WedNESday: Winter Games

See the source image Do you have Olympic Fever?  I have Olympic Fever (two vaccines later and all I have is a rash at the injection site).  I enjoy the overblown bombast and moments of individual triumph that permeate the games.  However, after nearly six decades of video games, and about 10 winter games events since the start of the golden age of gaming in the late 70’s, we have yet to see one title that actually captures the event well.  There were a few that landed and were good enough to sell well, however.  One such game was Winter Games from Epyx, released in 1985 on the Commodore 64.  It received fairly high praise for its graphics and quality, with multiple game modes and eight events.  So, a few years later, the NES saw a port of the hit title published by Acclaim.

The NES release of Winter Games wasn’t good. It isn’t the worst sports title on the NES, but as is usually the case with these sorts of sports games, it is very hard to really nail down the controls, and honestly, how do you simulate figure skating with two buttons and a D-pad?  Even excluding the limited control options, the port on Nintendo’s titanic console was inferior in graphical and sound quality due to hardware limitations and also featured only four of the original's eight events. It was almost literally half the game! The controls are occasionally bizarre and often counter-intuitive.  Instead of having one button that executes tricks, for-instance, these are done by pressing and holding one of eight directions on the D-pad while in the air or on the ice.  This doesn’t work!  This style of limited control options has never worked!  Without a button to execute the trick (ala, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater), just pressing a direction feels off and the game fails to consistently register the directions when they're pressed.  At the time it was released Winter Games on the NES was bad, but not insufferable because at least it tried to do a few things differently on consoles by giving the player freedom to execute big tricks offering a sort of risk-versus-reward design.  Still, not only has Winter Games not aged well, it really is mostly just boring.  These sorts of sports games have evolved so much that a title like this feels like a college student's first software programming project.

Figure Skating is frustrating, with most button presses feeling as though they aren’t doing anything and once you finally do hit the air it’s almost as though you have no control over what is happening.  While it is possible to land a successful trick, good luck trying to master this thing!  Speed skating is dull, ultimately amounting to pressing left and right back and forth in rhythm to keep up your speed and even then it just too frustrating and inconsistent to be really fun.  Bobsledding is the most intuitive entry but it falls flat for being boring.  The only one of the four events I actually really enjoy is Hot Dog Aerials, a ski jump game that is honestly pretty addictive.  This is due to the controls being far more intuitive and things just feeling like they make more sense when you are playing.  Press ‘A’ to take off, hit the air and use the D-pad to chain together a few tricks before you have to land safely.  Not too bad and, honestly, fun for a few go-'rounds to try and beat your best score (those judges are jerks!).

Winter Games is comparable to other, similar “multi-sports” titles like California Games, Gold Medal, Caveman Games and the significantly-superior Crash ‘n’ the Boys: Street Challenge.  The NES port isn’t unplayable; it just isn’t all that fun outside of the aerials.  I have always felt that being bland is far worse than being dreadful because at least I often remember playing a truly terrible game.  Winter Games is little more than an afterthought.  Still, I don’t hate it in its complete form released on other platforms and I have a fondness for the aerials minigame that just makes me want to pick it up and try again (I don’t think I’ve ever gotten anything above about an 8.6); It’s simple-yet-satisfying.  Even the worst of these multi-game event titles seem to have a few segments that are at least a little enjoyable.  If you are going to get this one, I’d say try to find a copy of the Commodore 64 release because it is significantly better, and if you are an NES collector like myself, chances are you already have this cart, but if not, it’s a scrap; pick it up.  It really won’t cost you much and the aerials are more fun than your average mobile game distraction, assuming you can get a handle on the still-clunky gameplay.

Le Tour de France 2017 Review

[et_pb_section bb_built="1"][et_pb_row][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.62" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" border_style="solid"] As you look around, men and women are cheering, the buildings are climbing the horizon in front of you, and you can spot the pace car ahead. Your breath is fading, your chest is pounding, and that jerk behind you who has been using you to draft behind for the last stage is making his move. As you rapidly pedal as fast as you can you feel your muscles screaming in unison with the ever growing crowds of fans. You arrive at a cross road. Go for the win and risk a blow out? Or play it safe for the points? The decision is up to you.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.62" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/le-tour-2.png" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" sticky="off" align="center" always_center_on_mobile="on" border_style="solid" force_fullwidth="off" /][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.62" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" border_style="solid"]

Over the past few years the Le Tour De France franchise has become a staple in my household. As a lover for all sports games, I just always felt it necessary to purchase and play. This edition continues down the same path as the others in that it tries to recreate a series of races that are almost 3000 Kilometers in length and have over a few weeks--not an easy task for any game designer. This years installment offers some very user friendly additions in the mandatory first tutorial which was done well and easy to grasp for new gamers to the franchise, the ability to save progress mid race allowing for easy pick up and play, and adjustable difficulty at the start of the race.

 

The Good:

  1. Easy gauge for race stamina is set in two circles Blue (overall) and Red (burst or attack). Your blue gauge slowly decreases during the course of the race and acts as an all encompassing stamina gauge. As your rider goes through the various stages, it will decrease. To boost it up takes the proper use of an aerodynamic pose on the bike or slower pedaling pace. The Red or attack gauge is smaller and is used to push for a lead, going up a tough hill, etc and is replenished for simply pedaling below max speed.
  2. The level design is beautiful. Great open landscapes, beautiful horizons, fun little cities with fans cheering. These combine to help make a great overall look for the game.
  3. Physics. Hills are tough, declines are easy, taking a corner too fast leads to slowing down or falling down. I never once ran into a bug that hindered me racing the roads of Europe, and I am appreciative of that.
  4. User friendly bike controls allow for players who have never played, to dive in and be able to navigate fairly well.

 

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.62" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/le-tour-3.jpg" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" sticky="off" align="left" always_center_on_mobile="on" border_style="solid" force_fullwidth="off" /][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.62" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" border_style="solid"]

The Bad:

  1. Lack of customization. Every racer looked the same to me at the start of races. This lack of detail may not be the biggest deal as the bikes and outfits are very unique, but it really brought down the ownership for me as a racer. I wasn't able to go, yeah that's my guy! Lets do this. Instead I asked, "Is that me?" I would love to see a create a player option so you could play as yourself added to your favorite team or country.
  2. Team mechanics still a miss. The ability to interact with your team is something I have wanted improved in the Tour de France games. Its still a convoluted process that leads to more aggravation than anything. It's not easily explained even in the tutorials and the overall lack of explanation of these details on why its important is something that must be addressed.
  3. Lack of modes. Though you have several races to choose from, not adding to the race styles is a huge miss for this game. Yes, it is a Tour de France game, but you can add some fun games that allow for the player to learn and practice skills outside of the tutorial.
  4. Broadcast hurts more than helps. The broadcaster makes a lot of comments during the race. Some are helpful, some are jibber jabber that you don't understand because you aren't a bike racing aficionado. This drove me nuts and actually made me turn off the volume more than once so I didn't have to listen. It wasn't that it was mixed poorly, its that I didn't know what he was trying to tell me and it wasn't presented in a way that helped me change the way I raced.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.62" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/le-tour-4.jpg" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" sticky="off" align="center" always_center_on_mobile="on" border_style="solid" force_fullwidth="off" /][et_pb_text _builder_version="3.0.62" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" border_style="solid"]

Final Thoughts:

The team over at Cyanide Interactive has tried to undertake a huge passion project. Creating one of the biggest races (might be the biggest but my brain hurt even trying to consider doing the math between this and Nascar) is huge and they deserve a shout out for that. But with a race this big and their almost too-realistic interpretation of it, the races are long and very difficult to be competitive in even at the lower levels. The meters and refills come so sporadic that even drinking your boost (blue and red mini game in the game where you hold Y to drink/use it and it slowly replenishes) are too few and far between to help the gamer find footing in the uphill climb of a game.

What I would love to see in the future for this franchise is customization of the racers allowing the gamer to feel a part of the action and make a stronger connection to the team, adding more boosts (drinks) to help with stamina management, a user friendly team communication set up, and two game modes for each race; realistic and a sped up version to condense overall race time for gamers with less time to devote to the game.

Though, I did have some fun moments playing the game overall, there is a lot that needs to be fixed in this very niche game to make it more user friendly. This led to a lot of frustration on not being able to understand what the game was asking me as someone who isn't a huge racing fan but instead wanted to jump into a sports game.

Thank you for your time and reading my review and let me know if you play Le Tour de France 2017 and your thoughts below.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image _builder_version="3.0.62" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/le-5.jpg" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" sticky="off" align="center" always_center_on_mobile="on" border_style="solid" force_fullwidth="off" /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Coach is Jacked for Madden: Responds from the Sideline

See the source image Today was an amazing day. I love EA. For years they have made games that I derive so much pleasure and enjoyment from. There have been some bad days following them for sure, but a lot of good ones too thanks to the games they make. Most of you know, my favorite of their franchise is the Madden series.

So as I watched the EA conference with with my wife, I literally jumped out of the seat when I saw the drumline all decked out in their Patriots gear. My Madden hype meter had already blown past 10! As I tweeted out my excitement and hype for this new installation of the series,  I saw a lot of comments that I will sum up below that seem to come every year. My goal being to respond to them and hopefully clear up some of the misinformation.

 

I cant wait for them to swap the 8 in for the 7 on Madden 18.

Comments like this are a norm for non sports gamers. You would think that in an industry trying to be taken seriously as a medium, that's trying to breed love and inclusiveness, that is wants respect for all... would try harder to stop these comments. Every year on IGN, Kotaku, and the rest I am forced to see a group of on air personalities whom could care less about the these million dollar franchises that compete for large portions of sales in the gaming market every year. Their lack of education and continued indifference just breeds this wall of hate that surrounds these storied franchises.

The second thing I would like to point out is best said this way. To say that Madden 18 is similar to Madden 17 or any combination of these games over the past 27 years is the same as saying Mario Bros is the exact same as Mario 3D world. That is the level of incompetence that is being spewed and agreed upon.

"Oh its just an updated roster."

Oh Mario can just jump on different things.

The Madden games are refined, intricacies of the game dove deeper into, every single year. They have new layers that allow the player to engulf them self in the sport that they love. I have seen playbooks and block schemes go form being basic, to following modern day trends in the passing and screen game. The ability for a defense to really run the Cover 4 is one of the greatest achievements in gaming for AI in my opinion of the last 10 years. This huge feet in Madden 17 changed the ways professional Madden players played from a year ago.

So when I see this phrase uttered and agreed upon by the voices I respect in so many other areas it just breaks my heart. Not because it contradicts my own believes, but because the ignorance that is shown creates hypocrites of those people I looked up to and makes it hard for me to trust them. Please don't comment on things you don't know about. I try so hard to make sure I play every game possible, so that when I have an opinion, my play through is the proof behind the words I write.

 

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_testimonial admin_label="Testimonial" author="Kyle Haiman" job_title="Lord of the Isle" company_name="PSVG" url="www.playsomevideogames.com" background_layout="light"]

Coach, I hope to someday love a game as much as you love Madden.

[/et_pb_testimonial][et_pb_text admin_label="Text"]

The game job simulator is one of my favorite games on PSVR. Its fun to just goof off in. My work life revolves around the game of football. Its why I live in Texas. Football is king here. I study the game, go to clinics, talk to coached, draw it on my white boards, teach it to my players, watch the games on TV with my wife. I love my Chicago Bears, my Oregon State Beavers, and Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I spent most of my life, dedicated to the game of football. Madden allows me to connect with that game even more. It lets me build a dynasty, compete against friends and strangers, and have a common connections with my student athletes as we play together almost every week.

Madden is the one game that I know every year, will get a tone of my time. The last 2 games of Madden I have been blessed to play with great friends, build dynasties together, and enjoy a time of fellowship that I can only compare to when I played football in college and semi pro. If you have never played at that level, I am sorry but I lack the skill to properly paint the picture with my written words of what that feeling is like.

 

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_testimonial admin_label="Testimonial" author="Loborican" job_title="Awesome Dude" company_name="PSVG" background_layout="light"]

I don't understand your undying love for Madden. Sports games and I have a hard time seeing eye to eye.

[/et_pb_testimonial][et_pb_text admin_label="Text"]

Now I am not saying that I 100% understand the context from my dear friend Lobo. But here is what I felt when I heard it.

  1. The games aren't fun for me
  2. I don't understand how to do what I want to do inside them

Sports are not for everyone. That's ok. I am not asking everyone to love the game that I love. There are plenty of games out there that I don't like and that's ok too. But if you haven't played my game, then don't comment on it. Don't throw shade at it and call it just a roster update. If you love sports in real life and don't understand how to play the game, the key is going to be finding what part you like which leads me to point two.

For point two, the interworking's of the Madden game have come so far that you have to have the ability to process information, learn from mistakes and dive deeper into the content (grinding) to get good on it. When a new Raid comes out on Destiny or you fail a mission on another game, you don't just keep trying the same thing over and over again. If a new Madden player is playing on Rookie level and only runs two plays, you are not going to get better. You will not learn how to use the pre snap reads to find passing and running lanes. You wont learn how to stagger a blitz for an easy sack, you wont learn how to trick a QB into throwing into coverage. This game takes time, effort, and most of all a willingness to discover new avenues to be good at. If you don't you are doomed to repeat the mistakes and be frustrated by it.

[/et_pb_text][et_pb_text admin_label="Text"]

I know that was fairly long winded so I will wrap it up by saying that Madden 18 is looking to give me another great year of football fun, with a franchise I love, playing with amazing friends. I am so excited for this game and if you want to play, talk about the game, learn some ins and outs I would love to help. And if its not for you, I hope we can find something else to play together. That's why this website is here, so we can all play some games.

 

Madden!!!

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Old Time Hockey Review (PC)

[et_pb_section admin_label="section"][et_pb_row admin_label="row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] A hockey game on the PC has been unheard of since the dark ages of 2009, when EA released their last NHL game for Windows computers. Since then, you either had to pony up for a console or cross your fingers and wait. Fast forward to 2017, where the puck shaped voids in our hearts are only growing larger as we wait for a hero to answer the call, and what do you know? An independent studio has decided enough was enough! It was time to pull the jersey over the heads of those “triple A” studio chumps and give ‘em what for! Ladies and gentleman, I give you Old Time Hockey!

Old Time Hockey is inspired both by classic NHL games like NHL ‘94, as well as hockey movies like Slapshot. The game brings back the glory days of the late 70’s, when helmets were optional (let’s be honest, no one wore them) and concussions were just excuses for wimps to get off the ice. With such inspiration, you might think that Old Time Hockey would be strictly arcade-like, with limited controls and game modes. Well, yes and no.

During a game you control all five skaters much like you would any hockey game, switching between whichever player will accomplish the task, whether that be hitting someone off the puck or ripping a slapper for the top shelf. The controls feel very comfortable, you can use the simple two-button approach or go for the advanced scheme. If you are familiar with the control scheme of EA’s NHL franchise, the advanced controls will feel right at home. Skating with the left thumbstick feels right, with the physics a little more on the heavy side and things like momentum and weight make an impact here, but you’re still able to skate accurately once you’ve had some experience.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_image admin_label="Image" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/vlcsnap-2017-03-26-20h48m56s541.png" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" animation="fade_in" sticky="off" align="center" force_fullwidth="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] [/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

The same story applies for shooting with the right stick, although it was a little hard to get used to in the two button scheme. In either case, you can aim your wristers and slappers, making it feel as if you are actually getting scoring chances instead of just pushing a button and pelting the goalie until the game decides you can score now. No matter which control scheme you choose, there is a slight delay between button press and action on screen. This will most likely lead to double pressing buttons or just mashing the button until your player does what you want him to, often times too late for that sick pass or sweet scoring opportunity. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible, as far as I can tell, to set up one-timers. Personally I would recommend playing with the advanced controls, since some new options open up to you on both the defensive and offensive side of the ice. Poke checks, dumping the puck, and protecting the puck all require you to use advanced controls, and you can bet a bag of pucks the opposition will be using these moves against you. Speaking of opposition, let’s talk AI, starting with the opposing teams. Each team has a rating for offense, defense, and fighting, but as far as I can tell, these numbers don’t necissarily mean much out on the ice. When you play against the computer the other team will have no problem using poke checks, hooks and hits to get the puck from you, and the refs tend to fall on the side of “Let ‘em play!” but since this is the ‘70s era, it’s to be expected. It’s not odd to find only one or two penalties called per game, and some games will go by without even one! Just don’t lay the lumber on too much and you should be able to fend off the attempts for the puck.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_image admin_label="Image" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/vlcsnap-2017-03-26-20h56m41s806.png" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" animation="left" sticky="off" align="left" force_fullwidth="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] [/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

As for your own team, I did notice a few things that I personally would have liked to see out of my team. Since you can’t control things like aggressiveness on the forecheck or your team breakout from your zone, you’re playing with your team as opposed to leading it. However, sometimes this means pulling a player out of position to pick up the puck in front of your net, frantically switching players until you get the one closest to the puck, player position be damned, or trying to set up a 2 on 1 only to have your teammate come to a dead stop at the blue line. It can be frustrating at times, but you’ll end up adapting your strategies and learn when you can and can’t pull certain plays off after logging enough time with Old Time Hockey. In fact, you will have to if you want to unlock the advanced controls. More on that in a moment.

It wouldn’t be a sports game without game modes, but if you’re looking for a general manager’s mode or even a season mode, the closest you’ll get is story mode. Story mode sees you playing as the epicly bad Schuylkill (skool-kill) Hinto Brews, the game’s version of the Chiefs, as you pull the team out of the dregs of amatuer hour in the Bush Hockey League. Starting with a cool zero stars in each of the three stats for overall team performance, it’s your job to turn the ship around and start winning and improving the team. However, you won’t do this by making trades or running practice drills, instead, you’ll play games in the scheduled season and learn how to play Old Time Hockey with mandatory tutorial objectives spread across mutiple games. So in your first game you might learn the basics of hitting and shooting, then three games down the road you’ll learn about dumping the puck and hip-checks.

Until you complete the entire tutorial, you will not have access to the full repitoire of moves in exhibition mode. Thankfully, as you unlock moves you will be allowed to use them in story mode, which is nice considering your rivals will be using moves against you that you might not be able employ at the time. It’s an odd choice considering many people who will be turned on to this game will already understand the basics of these skills and, like me I’m sure, will be frustrated that you cannot use them from the very first puck drop. Other than story and exhibition modes, there’s not much else to see or do in Old Time Hockey. As of yet online multiplayer is absent, the only multiplayer being local exhibition mode with up to four players.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_image admin_label="Image" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/vlcsnap-2017-03-26-20h47m05s134.png" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" animation="left" sticky="off" align="left" force_fullwidth="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] [/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

The game looks and sounds unique, to put it nicely. Player models look about the quality of a Nintendo 64 game, albiet in HD. Jerseys are colorful though, and an outline effect over each player makes the action easily readible on screen. Fluid animation and a smooth 60 FPS also contribute to how clearly it’s all presented. The sound all works, skates cut the ice as you’d expect, shots ring off the crossbar, and players even yell at the refs, just like you’ll be doing when they don’t call a penalty! The music is licensed, and while I doubt you’ll be adding most of the songs to your playlist any time soon, there are a few that stand out. I’m just thanking the hockey gods that there doesn’t seem to be any generic, royalty-free stock music. You know what I’m talking about, the kind of stuff you hear on free mobile games. Old Time Hockey is presented in a package that actually conveys a sense of time (the 70’s) and gives you a bit more to bite off than “it’s a hockey game, press start to play hockey”.

When the final buzzer blares and the ice is cleared, Old Time Hockey is a good sports game, standing at the precipice of greatness and is extra special for those PC and Nintendo gamers, who’ve really got the high stick when it comes to hockey games on their favorite platform. It’s not without it’s faults, but with as much potential that exists here for future updates, such as adding features like a team creator, player creator, logo and jersey creator, online multiplayer, season mode, stuff like that, this game could really build a following, depending on how much support the game is given after release. It’s not beholden to the whims of the NHL or some large corporate entity that decides whether or not next year's iteration will be just another roster update. However, I can’t judge a game by what it could be, only by what it is today. The decision to lock the advanced controls is probably the biggest drawback I can think of right now.That said, Old Time Hockey is a good ol’ hockey game that bridges the gap between simulation and arcade sports title. It’s meant to be played for the fun of the game. I mean, it has a beer control mode so you can drink beer and play the game at the same time, for Gordie’s sake! If that’s not sports game innovation, I don’t know what is.

Old Time Hockey is available March 28th on Steam and Playstation 4 and is coming soon to Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. Old Time Hockey was reviewed using a Steam code provided by the publisher. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="1_2"][et_pb_circle_counter admin_label="Circle Counter" title="Final Score" number="81" percent_sign="on" background_layout="light" bar_bg_color="#000000"] [/et_pb_circle_counter][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type="1_2"][et_pb_video admin_label="Video" src="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfj0EKoL37I&feature=youtu.be" /][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

WedNESday - T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage

[et_pb_section admin_label="section"][et_pb_row admin_label="row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] An LJN Wipe Out that Could Represent Their Best Work

Licensed games are a strange rabbit hole. From bad games based on short-lived game shows to video games starring food mascots, the world of the licensed product tie-in is as broad as it is awful. There are games that break through and maintain a certain degree of longevity, however. One surprising example of this sustained notoriety is T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage. This may be the most polarizing of all of LJN’s titles and has many people saying it was the only good game released under the Rainbow of Death. So, is it good? Is it bad? Or, does it rest somewhere in between?

I have somewhat of a history with this game that goes back to the 80’s. A friend of mine owned this title and it became a vendetta of our’s to not only beat the cursed surfing stages, but finish the greater game entirely. Eventually we were successful, but it was a long, frustrating process. The reality is this is not a fun game, and there are a number reasons as to why playing through Wood & Water Rage is more of a task than an exciting leisure activity.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="2_3"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

The first thing anyone who picks up Wood & Water Rage will likely notice is that the look is repetitive and ugly.  Granted, for an NES game of its time, it does not look bad at all on a technical level but it is the redundant and lazy aesthetic that lacks focus and appeal.  The industrial skateboarding stage looks as though it could have come from anywhere and the blue-washed wave of the surfing levels invokes a sense of hopelessness as you surf across the waters, as if to declare “you will never see anything new.”  And with little to drive you forward besides the hope for progress, seeing the same stages on repeat grates on the senses.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type="1_3"][et_pb_image admin_label="Image" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/TC-Wood-Water-Rage-U.png" title_text="A title screen that screams %2280's party%22 while making you wish you were playing a better game" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" animation="left" sticky="off" align="left" force_fullwidth="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] [/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

This all goes to the game’s overall tone, which was obviously meant to have a fun, 80’s bent to it, but what we got instead is a surprisingly unpleasant visual experience as the “vibrant” hot pink, teal and yellow palette creates a pastel visual dystopia, like a year-old roll of SweetTarts found in a grimy crevasse in the deeper pits of Malebolge.  Adding to that the droning, thumping, minor key music and the near-lack of other discernible sound effects besides the slide-whistle jumping noise makes this one a hard game to stomach.  The artistic aspirations of this game do not extend past the candy store title screen that more resembles a Lisa Frank nightmare than anything from a major video game, leaving us trapped in a perpetual Limbo of ugly, blank menus and repetitive level design.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="1_3"][et_pb_image admin_label="Image" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/T_C_3.jpg" title_text="Rail grinding as exciting as sliding down a fifty-foot rail and meeting the concrete with your face" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" animation="left" sticky="off" align="left" force_fullwidth="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] [/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][et_pb_column type="2_3"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

Mechanically, T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage suffers from both over-simplicity and a lack of clarity in its gameplay.  The skateboarding levels offer no more challenge than the careful navigation of obstacles with poorly-defined hitboxes and jumping over a variety of pits and hurdles.  Jumping on some moving objects, grinding the rail in the background, picking up coins and completing the stage with lives to spare earns you points as you are transported to the next stage, which is nearly-identical to the last with maybe a few variations in the pitfalls before you.  One such addition to what this game would likely call a “difficulty curve” are the sentient baseballs that become increasingly more difficult to avoid (inconsistently-so).  Another factor of annoyance is that jumping locks your Y position on screen for the duration of your airtime, which makes avoiding some obstacles a chore and also often results in you missing valuable scoring opportunities.  There is also the requirement to hold back when jumping pits or obstacles to grab your board.  This would be a nice touch except back also slows you down, meaning every single ollie over a piece of road furniture leads to you being dragged slowly back and losing precious momentum.  When I pick the skating up, I could feel motivated to beat my high score for a time, but after a short investment of effort into the game, it is not uncommon for me to lose interest entirely.  Devoting the time to “master” this game can only be described as “a waste thereof”.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

Now, as bad as the skating levels are, the surfing stages actually manage to be worse.  The confusing, inconsistent controls and lack of any interesting gameplay elements makes this the worst of the two parts.  This is the result of separate-yet-equally-annoying components.  First is the fact that any movement straying too far from perfect will send you hurdling backwards into the pipe and ultimately into full-wipeout mode or into a slow drift further and further to the bottom of the screen, the leaving of which also results in a loss of lives.  Secondly is the lack of motivation to do any sort of tricks as airing off the crest of the wave can earn you points but is so inconsistent as to feel almost too much of a risk to be worthwhile.  It can be learned overtime so that your air becomes more reliable and score-worthy, but there really is no point in executing tricks outside of breaking the monotony, netting a few more points and maybe earning a few extra lives to help get you to the end of the wave.  Moving back and around in a loop can reset your position, but this requires doing so between traps that fly or float your way so while it is a necessary element, the fixed circumference of movement when looping around makes it easy to become the victim of purely bad luck.  Because of these factors, if beating the stage is your goal, it is much safer to simply try to ride the wave out in a very vanilla, yet still-imbalanced straight run to the end.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_image admin_label="Image" src="http://www.playsomevideogames.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/T_C_2.jpg" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" animation="left" sticky="off" align="left" disabled="off" disabled_on="on||" force_fullwidth="off" always_center_on_mobile="on" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"] [/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row admin_label="Row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]

Playing this game is an exercise in frustration and any fun to be had in arcade-style high-score attempts is lost after several runs through this gauntlet of repetition.  There simply isn’t enough in the can to make this even really qualify as a complete game experience.  There were games from that very same period that can require dozens of hours to complete that are far more fun and timeless than this, a game that can be mastered but only so while requiring heavy investment of time and patience into what ultimately amounts to a shallow experience.  There are better arcade “quick fix” titles on the NES that will be far more gratifying than this weak, monotonous game.

Lastly, an interesting note about T&C Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage is that it was “ghost written” in a sense by Atlus before being published under the LJN brand.  Atlus would later go on to publish a number of quality sleeper imports in the U.S. and is still active to this day.  They are most widely known for the Snim Megami Tensei series (which includes the Persona games) and has a released a number of classic must-play fighters such as the excellent PS2 title Arcana Heart.  That said, with all of the illustrious history behind Atlus, when Wood and Water Rage was released for the NES, they were mostly known for their handy work on other LJN messes such as Friday the 13th and The Karate Kid.

[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]