Princess Rescue on the Atari 2600

Author: John Pio  //  Category: Articles, News


Mario hasn’t been this low resolution in years but he’s still lovable old Mario even though he’s on a different console in Chris Spry‘s, Princess Rescue on the Atari 2600. One of the latest demake games to be released through Atari Age. Chris was inspired by other resent demakes like Mega Man and Halo 2600 and created Princess Rescue using a program called  Batari BASIC. Amazing!


Ultima Forever Quest for the Avatar (Pre) Review

Author: John Pio  //  Category: Articles, News, Reviews

As a lifelong fan of the Ultima series, and I mean life long, way back to the early 80’s, I was as excited as I was skeptical when I heard Electronic Arts was going to make a new free to play cross platform version of Ultima 4 called Ultima Forever, Quest for the Avatar. After nearly two years since it was announce, EA and its developer Mythic Entertainment are currently conducting a soft launch in certain markets to test out Ultima Forever’s mechanics with real players.


Obviously much will change before the final version is released this July, as Mythic tweaks things like weapon damage, quests and in game purchasing. So please consider this a preview and not a review of some of the features we can expect in Ultima Forever when it officially launches. For the purposes of this video I will assume you have some basic knowledge of the Lore of Ultima and the relationship history between Origin Systems and Electronic Arts.


Mythic Entertainment is charged with the incredibly difficult task of being true to a franchise that is over 30 years old with legions of fans, while at the same time setting out to bring modern gaming mechanics that today’s players expect in a game that can be played on mobile devices, all the while bringing those original fans and new players together in harmony, not an easy task.


Ultima Forever is set 21 years after the events of Ultima IV Quest of the Avatar. The eight virtues that were so pinnacle in that game to heal Britannia are now being attacked by the Black Weep, a plague that corrupts them and infects those its contacts. You and others have been summoned by Lady British to find its source and stop it. In a clever nod to older Ultimas you’re told that people who are infected turn and many often come back to life without their heads, which possibly explains one of Ultima’s most bizarre monsters, the Headless.


As in most of the Ultima series the Gypsy character is back, this time taking on more of a supportive role. She still presents you with a several moral dilemma questions to choose your path at the beginning but is also the omnipresent voice during the game, which begs the question, is she more than she really seems to be.


At this time your class selection is limited to just the Fighter or Mage archetypes, with more promised at the release, it’s not know if there will be eight classes to match the eight virtues as in other Ultimas but I’d assume it’s a safe bet. The landscape of Britannia is all there with all the major cities and towns we remember along with many new points of interest like towers, caves many other potential entry points to dungeons.


There is a brief tutorial that introduces you to the basics and kickstarts the plot. Combat is as simple as clicking an enemy but depending on your position to your enemy you can increase your damage and possibly doing critical damage. Plus as you progress you’ll get a special attack that has a cool down meter attached to it.


Lets talk about the visuals of the game. Its a top down isometric view more reminiscent of Ultima 6 than Ultima 4. I’m really impressed with the 2D landscapes and town interiors. Everything has nice a watercolor painted look to it, it’s really beautiful to take in. Though I haven’t noticed any lapping waves or rustling trees as an overlay on the 2D art. It’s not a huge deal but even Ultima 4 had wave tiles. To Mythic’s credit I did see some realistic rain in the opening intro title screen.
The portrait art is also very appealing and keeps in with the style of the overall game. Characters, NPCs and monster sprites look really good, though the fighters top heavy proportions took me a little while to get used to.
Music has always been a big part of Ultima and it still is. I was happy to hear familiar melodies set to a full orchestral score. Though I confess I have all the original Ultima synthesized music on my iphone.


Ultima Forever is a freeium game setup with in game purchases. Mythic has stated that you can play the game without ever spending a cent but if you want you can purchase nearly anything except virtue points which is their new take on the old experience point system that other games use. They’ve also got rid of the old gold coin system and uses a variety of keys, bronze, silver and gold. Keys are used to open chests and depending on which key you use, your chances of finding uncommon, rare or epic items rises. Bronze keys can be found in dungeons as loot or you can craft them. Combining 15 bronze keys yields 5 silver keys and golds keys can be purchased with real money or awarded in certain situations. Keys are also used to buy in game items and repair damaged weapons and armor. And you will be doing that a lot. Your equipment deteriorates over time and must be repaired, the good news is it doesn’t required you to visit a blacksmith shop, simply spend your keys for a easy fix. In fact Mythic has used the soft launch to gauge costs and have recently reduced repair costs significantly due to user feedback.


Of course the eight Virtues are at the the heart of Ultima. Throughout the game moral dilemmas are presented to you that don’t have any real right answer, but your choices will direct your character’s virtue path. For instance leaning towards honest deeds will increase your reputation in the town of Moonglow, Justice earns reputation in the town of Yew and the higher your reputation the better you will be received in those towns, unlocking new areas and new quests. All virtuous deeds are tallied and are translated as a purple bar beneath your health, when the bar fills completely your character advances a level. It’s a clever new take on the old experience point system.


If you’re like me you like playing solo but Ultima Forever is a multi-player game where parties of up to four friends can band together. Another creative solution to the problem of players with vastly different levels forming a party is addressed by temporarily lowering certain stats on high level characters, the game counts this as a sacrifice for their deed. Clever reward systems are peppered all throughout the game.

It’s important to keep in mind this is a reimagining of the classic Ultima 4, not a sequel to the original timeline. Sort of like a Hollywood reboot as in the recent Batman and Superman films. Mythic does try to keep old school fans happy by pointing to certain people, places and things from the original and you can’t help but smile when stumble on them. Though it never detracts from the plot to annoy new first time Ultima players.


Though there are hundreds of dungeons to conquer, people to help and quests to complete it’s laid out in little accomplishable chunks. You could pick up and play a quick 15 minutes and actually complete something instead of a continuous chain of quests that does on and on. Ultima Forever is meant to be quick and light, perfect for mobile gaming.


The more I experience this game the more I find I like it, though my old Ultima prejudices are really hard to fight back. The fact that the original Ultima 4 used so much of the player’s imagination to fill in the blanks that the technology of the time couldn’t do, gave us an incredibly invested feeling in the game. Ultima Forever is a modern game, with portability, touch screen, mouse driven, social media connected, multi-player game, it’s not 1985’s Ultima 4. If you want vast super immersive gameplay with full economies and sociopolitical relationships to dive into they’re on the horizon but what EA and Mythic have done here is create a enjoyable and respectful reimagining of a beloved classic. I’m looking forward to the July 2013 full launch to Journey Onward again to Britannia.

Hundreds of Console Video Game Music Songs

Author: John Pio  //  Category: Home, News

We all have our favorite music from games we’ve played for hours on end years ago. Maybe yours is Sunleth Waterscape from Final Fantasy XIII, Suicide Mission from Mass Effect 2 or maybe it’s the upbeat tempo of Mega Man 2’s Doctor Willys Castle? We’ve all got them in the back our heads. (We might not know the actual song titles, but just play a few notes and we’re right back in front of the TV mashing buttons.)


Now wouldn’t it be cool if someone took the time to catalog many of those great tunes in a quick and easy format? That would be awesome! If you just Click HERE you’ll be taken to a directory page within where all that audio goodness are kept as .swf files for instant play.


You can literally enjoy 100’s and 100’s of console games (I think I might have seen some PC games there too) music from most every console from the third generation on up all conveniently listed alphabetically for you.


Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar U4E BioWare Set to Reboot Britannia

Author: John Pio  //  Category: Home, News


“Eeeeeeeee!” That’s me squealing like a giddy school girl. Because my all time favorite computer role playing game series, Ultima, is being rebooted to a free-to-play title by no less a powerhouse than Bioware Mythic. As a CRPG the Ultima series innovated and dominated the field for over 15 years during the 80’s and into the 90’s with over 10 titles. In 1993 Electronic Arts acquired Origin Systems, the makers of Ultima and many other well loved titles like the Wing Commander series. Now after years of sitting on the franchise EA has given BioWare Mythic the green light to bring the Ultima landscape back to life. “Eeeeeeeee!”


Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar will be BioWare Mythic’s ambitious and loving attempt to bring us back to the lands of Britannia. It will be centered around 1985’s Ultima IV, the ground breaking game that introduced morality, virtues and the concept of the Avatar to us. You will have the choice of being a Fighter or a Mage with classes like Paladins and Druids to be added later. Visually it will be an isometric view reminiscent of Baldur’s Gate with combat similar to Diablo.


The game will truly be free-to-play with no roadblocks to prevent you from succeeding. In game purchases will only be for completely optional items. And the pièce de résistance is it will support cross-platform play between PC and iPad. Play with other party members at home, and take it on the go on your tablet.


A generation of gamers have never had the pleasure of traipsing around the town of Trinsic or the forest city of Yew, or to face the evils of dungeons like Deceit and Shame. BioWare Mythic now has the chance and ability to herald in a new Avatar and with the hopeful success of Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar, even more in depth releases for the future. For now U4E is said to be almost complete and will need beta testers in the very near future. Sign up at the Ultima Forever website to be part of the beta here: Ultima Forever


Journey Onward.

Ouya… Oh Yeah!

Author: John Pio  //  Category: Articles, Home, News

So what is an Ouya, much less how do you pronounce it? Well it’s the new kid coming to the console block but with some major differences. It’s built on an Android OS, it’s designed to be hackable, its price point will be $99 and all its games will be free. Huh? Yeah it’s a different breed than the current consoles.


The muscle behind the Ouya is an impressive who’s who of the tech world, like Julie Uhrman, former VP and GM of digital distribution for IGN Entertainment. The aesthetic, design and branding of the system fall to intellectual TED speaker and founder of Fuseproject, Yves Behar. Former VP of Microsoft’s game publishing Ed Fries. Former CEO of BillShrink and former VP of Photobucket Peter Phram and Muffi Ghadiali of Lab126 will advise.


The concept is that every retail unit will come with a TV hook-up and a developer’s kit. The evident rise of the Independent Game Developer will be embraced with Ouya’s open “hack” environment giving everyone the potential to publish their own games on it.


Having all games “free” is so nebulous at this point. Will games be bombarded with ads and/or in game purchases? Would A and B rate developers be attracted to publish on the Ouya without monetary incentive? As of the moment there are few specific details of its hardware or radical business model.


It’s a brave new world in gaming and something so empowering for gamers has the potential to make some really big waves out there. We anxiously await the Ouya to move in next door.

Atari’s Greatest Hits App

Author: John Pio  //  Category: News

One of the top free apps in the iTunes store this week is Atari’s Greatest Hits.


“Atari’s Greatest Hits brings the best of retro gaming to iOS with 100 Classic Atari Games. This suite brings you the hottest Arcade and 2600 titles from Atari. For those who love the classic gaming experience this handheld breakthrough is sure to guarantee hours of fun.” – From the Press Release


Atari Inc. has enlisted Code Mystics Inc. to develop this application that works equally well on the iPhone and iPad. As stated it is a free app and comes with a shinny interface and PONG.

You can then select from preset packs of 4 games at .99 or purchase the whole collection of 100 games for $14.99. Many games have been enabled with a bluetooth multiplayer feature.


Both classic Atari arcade machine games as well as the venerable 2600’s game collection are well represented in this app. Here is a run down of the game packs.


Asteroid Pack) 1. Asteroid 2. Asteroid Deluxe 3. Asteroids 2600 4. Canyon Bomber – Bluetooth Multiplayer


Battlezone Pack) 1. Battlezone 2. Red Baron 3. Air-Sea Battle – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 4. Submarine Commander


Centipede Pack) 1. Centipede 2. Millipede 3. Centipede 2600 4. Millipede 2600


Black Widow Pack) 1. Black Widow 2. Space Duel – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 3. Desert Falcon 4. Space War


Crystal Castles Pack) 1. Crystal Castles 2. Crystal Castls 2600 3. Surround – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 4. Maze Craze


Gravitar Pack) 1. Gravitar 2. Gravitar 2600 3. Radar Lock 4. Demons to Diamonds – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Star Raiders Pack) 1. Star Raiders 2. Liberator 3. Star Ship – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 4. Human Cannonball


Missile Command Pack) 1. Missile Command 2. Missile Command 2600 3. Fun with Numbers 4. Flag Capture – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Lunar Lader Pack) 1. Lunar Lander 2. Sky diver – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 3. Video Pinball 4. Code Breaker


Super Breakout Pack) 1. Super Breakout 2. Breakout – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 3. Off – the – Wall 4. Circus Atari – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Tempest Pack) 1. Tempest – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 2. Tempest 2600 – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 3. Outlaw 4. Atari Video Cube


Majar Havoc Pack) 1. Major Havoc 2. Secret Quest 3. Sentinel 4. Yars Revenge – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Warlords Pack) 1. Warlords – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 2. Warlords 2600 3. Combat – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 4. Combat 2 – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Adventure Pack) 1. Adventure 2. Haunted House 3. Return to Haunted House 4. Save Mary


Tic-Tac-Toe Pack) 1. 3d Tic-Tac-Toe 2. A game of concentration 3. Backgammon 4. Brain Games


Fatal Run Pack) 1. Fatal Run 2. Dodge ‘Em 3. Night Driver 4. Street Racer – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Quadrun Pack) 1. Quadrun 2. Slot Racers – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 3. Stellar Track 4. Math Gran Prix


Casino Pack) 1. Casino – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 2. Slot Machine 3. Video Checkers 4. Video Chess


Sword Quest Pack) 1. Swordquest Earthworld 2. Swordquest Fireworld 3. Swordquest Waterworld 4. Sprintmaster


Championship Soccer Pack) 1. Championship Soccer – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 2. Golf 3. Double Dunk 4. Basketball


Football Pack) 1. Football – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 2. Home Run 3. Miniature Golf 4. Bowling


Real Sports Basketball Pack) 1. Realsports Basketball – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 2. Realsports Boxing – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER  3. Realsports Tennis – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 4. Realsports Baseball – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Real Sports Football Pack) 1. Realsports Football – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 2. Realsports Soccer – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 3. Realsports Vollyball – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER 4. Video Olympics – BLUETOOTH MULTIPLAYER


Battlezone Pack) 1. Battlezone 2600 2. Super Breakout 2600 3. Super Baseball 4. Super Football


Hangman Pack) 1. Hangman 2. Black Jack 3. Steeplechase


Sadly many of the iTune’s reviews have been less than stellar with accusations of giving a free app with one game and then trying to sell game packs. Missing mega hits like River Raid and Pitfall. And having poor graphics and controls.


Allow me to say, these reviewers just don’t get it. Of course Atari will try to sell game packs, why in the world would they want to spend good money to develop an app and put 100 proprietary games on it for free?


Missing River Raid and Pitfall? This nincompoop doesn’t realize neither one of those games were owned by Atari. They were Activision titles.


Poor graphics and controls? These games are 25 to 30 years old, they are classics. If you’re expecting a revamped Missile Command or a Hi Res Asteroids you wont find it here my friend. These are the unadulterated originals, at best you’ll find the controls have been modernized to play on the iPhone and iPad. This of course is necessary as there is no 9-pin input to plug an Atari 2600 joystick into one of these devices (yet).


All-in-all, the Atari’s Greatest Hits app is solid, and is recommended for any classic Atari fan who wants to play some retro games on the go.


Arcade Auction

Author: John Pio  //  Category: News

I visited a huge Arcade Auction in Harrisburg Pennsylvania March 19, 2011.

The “Bad Ass” Keyboard

Author: John Pio  //  Category: News

Das Keyboard sees no need for you to see your keyboard. In fact they’re banking on that. And I’m banking that someone forgot to fill the white ink at the keyboard factory.



Go to: Das Keyboard

2600 in the Palm of your Hands

Author: John Pio  //  Category: News

With a name like “Mario the Modder” you would expect “Mario” to hack and modify Nintendo systems exclusively, but oh no, “Mario” goes super old school and has created one of the most portable Atari 2600 mods to date. Well its not really an Atari 2600 but the Atari Flashback 2, Legacy Engineering’s 2005 commissioned remake of the classic system.


Well “Mario” took a hack saw to it and threw in a little solder and tada! He has created a very portable Atari 2600 he calls Stella, after the original code name for the 2600. Just take a look at his video and photos.


Portable MMO Gaming

Author: John Pio  //  Category: News

Portable gaming has been around for quite a while. Mattel, Coleco and Milton Bradly started putting electronic games in our hands in the late 70’s throughout the 80’s and our grubby fingers still can’t get enough.


Some handhelds crashed and burned like the infamous Nokia N-Gage, which was a design abomination, while others set the industry standard like Nintendo’s Game Boy systems.


Even the latest round of handhelds attempt to push the bar further than ever before as is the case with the Nintendo 3DS with its adjustable stereoscopic screen that hits stores March 27th and Sony’s NGP with its powerful quad core processor, accelerometer and gyroscope motion sensing set for an Xmas 2011 release.


Both of those systems will surely fly off the shelves and only time will tell which will be the king of portable gaming. Because as we all know there is nothing better than playing the latest Mario game or Sony exclusive. Or is there?
If only I could play World of Warcraft on the train ride to work, or DC Universe or any of the other MMO games that I have to wait to get to a real computer to play. That soon may be a thing of the past if Razor USA Ltd., the high tech mouse manufacturer has anything to say about it.


In January 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show, Razer unveiled a prototype slightly larger than a Nintendo DS they call the Razor Switchblade. It promises to bring MMO in a more practical way than any laptop can, with innovative features like its 45 programmable LED screen keys that dynamically change for any game. 3G and Wi-Fi support, USB 3.0, with a multi-touch screen.  Headphone and microphone jacks with a mini-HDMI connector. All powered by an Intel Atom processor that ran a version of Windows 7.


A price point and release date wasn’t given for the Razer Switchblade, but Razer said that they are working with “select partners” to produce products based on the Switchblade prototype design.


The Razor Switchblade wasn’t the only portable MMO gaming system that recently tried to make it to market. Panasonic had big plans for a similar system called the Jungle. It was announce in October 2010 but when word got out that Razer USA Ltd. had a superior system on the drawing board, Panasonic pulled the plug on the Jungle portable MMO system in March 2011.


With any amount of luck we’ll all be playing MMOs on the go.