Hot summer games and the consoles are burning
I sit around
Trying to smile but the games have been so lame and broken
Strange voices are sayin’ (what did they say?)
Things I can’t understand
It’s too late for Redfall, this Gollum game’s bugs got right out of hand
It’s a cruel, (cruel) cruel Summer
Givin’ me these shitty games…
Final Fantasy XVI (PS5) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Developed by: Creative Business Unit III
Published by: Square Enix
I won’t argue that Tears of the Kingdom was likely the most anticipated game of the year, but as a long-time Final Fantasy fan, I have been waiting with bated breath for FF XVI to finally hit my PS5. This week, it will. While I’m a bit concerned about this game not using menu based combat, producer Yoshi P and his team have done a phenomenal job with Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, so I’m ready to give them the benefit of the the doubt. Will Final Fantasy be enough to draw you away from TotK, or will the allure of Hyrule keep you glued to your Switch indefinitely? We’ll find out.
Aliens: Dark Descent (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 20th
Developed by: Tindalos Interactive
Published by: Focus Entertainment
It’s XCOM re-skinned into the Alien franchise, except Firaxis isn’t involved. Hey, if this game is half as good as it looks, we might be looking at one of the best Alien games of all time.
Crash Team Rumble (PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 20th
Developed by: Toys for Bob
Published by: Activision
Why have your children go outside this Summer to run and jump, when they can make Crash Bandicoot and his pals run and jump on the TV screen?
Dr. Fetus’ Mean Meat Machine (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Developed by: Headup Development
Published by: Headup Publishing
There’s a really smart, satirical Supreme Court joke to make here, but I’m far too dumb to come up with one. Uhhh, Bret Kavanaugh walks into a bar…fuck, nope, not smart enough.
Valthirian Arc: Hero School Story 2 (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Developed by: Agate International
Published by: PQube
Watch out Final Fantasy XVI, there’s another RPG coming out this week….that’s all I got.
Ports and Re-releases:
Rogue Legacy 2 (PS4/PS5) – Releases Jun. 20th
After being exclusive to the Xbox and Switch for a little over a year, Rogue Legacy 2 is finally making its way to PlayStation consoles.
Sonic Origins Plus (PC/PS4/PS5/Switch/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 23rd
Exactly one year to the date of its release, Sonic Origins is back with a bunch of new games to play, specifically the twelve Game Gear Sonic games; Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic Chaos, Sonic Triple Trouble, Sonic Spinball, Sonic Blast, Sonic Labyrinth, Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine, Sonic Drift, Sonic Drift 2, Tails’ Sky Patrol, and Tails Adventure. Fans of the character Amy Rose are in for a treat, as she is now a playable character; sweet!
Age of Wonders 4: Dragon Dawn (PC) – Releases Jun. 20th
Dragons make everything better, and the team behind Age of Wonders 4 clearly know that.
- Trepang2 (PC) – Releases Jun. 21st
- The Bookwalker: Thief of Tales (PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Series X|S) – Releases Jun. 22nd
- Pretty Princess Magical Garden Island (Switch) – Releases Jun. 22nd
Notable Releases from 10, 20, and 30 (and sometimes 40) years ago:
Game & Wario (Wii U) – Released Jun. 23rd, 2013: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: World War Z – Starring Brad Pitt
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels
*Click here to listen to the album*
After its 2003 debut, the Warioware series became a big hit with players worldwide, with successful entries on every Nintendo console to date. For their Wii U outing, the development team at Intelligent Design decided to go in a bit of a different direction for the new entry Game & Wario. While the game was still made up of a collection of mini games, they weren’t the fast paced, frantic microgames players were used to.
The “plot” of Game & Wario is pretty much the same as all the other games in the series. Wario sees a commercial for a new video game console, gets dollar signs in his eyes, and cobbles together a collection of cheap games that players must get through. However, while previous entries featured fast paced microgames, Game & Wario’s mini games were a bit more involved. For example, the first game you play is an archery game called Arrow. Using the GamePad, players must use their finger to pull back on the bow string fire arrows at the screen, hitting enemies. This type of game was more akin to something you would have found in Nintendo Land instead of Warioware, confusing some fans and critics and causing them to wonder, “Why?“.
Well, it’s pretty simple. Game & Wario did not start out as a Warioware game. Initially, the game was conceived as a collection of mini games that would have come pre-loaded onto all Wii U consoles, as a way to showcase the GamePad, but the scope meant that the game would either not make it to market at launch or the Wii U would need to be delayed. Of course, the game was scrapped for launch and this gave Intelligent Design the time they needed to not just finish the game, but to incorporate it into the Warioware franchise, an idea they had kicked around at the beginning but moved away from as they didn’t think they had enough time to make it; ha.
Taking inspiration from the Game & Watch handheld series, each mini game in Game & Wario had one word names; Arrow, Shutter, Ski, Kung Fu, Taxi, etc. While playing the games, players could collect coins which they would use to unlock little bonus items, like character profile cards and tips on how to get high scores in each of the mini games.
Critics weren’t overly impressed with Game & Wario, giving it just slightly above average scores. While there were praise for a few of the stand out mini games, like Pirates and Gamer, the collection felt, overall, a bit lacking. Some critics felt that, for a collection of games to highlight the Wii U GamePad, very few actually did anything interesting with it. Players were a bit more kind, especially in Japan where the release of the game, and also Dragon Quest X, helped boost sales of Wii U for a brief period, even outselling the PS3.
Still, as a game, Game & Wario was a bit of a failure. The game’s humor and collectibles were the high points for some critics, like Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo, but that couldn’t save Game & Wario from its faults as, you know, A GAME. As you can imagine, Game & Wario is stranded on the Wii U and, with it’s very unique control scheme, will likely be stuck on that machine forever. Don’t feel too bad if you missed this game but, if you know somebody who has a copy, go check it out and judge for yourself.
Wario World (GameCube) – Released Jun. 23rd, 2003: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Hulk – Starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott, Josh Lucas, and Nick Nolte
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Black Eyed Peas – Elephunk
*Click here to listen to the album*
After a successful partnership on Sin & Punishment for the N64, Nintendo asked cult favorite developer Treasure to help create a new game for the GameCube with Nintendo R&D 1. NR&D1 wanted to make a new platformer in the Wario franchise, taking the series out of the handheld sphere and moving it into the home console realm. What they got working with Treasure was, well, interesting.
Fans of Treasure know not to expect something conventional. Ever since their debut title, Gunstar Heroes, the developer had gained a reputation for creating games that were a bit out of the box. While Treasure would often follow the template of a traditional genre, like platforming or shoot ’em up, they would inject something unique that would twist the familiar into something wholly new, and Wario World was no exception.
While the game looked like a 3D platformer on the surface, underneath was trademark Treasure weirdness, like a bizarre 2D/3D on-screen view, that gave the game a hybrid side scrolling/3D platforming vibe. While stages were mostly laid out in a linear fashion, players could find secret trap doors that would lead to special areas with challenging puzzles and platforming sequences. Instead of lives, players would have to pay coins in order to continue, with the game ending if players don’t have enough on hand to continue, meaning you would need to constantly look for coins. As for combat, Wario’s move set was almost pro wrestling in nature, with the big guy dispatching enemies with pile drivers or by swinging them around.
Critics were a bit confused by Wario World, not really hating it, but not really loving it either. The gameplay was highly praised for its inventiveness and trademark Treasure feel, but there was something missing; content. Wario World is short, like, very short, clocking in at about six hours. I don’t think that’s necessarily bad, but at six hours, most players are just starting to get the hang of the game’s mechanics, meaning you’re pulled away from it just when you start to get good at it. Critics also noted that what starts out as awe and wonder, eventually turns into boredom as you realize that the game is very repetitive with little replay value.
Despite the criticism, Wario World was still a modest financial success, just barely selling over 250k copies worldwide and gaining a spot in the 2004 Player’s Choice lineup of bargain games. Like Game & Wario, Wario World is locked to a single console, the GameCube, and has never been ported to a modern console. With its weird design and unconventional gameplay, my guess is that Nintendo will continue to keep this game hidden in the shadows. Now does this mean that you should pay the insane price it goes for at retro gaming stores? No, absolutely not; BUT, if you can emulate it or play it at a friends house, then by all means check it out, just to experience how bonkers it is for yourself.
Day of the Tentacle (PC) – Released Jun. 25th, 1993: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Last Action Hero – Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Austin O’Brien
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: The Flaming Lips – Transmissions from the Satellite Heart
*Click here to listen to album*
Following the success of The Secret of Monkey Island 1 & 2, the game’s programmers and co-writers Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman were given the opportunity to work on their first game as co-developers. Having already established their comedy chops on Monkey Island, it was suggested that the pair team up on a sequel to Maniac Mansion, LucasArt’s 1987 hit adventure game that was also having a bit of mainstream success with a (not very faithful) television adaptation.
Maniac Mansion’s co-developers, Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, initially collaborated on the story and game planning, but Schafer and Grossman were the main driving forces behind the sequel, called Day of the Tentacle. Set five years after the events of Maniac Mansion, Day of the Tentacle tells the story of Purple Tentacle drinking some toxic waste that Dr. Fred releases into a nearby river, causing him to grow limbs and become incredibly smart, and incredibly evil. To stop Purple’s plan for world domination, Dr. Fred intends to kill him and, his peaceful brother, Green Tentacle.
Green sends a note to his friend Bernard, one of the characters from Maniac Mansion, who asks him for help. Grabbing his two roommates, Laverne and Hoagie, Bernard returns to the Edison mansion and frees both Purple and Green, setting in motion a chain of events that will see Purple eventually dominate the world. An annoyed Dr. Fred decides that they both need to fix their mistakes, so he will send Bernard, Laverne, and Hoagie back in time to prevent Dr. Fred from releasing the toxic waste. However, the diamond he uses to power his time traveling port-a-potties is a fake and it breaks, sending Hoagie to 1772, Laverne to 2192, and keeping Bernard in 1992.
With each of the characters stuck in a single time period, players will need to switch between each in order to solve puzzles. With the ability to alter history, many of the puzzles require players to do something in the past that will affect the future. Players must also send items to each other, via their “Chron-O-Jon’s” but flushing said items down the toilet. In typical adventure game fashion, some of the puzzle solutions are a bit far fetched and convoluted, but they’re never really difficult to figure out, just a bit eye rolling from time to time.
The initial idea for the plot came from Ron Gilbert, who thought the idea of using time travel to change something incredibly important, like the U.S. Constitution, to solve a small, personal problem in the future was both hilarious and the core of what adventures games should be. The was set to have six playable characters, like in Maniac Mansion, but due to time and budget reasons the six was shrunk down to three. The cut characters included Moonglow, a short character who wore baggy clothes, an African American beat poet (who would serve as inspiration for the twins Ned and Jed Edison), and Razor, the female punk rocker from Maniac Mansion.
For its release, Day of the Tentacle was the first LucasArts game to feature recorded dialogue on day one. It was also one of the first games to release on CD-ROM, though it also contained floppy disks for anyone that didn’t have a CD-ROM drive. Critics gave high praise to Day of the Tentacle, praising the humor, the puzzles, and voice acting, and the visual style which they compared favorably to Looney Tunes cartoons. This was good news to the development team, as they had used Looney Tunes as an inspiration for the game, including one puzzle that required players to paint a white stripe on the back of a cat by putting it on the bottom of a fence that it would crawl under.
Day of the Tentacle was a moderate commercial success, soundly beating the Monkey Island games, and led to long, fruitful careers in video games for both Schafer and Grossman. After years of teases about possible sequels and remakes, a special edition of the game was announced, with Schafer’s Double Fine Productions taking the helm. The game featured updated graphics, as well as an option to use the original pixel art, and was released for PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One. Day of the Tentacle is a fantastic entry in the adventure game genre, and stands as one of the greatest video games ever made. This gets a strong recommendation from me, play it today!
Lode Runner (PC) – Released Jun. 23rd, 1983: Wiki Link
Notable Film Release: Trading Places – Starring Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis
*Click here to watch the trailer*
Notable Album Release: Twisted Sister – You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n’ Roll
*Click here to listen to album*
Sometime in 1980, a young college student named James Bratsanos heard about a new video game called Space Panic. In this game, players would climb up and down ladders between platforms, digging holes, to trap enemies and kill them. It was virtually ignored in the U.S. but was a massive success in Japan, and may have inspired Nintendo to make Donkey Kong. What it 100% inspired was Bratsanos to make a copycat game for PC called Suicide, which caught the attention of another college student, Douglas E. Smith.
While both men were interested in Space Panic, it was Nintendo’s Donkey Kong that really got them going, with the two setting out to make a clone of that game, simply titled Kong. However, around 1981, Bratsanos became too involved with his school work to continue development on Kong, leaving Smith to finish the game on his own. Kong was initially only available in one building at his school, the University of Washington, but Smith was able to port it to multiple other computers on campus where it began to become a cult hit amongst the students and faculty.
Seeing the potential for some commercial success, Smith ported Kong to the Apple II and renamed it Miner, submitting it to developer/publisher Broderbund for consideration. The team at Broderbund were a bit unimpressed with how crude Miner was, sending Smith a rejection letter. However, they were intrigued, and decided to front him $10k to make a proper, quality version of Miner. Smith took them up on the offer and began working on the game full time.
Using a level editor that Bratsanos had helped influence, Smith was able to have his neighbors and friends create levels for the game, testing each others work and picking the ones that resonated the most for the full game. By December of 1982, Smith would resubmit Miner to Broderbund who were now more than happy to publish the game, giving it a new name; Lode Runner.
The gameplay in Lode Runner is deceptively simple, easy to pick up but hard to master. In the game, players control an unnamed protagonist as they move through a maze of ladders and platforms, gathering treasure and avoiding guards. Once a player collects all of the treasure and reaches the exit ladder, they can continue to the next stage. The key gameplay element here, though, is the ability to dig holes to trap the guards, similar to Space Panic. However, instead of using the holes to kill the guards, players can use the holes to AVOID the guards, allowing them to reach treasures that are being blocked. Holes can also be used to reach treasure buried underneath bricks, as well causing enemies to fall to lower levels, allowing players to use their heads as bridges, as the guards continue to fall, letting them cross over to platforms that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.
On top of the base game, Lode Runner came with the same level editor that Smith had let his friends use, making Lode Runner one of the first games to feature a level editor, giving armchair game developers their first shot at creating their own content, without needing to have coding knowledge. This level editor was instrumental in Lode Runner’s success, with some gaming outlets holding contests for their readers, allowing them to submit their best Lode Runner levels for judging. The game was a massive financial success for Broderbund, selling over 300k copies after a year on the market.
Critics loved Lode Runner, calling it one of the best video games of 1983, showing the potential that user made content cold have on video games, particularly in the PC segment. Players loved the game, making Lode Runner one of the top selling PC games for most of the 1980’s. Authors and developers loved the game, with people like Orson Scott Card and Alexey Pajitnov citing it as one of their all-time favorite games. Lode Runner was a big deal in America, but it was an even bigger deal in Japan.
Like Space Panic, Lode Runner tapped into something in the Japanese culture, where it became a national phenomenon on par with games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, making it one of the first Western games to make it big in Japan. In 1984, Japanese developer Hudson Soft acquired the rights to port Lode Runner to the Famicom, one of the first third party games for the system. Over the years, Lode Runner has had several, and I mean SEVERAL, Japan only ports, sequels, and remakes by Japanese (and Japanese adjacent) companies like IREM, Bandai, Psikyo, T&E Soft, and current owner Tozai Games.
The original Lode Runner is a bit hard to come by, there’s a very close version that you can play for free in your browser, and it is FUCKING AWESOME. Dear reader, I know that speaking in hyperbole is all the rage (literally EVERYONE is doing it, it’s the great thing EVER), but I’m completely serious when I say that Lode Runner is one of the greatest video games EVER made. It’s near perfect, and I can only imagine what it must have felt like for players in 1983 to get a copy of this, load it onto their computer, and play it for the first time. It’s like playing Breath of the Wild for the first time, you have no idea what to expect and then everything that happens, happens, and you can’t believe that no one had ever made anything like it before. I can’t tell you enough times just how amazing Lode Runner is, you have got to, GOT TO, give this game a try.
Oh, and a quick post script on Douglas E. Smith, he would eventually get a job working in the U.S. offices of Square where he would act as Executive Producer on the English version of Secret of Mana, and was Executive Producer on Secret of Evermore. Sadly, Douglas E. Smith died in 2014 at the age of 54, leaving behind a legacy that continues today. A salute to a guy we’ve all never met, but who’s work probably inspired just about every video game you’ve ever played, either directly or indirectly.