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This review contains spoilers
Originally posted here: https://cultclassiccornervideogames.wordpress.com/2023/03/12/spoilers_el-matador-2006-review/
It’s not very often that a game comes out that is basically the equivalent of a Direct-To-DVD movie. A lot of games try to be the big blockbuster but rarely do you get something that feels like a movie that was always destined to be on the budget shelf of a big chain of stores. And El Matador is one of those Direct-To-DVD feeling games.
But as it turns out this game has some turns and twists to it. But more about that later.
El Matador follows Victor Corbet, a DEA special agent tasked with taking down drug barons. After a successful raid in the first mission, Victor is soon sent to Colombia to assist the local police in taking down La Valedora Cartel, who were involved in the massacre that killed Victor’s brother. Not long after arriving he is soon given the nickname of Matador for his determination at the way he takes down his enemies.
I would mention the other characters but nobody has a personality beyond the one line used to describe them in the design document and all of them only get a couple minutes each of screen time.
At least the acting is amusingly cheesy, even if it’s pretty obvious that English is not the first language of a lot of the cast, or I hope it isn’t because what dialogue that isn’t campy is stilted and obviously comes across as someone just reading it off a page. The main character even has the line “I need to shoot some scum” to give you an idea of the level of dialogue that we’re dealing with here. The game ends with a “And knowing is half the battle!” message about drugs.
The most noteworthy thing about the game is that it runs on the Max Payne 2 engine. I’m guessing this was done by Rockstar to make up for the low sales of Max Payne 2. And as a result the game comes with the bullet time mechanic from Max Payne 2 but nowhere near as polished. I’m pretty sure it was included in the game just because it was part of the engine. It’s not awful but it does feel rough around the edges, the fact that it’s using the engine of a much more polished game to help make up for it’s low budget and short development time.
The lack of budget really shines through with every boss just being the same as a goon but with more health.
Also I guess the developers were doing Max Payne set in a South American country long before Rockstar dragged Max Payne into a South American country.
Graphically the game looks alright for what it is. There are definitely parts of the game that try to take advantage of the physics engine that Max Payne 2 had by having explosions that through a bunch of crap around or having to shoot out boards nailed to a doorway to move into the next location. You can even jump through partially shot out windows and have glass flying everywhere.
It does have a few graphical glitches, mostly with the Steam version, where shadows don’t work properly, so if you feel the need to check this game out you should buy the GOG version.
It’s also pretty short so it’s more of an easy afternoon game. But it’s an incredibly cheap game even when it’s not on sale so I didn’t feel ripped off when seeing the credits 2 and a half hours and booting up the game.
But there’s more this game than it seems. It turns out that the actual bad guy is a Nazi named Helmet Koch. I don’t know how this game about taking down a drug cartel suddenly had Nazis in it, but there you go.
Surprisingly there is a completely different version of El Matador out there somewhere. When getting released in Germany it obviously got censored like a lot of games do when getting released in that county. Not only were some guns changed, like the MP5 being changed into a tranquilizer gun and the ragdoll physics being removed along with the ability to shoot at corpses along with the removal of blood. The most obvious change were the removal of a bunch of Nazi references
But I wouldn’t be talking about the German version if it was just a censorship change. In the German version the story was rewritten so that the main character was not an official agent of the DEA but a gangster and a double agent. There were numerous new cutscenes made to work around these changes too. So in Germany there exists this bizarro world version of this game.
Originally posted here: https://cultclassiccornervideogames.wordpress.com/2022/10/27/disneys-extreme-skate-adventure-2003-gcn-ps2-xbox/
I imagine that not a lot of people have actually played this back when it was first released when they were the right age to play it when growing to have played in the first place. It doesn’t exactly have the most interesting of covers, with an awful looking cartoony character on the front surrounded by mediocre 3D renditions of Disney and Pixar characters, and from the look of both the front and back cover, it was pretty obvious that this was more of a tie-in for multiple popular Disney movies that had come out in the decade before this games release.
I’d be willing to bet that more people have probably heard about this game through the mod for PC version of Tony Hawk’s Underground 2 called T.H.U.G. PRO that takes all levels and characters from every other game that ran on the same game engine that came out on the sixth generation of consoles, which included Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure. Yep, this runs on that same engine as those sixth gen Tony Hawk games, but more about that later.
There is no plot to Skate Adventure, nor is there even an attempt at one. Since the game entirely exists to promote multiple Disney and Pixar movies as easily as possible, along with the product placement that they could shove into the game, as it just gives you a choice between several characters from three different Disney and Pixar characters and lets you ride around in three locations from the movie that they’re from.
These movies include Toy Story 1 and 2, Tarzan, and The Lion King. Why these three movies? I guess it was a mix of their popularity and that they were the easiest films to make a level based on. I have no idea is Disney or Pixar made any demands other than “get a game onto store shelves”, but this reeks of both studios not caring. The characters that are unlocked right from the start are Woody and Buzz from Toy Story, Young Tarzan and Young Terk from Tarzan, and Rafiki and Young Simba from the Lion King.
Unlockable characters include Jessie and Zurg from Toy Story 2, Young Tantor and Young Jane from Tarzan, despite the fact that Jane only ever appeared as an adult in the Tarzan film, but whatever, and Young Nala along with Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King, with Timon and Pumbaa skating together on the same skateboard.
Locations from said movies include Pizza Planet, Andy’s Bedroom, and Zurg’s planet of Xrghthung from Toy Story 1 and 2, Tarzan’s Treehouse, The Human Camp, and Clayton’s Ship from Tarzan, and Pride Rock, The Elephant Graveyard, and Scar’s Canyon from The Lion King. The game does try to make each location visually distinct enough from every other level and it works well enough, and it’s a decent enough selection.
Although you can only play level only with the character from the movie that the levels is based on, so no Woody skating around Pride Rock or the jungle or Turk skating around any of the Toy Story levels. It’s a tad disappointing, but what are you going to do.
As I mentioned earlier, this game runs specifically on the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 engine, which actually fits with this game way more than it did with THPS 4. Tony Hawk 4 was more focused on giving the player goals than letting you just skate each level with a time limit, which works perfectly for a game like this, as having Disney and Pixar characters tell you want to do is pretty good motivation for a kid who loves those films
The Little Green Men from Toy Story do everything in the name of The Claw and Sarge from the green army men tests you on your abilities, like getting a high score or knowing how to perform a certain trick, or the Gorillas from Tarzan get you to mess up the human’s camp along with the Elephants getting help from you as their friend, or the trio of hyenas from The Lion King making bets with you or Zazu getting you to do jobs that help train you to become king, just to name a few.
Aside from the regular goals that are accessible by all characters, the game also has a few goals which are exclusive to certain characters based on plot points from the films that they’re from, such as having to defeat Zurg as Buzz Lightyear.
The least interesting goals are collecting the 25 tokens throughout a level along with one special collectable, which you have to do for every single character for every single level that they access to. It’s especially tedious and obnoxious on the confusing Elephant Graveyard level and the area in the Human Camp from Tarzan where you have to grind on some vines. It makes the game quickly go from kinda fun to tedious busywork.
Aside from the characters from the Disney and Pixar characters, there are 10 real kids that are playable known as “The Extreme Skate Crew”, and that’s because during the development of this game, Activision decided to do a nationwide casting call search in the US as a promotional tool for this game to put 10 lucky kids into this game. Kids could either show up and skate live or send in footage into the company. You can briefly see footage of the competitions in the opening credits along with a bigger montage of footage in one of the unlockable videos. The top two kids ended up being highlighted on the cover for the game and the ones who were featured the most in the game.
These kids can not only skate in Olliewood, but skate in any of the levels based on the previously mentioned movies, being able to do a few of their own goals exclusive to the level, which are just finding Olliewood tokens and the Disney Extreme Skate Adventure logo.
The game might not be technically impressive, but it does run constantly at a solid 60 FPS, and it uses the art style of multiple Disney movies from the 90s along with the Toy Story films, even if characters faces can dip into the uncanny valley, which has helped it age better than some games from the same console generation. And the lighting in a lot of areas looks good, even if some of the areas are a bit too dark, like the Elephant’s Graveyard.
The controls are pretty much the same as THPS 4 except for one difference. There is both a set of “Basic” controls aimed at children to go along with the “Pro” controls that are just from THPS 4. The “Basic” controls seem to be context based and yet they never seem to work as intended, with tricks seemingly happening when the game feels like letting them happening. Manuals would always just happen and took me by surprise every time. I don’t see how kids could learn to play the game when every time you want to do something and the game just does it with little input. I think kids could put on the “Pro” controls and use them in the more simple levels in Skate Adventure and be fine.
There’s even a split-screen multiplayer if you want to play with your friends. There is no online play for any version of this game or a system link with other consoles, which is probably for the best as I don’t see multiple kids being able to have their own consoles, or their parents allowing them to use the internet like that in 2003.
Each level plays pretty well for the most part, doing a decent enough job of adapting the locations of the movie to work in a video game like this, and I had no real problem with any of them except for one, and that was the Elephant’s Graveyard, which was a little too confusing to navigate, with tunnel entrances feeling like they go to random locations and what feels like areas just randomly shoved wherever. I did learn a large chunk of it through memorization, but if I’m having trouble learning it as an adult, I think kids might have a worse time depending on the kid. Plus some parts of the level could easily be too dark if you’re playing on the intended hardware, and was easily fixed by playing through emulation.
I’ve also noticed that the levels based around humans are a little easier to navigate than the ones centered around animals.
However, there is one brand new location that takes place in the “real world” called Olliewood, although it’s pretty much a cartoony version of the real world, and it features it’s own unique characters for this games, and goals centered around the characters one basic characteristic, like one character being a captain of a boat or a character who is conscientious of the environment.
But these characters are pretty obviously here to advertise to the kids playing these games since they can’t shove the advertising in the levels based on the films. Like how one goal has you delivering McDonald’s menu items to each of the four characters, or how you have to deliver Nokia ringtones to them since this was at a time where phones didn’t have access to the internet and you had to pay for a ringtone since you couldn’t just use whatever songs you had on your phone because the internal storage was tiny and the thing could only play midi files.
Along with the two kid skaters who won the competition, you can unlock Lil’ Romeo, the artist for one of the songs on the soundtrack. Although I have no idea who would be excited for him to even appear on the soundtrack, let along as an unlockable character, even at the time when this game came out. Even the characters made up for this game were more memorable than this real person.
Every time you complete a goal you unlock something. The unlockables range from a piece of clothing or new design for you skateboard for your user created skateboarder or a new skate trick for whatever character you happen to be playing at that time, or some sort or video, mostly music videos of the songs from the soundtrack or clips and trailers of the movies that this game features, you’re always unlocking something. It always feels like you’re making progress, as trivial as that progress might be, so you’ll always have something new to look at or use.
There are even videos to unlock when you clear all of the goals in every level for all of the skaters that have access to that level. These unlockable videos include music videos of some of the songs featured on the soundtrack of this game, a video focusing on the skate competition to get featured in the game that’s pretty much just a montage, and clips from the movies that this game has taken characters from, but they are all edited to the songs from the soundtrack of this game and all come across like AMVs from 2006 – 2009 YouTube.
This soundtrack is so 2003. I don’t know if it’s the most 2003 soundtrack, but you’re not mistaking it for anything other than something that obviously came from the early 2000s. Some songs make sense for the soundtrack like “Grown Up” by Simple Plan, but other songs don’t really fit. Were kids allowed to listen to “Where’s Your Head At?” by Basement Jaxx? It technically doesn’t have anything on the soundtrack that a kid couldn’t listen to, but I wouldn’t say the song is for kids. And this game was released at a time when music videos were still aired on TV, and the music video isn’t something aimed at kids either. It also doesn’t really belong on the same soundtrack as “Live in Stereo” by Newsboys, which is on this soundtrack for some reason.
And if you get the Xbox version, it even lets you use your own music that were ripped onto the hard drive. So you could easily play the soundtracks of the movies that were featured in this game, or maybe some better annoyingly catchy 2000s pop music, like the soundtracks to the English dubs of “Pokemon: The First Movie” or “Digimon: The Movie”. At least those were trying to capitalize on what was popular instead of trying to sell you on a soundtrack.
The best songs on the soundtrack by far, and by best I mean the only good ones, are “Pacific Coast Party” by Smash Mouth along with “Sell Out” by Reel Big Fish. Whoever put “Sell Out” on the soundtrack knew exactly what they were doing considering that this whole game is not only trying to tell kids on Disney products but has advertising for McDonald’s burgers and Nokia phones too.
Disney’s Extreme Skate Adventure is mostly harmless, even if it’s entire existence is purely to advertise movies, fast food products, and now incredibly outdated phones to children. It’s competent enough, though that’s because of the engine it’s on, not because of the game itself. I doubt any kid these days is going to want this outside of whatever popular thing is going on, unless they just so happen to really love older Disney and Pixar films.
But there’s just one last thing. Have you found all of the secret Mickeys in this game?
NOTE: This is a review for the Arcade version of the game
Originally posted here: https://cultclassiccornervideogames.wordpress.com/2018/01/25/michael-jacksons-moonwalker-review-part-1-arcade/
Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker is a pretty weird film to say the least. For those not in the know, it was an anthology film, several of which were just Michael Jackson’s music vidoes, mostly using music from the ‘Bad’ (1987). Probably the most infamous segment of the film is the “Smooth Criminal” segment in which a drug-dealing mobster called Mr. Big, played by Joe Pesci, kidnaps all of the worlds children to get them addicted to drugs, so Michael Jackson comes to their rescue and defeats Mr. Big by turning into a giant robot. Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
And then along comes the video game based on the film that the 80s and 90s seemed to be filled with. While Moonwalker seems like it wouldn’t make sense as a video game, it actually makes sense with some contect. Michael Jackson was a giant fan of video games, having a giant arcade in his masnion filled to the brim with both arcade machines and the lastest video game consoles alone with a large video game collection.
He also secretly composed music for some of Sega’s games, including the Sonic series, along with making cameos in Space Channel 5, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2, and he was even the focus for a cencelled MMO called Planet Michael. He even designed the video games based on the Moonwalker movie. Which finally brings us back to Michael Jackson’s Moonwaker for the arcade.
Of course the best version of the game is the version that came out in the arcades. Developed and put out by Sega, Moonwalker is an isometric Beat-Em-Up. You play as Michael Jackson’s character from the previously mentioned “Smooth Criminal” segment from the movie, cut up into 5 different stages. Each stage is filled with Mr. Bigs’s thugs, along with characters exclusive to each stage, and then a boss battle at the finale of each stage.
As you’re going through each stage, you can save the children that have been kidnapped by the thugs. When you save the kids, they often have extra health for you, or give you a dance power-up. That’s right, you get a dance power-up. This power-up, called “Dance Magic”, makes every enemy currently on screen dance in sync with Michael Jaskson before Michael unleashes a wave of green energy, defeating all of the thugs.
The best part of this power-up is that not only does it works with the attack dogs that the thugs, causing them to dance along too, but the thugs controlling giant robots (yes, they have giant robots) to make the robot also dance along with Michael. It’s just as awesome as it sounds.
The second power-up turns Michael Jackson into a robot just like the movie, which results in you being able to run around shooting thugs with powerful lasers. To collect this power-up, you have to collect Bubbles the chimpanzee, based on Michael Jackson’s real life pet of the same name, who appears once per level.
Of course, the soundtrack is made up entirely of Michael Jackson’s music, and is fun listening to midi renditions of Michael’s music. My only problem with the soundtrack is that in the graveyard area, Thriller doesn’t play Not even when you use the dance power-up. How do you have a graveyard level in a Michael Jackson video game and not have the iconic Thriller play. Especially when Michael Jackson himself is working on it and he’s the biggest star at the time.
The game also lets you play the game with up to three players at the same time, and watching 3 Michael Jacksons in three diferrent colored suits fight of thugs, dogs, and robots, all while dancing in unison and themselves becoming robots that fire lasers is a fun thing to witness. The entire thing is onl 30 minutes long, but it was released at a time when arcade games wucked quarters out of people, so this was probably taking at last a couple of dollars out of people for the whole experience.
The arcade version of Moonwalker is easily recommendable for anyone who loves arcade games and Michael Jackson, but there isn’t a lot of places you can find it, especially since arcades don’t really exist any more in a lot of countries. And finding one to buy for yourself is borderline impossible because it would cost an arm and a leg and take up a ton of space, both of which most people don’t have.
And since there is no way to buy this game digitally, probably due to a mix of rights issues for both the music and game, as well as Michael Jackson’s unfortunate history, there is not going to be a way for you to play this unless you download it and emulate it.
But still, it comes highly recommended.