17 October, 2008

Retro-Gaming and Free Online Games

17th October 2008

Nowadays every game that comes out, on consoles and computers, has a massive plot, hordes of characters, is produced like a Hollywood movie, and takes you large amounts of time to play. Moreover, they’re always in 3D.

My own parents gave up on videogames the day they became tridimensional. Videogames used to be simple, in the 80’s and early 90’s. A few buttons were enough to play for hours, you didn’t always know what the plot was, and you didn’t always care, and the pixelised quality of the games left much room to your imagination.

Now, what you see is mind-blowing, what you hear is just as convincing as any sound from the world outside the screen. Videogames have become too real for some of us, and thus, some of us resort to retro-gaming and free online games.

A perfect example of this is me. I played the latest Mario Kart game, the Wii one, and no matter how hard I tried to convince myself it was good, it wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t even try to convince myself, I knew it was crap. My immediate reaction was to pull out the old Super Nintendo, and pop in the first of the Mario Kart games. That game is from 1992 if my memory serves me well. And you know, I think it’s a better game. It’s not only because I played it as I grew up, but also because you actually get some sensations playing this – once you get used to the weird flat land you roll over and how it spins, which at first will not look real at all, but you get used to it.

Sometimes all you want is a little fun in a videogame. I’m not always interested in reading a 200-page manual on a game just so I can play it. Even chess doesn’t require that much. Nor does poker, nor does Tetris. You get my point. (And yes, learning the rules of this game is fast, mastering them takes much longer, I know.) This is when free online games come onto the scene. What are the advantages of these? First of all, obviously, they’re free. So whatever happens, you know you won’t be tricked because the worst case scenario is that you’ll lose a minute of your precious time before you realise the game sucks. But if it doesn’t, you may have many hours of quality gaming and a lot of fun, for free. Another advantage is the amount of games available online. There are hundreds! And new ones come out daily. That way, if you get bored with them quickly, there are always new ones to get bored with. Kidding, many of them are quality games, even if they are very simple. Yet, not all are simple. And I suspect they will get more and more complex with time, but I also hope they won’t end up like the mainstream industry, which I don’t think they will because a single person can create any sort of game online now, so you’ll always have these simple yet compelling games.

As far as retro-gaming is concerned, pulling out your old consoles is not the only way to retro-game. The Wii has what it calls a “virtual console” and that allows you to purchase old games online, and download them on the Wii. I’ve played numerous old games this way, and that’s actually what I like best about the Wii. You can even buy old games from other consoles, such as the Sega Genesis, which is fantastic for my generation because back in the day, the early 90’s, every kid had to side for either Sega or Nintendo, and I, seeing through the bullshit, sided with Nintendo. Now I can look down on all my ex-classmates who worshipped Sega and Sonic and tell them how owned they are now that I can buy Sonic the Hedgehog on my Nintendo Wii. Take that, bitches. (That said, most of them probably have a job and a real life, and wouldn’t much care about it...)

If you don’t have an antique console to dig up from your attic, and if you don’t have a Wii either, you still have the opportunity to get free vintage games; a category known as “abandonware”. These are games whose rights have expired, and which you can get for absolutely free. Typing “abandonware” on Google will lead you to countless sites offering those free games. Games that you had to pay for 80 dollars ten years ago can now be had for nothing! All the classics of the past decade and more can be gotten for nothing more than a rather fast dowloading. Well, except the Lucasart games, whose rights are maintained.

Most of my gaming time is now spent on free online games because they’re usually more creative than mainstream games, and much more free. You can afford goofiness in such games, and more creative experiences, which you can’t when you work on a game that costs millions to produce and which is expected to bring millions back home. I still play mainstream games, though, it’s just that they have very different things to offer, and sadly, no one would release a simple game on one of these leviathanesque consoles. People would laugh to have a 2D game on the Playstation 3 or 360 X-Box. They still create those games for portable consoles, though. Why don’t they release a game which would be a collection of hundreds of small games? It may happen in the future. So many of those free online games are pure genius that I just can see the day when anthologies begin to unfold. I’m very happy about that because it is a true renaissance of the art. Back to basics, with a twist.

Now I will shut up and list games that I really enjoy and wish to share with you. I’m going to post this chapter right now, so at first there won’t be anything, and then the list will casually grow. Enjoy!


Bike Mania

This is a very simple yet difficult game. Only 4 keys to use: move forward, backward, lean forward, lean backward. There are two sequels to this game, which you can find easily through Google.

Bloons Tower Defence

Probably the series of games I played most. There are three episodes, so far, for all I know, and I've loved everyone of them. That game is a "Tower Defence" type of game, and I really adore those. Basically, you have to keep enemies from reaching a certain point, by placing sentries about the path that leads to that certain point. Bloons uses monkeys with darts, and other devices. Hours and hours of fun to be had.

Fancy Pants Adventure

This is probably one of the best, if not the best, plaftorm game I have played for free online. It's wonderfully well made, a ton of fun, and charming.

Dino Run

This game has a pixelised esthetic to it which I totally dig, and it's a good game too. You're basically a little dinosaur who must escape the apocalypse. It's a gripping game, very simple to play, but damn gripping. You won't stop playing before you're safe.


nakamura_michiyo said...

I agree with you on a lot of those points, if not all. The other day I went to my friend H's house and he has a brand new PS3 which he bought just so he could play metal gear solid 4. I dropped by to see the game in action, and yes, it's everything they've been saying, the game looks amazing, from the animations, to the texture of the clothes, it's mind blowing. But it's so complicated that I can't imagine you'd want to play it on the end of the day to unwind, ya know? I guess at those times you'd much rather pick up a simple arcade game and use a couple of buttons to get you through the levels. Or maybe I'm just basic like that. Just a few days ago I had a kick ass time playing Mario 3 with Pedro. Simple things like that are priceless - I don't think that we'd have as much fun playing MSG4, great as the game is.

Onihikage said...

Actually, the PS3 has plenty of retro games that can be downloaded, and even some of the more recent 3D games are great to unwind with, such as Flower. Just the other day I played an old arcade game with two of my buddies on a PS3; I can't remember what it was called, it was one of those do-anything, smash-everything, eat-whatever monster games, where you each play as a giant monster and only have three buttons, besides the movement. We spent two hours on it without realizing the time had flown away ^/_\^