Tag Archives: skateboards

FGC #408 Emily the Strange: Strangerous

So strange“Why aren’t there any videogames for girls?”

… Is how a number of completely bullshit think pieces have started since the dawn of gaming. Which is odd, because gaming, there at the beginning, was fairly unisex. Aside from that one version of Pong that could only be controlled with a flaccid penis, the early days of gaming were practically genderless. It wasn’t Mr. Pac-Man, it was simply a yellow ball gobbling up dots. Space Invaders was maybe boyish because it involved shooting something or other, but it certainly wasn’t coded specifically to appeal to the dudes. Asteroids? Adventure? The absolute best of 80s gaming wasn’t squarely aimed at the boy demographic, and some titles (like Centipede) were even coded by women. Videogames weren’t male-based any more than books, television shows, or movies.

Or… maybe we should explore that for a moment.

I am writing this article having recently seen Ready Player One, a Spielberg filmed based on your childhood. And the great thing is that, thanks to some manner of cross (or crass) marketing, “your” childhood doesn’t just have to be the 80’s that were featured in the book, there are also Gundam (didn’t make it over here until the late 90’s), Iron Giant (’99), MMORPG (not really a thing until the mid aughts), and even Minecraft (right now) references. Heck, if you saw The Shining (1980) as a kid (because you have terrible parents), it’s appealing to 70’s kids! Yes, with its Battletoads, Mortal Kombatants, and Tracers, Ready Player One runs the full gamut of cultural references, so no matter how old you are, there’s something in there for you.

Except if you’re a woman looking to relive her childhood. There isn’t much in there, then. Uh… maybe some Hello Kitty characters… uh… somewhere?

At first, it’s easy to rationalize why this happened. I didn’t see any Transformers running around, so it appears Hasbro wasn’t onboard with that film. That precludes the big girl franchises like My Little Pony, Jem and the Holograms, and Pound Puppies. But there’s no Barbie? Come on, that doll is synonymous with childhood, and you can’t tell me the plastic ideal of womanhood wouldn’t inspire more than a few digital avatars. And when the “worlds” are shown at the start of Ready Player One, there’s a gambling planet and a combat planet, but you’re telling me there isn’t a single “women only” safe space area? Of course, there’s an easy answer to that question too: there is a planet of Barbies and Ponies palling around without any male-influences, but we’re not going to look at that planet, because it isn’t relevant to the movie. But doesn’t that raise its own unfortunate question? Why the heck don’t we care about what half the real world population is doing in this pretend world? And why the bloody hell is there only one piece of girl-aimed media mentioned in the movie (Nancy Drew), and it’s revealed to be a vice of the main villain?

MeowMeh, you know the answers: Ready Player One is squarely targeted at a male audience, and every second given over to exploring the extent of girly stuff in The World is a second that could otherwise go to Mecha Godzilla punching a DeLorean. “Girly media” is not celebrated in the same way as boy stuff… or at least, it isn’t monetized in the same way at all. Do we have Funko Pops of every Jem character yet? I know we do for every Power Ranger that has ever existed.

So merchandising is obviously key, and (finally) getting back to videogames, it seems like we might see less “girly” videogames as a direct result. Videogames may have started unisex, but, as the “mascot” character grew to prominence, more and more heroes were men, and more and more objects were women. Mario must rescue the princess. Link must rescue the princess. Sonic didn’t have a single woman anywhere in his first game. Mega Man has a sister that is unplayable and stays home to do laundry. Kirby is a freaking pink ball with legs that occasionally rides rainbows, but only has a female companion in one lousy N64 game. It’s easy to see how these games are aimed squarely at boys, with nary a thought given to that other gender that seems to be floating around. There are no videogames for girls!

But that’s still bullshit, because there are games for girls. They’re just games that are wholly ignored.

I hates mathsAnybody remember Kim Possible? It was a 2002-2007 Disney cartoon featuring the titular Kim Possible, a teenage girl that flew around the planet and saved the world through James Bond-esque spy maneuvers and the occasional bout of cheerleading-based gymnastics. She’d stop the nefarious Dr. Drakken, and then get home in time to crush on the star quarterback. This was a show that was obviously aimed at the “girl” demographic, but also had plenty of action (and an omnipresent pair of male sidekicks) for the boys. Kim Possible was a huge success, and won awards and an audience that was so dedicated, they successfully petitioned Disney to release a fourth “victory lap” season after its initial cancellation. Kim Possible even got two movies and an Epcot ride! The show was an unprecedented success.

Kim Possible also starred in seven distinct videogames across four different systems. Ever heard of any of them? Didn’t think so.

And don’t try to tell me you didn’t hear about these games because they weren’t any good. Who cares if they were good! You’ve heard of Shaq-Fu! You’ve heard of Aero the Acro-Bat! You damn well know we saw videogames for every show that was ever on Fox Kids or the matching WB programming block. There has been a new Spider-Man title every other year since the birth of time, and only about two of them have ever been any good. But you know they exist! You know you considered playing Rocko’s Modern Life at some point! But did you ever even notice Kim Possible and her multiple games? There were monkey ninja involved! You love that kind of absurdity, right? 2-D action platforming sound like fun? Or maybe puzzles are more your thing? If so, you still probably ignored today’s game, too.

I’ll stop ranting for five minutes so we can examine Emily the Strange: Strangerous.

Yay!Emily the Strange: Strangerous is a 2011 Nintendo DS game. It is, essentially, an old school adventure title. Emily’s cats have been kidnapped, and you must guide her around her world to rescue the felines and eventually… well, things get a little strange towards the end. Let’s just say this might not be the only game I’ve ever played that dabbles in multiple dimensions. Regardless, the basic gameplay is predominantly based on solving item-based puzzles to open new pathways (Sierra-esque “use slingshot on weather vane to change the direction of the wind” style thinking), and then solving actual logic puzzles to obtain the items you need. Every once in a while, there’s skateboarding or target practice, but, by and large, this is a game where trees inexplicably have three matchsticks, and you’re expected to do something with that information. And, to be clear, these puzzles may contain everything from visual puzzles that come off as advanced connect-the-dots to reason puzzles that involve the enemy of all mankind: basic math. Basically, on the system that made Professor Layton a household name, here’s another option for all your on-the-go puzzle needs.

But you’re not going to see Emily the Strange vs. Ace Attorney anytime soon.

For anyone that missed this bit of pop culture past, Emily the Strange started as nothing more than a sticker. She was a skateboard brand mascot. In time, she gained popularity, and became the star of a number of comics and books, eventually earning her this videogame. And it would be fair to say that this game is just a licensed cash-in on a mascot character that was popular at the time. Emily the Strange isn’t the next Mario, she’s the next Young Justice: Legacy. Her title shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as Professor Layton, as, come on, Goggle Bob, why the hell are you letting this random chick property hang out with the clear successor to Sherlock Holmes. That’s high literature!

And it’s all bullshit, because it’s all… bullshit.

Wait, I can probably phrase that better…

It looks familiarSuper Mario defined gaming. He is the face of an amazing franchise that has arguably never produced a dud. Some of “his” games might be less enjoyable than others, but none sink below the level of “pretty good”. Well, except those learning games like Mario is Missing. Oh, and that CD-i title. But Mario is pretty great, aside from that! Well, save some surprisingly lame cartoons. And that one manga where he’s naked for some reason. And his breakfast cereal. No, not the one from the 80’s, I’m talking about the one with the amiibo functionality. And, speaking of which, why can I buy a plush goomba at the thrift store? That thing is the lowest quality I’ve ever seen, but it seems to have an official Nintendo Seal of Quality on there. Christ, they’ll slap the Mario brand on anything!

And how is that any different from a skateboarding mascot earning her own game?

Look, it’s pretty simple: girls need heroes. Girls need role models. And, more importantly, girls need role models that do all sorts of things. Emily the Strange is a teenager that enjoys skateboarding, gothic aesthetics, and cats. She’s smart. She’s capable, and when some jerkass kidnaps her cats, she’s self-sufficient enough to solve her own problems (though maybe with your help). Can you name one other female protagonist that fits all of that criteria? I know plenty of women that are goth skateboarders (or at least were before they had to be adults), but such a “unique” trait is largely missing from our national consciousness, because it’s never seen in our media. Girls are either only hot, smart/nerdy, perfect, or, on rare occasions, “the hippy” (and please watch Boy Meets World to watch one character go through each of those permutations). Goth is allowed, and “skater girl” is something you’ll see once in a while, but both at once? And throw in puzzle solving, so she’s smart, too? Are women even allowed to be more than one thing? Shouldn’t there be a law against that?

TUMBLING!So what does this all mean? Well, it means that we should stop asking where the games for girls have gone, and just start producing games with girls. And, more importantly than that, when a “game for girls” is released, we should give it the same fair shake that we grant Bubsy Bobcat’s latest revival. You or I might have a complete inability to produce the next great female protagonist, but we could at least acknowledge that Kim Possible, Emily the Strange, and their ilk, ya know, existed. Recognize that half the population has their own fandoms and interests, and join them. Let girls know that it’s okay to be anything, and not just a thin caricature of a male fetish. Let “girly media” be part of our national discourse, and stop acting like anything that might involve makeup is forbidden.

That doesn’t sound so strange, does it?

FGC #408 Emily the Strange: Strangerous

  • System: Nintendo DS. If this were a remotely more popular property, we’d see a PC port, as it’s practically made for such a thing.
  • Number of players: Only one girl can be this strange.
  • Defining Aesthetics: This entire game is monochrome with occasion flashes of red. This is always stylish, and it’s weird that the only other game I can think of that employs this style is primarily chainsaw-based.
  • Favorite Puzzle: Something about the lock picking puzzles just seem right. Maybe I missed my calling as a burglar? I should really look into committing more crimes.
  • So, did you beat it? I’m honestly not a big fan of puzzle games, so no. This is also why you’ll never see a Professor Layton review on the site. I have better things to do than measure hats!
  • Ulterior Motives: I just want us to acknowledge “girly” media so we can have a Sailor Moon fighting game as good as Dragon Ball FighterZ.
  • Actual Conversation That Happened When Researching this Article:

    Goggle Bob: Do you or did you ever skateboard?
    Queen Goth of Gothania: Yes, but not for 20 years.
    Goggle Bob: That’s okay! I just want to say with confidence that I know multiple women that are/were goth skateboarders. I did not have to ask you about the goth thing.
    Queen Goth of Gothania: Yup. That was me! Doc martens on my Chester Cheetah board.

  • PointyDid you know? There is a rich mythology surrounding Emily the Strange’s four cats. This is the kind of thing that happens when your main character is basically a crazy cat lady in training. Wait a tick… The very concept of a single woman living with beloved cats is misogynistic all on its own, isn’t it? Hmph.
  • Would I play again: Nope. Emily the Strange and her fellow female protagonists might need more exposure, but this simply isn’t my genre. The only puzzle I want to solve involves finding Wood Man’s weakness.

What’s next? Random ROB may as well take a day off, because I’ve talked about Kirby randomly during the last two articles. The only way I’m going to get this creampuff off my brain is to address Kirby Star Allies! Please look forward to it!

FGC #311 Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari

GrrrrrOn the surface, Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari is an unremarkable NES game. It’s another cash-in release from the popular (at the time) Town & Country Surf Designs company, and another opportunity to ream the last few dollars out of that bizarre surf ‘n skate rage of the late 80’s. While the previous game could charitably be described as a sports title, this is an actual platformer seeing Thrilla Gorilla, the hip-hop surfing gorilla, venturing through deepest Africa to rescue his girlfriend, Barbie Bikini.

… Okay, yeah, there’s nothing unremarkable about that.

But everything else about the game is remarkable and absolutely horrible.

This game is one big Turbo Tunnel

KapowLet’s start with the gameplay. There are seven “worlds” in Thrilla’s Surfari, and each world contains four stages and a boss. Pretty straightforward NES thinking there, but it all goes downhill the minute Thrilla starts to… go downhill. There are five different kinds of stages available, and three of those are almost completely impossible right off the bat. Desert and jungle stages see Thrilla skateboarding across the dirt and sand, while surfing stages get some mild paddling in across randomly occurring rivers. Skateboarding-a-stage has occurred in other games before (the Ninja Turtles were all about it for a level or two), but most of the time, that’s a way to make “normal” gameplay seem exciting by adding a scrolling background. Here, it’s an excuse for Thrilla to die horribly and often.

Technically (and only technically) Thrilla has a lifebar. However, those extra hits are not going to do the guerilla any good, as the most common obstacles are instant-death logs, rocks, and bottomless pits. And every death guarantees a one-way trip back to the start of the stage, progress be damned. While you can slow down to avoid many traps, Thrilla has a need for speed, and that “need” is a necessity because those bottomless pits are long and numerous. In short, this makes nearly every a stage a memorization challenge on par with Battletoad’s Turbo Tunnel. And at least the Turbo Tunnel had checkpoints! Every mistake here is an excuse to start the stage over again, and, should you miss a single jump, you know what you have to do all over again.

I’m assuming most people who dared play this game never got past the first stage, which is a shame, because it’s not even the most terrible experience available on this cartridge…

Don’t go chasing waterfalls

WeeeeeeDo you remember Mega Man 2’s spikey wall pit of doom leading to the Guts Tank? Or when it appeared again in Mega Man 3’s Spark Man Doc Robot stage? Was that your favorite part of the game? Or was that a terrifying drop into the unknown where you knew that gently nudging the crosspad in the wrong direction would spell instant death and a complete loss of progress? Do you still have nightmares about those death canyons? I do. I lose sleep over all the little metal boys I’ve killed in those drops.

And the waterfall stages of Thrilla’s Surfari are just that, forever, without the “warning” screen scroll. They are free falls where your action buttons do nothing (no swimming up the current for you), and your only hope is to steer Thrilla away from rapidly encroaching rocks. On the plus side, these stages are short, but on the minus side, they will eat up all your lives before you make it past the first strata.

Memorize, use “slow motion”/save states, or die. These are your only options in waterfall stages. Which is kind of a shame, because the waterfalls usually precede…

I’m on a shark!

I'm not the only one that sees that, right?Against all odds, the water stages of Thrilla’s Surfari are the best. Thrilla forsakes his beloved board for a shark, and suddenly the game becomes an underwater shooter. And, what’s more, it’s a really forgiving shooter.

I’m pretty sure this whole section of the game is programmed wrong. Every time Thrilla steers his shark up to a pocket of air, his health replenishes to something like 8 HP, which is considerable compared to his normal 2 HP (health may be expanded by collecting bananas in normal stages. Note: we have no bananas). With air restoring health to previously unseen levels, it would be natural to assume that the shark stages use a Super Mario 64-esque “health as air” system, but… nope. Your health descends only thanks to random jellyfish attacks, and that’s about it. So, for shark stages, you’ve got an enormous amount of health, and an easy way to replenish it all at the tap of a button. It’s… basically the opposite of the rest of the game. And that’s a welcome change.

The bosses are MS Paint fever dreams

Seven worlds, so seven bosses. The big final boss is unique (and like a lava slug monster), but his underlings are all recycled at least once, so we wind up with three bosses, and each has their own recolor. Pretty simple so far, let’s take a look at our first boss…

Charge!

Oh Jesus Christ what am I looking at here? That’s… a double rhino? With wings? And of course it shoots its horns at you, because what else would it do? Thrilla lobs back exploding coconuts in turn, but is that really going to do any good? Does this… creature have thick rhino skin? Or feathers? How does it fly? How does it… poop? Is that the purpose of the projectiles? This monster should not be!

There’s also a giant scorpion that is comparatively very tame, but before you fight that, there’s this fellow…

Sharky!

This is some “intern’s first day” pixel work going on here, and I’m pretty sure someone noticed, as this shark shoots toilets at its enemies. That can’t be a coincidence, right? That it is trash shooting literal garbage and bathroom equipment? Someone on the staff knew they were looking at crap, and planned accordingly.

Oh, and all of these bosses are, naturally, completely impossible, and Thrilla lacks any invincibility frames to even grant the player a moment’s respite amidst the projectile deluges. But I figure I don’t even have to note how wildly unfair this game is at this point.

The plot isn’t better than the gameplay

And when I say “isn’t better” I mean “is racist as hell”.

Thrilla’s girlfriend is Barbie Bikini, and she’s kidnapped by an evil god (or something) that wants to toss her into a volcano, because, I don’t know, I guess it’s going to keep the Double Rhino happy. And, in its own primitive, NES way, that’s fine. The whole kidnapped princess thing worked for Mario, it can work for Donkey Kong’s little brother just as well. Unfortunately, Barbie was kidnapped by a literal Witch Doctor, and that means a trip to Africa. And who is hanging around Africa? Spear-chucking natives of course! And there are no signs of civilization in darkest Africa, but there are stages named for native cannibals! Not okay, guys!

Luckily, all of Thrilla’s friends moved to Africa, too, so we’ve got the assistance of…

Tiki room

Tiki Man…

So cool

Joe Cool. And, of course, our favorite surfer-cat…

AHHHHH

AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

The game delights in trolling the player

So the third world is entirely desert based. The first two stages are pretty straightforward, but then the third is “the blue desert”. And it’s littered with coconuts, the items that allow you to play a completely annoying bonus game at the end of the stage. To be perfectly clear, every stage contains maybe a total of five coconuts, while this area has upwards of forty. The first thought of any given player is likely that this is some manner of bonus stage, a level made just to make you feel good, and, at the end, you’ll be able to earn a number of extra lives. It was very common in the NES days, and even Battletoads had the occasional stage that was just a pleasant breather.

But, nope…

WHAT?!

Ha ha. It was all a mirage. You stupid monkey.

So way to go, Thrilla’s Surfari, you’re memorable for all the wrong reasons.

FGC #311 Town & Country II: Thrilla’s Surfari

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. Like our other Town & Country release, I really doubt we’ll see this one revived for any reason.
  • Number of players: You can’t even die repeatedly with a buddy. One player only, suckers.
  • Say something nice: The game has a stupid difficulty curve, with the first level easily being the absolute worst (save waterfall stages). While it would have made an equally lousy impression for aesthetics, the game should start with the vastly easier desert environs. That would almost make the game…. At least playable.
  • An end: Despite the proliferation of cinema scenes throughout the game, the ending is short and to the point. It’s… fanservice.

    Teehee

    There. That’s the thirstiest image ever displayed on the NES.

  • Sidenote: Barbie Bikini appears to be the only woman in this entire game. Well, unless the double rhino is a lady double rhino.
  • Did you know? Town & Country Surf Designs is still a major manufacturer of surfboards, and they relaunched Thrilla and the Thrilla Krew branded merchandise last year. You too can finally own a Thrilla Gorilla t-shirt! Please note that Tiki Man has been rebranded as Wave Warrior, and Kool Kat is nowhere to be found.
  • Would I play again: Not for all the coconuts in Africa.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Tomba for the Playstation! Do I smell bacon? Please look forward to it!

Cowabunga
At least there’s lava surfing

FGC #301 Adventure Island 3

Yay islands!Adventure Island 3 is a metaphor for the human condition.

The story of Adventure Island 3 is no epic tale. Master Higgins, a dude in a baseball cap and grass skirt, is chilling on a deserted island the size of a Dixie cup with his beloved Tina when a nefarious alien abducts the hapless maiden. Higgins boards the nearest plesiosaur, and paddles off to save the day. There is no trick or plot twist in this saga, all Higgins has to do to rescue Tina is venture across eight (adventure) islands, battle the occasional Mothra, and then conquer the aliens in an epic battle that involves fireballs and stone hammers. The aliens are not Dr. Wily in disguise, and no explanation is given for their preoccupation with poor Tina; they’re just monsters to be chased, and an excuse for Higgins to ride a dinosaur or six. Oh, and the adventure wraps up with Higgins and Tina back on their original weensy island (compliments of a pterodactyl), so it’s a zero-sum story from top to bottom.

But this is an ‘intenda game, so the story is perfunctory from the very start. What’s important is that good ol’ gameplay, and… Well, there’s not much to see here, either. This is a “NES platformer” at its most basic. Well, no, that would Adventure Island 1, wherein Master Higgins runs left to right and must at all time satiate his crippling fruit addiction. We’ve come a long way from those bygone days: now Master Higgins does the exact same thing, but sometimes he’s on a surfboard! Or a dinosaur! And, despite the fact that almost all stages only advance right and strictly forbid any backtracking, there are rare vertical levels that prove that Hudson does understand scrolling (and they don’t even involve Kid Icarus-esque scroll deaths). And the bosses are pretty neat, even if they’re about as fair as a thumb wrestling match against Eternia’s Fisto. Master Higgins can, at absolute best, suffer three hits (a bonus “heart” powerup plus a dinosaur buddy), and it’s very likely those damn boss monsters are going to barbecue the poor islander before he tosses the proper number of boomerangs. Boss patterns should not change mid-fight with a hero that has approximately zero HP!

This sucks!But all that cruft is neither here nor there. No, what’s important is what Adventure Island 3 represents. What’s important is that Adventure Island 3 is a failure.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a damsel is distressed when she is kidnapped by a giant, ambiguously evil monster. Her man springs into action to rescue her, and must battle across eight distinct lands to save the day. Along the way, he runs, jumps, and even recruits a dinosaur to beat back the nefarious forces of angry clouds and a strangely high number of murderous reptiles. After losing a bunch of lives due to the tiniest contact with random monsters (and the occasional bottomless pit), the brave knight saves his princess. And maybe there was a bonus stage or warpzone somewhere along the way, too.

Yes, obviously, Adventure Island 3 follows the exact same plot and general gameplay as Super Mario Bros. In fact, Adventure Island 2, the first game to feature Master Higgins riding a dinosaur, was released a few months after Super Mario World, the first game to feature Mario riding a Yoshi (and Adventure Island 3 improved on AI2 by… adding one more dinosaur). On a purely superficial level, Massy Hig’s Adventure Islands are incredibly similar to Mario’s treks across the Mushroom Kingdom and Dinosaur Land. Give or take the ability to actually dismount your incredible thunder lizard, you could probably provide the exact same instruction manual for both games. Master Higgins is a cape feather away from being an accomplished plumber.

Spooky!But that’s where the tragedy occurs. On a shallow level, Master and Mario are the same. They run, they jump, and they collect one hundred doodads to earn an extra life. But actually play the games, and the differences become apparent. Mario has a precise kind of momentum, while Master Higgins has a tendency to slip around like a greased up potato man. It’s telling that Master Higgins has to be wary of inanimate rocks, while Mario at least has the decency to vault moving rocks. And that slipperiness pairs poorly with a number of “platforming challenges”. Want to leap across a series of mobile clouds? That’s kind of fun in the Mushroom Kingdom, but over in the Adventure Islands, Master Higgins is pretty likely to fall to his doom after about the second jump. Once you hit an ice stage, things are more slippery, but, honestly? It’s not the same kind of dramatic shift you’d see in Super Mario. Bros 3. Oh, there is supposed to be a dinosaur that cuts down on Slippin’ Higgy? Yeah, that dinosaur is a lie. In fact, all of the dinomounts are lies, as they amount to little more than the difference between Mario and Super Mario. The only dinosaur that isn’t a “fireball” or “slight movement” powerup is the new, green triceratops, and that’s because he offers the ability to roll into a spiky ball for exactly a second before immediately losing that powerup to terrible hit detection. Beyond that, I’m not even certain what the plesiosaur is supposed to do, as he’s just as useless as the frog suit on land, but only marginally better than regular swimming Higgins on the high seas. He doesn’t even get a lightning tail or something! You have to bring your own hammer!

And, when you get right down to it, describing this game, describing Adventure Island 3, is recounting exactly what being a human is. All the proper components are there! You’ve got running! You’ve got jumping! You’ve got a princess and a monster and eight worlds! This is exactly what Mario’s got! This is exactly what that successful guy has got… so why isn’t it working here? I can see Mario’s Facebook, I know we’re on the same level, so why is he so much better than me!? I could be happy! I should be happy! Why can’t Master Higgins be half as successful as a damned plumber!?

Dammit!That’s Adventure Island 3. All the pieces are there, everything that should work is there, but… it doesn’t. Master Higgins is doomed to wallow on his teeny tiny island, while Mario just found out his ex built an entire city for his benefit. Adventure Island 3 is every one of us looking at that green grass on the next lawn over, and wondering what went wrong. And is this where I’m supposed to say something optimistic? Well, I’d love to say it gets better, but have you seen Adventure Island: The Beginning? Yeesh.

I just played Adventure Island 3… don’t expect any hopefulness out of this human for a week.

FGC #301 Adventure Island 3

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System. There’s also a Gameboy port that is surprisingly faithful.
  • Number of players: One Master Higgins. Maybe the secret to success is having a Luigi?
  • Port-o-Call: The Gameboy version actually allows you to replay completed stages. I have no earthly idea why anyone would want to do such a thing, but at least it’s an option.
  • Favorite Dinosaur: I guess the blue dinosaur with the powered tail. He’s pretty much exactly the same as the red dinosaur with the fireball that is completely resistant to lava, but… he’s blue? He’s the underdog in a game starring an underdog.
  • Favorite Boss: Despite the inexplicable presence of Mothra, I’m going to pick the Salamander. He’s just like every other boss in this game (float and/or teleport around and lob fireballs), but he is at least on fire. And when he goes blue-flames, it at least looks cool.
  • Blind SallyIncidentally: This was supposed to be FGC #300, but I couldn’t find the rom while on the stream. Turns out it was there in the list, just under “Hudson’s Adventure Island 3” as opposed to in the I section where I expected to find such a thing. Oh well.
  • Did you know? If you see a flower, then that means a wolf is going to attack Master Higgins from behind. I still remember this tip from Nintendo Power.
  • Would I play again: Adventure Island 3 has struck me with an ennui that I can barely describe. So, uh, no.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Robocop vs. Terminator for the SNES! Now that’s what I’m talking about! Some good ol’ fashioned cyborg on android violence. Please look forward to it!

FGC #227 Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage

Let's go surfin' nowHere’s your game development tip from someone that has never developed a game, but at least knows how to surf.

Today’s game is Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage. If you’re of a certain age, you likely played this game on the NES, because, as we’ve determined, skateboards are cool. And this game is doubly cool! You can skateboard (shred?) and surf! By God, if you were to include bungee jumping, then this would be the coolest game ever created! Is there a gorilla that is edgy, in-your-face, and likes to get bi-zay? Consistently and thoroughly! Yes, this was a game scientifically calibrated to appeal to the late 80’s kids that lived in fear of having their shorts devoured.

But once you actually got the game home, T&C Surf Designs was kind of… limited. First, there’s the skateboarding section (wood rage?). You’ve got your choice of Tiki Guy or Elvis, and then it’s your job to navigate either of those rad dudes through a skateboarding obstacle course. It’s… not that exciting. It’s basically what would evolve into the “endless runner” genre, and, what’s worse, the controls are fairly terrible. There’s a difference between “jump” and “jump with skateboard”, and, while there is barely ever a reason to “just” jump, jump with skateboard requires some extra controller input, and the NES has about a 50% accuracy rate on actually identifying your feedback. Long story short, Tiki Guy is going to fall in the inexplicable gigantic gap in the sidewalk a lot.

WoooooHowever, it is possible to “git gud” at T&C skateboarding. Assuming your d-pad is being responsive today, it’s not that difficult to rack up a continuous “combo”, and, when you’ve avoided obstacles for a set amount of time, the timer stops, and basically everything you do rewards thousands of points. It takes some practice (and a little luck), but considering the tracks are (mostly) preset, you can beat that intimidating high score pretty swiftly with your badical skateboarding moves. It’s not like this is Skate or Die, where there are more events and playstyles to test your skateboard mastery, but it’s a fun little distraction, and could maybe qualify as a full videogame experience back in the day. This was on the same system as MagMax, after all.

And then there’s Town & Country Water Rage, the surfing section. Here is where things get… choppy.

I mentioned before that surfing is inherently cool, but that always took on an extra level for my childhood friends and I. I have (almost) always lived in a shore community, which means two things: tourists and the beach. As a result of that combo, the average shore kid feels a gigantic level of propriety over the local beach that is empty eight months out of the year, and then choked with tourists (we call ‘em “shoobies”) when you actually want to go out and take a dip. This creates a weird, deep-seated hatred of the throngs of people that are just trying to enjoy their vacation, and also, ya know, bolstering the local economy to ludicrous levels. Regardless, nobody that’s local wants to be accidentally identified as a vacationer. That would be like asking a Vietnam Veteran if he lost his legs in a bouncy house.

WooooSo one surefire way to prove yourself as a local was to be good at ocean sports. Oh, dude, I’m a lifeguard at my summer job. Local! I’m captain of the swim team. Local! I can build a sandcastle at a twelfth grade level. Local! And, of course, I surf on the weekends means, yes, you’re a local. Bonus points if you’ve got a wetsuit and catch those swells opposite hurricane season. Sure, it might be deadly, but you’ll be buried in a local cemetery. Assuming they ever find your body…

But for your average young shoreian, none of those options are available. Nobody is going to let a seven year old become a lifeguard, and even sandcastle construction is moot when your neighbor’s older brother has started a booming demolition business. And have you ever actually seen a surfboard in reality? My first board, purchased when I was a teenager, was a 9 ½ Rusty. That “9 ½” stands for 9 ½ feet of surfboard. Can you picture a child towing one of those around? And, more importantly, can you picture a youngster that is tied to that board being dragged (hopefully) to the shore the minute the slightest wave appears? Don’t go chasing surfboards, kids! Stick to the wakeboards and the boogieboards that you’re used to.

So, for a young Goggle Bob, T&C Surfing was the only surfing available. Surely being good at this game would make me cooler than the cool kids.

And then I found out that’s impossible.

OuchThe surfing section of T&C is inscrutable. There is nothing “surfing” about this. The crest of the wave is apparently static, and you’re supposed to, what, do random tricks in this weird ocean simulation? You have to avoid seagulls and tubers, that’s pretty “videogame”, but aside from those obvious obstacles, your goal here is… confusing. You accrue points for every second you’re still on the board, and… how do you do that? You seem to be constantly descending, and you can try to avoid the “fall”, but then you wind up dying in the crest. And, eventually, seemingly completely arbitrarily, you reach the beach, and you get some bonus points before starting it all over again. Thanks for playing?

For the record, the original version of this article was probably going to be some ranting nonsense about how T&C Surf Designs is completely impossible, and no one has ever figured out this sphinxlike boloney, and damn you, LJN for once again producing a game that ruined my childhood.

Then I decided to check Gamefaqs And it turns out there’s a real way to play T&C Water Rage!

Here’s the deal: You’re supposed to use A & B on the control pad to “steady” your surfer. And… that’s it! It’s supposed to simulate the (very real, very difficult) act of properly balancing on a surfboard, and that’s the trick to completing this half of the game. If you’re going too far right, tap B, and if you’re sliding back into the crest, tap A. That’s all! You’ll be a surfing pro in no time.

Somehow I played this game for nearly thirty years without this knowledge, and I’m going to blame the designers for that.

WooooooYou could liken this to learning that there’s a jump button in Super Mario Bros. It’s a game changer! It’s the only way to truly win the game! But, in Super Mario Bros, if you ignore that jump button, you’re never, ever going to make it past the first goomba. It’s literally impossible without jumping. In T&C Surf Designs, it is actually possible to finish a surfing stage without having any idea how to play the game. It’s terrible and frustrating, but there’s no clear indicator that something is off, and you can “keep going” without ever having a damn clue that anything is wrong. And, to be clear, even once you know to properly balance, you may be wrecked by the same “goombas” that would ruin a veteran player. So even if you happen on the right way to play by frantically hitting buttons, you might not even notice your success.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, makes for a bad game. If there’s no feedback on whether you’re doing something wrong or right, you’re playing a bad game. End of story.

Trust me, I’m a local. I know how to surf.

FGC #227 Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage

  • System: Nintendo Entertainment System, the coolest system for eight year olds ever.
  • Number of players: Two players, alternating. Your friends will get mad if you never die and they can’t play.
  • Save your brain!All Together Now: There’s also a mode that combines the Wood & Water Rage sections into one complete play experience. Unfortunately, it’s just alternating wood and water stages, so there isn’t some amazing cohesion going on here. I always thought it would be cool if, when you fell into a hole in the skateboarding section, your skateboard would morph into a surfboard, and then you’d start that watery section. Also, there should be more robots. With lasers.
  • Itinerant Liar: My buddy Sean claims to have seen the kill screen for the surfing section of the game. Sean is clearly not one to be trusted, one way or another.
  • Favorite Character: There is a surfing cat in a tuxedo. I would very much like to be a surfing cat in a tuxedo. Think about it: cats hate water! And he surfs! In a tuxedo! It’s amazing!
  • What’s in a name: Okay, the actual names of the characters in this game are Tiki Man, Joe Cool, Kool Kat, and Thrilla Gorilla. None of those names required any creativity. There, I said it. Thrilla Gorilla is probably best known for headlining the T&C sequel, Thrilla’s Surfari (sic), which is a completely different, though no less awful, game.
  • Did you know? There are turtles on the skateboarding track (they do not bite). Because of the limited NES palette, the turtles change color according to the selected player. Tiki Man, the Luigi of the adventure, gets green turtles, but Joe Cool, the supposed headliner, gets abnormal, red turtles. I think we all know who should be the real main character.
  • Would I play again: I might just to show my friends that there is an actual way to play this game “right”. Otherwise, no. Tubularly no.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Turok: Dinosaur Hunter for N64! Aw… ROB? ROB, I thought we were friends. Why you gots to hurt me? Now I’m going to have to hurt some dinosaurs. Please look forward to it!

Go Go Gorilla