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Fall Guys Review


These days it seems as everyone wants in on the Battle Royale shooter craze. The Culling kicked things off with blandness. PUBG refined the idea to critical acclaim. Fortnite polished it off, put on a Saturday morning veneer, threw in a F2P business model, and became the titleholder. Since then, we’ve seen many games taking the same core concept and trying to dethrone Epic’s wild success story with their own spin on it. But few games have tried to apply the high-player count-Last-Man-Standing-match idea to something other than a third-person shooter.

PROS: Bright colors. Cute characters. Tight controls. Wonderful course design.

CONS: Connection issues. Conflicting monetization schemes.

FRIENDSHIP ENDING: Joins the likes of Mario Party, and Warlords for ticking off pals.

Nintendo’s Tetris 99 is probably the only real breakout until now. Well, Devolver Digital and MediaTonic have brought us arguably the best example yet. Fall Guys has applied the idea to obstacle course challenge game shows. Double Dare, MXC, Wipeout, and others like them put contestants through crazy gauntlets. The latter of which couldn’t possibly fit on a studio set. Anyway, Fall Guys doesn’t quite get to 100 challengers as it taps out at 60. But the core concept is still intact. Be the last egg person standing and take the crown for yourself. In fact, they don’t even call the matches you take part in “Games.” They call them “Shows.”


Of course, before I go on with the show, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. Fall Guys is glutted with microtransactions and DLC. Clicking on the shop tab is almost indistinguishable from Fortnite. There are a bunch of adverts for crazy costumes, skin patterns, and silly dance animations for the rare occasion you win and want to brag about it. All of the prices are in a funky purple coin currency. A currency you have to buy (or tediously grind for) in order to pay for the things I just mentioned. The game isn’t so egregious about it that it puts game-breaking, pay-to-win stuff in there. It’s all cosmetic items and emotes. But you already have to spend money to get the game. This isn’t a F2P title like COD Warzone or Fortnite.


Fortunately, none of that stuff is going to get in the way of the fun. And that’s the thing, Fall Guys really is a lot of fun. The structure is composed of multiple rounds. Each round is a different physical challenge. Most of the time it’s everyone for themselves. Race through a crazy, over-the-top obstacle course to the end and hope to God you’re in the group allowed to move on. Every round has a qualifying number of placements. Early on the game will allow almost 40 of the 60 contestants to move onto round two. But by the final round, there are usually 10 contestants or less. Some of the courses aren’t races. One of them sees everyone on a platform where the goal is to stay on while giant foam-padded blocks attempt to push you off with only a small space to stand on for survival. Other times you’ll be told you need to be one of the few with a tail by the end of the round. So everyone is out for blood as they knock each other over trying to steal the tails from those who have them. Other times you’ll be placed in a tube with several floors made of blocks that disappear when you walk on them. So you need to constantly be moving in the hopes you don’t fall before anybody else.


Other times the game will force temporary alliances by placing you in team games. Maybe you have to put eggs in your basket and keep the other teams from stealing them for their own. Or you may have a soccer game with a Rocket League-sized soccer ball. Or you’ll all have to work together to push a boulder-sized ball up a steep incline. These are just a handful of examples. By the last round though, you can fully expect things to go back to doing whatever it takes to win. And unlike Captain Crunch in a Family Guy cutaway, there’s no going to The Godfather to ensure that happens.


Fall Guys much like Splatoon evokes a lighthearted atmosphere while invoking a cutthroat, hyper-competitive set of emotions. Obviously in a very different way as this is a game show. Few games that go for this dichotomy get it this right. Nintendo often does, but Mediatonic has gotten to their level here. You’ll constantly be thinking “One more game. I know I can do it this time!” And you probably won’t. But that’s okay. And that isn’t to say that Fall Guys is going to be as deep as a game geared toward e-sports grade mastery like a shooter or fighting game will often be. It isn’t. But it does hit that nerve friendship ending games like Mario Party, Dokapon Kingdom and Warlords do. Or even classic family board game night board games do. Because there’s always that one friend or relative who will be the one to throw even their closest pal under the bus by any means necessary. And that doesn’t change in Fall Guys.


But don’t let that fact sour you on giving this one a go. It’s bright and colorful. It looks superb. Each of the contraptions you’re thrown into really does look like something you’d see on a given episode of Wipeout. Everything has that pastel-colored look of padded-foam covered steel bars, fan blades, and blocks as you’re trying to win races or collect eggs. The character designs are super cute as you waddle around as your egg person trying to race your way to victory. And a lot of the costumes you can grind away for hours unlocking or choosing to pony up for during a daily sale are very cool looking. Some of these are DLC only of course. So if you want to walk around like a box of french fries you’ll have to buy the cosmetic DLC.  The point is they do look really cool.


The game has some rather nice sound effects, although the music is one of the lower points for me. It’s fine, but there’s nothing that really jumps out other than maybe the jangling little clip that plays during the stage introductions. Still, it suits the atmosphere fine I just wish something stood out a little bit more.


Ultimately, I really enjoy Fall Guys. I can’t say I’m a big fan of the way the microtransactions are handled. I would have preferred a traditional storefront where people who do want to buy them could just get the costumes they wanted rather than having to log on at just the right time where they might nab it on a flash sale. Especially when the game already has two cosmetic DLC packs you can buy outside of the game on Steam or PSN. If the game has to have extra DLC that would be a more preferable way to do it for most people I would think.


The game also seems to have some connection issues likely due to server overload. The developers have already said the game sold far more copies than they anticipated needing an infrastructure for and they’re already at work updating server capacity. It has gotten better as I’ve been writing this. But you can expect to still see some disconnections as of now. It does look like they’re improving it as promised though.

With its bright aesthetics, tight platforming, and a course design that would make GonGon blush, Fall Guys is something you have to play to believe. It’s so much fun, and with friends more so. Just remember to try not to tie your ego to victories here as the experience is the focal point. Though you really will want to celebrate if you do win. Sometimes you really feel like you’re having a blue shell moment. Play. Lose a ton. Laugh. Play again.

Final Score: 8 out of 10

Retro World Expo 2018 Recap


It seems like only yesterday I attended Retro World Expo 2017, and here I am talking about the fourth iteration of this convention. RWE 2017 was an absolute blast, and RWE 2018 was also an absolute blast. I made my way to the Hartford Convention Center Saturday morning to find that this year’s entry was different. Instead of going up the center’s escalator, and lining up, this year used the ticket booth section of the lower floor. This was an improvement, as it made figuring out where to go much more seamless. There was however one piece of confusion that a convention center employee had to solve, and that was the front door. Some guests inadvertently cut the line by going right to the booth before it was made clear they had to go to the rear entrance of the lobby to enter a line.

That said, everything moved smoothly, and even though I’d arrived behind a few hundred people, I was getting my bands in less than ten minutes. For whatever reason the QR code did not display on my pre-registration form when printed. But the ticket attendant was easily able to find my info, see I had prepaid, and give me my wristbands for the weekend, and after party. Once inside, I went upstairs to find not one, but two amazing custom vehicles.


The first was a really cool Jurassic Park themed vehicle. The paint job was right out of the films. Impeccable. The pattern was spot on, and had a nice gloss finish. There was also a plastic triceratops near by to finish off the movie vibe. Great stuff. Next to that vehicle was none other than Russ Lyman’s Super Mario Kart 2.0. Sadly, earlier this year he lost his original Super Mario Kart in an accident. Fortunately he was able to replace his vehicle, and over time modify it. The end result is an even better design than before, sporting a beautiful multicolored design, and a breathtaking Super Mario Bros. pit crew portrait by Tom Ryan Studio. Both vehicles were parked out in front of the convention floor so that attendees could take photos.


Some of the earliest guests I met were Daniel Pesina, Rich Divizio, and Anthony Marquez who were character actors in the original three Mortal Kombat games. All of them were super cool, and down to Earth folks. I talked with them about how big a part of my teenage years that the MK games, and Street Fighter were for me. As well as pretty much everybody else. I ended up buying a promotional poster style photo, and all three of them were kind enough to sign it for me. If you ever have the opportunity to see them at a show, you ought to take it.


As I wandered the floor, I veered into the arcade area where I saw something both wondrous, and disappointing. The KRULL arcade cabinet. Based upon the cult 1983 Sci-Fi Fantasy film; you’re sent through a number of action sequences loosely based on those found in the movie. It uses a twin-stick setup similar to the one in Robotron 2084, and it is a lot of fun to play. Sadly, the machine was out-of-order, so I couldn’t actually play it. I did however get a few photos of it, since actually laying your eyes on one these days is a rarity. Should you find one in working order at a barcade, amusement park, convention, or other situation, do play it. It’s pretty cool.


Around this time Russ Lyman bumped into me, and we began catching up. Around this time I spotted the Imaginary Monsters booth, so we walked over, and I introduced him to the developers. (Full disclosure, I know two of them personally.) The team is working on a new Metroidvania style game called Abyxsis: The Demon Reborn. They brought a demo version to the show, and what they showed was pretty good! It obviously has a way to go before completion, but I liked what I saw. In it, you appear to play as a winged monster who has to traverse dark labyrinths to find NPCs, power ups, and other items. Like Metroid, there’s a sense of exploration. But at the same time, your character has the ability to do some really fun aerial moves. This looks to be one of the themes of navigation. What they showed was also pretty tough. Enemies take a lot of damage, and can put you down quickly. Again this is all subject to change being a fairly early demo. But the tight controls, wonderful pixel art, and map design are promising.


Imaginary Monsters wasn’t the only indie studio to attend though! Adjacent to their booth was a studio called Jumpmen Gaming. They had two games they were showing off. The first was Project Myriad, a hexadecimal tower defense game with puzzle elements. I didn’t get much time with it so I certainly can’t review it here. That said, it might be something worth looking into if you’re a fan of the genre. I’m not fond of using the phrase “Fan of the genre” as it tends to be overused. But in this case I think it’s applicable. It clearly looks to do something different with the concept by going with a hex display, something usually geared toward a special niche of war games. The puzzle elements seem to add some flair as well. If any of that sounds like something you would like to try, it was recently released on Steam, and isn’t too expensive.


The other game they showed was Sentinel Zero. This game was in its very early stages. This upcoming release is a horizontal shoot ’em up game in the vein of R-Type. What sets it apart are its cartoon vector graphics. The presentation reminded me a lot of early Newgrounds games written in Flash. Think Alien Hominid. But the little that was shown was pretty fun. You earn power shots by filling a meter. You fill the meter by shooting everything. The hook seems to be quickly filling the meter, and unleashing charged shots as fast as possible. They also had two bosses to show, one of which was a giant spider. Again, it has a long way to go before being ready for prime time. But it looked like good start for a project by a two-person upstart.

Another interesting looking indie game demo was Depths Of Sanity by a studio called Bomb Shelter Studios. I didn’t get any real footage or screens of this one as I didn’t get the chance to try it myself. But it was intriguing. It appears to be an underwater action, and exploration game where you’ll pilot a submarine, and find all kinds of upgrades for it that allow you into previously inaccessible areas. Like a Metroidvania with elements of Blaster Master thrown in for good measure. Again, another early build. It does have a store page on Steam with a release date of Q4 2019.

Finally, Giant Evil Robot was back with the recently released full version of Mecha-Tokyo Rush. This is a combination of endless runner, and Mega Man clone. Things seemed a bit better than the build I saw last year. I didn’t have time to really play it though, so I can’t really say much in terms of its final state. The game does have a free to play model however, so you really don’t have anything to lose if you want to check it out.


After taking my initial walk around the floor, I went to the first of the panels I attended. The Connecticut YouTube panel. This panel featured Ryan Alexander (RAXTheGreat1), Mike Levy (Dongled), Sam Hatch (Culture Dog), John Delia (The Video Game Years), Paul Barnas (Retro Gaming Arts), and Russ Lyman (Russ Lyman). For those who don’t know, Retro World Expo has roots in Retroware TV, one of the earliest video hosts before YouTube became the de facto delivery model video content creators use today. Many don’t realize Retroware has its own roots in Connecticut. So it only makes sense to have a panel dedicated to some of the online content creators who are local to the area.

But while the panelists are natives of the State, the information delivered in the panel is applicable to anybody getting into video content on the internet. I would even go onto say a lot of it is applicable to any creative endeavor online or off. A lot of the questions posed to the panelists revealed some insightful answers. When asked about the motivation behind creating content everyone unanimously agreed one has to do it first, and foremost out of a love of it. Few, if many creators of any medium become overnight success stories. One shouldn’t make a video expecting to be the next James Rolfe. If it happens, fine, but going in with that expectation is a recipe for disaster. More than likely, you’re not going to garner a massive flood of views, and subscriptions when you start out. Even the creators who are big names today, often took months or years of work to become those big names.

Continuing from there, Mike Levy brought up the importance of making content you, as a creator want to make. Chasing trends isn’t going to work because it isn’t genuine. Others pointed out that potential fans may be able to sense that as well. When the subject of potential collaborations between creators came up, Mike, and Russ also pointed out the need to have a fleshed out idea to present. It isn’t enough to simply ask another creator to do a crossover project. Especially since they’re often pressed for time for their own projects, jobs, and lives. Instead one has to have a project idea ready to go, ideally with what role the person has in mind for them. The creator may still decline depending on the given situation. But they’ll be more likely to at least listen to what it is you have to propose.

Other panelists also drove home the importance of consistency. Trying to keep content coming out for the audience to experience. At the same time though, they did acknowledge there were times where a legitimate break is needed. Commitments, responsibilities, and other things may eat into time normally allotted toward creative endeavors. Sam, Paul, and John also talked about the guilt creators often feel for missing self-imposed deadlines, but acknowledged sometimes it’s unavoidable. Another topic was the importance of lighting, and audio in videos. Even a high quality camera can’t compensate for a lack of light, or bad audio. If the audience can’t see you, or your audio is too distorted or too light or too loud it can turn them off. Even if the content is good. Russ pointed out an episode he made on this very subject.

There was also a discussion about the recent controversy over former IGN writer Filip Miucin’s theft of YouTuber Boomstick Gaming’s Dead Cells review, which led into a wider discussion of online content theft. While some felt Miucin likely felt pressured by deadlines, everyone agreed that plagiarism was despicable behavior. Some of the panelists were rather shocked when they found their own content re-uploaded by other people without permission.

On the lighter side of things, there were some humorous moments where the panelists discussed changing trends in online video. At one time, many preferred long form content. But these days some viewers complain if it isn’t quick, and digestible in a few moments. One particularly funny point was when the crew talked about the trend of unboxing videos being popular. The joke that stood out centered around an unboxing video where the box would house smaller boxes within boxes like a set of nesting dolls. It was also in this panel that Ryan would point out some new YouTube creators were in the crowd.  Nerdy, and Squirdy are YouTube newcomers, and after checking them out I think Ryan may be onto something. These two have a nice variety of different gaming content you just may want to look into.


After the panel I walked back down to the main floor, where I got in some arcade gaming in. Every year Retro World Expo has a respectable number of arcade machines set up, as well as console set ups where attendees can play without quarters or tokens. Every machine is set to Free Play mode. Some of the machines I saw this year that I don’t remember seeing last year aside from KRULL, were a Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi machine, The Simpsons Arcade Game, and a Dig Dug cocktail table. Over the course of my time at the show, I played a fair amount of Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Final Fight, Shinobi, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Dig Dug. There was also a Ghouls n’ Ghosts machine, but it was always in use. One of the guys in my local trade group managed to find some time on it though, and even cleared it on only a few lives! Impressive.

I also wandered the floor this year looking for some Atari 2600, and Commodore 64 game deals. On the first day, I managed to track down a boxed copy of Gravitar, and a loose copy of Cruise Missile. The latter of which I had never seen before. Apparently it was released in 1987, and is a shmup involving above ground combat, and subterranean combat in the vein of MagMax. I also saw many of the guys from RF Generation were back, as well as Steven Christina Jr, and Karly Kingsley from Super Retro Throwback Reviews. I sat down with them for a short interview they should be airing in the coming weeks. SRTR was also raffling off a bunch of cool PS4 releases, as well as an NES Classic, and a Super NES Classic so I bought a couple of tickets to try my luck.


At around 4 o’clock or so I attended the Mortal Kombat panel with  Daniel Pesina, Rich Divizio, and Anthony Marquez. They were joined by Sal Divita. Sal was instrumental in bringing the NBA Jam series, and its spinoffs to arcades, and consoles. But he also had involvement as Nightwolf in Mortal Kombat 3. In addition to that, he still saw a lot of the development process on all of the early Mortal Kombat games. Daniel, Rich, and Anthony brought a lot of insight into the world of game development as they talked about the creation of Mortal Kombat. It was an idea that almost didn’t come to fruition, as Midway was hoping for a licensed project with Jean-Claude Van Damme. But when that fell through, Midway allowed Ed Boon, and John Tobias to move ahead with their ideas.

As it turns out, there was a great deal of painstaking work involved in the original games. Every video taped action the actors made, had to be cut down to 8 frames of animation due to memory constraints. Not only that, but many of the characters’ moves had to be shot multiple times when it was discovered that being even the slightest bit too close or far from the camera would make sprite sizes inconsistent. Midway also had a very low-budget for the early games so the crew had to use make shift lighting using office desk lamps, and some sessions were filmed using a camera owned by John Tobias’ father.

As for the controversy surrounding the game’s violence level, when it came to politicians, Midway’s stance was to ignore it. But the actors were contract players, not official Midway employees, so they were unabashed in defense of their work. All in all, a very informative panel not only for fans of Mortal Kombat, and fighting games, but for anybody interested in video game development, and history.


After that panel I wandered the floor some more, stopping to talk to friends, and acquaintances whom were either shopping, gaming, or vending. I also finally met The Gamescape Artist in person. My first contact with him was during a fellow blogger, hungrygoriya’s live streams (If you love old school JRPGs, check out her blog, or channel. It’s great!). He’s a friendly guy, and quite the painter! He has a wide range of paintings of iconic video game scenes to choose from, and he also does commissions. They’re high quality, highly detailed pieces, so if you’re looking for something to spruce up your game room consider giving him a shout out.

I also ran into the makers of an independent games’ magazine. Old School Gamer Magazine is just what it sounds like. It’s a new publication with articles covering retro games, as well as modern stuff inspired by retro games. The format is a little bit different from what I’d expected. It reminded me a bit of 1980’s computer magazines like Compute!, Ahoy!, and Commodore RUN, minus the program code you could type in, and save to a floppy for free software. The issue they gave me was the fifth one, and it came with a cool poster of the cover art. The representative informed me that they give away the digital version for free via email, but for a fairly low price you can have the physical magazines mailed to you every month. If you miss the days of getting Nintendo Power, GamePro, EGM, and Computer Gaming World at the newsstand, go check it out to see if it’s right for you.

I also met a group of Video bloggers who do VLOG articles, and live streams. The Geeky Panda covers convention cosplays, as well as games, and have an active Twitch page you can check out if so inclined. They play a bunch of stuff including Resident Evil VII, and Fallout IV. If you’re looking for a new variety streaming channel to follow, they may be your ticket.

After the show floor closed I walked over to the adjacent Hartford Marriott’s hotel bar. Normally I would have paid a visit to the City Steam Brewery, but the after party started an hour after the main show ended. I felt I wouldn’t make it back in time. Fortunately the hotel bar did have City Steam Naughty Nurse, so I pre-gamed with the delicious Amber Ale. After that, I went back to the convention center for the after party event which was a lot of fun.

There were a number of things to check out over the course of two hours. You could play arcade cabs that were set up in one of the rooms. Big Bucks Entertainment ran a special edition of Press Your Luck, where contestants who landed on a Whammy had to take a shot. Host Davira Kuy was also doing so in a rather impressive Quan Chi (Mortal Kombat 4) cosplay. The Imaginary Monsters developers were there, so I introduced them to my friends, and acquaintances, as everybody mingled. There was also a fun Drink, and Draw event going on. It was a nice way to end the first part of the convention.


I commuted back home after that, put away the first day’s pick ups, and got some rest. Day two was a Sunday, so after services, I headed back to Hartford to catch what I could. I did manage to get into Pat Contri’s panel which had some updates on projects he has in the pipeline. He, and his team are working feverishly on the follow-up to his excellent NES collecting guide. This one will be centered on the Super NES, and will be in a similar format. There will also be an alternate cover for the PAL readership. He is also looking into updating the original NES book with some improved screenshots. So future print runs may include these. But the biggest news is that he is working with some other creators on a documentary video about the video game industry’s shift away from physical media. The project will talk about both the pros of such decisions, and the cons of such decisions. The teaser he revealed does look quite promising.


At the end of the panel he brought back the NES Challenge, and I was able to be a contestant in the second bout! In a cut throat match of Donkey Kong Jr. Math, I barely managed to squeak out a victory! The first round pitted two fans against one another in Balloon Fight, while the third round pitted a couple against one another in an Abobo Vs. Abobo match in Double Dragon. The winners were granted a download key for a digital edition of his NES guide, while the losers were granted shoe string budget games for the Atari 2600, and Sega Genesis. A great panel overall.


I also got to see Norman Caruso’s Gaming Historian panel again this year. This time he did a live episode centered around a certain Nintendo made boxing franchise. I won’t say anything else about it, but like all of his episodes, you can expect to be amazed as there will be some revelations you won’t believe. This year he also changed game shows. Instead of video game history themed Jeopardy, he did video game history themed Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? This year’s contestant won last year’s Jeopardy game only to discover he won a T-shirt that didn’t fit, so this year he was attempting to win the appropriate size.


The last panel at the show I caught was a special panel centered around the history of Castlevania, and the Metroidvania formula used in modern independent games. Mike Levy was joined by Marc Duddleson (My Life In Gaming), Mike Desiderio (Rewind Mike), and Pam Dzwonek (Cannot Be Tamed.). Throughout the panel they went over many of the games in the series, and talked about the transition from action platformer to the Metroidvania style most think of today. But they also brought up the fact that there were times where the series hasn’t simply abandoned one style for the other. Marc, brought up the fact that the Nintendo 64’s entries in the series have many similarities to the NES trilogy with a focus on platforming, and combat. Pam, and Mike talked a bit about how even Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest had RPG elements that in some ways can be seen as a forebear to the labyrinthine designs seen in later games.

But they also discussed many newer games like Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight, and Mystik Belle. Here, Rewind Mike pointed out that some of these games veer more toward Metroid, while others veer more toward Symphony Of The Night in terms of design. He also mentioned Abyxsis after seeing it on the floor earlier in the day, and having liked what he had seen. Things closed out with some Castlevania trivia, with the winning attendee getting a Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest Game Pak signed by James Rolfe, and many of the online personalities who attended the show. From Mike Levy’s personal collection no less. And no, I did not win. My Castlevania knowledge is rudimentary. Although I do surprise people when I point out Konami did port the game to many 80’s era computer platforms. Also they’re expensive. If you thought the NES cartridge is steep, try getting the Commodore 64 floppy disk. Anyway, it was a great panel.


I spent most of my final moments of the show on the floor again. I found a few great deals over that time. The crown jewel was the copy of Bubble Bobble for the Commodore 64 a friend of mine had at his booth. Most people remember the NES release, but the C64 version was pretty much on par, and you don’t see it as often. Another vendor had a slew of boxed, and unboxed games, so I looked through the vast selection where I found a copy of Pengo for the Atari 2600. It’s not a release that you see very often at all. It had no tag on it so I asked for a price. When they replied “It has a ripped label so ten dollars.” I just said “Done.”, and picked it up.

I was demoed a party card game called Cheer Up. It plays similarly to Cards Against Humanity, but with its own twist. It goes through rounds in three steps while also simplifying it with a three-letter system. This opens things up by having three card answer types, but also color coding them to make things easier to follow. It wasn’t something I got into, but that’s probably me not being as drawn to board games as other people. I can see the appeal though for those whom have guests over often. Basically, the person asking a question gets every other player to submit answers from their hand, with the funniest one getting points. If you have people over for regular game nights, you might want to see if it’s for you. They have a free digital download version on their site which is nice, because then you can try it to see if you’ll enjoy it before buying a copy.

I also spotted a booth hosted by another YouTube up, and comer GothamLounge who does Long plays with commentary. If you’re stumped on a game, you may want to see if it’s something he’s played through. He seems like a nice fellow, so I wish him luck on his online endeavors. As I was catching up with friends, and acquaintances before the show closed I was tracked down by the Super Retro Throwback team to discover I had won the Super NES Classic Edition raffle! So I guess this was my “steal” of the show as I ultimately got one of these ridiculously cheap. A special thanks to them for interviewing me, and hosting the raffles. I also nabbed some sweet Splatoon themed stickers, and buttons from the always great Elijah Taylor, and JustM3hStudios booths. If you see them at a con near you check them out sometime.


All in all, I had another great year seeing some great panels, scoring some deals, and meeting up with friends like The Best Spuds. But there was so much going on it was impossible to get to everything. I didn’t get a chance to talk to a number of guests. I didn’t get to say “Hello” to The Gaming Historian, RGT85, Game Dave, or Bob Backlund. (Yes, the great wrestling legend Bob Backlund was at the show.). There were a ton of interesting people there this year, and I’ve undoubtedly missed some of them. I apologize in advance.

But even if you weren’t interested in any of the guests there were a lot of other things happening. The Arcade games, and console games were set up to go all day. There were pinball machines to play. There were tabletop miniature games to play. There were live musical acts to jam out to. There were several tournaments going on as well. The ever popular Fortnite had a singles, and doubles competition, there was a Mario Kart 64 competition, a Goldeneye tournament, even a Nintendo World Championships tournament.

There was also a cosplay contest going on this year, and the massive auction made a return. Unfortunately for me I missed it. I was told somebody won a complete Commodore 64 setup (including a vintage monitor) for well below value. Some years the auction can actually lead to deals for some con goers. And even if none of that appeals to you, there are always a lot of vendors to check out. You may not get insane deals, but you can almost bet at least someone will have something you never see when you go hunting locally.

Congrats to everyone at the convention for putting on another great show this year. I hope to be able to make it out again next year. And thanks to all readers who made it this far. As you can see, I had a lot of ground to cover, and I still didn’t get to everything. If you’re in New England next year when it rolls around, check it out. It’s well-organized, entertaining, and they squeeze a lot into it.

Reposted Review: Warlords


(Originally posted on the now defunct Blistered Thumbs community blog.)

Though from yesteryear WARLORDS is still valid today

PROS: Frantic, and fun. There’s even some meta in there.

CONS: Dated graphics. Short play sessions except for the devoted.

WTF?: Why does a 30-year-old game have better box art than most new releases? I mean seriously, look at how awesome it is. I mean REALLY LOOK. Now go look at the MW3 cover. COME ON!

I remember as a child, visiting my grandparents, stumbling upon old relics. Old keepsakes, conversation pieces, knickknacks, or even photographs. I would ask them about what these items were, what they did, what purpose they served. A lot of times this resulted in a boring story. But other instances they ended up telling interesting, captivating stories. Chapters of history that would never be found in school books. Sometimes I feel like the shoe is on the other foot these days when I’m at work, or at a hangout, or even spending a night at a bar with friends. Often times the subject of video games will come up, and someone I have a decade or more on won’t catch my withered cranky reference. This resulting in a strange history lesson that both intrigues the curious modern gamer, and bores the crap out of the guy trying to watch Sportscenter.

But before every one of you leave this blog to go tweet, or off to the malt shoppe, or whatever it is you whippersnappers do, here’s an old timer’s flashback.

Back in 1980, when I was about to turn four, there was an arcade game called Warlords. Around a year later it hit the Atari 2600, and it is here I first experienced it.  Warlords is hard to define. It has the puzzle game element of Breakout or (For those born into the world far later than the seventies) Arkanoid. Paddles are involved, bouncing boulders into walls are involved. It also has the frantic action of a hockey game, as combatants try to defend their fortified castles from becoming rubble, and ash.

The ultimate goal of this game is essentially to be the last man (Or in this case, castle) standing.  Four players each have their own defense shield/catapult that can move ninety degrees around their fortress wall. The game can be played with four people in a free for all, or fewer players with computer AI opponents in a free for all. This is noteworthy as the 2600 (Or the Video Computer System as it was known at the time) was one of the first, and only consoles to offer four player multiplayer. There are variations on gameplay but they all boil down to the same goal. The game uses a special paddle controller. Instead of a digital 8 direction joystick, Warlords has an analog paddle which is essentially a dial. Turning it moves your catapult back, and forth while pressing the button catches the boulder, releasing the button launches it.

While those of you who have never ventured outside the world of current generation consoles may scoff at the simplicity of bouncing a pixel about the screen, those who let their guard down, and try it will be surprised. Warlords is hypercompetitive. Warlords is cutthroat. Warlords doesn’t play around.  When four really skilled players get involved the game becomes really challenging, frantic, and entertaining. It’s exhilarating when after a five-minute ping ponging barrage, you finally destroy someone’s castle. On the flip side it can be absolutely soul crushing to be on the receiving end of such a devastating blow. Most rounds are truly nail-biting sessions when they get down to the wire.

The next time somebody tries to tell you that there weren’t any frantic games requiring copious amounts of muscle memory, and dexterity before the advent of the PS3 take them to a flea market. Pick up a 2600, some paddles, and a copy of Warlords. After a couple of hours of wall smashing terror you’ll be kindly telling them to get the hell off of your lawn.

Final Score: 9 out of 10 (Raid your elder’s cellar!)

Dokapon Kingdom Review

Have you found yourself enraged at the end of a Mario Party title? Have you had a round that ended in the lowest amount of stars yet you won the most mini games? Do you love vintage JRPGs like Y’s, Dragon’s Quest or Final Fantasy? Do you miss the exploration, and random battles of the series’ earlier mega hits? Fans of Nintendo’s party board game series’, and fans of RPGs will love, and hate this highly overlooked gem.

PROS: Turn based battle system. RPG classes, and Mario Party-esque items.

CONS: The week-long grudges resulting from the underhanded actions during gameplay.

WEIRD RESEMBLANCES: The king looks suspiciously like the Thundercats’ Snarf.

The game was originally on the Playstation 2, and was ported to the Nintendo Wii this past generation. Dokapon Kingdom is an odd combination. One part of it is a board game in the vein of Nintendo’s Mario Party series. The game takes place on a huge board that goes throughout many lands, and kingdoms. Players spin a dial, which like the dice in Mario Party, determines the number of spaces you can move. Some of the spaces allow you to get magic items, weapons, or gold. Other spaces are shops allowing you to spend gold on items, or weapons that you rarely find on item spaces. There are also town spaces that players can own, and profit from. This gives the game a welcome element from Monopoly.

From here however things begin to veer into the other part of Dokapon Kingdom, a Role Playing Game. It has elements in common with a lot of the earliest JRPGs, and even some WRPGs. Players can choose a class at the beginning of the game. Thieves, which have a higher propensity to take items from other players, or NPC enemies. Warriors, which have a better set of stats for doing melee damages against players or NPC enemies. Then there are Magicians. Magicians will be better at casting spells, and ranged attacks. As the game progresses, other classes will open up, allowing players to decide if they want to switch or continue with their current character.

There are three modes in Dokapon Kingdom. Up to four people can play in either one. The first mode is the Story mode. Story mode sends players on missions throughout the board game, trying to find very specific items, or reach certain events, and getting back to the king. This is in addition to the normal board game objectives like commanding towns, finding items, and leveling up your characters. The story mode can last months of in-game time. Playing this mode is truly going to appeal to you if you are a big fan of RPGs. It favors a lot of exploration, and choices. That isn’t to say the other modes won’t, but this mode will also give you more of the lore of Dokapon Kingdom. Because this mode is so long, you and your friends will want to save often, and will probably spend several scheduled play sessions trying to finish it.

When I say scheduled play sessions I really mean scheduled. The game will require you to set aside a good 20 or more hours to complete depending on how you or your friends choose to play it. You can also go through this mode on your own, but as you play it, you’ll see the game is suited more to a multiplayer experience. This leads into the second mode.

In Party mode, players can decide how many weeks the game will last. So rather than having to play through the entire storyline, the game can be limited to a number of weeks. In this mode, players can also decide what level to start their characters on. Higher levels will give players more weapons, spells, items, and stats to begin with. This can be a lot of fun because clearing the earlier towns goes by very quickly. This lets even the most novice players feel like they’re able to progress through the game, and see what it’s like to have a leveled up character.

The goal of either mode is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game. The game structure will have you trying to level up by landing on random spaces to fight lower level enemies. Then eventually taking on town spaces. Town spaces are usually held by a boss. Defeating the boss allows the player to own the town which gives the player the ability to upgrade the town. Upgrading the town rewards the owning player with more money. The player can also collect money from his or her competition who land on the space. Players who land on the space can try to get out of owing money by playing Rock, Paper, Scissors against the NPC Mayor. If they lose however then all of the town, and shop spaces are locked for a number of turns as the kingdoms put a bounty on that player. Players can also try to rob stores with a Rock, Paper, Scissors game, with the same result if they lose.

As you go through the game in either mode, leveling up your characters, and getting to newer areas the Mario Party aspect begins to pour back in. Players can attack not only NPCs in towns with items, but each other as well. They can booby trap spaces or cast spells on other players. They can send NPC characters to sabotage other players. They can even battle other players by landing on the same space. Sometimes NPC’s show up to sell you an item, challenge you to a mini game, or hurt one of your opponents for you.

The third mode is a mode called Battle Royale. It has three variants. The first is Kill Race. In this one the king will give a limit of kills, and players will have to keep battling each other throughout the board game until someone hits the kill limit. The second is called Shopping Race. This just transplants one of the missions from the main modes . The player who can land on the shop space, and buy the item the king wants, and get back to the castle to deliver it first wins. The final one is a Town Liberation Race. This mode assigns a random town on the board. The first player to get to the town, and defeat the boss there wins.

Dokapon Kingdom has a simple, but challenging battle system. It starts out with a card draw. Players can decide which card they want, which determines which player or NPC will start the battle. When the battle starts the attacking player can choose to try to attack directly, use an air attack, or try to steal an item or gold. A defending player can try to block an attack, evade an attack, or give up. Depending on what items you’ve used, or how high you’ve leveled certain attributes of your character class your odds of victory will change. The turn based battles are a lot of fun. The exaggerated attacks look cool, and the various enemy designs are great. Sometimes you will also be surprised when a seemingly innocuous bad guy clowns you.

Visually, the game isn’t a technical marvel when compared to the many JRPGs of the PS2 era. But it’s still bright, and colorful to look at. There isn’t any slowdown to speak of, and in all of the time put in I never ran into a crash or a freeze. The audio is a little limited, and you’ll probably tire of the same three or four tracks. But that is a fairly minor complaint when compared to how good everything else seems to be. One could complain about the battle system’s partial randomness or the fact it boils down to three main options, but that also helps it maintain the right challenge for a party game. Besides this, factoring in some of the items, and spells you can place before a battle mixes it up.

The Mario Party aspect really begins to show its head when you attack a player fighting a boss with an item. Or when you cast a blistered foot on someone, forcing them to only spin a 1. Or when you poison someone, draining their health between turns. Killing another player also lets you do some nasty things to them. You can change their name, draw on their face, or make them wear an embarrassing helmet. Or you can take their money or towns. Dying in this game isn’t permanent either. But it will impede your progress as it forces you to lose a certain number of turns. When you do get back into the action you will either start at the beginning or at the last shrine space you visited. You can also try to use hotel spaces to regain some strength, or go back to the beginning of the game to heal. Shrines are also a great place to heal.

While at the beginning space you can also customize your character with new haircuts, items, and even change classes. Some of the newer classes include Clerics, Spell-swords, and Alchemists which are spins on the Magician class. There are also Ninja, and Monk classes which beef up the Warrior class. There is also an Acrobat class. This one is sort of weird. But very entertaining. The new classes show up when you’ve leveled up to a certain point, along with meeting certain conditions. This is also where you will want to bring certain items to the king for bonuses, and where you will probably head when you lose a battle against a friend.

The game does feature mini games too, although they are on designated spaces rather than automatically happening on turn cycles. Winning these can result in a lot of money or special equipment so you may want to try your hand at them.

You might ask yourself what you can do when the game is nearing its end, and you’re in distant last. In this case you can take a page out of Star Wars, and become a Sith Demon Lord. I’m not kidding, there is a space that lets you make a deal with this world’s Emperor Palpatine equivalent. It takes all of your money, and items in exchange for dark powers. Powers that can do everything from putting bosses back on towns, costing your friends millions. To fighting them ranged with spells. To changing spaces to detrimental ones. Of course eventually these powers wear off after a certain number of turns. But it’s a desperation move players on the losing end can utilize to level the playing field again.

At the end of every week the game will show a flow chart of each players progress, or regression. At the end of the game the king will congratulate the best player, and give the worst performer a mildly potty mouthed reward. A more story driven ending is in place for those who choose to play through the story mode. But either way Dokapon Kingdom is a game that will make you, and your friends laugh together, cry together, and possibly attempt to kill each other. Whether you love playing games like Final Fantasy, and Ultima. Or you love playing Mario Party, and Just Dance with your friends. Dokapon Kingdom proves that you can converge seemingly distant genres into a fun, and competitive middle ground.

If you can find an affordable copy for your PS2, or you happen to stumble upon an uncommon copy in the slowly fading Wii section of your game store pick it up. Those who don’t normally play RPGs may need a little time to get up to speed. But it’s still nothing so complicated it requires a dungeon master’s guide. It’s worth the many late night skirmishes with your favorite friends, and your favorite beers.

Final Score: 9 out of 10.