Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Return of 8-bit Fridays

There is definitely something about Friday nights and gaming that seems inseparable. To me there was nothing like being a kid and coming home from that last long day of school for the week, with its spelling tests, math tests and other Friday quizzes, and than melting your brain on some video games. Of course the experience was even better when you could share it with friends, or just with a nice plate of delivery pizza. 

As adults we no longer have to endure tests and quizzes every Friday, but none the less Friday's still encapsulate a final measure of stress and closure after a week of work and home stress. My current definition of a good Friday night is coming home, having a nice dinner, a little something to drink, and ending with a relaxing evening of TV and/or Music, till I can barely keep my eyes open. Well, to be more accurate this has been my definition of a good Friday night since I moved last June. Before then I use to do something I personally called “8-bit Fridays”.

In my previous house once my gameroom was established and my old NES had a proper and permanent home to be accessed and played, I decided it was time to start picking up a lot of those games I missed out on as a kid. So as a treat to myself for a long week of work, and coincidentally also being my paydays, I decided to buy one of these NES classics every Friday. I achieved this by either stopping by a local retro video game store near my place of work during my lunch breaks, or by hitting eBay on Friday nights usually just before bed.

The only problem with this plan was that, being a retro game collector these NES titles and games of other systems, eventually began to stack up in piles of the unplayed. Of course being employed full-time and having kids it's easy to prioritize video game playtime right out of the picture since time for gameplay is non-existent, something I'm sure many of you relate to. In time though I discovered that if I wanted time to get through my pile of games, I would have to find myself playing games into the wee small hours of the morning on Friday and/or Saturday nights (pardon me I mean early Saturday and/or Sunday mornings). As inconvenient and as annoying as something like that sounds, I eventually got use to, and even looked forward to these nights. I could buy a game I wanted, and also spend some uninterrupted time playing a few of the titles I had in my unplayed pile, it was a semi-perfect scenario.

Then one night I came across a beer at a local liquor store (Binny's for you Chicago folk) called somewhat coincidentally 8-bit Ale. So as I sat there late one Friday night drinking a can of 8-bit Ale, and playing Pro-Wrestling on the NES I came up with a little something I liked to call "8-bit Friday's". Essentially, "8-bit Fridays" celebrated adding to my NES collection, as well as just enjoying the time I had to play these games and relax at the end of a long week.

Of course "8-bit Fridays" was a bit of a misnomer due to the fact that my pile of unplayed games has hosted everything from the 16-bit era to those of the modern era like the Wii U and XBox One. Also, as previously indicated these celebrations of gameplay weren't always on Friday's. None the less though I like the name so it's going to stick for now. 

Since I moved in June, 8-bit Friday's haven't been as easy to celebrate especially with my old game room now a memory. My NES, SNES, SMS, PS3, WiiU, and Xbox One do have a place in my current living room for now, but the relaxing environment leads me to lose myself in TV, and forget gaming all to often. So as 2015 drew to a close I decided the Return of 8-bit Fridays needed to be a 2016 resolution. 

So as I write this article on Friday January 15th, 2016 and also my first payday of the year I have decided there is no better evening than this one for 8-bit Fridays return.

Friday’s Buys;

At Half Price Books I picked up Karate Kid, and Lee Travinos: Fighting Golf both for the NES, and in good shape, plus the price was right.

Later that evening from eBay I picked up Seicross boxed for the NES, Spiritual Warfare for the NES, and Astro Warrior for the SMS. 

Friday Nights Plays:

I decided to try and play Mass Effect (1), which yes I know isn't an 8-bit game. This is actually for the XBox 360, and was one of the first 100 games made backward compatible for the XBox One, which is what I was playing it on. 

Do you have a game night or game day? If so feel free to respond back and let me know. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Trekking Through Games - Part 1: Star Trek and Video Game History

When it comes to video games, Star Trek has been a favorite subject of programmers and gamers for years. The first Star Trek games appeared in the form of text adventures shared between hobby computer enthusiasts as far back as 1971 and since then Star Trek games have appeared on multiple systems and in multiple forms. Games have ranged from the afore mentioned text adventures, to arcade space shooters, ship combat simulators, FPS's, MMO's, and many other genres. Some of these games have been really good, some mediocre, and others absolutely dreadful, but no matter the quality they are still integral to the fan based experience, and bring us one step closer to our beloved franchise. 

In this series Trekking Through Games I will be discussing and reviewing many of the Star Trek game titles that have appeared over the years. Due to the sheer number of Star Trek titles however, I will not be presenting the games chronologically, so there will be a level of randomness to the release dates and platforms these games are presented on.

Star Trek: Trexels   - iOS 

Star Trek: Trexels is an app available on iOS, and at this time and date it's one of the most current Star Trek adventure games you can get. The game is officially licensed, and it's what is commonly dubbed as a "play to win DLC". In spite of that, the game actually presents a number opportunities within game play to gather the proper resources to play and succeed. For being what it is it's actually a great little game, fulfilling to Star Trek fans, while remaining quirky enough in its 8-bit style to be considered fun by those unfamiliar with Star Trek. 

The Fan Experience:

As a Star Trek fan returning to the series after many years I've actually found that this game provides a great deal fan service where need be for most of the series and movies, except Enterprise and DS9,  although Quark does appear daily to offer you extra points and whatnot by watching ads. Don't ask me why DS9 and Enterprise aren't included, considering it had some pretty bad ass characters like Sisko, Kira, and Archer, but with the characters it does have it works pretty well.

The Plot:

Star Trek: Trexels takes place in the non-canonical Trexelian Expanse. Following the destruction of the U.S.S. Valiant by an alien race known as the "Progenators" (a generic race rarely referred to in any of the series) and it is your job as a Starfleet Admiral to take a 23rd Century Constitution Class warship to investigate the Variants disappearance, and learn more about the Progenator threat. 


Gameplay revolves around building and upgrading your ship, so as to generate resources by which you can further explore each sector. Resources are divided into four categories; Command, Research, Power, and Dilithium. The first three can be gained by building and upgrading rooms that can generate these points through normal ship operations. The last Dilithium can be earned through leveling up, completing certain assigned tasks, or by hunting crystals down in a simple space shooter mini-game.

The mini-game is slow and would be a horrible game on its own, but shooting space debris can yield resources you need. This is also my 12 year old sons favorite part of the games, and its thanks to him I found it.

Dilithium Crystals are also the medium of exchange in the game. Or to put it another way you can choose to spend real money on buying them outright, then convert them into other resources, or purchase additional officers, and other premium upgrades. 

The game presents 11 sectors to explore, each of which reveals something about the Progenitor plot line. Each sector consist of 7 space based objects for you to explore, like planets, asteroids, abandoned starships, and so on. Each one of these objects presents different and multiple sets of challenges. You'll see Away Team missions, ship to ship combat, on ship challenges, and individual officer challenges as part of the normal mix.

Each challenge requires your officers to use either; combat, diplomacy, engineering or science skills. Each officer has a different mix of these skills, and all these skills can be upgraded in your officers using the Starfleet Academy room(s) available for you to build. The higher the skills the easier the missions, and likelihood for success. 

Away team, ship to ship combat, and on ship challenges all present you with similar game play. For engineering, science and diplomacy missions you must gather random skill blocks in less the 45 seconds or before the situation deteriorates to win the mission. For combat both combat, and science blocks are tossed on screen for collection, collecting red combat blocks allows you to charge your phasers and shoot enemies (personnel or ships), while blue science blocks allow you to heal your own people injured in combat. The higher your enemies, or task skill levels the harder these missions become. If you are evenly matched or just completely out matched you can choose to buy extra skill bricks in missions at the rate of 2 Dilithium crystals per use, and somethings that extra 5 to 10 bricks can really make a difference. 

Then there are your officer challenges, these can occur with an individual officer or with a group. For the individual challenges a pre-selected officer on your ship will spend a certain amount of time (15-20 minutes) in a particular area on the ship researching a dilemma related to an object you are exploring. These missions aren't particularly hard and only require some waiting, but they are a hit to your overall resource points. The group missions on the other hand are a little different, since they require you to pick officers in your reserves to go on missions. The group missions have two metrics; Success, and Danger each of which shows as a percentage. Each of your available reserve officers will have two numbers assigned to them, one a green success number and the other a red danger number. Be warned though some success numbers can be negative, which will lower your chance of success if those officers are used. Group missions can range from 1 to 3 hours long, and require the player to do nothing but wait for the officers to return either successfully or unsuccessfully.

As the missions draw to a successful close you will eventually complete the space object and move on, with the goal to be to complete all objects in the sector and move on to the next.

Review of Gameplay

A couple things that you need to keep in mind is that first of all my gameplay description hardly does this game justice, and secondly this is meant to be a casual mobile game. Sure this isn't Star Trek: Legacy on the Xbox360, or  Star Trek: 25th Anniversary on the NES, but I still think its a fun little game and a pretty addictive one at that. For a casual game its still very challenging, with aspects of managing resources, crew, officer assignments, and ship layout in addition to the various types of missions mentioned above with regards to exploration. To be honest I haven't spent this much time invested in a mobile game since Angry Birds years ago.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this premier review for my newest gaming series. Please feel free to give me any feedback you have on this or other Trek games.