Sunday, May 29, 2016

Adventures in Portable 3D Entertainment, Continued: Finding the Right 3D Blu-ray Ripper Software

Last month, I posted an article about how I was able to convert my Kindle Fire into a portable viewer of 3D video content. At that point, I could watch side-by-side (SBS) 3D content from YouTube but I had yet to figure out how I could convert my collection of 3D Blu-rays into SBS 3D files that I could play back on the Fire. What I found out was that while such a goal is possible, it was trickier to accomplish than I thought it would be. Read on ...

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Get Your 8-Bit Kaiju on in Smashy City

You know the old saying: If at first you do succeed, shamelessly exploit it until it stops making money.

I previously reviewed a video game called Smashy Road, a fun experience in 8-bit car racing chaos for smart phones and tablets. Now, just a few weeks later, I found another game that's extremely similar to the look and feel of Smashy Road: Smashy City by Ace Viral. Read on for my complete review.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

For (Belated) Star Wars Day: The Emperor's Throne Room (in Lego Form) from Kenner's Star Wars Micro Collection Line (UPDATED)

It's no secret that Lego bricks have become the go-to medium for many geeks who want to build detailed replicas of characters, vehicles and environments from their favorite fantasy and sci-fi franchises. However, few geeks use Lego to build replicas of franchise toys that were planned by toy companies but never made it past the prototype stage.

On the other hand, there's BaronSat (a.k.a. Eric Duron), who designs Lego kits for franchises that are both licensed and not licensed by Lego. For Star Wars, he has already provided instructions for Lego-scale replicas of toys that were made by Kenner during the original trilogy, toys such as the Imperial Troop Transporter, the Imperial Attack Base, and the Death Star World sets from Kenner's short-lived Micro Collection line. His latest kit is based on the unreleased part of the Death Star World: the Emperor's Throne Room from Return of the Jedi.

The story behind this toy is that after Kenner released its initial wave of Micro Collection sets and vehicles in 1982, it had several prototypes ready for the next wave. Some of those prototypes were expansions of the sets from the first wave, while others were based on new characters and locations from the upcoming Return of the Jedi sequel. The Emperor's Throne Room was bit of both: It was based on a specific location from Jedi, but it was designed to connect to the rest of the Death Star set, which was based on locations and characters from A New Hope. Unfortunately, because the Micro Collection line didn't sell very well, it was discontinued before any of the new sets and vehicles were released.

A photo of Kenner's prototype of the Emperor's Throne Room.

Thankfully, BaronSat is making the Emperor's Throne Room available for Kenner Star Wars toy completists, even though Kenner itself couldn't. It's an impressive looking set by itself and if you are willing to spend the money needed for the instructions and necessary parts, you can finally have the complete three-part Death Star World set that Kenner originally planned to release.

Click here to order a copy of building instructions for the Emperor's Throne Room. Click below to see a photo gallery of this amazing replica of a Star Wars Micro Collection set that never was.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Coming in October 2016: The Art Of Atari by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino

As I've said before on this blog, I consider myself to be very fortunate to have lived through the early years of video games. I remember a time when the distribution cycle of a video game title would begin in coin-op arcades and continue through ports to PCs and home consoles. Now, the Internet, PCs, home consoles and portable media devices rule most of the video game world, while the few surviving coin-op arcades feature titles that will (probably) never appear in any other medium. The same is true about how the video games appear: Most current games are so beautifully designed that they largely sell themselves through clips of game play footage. Yet when video games had nothing but blocky graphics and clunky sounds to offer, they needed a little extra help to convince people to play them.

In honor of the artwork produced during early years of video game advertising, Dynamite Entertainment is publishing The Art of Atari by Robert V. Conte and Tim Lapetino. According to the book's official site, “The Art of Atari is the first official collection of such artwork. Sourced from private collections worldwide, this book spans over 40 years of the company’s unique illustrations used in packaging, advertisements, catalogs, and more. ... (The book) includes a comprehensive retrospective, collecting game production and concept artwork, photos, and marketing art, with insight from key people involved in Atari’s rich history, and behind-the-scenes details on how dozens of games featured within were conceived, illustrated, approved (or rejected), and brought to life!”

In terms of both form and function, the cover art of early home console video games bears many similarities to the cover art of low-budget VHS releases during the early years of home video rentals. Many of the box covers for the videos distributed by companies such as Wizard Video and Paragon Video Productions were much more interesting than the films themselves, in order to entice the curiosity of potential viewers; likewise, the cover art of Atari 2600 games stirred the imaginations of players in ways that the primitive graphics and game play couldn't manage on their own. For example, an astronaut never appeared during the game in Super Breakout, armored knights never arrived in Warlords, and the dragon in Adventure looked more like a duck than the serpentine creature that appears on the cover. Yet that was OK--all the art had to do was put gamers in the right frame to project details into the games that the technology at that time couldn't provide.

The cover art for the Adventure and Warlords games* for the Atari 2600 home console.
(*Note: The cover art may not accurately depict the actual game content.)

The Art of Atari is scheduled for release this October. Judging from the preview pages that have already been released, this book will be a treat for classic video game aficionados of all ages.