Professor Pac-Man

Professor Pac-ManThe Game: The denizens of Pac-Land must surely know how to do something other than just devour dots and munch monsters. And they learn from Professor Pac-Man himself, the dean of dot-gobblers. Professor Pac-Man poses questions See the videoof all kinds to you (and an opponent, if you have a second player), including visual recognition tests and matching puzzles. A Pac-Man gobbles a row of dots from left to right, counting down the seconds you have to correctly answer the question. Correct answers gain points and fruit, while incorrect answers will cost you. Lose more points than you have to spare, and the game’s over. (Bally/Midway, 1983)

Memories: This is one of those games where you can just picture someone in the marketing department saying “How can we exploit the Pac-Man license from Namco in a way that’s never been done before?” Video trivia games were nothing new, but the Professor Pac-Mantalent assembled to produce Professor Pac-Man was appropriately prodigious. Marc Canter and Mark Pierce, both Midway staffers, went on to form their own company in 1984 called MacroMind; a few changes in direction and a few strategic mergers later, MacroMind became none other than creativity software powerhouse Macromedia, and Canter and Pierce, along with longtime Midway veteran Jay (Gorf designer and Bally Astrocade console creator) Fenton, had a hit on their hands with a little software package called Director. You may have heard of it. Just about anyone who has ever slapped a Flash animation onto the web certainly has. Continue reading

Babylon 5 Interactive Information Kit

Babylon 5 Interactive Information KitThe Game: Log into Babylon 5’s information systems by remote and get a look at various parts of the station, and bios of the ambassadors and station crew. You can even launch a Starfury by remote – which would be about the only way to do that Download this softwarewithout having Ivanova’s hands around your throat within ten minutes. (Warner Bros., 1993 / devloped by Doglight Studios)

Memories: Distributed via floppy disk and the Compuserve and GEnie forums frequented by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski, the Babylon 5 Interactive Information Kit (which shall hereafter be referred to as the sanity- and repetitive-motion-conserving acronym B5IIK) was a nice piece of advance publicity for the information age – and one of the first hints that Hollywood was acknowledging the internet as a viable promotional medium. Continue reading

South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack

South Park: Chef's Luv ShackOrder this gameThe Game: Chef’s got his own cable access game show where eligible bachelorettes can compete for his affections! However, in the total absence of eligible bachelorettes, Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman have shown up to play the game. They answer three rounds of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-style trivia (only much more scatological than Regis usually gets) and then go into a randomly-selected “mini-game.” To the victor goes the Cheesy Poofs! (Acclaim Studios Austin, 1999)

Memories: This hysterically funny party game is a hit around the Green household. Now, just the presence of the words “South Park” will very likely tell you that this isn’t a game to get for your kids. With that in mind, it’s still a good game. Continue reading

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? online gameThe Game: You mean you’re the one person in the country who doesn’t know all the rules and the lifelines? Well, ooooooookay. The computer (sitting in for Regis Philbin) asks you a series of questions with four possible answers. Only one of these is the correct answer. If you’re not sure, you can ask an equally-computerized audience or phone a quasi-friend (actually, the phone-a-friend option in ABC.com’s online version of the game draws from a bank of answers given by people who have actually been contestants on the show), or you can eliminate two of the wrong answers. If you guess the wrong answer, you wind up going home a little less rich than you might be if you simply walk away. (ABC.com, 1999 – this game has since been removed from the site)

Memories: Admittedly, I’m waiting for Sony to get it in gear and release the Playstation version of Millionaire in late June, but for now, there’s the rather good online version of the game on ABC’s web site. At the behest of the benign overlords as Disney, ABC.com repeatedly – and I do mean repeatedly – reminds you that you’re not playing for any kind of money or prizes. Continue reading

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?Order this gameThe Game: You know the routine! You and one other player (in this age of the Playstation multi-tap, why not a bunch of players?) compete to see who can give Regis the fastest finger (he’s a New Yorker, I’m sure he’s well accustomed to it by now). Whoever comes out on top earns the right to blast through sixteen increasingly frustrating trivia questions, aided only by two helpful lifelines and one marginally useless one. As the game progresses, gravity begins to fail with alarming regularity in the studio, as demonstrated by your repeatedly flying out of your own chair into the floor, ceiling, and all points in between. (Sony Computer Entertainment, 2000)

Memories: I admit, my summary of the long-awaited Playstation version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? may be a little sarcastic, but I actually expected more – and less – from this game. Continue reading

Red Dwarf: Beat The Geek

Red Dwarf: Beat The GeekOrder this gameThe Game: Holly (and Holly) tax your brain with trivia questions about Red Dwarf (at either “viewer” or “geek” level) or about any number of other things (at “general knowledge”), with a time limit on each multiple-choice question. Some Red Dwarf-specific questions ask players to identify elements of scenes or even pieces of soundtrack music from the series. There are eight levels of six questions each; players who complete a round with no wrong answers will be given a code to enter at the main menu for a bonus game, and players who complete the entire quiz with no wrong answers will be given a two-point bonus question. Along the way, Holly (and Holly) offer helpful advice and critique your knowledge. (BBC Video / 2|entertain, 2006)

See the videoMemories: This interactive DVD game contains the first new Red Dwarf footage shot since the BBC’s cult SF comedy series bowed out in the 1990s; that along is cause for some small celebration at the very least. Granted, it’s not a new episode or the delayed-until-it’s-vaporware feature film, but it’ll do. Norman Lovett and Hattie Hayridge reprise their roles as the two incarnations of Holly; that’s got to be worth the price of admission alone. Continue reading

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