This is what I’m talking about, two huge games slugging it out for your dollars! In the red corner we have Ubisoft’s latest entry in the Mario + Rabbids series, hoping to “waughhh” all the way to the bank. Over in the blue corner we have Gotham Knights, a new franchise featuring some classic heroes from the Batman franchise, just not, well, Batman. Who will reign supreme this week? Which one will you adore and let pull all your crooked teeth, to make you perfect, just like me?
Mario + Rabbids: Sparks of Hope (Switch) – Releases Oct. 20th
Developed by: Ubisoft Milan/Ubisoft Paris
Published by: Ubisoft
Ubisoft is back with their XCOM inspired tactical shooter featuring their popular Rabbids characters and Nintendo’s very own mascot, Mario. In this sequel to the 2017 original, Spark of Hope continues the same gameplay style but puts the setting into the cosmos, taking inspiration from the Super Mario Galaxy series. The first game was surprisingly good, being a lot more fun than it probably had any right to be. I assume this sequel will continue to showcase what made the original such a blast to play, while hopefully bringing even more fun to the table.
Gotham Knights (PC/PS5/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 21st
Developed by: WB Games Montréal
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Batman is dead. Crime in Gotham City is skyrocketing, prompting a new generation of heroes to pick up the Dark Knight’s mantle. Gotham Knights is an open world, action RPG where players must clean up the streets of Gotham while also trying to figure out who killed Batman. Players will have four characters to choose from, Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Red Hood, with the choice to switch them out between missions. If you don’t feel like playing alone then you can take advantage of the online co-op mode, allowing players to drop in and drop out at will. For you graphic purists out there, Gotham Knigts has already cause some controversy as it was revealed that the game will run in 30 FPS as opposed to the “better” 60 FPS. Who cares.
Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed (PC – Epic Exclusive/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 18th
Developed by: Illfonic
Published by: Illfonic
Wow, our second asymmetrical video game in two weeks and third or fourth this year. In this game, four players take on the role of the Ghostbusters (duh) while a single player takes on the role of a ghost (double duh) trying to not get caught. For all you long time Ghostbusters fans out there, Ernie Hudson and Dan Aykroyd reprise their roles of Winston and Ray, respectively.
A Plague Tale: Requiem (PC/PS5/Switch – Cloud Version/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 18th
Developed by: Asobo Studio
Published by: Focus Entertainment
2019’s A Plague Tale: Innocence was a bit of a sleeper hit, receiving stellar reviews and slowly building up its fanbase. It was a bit of a shock to see that the game was getting a sequel, and also so soon between releases. Like the first game, players must solve various puzzles, remain hidden, and take on some light platforming as they look for a cure to save their brother from a rare blood disease.
Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher (Switch) – Releases Oct. 19th
Developed by: Koei Tecmo
Published by: Bandai Namco
The 90’s/00’s franchise Monster Rancher series is back, this time paring up with the Ultraman franchise. In this new games, Ultra Kaiju Monster Rancher, players will adopt, raise, and train a giant monster, getting it ready to compete in tournaments against other giant monsters. While well known Ultraman monster appear, players can also fuse them together to create unique, original creatures. While there are certainly monsters to choose from when you start the game, the real fun of the Monster Hunter series is using real life media to generate a random monster. In previous titles, players could use CD’s to get monsters, but this is obviously not viable on the Switch. Instead, players can use any item with an NFC chip, scanning it with their Switch controller, to get a monster. Don’t have any NFC items, that’s okay, you can also generate monsters by using two keywords that you type in. Look out for my monster generated by the words “Poop” and “Butt”.
The Jackbox Party Pack 9 (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 20th
Developed by: Jackbox Games
Published by: Jackbox Games
Just when you thought you had enough Jackbox games to keep your party lasting through the night, then they go out and release another one! Now the party can last until the wee hours of the morning. For their ninth entry in the popular series, Jackbox Games has given us a mix of old favorites and (hopefully) new ones; Fibbage 4, the hilarious bluffing game, Quixort, a trivia/puzzle game, Junktopia, an appraisal game where players come up with the most expensive sounding item, Nonsensory, a drawing/writing/guessing game, and Rommerang, a reality show spoof where players compete to stay in the competition.
Warhammer 40,000: Shootas, Blood & Teef (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 20th
Developed by: Rogueside
Published by: Rogueside
I’m a sucker for Warhammer so this gets a top spot. The game doesn’t look all that great, but these Orks are silly and I get a bit of a Metal Slug vibe from the trailer, so maybe it’s worth it for a laugh?
New Tales from the Borderlands (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 21st
Developed by: Gearbox Studio Québec
Published by: 2K
After the demise of Telltale Games I would have thought this franchise was dead, but it’s not! Set about 1 year after the events of Borderlands 3, players will guide three playable characters around the planet Promethea, helping them to fight against the Tediore Corporation.
Ports and Re-releases:
The Sims 4 – Free to Play Version (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 18th
The Sims 4 is going free to play, can you believe it? Just look at this party the Sims are throwing, they must be ecstatic! Did you already pay money for this? You fucking idiot, you should have waited until it was free.
Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection (PC) – Releases Oct. 19th
I only want this if it’s free.
Persona 5 Royal (PC/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 21st
Pfft, I already have this. Oh, wait, not for PS5 though. Fuck, I should spend some money.
You know, April wasn’t very busy in terms of new releases, I’m sure that at least half of these could have come out back then. I promise, people would have ignored them just as easily as they would this month. You’re only making my life more difficult by releasing these in giant chunks, I have things to do, you know. Hmm, well, actually, Nitro Kid looks kind of sick, oh, and so does RichMan 11, and Batora, and Aery, and I See Red, and Hell is Others…
- Nitro Kid (PC) – Releases Oct. 18th
- Harmony’s Odyssey (PC/Switch) – Releases Oct. 19th
- The Last Hero of Nostalgaia (PC/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 19th
- RichMan 11 (Switch) – Releases Oct. 19th
- Batora: Lost Haven (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 20th
- Flying Neko Delivery (PC/Switch) – Releases Oct. 20th
- Hell is Others (PC) – Releases Oct. 20th
- One True Hero (PC/Switch) – Releases Oct. 20th
- Park Story (PC/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 20th
- Aery – Last Day of Earth (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Oct. 21st
- JoJo Siwa: Worldwide Party (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Oct. 21st
- I See Red (PC) – Releases Oct. 24th
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Hotline Miami (PC) – Released Oct. 23rd, 2012: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Paranormal Activity 4 – Starring some people, some ghost, and that lady from the first movie.
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, m.a.a.d City
*Click here to listen to the album*
Violence and video games, two things that have gone hand in hand seemingly since the beginning. At first, violence was mostly just relegated to shooting dots at other groups of dots and seeing them explode into dots. It wasn’t until the late 1980’s/early 1990’s that we really started to see video games ramp up the realism in the violence. Titles like Smash TV, NARC, Wolfenstine 3D, Mortal Kombat and Doom began to incorporate graphic violence, showing blood, gore, and mutilation. Government officials tried to crack down on the so called carnage, worrying that it would warp children’s minds and turn them into mass murderers. In response, the video game industry decided to take action on their own and create the ESRB, giving parents a way to determine if a game was appropriate for their child. The cat was out of the bag though, violence in video games was here to stay. Not every game was full of graphic violence, many still had comical violence or less realistic violence, but once in a while you’d get a game that tried to push the envelope. Hotline Miami was one of those games.
Created by Swedish developers Jonatan Söderström and Dennis Wedin, Hotline Miami was originally conceived as a different game that Söderström started programming in 2003 called Super Carnage. In that title, players were put into a room with a top down view, given weapons, and instructed to kill as many people as possible. Due to problems with the game’s AI, Söderström stopped work on Super Carnage, it was also around this time that he met Dennis Wedin, the keyboard player in a synthpunk band called “Fucking Werewolf Asso”. They collaborated on two games but, as with Super Carnage, technical difficulties, and their non-commercial viabilities, caused them to cease production. Wanting to make a name for themselves and their new company, Dennaton Games, the two men decided to revisit Super Carnage .
When Wedin started playing his partner’s old game he found himself addicted to it. Despite only containing one level, he found the trial and error aspect of killing to be incredibly fun. Seeing the commercial opportunity, the two men quickly got to work fleshing out Super Carnage into a full game. For the story, they took inspiration from filmmaker David Lynch, and for the 1980’s time period & Miami setting, they used the documentary Cocaine Cowboys as inspiration. Finally, for the game’s tone, style, music, and aesthetic, they were heavily influenced by the 2011 film Drive. From there, Söderström and Wedin kept plugging away making this new game, called Hotline Miami, crazier and crazier, putting in stuff that they liked and tailoring the game to their own tastes. While they hoped it would be a commercial success, at the end of the day they wanted to make a game that they themselves thought was fun to play.
For those that haven’t played the game, Hotline Miami is an action stealth title, with players taking on the role of a silent protagonist, nicknamed “Jacket” by fans of the game. Jacket is a criminal who is hired by an unknown organization to go out and kill members of the Russian Mafia. Sporting a letterman jacket and animal mask (most famously a rooster), players are then transported to the mission location and must eliminate all enemies to complete the stage. Like Super Carnage, Hotline Miami is played from a top down perspective. The graphics are pixel art, reminiscent of the 8 and 16 bit eras of video games (fitting in with the 1980’s motif). Players start each level unarmed and must either kill an enemy and steal their weapon or find one laying on the ground. Kills are nearly instant, making Hotline Miami incredibly fast paced. However, players are equally vulnerable and will die in one hit. This is the main crux of Hotline Miami’s gameplay, observe the layout of the stage, plan your route of mayhem, and then try to execute it.
Like Super Carnage, the trial and error aspect of Hotline Miami is what makes the game so addictive. With little in the way of load screens, your respawn after death is instantaneous, allowing you to quickly retry where you failed. As the game progresses, players will gain new animal masks that each come with their own set of powerups and bonuses. Hotline Miami grows more and more surreal as it progresses, leading to a mind bending ending that I still don’t know that I fully understand.
While Hotline Miami is well known for its violence and surrealism, the other major impact the game had was through its music. The film Drive was scored by synthwave artist Kavinsky, and his music was highly influential on the soundtrack which featured artists like Sun Araw, Pertubator, Erik Suhrke and others (household names, for sure). The soundtrack is very reminiscent of vaporwave, an offshoot of synthwave, and I believe that Hotline Miami had a lot to do with the genre’s rise in the early part of the 2010’s.
Hotline Miami was released on PC on October 23rd, 2012 to rave reviews. Numerous outlets called it brilliant and one of the best games of the year, with Eurogamer going so far as to give it a perfect score in their review. Critics and players were enamored with the neon, 1980’s setting, the raw depiction of violence, and the very tactical, methodical nature of the game’s close combat murder system, demanding that players take risks in high stress situations, finding ways to succeed against impossible odds. At the end of year awards, Hotline Miami was snubbed by more established entities like DICE and the VGA’s, however it did win “Best PC Sound” at IGN, and was called “Game of the Show” by Eurogamer and Rock, Paper, Shotgun at their annual EGX Expo.
After a successful PC release, the game’s publisher, Devolver Digital, blew up in the indie games scene. Having previously released only Serious Sam titles, Devolver took a chance on Dennaton Games and in the process made millions. Hotline Miami would eventually see ports to home consoles, first to PS3 and Vita, then to PS4, mobile devices, Nintendo Switch, and finally Xbox One. The game was a massive commercial success, likely selling over 2 million copies to date. A sequel would release in 2015 called Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, continuing the story of Jacket, while also shedding light on past events that led up to the beginnings of Hotline Miami. As for Dennaton Games, their only two titles are Hotline Miami and its sequel, however it was announced at the end of 2020 that the company was working on its next game, one that they expect will horrify some and delight others. I can’t wait.
I also can’t forget to showcase Mega64’s fantastic Hotline Miami skit:
Shenmue II (Xbox) – Released Oct. 28th, 2002: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: The Ring – Starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Martin Henderson, Daveigh Chase, and Brian Cox
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Foo Fighters – One By One
*Click here to listen to the album*
Despite a staggering budget and incredible hype, Sega’s Shenmue was kind of a flop. Yeah, it sold over 1 million copies worldwide and was the 4th highest selling Dreamcast game, but it failed to make back anything close to its reported $47-$70 million budget. It’s a bit surprising, then, that a sequel was even greenlit, however, Shenmue II was developed in tandem with the first game, meaning that much of the work was already done. Sega shrugged, said “why not” and let Yu Suzuki and his team continue.
The story of Shenmue II picks up right where the first game ends, with Ryo continuing to look for Lan Di, the man who murdered his father. The game shifts from Japan to Hong Kong, where Lan Di has supposedly run off to. While there, Ryo continues to walk around, talk to people, play games, drive forklifts, and collect gatcha toys. Really, there’s not much to say about Shenmue II, it really is just the first game continued.
Shenmue II was originally released on the Dreamcast in Japan and Europe in 2001, but due to the demise of the Dreamcast, the North American version was cancelled. However, after making their deal with Microsoft, Sega ported the game to the Xbox, giving them what was assumed to be a killer app exclusive. Sadly, though, Shenmue II was a financial disaster. Despite high praise from critics, the title just didn’t gel with the Xbox audience who were more likely to favor shooters and sports games. Ending on a cliffhanger, the poor sales of Shenmue II prompted Sega to halt development on the third game, seemingly ending the series. However, in 2015, yu Suzuki was able to buy back the rights to the franchise and launched a Kickstarter to fund Shenmue III, which also didn’t sell very well and ends on a cliffhanger. Classic.
The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare (SNES) – Released Oct. 12th, 1992: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Candyman – Starring Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Xander Berkeley, and Kasi Lemmons
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Madonna – Erotica
*Click here to listen to album*
By the time Bart’s Nightmare released in October of 1992, The Simpsons was entering its fourth season and looked to be absolutely unstoppable. While the show thrived it’s video game output was incredibly lacking, with a couple of terrible platformers on the NES and a couple of poorly made titles for the Game Boy. For The Simpsons first venture into the 16-bit era, publisher Acclaim once again focused on Bart, and had third party developer Sculptured Software create the mini-game collection Bart’s Nightmare.
In Bart’s Nightmare, players find themselves stuck in Bart Simpson’s dreamland, a place called Windy World (but looks exactly like his street). While in Windy World, Bart must stay safe by avoiding getting hit by enemies or being hindered, such as getting turned into a frog or having to wear his church clothes. As Bart explores Windy World he will come across pages of his homework which when jumped on will lead him to one of five mini-games; Bartzilla, Itchy & Scratchy, Bart’s Bloodstream, Bartman, and Idaho Simpson.
In Bartzilla, bart takes on the appearance of Godzilla and must destroy Springfield and the U.S. Army. After this he must scale a tall building where he has to defeat Momthra and Homer Kong. In Itchy & Scratchy, Bart finds himself in a version of his home that has been invaded by the cartoon cat & mouse. Bart must defeat the two characters while avoiding traps and attacks. In Bart’s Bloodstream, Bart must swim down a vertical playing field, making germs explode by using an air pump. To win, Bart must collect five “Smilin’ Joe Fission” characters. In Bartman, Bart takes on the role of his super hero alter ego and embarks on a horizontal shoot em up frenzy. This mode features several characters from the show including Apu, Sherri & Terri, Mr. Smithers, Mr. Burns, and Barney. Finally, in Idaho Simpson, Bart appears in an Indiana Jones style outfit and must hop across several columns that move and shake with each jump he makes, all while avoiding demons and traps.
Bart’s Nightmare was mostly designed by industry veteran Bill Williams who had made his name by creating games like Salmon Run, Necromancer, and Alley Cat. Williams had just wrapped up production on the NES game Monopoly when he was approached to work on Bart’s Nightmare. According to Williams, the studio began to meddle with his design and gave him so many notes and demands that he finally became fed up with the gaming industry and quit, causing Sculptured Software to scramble and find someone to finish the game. Sadly, Williams would pass away six years later at the age of 37 after a life long battle with cystic fibrosis.
Bart’s Nightmare received fairly favorable reviews. Critics applauded the graphics and sound for being very close to the animated program, the jump to 16-bit was not unnoticed. Magazine Entertainment Weekly went ape shit over the game, calling it one of the best of the year. However, most other critics agreed that the game was too hard, had control problems, and quickly grew stale. It’s hard to say if the game failed because Williams had bad ideas, or if it failed because the studio and publisher kept interfering (I’ll give you one guess on who you think I blame). It appears that Acclaim would only hold on to The Simpsons license for another four years after releasing the sequel to Bart’s Nightmare, called Virtual Bart, another mini-game collection. As you might imagine, Bart’s Nightmare is not available on any modern platforms, making emulation or the original cart your only means of playing it.
Q*bert – Released Oct. 18th, 1982: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Halloween III: Season of the Witch – Starring Tom Atkins, Stacey Nelkin, and Dan O’Herlihy
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Devo – Oh, No! It’s Devo!
*Click here to listen to album*
The story of the 1982 arcade classic Q*bert and its origins are a bit muddy. Developed released by Gottlieb, one of the developers, Warren Davis, claims he came up with Q*bert after seeing a pattern of hexagons built by one of his colleagues, Ken Yambuto. The other story comes from artist Jeff Lee, also at Gottlieb, who claims he drew a hexagonal pyramid, being inspired by M.C. Escher paintings. Lee is credited with the design of the character himself, an armless, orange creature with a big nose, one that he had been drawing since childhood. Initially, this character would shoot projectiles out of its abnormally large nose, mucus bombs, but programming proved that this idea was difficult to implement on the hexagonal pyramid playfield. However, before this change, the team had intended to call the game “Snots and Boogers”, an absolutely terrible idea.
When the mucus bombs were removed a new name had to be pondered. One suggestion was a gibberish phrase that the character would utter when killed, “@!#?@!”, but the team was worried that no one would be able to pronounce it and the game would have trouble spreading through word of mouth. Due to the hexagonal shapes, “Cubes” was suggested, another person though about naming the character, and game, “Hubert”, prompting another individual to suggest combining the two names into one, “Cubert”. When the name finally made it to the game’s art designer, Richard Tracy, he decided to change it once more to “Q-bert” before, finally, the team settled on Q*bert, replacing the hyphen with an asterisk. Designer Warren Davis eventually admitted that they the asterisk was a bad choice as Q*bert couldn’t be a crossword puzzle clue, which is something only a game designer would be worried about.
The gameplay in Q*bert is fairly simple. Players control the little orange guy as he jumps around a hexagonal pyramid. Each time Q*bert jumps on a square the color of the surface changes. In early stages players only need to change the color of the surface once, moving to the next level once all the squares are changed. In later levels, players must change the colors multiple times, then in even later stages, the color of the square changes BACK to the previous color if you step on it again, making the game incredibly strategic the farther you go. There are also enemies to worry about in Q*bert, also created by artist Jeff Lee and based on his childhood drawings, they are: Coily, a purple eg that bounces down the pyramid, after which it turns into a snake and chases the player. Coily can be defeated by riding one of the floating discs on the edges of they pyramid, causing him to follow you and jump off to his death. Ugg and Wrongway are two little purple imps that move along the pyramid in an M.C. Escher fashion, where your walls are their floors. Finally there are two green creatures named Slick and Sam who change the color of your squares. Jumping on them will stop them.
After some initial play testing in September of 1982, Q*bert would be officially released on October 18th, 1982, to a small, quiet crowd (though it has also been reported that the game didn’t hit the mass market until December of 1982). When Q*bert hit the AMOA trade show in November it was a smash success with all of the attendees, with one outlet proclaiming that just about everyone at the show had played and everyone who owned an arcade immediately purchased at least one cabinet. Video Games magazine called it the best game at the AMOA trade show and predicted it would be a smash success; they were right. Gottlieb would initially sell over 25k units, leading Q*bert to be one of the highest grossing games of 1983 (after it had hit the mass market).
Not only was Q*bert a financial success, it scored big with critics. Electronic Games called it a front runner for coin-op game of the year, praising Q*bert for its beautiful graphics, cutting edge sound design, and unique gameplay. There simply wasn’t any game on the market like Q*bert…for now. At that same AMOA trade show, Parker Bros. was able to secure the home console license from Gottlieb where they would port Q*bert to the Atari 2600 & 5200, the Atari 8-bit computer, IntelliVision, ColecoVision, Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64, and TI-99/4A. In Europe, Q*bert received a port on the Philips Videopac, while in Japan the game was published by Tsukada Original for the Othello Multivision. Finally, an NES version was released by Ultra (Konami) in North America.
Q*bert, like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man was seen as infinitely marketable, with the character appearing on lunchboxes, bed sheets, coloring books, frisbees, and toy store shelves, even going so far as to have its own Saturday morning cartoon. With great success also comes the wave of copycats and clones, and the early days of video games were a bit of a wild west show in terms of not so subtle inspiration or just plain outright stealing. There were TONS of Q*bert-like games to appear over the next two years, so many in fact that multiple video game outlets ran stories about it in 1984. Just to give you an example of how many, here is a small list:
- Mr. Cool
- Quick Step
- Flip & Flop
- Pharaoh’s Pyramid
- Pogo Jo
- Rabbit Transit
- Vector Hopper
Q*bert has a long and lasting legacy. After release, a sequel was made by Gottlieb called Q*bert’s Qubes, but failed to have much impact. One interesting note, there is a special edition of Q*bert that is a cross promotion with the soda Mello Yello, which is essentially the same game but with cutscenes depicting Q*bert drinking the soda. This bizarre version came to fruition because Gottlieb was owned by Columbia Pictures who, in turn, owned The Coca-Cola Company, makers of Mello Yello. By 1987, Columbia Pictures would fold after releasing the bomb Ishtar, prompting a sale to Sony who, to this day, still has the rights to all of Columbia Pictures assets, including Q*bert. Since then, Q*bert has been re-released abotu a dozen times, usually updated for whatever modern system is on the market, including versions for the Super NES, PlayStation, PC, web browsers, and mobile devices. In pop culture, Q*bert played a fairly prominent role int he Disney film Wreck-It Ralph and was also featured in the Sony film Pixels. Finding a way to play Q*bert today isn’t very hard, there’s a version available right now on PS4/PS5. He may not have been as popular as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, but Q*bert stuck around and made a name for himself, solidfying his place in gaming history.