I have always had a special place in my collection for racing games. Typically, while I devote a lot of time and effort to completing story-based games (Mario, Zelda, Metroid, et cetera), racing games are usually the games I play when I don’t care to think about plot or be forced to attempt the same objective again and again. These days, it’s Super Mario Kart, in my childhood it was Mario Kart 64 and Diddy Kong Racing, and last summer, when I briefly owned a Playstation 2, it was Burnout 3. One of these things is not like the others.
I really liked Extreme G 2. I also really liked the above mentioned DKR and MK games, and F-Zero. I like these probably because they’re complete fantasy – arcade style controls and/or speeds that no real car could ever achieve. I’m not into playing driving games that attempt to make you feel like you’re actually driving a car. Gran Turismo and Need for Speed have never really been my thing, mainly because I don’t think it’s at all fun to not be able to drift around corners or shove other drivers off the track just because a real car can’t do it. That’s where Burnout 3 comes in: to me it’s quite a good blend of realism and arcade ridiculosity. The cars have real names and look like things that you’d actually drive, but they handle impossibly well (for the most part) and do, in fact shove other cars all over the place. They’ve got you racing through back alleys and on highways and in the middle of street markets. It’s all very fantastic and kind of silly.
The fact that the camera automatically goes into slow motion every time you take another car down by ramming the crap out of it is just one more reason. It’s all really indicative of how arcade-y the game really is. And if I remember correctly, they’ve got a ridiculous radio DJ on announcing the whole thing. It’s a lot of fun. I played through the whole thing last summer when I was bored out of my mind lifeguarding by day and gaming by night. I did notice, though, when I started to play it more and more, that I’d be driving in real life in a real car and have the impulse to do Burnout drifts and knock slow drivers around a little bit – this game is dangerous. The same thing happens to me with Mario Kart, though, so maybe I’m just hypersensitive to it. But anyway. One more honorable mention and then the list can truly begin.
I don’t know if you remember the game that I claimed to be working on about three months ago; it’s definitely been a while. I had this idea over the summer to make a sweet and very involved Java game with my CS 101 experience – there were going to be multiple maps and physics and stuff blowing up and dinosaurs and it was going to be sweet. It was originally going to be mostly a learning experience to get me more acquainted with object oriented programming (which it absolutely has been), and it wasn’t really intended to be a project that I’d necessarily make into anything polished. After working on it for a while, though, it started to snowball and I figured “how hard could it be to make an Ikaruga clone?”. As it turns out, it’s both challenging from a programming perspective and time-consuming on the art side. I worked on it for about a month and a half with incredible persistence and then kind of fell off – I think I was intimidated by the huge amount of work I’d set out for myself. I had to program the whole game engine from scratch, draw all the sprites and backgrounds, animate them, and come up with a decent storyline. Basically I lost interest because it seemed kind of impossible. The project never totally left my mind though, I was always a moment away from working on it again. I have a mostly-complete game engine that I’ve made scalable to include more enemies, patterns, and areas, as well as a bunch of enemy sprites and two 8-bit audio tracks. Today, for some reason, I decided to pick it up again, and that I want to be done by the end of the semester. It’ll give me something to do and feel good about. I did significantly alter my initial expectations on how it would be when it was finished – my original project was just really daunting. But if all goes well I’ll have a sweet little Galaga-style arcade game by the end of May. Here are some screenshots of what I have so far (it’s all in the 8-bit visual style minus the background, which I have yet to draw correctly).
Also, Super Mario Kart is so annoyingly tough. Always has a super star regardless of where in the lap he is, and he always uses it right as you’re about to pass him. It’s not cool, and I hate Luigi. He makes it impossible to win the Flower Cup at 150 cc. Seriously, I’ve tried it probably twenty times and on the third course, he always comes from behind at the last moment and screws me. It’s not funny anymore, Luigi. Just go home. We all know you’re awesome at kart racing. Just stop, man. And Chrono Trigger is still taking a year and a day. I’m done two of the side quests and I still have five to go and probably a bunch more training before I try Lavos again…it’s a good thing that’s such a good game, because otherwise I’d probably have stopped playing by now.
I remember seeing a funny youtube cartoon way back in about 11th grade called Adventure Time where Jake the Dog and Finn the Human battled the Ice King to save Princess Rainicorn and also met Abraham Lincoln on Mars. If you’ve never seen it, I’m sure you can just tell from the description that it’s awesome; and if you still don’t, the fact that Finn’s exclamations are stuff like “mathematical!” and “rhombus!” should help you out. The point is that I saw this little eight-or-so minute video back in high school and thought it was awesome, and then recently learned that it was the pilot for a Cartoon Network show, and that the ensuing show is my new favorite cartoon (with the possible exception of Aqua Teen Hunger Force). Adventure Time has this crazy sensibility that allows it to do stuff like having Finn’s voice be autotuned whenever he sings, or giving the two a pet computer that loves to dance. I don’t know if those are great examples, but you get the idea. There is, however, a fair chance that the actual reason I like Adventure Time is that everything is so cute. They all have little mouths and little eyes and little legs and that makes them adorable. I mean, Adventure Time is great for other reasons. The guy who voices Bender on Futurama also voices Jake the Dog. It’s just pretty unpredictable in everything it does – voices, characters, animation, et cetera. Watch Adventure Time. Or don’t.
I’ve been reacquainted with the apparently inexhaustible power of Mastodon’s Leviathan to make me totally wired. I’ve also been reacquainted with the difficulty of Diddy Kong Racing for N64. For someone used to playing (and pretty good at) Mario Kart 64, getting back into Diddy Kong Racing is a challenge indeed. A big issue is that the game requires you to place first before advancing. Another big issue is those horrible silver coin challenges.
Better charge my iPod battery – I’ve got a long plane ride coming up tonight. I wish I had remembered to put “A Space Oddity” back on my iPod – I always loved to listen to that song as my plane was taking off and try to time it so that the drop after the big ascending bit (some would call it the ‘second half’) would time up exactly with the wheels leaving the runway. I did that a lot on Rock School trips when I was pretty scared of flying – David Bowie helped me out. I’m pretty sure there was only one time when I actually managed to get the song to sync up correctly. I’d usually just keep restarting it over and over and then be right at the beginning when we took off. This kind of thing is fun for me, apparently. Wish me luck on my Bowie-less flight.