Keyboard Geniuses


Hell Is Other Crabs And Jellyfish

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By John Teti • April 20, 2012

A number of people have taken note of the fact that The Gameological Society differs from The A.V. Club in the way we headline our comment sections. People like Merve:

I like the fact that the comments are called “scintillating comments” and not “reasonable discussions.” We’re all special snowflakes!

To which ToddG replied:

I’m just glad I don’t have to be reasonable anymore.

With that, it’s time again for a few unreasonably scintillating snowflakes from the week’s discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Reach Out And Megatouch Someone

Steve Heisler’s feature article on bartop game maker Megatouch elicited some personal anecdotes about the addictive little machines. TuxedoMonkey noted that being a Megatouch master isn’t necessarily a badge of honor:

I’ve only played these machines once. After enough drinks, my girlfriend and her friend egged me on to switch to the erotic versions of the games. It was all well and good until we got to hangman, and I demonstrated an awkward familiarity with the names of porn stars.

Spacemonkey_Mafia shared a sad vignette from a Megatouch-type machine the field:

For years, my wife worked at a bar that had one of the “Video Crack” consoles anchored at the end of the bar.

There was a regular, a woman, who would camp, dropping in as many quarters as needed on the assortment of “erotic” games until any random guy took notice who would eventually take her home.

She likely had some pretty severe mental health issues and had compulsive one-night stands, all originating in front of that machine.

Also, she had a tramp stamp of Jesus Christ on the cross against a tie dye background.

Not-So-Bitter Ends

Sonic The Hedgehog 2

Our feature on game endings, To The Bitter End, kicked off yesterday as Anthony John Agnello analyzed the climax of the classic NES space shooter Abadox. (The recurring feature itself was also Anthony’s idea.) This prompted frequent commenter caspiancomic to reflect on what makes a good game ending:

I think the double climax of gameplay and narrative offered by games is what gives them the potential to be more satisfying than other mediums. It’s difficult to pull off, but leaves a lasting impression. The best example I can think of is from my all-time favorite game: Sonic The Hedgehog 2. Throughout the game, you’ve learned to rely on a certain mechanic—collect rings to protect yourself from dying if you get hit—and in the final zone, they take this away from you.

All of a sudden, you have no leniency whatsoever. Mess this up once and you’re dead. The tension you experience through the gameplay reinforces the tension from the story—you failed to stop the Death Egg from launching, and if you don’t stop him now, Robotnik will do… uh, whatever it is he’s trying to do. (Turn everyone into robots? That seems to be his thing.) If we were just watching this story unfold on a screen, this moment wouldn’t be nearly as edge-of-your-seat, white-knuckle exciting.

Genre-ly Speaking

Fez village

In the discussion of Ellie Gibson’s Fez review, HobbesMkii wondered why so many of the most prominent and artful independent games stick to a familiar “run and jump with puzzles” formula:

Why are all these indie “games as art” just Mario with a mechanic twist? Are puzzle-platformers to video games what interpersonal drama is to film and literature?

It’s a thread full of thoughtful responses. Here’s one from Geoffrey Swann:

In addition to what others have said, I think it’s also that the 2D platformer model that Fez and Braid used is one of the most instantly recognizable and accessible game types. It’s a method of interacting with the game world that has become almost intuitive in a large audience. This makes the conceptual and mind-bending aspects of those games both easier to grasp and more novel when they work because they build on that method of interaction, which has become almost rote.

The Most Insane Pong-Related Video You Will Watch All Day

That is my personal guarantee. The video comes to us from Todd VanDerWerff’s Sawbuck Gamer review of Pongs, which re-imagines the hoary standard in 36 puckish variations. Pongs is pretty loopy, but root (1ltc) was ready to do it one better:

I’d argue that Konami has reinvented Pong with their newer music game ReflecBeat. Take Pong, add multi touch input and balls which appear set to music. It seems like it can get quite hectic.

And there was video evidence (above) to back this up. Hectic is an understatement.

Non-Sequitur Insight Of The Week

NoNoSparks: Genesis

It came from Aaron Riccio:

I never knew that hell was crabs and jellyfish (in addition to snakes), though I guess now that I’ve typed that up, that makes a lot of sense.

Aaron and others went on to chat about “picross,” the paint-by-numbers puzzle genre featured in yesterday’s Sawbuck Gamer. I first discovered these puzzles in Games magazine, which started running them a number of years ago, and still includes a couple pages’ worth in every issue. Once you’ve developed a knack for them, they’re relaxing fun, like little treasure hunts with a nice payoff once the picture is complete.

Thanks as always for your observations and conversations. Looking forward to more food for thought next week. See you Monday!

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35 Responses to “Hell Is Other Crabs And Jellyfish”

  1. George_Liquor says:

    *sniff* Some day…

  2. caspiancomic says:


    (Feature THAT shit, Teti!)

  3. Spacemonkey_Mafia says:

    Hah!  I knew one day I’d eventually be able to co-opt a stranger’s mental health implosion into a brief flash of internet fame!  Next round’s on me!

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      And the erotic pictures are on me!

      Oh. Wait. That sounds wrong.

    • Stummies says:

       I will add that those MegaTouch games work pretty well even if you’re (basically) mentally well-adjusted. During my single days, if a first date was going well and we’d had a few drinks, co-op Erotic Photo Hunt was a can’t-miss proposition for initiating embarrassing public makeout sessions in front of a videogame cabinet.

      Then again I dated a lot of crazy girls, so maybe it does require some imbalance.

  4. HobbesMkii says:

    Later, I learned my point was better made months earlier in this Dorkly video:

    Also, I’m not gonna post a made up review this week, but I did think of a few rapper-based fake games:
    Action-RPG: Vanilla Ice’s Ice Baby featuring Kinect supported swordfighting!
    Point-and-click Adventure Edutainment game: Law and Order: A, B, Ice-T Solves A Motherf**king Murder, Y’All
    3rd-Person Shooter: MC Hammer’s Hammer Time

  5. OhHaiMark says:


  6. GhaleonQ says:

    I missed root’s post, but Sega’s gone 1 step further than Konami in 2012!  MaiMai!

    • root (1ltc) says:

      Oh yeah, this. I haven’t heard much news about it lately, but I’m probably just not looking in the right places for it. Looks ok enough for a weird combination of Parapara and Oendan.
      Of course the only thing most people are going to take away from that is that it has that accursed Miku in it (I’m personally not a huge fan but it doesn’t bother me).

      The global economy may still be sucking it up and it’s far from the glory days, but music games still seem to be doing reasonably well in Japanese arcades. Konami has ReflecBeat going with Jubeat, the new Sound Voltex Booth, and a new IIDX in location test right now (aka the best news of 2012). Sega has that aforementioned Maimai and some other Vocaloid stuff going on. Not sure if you want to bundle Idolmaster in with this as well.

      • GhaleonQ says:

        People have gotten mad about the nearly 0 home releases by Bemani, but I think the perception’s wrong.  Let them focus on arcade stuff and then do unique releases like that cool newly announced Taiko Master.  The deep single-player mode must have drawn enough people to continue it on the 3DS.

        I saw that IIDX bit, too!  And as a proud owner of 7th Dragon 2020, I’ve accepted that 15-percent of the Japanese economy is vocoloid-based.

  7. Mr_Glitch says:

    Hi everybody! Mr. Glitch here with another classic game review.

    It’s the year 3097, and I, Mr. Glitch, am deep in a null-gravity nexus mid-space in the binary star system of Kalaxon and Kalamar. I’ve defeated every sentient species in the galaxy with my custom rotofoil, and now I’m gearing up for the final round of the Interstellar Championship of… BallBlazer! 

    BallBlazer was released in 1984 by Lucasfilm Games for a whole mess of 8-bit computers and game consoles, including the NES, Commodore 64, Apple II, Atari 5200 and the Atari 7800. The Atari 7800 is the version I’m reviewing, as it looks and sounds much better than most others. It’s essentially a split-screen first-person one-on-one game of soccer played on a checkerboard arena with goalposts at either end. Two people can play at once, one person can play with Droid 1 (novice) to Droid 9 (mercilessly hard), or two Droids can play each other if you’d prefer to just sit back and watch. You guide your personal hovercraft over the arena in pursuit of a hovering ball, called a plasmorb. You don’t steer your rotofoil per se; your rotofoil automatically rotates in 90 degree increments to face the general direction of the ball, and pressing left or right moves you laterally. When you get close enough, your rotofoil grabs the plasmorb in its tractor beam, holds it in your field of view, and turns to face your goalposts. Pressing the fire button shoots the plasmorb forward and knocks your rotofoil back. If you’re not in possession of the plasmorb, your rotofoil moves slightly faster, giving you a chance to move alongside your opponent and shoot the ball away. 

    BallBlazer uses a fairly unique scoring system. You earn between one and three points per goal, depending on how far from the goalposts you are. The goalposts slide from side to side and move closer to each other each time you score, making long-distance shots progressively harder to pull off. You win by having the most points when time runs out, or by being the first to score ten points. Since there are only ten point ‘slots’ in the game, (represented by ten circles on the scoreboard) it’s possible to come from behind and shut out your opponent by ‘overrunning’ his scores. 

    BallBlazer’s presentation really stands out as the best among 7800 games. The first-person graphics play fast and smooth, and the controls are tight and responsive. There’s a realistic simulation of inertia that the rotofoils have to overcome when stopping or changing directions, and that makes lining up the goalposts & pulling off snapshots much more challenging. The background music is a catchy electro-funk chiptune that’s actually generated by an algorithm, so the same song never plays twice. (The 7800 cartridge actually includes a custom sound chip that supplements the rather meager one inside the console.)

    BallBlazer is a great-looking and great-sounding game, and it’s a lot of fun in short sessions. However, the simplistic gameplay tends to make repeated matches rather boring. I believe adding additional gameplay modes or a tournament system would have helped a lot in this regard. The game can also be very disorienting, as there are no landmarks besides the goalposts, and it’s easy to lose track of them when your rotofoil suddenly snap-rotates to face a new direction. These quibbles aside, BallBlazer looks and sounds great, and is lots of fun to play. If you want to show off the raw gaming power of your mighty Atari to your chump friends with Xboxes, BallBlazer should be on the top of your list.

    Thanks for reading my classic game review. Next week, we go galactic dancin’ in Galaga ’90!

    • Girard says:

       I loved this game (maybe the precursor to my later, heavy-duty Lucasarts love in the late 90s). The 3D effect was so cool at the time, and as a consequence it was the one game I had that didn’t make me feel horribly inferior for having an Atari 7800 when all my friends had an NES.

      • George_Liquor says:

         That game’s amazing to look at, even today. I used to play it on my friend’s Atari XE, which was otherwise an under-powered & under-supported little turd of a video game console.

  8. ToddG says:

    So is being featured in the introduction to the column a step up or step down from actually being featured in the column?

    • LimeadeYouth says:

      I dunno, but it’s a step up from being indirectly referenced in the intro. (I know I should have copyrighted “scintillating snowflakes!)