Tag Archives: Licensed games

Pigs In Space Review

The Muppets. What children of the 80’s didn’t love them? Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, and of course the theatrical films. Even when they weren’t all that great, they weren’t completely lamented. Except for maybe the time they tried to remake The Wizard of Oz. Anyway, Muppets have been plastered on everything for decades. T-shirts, flat ware, a rather excellent toy line from Palisades Toys, the list goes on. Muppets even made their way into video games. Most of them have been simple, edutainment fare. Things for toddlers to learn shapes or colors or numbers from. After all, Sesame Street has been a pre school staple. But now, and again they’ve ventured out into traditional video games. This week I stumbled onto one of the more interesting, and yet disastrous ones.

PROS: Based on one of the best parts of The Muppet Show.

CONS: Inconsistent visuals. Poor controls.

PSYCHIC GAME: Predicted Gonzo was an alien 16 years before Muppets From Space.

Pigs In Space is loosely based off of one of the Muppet Show’s greatest skits. In it Miss Piggy, Captain Hogthrob, and Dr. Strangepork go on adventures in space that parody popular science fiction. One of their most notable skits, featured Mark Hamill reprising his role as Luke Skywalker, even bringing C-3P0, and R2D2 along. It was pretty funny, and something a lot of kids looked forward to back then. The game however shouldn’t really elicit that sort of nostalgia. Because it isn’t very good.

This is probably going to be a fairly short review because there isn’t very much to Pigs In Space. It’s a compilation of three games, two of which are fairly shallow. The game starts out with a title screen with none of the design of the skits’ popular moniker. Upon starting the game, you will see three heads appear underneath, and a scoreboard on the top of the screen. Just below the scoreboard are some X’s. These represent the number of lives you have left. Choosing each of the heads will bring you to a corresponding game. The first of these is Captain Hogthrob’s game. It’s the best game on the cartridge, and the only one that could possibly pass for an actual skit. It’s a parody of Space Invaders. The alien ships have all been replaced by Camila the chicken, and the space station that flies across the top has been replaced by a spinning Gonzo head. The Gonzo head is interesting, because not a lot of Atari 2600 games were doing the rotation effect this does. In any event, you move the Captain along the bottom eliminating chickens for points. Instead of landing on the ground for victory, they just push you below a certain barrier. The other thing they do is shoot at you the way you would expect. If you get shot, you turn into a chicken, and fly away. The game is the only one that doesn’t end until you lose all of your lives.

As a parody of Space Invaders it works, but the clunky movement, and single joke will have you wishing you had just played Space Invaders instead. Next up is Miss Piggy’s game. It’s a really bad Frogger clone. If you can even call it a clone. Floating across the screen are spaghetti, and meatballs. Because “Spaghetti Western” I can only guess. The object is to get Miss Piggy across the fast flying food, and into the ship. Once you do that successfully it’s back to the title screen. The faster you do it the bigger the point bonus. Of course if the ship makes it all the way across without you, you’ll lose a life, and have to try again until you’re out of lives. It’s short, you’ll probably play it once, and forget about it.

Finally there’s the Dr. Strangepork level. Strange doesn’t really begin to describe it. It’s a vertical shooter. You pilot the Swinetrek through what one can only guess is a cave. Gonzo appears on ledges firing laser guns. If one connects or you touch a wall, you have to start over again. You can shoot at the Gonzos but the game has you do so in the most asinine way possible. It shoots in the direction you last steered. Even more baffling is the arc of the shot is odd. It will go left or right, but also fall back. So landing shots requires pixel perfect timing. With enough practice you can clear the stage. There are no bosses, or tougher enemies on replay. It’s the same thing every time. Clearing the cave again, takes you back to the title screen. There isn’t much else to go over here aside from one crucial point. Points aren’t tied to any one game. Your score carries over between them until you run out of lives.

One interesting note about the game is that it is one of the few 2600 games to come out just before the industry crash of 1983. Which makes it one of the rarer games in the library. Although not so rare that you’ll pay a mint for it. It doesn’t have the status of scarcity of other noteworthy 2600 games. Pigs In Space is a morbid curiosity. Something that you may pick up to say you’ve experienced, or to boast it’s in your collection. Outside of those uses though it isn’t a recommended game. You’ll get a competent Space Invaders knock off, a bad Frogger clone, and a really strange vertical shmup. There are far better 2600 games to play. Really, really good 2600 games to play. Get this only if you’re into rarities, and collecting pieces of obscure video game history.

Final Score: 4 out of 10

Expendabros Review

All too often games based on films, or other properties, in a word; suck. Expendabros is one of the rare exceptions.

PROS: Blows the last Expendables tie-in out of the water. FREE.

CONS: This is really less freeware, and more a glorified demo.

UNKNOWN: If this game has any actual spoilers. If it does. Expendables 3 will be weird.

Developed by the same team that is making BroForce,  Expendabros is loosely based on The Expendables 3. As such, the game works as not only a movie tie-in, but as a demo for BroForce as well. The game runs on the same engine, and uses many of the same assets that are in its predecessor.

Expendabros is up to four players on a single machine. It plays essentially the same as BroForce. Players will have to get from one end of the stage to the next. The whole affair is reminiscent of games like Konami’s Contra, or SNK’s Ikari Warriors. You will be attacked from every direction from grunts, mechs, gunners, and more. The game also throws in some really fun, and over the top bosses for you to conquer. Many of them are very challenging, and difficult to defeat. Particularly the end boss who practically turns the game into a bullet hell shoot ’em up.

Where  Expendabros differs from other 2D side scrolling shooters is its environments. Pretty much, every sprite the game displays is destructible. This means you can shoot your way through the terrain, almost like Dig Dug. Doing this can be both beneficial, and detrimental. It’s good because sometimes it means you can skip through a difficult section or get the jump on a deathtrap device. It’s bad because it also sometimes leads to dead ends or bottomless pits.

During missions, you will have to free prisoners from cages. When you do this you’ll slowly unlock members of the cast of Expendables 3. Unlocking the characters adds lives. But each character has their own abilities. Terry Crews gets a giant chain gun that is handy against bigger enemies. Dolph Lundgren gets a lot of cool explosives. Sylvester Stallone uses his dual pistols, while Jason Statham throws his trademark knives.

Unlocking the team members helps you last longer because when you die, another member is put under your control at random. It goes like this until you either clear the level or lose every team member.  There are also NPC characters throughout the game. You can interact with many of them, giving them weapons. Upon doing so these characters work a lot like the option orbs in Konami’s Gradius.

They will go about the level shooting grunts on your behalf. But they can, and usually will die from explosions, bullets, and things meant to kill you. You will also find flagpoles around the area. These act as checkpoints. Getting these raised means your next character will spawn next to one upon your death. Some of these are pretty difficult to get to. Especially in the later stages where the challenge begins to ramp up.

Visually, the game isn’t going to blow you away. It has a decent look to it going for a nice spin on the look of 8-bit, and 16-bit consoles. Between levels there are some pretty cool cinema screens that tell the story. Some of these are interactive QTEs.  Again, it goes a long way to try to bring back feelings of Contra, and Ikari Warriors. Games that actually took inspiration from theatrical, and direct to video action films.

The audio is actually quite nice. There’s an announcer in the vein of old Midway shooters like Smash TV. Guns, and explosions sound really cool while also being a throwback to the halcyon days of arcade cabinets. The Expendabros isn’t a very long game. You can clear it in four hours or less. But the game is a lot of fun for that short ride. By the end you’ll find the freeware title did its job, making you want BroForce. Or, like me, you’ll want BroForce as soon as it’s completed. BroForce is still in Early Access, and you may be wary of paying money for an incomplete game. To be fair, the developers at Free Lives have continually supported the title. But seeing how it isn’t done, you might want to choose to wait as I have.

As it stands, Expendabros is a really great introduction to BroForce, and one of the best freeware games you can get right now. The fact that it is this well put together, and a movie licensed game is a rare miracle. It isn’t often we see a good  game based on a movie, and rarer to see a free good game based on a movie.

Final Score: 8 out of 10


Ben 10 Omniverse Review

You might be wondering why I would choose to feature a game aimed at the younger set on this blog. Or why I would review this one, when it’s sequel just came out. If you must know, it was gifted to me this past holiday season. Having finally completed a bunch of other games, and it being a slow period for game releases I figured I’d play it. Besides, someone has to play these types of games too from time to time.

PROS: Nice visuals. A lot of cool alien forms to use. Can be played with a friend.

CONS: Boring, and very repetitive. Bugs. Glitches.

REALLY: Malware? That’s what they decided to name the bad guy?

Anyway, I’m not a big Ben 10 fan. Most who probably read this blog, or game sites probably aren’t. But I’m willing to bet some of you have children who are. Or were, at some point. Or were when it first came out, then moved on, and are now nostalgic about it.

For those not in the know, I’ve done some research for some context. Ben 10 started out almost 10 years ago on Cartoon Network. It’s gone through a couple of iterations since then. In all of the versions of the show the story focuses on the adventures of Ben Tennyson. A child who is granted a special bracelet called the Omnitrix. With it he can turn into a variety of different extraterrestrial beings, each with its own super powers.

Over the course of each series, different alien threats loom over the Earth, and it’s up to Ben to stop them. In the original series the worst of these was Vilgax a warlord who originally fought Ben’s Grandfather, and wanted to use Ben’s bracelet to create his own army to conquer the universe with.

Despite, some of the craziness  one would expect from a show of its nature, it actually isn’t half bad. It has an interesting cast of characters, and story arcs that have some character development in them.  It was also very popular for a considerable amount of time spawning action figures, comic books, and a number of video games.

But what about this game? Does it measure up to the cartoon it’s based upon? Is it any good? Does it do anything cool with the source material? Is a kid going to stick with it to the very end? These are all questions you might ask yourself if you’re ever looking at the plethora of licensed games on the shelf in your local game store/game section.

Sadly the answers to most of these questions range from “No” to “Sort of. Maybe.” Ben 10 Omniverse is based on the latest run of the franchise, and is a spectacle fighter in the vein of God Of War. Which is a popular blueprint for action games right now. Some games manage to do it very well like God Of War, Warhammer: Space Marine, Devil May Cry, and so on. Other games do it very poorly. Others like this one feel rather middling.

The problems with a lot of these games are that they’ll either get the combat wrong, won’t have enough variety, or have technical problems. Spectacle fighters are all about having fun to play combat that looks, and feels great. The best ones will be so fun to play you won’t even think about formulas. The best ones also have stories you’ll become at least a little bit invested in. Caring about what is going on will keep you captivated long enough to keep playing. Variety can also spice things up. If done right a player can go from beating down 900 bad guys to solving a fun puzzle, to a completely different experience altogether.

Ben 10 Omniverse starts out promising enough. The game’s story centers around a villain named Malware (I know, I know, I rolled my eyes too.) who can assimilate technology. He’s sort of like the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation. When he assimilates it he gains its most powerful attributes, and begins finding immunities. Malware cons scientists into letting him have access to generators that can merge actual matter with computer software, and hardware in the future. So Ben 10, has to stop him. Because it’s a time travel story you will  bounce back, and forth. Between present, and future.

Rook Blonko is a space cop of sorts who goes forward, and backward through time. Relaying the events of the story to present, and future Ben 10. As you play through the campaign the game slowly unravels Malware’s plot, and it starts to tie everything together in the last two or three stages.

Ben 10 Omniverse can be played by one or two players. The first player being Ben, and the second player being Rook. Stages are set up in the same spectacle fighter formula you’ve played in countless games. First you will fight a wave of enemies, then have a reprieve where you’ll get some more story exposition, maybe a power up or item, and back to brawling. Sometimes Omniverse will toss in a puzzle or two as well. The entire game will run you between six to eight hours to complete.

Unfortunately some of the common problems in other games mentioned earlier rear their ugly heads here. To its credit, Ben 10 Omniverse does try to implement some of its source material into the gameplay. Ben can switch into a huge roster of alien types as he unlocks them in the story. Each with its own special abilities.  Some can throw projectiles, some can see hidden items, or hints. Some can freeze certain objects in place. There are plenty of other examples.

Many of these alien forms actually look pretty good, matching the look of their cartoon counterparts. Many of the moves do indeed showcase cool visuals fans will probably like.  The game also has a leveling system, allowing players to upgrade the various alien forms for more attack power or abilities. Rook can also be leveled up. While he can’t shift into alien forms he can get various weapon upgrades. The problem is in the execution. Much of the time the animations of the combinations don’t flow very well, feeling sluggish.

This leads to the main problem with the game: Monotony. Because of the sluggish combat taking down waves takes a long time. This is compounded when you find out that after using up an alien form’s super power meter you have to revert to being Ben. Ben’s moves do so little damage you will have to wait for his meter to refill so that you can get back to using one of the alien forms. All of this takes you out of the action, and makes what should be a flashy Saturday morning beat ’em up into a bore.

The game does have a few non combat segments in it, but these mostly boil down to some very mundane switch puzzles. These sections almost always require you to switch between a few alien types in order to solve. They are also almost always used to open a door to progress, the few other times being used to hide a special item or a power up.

Other times the game will introduce a platforming section. These are easily the worst parts of this game. Jumps are imprecise, often times leading to an accidental death. Worse yet some of these require certain alien forms to clear out an obstacle before jumping, only to miss, and have to restart from the last checkpoint. It is also here where the fixed camera (You can never adjust it on your own)  becomes a pain, obscuring certain items or even platforms you need to see to be able to progress.

Bosses in this game do in fact, look pretty cool. However, they mostly break down to a single attack pattern. After defeating a boss the game will make you play a Quick Time Event to finish it off. If you fail the QTE, the game then gives the boss  some of its health back, forcing you to re-defeat it, and then re-do the QTE section.

As with the characters mentioned earlier, graphics as a whole, are the one part of the game that actually shines. It goes with a cel shaded look, with colors, textures, and backgrounds that will remind you of Borderlands. Many of the stages take place in caverns, old towns, and installations with a very similar aesthetic.  Enemy variety is honestly pretty respectable here, featuring a decent number of grunts to defeat, along with the recognizable characters the fan base will like.

In the end I really wanted to like Ben 10 Omniverse. The cartoon is one of the better kids shows on TV, it has a nice look to it, and it even has a few nice features. But while it is not as bland, or as bad as so many other TV or Film tie ins, it still isn’t particularly good. The monotonous feeling will probably get to even the most devoted kid who plays it. Its camera problems, and technical hitches (In one instance I was clipped underneath the stage during the final boss fight forcing a restart) certainly won’t help. The terrible ending is also salt on the proverbial wound. Playing with a friend probably makes it slightly less of a chore, but there are far better games one can play with a friend than this one.

Even if you or your child are big fans of the source material I’d skip this one.

Final Score: 4 out of 10