Character Advent Calendar

Phoenix Wright needs your help

February 15th, 2007 by Edwin in Character Advent Calendar, Game Development Insights

phoenix-wright-3.jpg

Phoenix Wright 2: Justice For All was one of the most highly anticipated sequels on the Nintendo DS platform for quite some time now, and I am happy to say that the game does not disappoint. Of course, having a two-bit lawyer who specializes in turnabout cases at court while saving the lives of many makes for an interesting read, and it is no wonder Mr. Phoenix has already developed quite a cult following here in America. For those of you in the dark, the Gyakutan Saiban trilogy (also known as the Phoenix Wright after the localization process) consists of three episodes (d-uh!), so here’s to hoping Capcom will not rest on their laurels and bring the third instalment across the Pacific.

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December 25 – Mario

December 25th, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

The many forms of Mario
Well, you can’t have a gaming heroes round up without Mario, and what better way to conclude ours. The fat italian plumber with the penchant for overalls and caps and the huge moustache is one of the gaming worlds oldest characters, first appearing in the arcade game Donkey Kong way back in 1981, although back then he was called Jumpman, rather than Mario. It’s also well known that the reason for him wearing dungarees was so that his arms would stand out from the rest of his body on the limited hardware of the time.

Donkey Kong was entirely the work of one man, that being Shigeru Miyamoto, who’s often cited as being the main creative force at Nintendo both now and in the past. Of course, he’s not the only game designer Nintendo has, but his track record his hard to beat, being responsible for the Zelda series and Pikmin amongst others.

Super Mario Bros.
Anyway, back to Mario. The game that really put Mario on the path to stardom was Super Mario Bros., where Mario (and his brother Luigi in two player games) tried to negotiate a series of horizontally scrolling platform levels to rescue Princess Daisy from the claws of Bowser. This started off as an arcade game, but the home version on the NES was when things really took off. Lots of staple platform gaming conventions were started by Super Mario Bros. or one of it’s many sequels.
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December 24 – Lemmings

December 24th, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Falling LemmingLemmings
When it first appeared in 1991 on the Amiga, Lemmings, developed by DMA Design and published by Psygnosis caused a bit of a sensation. The game involved trying to rescue a group of tiny little Lemmings by guiding them from the entrance trapdoor through the level to an exit point. The Lemmings were pretty dumb, and as soon as their feet hit the ground they start walking, and keep on walking over cliffs, into water, through traps and so on.

In order to avoid all the Lemmings perishing, the player had a number of skills available on each level that could be applied to a Lemming by hovvering the mouse cursor over one of the little fellers and clicking. Diggers, Miners and Bashers allowed vertical, diagonal and horizontal tunnels to be carved out of the landscape, climbers could scale vertical cliffs, and Droppers were given an umbrella to allow them to fall great heights. Blockers would stand still and make any Lemming which touched it turn around and walk in the other direction, whilst Builders could build a short diagonal bridge. Finally, the funniest skill was the Bomber. On giving this skill to a Lemming he would clutch his head and shout “Oh No!” in a squeaky voice. A countdown then appeared above his head, and when it reached zero he would explode, with a great popping sound, leaving behind a trail of pixels and a huge crater in the ground. Funnier still was the Armageddon button. If you had messed up a level, clicking on Armageddon would blow up every single Lemming on the screen, generally causing most of the level to become a mess of craters!
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December 23 – Samus Aran

December 23rd, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Samus Aran
Another well established Nintendo character with a long history is Samus Aran, star of the Metroid series. Despite the appearance of the character, which looks fairly masculine, Samus is in fact female. The first game, entitled simply Metroid, appeared in 1986 on the NES, and was a platform shoot ‘em up with a huge single world, the Planet Zebes, to explore.

Metroid
Starting the game with just a body suit and laser gun, Samus soon learns lots of new techniques to progress around the world. Several weapon power ups and the addition of missiles are available, as well as the most unique improvement, the morph ball. This allows Samus to become a ball, funnily enough, which allows her access to small tunnels and so onto otherwise unreachable sections of the game. The suit also gained a gravity jump, allowing tall vertical sections of levels to be easily scaled.

The first game involved tracking down the Mother Brain, a huge brain in a jar (game developers just love the old brain in a jar, and this was one of the first games to feature such an enemy). The Mother Brain has been busy though, creating the fearsome Metroids. These are horrible floating brain creatures, who home in and lock on the player unless they are quickly dispatched, and killing them was not simple, involving freezing with an ice ray, then pumping missiles into them!
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December 22 – Q*Bert

December 22nd, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Q*Bert
Q*Bert was an orange fluffy ball with legs and a large ant-eater like nose, who lived in a pyramid shaped world made of coloured cubes. He liked nothing more than painting all the cubes of the pyramid the same colour, which he did by jumping around the cubes which made them change colour when he landed on them.

Trying to stop him were a number of enemies including a coiled snake and a bouncy ball, who if they caught Q*Bert would cause him to utter an expletive by way of a speech bubble of the form @!#?@!. He would then plummet off the bottom of the screen.

Q*Bert was an arcade game released by Gottlieb in 1982, and was one of their most popular games. An interesting fact about the prototype arcade cabinet is that when Q*Bert fell off the pyramid, a plunger was supposed to strike the inside of the case to make it sound as if Q*Bert had fallen inside the cabinet!

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December 21 – Lunar Jet Man

December 21st, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Jetpac
One of the most fondly remembered early ZX spectrum games was Jetpac, the star of which was a little space man called Lunar Jet Man. Funnily enough, he was equipped with a jet pack to enable him to fly around, and also a laser which shot out in front of him in a simple yet astonishingly beautiful (given the hardware limitations) burst of coloured lines. The game was created by Ultimate Play The Game, the company which would later become Rare.

As with most 8-bit era games, the gameplay was pretty repetitive, but back then that didn’t matter, as the main draw was to try and beat your high score. The game screen was very simple, with three platforms floating in the air. Aliens would bounce around the screen for you to shoot, whilst you reassembled and fueled your spaceship. Parts of the spaceship would drop from random positions at the top of the screen, and you would have to fly over, pick them up, then deposit them one on top of the other on the launch pad. Once the rocket was assembled, fuel pods would drop down and you would have to repeat the same mechanism as for building the ship with the pods. Once enough fuel pods had been collected, the spaceship would flash, signalling it was time for you to enter and move on to the next level, where the process began again.
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December 20 – Donkey Kong

December 20th, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Donkey Kong
Nintendo’s Donkey Kong first appeared in 1981 and quickly became the standard for platform games of the time. Donkey Kong got his name thanks to a Japanese to English dictionary!. Kong was decided on as a good name early on, for fairly obvious reasons, but the Donkey part came when looking up an alternative word for stubborn. Donkey was listed in the dictionary (presumably due to the phrase “stubborn as a mule”) and so Donkey Kong was named. Donkey Kong was created by Shigeru Miyamoto, best known as the creator of Mario, and indeed it was Donkey Kong that also brought us Mario.

Donkey Kong Arcade
The story behind the game was that Donkey Kong had kidnapped Mario’s girlfriend, and it was Mario’s job to rescue her. Donkey Kong may have only had four screens, but they were all very different. The first involved reaching the top of the screen whilst jumping over barrels that DK rolled down the platforms at you. A hammer was available which allowed you to smash the barrels for some bonus points. The second level was a custard pie factory, with conveyor belts that would keep switching direction to confuse the player. Third level was an exercise in jumping with lots of small platforms to be leapt between whilst avoiding the girders being bounced down the screen at you. The final level involved removing rivets from the platforms by jumping over them, and when all had been removed, Kong would plummet to the bottom of the screen. Then it was back to the beginning to start again with an increased difficulty level.
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December 19 – Monty Mole

December 19th, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Wanted: Monty Mole
Monty Mole first shot to fame in 1984 in the game Wanted: Monty Mole by Gremlin Graphics. The game was a flick screen platformer for the Spectrum and Commodore 64 in the style of Jet Set Willy, and is unusual for the time in that it made quite a stir in UK news paper and television. In those days, computer games were rarely (if ever) in the public eye to such a great extent, and the reason for it was because it contained a charicature of Arthur Scargill, who used to be the coal miner’s union boss, back when the UK had a coal mining industry!

The story to the game went as follows. It had been a cold winter, so Monty Mole breaks into a South Yorkshire pit to grab some coal to keep himself warm. After overcoming picket lines, coal crushers, drills and man-eating fish (Yorkshire is famed for it’s man-eating fish!) he emerges into Arthur’s castle. Still with us? Here he seizes his chance to topple Arthur infiltrating the heavily protected castle and stealing some ballot papers. And that’s exactly how the UK coal miner’s strike happened ;-)
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December 18 – Xed

December 18th, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Terracon Pic
Who the heck is Xed I hear you cry? If you do know, then let me shake you warmly by the hand and say thank you for buying Terracon! Confused as to how he makes it into this advent calendar then? Well, I’m writing it, and since I was one of the programmers on it I thought I might as well indulge myself ;-)

Anyway, Xed was a grey alien working as a Terraformer for the Terracon, a giant brain in a jar. Unfortunately, the Terracon turned evil, and after wiping out the rest of Xed’s race, started blasting the newly terraformed planets to pieces. Xed’s mission is to try and stop the Terracon once and for all. He’s not totally alone in the universe however, as he is kept company by the hologrammatic form of the Doc, his old scientist pal, who offers help and advice throughout the game.
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December 17 – Earthworm Jim

December 17th, 2005 by Sean in Character Advent Calendar

Earthworm Jim
Earthworm Jim first appeared on the SNES and Genesis in 1994 in a hybrid platform and shoot ‘em up game developed by Shiny (better known more recently for the games based on The Matrix films). Earthworm Jim was in fact a normal garden earthworm, but when a magic super hero suit fell on him he became strong and heavily armed, and compelled to save the universe (as with all good videogame heroes!)

Jim could perform the usual range of platform game moves, running and jumping, going hand over hand along wires and so on. Firing rooted Jim to the spot, but this meant he could aim his gun at enemies. He could also whip enemies with himself! The suit was kind of alive, and would pull Jim’s body out and flick him quickly out. Jim could also hold on to wires with his wormy tail to allow him to fire at the same time as dangling precariously over clifftops! This also allowed him to use his body as a rope and swing from various special hook-on points throughout the game.
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