Stalwart by Jonathan Whiting – first rhythm game ever made?

These goddamn guys at IndieGames.com are relentless.  Not a single independently produced game doesn’t pass before their eyes, and whenever you think you’ve discovered something worth writing about, they’ve most likely already covered it, and probably before you were even birthed from your mother’s womb.  Such is the case today, as we take a look at a Canabalt-like, Bit-Trip-Runner-ish rhythm platformer called Stalwart, from Jonathan Whiting, the creator of Collateral.  Multicolored meteors and fireballs fall from the heavens, to the beat of fantastic jams composed by Demoscene Time Machine, deterring the advance of your “stalwart” knight, forcing you to jump, long jump, and back flip to avoid being crushed by musical terror; Bringing It On, as it were.  It’s great, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this, but I would like it if the synesthetics were tweaked slightly.  Currently, the notes of the song being played are connected to the impact of the meteors, rather than their appearance on screen, which would give the player more of a heads-up that they are in danger.  That’s just me, though, because I suck at games.

Interestingly, Stalwart is actually a re-creation of an unreleased, nearly Christian-themed game created for the Atari 2600 back in 1984 that never saw the light of day, but was one of the first rhythm games ever created.  At that time, popular Christian music label Sparrow Records commissioned Home Computer Software, Inc. (whose only other credit seems to be the Kids Say The Darndest Things game for the Commodore 64) to create a game based on their popular children’s album, Music Machine: The Fruit Of The Spirit.  Essentially a clone of KABOOM!, Music Machine, the game, has the player controlling Stevie and Nancy, the two characters featured on the music album, as they attempt to catch various symbols representing “positive character qualities” dropped from above by the titular Music Machine.  Music Machine was published by Sparrow Records and only sold in Christian book stores, so is quite a rare cartridge.  A sealed copy was recently sold on eBay for the princely sum of 5,250 dollars.


The unique thing about Music Machine was that an even more rare special edition was available, packaged with a modified version of the aforementioned children’s album meant to be played along with the game (Unfortunately, the one mentioned above is not one of these bundles).  A special introduction was added to the beginning of the record, directing players to start the game at a specific moment, thereby syncing the game to the album.  The in-game Music Machine would send down its flood of “positive character qualities” in time with the “real” Music Machine on the on the record.  This usually only worked perfectly as long as your record remained unscratched and untouched by sunlight.  While some arcade games and a few home consoles (such as the Vetrex) featured plastic overlays with additional visual components, this was the first instance of sound overlay ever being used in concert with a video game.

Home Computer Software, Inc. created a follow-up game using the same concept,codenamed Stalwart, but when the first title failed to catch on, Sparrow Records decline to publish it.  Since the game was already complete, Home Computer Software, Inc. was able to shop the game around.  Miraculously, it was picked up by Golan-Globus Productions, whom hoped to release it alongside their 1984 medieval adventure and box office bomb Sword of Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, starring Miles O’Keeffe and an embarrassed Sean Connery.  Again, a special version of the soundtrack album was planned that would sync up with the game, this time available on a cassette that could fit right in the box with the game.  Unfortunately, the failure of that film, along with the previous year’s failure of the E.T. game that was already dragging down the video game market, lead to the eventual complete disappearance of Home Computer Software, Inc., and the prototype Stalwart along with it.

That is, until now.  The experience has been updated appropriately, of course, with new music and additional menu options befitting modern computers, but it’s amazing how much of the game remains intact and in great playable form.  Enjoy it in your browser!

Game manual images courtesy of AtariAge

Screenshot courtesy of Jonathan Whiting

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Holy 8-bit Night + = more dope Christmas songs

(Edit 12/30/09: Thanks to the Chinese slamming the hell out of my server, the previews and downloads of the MP3s aren’t available at the moment (including my Halloween Mega-mix!). Merry Christmas to you too, fuckers!)

Once again, the season of holiday is upon us. All up in dat Mass. In my never-ending quest to bring you the best in Catholic-related chiptunes, I’ve come across a gem that was actually released last year during the time of the turkey. Holy 8bit Night + is the work of 16 different chip artists, combining their powers in celebration of the baby Jesus. It’s only been released on the Japanese versions of Itunes and Amazon, but as soon as I can figure out what to click on, the purchase will be as sure and clean as new fallen snow. You can preview most of the tracks at the VORC Records home page, and find the links to the aforementioned eastern versions of said stores. There are also a YouTubes of artist Saitone performing his remix of Sleigh Ride at a show in Tokyo:

Merry the Christmas!

BONUS:

Chiptune stalwarts 8-bit Weapon have “whipped up a tasty batch of delicious holiday chiptunes for everyone!” I’ll be honest and say that I’m not as big a fan of the Weapon, but they’ve got their Mistletoe in the right place. Only one song is available for preview, the somewhat boring, yet cheerful, Deck the Halls. Amen.

DOUBLE BONUS:

If you missed it the first time, be sure to check out Dr. Octoroc’s 8-bit Jesus from last year and sing we joyous, all together.

TRIPLE DOG BONUS:

My new best friend, allistonmedia, has tooken upon themself to convert some of our favorite yuletide SIDs from the High Voltage SID Collection and packaged them up in a nice little package with a bow on top and a .RAR extension on the end. In what could only be called a Christmas Miracle, a mysterious stranger known only as Recorded Amiga Games has created a YouTube preview of the tracks therein:

Who says angels don’t exist?

WHERE THE BONUSES END:

Finally, if you are a bit (HAHAHA) behind on your X-mas chiptunes, you’ll probably also want to take a look at the elder statesmen (and women) of chiptune, the 8bit Peoples’s release The 8bits of Christmas. Phew! Time for some eggnog.

OK, NOW YOU ARE BEING SILLY BONUS:

I’m sorry, but I just keep finding awesome, everywhere. This time, 8bitcollective artist henryhomesweet found some magic in that old Gameboy he found, for when he placed it in his hands, I began to dance around:

[audio:A Frosty Nightmare Before Christmas.mp3]

I GIVE UP BONUS:

This one is from the fantastic game Garden Gnome Carnage, a sort of reverse Lemmings type of affair with parachuting elves, black cats, and air strikes:

[audio:game.mp3]

Halloween COUNT-down 2009: Alone in the Dark soundtrack

The year 1992 seems like it wasn’t that long ago. That’s probably just a sigh of my age that I admit to suck a observation. Of course, it’s over ten years ago, but for me, it was just like yesterday, especially when I pop in the CD version of Alone in the Dark and take a listen to the CD audio contained therein. The original Alone in the Dark for the PC was the game that set the standard for the Survival Horror genre. God-damn it, it was annoying as hell. Take a look at this video of the various ways which you can die in the game:

Yes, that is correct, at 2:13, your character’s torso is stretched like Play-Doh simply for reading a book. Don’t let the Librarian Association get a hold of this video.

Despite it’s difficulty, Alone in the Dark was a creepy and effective horror game, with an awesome soundtrack. Here are a few samples that would be perfect ambiance for your Halloween festivities of hanging up spider webs and rolling up popcorn balls.  In the process of ripping the audio from my copy of the game, Windows Media Player decided that what I was ripping was, in fact, the Alone in the Dark album of one UK-based Electronica artist, Thee Maddkatt Courtship.  The only album info I could find to replace that was the soundtrack to the 2008 Alone in the Dark game, not to be confused with the soundtrack to the 2005 Alone in the Dark movie starring Christian Slater, and directed by Uwe Boll.  Seeing as this one of the first CD-ROM based titles to utilize CD audio, the confusion is understandable, however, this means that any name or artist info you see is incorrect.  How’s that for Tricks or Treats?!

Most of these tracks don’t work so much as ambient music and were meant to punctuate specific moments in the game, though there are a few “soundscape” tracks that serve as background noise for certain environments.  I believe it was Walter Murch, sound engineer for THX 1138, The Godfather, and others, who stated, “Sound makes the picture look better.”  In the era of FM Synthesis, the CD-quality sound effects and music of Alone in the Dark truly achieves this, which is particularly significant when your characters consist of approximately 10 polygons.

While not the first track, this the track that plays as you approach the mansion and really gets your blood pumping and foot tapping.  For me, this track IS Alone in the Dark.

[audio:03 The Fissure.mp3]

Here is one of the aforementioned “creepy” tracks that not really a tune, as much as an atmosphere:

[audio:06 Reception Hall.mp3]

This tension inducing track is a short, but effective freak out moment:

[audio:07 The Humanz.mp3]

One puzzle in the game was based around an ancient phonograph and a few records that you can find scattered around the mansion.  Playing The Blue Danube record causes some ghostly ballroom dancers to appear and cut a phantom rug:

[audio:14 No More Humans.mp3]

Playing the Danse Macabre record would cause your character to be killed instantly by giant balls (see above):

[audio:16 Niamam.mp3]

Seattle Chipfest '09 – The Movie(s)

Seattle’s annual(?) chiptunes festival, known collectively as Chipfest, was going to be the highlight of my year. I was stoked, but then, at the last minute, I learned that Cinematic Titanic would be appearing live in Seattle on that same weekend.  Which to attend?  Such a decision was the equivilent of choosing to chop off my right arm or my left arm, and unfortunately, being that I am right-handed, I chose to cut the left-arm of Chipfest.  Profortunately, thanks to the magnificent tgoldendisc (and apparent partner in crime SeaShow), I can attach a proverbial chainsaw to my bloody stump by way of YouTube.  Highlights include:

Falcon Punch! by Circles

Something by Syphilis Sauna

absolute maddness by McFiredrill

Quite a worthy effort, indeed, though the shots could use a bit more power plug in the frame.

UPDATE:

I’ve discovered another video from Chipfest 2009 and it makes me double disappointed that I missed out:

The musical ambience of an 80s arcade

Classic Arcade Sounds Via Wired’s Geekdad:

Experience the magic and the wonder of the early years of coin-op video games. Hear the classic arcade ambience like you haven’t heard it in over a quarter of a century! The blend of several video games being played simultaneously, the kids yelling and the quarters clanking. We will never hear such beautiful chaos quite the same way again….

Thank you, the internet.

ORV. Bullet holes.

Have you ever had a dream that was so awesome, the fact that you awoke at the end of it was downright depressing?  When I was about 12 years old, I had a dream that I was a Goonie.  Often, as make my sleep preparations, I’ll be reminded of that dream, and hope that I might revisit it that night.  Nowadays, I’m often too drunk to remember any dreams, but thanks to the “new” Retronauts blog on 1up.com, I can live the dream.  Live.

Despite Jess Ragan‘s lack of Goonies love, he’s turned me on (?!) to a pretty mediocre fan remake of the original The Goonies game for the MSX called The Goonies: 25th Anniversary Edition.  Don’t get me wrong, the jubilant folks at Brain Games, the developers of the remake, have done a fine job.  It’s just that they didn’t have much to work with at the start.  The original The Goonies game is pretty basic platformer, with pretty basic gameplay, that basically isn’t that much fun.  I will disagree with Mr. Ragan’s contention that playing as Sloth is some sort of affront against humanity.  Even though Sloth does resemble a Mr. Potato-head gone horribly wrong, at least his head is 4 times bigger than his body.

screenshot3

Still, as Mr. Ragan mentions, there is one thing about the remake that makes it worth checking out.  The remake comes packaged with several wonderful remixes of the Goonies theme that R good enough for me.  Thankfully, the soundtrack can be found within the folders of the game installation and can be played with abandon.

(As of this writing, the game can no longer be downloaded from the official site.  Wha-happa?!)

UPDATE:  The download works from my workplace.  Don’t tell my boss!

8-bit Jesus = absolutely sick Christmas music

UPDATE: Doc’s puppy needs surgery and he’s having trouble making ends meet this month.  If you can donate $15 or more, you’ll get a physical copy of the full album release later this month.  Save the puppies, and then dance with them!

My head esplode!  The genius Doctor Octoroc has just released a teaser of his in progress Christmas album 8-bit Jesus, and it has blown my mind’s brain.  Not content to simply port over several holiday favorites to the 8-bit format, the good doctor has based each of these tunes on a particular game from that era with incredibly spectacular results.  Joy to the World as if it were included in Bionic Commando?  Fantastical.  A version of Carol of the Bells straight out of Castlevania?  Stunning.  The best part of the whole deal is that only half of the tracks have been released so far, with the rest due out around the coming of Old Saint Nick.  Please immediately head to Doc’s blog and give him some feedback and motivation to finish this amazing amazingness.

8-Bit Jesus: New Christmas Chip-tune Album

UPDATE:  Ughzzz…I totally forgots:  team this with the 8-bit Peoples’ The 8bits of Christmas and all of your Christmas dreams will come true and be awesome.

Seattle Chipfest! '08

On Saturday night, April 12th, a group of musicians/weirdos (myself included) met in South Seattle to lay down a cavalcade of 8-bit tunes, break-core, and glitch.

Flyer for Chipfest!

Fighter X, out of Everett, Washington, got the crowd warmed up with a fast-paced set that had everyone jumping.

100_0805

Rainbow Pawz, a collaboration between MC Firedrill and Kinoko performed a set with their own brand of happiness, featuring various childrens toys, keyboards, laptops, and rediculous headdresses.

100_0819

Later on, Kinoko performed a solo set with less rediculous, yet still quite unique, headwear.

100_0842

Syphilis Sauna brought the noise, in the way only he can, accompanied by visuals from Disjunct.

Unfortunately, I had to leave early, but you can check out more pictures here:

Chipfest! ’08

And some video here (bonus: a video of my brother’s birthday the next day!):

YouTube vids