The most entertaining game FAQ in existence...

Video Game FAQ

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Q: How do you choose video games to review?
A: I don’t subscribe to the shotgun approach of reviewing as many games as possible. Quality, not quantity. I primarily review video games that I expect will be entertaining (based on previews and intuition), have historical value (a sequel of a vintage or successful game), or are publicly noted by the gaming community for having high production values. Some live up to the hype, some fail miserably. You will never read of review of “Disney on Ice - The Game” on this site. Ever.

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Q: Do you finish all the video games you review?
A: I complete most of the newer games, primarily because I find them inherently easier to beat than older games. In fact, you can see in the text above each review whether I completed the game or not. Regardless, there just isn’t enough time in the day to beat every single game I review, and if I don’t find the game particularly engaging, I won’t waste time finishing it.

I used to avoid moving on to the next game until I completed the game I was playing, whether I enjoyed it or not, but I’ve since realized that life is far too short to hold myself to that standard. At a minimum, I play through a few levels and try to cover as much ground as possible so I can make a fair assessment of what the game has to offer, even if it ends up being awful.

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Q: How do you arrive at a video game review score?
A: The most pertinent question is: was the game fun? That’s the bottom-line—it’s that simple. I try to sum the answer up as succinctly as possible—long reviews are so unnecessary.

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Q: What are the video games in your header banner?
A: Starting from at the top, from left to right: Call of Juarez (Xbox 360), Doom 3 (PC), Doom (PC), Resistance: Fall of Man (PS3), Mortal Kombat (Sega Genesis), Half Life 2 (PC), Unreal (PC), Resident Evil 4 (Nintendo Gamecube), Gears of War (Xbox 360), Ninja Gaiden (Xbox 360), GoldenEye (Nintendo 64), G-man from the Half Life series, Duke Nukem 3D (PC), and Viva Pinata (Xbox 360).

Bonus Points: The background surrounding the header is the first level of Blaster Master (NES).

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Q: Has a video game ever startled you?
A: The Dead Space ending made me jump, no question about it. I won’t give anything away if you haven’t played the game, but it was creepy. Doom 3 had plenty of “startle” moments too, but they were used so repeatedly that you could eventually predict when they would most likely occur. Lastly, Clive Barker's Undying for the PC had some really well designed fright-inducing instances.

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Q: What was the first game you played online?
A: Well if by “online” you mean “over the telephone lines” then it was Doom for the PC, with a 14.4k modem (that used to be fassssst!). The year was 1994 and, up until then, modems were basically used to visit BBS sites to play games like Tradewars, which I often did. No one really used the Internet. I still remember the beautiful sound of silence after all the modem’s back-and-forth pinging and handshaking had stopped...it meant you were connected, and the gaming onslaught could begin.

A typical phone conversation after school often went something like this:
ring...ring...
Me: “Hello?”
Friend: “Doom it up?”
Me: “Yep.”
click.

The only negative aspect was when someone inside the house picked up the phone...that disconnected the game. I can’t tell you how many times my parents would say they needed to use the phone, or that someone had been trying to call, etc. Good times. It was a hassle, but it was new technology and we thought it was amazing.


bionic_commando_hitler_explosion_NES

Q: What is your favorite game ending of all time?
A: Probably Bionic Commando for the NES. It took years before I realized it wasn’t necessary to complete each level to beat the game, and thus I steadfastly finished them all, one by one. So, the feeling of accomplishment was immense, not to mention getting to see Hitler's (oops, I mean "Master D's") face melt in slow-motion. When I saw online that the game could be beaten in fewer than 30 minutes, I wanted to scream.

Super Mario Brothers 2 for the NES is worth a mention too. Although not an unheard of concept, I thought it was really cool that he dreamt the whole adventure (sorry if I spoiled the ending, but it's over 20 years old, so get over it). I have really good memories of it—and it was the first "expensive" NES video game I ever got, a whopping $44.95 when it was released in 1988. I asked my mom if she'd buy it for me when we were at Target (like kids always do), and she said I could get it. Huh? Over 20 years later, I still remember standing there being surprised at how it took no convincing whatsoever. Speaking of memories, I also remember asking her if she'd bring me to Kay-Bee Toys to buy Blaster Master for the NES, which she did, and I proceeded to get stuck on the first level for a year.

Q: Do you have an opinion on video game movie director Uwe Boll?
A: Do I ever. Read about it here.

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Q: Why do you have a site donation button in the footer of each page?
A: Just in case there are some benevolent souls out there who are in a financial position to help support the site, even if it's a small one-time gift of generosity. Plus, after the donation, you will be warped back to my site—but to a bonus page that has unique content not available on the main site. It also contains my Xbox Live gamercard, so if you'd like, you can send me a friends request (maybe a few of us can get regular online matches going). Finally, it will autoplay the greatest video game-based music ever. Ever. I admit, I've even listened to it in my car. If you're not automatically routed back to the bonus page, click "Return to donations coordinator" and you're golden.






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Q: Are there any noteworthy video games you just plain could not beat, difficulty-wise?
A: Oh sure—plenty. Most notably...

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Fester’s Quest (NES): Sunsoft developed this gem. Sure, it was a deplorable video game with ancient gameplay, but it was one of the first NES games I ever owned, the box art was cool, I liked the intro, and I played it a lot as a kid. Still, I found the game to be incredibly difficult—the kind of difficult that grates on you until you question the meaning of life.

I can still hear the extraordinarily annoying sound effect triggered when Fester gets hit, and let’s not forget the pathetic, most impotent weapon in all of video gaming: the vice-grip. Oh, and the impossible dark sewers haunt me in my dreams. It’s much easier to just walk Uncle Fester over a spike strip and be done with it. Here are a few more:

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Blaster Master (NES): Sunsoft made this game too! If you can prove you beat this game without the grenade-pause trick, you are probably immortal. My buddy once told me he got to the fourth level in the game, ya right. As I said earlier, I was stuck on the first level for a year (did you think I was kidding?). Dead ends at every turn, but at least the music and intro narrative were top notch. Oh, and don’t e-mail me claiming to have beaten this game in a matter of days smart a**.

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Legendary Wings (NES): You’ve probably never even heard of this appalling game. The plot revolves around attempting to defeat a supercomputer named “Dark” that has turned against mankind. The God of War Ares has given you Wings of Love (huh?) to defeat the corrupt machine. The game will let me pass the third level, but I get crushed immediately afterwards. Grab your ankles because this game’s going to have it’s way with you.

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Taz-Mania (Sega Genesis): Blind jumps galore and unresponsive controls, all during a mine ride! Come onnnnn! After reading such promising previews in GamePro, I waited months for this video game, and was done with it forever after an hour of memorable frustration.

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Strider (NES): The final boss is difficult beyond belief. I had a friend who said he believed it was literally impossible to beat him, and I agreed. The way I see it, the programmers at Capcom were short on time and behind the eight ball so they said, “Let’s just forget about the ending sequence by making the boss unbeatable—problem solved—ship it!” It's actually genius if you think about it—imagine how much time they saved by not having to program the ending, credits, etc.

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Ninja Gaiden (NES): Many gamers consider Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox more difficult than the original version on the NES. I’ve played both, and beat the Xbox version without too much trouble. The NES version never showed me a lick of mercy. And those birds...ugh.


Q: What was your first video game console?
A: An Atari 2600 when I was just a kid—yes, the gorgeous woodgrain version. I’m not even sure where my parents got it, or why, but I’m thankful they did as it laid the groundwork for a lifelong pastime. I remember playing a lot of Pitfall and Combat, after watching Mr. Rogers of course.

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Q: Who is your favorite video game protagonist?
A: Gordon Freeman of Half Life notoriety. Modest, unassuming, with a degree in Theoretical Physics from MIT. You’d think he’d be an innocuous academic, but in practice he’s a selfless scientist who knows how to kick some a** with a crowbar. A rare breed indeed. Unbelievably, we’ve never even heard him utter a word. By the way, where's the third and final episode?

Q: Who is your favorite video game adversary?
A: The G-man from Half Life—no question. He is, in my opinion, the most mysterious character in video game history. His cold demeanor, his eerie voice, the complete lack of information about his origins, and let’s not forget that he spies on you as you progress through the game. Actually, I don’t even know if he’s my adversary—you never even battle him.

So, since I’m not even sure whether or not G-man is with me or against me, my runner-up would be the Big Daddys from Bioshock. Their resounding footsteps give you the chills and their strained moans are morosely disturbing. When they get a bead on you and begin charging like a fuming bull, it’s one of the more nerve-wracking moments in gaming.

Q: What was your second console?
A: A ColecoVision in 1984—purchased from a store named Bank’s in downtown Minneapolis. Again, I was too young to even realize I needed one of these, but my parents ended up getting me one. Serendipity, right? I spent the majority of my gaming time playing Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Zaxxon, Carnival, Mouse Trap, and Smurfs. In fact, I still remember the specific days I got Donkey Kong Jr. and Smurfs. Smurfs was particularly difficult...in fact, they were all difficult come to think of it. I'm not ashamed to say I never got past the first level in Smurfs.

Q: What was your third console?
A: In 1986 my parents bought me the venerable NES, again at Bank’s, which supplanted everything else I had at that point. I still remember the evening I fired-up the console for the first time. They kept calling me for dinner, but I couldn't have cared less about food at that moment.

I have probably logged more hours playing Super Mario Brothers than any other game—partly because it was the only game I had for a while, but let’s face it, it was a great game that sparked a new generation of gamers.

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Q: What’s your favorite video game easter egg?
A: If you’ve ever played Duke Nukem from the folks at 3D Realms, you may remember a church in E1L3. There is a cross in front, with a button that lowers the horizontal bar of the cross. If you then break through the stained glass windows on the left, you can enter a secret passageway that leads to a skewered Doom marine. Duke says, “Hmmm..that’s one doomed space marine.” Awesome.

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Q: What’s your proudest gaming achievement?
A: Beating the xbox version of Ninja Gaiden—and I did it with one life. Just kidding. But, I did beat it. If you e-mail me and claim to have actually beaten all 16 chapters with one life, you are a good-for-nothing liar. While there were a couple times I wanted to take a sledgehammer and pulverize this game and my Xbox into a million pieces, it’s just too good to stop playing.

Anyway, after I beat the last boss (Doku), I couldn’t have been more proud if I had saved an orphanage from African rebels. It’s amazing how many people just flat out give up on this game—it’s considered
that difficult. Who did I think was the toughest game boss? No, not Alma—I remember thinking her resilience was vastly overrated (I beat her on the second attempt). The mounted samurai in level two was the most difficult boss for me (it took, let’s say, 30 attempts).

I'm also proud of achieving a
2:1 kill ratio in Gears of War 2 multiplayer after 254 rounds played.

Q: What is the most frustrating level you have ever played?
A: The Lake Powell level in Hydro Thunder for the Sega Dreamcast. This is no joke—I have tried to complete this “medium” difficulty level at least 250 times. No hyperbole, just a simple fact. It is my white buffalo—the seemingly unattainable. Oh sure, I’ve finished in 2nd place before, but very rarely. Heck, I’ve even finished 2nd place on some “hard” difficulty levels in this game. Before you e-mail me your helpful hints, trust me, I have ripped the Internet apart looking for shortcuts and have implemented all of them to no avail. I’ve tried every boat, hit every boost imaginable, and taken every path possible. In fact, I recently tried it all again—breezed through all “easy” and “medium” levels before getting stuck on Lake Powell again. The very thought of that God-forsaken level makes me cringe in unabashed disgust. The worst part is, I don’t think the general video gaming community had much difficulty with it. It’s perplexing.

Q: What game company do you think makes, or has made, consistently tough games?
A: SNK. Their programmers must consider it a vast personal failure if an individual beats one of their games. Sunsoft ranks high on this list too.


Q: How often do you play video games?
A: A few hours each week. I’m a night owl, so it’s usually late—but not always. My wife is great about it. Sometimes it’s simply when life spares me an hour when I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything.

Q: Do you try for Xbox 360 achievements?
A: Yes, I always enjoy seeing that little window appear at the bottom of the screen. But certain achievements are ridiculous, like in Dead Rising where one requires that you kill 53,594 zombies. Or in Viva Pinata where one requires you to play for 24 hours continuously. I do have one rule—I don't read through the achievements before I play through the game, solely because they often give away plot surprises and other facets of the game that are more fun when discovered rather than anticipated.

Q: Do you have a favorite developer?
A: Not really. A few years ago I would have said id Software, but they haven’t come out with anything notable for around six years (Quake IV was developed by Raven Software, not id). If I had to choose, I would say Capcom (trivia: the name is derived from Capsule Computers). They have established an ironclad history of developing top-quality games including personal favorites Bionic Commando, the Mega Man series, Street Fighter II, the Resident Evil series, the God of War series, Dead Rising…plus so many others. Ubisoft would be a very close second.

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Q: Do you watch any video game shows/channels on television?
A:

G4TV, A-: When an episode is done with relation to the video game industry, I find it really interesting—whether its following a pro gamer before a tournament, interviewing game developers, or an introspective on video gaming history. Their E3 coverage is top notch too.

X-play, D-, G4TV: This show is, in my opinion, incredibly juvenile and ultra cheesy. Adam Sessler's dialogue is tantamount to fingernails across a chalkboard. Before you say, “Hey, Adam isn’t responsible for his lines!” you should know that he is a senior segment producer, which means he has
plenty of input on everything. If the skits are supposed to be funny, they fail miserably. Morgan Webb isn’t annoying, but come on, it’s plain to me that she isn’t much of a gamer—heck, she’s too busy doing spreads for Maxim. The show could actually be pretty cool if they brought in some talented writers and focused on games, rather than adolescent clowning around. As of 2010, the average age of an American video game player is 34—so why cater to 14 a year old's sense of humor? I have to stop typing—I’m getting irritated just thinking about this waste of 30 minutes.

Cheat!, B+, G4TV: This show is decent. While the name suggests it provides game cheats, it’s actually more focused on strategy. Can’t beat that boss in Lost Planet? Hop on iTunes and download the free game-specific podcast. Having trouble beating Ganondorf in Twilight Princess? Get the podcast. They even provide help for some of the older titles now available on the XBL Arcade and the Wii Virtual Console.

Attack of the Show, D+, G4TV: While it’s not really a gaming show, it does include gaming segments, so it makes my list. Not my cup of tea, but to each his own.

Game Head, A+, SpikeTV: Geoff Keighley is a well-known video game journalist who seems to gear himself towards more mature audiences. SpikeTV does a good job of explaining the show: “A half-hour weekly program dedicated to everything that is happening in the world of video games. From the latest reviews, cheat codes, rumor reports, the hottest game of the week and more, Game Head gives the viewers a legitimate and uncompromised look at the hardcore culture of video games.” Can’t ask for much more than that! He interviews some of the industry’s true leaders, such as Valve Software's Gabe Newell, Shigeru Miyamoto (creator of Super Mario Bros), and a litany of others. His commentary is professionally done, and always relevant, even if he does let his politics get into the mix (not sure why). Best video game related show on television—bar none.

GamePro, A, Network Television: Who can forget this classic? It began airing on Saturday mornings in 1990 with venerable host J.D. Roth, who frequently wore stylish jean jackets on the air. He would review video games from all platforms, and would generally begin his reviews by getting "into" the game so-to-speak, using mind-bending 90's Tron-like technology...for the laymen, this means standing in front of a giant projection of the video game and pretending you're in it. After a few obligatory jumps and jukes, his antics would cease and the review would resume. Truth be told, I did look forward to this video game treasure trove each Saturday. Sadly, the show was laid to rest the year after it began. J.D. Roth started his own production company afterwards, and called it "Slam Dunk Productions."

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Q: Did you ever call the Nintendo Power hotline for help?
A: Of course fool. And frankly, I’m still impressed at how efficient their system worked. The year was 1991, the Twins had just won the World Series, and even more importantly, I was stuck on a boss in the game Princess Tomato in the Salad Kingdom for the NES (hey, don’t knock it until you’ve played it). I dialed them up, explained to the “game counselor” (remember when that was considered a future career for some gamers?) what game I was playing, and which boss I was facing. Literally, within 30 seconds the phone agent was walking me through it, step by step. No protracted conversation to keep me on the line—it was all business. I beat the boss, albeit in a somewhat shameful fashion, and in the end it was some of the best money my parents ever spent.

Q: What’s your favorite gaming magazine?
A: Game Informer, hands-down. I started a subscription to Edge a few months ago, and I like it too, but not as much. I chose not to renew my subscription to EGM several months back—they’re too broad, and seem to target a younger demographic. (2010 update: EGM is no more)