SEGA Game Gearness: Dragon Crystal

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I Like Pretending to Be Noble as I Kill Everything!

We're talking early nineties here. I had a Sega Game Gear portable system that I earned through less than ethically virtuous means. I dug it. I had a Sonic game (Sonic Chaos), a brick busting funnsy game (Woody Pop), a crappy racing game (GP Rider ) and some RPG lite by the title Dragon Crystal. Back in the Mesolithic period of gaming, it was a test of ingenuity and perseverance to just acquire games. There was no emulators or network download sites...only the cash=product equation. For myself, games were a rarity that I either had to pinch & save for or I would make some underhanded deal to possess a desired cartridge. This would limit the variety of games I was able to enjoy in my youthful exuberance of all things Game-On. While I enjoyed Sonic...for being Sonic and the other games were arcade type quickie's; my real focus gravitated towards Dragon Crystal.

This hunk 'o' plastic was about the size of a cell phone and had the whimsical generic crapo-art that many a Sega game flaunts. I was obsessed with this simple-yet-addictive hunter/gatherer mini-RPG game. It was repetitive and the rpg was simplified but it fully realizes the notion of its portability factor while retaining the addictive exploration elements of role playing. You begin as the harmless enough Mini-Knight, existing within a contained exploration screen. As you touch the edge of the play area, the trees or rocks or whatever the boarder is composed of, lights up to inform you it has been pillaged already. As you move through the fog of war and open up the play field, action RPG tasks ensue. Like its fave, Zelda, exploration combines with cutting trees and releasing baddies to bring on the essentially turn based combat. Collecting all kinds of foodstuff, armour, pots, weaponry and items becomes a learning experience every time a play occurs. You see, the game resets its effect of associated with items...for example: one play through may have the red flask as HP boost, but the next play through lists it as unknown until the player uses it and reveals its value. It can be anything...a boost or a poison, it always changes. I like this little curve and it keeps the discovery element challenging regardless of the learned playing techniques of the player.But what is this...? a wee little blob floats behind you...As you fight various insects and furry freaks, your floating blob(an egg actually) begins to hatch.What is revealed is the apparent money-shot of the game...a dragon.The titular Dragon is with you from the beginning and you must assist him...or is it her...it...it grows with you as levels increase.This little bastard hovers around and eventually...for those that level up enough...becomes a useful helper in the defence and offense of the players quest.

Another challenging twist is the effect of enemies, items and traps that change substantial attributes or movements of the character. From levelling down your egg to making your movements reverse, this game throws as much as possible into the mix. Levelling up is the only way to navigate this world with any hope of completing it. You start as an apprentice and can reach the lofty position of Paradin or Worlord. Dragon Crystal is really of the exploration type ilk where time invested equates to power. Everything leads to the discovery of some magical Goblet and the path towards this goal is loaded with mini-discoveries. Combat is paper-rock-scissor stuff, but satisfying enough as it happens quick and dirty. Enemies are abundant and varied in their simplicity. The menu screen to apply finds to the character is straight forward and crisp. If I recall....there may be an enemy list that is acquired as well....hmmmm....maybe. Anyways, what we end up with is surprisingly solid for being such a chintzy piece of plastic with cheesball art and a low user base, but it succeeds where others have failed: Keep it simple but with enough randomness to keep the exploration elements intact through multiple playthroughs. This little gem kept me sane through early zitness and random awkwardness...and my Dragon kicked all kinds of a$$!

Hard Plastic, Mario and a Calculator have a baby and...

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DONKEY KONG: Table-Top Mini

I had the table top Donkey Kong. No...not the cocktail table 2-player one, I had a little plastic box one that was like a mini-arcade machine. It was god-awful ugly (looking something like a cheap "futuristic" toy from a Happy Meal cross-bred with a two-bit carnival shtick at Christmas) and was more annoying than fun to play, but it filled a table-top niche in 80's culture and assisted in the onslaught of Donkey Kong that became a legend in the gaming industry.

Using the term "I had" implies I can claim ownership to it, but this I cannot. I had it on extended borrow and then donated it to a new mini-gamer along with other trinket hand-me-downs. This little (yet durable!) gaming system killed many an hour in my childhood and I feel obligated to extol the virtues of this Coleco-made piece of gameness. While anything i write would undoubtedly gloss up this early gen crap creation, but isn't that the beauty of hind-sight...everything shines a bit differently.

Yeah that's right **** also had the Popeye one! Then I threw 'em out.

My buddy had been given this game by his older bro who had gotten it at a staff x-mas party circa 1982. Games at this time were the stuff of kid. Teen-agers and young adults were not playing the "nerd" tinged computer gaming phenomenon. The industry was targeted to children, and became the next great baby-sitter. With this said, my buddy's bro decided to re-gift for the younger one of the family. When he eventually brought it over (and this in itself was amazing!....I mean...a video game you could put in a backpack!? Wow!) I was in awe of the power of the game. When he did the big reveal, I was instantly enamoured by the art on the sides. It looked great! The Big D was trotting his stuff and posing for the crowds. I loved the bright blue casing and the garish red color used. It was flashy and yelled "tech". I couldn't wait to play! And then i did...i was shocked, frustrated and saddened. I expected more. It is true that anything would have come second to what my expectations were, but this was not really fun. It blipped and burped its way through a gauntlet of piercing purple lights and deafening screeches of compu-grind. As time went on, we'll say 2 years or so, and the Donkey Kong fad faded, I had somehow acquired the Mini-Kong game through some underhanded comic trades. It was a bit beat up and marked up and scratched up, but it worked. The screen still blazed its piercing neon glows into the retinas as they had a few post-x-masses ago. It was at this point that I had the opportunity to really give the game a try and ride that learning curve. What ended up happening was a real appreciation for this money-grab hunk of Kong-Whoreness. Yeah it was repetitive, annoying and seizure inducing, but it contains the same fundamentals of the arcade game; its addicting. Running up the girders to save your lass is rewarding and exhilarating. At the time, this was the great gaming challenge that all aspiring arcade-knights quested to prevail over. Kong ruled, and the excitement he brought was in the vanguard of the gaming revolution.

In premise, this game is Donkey Kong. Score is involved, climbing and timing are key and Mario does the occasional slow-mo glitch jump. While not identical to the arcade game, it does share the spirit of the mighty Kong original even if it is watered down to the point of drowning. You play as a pre-cocaine(pre-super fame) Mario in a never ending circuit of running, climbing and jumping to the top of the screen, all the while avoiding barrels and other Kong obstacles. Everyone knows the game, its Donkey Kong, but this version is on the cheap and the limited technologies of calculator displays, light brights and bit-bursts of glitch sound combine to create a serviceable, if primitive Donkey Kong experience.

The wonderment that made this arcade in a box possible was the screen type employed, the Vacuum Fluorescent Display. That's the fancy way of describing a cheap monitor. The screen itself is akin to a stencil... It has all the frames of the game cut out and the whole deal is back lit to reveal the specific still as "movement" occurs. The choppy motion has its own charms and patterns that become the game-on experience here, it starts to feel right once you become accustomed to the feel of the mini-joystick and your eyes adjust to the strain. The graphic details here are sparse and the challenge increases by the speed rising. Everything is here...the hammer, flaming barrels and the ole' heave ho! thing that Kong does to thrust the barrels at you. The tweaks and blings of the sound chip are painful yet surprisingly accurate to the original, which ain't saying much for the original. The high and low tweaks when Mario walks is the pinnacle of infuriating but it eventually takes on a hypnotic "low-brow" sensation through repeated plays. The body of the game was solid plastic and could be used as a hammer in a pinch. I have personally seen this product smashed, thrown, curbed and dropped many times and it somehow lives on. Praise be to the gaming gods for plastic...where would we all be without dense plastic forms...I shudder to think! The game is a semi-satisfying time waster. You run up the frame, jump a few barrels and get to the platform with the damsel on it. Done. Next stage, same as the first, the cut-out screen eternal. But it continues on...now there are flaming barrels and the speed has been upped a notch. This proceeds until the speed is too much for itself and the little Coleco game system crashes. Once you find the repetition in the game flow, it can be almost enjoyable to grab a high score in this game. Almost...the simple presentation and limited variations condemn this game to more down-time than game-on time, yet our options were limited in the day and we forced ourselves to like it. Regardless, this gutsy little game had its own unique charms in a time of arcade parlours and pop-game icons like pac-man and Q-Bert...and interestingly enough, Mario really hasn't changed...ever.

I eventually gave the game; with many other toys I had broken up with, to my cousin. I know he played it for a while because I heard it brought up for few years after that, but the whereabouts of the Bright Blue Kong Machine is a mystery. A flea market or maybe an attic next-door. Most likely it hibernates in a land fill somewhere...impervious to decay with its exo-shell of moulded plastic. Even if it does reside in a dump, I assure you...if you slam 4 C batteries into this bad-boy, it'll work. Game-On!

Past Shows in the Shadow of Digital Loss: Volume 1

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Max the 2000 Year Old Mouse

With his black vest, old timer intone and a proclivity to sustain physical abuse at the hands of historical objects in his museum home. Many children were introduced to the connections within history by this mouse with charm and it encouraged a dramatic; if somewhat condensed perspective of historical events.

Producer Stephen Krantz put the whole thing together and the first episode played to Canadian crowds in 1967. Employing the semi-talents at Grantray-Lawrence Animation , syndication followed shortly after in 1970 on American PBS stations and soon found a large audience. Max has since graced many nations with his egotistical evaluation of the flow of events. 104 episodes, comprised of 5 minute vignettes, each quickie followed the recollections of Max the Mouse and his wide berth of experiences having trotted the earth for 2000 years. Each episode would quickly run down some historical event focusing on the drama of history. Many deal with American historical characters such as Daniel Boone and the expedition of Lewis and Clarke, but be it Max has been quite an active rodent, the show does explore various historical events from ancient Rome right on up. While the facts of the historical events may have been boiled down, the show gives a brief outline of what one would hear in a history lecture or find in an encyclopedia.

The limited animation technique was the pinnacle of cheapskate. The only real frame by frame movement was the snippets of Max goofing off. The point of the episodes was not to enthrall with movement and morphing, it was to give a quick history lesson, and each tale does just that in a non-pretentious way. The bulk of the program contained Johnny Craig-esqe drawings that put faces and scenarios to the narration. The images contained no animation to speak of. Some pans, a tilt...maybe a shake here and there of the camera. Actually, calling this program a cartoon is kind of dishonest. It is more akin to a picture history book with sound. In this way the show was made for peanuts. True budget film making that should inspire any broke-as-hell film student. While Max (voiced by Paul Soles...yup... the voice of 60's Spider-Man, Professor Kitzel and many more 70's characters)would throw in his two-bits, the main story teller was the powerfully voiced Bernard Cowan. Cowan was a Torontonian who provided speech to a variety of programs; most notably the narration of some episodes of the (in) famous 60's Spider-Man and Rocket Robin Hood (both also produced by Steve Krantz). The team that Krantz surrounded himself with was fully capable of achieving what the show set out to do: Give a quick run-down of history, on a budget and within a short amount of time.

The ultra-creative talented Krantz built his career making programs on the cheap and he had a bizarre involvement with Ralph Bakshi that produced not only the filthy Fritz the Cat, but the most tripped out Spider-Man episodes ever. You know the ones....when Spidey would take the trips underground only to be exposed to psychedelic backgrounds, plant freaks and complete weirdness that only Bakshi could come up with. Acid trips for kids that hadn't heard or been exposed to the drug. Krantz went on to produce some live-action shows and write a couple of novels that did quite well. Krantz really is an inspiration, if not for his output, then for his cheese factor. This man was able to pull off some of the flimsiest and dirt-poor programs ever that have really stood the test of time. Without a doubt, Rocket Robin Hood will always make sporadic appearances in the years to come. If not in sight, definitely in name just as the Krantz Spider-Man theme song will eternally live on. Max fits in to the times as well. A need for educational programming gave the show a venue, and despite its lack of flash, it maintained throughout the seventies. Alas, Max had to turn in his cap and retire his syndicated tromp in 1992, but not before imbedding his slant of history into the minds of many children.

The show has explored many roles on television. Firstly as a standalone program, then as filler after a 25 minute episode of something else. The show has even eked out a living as a bridge throughout Saturday morning programming. Max has seemingly gone into hibernation in our fast paced world of info overload, but he floats around various sites such as You Tube and Big Cartoon Database waiting to be rediscovered and embraced by those that can appreciate the historical kitsch that Max is privy to.

Past Books in the Shadow of Digital Loss: Volume 2

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Movie Monsters

Oh, the innocence of youth, endless hours of playtime, an unhealthy diet of sweets and discoveries that shape the impressionable young mind for good…and sometimes for bad. One such discovery of my own springtime years birthed a cinephile brood that suckles on the macabre to this day. This discovery was in the form of a tattered children's book by Alan Ormsby titled Movie Monsters. This Forry Ackerman inspired book not only changed the games I partook in at playtime, but planted the seed for an interest in terror and horror culture that continues to grow today.
Circa: 1981, Time: A lazy Sunday afternoon, Place: the toy strewn playroom of my youth. I mentally prepared to play yet another episode of house with my sister; where I would inevitably end up being the shmuck that prepared a plastic artificial dinner. Out of nowhere, my mother ker-plunked a box down in the playroom entrance. Inside were the usual assortment of junky, crushed hot wheels and gnawed on legos discarded by a teenage neighbor who had grown to appreciate daddy's Playboy's and muscle cars much more than these trinkets. As I dug to the bottom of the box, a bile puke color caught my eye. This sickly hue belonged to a book that had drawings of Frankenstein's monster (Karloff version and Chaney Jr. in Wolfman garb on the cover. Separating them was the title, Movie Monsters…Monster Make-up & Monster Shows to Put On . My heart skipped a beat and my eyes must have bulged out of my head like a pug eyeing up turkey jerky. This moment of discovery, of beholding something fresh and different, was so completely opposed to my sister's Barbie's and my rusty Tonka's, that my mind throbbed and pulsated. This moment set in motion a zeal for dark unknowns and a quest to find the things that go bump in the night.

This tome of tyke terror was written by Alan Ormsby. That's right. The same Ormsby that directed the grisly Ed Gein inspired Deranged, Popcorn and co-wrote Deathdream and Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things with Bobbie Clark. The same Ormsby that did the cheeseball make-up in Shock Waves, had written a kids book on horror films. Published by Scholastic Book Services in 1975, this soft cover book is 80 pages and contains great original art by Ormsby. The back cover claims; It's a whole fangtastic creep of monster tips, straight from a Master of horrifying monster movies! Well, Master is a questionable label, but this little book is definitely special. Divided into three parts, the book is essentially a, "Welcome to horror!" from Alan himself.
Part one introduces the young reader to the Universal movie monsters and a few fringe dwellers. The Wolfman, Frankenstein's monster and bride, The Mummy, King Kong, not one but TWO Dracula's: the suave Lugosi interpretation and the evil Lee version, Jekyll & Hyde, the Creature from the Black Lagoon and the one, the only…Blacula! Mel Brooks' well endowed Young Frankenstein also gets some press time in this first section that opens with a write up on Chaney. Damn….that picture of the Phantom had me hypnotized like a desperate housewife at a Chippendale show! Teach me more Ormsby!
Part two, How to Make a Monster, gives step by step instruction on how to make weird warts, wolfman hand's and a recipe for blood to name but a few. Two days into discovering this book I set out to make a papier- mache Mummy's Hand. The hours I put into that thing must have had my mother ready to call the anti-ADD police. I labored over stank ass wet flour mixed with every kind of flyer, newspaper and school letter I could acquire. The end result resembled a work glove left in cement and allowed to dry, but the painting of it I did was sheer, inspired grotesquery. I sniped every flavor of nail polish my mother had under the bathroom sink and intricately scrawled veins of every kind against the chunky, wrinkled surface. What seemed like my greatest creation, looked like a hunk of shiny, dried flour to anyone else, but I didn't care. I had discovered SFX, and I was in love.
Part three of the monster bible (…for kids) took the newly christened dark sider to the whole point of the book. Monster Show was the title and I'm sure Ormsby could see his minions tormenting parents everywhere with this one. The script provided is a surreal, goofy play called, The Monster of Frankenstein, which throws all the movie monsters from part one (to be played by the reader and his/her easily influenced friends) into an orgy of silly childishness. Hamlet it is not, but it does have a floating dismembered head and organs aplenty (the likes of which were to be made using the directions and household ingredients laid out in part two). It even has a moral for the young ones; It's silly to be scared. The important thing to remember is to keep your head! Ridiculous as it was, the theatrics enthralled me, I performed it many a times, although my rating would have been at least an M. Oh the horror of it all!
Every obsessed genrephile has their defining moment. That key time when you received your first kiss to your brain and it gave your imagination a hard-on. A passion that motivates the obsessed to stay up until 4 in the morning when they have to be up at 7. A little something to prevent you from actually putting any money into savings. That moment for me was when I discovered that mysterious, new book, in the bottom of a box, in 1981. How many brethren received this gift from the mind of Ormsby, I can never know; untold legions undoubtingly turned playtime into scare-time and the stage was set for the kills of celluloid mayhem and the thrills of film for countless kids. Movie Monsters is long out of print, but an issue recently went on eBay for $5.99 and a hunter is sure to find one in a moldy bookstore out there. A fun little read that will always act as a great introductory gift to a tot you want to turn into a horrible brat. My tattered copy is part of my personal library forever and thank you Alan for giving me a paper cut that has never been able to heal.

Garbage Pail Geekness

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In 1985, with the sickeningly sweet and cutesy Cabbage Patch Kids dominating the store shelves and toy chests across North America; an evil twin of these innocent dollies came crawling out from the back alleyways in the form of Garbage Pail Kids. The presence of such freaks as Adam Bomb, Unstitched Mitch and Bad Brad presented an antithesis to the sunny garden that sprouted their nicer brethren. Children were introduced to a world of twisted commentary that presented horror and gross-out humour to hungry eyes looking for a welcome change.

Topps Chewing Gum Inc. had seen the benefits of counter culture merchandise. Earlier successes such as the insanely popular Wacky Packages in the late 1960's had alerted the sport/collectible card company to the profitability of subversive popular culture criticism. Using the abilities of Mad magazines talent to create such twisted mockeries as Kook-Aid, Band-Ache and Screech Tape; Topps created a cult following that laughed and reveled in the disdain for famous American products of consumerism. These images became stickers that could be stuck anywhere. Desks, dressers and even mail boxes became the galleries for displaying these irreverent low brow art pieces. Teenagers bought them up as fast as Topps could produce them and, like boys tend to do, the competitive act of collecting followed. Treasuries were printed by Topps to house entire collections and joining the backs of whole sets together presented some silly product jab in the form of a mosaic-like poster. The company had hit pay dirt and continued the series throughout the 70's. While containing some truly disturbing imagery, the Wackies always had a certain subtle presentation about them that caused the viewer to do the ole' double take. As the 80's trudged along, interest in the wackiness of these sticker packages had waned. Children were hanging out at the arcade smoking cigarettes and learning how to gamble. Youngsters were playing with chickaboo's and a new doll called the Cabbage Patch Kid. These bright eyed tykes were composed of plush bodies with hard rubber heads. Adorning their heads were locks of yarn hair that curled and draped lovingly. They arrived with "birth certificates" that introduced the new adoptive parent-child to the kids' name; which were always way too sweetsie, like Gilbert or Suzie. It was at this point that some social commentator had the light bulb explode over his head. The brilliant artist, writer and pre- Pulitzer winner Art Spiegelman and fellow artist Mark Newgarden conceived of the Garbage Pail Kids. Employing the help of numerous talents such as John Pound and Tom Bunk, they developed the set of 82 (+ 6 variations) cards that were to become the first series. Out the window was subtly, and in was sickly creatures of horrid appearance and temperate. A rebellion occurred against everything Strawberry, pretty or smurfy. Topps had found the new Wackies and children around the world were to soon be tainted with gross-outs and sick drawings that would tear a strip out of the sweetness that was the Cabbage Patch.
The cards were stickers like their grandparents the Wacky Packages. At 2 ½ inches by 3 ½, these cards were perfect for fitting in the back pocket. This incognito size promoted them being brought to school and surreptiously hidden when snoopy teachers thought trouble was amiss. Four to a pack (at least in Canada), they were always included with a stale piece of crummy gum. The gum always ended up in the garbage and the true prize was obsessed over as sounds of gagging and the inevitable, " That's sick!" came from one of the more timid of the group of children. Some of the iller ones included Crater Chris, who treats the viewer to a zit popping presentation; Dead Ted, crawling from the grave with maggot friends and challenging Peter Cushing ala Amicus's Tales from the Crypt, as the great undead rot feast and Scary Carrie who innocently wonders why mirrors shatter when her Franken freak image glares into them. To mock the whole birth certificate idea, the GPK's had two names. The mutant kid who chows on flies is Lizard Liz on card A and referred to as Buggy Betty on card B. Every Kid had an A and a B name. Above mentioned Dead Ted becomes Jay Decay on his B card. This not only kept the sick little punks who bought these cards laughing, but increased their collectibility ten-fold. No matter how large or small each individual kids collection got too, they were filled with sickly delights of twisted grotesqueries that introduced many a child to the concept of splatter. As these stickers made their way into every child's sticker album and junk drawer, I am sure the sales of the Cabbage Patch Kids plummeted. It was not long after the cards had become fairly mainstream that the Cabbage brats disappeared. Coincidence…probably not.

The Garbage Pail Kids continued in numerous sets as time went on, with varying degrees of success and merit. With over 16 series and sets introduced all over the world the Garbage Pail Kids continued puking and exploding for years. The Brits in particular really enjoyed the mockery of it all. The nail that drove the lid on this rotting, stanky franchise had to have been the abysmal 1987 film The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. Don't even bother with this one folks. Truly bad stuff, even by C. Alexander's broad standards. The cartoon is a write-off as well. With new sets of Wacky Packages and Garbage Pail Kids on the shelves as you read this, the originality and beauty of these sets has diminished in an age of high tech and bling. Regardless of the decline of the cards, their influence planted the seed in many minds. Such films as the Toxic budget films, Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive carried on the gross-out silliness that pervaded these card sets. Although they have passed into memory and collectibility purgatory; such weirdos as Up Chuck and Leaky Lou remain in the early memories of gore mongers everywhere. An introduction to young minds of the horrors that were to come, and don't be surprised if you inherent some crappy dresser from Aunt Edna only to find Bad Brad's satanical glare stuck to the back of it; a reject from the eighties that still desires to taint some young soul.

Past Books in the Shadow of Digital Loss: Volume 1

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CREEPSHOW: For the treat that is Halloween

Only the most crossed eyed horror fan has not heard or experienced the phenomenon of the landmark E.C. horror stories. Drawn by comic legends such as Jack Davis and Graham Ingles and written by Gaines and Feldstein, to name but a few, these books showcased tales of freaks, monsters and revenge served squishy. The books included the legendary Tales from the Crypt and the Haunt of Fear, and carried on a tradition of horror that entertained young ones and intimidated wary parents. Hosted by the likes of the Crypt Keeper and the Old Hag, these stories were horrific, atmospheric and fun. The tales always dealt out suffering to the guilty and was loaded with social commentary. It was unsurprising the outrageousness had a short ride. With the "Seduction of the Innocent" published in 1953, Dr.Wertham's puritanical assault on these type of books, with the E.C.'s as the focus, were portrayed as degenerate fodder that would corrupt youth to acts of murder and delinquency. The EC comics faded into history as the Comic Code appeared, only retaining a Mad market share, but the "damage" had been done. Many a child was inspired by the tales presented in the horrific comics, and some of these corrupted youths grew to adulthood to become horror-meisters of their own right. Stephen King and George Romero came from the generation that was present in the stores when the shocking comics were originally released. The mutual product of their fond memories was the Laurel production of Creepshow. The entertaining horror film had a campy E.C. format that emulated the look and feel of the books. With stellar work by Tom Savini, tongue in cheek writing by King, and stylish direction by Romero; the film is one of the best examples of the anthology terror tale format, right up there with Dead of Night. A little known graphic novel was released at the same time as the film. Rare and little seen, it stands as a beautiful piece of cross merchandising that every fan of horror and art should seek out and enjoy.

Written by King and illustrated by the legend, Berni Wrightson; the Creepshow comic book retains the reverence to the E.C.'s and keeps the concept closer to the source. The cover is even done by E.C. stalwart Jack Kamen. This is not the comic that makes varied appearances throughout the film. This work is a graphic novel of high quality. Published right alongside the film in 1982 by Plume Books, the tales from the film are faithfully retold in the graphic novel format. Father's Day, The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill, The Crate, Something to Tide You Over and They're Creeping Up On You are all included with the glee and sarcasm that is evident in the film. The filler story from the film of the boy who ends up being a real pain in his father's neck is absent from the novel, a type of tactic that E.C. never really employed. Present is a horror host who only creeps in momentarily but becomes the rotting host of the whole recollection. With pathetic puns and awful alliteration, the Creep hams his/her/it's way through the book with a nod to all that is E.C. While having a generally darker tone to it, the book is noble in its homage and King presents his take on the typical Tales from the Crypt type stories of zombies, adultery and southern stupidity. Berni Wrightson had been illustrating horror for years when he got the gig to compose the Creepshow book. He was certainly not a rookie in the realm of horror anthologies. He had done many a splash page for mags such as House of Mystery and the Witching Hour, and put together his own sets such as Badtime Stories. While his masterpiece that would become Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus was still 1 year from being published, his work in Creepshow is both competent and theatrical. The panel showing Billie the casty nunt, get her face chomped off is the stuff of horror legend, and seeing Jordil Verril portrayed as a square-jawed farm boy as opposed to the soft, and amateur King is far easily digestible. Cinematic in the portrayal, each panel contain the Wrightson technique and attention to detail and control. More graphic than the E.C. originals, the spirit of those books is still firmly present. The colors, which are done by Michelle Wrightson, retain the garish qualities present in the cheap old school comics this film/book pays respect too. As a complete package, the graphic novel of Creepshow is loaded with adulation, creativity and respect.

With the crapfest Creepshow 3 recently released by the same company that puked out the crappy Day of the Dead 2: Contagion; it does a fan good to get to the root of the franchise. The graphic novel acts as King and Wrightson's vision of E.C. naughtiness; reassessed, repackaged and thrown out under the radar for the grue of heart to uncover. Re-issued by Plume in 1990, used copies can be found on Amazon for under $40. In a day when good compilations are rare and nearly impossible to find of this quality, this is a work of all that is creepy, spooky and just plain gross. This book is the product of two artists intent on sharing their perspective of glossed up pop references, heartfelt homage and biting social revenge vibes...This is one book not to be passed up this Halloween season.

Bring on the Recession, Bring on the Games!

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During the Great Depression, people needed to escape. They really couldn't go anywhere, be it they were piss poor, so they scraped together some change and went to the movies.

(of note...this is my LINK HEAVY blog)

I really can't say if that statement is true, as I wasn't even a twinkle of a twinkle of my grandpappy's baby eye. What I can say is I have heard about the success of the Marx Bros. and the Universal Monster craze...all products of the dust bowl times.





This article has gots it...

I see the interest in videogames all around me. A DS hovers by, through a window i see some COD 4 rock'in...I can hear the twangs of Guitar Hero mingling with sounds of the city. People need to fill their time and distract themselves from the sucky, economic situation.What better way to spend the wallowing days than blasting some baddies and eating something greasy(...because greasy things are cheap...no?). It doesn't cost an arm and a leg, especially with the bargin bin deals and discount titles. Time will tell how sales hold up for games through X-Mas, but at the rate things are going, such as the Wii sales , it looks as though the gaming industry may be able to weather the economic storm. Of course there are layoffs and cutbacks, but it seems the tech industry is something that has gained some strong roots. The industry is just over 30 years old, but it has grown and evolved into one of the major entertainment sectors in the world today. The video-gaming industry has arguably bested the movie theatres in terms of revenue. Games are a way of life, and an occupier of time. The satisfaction derived from a great game-on experience, acts like a drug. Gamers want more! They will steal from their momma to get's some! Recessesion be damned! Gamers will always find the scratch to get the game. I think the act of gaming on is firmly entrenched in the hearts of gamers, and they are willing to scrape the piggy-bank to get an escapist game-on experience in the security of their homes. At least in the privacy of their own home, joystick in hand, they can selfishly feel sorry for themselves because they have no money. Gaming-On is here to stay!!!

Game-On Lesson 3

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Girlfriends and Gaming

First things first....be prepared for the fact that after my lesson, your g-friend will be hogging the system endlessly. There is no half-way for women....it is all or nothin'!

Step 1: Place an Ikea catalogue on the gaming system itself. This will ease her transition to acknowledging the existence of the mass of game-on hardware that exists within your living environment. Her joy at snagging the Ikea (latest edition of course) mag will overwhelm the shocking reality of revealing the game system lounging underneath. This reward-shock tactic will ease her into acceptance.

Step 2: Be sure the system is tip-top clean. Women hate to fondle filthy things. An option would be to give the system a light spray with rose oil or some other fragrant scent. This will lure her to want to make contact with the game system.

Step 3: Start her out with a real funnsy. You know...Something like, You Don't Know Jack(one NOT 2) or Guitar Hero. Don't be dumping the Halo's or Disgaea's on her too early. These type of hard-core games can have a long term detrimental effect on your g-friends mind. First Impressions are huge and if she is exposed to the hardcore too early, she will reinforce the cliches in her mind that all games are violent and masturbatory male fantasies manifest. Ease her into gaming, make her feel the fun. They like feeling....most of the time.

Step 4: Make it a super-fun experience. Maybe feed her some Gin(or black-cherry soda pop....if so inclined) and nice lil' snacks. Make it into a pleasant experience for both of you. This will leave the good first-impression that will stay with her. Throw some romance into the mix. If playing a Wii or a more active game like Rock Band, be sure to give her the 'ole bump rub. You know the move....you gently bump up against her and make a smooth transition to a rub on her side, back, shoulder, arm....where ever. All this bonding while she is gaming will make her want to game-on more.

You must be consistent in the fun-factor, and hold off on dragging her through hardcore games. A woman watching you try to level up to 9999, will only make her resent the system and cut you off! Women love attention, and if you are focused on a game while not paying mind to her, she will rebel. Show her the good time gaming together can be, and she will want to share that with you on a regular basis.

I believe you can follow these steps to gaming bliss, but like I mentioned...be aware that you may release a gaming oni. She may take to the whole game-on ness like a louse to a hippie. You are opening up a Pandora's Box, so try to instill in her mind the game fun through co operative play. This will steer her away from becoming a game junkie. If she does become an addict, there is only one joystick in the pad that will get any play.

NES Memories

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Gangs Occupy River City. They Stand in Your Way of True Love. Time to Cause Some Serious Pain!

As a lad, I would spend a few hours daily exploring old factories, wooded fields, construction sites and the general industrial areas of North Edmonton. Refinery Row was about a dozen miles away from me and the smell of crude oil being refined into fuel permeated the environment. As the sun would set, my partner in exploration and I would head back home to game-on with the mighty Nin. We had mastered Super Mario, struggled through Clash @ Demon Head, bet lunch money on Bad News Baseball and quested through Hyrule. My buddy's older bro worked at the now defunct video rental shop of Jumbo Video, which had quite a wall of NES rentals. Every night we took on a different title that his brother had smuggled home after finishing his shift. The excitement of discovering the next big title motivated us to stay up way too late and have thumbs that were strangely blistered and calloused. During this time of exploration and discovery we came across a game titled River City Ransom. To our mutual joy we had uncovered a jewel, and it didn't require the extraction of ancient rot juice from mother earth to feel rich from the discovery.

All you would be able to say is

River City Ransom. Part brawler, part RPG. This game worked(and works...) on so many levels it occupies its own specialized genre. The story concerns young Alex. A resident of River City with good intentions and love in his heart. When the troublesome sounding "Slick" decides to abduct the love of Alex's life, you know there is gonna be hell to pay. Alex goes on a frenzied mission to cause pain, learn new skills and explore River City to liberate his damsel in distress, Cyndi. Alex does have friends to assist him on this noble mission. His equally rage filled bud, Ryan, can join the fray and contribute to the rescue of Cyndi, ensuring Alex can some day get some. When two players game-on you can do combo moves which are exciting to pull off and cause destruction to the gang members that attempt to deny Alex his heroic quest. The game is simple enough indeed, but along the journey you will encounter shops, secret bookstores and floppish bosses and sub-bosses that are in need of retribution. The mission can be lengthy if one decides to explore River City from top to bottom and acquire all the skills offered by books and products that must be purchased. Money is received after one of the many gang members is beat down and sent to the "other" plane. Some baddies give more money than others and bosses really give up the goods. The gangs that await our heroes are legion and the titles vary from the "Squids" to the "Frat Boys". All gangs are not equal. Some are far more aggressive than others, while some will flee from your presence. Learning the gang dynamics is a crucial part of playing the game. Following the action like buzz on a fly, is the banter in text form on the bottom of the screen. Enemies can taunt you, drop hints or even scream in pain as they meet their maker. Constantly ticking away on the lower screen and usually humorous, the dialogue is an important part of the game as well. Scattered throughout River City are Shop areas where no fighting occurs. It is filled with peaceful city folk that only wish you the best and want your money. Doorways lead to a variety of shops from Bookstores to Desert Cafes. All items add to the players stats in varying degrees. Some items increase agility, speed, strength, to name a few; while other shops sell items that give Alex(or Ryan) new skills. The learned skill of Dragon Feet is always a pleasure to greet charging gang members with, and it is a must to pick up these tricks to combat the increasingly tough opponents that come your way. All these layers combine with little touches like naming your character , password saving, interacting with the inhabitants of the city and using any items lying around as weapons, giving River City Ransom a broad and deep foundation to play on. You can even pick up a dazed enemy and use him as a weapon. The humour of the story and the complete wackiness of the entire game give it personality and flavour that separate it from anything else out there.

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The look and feel of River City Ransom may ring some bells. Developed by Technos, this is the same team behind Super Dodge Ball, the original Double Dragon and the old school arcade fighting game Karate Champ. Their uncanny ability to meld violence and humour are real standouts in the industry and give anything they develop a distinct Technos identity. River City Ransom was released in North America in 1990, and while not taking the gaming world by storm, it has achieved a strong cult status and is respected internationally. The blend of outrageous fighting and ability building make this game multifaceted and garner it quite a broad fan base. A GameBoy version was released, minus the Technos crew. Developed by Million and released by Atlus, this updated version got favourable reviews and may be of interest to former River City dwellers. The original has been re-released on the Wii through the Virtual Console and is highly recommended to anyone able to access it. The story is silly, the moves ridiculous and the characters are mental. That said, it is a perfect distraction and an oddly complex beat-em 'up that works. Tight control, simple yet effective NES sounds and clean, crisp graphics combine to create a pleasurable gaming experience.

My urban explorer friend and I played River City Ransom non-stop in the Summer of 1990(the late charges must have been in the triple digits...) and it has left such an impression that every so often the adventures of Alex jump into my mind like an Acro Circus spin. Anyone mentions a gang, I instantly think of the Generic Dudes. I see an older metal garbage can, I envision Ryan smashing a Frat Boy in the melon. A great game stays with you for a long time, an amazing game stays with you forever. I am sure I can use the brain cells designated with River City Ransom info for something else, but why would I. In my youth I spent a summer in River City and I love going back every so often to the memories of that wacky place where heroes read, smiles are free, baddies run away and the good guy always gets the girl.

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Coleco-Vision Memories

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THE LEGEND OF LADYBUG

Many winters ago and many less aches and creaks, my siblings and I woke up one Christmas morning to a grand surprise. Our stockings had been taken off the faux fireplace due to the bulk of goods stuffed inside. As we unloaded the mixed joys of candies, oranges and trinkets we found the surprise. In each stocking, shoved in the bottom was a sealed box. The front showcased a stand-up arcade machine and the back pictured the at-the-time cutting edge graphics. This was the Christmas of Coleco-Vision, and Santa graced us each with our own game. Under the tree was the huge box labelled, "To all the kids...Love: Mom & Dad". This box contained the Coleco system itself, Donkey Kong, Q*bert and Venture. The stockings had the Santa picked games that the Fat-red one thought best exemplified our forming personalities. My older bro got Gorf. The game featured a 1-eyed alien commander that taunted you in between rounds of the player attempting to destroy his invading fleet. I got Pepper II, a great maze type game that challenged the player to seal spaces with a zipper-like trail to fill the stage with solid patterns. A game smacking of Pac-Man sensibilities but original enough to stand apart. My sister got the feminine sounding Ladybug. "Santa" in his infinite wisdom had assumed a game with that title would have to be geared at little girls. Santa was wrong this time, and that game became the focus of hours of intense gaming, arguing and excitement.

1980 was the banner year in which the yellow round guy busted up the space-shooter arcade monopoly. Like fruit flies on a bowl of grapes, the clones multiplied. Games like Exidy's MouseTrap and Data East's Lock 'n' Chase borrowed the Pac formula in an attempt to cash in on the maze craze. Not to be left out, Universal pumped out the similarly inspired title Ladybug. Released originally as an arcade cabinet in 1981, Ladybug was quickly ported over to the equally new market of home video games via ColecoVision. Ladybug involved collecting (or eating...) the little x's throughout the maze all the while avoiding the electronic baddies that were created to destroy you. Looking similar to the Pac, a gamer would be pleasantly surprised by this mazie while playing and looking deeper. This game had its own unique take on maze madness and the differences placed this game shoulder to shoulder to the mighty Pac, not under it. Refreshingly new were the revolving panels that acted as barriers and doorways. Pivoted in the middle, a player could "push" either side to open or close passage ways. This take made the playfield more interactive than other mazies and took a certain strategic sensibility on the gamers part. Littered within the maze were letters and score multipliers. The rewards changed color from red, blue and yellow. Depending on when you grabbed these treats determined where they would be applied on the chart right of screen. This chart had 3 sections. The word SPECIAL, EXTRA and the x2, x3 or x 5 multiplier. Special was Red, Extra was Yellow, and the multipliers were Blue. The treats flashed the colors that would correspond with which letter or number would be checked off on your chart as your ladybug snagged them. Timing was essential in getting the right color that you needed. Completing the words would reward you with either an extra ladybug or the blessed VEGETABLE HARVEST. I cannot express the joy of the vegetable harvest....pure satisfaction and accomplishment. Preventing the cute, yet large Ladybug from attaining a relaxed life of munching and mazing were the Baddies and the stationary skulls that meant death upon contact. The Baddies phased in from the center when the ticker that revolved around the outer edge of the maze made a full rotation. These electronic freaks were far more spastic and erratic than any ghosts you may have encountered in other titles. They hunted the red ladybug with a zeal that disturbed and caused players to become incredibly focused on how to avoid them. Hectic does not explain the madness of the cat and mouse chase between the lovable ladybug and the freaks that were hell-bent on causing your demise. Avoidance is key as this game had no power pellets that allowed you to take on the role of baddie eater. All a player could do was use the revolving doors in a pinch to get the freak off your tail. When all the freakazoids were released from the center spawn point, the real treat was revealed. Maybe a pickle...maybe an eggplant...maybe some weird saw-like thing. These valuable rewards were worth thousands of points for a reason. Getting them involved exposing yourself to the insane madness of the baddies that killed you on touch. Getting the treat froze the freaks in their tracks, giving the player much needed time to escape and get the last of the x pellets to clear the level. This race against the spawning baddies and the attainment of the color coded bonuses filled a player with tension and thrills that made this game a true legend of pure game play and simple objectives. A cherry in the vegetable patch.

My sister would use her Santa entitled ownership of Ladybug to get things done. If she wanted her room cleaned, she would make the deal that I could play "her" game for 1 hour in exchange for the labour involved in organizing her mess. Her night to do dishes...no problem. She would prey on the passion my brother and I had for this game to get her chores done. The Coleco port was solid and retained all the elements of the arcade stand-up. The constant ticking of the visual timer, the disturbing sound as the freaks spawned and the bright colorful palette. This game won us all over and kept the control steaming hot. I have recently been playing a version on my PC and I must say, Ladybug is as frantic and rewarding as it ever was and just plain fun. It is honest and exists comfortably in its own strange world of mazes, freaks, veggies and coccinellidae. There is no attempt made by the developers to create reality in any way...this is a mazie. One lesson to be learned from this legendary game....never judge a game by its title. Game-On brothers and sisters and work hard to get your own vegetable harvest!

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