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Queries

Queries: Ray Koefoed (Episode 3)

So here we are! Another Queries! This time I have one of my personal favorite internet people. Most of you probably don’t know, but for a long time, I wanted to make machinima for a career. Obviously, once I found out I had no talent for it, it didn’t work out.  But when I was still in that beautiful wide eyed haze of believing I could meld my two greatest interests: video games and film, Ray Koefoed was one of the people I really looked up to. Ray was someone who could meld great, catchy music with some of the most quality Source machinima of the time. If I could tell my thirteen year old self that someday I would get to talk to Ray Koefoed, I probably wouldn’t be here, because thirteen year old me would have died of a heart attack.
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ToadWario'sWoods

RetroHate

The Trouble with Toad

Welcome back retro ladies and old-school gents, I have finally “wised fwom my gwave” and am here to ‘dis on some of my favorite classic games. Today’s topic of hate is mushrooms or more specifically, mushroom people, aka Toads.

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Charlie's Angels Title

The Retro Critic

Charlie’s Angels

One does not simply review Charlie’s Angels on the PS2…

To quote The Borg: “reviewance is futile.”

(my old buddy Benny Borg is not very good at English, sorry)

There’s something very special about such a game. It’s that delicious kind of bad you get from a particularly lazy and/or misguided movie-to-game adaptation. It’s awful in basically every way and yet it remains fascinating, like an old Miso soup.

In all fairness, the same could be said about those Charlie’s Angels movies, though the former had Bill Murray-on-Tim Curry sumo wrestling (I’m 85% that happened) and the latter was completely out of its friggin’ mind. In my book, that’s pretty good mindless entertainment.

I will tackle this game properly in a video review at some point I’m sure so consider this less of a review and more of a teaser for just how impressively brain-numbing this game is.

What’s bad about it? In a nutshell?

SO glad you asked.

The plot of the game, to give you an idea, involves a group of monument thieves who go around stealing famous landmarks in the blink of an eye. The game actually opens with the Statue Of Liberty’s mysterious and speedy disappearance.

Statue Charlie's Angels

Statue Dark Charlie's Angels

Black

New York Charlie's Angels

My money’s on David Copperfield.

Or Herbert Lom in The Pink Panther Strikes Again for those who prefer crazy obscure movie references.

Either way, it’s certainly a challenge for the Angels.

In the opening cutscene, we meet Bosley (Bernie Mac) and the gals as the ever-unseen Charlie explains their mission. Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore, believe it or not, do voice their characters and, amazingly, they do so with the appropriate amount of care and excitement.

None at all.

Anyway, let’s meet our Angels.

Charlie's Angels

Wait–

Adam Eyes 2

Close Up

Adam Eyes

Charlie’s Naughty Angels?

Unless Lucy Liu’s just feeling Drew Barrymore’s baby bump.

Or the game’s graphics are just completely broken, which they are, and the animation on the characters is all over the place. Incidentally, these cutscenes look way better than the actual gameplay.

I know.

Brace yourselves.

Diaz Charlie's Angels

Now I don’t know much about Cameron Diaz but I know two things.

1 – What Happens In Vegas was horrible.

2 – Cameron Diaz does not have a bald spot in the front of her head.

The flimsy excuse we get for the Angels wearing bikinis that don’t leave much to the imagination for a good portion of the game is their cover for this mission is a bikini contest. Something which, to be honest, would not be the silliest thing these characters have ever done.

Not even close.

That said, what kind of bikini contest takes place at dusk with no audience and no-one around but bad guys who totally already know you’re a spy because you’re kicking the crap out of them left and right for no apparent reason?

Establishing a cover for your characters should mean some stealth is required: you walk around incognito until you do something stupid and get found out. But not in the topsy-turvy world of this game, oh no, your enemies are everywhere, all the time and there isn’t a moment when you’re not kicking them or attempting some kind of moronic “combo.”

Pushing the same attack button three times is hardly a combo, by the way.

Each character has their own plusses and minuses in terms of attacks and you can switch from one to the other whenever you want except when a fight is going on, which is always.

Cameron Diaz kicks faster and has a nifty butt attack.

*insert hilarious screenshot here*

Drew Barrymore’s punches are more powerful.

And Lucy Liu climbs ladders the slowest.

Ladder Charlie's Angels

Seriously, the speed at which these ladies climb ladders is maddening. It’s like waiting for death by looking at a decaying piece of bread for a week.

While the game is absurdly linear, it’s still a good thing those arrows are there to show you the way because the sudden, super-awkward camera angle changes are disorienting to say the least. Otherwise, they’re completely useless seeing as whenever you fight a bunch of people you are promptly surrounded by some invisible forcefield preventing you from proceeding to the next part or going anywhere on that level.

Wall Charlie's Angels

Every level works basically in the same way: you move the Angels along the level one after the other, fight a gazillion people with random names who look exactly the same then push some button where you see a red target symbol.

Rinse and repeat.

You could literally make fun of every single aspect of this game, from its ugly, ridiculous graphics to its music. There’s something really undignified about seeing a badly rendered video game person in a bikini jumping and kicking like a kangaroo, or even simply running.

Running Charlie's Angels

The music is stock but it’s the sound effects which really stand out as particularly annoying. Diaz’s character emits like a mini disappointed shriek every time she gets hit and, after a while of beating up and getting beaten up by complete strangers, this becomes unbearable.

Even the one actually fun aspect of the game is broken.

Enemies occasionally carry weapons with them from knives to tools, even harpoons and every so often they drop one and you’re able to pick it up then beat them with it. This was a good idea since your main attacks get boring fast but what tends to happen is either someone kicks the weapon out of your hand and you can’t pick it up again or you go back to pick up the weapon only to find that it’s stuck inside that invisible wall I mentioned earlier.

Diaz Liu

A game like Minority Report had similar problems: a beat ‘em up in which you fight way too many people for no reason when a more strategic adventure would have made more sense, a movie game that doesn’t really “get” the movie it’s based on, characters that don’t look right, bizarre rag doll issues. And yet that game is somehow at least a thousand times better than Charlie’s Angels. Perhaps it’s the fact it has a coherent plot, perhaps it’s the fact it’s based on a really good movie or perhaps it’s the jetpacks.

Gotta love those jetpacks.

Point being, always approach movie-to-game adaptations with caution, especially this one as it’s most definitely one of the worst I’ve personally played. Expect more on Charlie’s Angels from me some time in the future but in the meantime…

Let’s dance!

Dance Charlie's Angels

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Raising a Gamer

Sesame Street Counting Cafe

Sesame Street just turned 45 last week and in that time, Elmo, Big Bird, and friends have spawned dozens of video games for about every console you can imagine. I grew up with Sesame Street and it’s important to me that my daughter, Mae, also have a love and appreciation for the show. She is getting a little older now so I thought it was time to introduce her to the franchise in video game form.

My wife and I have been working closely with Mae to prepare her for Kindergarten. We want to enroll her in one of the local magnet or charter schools that adhere to a more strict curriculum, so we really need to step up our game when it comes to her reading and math skills. I came across Sesame Street Counting Cafe after stumbling upon another game with a “SEGA Club” logo at my local game shop. After some research I discovered that SEGA released a dozen or so games under the SEGA Club brand that were intended for younger gamers, ages 3-6. The majority of these games feature educational themes and include mid 90’s PBS favorites such as The Magic School Bus and Richard Scary’s Busytown. This line of games also includes a kid-friendly version of Ecco the Dolphin which will be a complete nostalgia-fest if I ever find it in the wild.  By seeking out these SEGA Club branded titles, I can be sure that the content will be suitable for Mae and most likely be something within her skill range.

Sesame Street Counting Cafe let’s you take control of Grover and serve a limited selection of menu items to a rather demanding patron. The game play is straightforward, Mr. Johnson gives you his order and then you head into to the kitchen, where you use some basic platforming skills to collect the food items and then return to the guest to collect a star. If you accidentally prepare the wrong food for the order, you can go to the back of the restaurant and feed your mistake to Cookie Monster and start over.

The whole game is a pretty great throwback to one of the older Sesame Street bits with Waiter Grover in Charlie’s restaurant, one of my favorites.

Once you complete enough orders a monkey comes and steals your star for some reason. You have to go find him in order to get the star back and move to the next(almost identical) level. Each new level does introduce additional Sesame Street characters, but they just function as new obstacles, it would have been nice to interact with another character that wasn’t just telling you what to do. Mae enjoyed the game but she and I both lost interest after the third level. One issue I had with the game from an educational standpoint is that the counting aspect is pretty limited. I wouldn’t have expected a Sesame Street game to go into advanced algebra, but it would be nice to throw in some basic addition or subtraction, or at least let the counting aspect surpass four units of each food item.

Sesame Street is all about happiness and friendship but the atmosphere in Counting Cafe feels lonely.  this interpretation doesn’t really follow the same formula that makes Sesame Street great, and it shows in our limited attention spans. The game makes good use of voice acting and the sprites are smoothly animated. Overall, I think this is an interesting game, for about 20-30 minutes or so. With our busy schedule, game time is at a premium, so the game really needs to appeal to Mae in order for us to spend an extended period of time with it before it becomes just another game on the shelf. Sesame Street Counting Cafe was a good way to start our SEGA Club collection, but I don’t know if we will be revisiting this one any time soon.

Counting Cafe

MyTwoGils

My Two Gils

For the Hoard?

As I stand here, playing Diablo II, butchering harmless natives for gold and colored letters engraved on belts, lusting for their experience-filled blood, my attention is drawn to the nearby television. Restraining my previous thoughts of requesting a sandwich to my girlfriend, I violently threw the laptop out of the way focusing on this so called “newscaster”. As his voice pronounces these far too familiar words, my mind becomes blank. Angered by the turn of events, I feel the aggressiveness in me rise. Somehow, I know they’ll blame these deaths on video games and that just makes me want to punch them in the face.
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Wordy Fun with Jim Crawford, creator of Frog Fractions

A relatively short time ago within the galaxy I reside in, a person named Jim Crawford released a free-to-play browser game called Frog Fractions. We actually had a D-Ported video by Alex Weiss about it. When I completed the remarkable game/fractions aid for myself, I decided that I simply must interview its creator. So I did. Here is that interview.

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Eric Bailey (the interviewer, Editor-In-Chief of 1MoreCastle.com): Okay, first, I have to ask: Is The Jig Up? Is Frog Fractions 2 out there somewhere, or about to be? I have seen one or two games coming to Steam that made me say to myself, “This is totally Frog Fractions 2, I can see it.”

Jim Crawford (the interviewee, fractions professor): It’s getting to the point where I should really stop answering this question, but for now I will go ahead and say no, FF2 is not out yet.

Bailey: Seriously though, in a newfound era of Kickstarter fatigue, your fundraising effort for FF2 was a great success back in April. From your vantage point, do you have any particular insights to offer people who may be considering their own crowdfunding ventures in the future?

Crawford: My situation was so bizarrely specific that I’m not sure lessons I personally learned will help anybody. In general, do your research. People have written a ton about what makes a successful Kickstarter, and you should start reading their advice before you start planning.

Running a competent Kickstarter is basically a full-time job, and not just while it’s actually running. If you’re not putting in that sort of time investment for a couple months before you flip the switch, you’re not taking it seriously enough.

Bailey: For the record, I agree so strongly with that last part and wish more people realized it. Also — Some of our readers may not know who you are. I think, most importantly, you are quite the boxing aficionado and expert on the sport’s more-humble beginnings. I was curious: Were those first pugilists allowed to bring a book to the bouts?

Crawford: Only if they were going to read aloud from it.

Bailey: Ha, gotcha. But really, who the heck are you?

Crawford: They asked me for an author bio when I gave a talk at GDC, and I spent a bunch of time on it, so it seems like a waste to not keep using it:

“Jim Crawford has been making video games for over twenty years, but nobody noticed until he moved to the Bay Area and started making friends with game journalists. Since making Frog Fractions, he’s told day jobs to screw off and is riding the making games train until the conductor realizes that he forgot to buy a ticket.”

Bailey: The original Frog Fractions game is… brilliant, high-quality, and remarkable, for many reasons. Although I risk spoiling the experience for newcomes somewhat, I have to say, I have never seen those genres blended together so well — an economic simulator text adventure vertically scrolling shoot-‘em-up educational tower defense fighting game. Great stuff. What specific classic games served as your influences? I see parts of Ecco the Dolphin, some Missile Command…

Crawford: Off of the top of my head, here are a bunch of direct influences, roughly in playthrough order: Missile Command, Panzer Dragoon, typing games in general, Bangai-O, Gradius, Banjo Kazooie, adventure games in general, Metroid, Dear Esther, Dance Dance Revolution, Lemonade Stand.

(This is not to say that I actually liked all these games, or even necessarily *played* them.)

Bailey: How long have you been playing video games, and which are/were your favorites?

Crawford: I’ve got video game memories dating to back when I started forming memories, so … hm. You know how when you’re four or five years old your brain structure changes such that you lose all your life event memories and have to start over? It’d be super interesting if that happened like once a decade. You’d keep all your skills and probably your senses of the relationships you have with other people, but all the specific events, gone.

I kind of feel like this happened to me earlier this week, actually.

Wait, what was the question again? Oh, favorite video games. Um, Super Mario 64, Deus Ex, Ico, The Legend of Zelda, Rock Band.

Bailey: I like old video games, and I appreciate the ways that Frog Fractions skewers many of the classic tropes and idiosyncrasies of titles we have enjoyed for decades. Can we expect the same form of critical treatment from its sequel, perhaps winking at modern traits and trends as well? I look forward to its commentary on the military FPS genre and mobile freemium models, of course.

Crawford: Dude, spoilers!(Also, I already had a tiny jab at Freemium stuff in the first game. Since I’m proud of it and everyone probably missed it, I’ll reproduce it here: “To purchase MIRV tongue, insert a twenty dollar bill into your CD-ROM drive.” Hee hee.)

Bailey: What is your favorite color?

Crawford: I decided long ago that it was red, though this has zero bearing on the colors I actually choose in my life, and as such I haven’t reexamined this question in decades. Yeah, red.

Bailey: Assuming that Frog Fractions 2 is a smashing success, can we expect more entries in the series? Will Frog Fractions 4: The Fractioning be a thing? Or are there other projects even more dear to your heart you hope to pursue? Is this a case of give the people want they want vs. do what I really want to do? Is this too many questions at once? Is this beginning to feel more like an interrogation?

Crawford: Given that “Frog Fractions 2″ was just the name given to the idea in people’s minds, and the actual product will be called something else, I’m not sure how to think about this. Ask future-Jim.

Bailey: Jim (I can call you Jim?), you are obviously a super-talented, hard-working dude with a creative mind and attention to detail. What advice would you give to anyone who wants to break into game development?

Crawford: There’s never been a better time to just start making games. Twine, Unity, Game Maker, Puzzlescript, the tools are super accessible. The Golden Age is now.

Get good at that, and also make friends with other game developers. This means talking to them online, going to meetups, attending game jams.

Once you’ve demonstrated that you can make worthwhile games to a bunch of friends who are also making games, that’s where you can start thinking about reasonably trying to make money doing it.

###

Thanks for your time, Jim. And your games.

Super Mario Bros. - Game Overkill

Game Overkill

Game Overkill – Super Mario Bros.

We all knew this day was coming, so I chose to get it out of the way early. As if Super Mario Bros. wasn’t going to make the cut. For a lot of gamers around my age, if it wasn’t the first game we’ve ever played, it was usually one of the first, if not the first, NES games we’ve ever played.
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N64 Connoisseur

N64 Review #15 – Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey

It is one of my favorite times of year. No, not pumpkin spice season. No, not extraordinarily premature Christmas decoration season. It’s hockey season! Hockey is my favorite sport. In fact, as I write this, I am also watching a Tampa Bay Lightning game. Go Bolts. All of this icy goodness got me to reminiscing about one of my old Nintendo 64 favorites, the great arcade hockey game and the first sports title on the N64, Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. Old favorite as it may be, I haven’t played it in many years and N64 sports games haven’t aged terribly well on the whole. Seems like it’s worth a look, isn’t it? Read More

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Playing With Power

Playing With Power – Nintendo Fun Club News #6

At the start of 1988, Nintendo had 3 big titles in Mega Man, Contra and Wizards and Warriors all releasing within a few months of this issue coming out.  Once again, the newsletter retains the style and format of the previous 2 issues but the back of the Game Pak Wish List has the first mention of the new magazine that will release later in the year.  Nintendo had to know the time to strike was around this time with such big titles like Metal Gear, Double Dragon, Super Mario Bros 2 and Zelda 2 all releasing by the end of  1988 and both EGM and Gamepro launching within a year, they wanted to get their magazine out first to beat the magazine competition to the market.

Speaking of Zelda 2, this issue contains the first big feature of the game.  These days, while saying Zelda 2 was a good game is pretty in style among retro gamers, for many years it was the black sheep of the franchise.  At the time of the magazine though, Zelda 2 was one of the biggest releases for the system.  Reading the feature would make anyone who played the first game just ache for the chance to play this new and unique Zelda game.  There are also a few great ads in the newsletter and as I mentioned, the first mentino of what will become Nintendo Power.

Lets get to the issue!

 

Issue 6 is done!  Imagine being a kid and reading this issue….you would start your Christmas list right then and Zelda 2 would be at the top of your list.

Next issue is the final issue of the Nintendo Fun Club News, see you then!

Play with power!

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Gods Title

The Retro Critic

Gods

This week, I’m not just reviewing a retro game.

I’m reviewing the Gods themselves!

First released on the Amiga, Gods was then ported to various consoles including the Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. The game, developed by The Bitmap Brothers, is a supernatural epic in which a hero (basically Hercules) attempts to retake the citadel of the gods from four baddies. The promise being that, should he succeed, he would be made into a god himself.

On the Genesis, we get a cool Batman & Robin-style suiting-up montage showing just how muscly and tough Mr Hercules is:
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It Came From Japan

Happy Halloween! Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti

こんにちは!  It’s already Halloween so I thought I would share one of my favorite Halloween games to play on the Famicom!

It is Splatterhouse Wanpaku Graffiti put out by Namco for the Famicom!  This version isn’t as creepy as its counter parts for the Genesis since it features super deformed characters but I think it adds to the game.  Nothing like a guy with a hockey type mask carrying a big knife/axe, doesn’t remind me of a specific movie franchise at all :)

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If you have a Famicom and you don’t already own this awesome game you HAVE to get it!  It’s such a quirky fun side scroller game you will not regret it.  It has so much personality and great horror movie like references it’s a must play for Halloween.

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The game starts off with your girlfriend Jennifer visiting your grave and crying, just then lightning hits the grave bringing you (Rick) back to life!  Just then the evil Pumpkin King comes and kidnaps your girlfriend, for some undetermined reason so it’s up to you to save her!

At the end of the first level one of my favorite moments of the game happens, you have to fight Dracula but not until him and his minions do the Michael Jackson Thriller dance first!

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After the Thriller dance is finished and you defeat Dracula it’s onto a creepy cabin which is seems like the creators were influence by Raimi’s Evil Dead movie mixed with a little bit of the Exorcist with this boss battle!

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Nothing like a girl who can spin her head totally around!

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Once you are through the cabin you are sent to the street to defeat the evil pumpkin minions.  This kind of reminds me of the Nightmare on Elm Street game for the NES where you are going down the street trying to find a house you can enter.

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Soon you find this creepy house with what looks like torture chambers, then you find this girl just laying there.  Soon in Alien fashion a spider like face hugger thing bursts from her chest and the battle is on!

Unfortunately I haven’t gotten past this part in the game still, but I hope seeing some of these screenshots might entice you to try out this game.  So if you like horror movies, side scrollers or games with chibi characters this is a must play! Turn down the lights and even though it’s not super scary it’s still a great Halloween day game :)

さようなら! and have fun gaming!

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Raising a Gamer

Sam and Max Hit the Road

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two weeks, you have probably heard about the LucasArts games that are now available on GOG. While X-Wing and Tie Fighter may have captured the attention of many retro gamers, I was immediately drawn to some of the other LucasArts titles that were re-released. Sam and Max Hit the Road and Monkey Island were two of my earliest gaming experiences. Considering how popular Pajama Sam was with Mae, I thought either of these adventure games would be a hit.

I went with Sam and Max Hit the Road because it was on sale for only $6 and I remember getting this game for PC when I was a kid and thinking it was absolutely hilarious. Now I’ll have to admit, other than maintaining a lingering appreciation for the game, I haven’t kept up with the Sam and Max series over the years, so time may have softened my memory of some of the more adult themes found within Sam and Max. It appears that both my mother and I were entranced by the anthropomorphic dog and rabbit and thus blissfully unaware of the target demographic for this highly regarded point and click. In my defense, the description page on GOG didn’t really include a clear rating or recommended age for the game, so nostalgia set in and I went ahead and purchased the game without really researching it, relying solely on my memory of a game that I haven’t played in roughly two decades.

Makes me want to go get a disgusting over priced Pecan Log.

Makes me want to go get a disgusting over-priced Pecan Log.

The game starts out with a few jokes that are innocent enough, but before long the crudeness sets in. Within minutes, our heroes are walking the streets splattered with blood (spaghetti sauce, as I explained it to Mae) and lined with intoxicated pigeons (they had too much root beer). A few expletives later, we found ourselves outside of a run-down gas station, Snuckey’s, a nod to the Stuckey’s franchise that dots the American highway system (and the pecan candy reference is hilarious). Shortly after we picked up a cup from outside of the gas station and went inside, Max started asking to use the bathroom. Admittedly, we were having a hard time finding the facilities for Max to use, so Mae actually suggested that we let him use the giant cup we found outside to relieve himself in. At this point it felt like the game was affecting Mae in a way I wasn’t comfortable with, so I thought it might be a good idea to have Mae go color or something while I got us through some of the more crass parts of the game.

I continued playing and had Mae participate in a few of the mini-games like Whack-a-Rat and Highway Surfin’, which she picked up quickly and enjoyed a lot. Mae really liked the Whack-A-Rat game because you can just sit there bonking Max instead of the rats. Now don’t get me wrong, this game is really good. It is a lot funnier than I remember as a kid, considering that I can now appreciate all of the adult humor. The voice acting is top notch and the animation is great..like really great. The World’s Largest Ball of Twine is just fun to look at and explore. I really enjoy this game and I think that when Mae is older, she might too. At this point the humor and themes are too mature for her.

Just look at that beautiful  ball of string.

Just look at that beautiful ball of string.

Up until this point, I never paid much attention to ratings on games, but now that I am responsible for choosing the games for Mae to enjoy, I had better pay a little more attention. Monkey Island and Wacky Wheels are also available on GOG and they seem a bit more Mae-friendly. I never thought twice about  ESRB ratings, but as the parent of a tiny gamer,  I can say that I am glad that we have a pretty solid rating system in place. I just have to be mindful that until 1994, there wasn’t a formal rating council, so those games should be looked at with a little more scrutiny to make sure they are appropriate for her.

MyTwoGils

My Two Gils

Night of the Haunted Backlog

Halloween night has passed. Gone are the malevolent spirits, exhausted from their visit to the ephemeral playground the Living World opens for them. Or are they?

While October 31st lurks in our past, not all doors to the other world are closed, for wherever shadow exists, evil awaits, ready to invade. It might be November, but are you retrogamers really safe?
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