantly saving The Master of Unlocking, AKA Jill's ass, and having some things to check out on the other side of the mansion (RE1). In any case Barry is sent to try to figure out what happened to Leon. Leon, who you may remember from such incidents as his first day at the Racoon City Police Department(RE2), was dispatched to a distressed luxury cruiser over 24 hours ago and hasn't been heard from. So with this in min Barry gets down to the boat. Things start off as you'd expect in a resident evil. Ho hum I'm exploring, then, OH MY GOD IT'S A ZOMBIE HORDE!


The members of the undead army come in varying flavors as well, normal male, normal female, poisonous female, crowbar male and BOW. Each of these has their own special style of attempting to get at the delicious innards of your skull, learn them and you'll be a lot happier.

Your first instinct is probably going to be to take the zombies out, you can either aim at one ensuring it's too far away to give you a good swipe if you enter attack mode my letting one get too close it will be directly in front of you unless you struggle enough to push them back. In either case instead of fighting on your normal screen, you enter a battle screen where you have to time your hits with the cursor. The cursor moves faster depending on how nice of a gun you have and the "hit zone" get smaller the further away from the zombie you are. So while a zombie right in front of you with a hand gun will be fairly easy, but trying to hit one from across the room with a grenade launcher it's going to be quite a feat of timing. Making matters worse is that other zombies that are on the screen can show up leaving you battling multiples.Fighting this way is a lot less scary than just being jumped out at, but it's also a lot harder. You can't just twitch shoot your way through it, you've got to have a bit of strategy.

If you're familiar with resident evil you know that there's now way you can take out all the zombies so the most reasonable course of action is to try to avoid them. It's worth noting though sometimes you want to meet the zombies head on even if you can avoid them, if a red exclamation point pops up it means the zombie nearest you has an item and occasionally it's a key item, but usually it's just ammo or herbs. Unfortunately, you won't know if it's important or not until you take it down. When you do want to run though, for some reason when a zombie has you in it's sights, it's tell tale groan gives our hero pause so you slow way down making it an awfully hard to do so. Additionally it's very easy to get stuck on door frames or random debris and when that happens after you're slowed you're pretty much screwed. If you get stuck in the fight screen you can hit start and escape the battle however, before you can escape you'll have to hit the strike zone dead on. Meanwhile the zombie gets closer much faster and you can't hit it because you're running away. Often this is a more dangerous proposition than just fighting the zombie in the first place. Unless you're cornered by multiple zombies, you're probably safer knifing one than you are running from it.

Running from zombies both on screen and in the fight screen is the most annoying thing about this game and given that it is impossible to take out all the zombies (even if you knife the majority of the normal ones like I do) it's very easy for this aspect to make you hate playing the game. I enjoy a challenge, but the slowdown, poor collision in tight spots and the sheer numbers of Zombies make it kind of ridiculous.

Managing to cheat death, Barry eventually locates a survivor on the ship using a surveillance computer, a young girl with strange powers of prediction named Lucia who helps lead him to Leon. Lucia is a much more useful character than most you'd find under these sort of circumstances as you can actually equip her with items and use her in a pinch. Of course before you can actually make use of this you've got to meet up with her which means a lot of opening of locked doors that have keys (or items you can use to open them) located in the most inconvenient places possible. Given the limited graphics of the game your items do not show up on the ground directly. You can be in a room full of items and you won't know right away, you'll have to root around for your items. Basically you'll blindly run around until you hear a noise and see a little green exclamation point letting you know there's an item to pick up. This can be annoying enough, just for the time consuming aspect, but worse part of this system is that it means tangling with an awful lot of zombies on your quest to see whether or not all the nooks, crannies and corners have items in them. Hooray for unavoidable Zombies!

Given all the hordes you'll be taking down, even if you become the zombie avoidance master, you're probably going to see the you died screen quite often. Luckily the good folks at Capcom aren't completely heartless so you can either start from the last save(which is a spot determined by key points in the games and could be a long ways away from where you are now) or from where you last came through a door or killed a zombie. I can not express how wonderful this second option is, I'm fairly certain that it kept me from smashing the Gameboy into tiny bits several times.


Just in case all the zombie killing and death dodging wasn't exciting enough for you, once you unite your team members (all three of you) you will be given the wondrous honor of being hounded by huge zombie, you'll refer to as the BOW. This zombie seems determined to not only obliterate your sparse STARS team but to kidnap Lucia. He's stronger and faster than your standard zombies and has a tentacled stomach, giving him much longer reach. Which all means you'll die twice as fast(you'll even get a special "you died" screen when he kills you, fancy right?) If that's not annoying enough on it's own, it's one of your mission objectives to eliminate it. The joy in this game just never stops! But wait! That's not all! The mega Zombie runs away rather than being defeated, so he just keeps coming back and every time you meet him he mutates, changing just enough to be a bigger uglier pain in your butt.

So of course you need some plot to hold together the story or really the game would have been over in roughly 20 minutes once you have both Lucia and Leon in your party. We can't have that so we need a plot device or two. So imagine your Leon. Being plagued by zombie problems and having the survivor you're trying to protect kidnapped by a huge ugly zombie is pretty much ruining your day. But you can you depend on your partner to help you out in these troubling times, right? Nope, instead you get some of Barry's , I just have to check something out, antics, thickening the plot. However, after a series of confused and muddled events that involve Umbrella, a submarine and more zombie, Barry comes out looking just fine(again).He even manages to avoid telling Leon he was almost a sandwich and that alone makes him a better partner.

Basically with some more details in the thin to plot to hold together that's the entire game, kill zombies, avoid zombies, attempt to kill super zombie, avoid getting your brains eaten and unravel some inane and implausible plot. It's a zombie game, you shouldn't be expecting too much more than that, and it's actually more fun than it sounds. It's worth mentioning, the final boss battle(s) in this game are very long and arduous, you've really got to earn that victory and really hope you've saved enough ammo. It 's honestly something you're likely to have to attempt several times if you don't get annoyed and swear off the game before then.



Conclusion

People either really like this game or absolutely despise it. I have to give the creators credit for trying something new and making a pretty decent original game for a hand held. The storyline is
crap, but really all of the RE games that came about between 2 and 4 had some pretty questionable and incohesive storylines as well and I don't see as much outcry with those. Besides someone must of liked it because Capcom basically remade this game with an even more ridiculous story and added light gun, calling it dead aim. Overall I think that RE fans might be a little disappointed in this one as while it has characters you're familiar with it doesn't fit into the main storyline and all and basically becomes a "let us never speak of this again" chapter. If you're just a gamer looking for a decent old school zombie experience this is a good solid game.

~Stephanie

Sunday, October 25, 2009

NaBloWriMo Coupon Codes and Contest!

NaBloWriMo - National Blog Writing Month


So I've decided I'm going to make an attempt at doing National Blog writing Month, next month which means there should be one post of geeky goodness (or something reasonably on topic) in here everyday. I might FINALLY get to taking some of those pictures of our existing collections. However, as per their no selling rule, I'm going to refrain from making any store references So I'm giving out November's coupon code now it's: Turkey15 and it will get you 15% off your purchases, it won't work until Nov. 1st though. But, that's OK because there are still 6 days to use the Present coupon code to a HUGE 27% off your order. I'll get to some great and seasonably appropriate suggestions for you to spent on it a little later, first there's the contest!

Time is running out if you want a FREE $15 GIFT CERTIFICATE to our shop, I plan on drawing names just before midnight on Halloween so if you want in you'd better hurry. Go check our Halloween Candy post for more details.

So if you're going to try for that gift certificate or just want to use the higher percentage coupon code before next month here's some Halloween spirited selections for you:


Wonderful hand painted animation cel from the animated adaptation of Brian Frouds wonderful Faeries book. If you haven't had a chance to see this aniamtion check it out on youtube here. (I'd normally insist on owning a legal copy of such a thing, but it's been out of print for 20 years at least) It really does do a wonderful job of capturing his art styleof Oisin battling the Shadow King (who obviously resembles a black dragon). It' s really wonderful image and currently quite festive.

If you're not an animation art collector there's always comics and manga.


Judas is a dark and bloody manga which loosely follows Christianity and mythology. It's definitely intended for an older audience. Description from the back of volume 1 sets up the story as:

Judas, cursed for his sins, is the spirit of Death--he is without form, and has enslaved young Eve to carry out the most heinous of acts. Together in spirit and body, they must slay 666 people so that Judas can regain his humanity.

It was an interesting series to say the least. This is volume 4 so you'd have to have already started the series or procure it elsewhere though ours is measly $3.50 before getting a discount so if you're already reading it, this is a great value.





Or finally what's more Halloween than costumes?




This Simplicity Renaissance pattern set includes instructions to make 2 variations on the upper class gown and one lower class gown. It obviously far too close to Halloween to make your own dress(or even get these patterns on time), but you have plenty of time until next year or for next summer's Renfaires.




There so now go forth and shop if you're interested in something and don't forget to come back to this post if you want something in November and check out the shop occasionally as I will still be updating, I just am not going to be posting about it. I've got everything I need for my Uzumaki review as well so I should be posting that tomorrow.

~Stephanie

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Treats! Contest, Lockerz.com & World of Goo

So in the same spirit as the rest of this month's posts I thought I'd post some early Halloween treats.

First we're having a contest! To enter, just leave a comment on this post with your email address. On Halloween we'll pull a winner at random who'll win a $15 gift certificate which can be used on everything on in our store. Just enter by the 30th!

Second if you haven't heard of lockerz.com it's an invitation only site that's been giving away quite number of nice prizes for participants. I haven't redeemed any PTZ yet, but I know people who haven't gotten some nice stuff like PSPs and video games for taking surveys and inviting their friends. It's completely free and doesn't ask for any personal infor (except your name) unless you redeem a prize. Signing up I checked on the company and everything seems totally legitimate and the people who I know who have used haven't had an issues. It seems right now they're just trying to drive up hype before slamming us with also sorts of ads and things. I'm sure that it will eventually fizzle out, but getting cool stuff in the meantime sounds nice. Besides right now in the beta stage there aren't any obnoxious ads or anything like that. So if anyone would like an invite send me an email at avaneart@gmail.com and I'll send one your way and then you can be on your way to get fun stuff. (at least until the ads kick in)

Third World of Goo just celebrated it's first birthday and there is special a sale on the game. You can choose what you'd like to pay for a full PC download of the game. (we paid $1 as we're broke right now) But you could pay as little as 1 penny, though you really should donate at least 50 cents so it's not all eaten in fees. It's great game and how often are you going to get a legitimate download so cheaply? Just go here to get your download. This offer end on October 25th, so go get it, if you're a puzzle game fan!


Hope you enjoy these early treats!

~Stephanie


PS I'm not getting kickbacks for linking you to these places (well 2ptz at lockerz, but we have to do that because it's invite only, there's no way around it or I'd not do a referral) we just think they're cheap/free cool things people who read our blog would like. ^_^

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Retro Review Tuesday: Halloween and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Today's retro review will be an extra special super vintage Atari double feature dedicated to the two releases by the short lived games division of Wizard Video, Halloween and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Introduction

It's a common cliche. "It's so bad it's almost good." Maybe that's not quite what describes Halloween on the Atari 2600. But something makes us keep coming back to it. Perhaps it's the repetitive music, the amusing death scenes, the character designs or maybe just the captivation of seeking an end to one of an entire generation of games not exactly known for having one.

Overview

Michael Myers is loose in the house. You must run from this pixelated maniac and avoid his "attacks" until you can find the weapon and...well, you don't really stop him, you just...poke him and he...runs away. Then he comes back. Faster. Perhaps you...shouldn't have done that.

The controls are simple. If you're lucky enough to be enjoying this piece of work with a joystick then it's as simple as push up to move up, pull back for down, left goes left, right goes right and you can even move diagonally, Fancy! You can push the button to perform actions like controlling and using the weapon or drag one of the kids along as bait. (If you're on an emulator then it's whatever you set the controls to) Overall, the function doesn't seem to be too bad.

The graphics of the game are Atari graphics. What else can be said. Your character does manage to be clearly female, however, and everything is reasonably distinguishable. You can even tell that your lives are represented by what are supposed to be pumpkins.

The music is...yeah, get used to the music. The classic score from the Halloween series plays every time you see Michael Myers on the screen (And you'll see him on just about every single screen). Although when he's not yet present the lack of music can almost be seen as...eerie?

Gameplay

You start off inside the corridor of a "house" consisting of a random collection of hallways. Right away, Michael will come after you, just stabbing his "knife" over and over. Contain your laughter, (although, really...just look at that) and run to either end of the screen to switch areas. Unless you're at the end of a hallway, Michael will appear in the next area and just about everywhere you go. Some areas will have a "door" you can run through to change areas of the house or you can change floors by going through the doors at the hallway ends. Some uppers rooms flash from light to dark, blinding you to your own whereabouts and the position of Michael, often proving to be problematic for you, if not fatal.

The game can actually manage to "scare" you since Michael doesn't always appear at the same time, or from the same areas. He can appear from the right, from the left, or even from a doorway, and this can cause you to jump a little, especially if you're heading in that direction. It's especially bad in flashing room where it's difficult to tell where your own character is.

Ultimately the goal is to lead the children you're babysitting to the safe rooms, the ends of the hall. The truly glorious thing about this is that Michael seems to be more interesting in killing them than you. Sure, perhaps that's not how it works in the actual series, but who's to prove if your character is even Laurie? Frankly I've taken to calling her Connie just for the hell of it. Maybe it says for certain in the booklet who exactly Connie/Laurie/Ms.Feminine pixels is, but I don't have that luxury. Anyway, by pushing the button, you can take children with you or just use them as bait to distract Michael while you haul ass out of there. This becomes especially useful the further you get in the game. When Michael touches them, he decapitates them so you lose a chance to save one but it's better their heads than yours. The hardest part will be trying not to laugh, and leaving the area.

Additionally, you're looking for the "weapon" to use against Michael so that you may gain points. What kind of weapon is it? Who knows. Maybe you see a knife. Maybe you see a hammer. Maybe you're something of a cynic and just see a collection of black pixels, but at any rate, when you find this item, you push the button while standing over it to pick it up. Then, once you encounter Michael again, you wait until he's just about on top of you, and push the button to "thrust" your weapon, giving him a real mean poking, and he'll run away until...you change rooms. Do this twice or save enough children and you'll go up a level. Meaning when you see him again, he'll be faster. Eventually, he'll get so fast that he matches your speed and you can no longer outrun him, just avoid touching him.

Should you let ol' Stabby get too close, before you know what could have possibly actually happened in your altercation, you'll find yourself headless, with delightful little "blood" pixels erupting from your neck. Not unlike a beheaded chicken, you run away, seemingly in distress, off the screen. You've now lost a life. .You repeat this process until you lose all three. Then the game is over, and there's nothing else to do now but reflect upon this interesting little experience. If there's an end other that to this game, most people, including us, wouldn't know about it.

Conclusion

If you're a horror fan, a retro-gaming fan, or like me, both, then honestly, this is a must have for your own Collection of Geekery. However, this game is incredibly rare, and expensive for just a used, boxless copy. So it would be unrealistic for me to tell you to go buy it. However, if you've got a computer (and I have it under decent authority that you do) you just may want to download this oddity. It's certainly one hell of a novelty, and it's hard not to somehow enjoy it.

~RM
________________________________________________________________

Introduction

Even back in 1983 companies were trying to bombard consumers with different incarnations of their franchises by marketing shoddy poorly conceived merchandise. Wizard Video was no different. Being the original home video distributors of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre they thought it would be a great money maker to introduce their film and themselves to the budding video game market. The result was not well received by most consumers but it was innovative. It brought the first horror video game into the home market, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.


Overview

In a role reversal from most of the survival horror games of today, you play as Leatherface, the terrifying chainsaw wielding nutjob. Your goal is simple, to kill as many screaming Texas women as possible before you run out of gas.

Controls are simple, it is an Atari joystick after all. But, it's still got everything you need to be a killing machine. You move up down left and right with the joystick and run the chainsaw with the button.

Soundwise it's pretty standard for the Atari. There's the sound of Leatherface walking, the sound of firing up your chainsaw, the shrill beep (scream) of a potential victim and the sound of a triumphant kill.

Graphically, once again, it's an Atari game, you can't expect much if you're used to all sorts of newfangled 3d rendered perfectly polished games. But for the time period they were pretty good. Everything is easily recognizable from the girls, to the cow skulls to the truck in the background. There's even enough detail on Leatherface to give him a grimace. My only real complaint here is that Leatherface's chainsaw is the saw color as his body leaving things open to some rather unwholesome conclusions.

Gameplay

The game starts of with you as Leatherface out in the Texas countryside looking for fresh young victims. You can walk either left or right seeking your prey. You'll know you've found one when you hear the extremely shrill beep to signify their screams. You're faster than they are so if you just keep up the chase you'll eventually get close enough to use the chainsaw leaving a bloodied corpse in your wake. Though you'd better enjoy it in the moment because it disappears pretty quickly leaving you to wander off looking for another victim to quench your blood lust.

This sounds pretty easy so far, but it wouldn't be much of a game without a few obstacles to overcome. The first of which is gas, your chainsaw uses a bit of gas while you're just standing around letting it idle and it uses considerably more every time you fire it up. Leatherface can only carry enough for three refills so no matter how important it makes you feel, it's best not to leave the chainsaw running when you're not using it on some poor woman.

The Second problem is that on your way to the fresh meat you'll have to avoid fences, bushes cow skulls and wheelchairs (one has to wonder if the developers of the silent hill series started off their young lives playing this game). If you run into one of these obstacles you'll have to use your all purpose handy dandy chainsaw to cut it out of the way using some of your precious gas in the process.



The final obstacles is your victims themselves. The women will try to dodge you when you get close and will change directions, suddenly appearing on the other side of you This is not only annoying, but a big gas waster. The women in pink seem to be slightly more prone to doing this effectively.



Once you've used up all your gas by either slaughtering victims or cow skulls, the screen goes black and Leatherface is left with a useless chainsaw. Meaning Leatherface himself is totally powerless. While a stationary useless Leatherface sits on screen grimacing off into oblivion one of his potential victims comes up behind him and gives him a sift kick ending the game.


Conclusion

While wantonly killing is fun and a great stress reliever for a short period, it gets pretty old pretty quickly unless you've got friends to play and compare scores with. Playing it makes it pretty clear that it wasn't ever supposed to be a great video game, only a great marketing ploy.
However while not the best Atari game you can play, not by a long shot, this game has earned is place in the annals of classic gaming for it's unique "killer perspective" and bringing video game horror into the home.

~Stephanie

Monday, October 19, 2009

Collection Oddities: Sailor Moon Magic Mirror

For today's collection oddity I thought really long and hard about what could possibly compete with Link in terms of a horrifying item to showcase. Perhaps unsurprisingly I settled on another horrible Irwin Idea. This time is was the Magic Mirror.

First off I have to apologize normally when I do one of these I have a boxed item in hand so I can make fun of examine and critique the box art and blurbs too. This time I don't have that. We did have a boxed one of these at one time, but sold it once we got an unboxed one. We're deboxers anyway, but our inner geeks shout at us not to ruin original packaging if at all possible so we sent the mint condition one on to some other moonie. The sad part of this tale is that when we sold it I only photographed the front of the box so I have no idea what the back said. It's sad but we'll have to move on. So let's take a look at the front of the box.


At first glance you might have thought Irwin had intended to make Neptune's mirror and just royally screwed up the design. Upon closer inspection you realize this is yet another one of those "someone at Irwin is taking mushrooms" type of items. With that in mind let's took a closer look.

Standard Irwin Canada dark blue packaging with a pink ribbon displaying the title in both English and French. Though non standard is that this little girl actually looks kind of pleased with her item and doesn't really look like she's going to eat your soul which is an oddity in of it self. The packaging also offers accesses to the star shaped button and shows you what the scouts say in case the battery isn't working. (which once you've heard it I think everyone can agree would be the best case scenario) Normally we'd take a look at the back, but like I said previously, I didn't think to take a picture of the back before selling it. :( However, I'm used to seeing awful Irwin toys now though so I think I can just make it up.

Get ready for a Magical Experience with your very own Sailor Moon Magic Mirror! Look inside the mirror and press the button for an explosion of colors, lights and sounds! The Sailor Scouts will be right there staring back at you (it's not creepy really!) and using the phrases you love from the series! You'll never be lonely with the Sailor Moon Magic Mirror!

There that totally sounds likes some crap Irwin would slap on the box doesn't it? We didn't even need the back of the box! Of course we want to open the box now it just seems like such a perfectly legitimate and interesting sailor moon item we just can't wait to get it open right?


So out of the box it's pretty normal looking, pink and yellow plastic with little multicolored jewels around it. The mirror surface is a bit cloudy, but not bad for a toy. Let's check the back:


Nothing out of the ordinary here, yellow plastic a speaker, a battery compartment and the sailor moon logo. Good thing to logo is there, if anyone tried to harass you about having a crappy toy that was in no way affiliated with sailor moon you could just flip it over and show 'em your logo, that'll shut them up. But hey, where are those scouts the box talked about? I don't see them. Wait a minute maybe I have to press the little star button on he front side, the one that beckoned me with "try me!" on the front of the package. Do you dare to press the button?







So if you watched that video (my apologies for being unable to keep my hands steady) you understand why I really couldn't have explained the horror to you in any words I'm familiar with. Like the English music/voice acting wasn't bad enough on it's own now it's in even lower quality coming out of a tiny speaker. If not for the blurbs on the front of the box (and my sick knowledge of dubbed Sailor Moon) I'd have really sworn the characters weren't using any sort of human Language. Even after knowing what they're saying though, the whole thing doesn't make any sense. Why would they be appearing in he mirror in the first place? And why would they sound so angry about seeing you, their "friend" (anyone who buys her merchandise is Sailor Moon's friend). Luna even warns Sailor Moon to be careful, is she implying little Sailor Moon loving girls are evil? That there's a monster behind you. WHAT!? What is it? Why don't the sailor senshi like me.

Normally I can find the good in one of these items, but unless you really had a hankering to hear garbled dub voices, there's really nothing good here. Just another terrible terrible Irwin Idea. Making matters worse is that this is a really rare item. So not only will you be getting a piece of crap, but you have to pay a hefty sum for your piece of crap. But really that's the joy of collecting most of the Irwin toys isn't it? Gloriously stupid Sailor Moon branded crap that no other continents got. That's something isn't it? Take that Asia! No tacky useless mirror for you! We're keeping it to ourselves over here in North America. *sticks
out tongue*

I feel so much better about owning this already. :)

~Stephanie

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Live Journal and Shop Updates

Just a Quick note to say we've now got a Livejournal account whre we cross post these entries. We'll still be making them here first so if you prefer blogger's format there's no reason to go over there, but if you've already got a livejournal please feel free to friend us to see our updates there.

Also, I'm in the process of adding roughly 50 new items to our shop. We've been basically throwing duplicates in a box whenever we bought a lot and now that I'm finally getting to it, it's a lot more than I expected. I'm hoping to have that done by Monday as I want to make some cash to pay for some recent expensive purchases. So please check back throughout the weekend and don't forget to use the 27% off coupon posted in our last coupon code blog you've only got 2 weeks left to use it!

~Stephanie

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Retro Review Tuesday: Fester's Quest

Introduction
I'm not sure if this happened to everyone, but when I was a kid sometimes it seemed as though the hand of fate simply placed cartridges in my NES collection. I didn't recall buying them or asking for them, they were just there. Sometimes I found a wondrous treasure in these foundling games, like Life Force. Sometimes I found something that should have never been found. Things no human being should have ever been exposed to, especially at an early age. One of those awful things was Fester's Quest. The basic concept of this game is pretty unclear going by the opening sequence,but it seems Fester is moonbathing on a clear night when a flying saucer comes by and starts abducting the townspeople including his brother Gomez. Naturally, Fester has no choice but to go out and kick some alien butt and embark on an epic quest.



Overview

Controls:

It's an NES pad and a standard adventure style game so they're simple enough. Move with the D-Pad. Shoot with B, context sensitive actions with A. Get into your inventory screen with Start. In spite of that simplicity this game manages to control terribly. The controls are very clunky and fester is pretty darn unresponsive. It would be ok that he moves like a tank if he could stand up to damage like one, regrettably nothing is further from the truth so you're going to get hurt fairly often because fester didn't move when he should have.

Graphics:
Graphically it's a bit substandard. It isn't terrible, but the limited color palette in game play screens really brings already mediocre graphics down a notch. The character sprites are a mix. Fester seems to be constantly suffering from some sort paralysis. If you've got the gun the only part of his sprite moves most of the time are his feet, if you've got the whip one of his arms moves. The alien bosses seem to be suffering from a similar affliction, though some of them can move both arms! Woo! The normal alien enemies on the other hand are actually pretty well rendered, fluid and very mobile.



Music:

The music is one of the best parts of the game. Like all NES games it can get incredibly annoying and repetitive after awhile. Barring that, it's actually quite catchy and enjoyable most of the time. It's much more complex and interesting than your standard fare, perfect fodder for an OC remix if only someone would get around to it.

Gameplay

You start off on the street with a what the game calls a gun, but looks like a gramophone horn. You wander the alien infested streets killing aliens and collecting power ups for your gun and whip. This is a lot easier in theory than it is in practice. The aliens are quite strong and a lot quicker than Fester is and it takes quite a few shots to take even the weakest creature down if you don't have any powerups for your weapon and of course to get those power ups you need to kill them. If that's not annoying enough on its own there are negative powerups that decrease the power of your weapon when you pick them up. Given that items drop almost every time you kill an enemy and that it's very easy to position yourself at an enemy respawn point, it can be neigh on impossible to avoid picking these bad drops up which is a cause for great agitation and swearing.



The other things the aliens drop are:
Money, used at hot dog stands to replenish your life
Light bulbs , used to light things up
Keys, open locked doors.

They keys and light bulbs are one use items so if you leave an area and backtrack you'll have to use one again so it's a good idea to keep an eye on your supply of them.

Additionally if you visit the houses you'll occasionally meet other members of the Adams family who will give you stronger special power ups which are:
Vice Grips, which bring you back to normal speed after being slowed
Potions, which bring you back to full health
Missiles, send six missiles out towards an enemy.
Noose, summons Lurch to clear the screen on enemies.
TNT, which explodes on your enemies doing a lot of damage.
Invisibility potions, which make you invincible for a short period of time.



The special items are a rarity so it's best to conserve them for bosses or emergencies.


The streets are full of large gaping chasms kind of like an early version of the Silent Hill maps. So also like Silent Hill, you're going to need to find away to get around, in this case it means going underground. The underground levels are labyrinths of varying complexity and difficulty and often have stronger more troublesome monsters. Additionally if you haven't picked up light bulbs they're pitch black, save for a small pool of light around Fester, making a difficult situation worse.





Once you get through the underground you'll find yourself back on the town streets where you'll continue in the same fashion until you come to a building larger than most where you'll walk through another a classic corridor labyrinth until you find the door the alien boss is hiding behind.



Each boss has it's own specialty and a pattern it always follows. Once
you've figured it out you're pretty much home free, though sometimes Fester's lack of maneuverability will get in your way. Most of the bosses honestly aren't much harder than the normal aliens you see around town, they just take a lot more hits to go down, but it's easier to avoid them too. Though the bosses holding shields take an almost inhuman amount of patience to finish off without getting hit.




Once you defeat the boss you're rewarded with a clue piece and find yourself outside with full health. From there you continue on your quest which in the same fashion, wander the streets, kill the aliens, find the alien boss, kill, continue, repeat. When you've defeated the 5th boss you complete the clue which shows the UFO, you know in case you forgot what it looked like from the opening sequence... Anyway, you walk around exploring for a bit until you come to a park where you'll find the flying saucer which beams you up.

The interior of the space ship plays like one of the underground levels. It is essentially a maze-like gauntlet of booby trapped, monster packed hallways leading you to the boss. The Aliens here are even stronger and faster than the ones before, so it's going to take a small miracle to get to the boss. Once you get there things just get worse for poor Fester as this boss is quite a challenge. It has two secondary guns to distract you while it fires a volley of energy blasts which home in on your position and are quite a chore to avoid. Hopefully you've been saving your special powerups because you need them if you want to finish the battle with any sort of sanity intact.

Once you beat the final boss you get to see a loving reunion between the brothers, which consists of two, maybe three frames of animation. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.




Conclusion

Fester's Quest could have made a mediocre game at best, nothing about it was great and nothing about it was awful either, at best it could have been forgettable. What pushed it into the realm of bad games is the difficulty. If you're going to make a game so unforgivably hard you've got to make it fun or interesting or pretty. Sunsoft neglected all of that with Festers quest. However for those of us who foolishly played it as children, you can't help but have developed a vendetta. You just keep coming back for the punishment, convinced that this time will be the one where you'll finally be able to get past it and put the unpleasantness behind you. With enough patience and skill you can, but I can tell you from experience it's hardly worth doing so.


Stop by www.avaneshop.com for vintage game collectibles:


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Collection Oddities: Link Halloween Mask

It's October, and I'm a goth kid at heart so I've been trying to stick with a Halloween sort of theme for my posts. This weeks oddity post will be no different.

If You've managed to avoid looking at the title of this post I have a fun little look and find game for you. Find the terrifying oddity in this picture from our collection.




Is it that grown women have frightening number of Pokemon figures? No, everything about this is right and natural. Is it that so many bad bad Irwin ideas are clustered so close together? That is truly horrifying, but isn't it either. Then, It's certainly got to be that Mario doll in the corner that looks like something that should get Nintendo sued by the Italian American Defamation League. Good guess but still not horrifying enough.
Give up?

Let's look a little closer shall we?

Anyone got any guesses on why we've got a frightening plastic disembodied leprechaun head? Because we're sick twisted people, would be a good guess and technically a correct one, but not the droids I'm looking for. I'm looking for the answer that is the most correct, just like one of those annoying standardized tests. The answer lies behind the mask. Let's just take a peak at the tag.

It's a bit blurry because I can't keep my hands steady to save my life. It reads Link - The Legend of Zelda. 1988 Nintendo of America.

That horrifying monstrosity is in fact a deception of our favorite Hyrulean Hero, Link. Someone at Nintendo thought no one would notice if they just put some eye holes in some old plastic St.Patrick's day wall decorations and sold them as Link Halloween masks. Well, people didn't notice this was the 80's and so all costume masks were kind of like this anyway. I fondly remember going out Halloween as voltron many years and having an equally as uncomfortable unbreathable plastic mask, so I guess I can't knock it too badly. Though at least voltron looked like voltron, if you wear this people are just going to think you really enjoyed the Leprechaun series of B movies.

I got Jen to model it for the camera.


This thing is absolutely terrifying when it's on a human being.It completely covers the head and part of the neck making for some undeniably eerie doll like motions towards your companions. Those angry eyebrows and wide plastic smile don't help the situation any. Though as the wearer things aren't a lot better as there's a nagging feeling of slowly suffocating in old plastic.

Any reasonable person would make the equally as reasonable suggestion that this thing should be tossed in a fire before cursing the household. But I think we've shown time and time again that we are not reasonable people. I absolutely love this thing because it so weird and horrifying. I don't think we've got anything else that can match it's creepy factor. An object truly befitting of our oddities collection.

If you feel your life is missing one of these as of 10/31/16 we've got one for sale in our shop.

~Stephanie

Don't forget to stop by our shop:

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