Saturday, August 19, 2017

Top 5 games of 1990

I’ve been a gamer for most of my life, having lived through the third generation of gaming (NES) upwards. Over the next 25 weeks, I will list my top 5 games from 1990 – 2015. To ensure consistency, here are the rules I will be following
  • I will only write about games I’ve played
  • Even though I played most of these games a few years after they released, I will stick with the year they were released (otherwise this list will be all over the place)
  • Some games may have been released at different times for different regions. When this happens, I will use the year related to the version I’ve played
  • Due to the second rule, it does mean I won’t be able to list gems like Super Mario Brothers and Circus Charlie
This week I will highlight 1990


Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers (NES/ Golden China)
As a thirty-something year-old man, I tend to be a little jaded when it comes to licenced games, but as an eight-year old kid hooked on Disney cartoons during M-Net’s Sunday evening open time slot, I couldn’t get enough of it. Chip ‘n’ Dale was a fun platformer, improved by the option to play two-player (loved chucking Dale onto enemies). I never actually owned a NES, and did most of my gaming on a Golden China (had no idea I was playing pirated software), so with no option to save my progress, it actually worked in my favour that the game could be finished in a single sitting.
chip n dale


Super Mario Bros 3 (NES/ Golden China)supermario3
You’re going to be seeing a LOT of Super Mario games in my lists. Arguably one of the greatest games ever made (having just been chosen as number 1 in IGN’s Greatest Games of all-time list), Super Mario Bros 3 was and still is an absolute joy to play. I recently booted it up for my nephew to play and within ten minutes I wrangled the controller from him and took over. A timeless game that every gamer should play.
supermario3


Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Mega Drive)
I never actually owned an original Mega Drive. I got a knock-off at a flea-market along with an 8-in-1 cartridge that had Sonic the Hedgehog, Streets of Rage, Flintstones, Columns, Mickey Mouse and a few more games. I did not know it was a knock-off at a time (8-in-1’s made sense compared to the previous 64-in-1’s I had in my previous knock-off). Like Chip ‘n’ Dale above, this was another Disney platformer I was really into in my youth. The game sees Mickey save Minnie from a witch named Mizrabel (ten points for name) who wanted to steal her youth (a theme we will see a few years later in a famous Rare game). The game was a mix of the first two Super Mario games, in that your attacks alternated between jumping on your enemies heads (like the first SMB) or throwing apples (like the second SMB).
castleofillusion


Snow Bros: Nick and Tom (Arcade)Snowbros
The second co-op title in my list, Snow Bros was a spiritual successor to Bubble Bobble, and continued in its storied, manic tradition of encasing enemies and then killing them. I never thought I was actually killing them before I sat to type this piece. Games are simplistic like that, like old action movies. The game follows the exploits of these murderous siblings on their quest to save their girlfriends (I’m not sure if they were also siblings). These icy damsels happen to be princesses, and the bros happen to wear overalls. Coincidence? I replayed Snow Bros about six years ago, and it remains just as fun.
Snowbros


columnsColumns (Sega Mega Drive)
Confession time, I actually prefer columns to Tetris. This might seem blasphemous but some of my fondest memories of playing video games as a kid was playing columns while my granddad sat on the couch next to me, probably judging me for not using investing my time in better pursuits, like rubbing his feet or playing Carrom (check it out). For all the millenials reading this, Columns is the spiritual ancestor of bejeweled, or candy crush, without the annoying social media sharing.
columns


So these are my top five games that were released in 1990. Join me next Monday as I go through my favourite games from 1991. Leave a comment and let me know which were your favourite games from the past, and if you can guess the Rare game I referenced earlier.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Social Media Paid Internship

I'm looking for a social media intern. This is a great opportunity for someone looking to get into social media/ digital. The lucky applicant will get to work on one of the biggest South African brands. Position is based in Sandton, Johannesburg. 

It's a paid internship opportunity to 1 young adult who has completed tertiary studies and would like to gain work experience in a structured environment.

This paid internship is offered for a period of 12 months, from July 2017 to June 2018. During this period the intern will be exposed to their area of study where they can gain valuable practical experience and skills application, with specific measurable objectives aligned with core business priorities. Types of exposure include community management, content creation, digital strategy and reporting

Overall Job Purpose:

The Social Media Intern is responsible for executing the company’s social media strategy, working across key social media channels including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This role offers the intern a total immersion into the digital world and the successful candidate will work closely with key members of staff, external sponsorship custodians, and the company's agencies to learn about social media, digital communications and marketing. This role will be instrumental in increasing our social media presence, enhancing brand reputation through relevant and transparent engagement with target audiences via official social media channels and gain visibility for our sub-brands among stakeholders.

Key Duties:
1) Community Management
Assist in execution of projects by providing the required support to the team by managing the various group and operating model entity sponsorship properties’ social media accounts and ensure uniform content and tone of voice (initially under supervision from a Manager)
Assist with managing and monitoring the corporate social media accounts, engaging where appropriate and escalating where necessary.
Attend and provide live-coverage (live-tweeting etc.) at events and activations
2) Content Production
Contribute to a monthly brainstorming meeting with the internal social media team to establish content ideas for the month ahead, and to plan for a monthly social media editorial calendar.
Create always-on and campaign content plans for a variety of sponsorship properties and corporate accounts
Ensure content is brand-aligned, consistent in style, quality and tone, optimised for relevant channels.
Maintain a monthly social media and blogging calendar, which incorporates content from a variety of internal and external stakeholders
Brief in social media design requirements to creative services team

3) Digital Strategy and Reporting
Assist the social media manager with developing digital strategies
Track key social media analytics on a monthly basis
Analyze data (interactions, sentiment etc.) using existing reporting tools
Work with the social media manager to build monthly report and give recommendations based on social performance against industry benchmarks

Key Skills Required for the Role:
Proven written communication skills and excellent verbal communications skills
Excellent project management skills and the ability to multi-task and work in a fast-paced environment
An interest in marketing, communications, social media or reputation management;
Familiarity with key social media platforms (e.g. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) and with Microsoft Office products (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, Excel);
Excellent attention to detail and a high motivation to learn;
A proactive, service-focused attitude towards stakeholders;
An ability to prioritise work and complete tasks with quick turnaround times and minimal fuss; and
The ability to work collaboratively within a team.

Minimum Qualifications:

  • B Degree or Diploma (Marketing, Communications or PR Advertising)
    Advantageous: Post-graduate degree/diploma in Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Journalism, Digital Marketing
Intern having fun at a sports event
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Mail me - concerningmj@gmail.com if you're keen. Applications close on the 31st of May 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Video Game Review: Puzzle & Dragons Z Super Mario Bros. Edition

“Match-three” games, in which you line up or three or more similar icons or shapes in order to clear them from a board, are one of the most popular sub-genre of puzzle games. Candy Crush Saga was the most-played Facebook game of 2013. (Chances are, you probably got a Candy Crush Saga game request while reading this intro.)
Games like Chuzzle and Bejewelled – arguably the most popular match-three game on PC – from PopCap have garnered over a 150 million downloads over the last 14 years. Columns was the first match-three game that hooked me, and I have fond memories of playing it with my grandfather on my trusty Sega Mega-Drive – he didn’t approve of Streets of Rage or Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3, you see.
PuzzleDragonMario
Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition (a mouthful that is doing wonders for my word count) continues this fine tradition and adds three innovations to the mix, free-form version of the classic match-three format, RPG elements (with monster collecting) and Super Mario. It’s available on the Nintendo DS/3DS handheld now.
The original Puzzle & Dragons was a free-to-play mobile game, financed by micro-transactions. Would a handheld port offer as much value for the price-savvy consumer? Let’s find out…
The main game is familiar to those who’ve played any of the 3DS Pok√©mons, down to the visuals and the now-obligatory chat the hero has with his mum before beginning his quest. The story then takes a Game of Thrones turn, sans Red Weddings and questionable relationships, as you take possession of three dragon eggs that will eventually lay waste to the land of ‘I’m not actually sure’.
puzzledrag2
Levelling up the Mushroom Kingdom.
The RPG elements remind me of career mode in fighting games, adding a layer of longevity to what is essentially a repetitive format (match orbs to defeat monsters).
Like Mortal Kombat, I guess the developers realise you need a hook to extend the experience. I’m still on the fence whether I like it or not. I don’t think I played as strategically as the game wanted me, hardly ever augmenting my attacks with special items. On the plus side, unlike other retail games that have the chutzpah to hide large chunks of content behind various paywalls, Nintendo have assured consumers that there won’t be any micro-transactions in the game.
puzzledrag
I was initially sceptical to the extent that Mario and co. will integrate with the classic Puzzle & Dragon experience having been disappointed with the Nintendo-themed extras in Tekken and Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U, but it was refreshing to experience a game that was so well-considered.
I shouldn’t be too surprised – the Mushroom Kingdom has a diverse range of hobbies and Nintendo protects its flagship IP from glitch half-baked games (Nintendo would have never allowed Assassin’s Creed: Unity to be published if Mario was in it).
Removed from the higher-order RPG elements, the Super Mario version tells a simpler, familiar tale; one of kidnapping and rescuing. And yes, I can confirm that the victim was last spotted wearing pink.
Eskom gifted me with many opportunities to use the 3DS and I plonked many of those darkened hours in the Super Mario mode. Stripped of the RPG elements, the Super Mario mode gave me quick thrills as I lapped up the familiar comfort of Shigeru Miyamoto’s vision, ploughing through waves of goombas and koopa troopas on a rudimentary rock, paper, scissors turn-based format.
Half-way through the first world there was a considerable spike in difficulty. And I died. A lot. After two continues I breezed through the next few stages before facing another Brock Lesnar type Goomba.
If I have any major complaints, it’s that Puzzle & Dragons Z + Super Mario Bros. Edition is a lot like 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. You’re getting two products in one handy package, which seems like great value for money, until you realise that you’re only getting half a bottle of each.
I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys puzzle titles, and is looking for a deeper alternative to Candy Crush Saga. The difficulty spikes are sometimes frustrating to the point that I rattled my 3DS like Homer choking Bart, so if you’re new to the genre, or have little patience, I suggest you start with something like Bejewelled instead.
This review originally appeared in HTXT

Monday, April 10, 2017

Why 90's games are making a comeback

Recently did a Q and A with the team at Fin24 on why Nineties games are making a comeback.



1) Have you noticed an increase in the number of older consoles being sold again and since when?

There’s a significant increase in the number of retro consoles that are being sold, with most targeting an older nostalgic market. The rise is probably due to a few reasons:
The proliferation of emulators and the ease in which people can get older game files on mobile phones, single-board computers like Raspberry Pi, web browsers etc. One way to combat this as a manufacturer is to release your own version of the console
New TV inputs and standards like HDMI present a challenge for those who have kept their older machines, hence manufacturers like Sega and Nintendo have released the retro consoles with HDMI.

2) Why do you think these consoles are being sold again? Do you think it’s a demand from customer or an attempt to draw nostalgia from customers by manufacturers?

A lot of the machines have added functionality and features. The Sega Mega Drive Arcade Ultimate Portable Player as the name suggests is portable, allowing the player to experience authentic 16-bit games on the move. The console comes bundled with 80 games, spread across a number of genres. It’s much easier to gauge demand from consumers, especially for nostalgia products like these consoles – manufacturers can analyse google search trends around specific titles and listen to social media conversation to determine and forecast success.

3) What consoles do you know of, are being sold now?

There are a few popular retro consoles available in South Africa at the moment – The Atari Flashback 6, The Nintendo NES Classic edition, the Sega Mega Drive: Arcade Classic and Ultimate Portable player. The Nintendo and Sega machines are easier to find (Nintendo does have a worldwide shortage at the moment)

Image result for mini nes

4) A typically older console is now retailing for around R800, however a game for PS4 or Xbox One can exceed that amount – Do you think parents might see an older console as a cheaper alternative to keep their kids occupied?

While parents will undoubtedly see value in a 80-in-1 console, with the exception of a few games like Super Mario Brothers, most games are only fun to play for nostalgic value and little else. Chances are, if a kid wanted Fifa 17 for Christmas and got a retro console like the Atari Flashback 6, I imagine the kid will be disappointed.

Click here to read the article 

MJ

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Video Game Review: Mario Party 10

Professional wrestling is often predicated on the notion that there’s a fan-favourite to cheer and a villain to boo. This age-old narrative is evident in all popular media, including video games; for every Ryu, there’s an M.Bison, for every Warden a broodmother and of course, for every Mario a Bowser.
MarioParty10_5
It’s-a him, Bowser!
This animosity is usually so apparent that both sides don’t even share a locker room.
This is what makes the Mario games so perplexing: that Peach constantly gets kidnapped by Bowser, and then joins him for a four-ball, tennis match and a race at Mario Circuit (which is basically Zwartkop raceway with fewer questionable mushrooms).
Mario Party 10 at its core is a series of mini-games held together by a four-player virtual board game experience across a variety of Super Mario World locations. Each game requires four players, but not to worry, should you not have a full human team, the game supplies AI players.
MarioParty10_3
Gold Reef City. We see you.
In Mario Party 10, there are three modes to play: Mario Party, Bowser Party (a new mode which added an interesting spin on the old mechanic) and amiibo Party, which incorporates Nintendo’s character figures.
There are five boards in total this time around, so initially I felt a little cheated as the predecessor had seven. But a bigger issue emerged after two playthroughs: none of the stages were particularly memorable. There were different bosses, and small structural changes, but everything seemed like a chore, with the boss being nothing more than a delay to the end.
Eighteen hours in and I don’t have a favourite, compared to Super Mario World where I loved any level that kept me above water and away from those dreadful fish.
MarioParty10_1
Watch out for the beep beep Cheep-cheeps!
I owned a copy of the original Mario Party back when people danced awkwardly to Eiffel 65’s Blue and no one really knew what the Matrix was about. Sixteen years on and not much has changed in those respects, but the world has moved on in other ways and Mario Party 10 – for all its charm and nostalgia – remains a relic of a time passed.
An area where the game suffers is that the game boards take, on average, half an hour to complete.
The original Mario Party never had to compete for attention against a huge selection of instant message services, social media networks and video-on-demand content providers. Half an hour might not seem like a long period of time, especially for those who emerge from Call of Duty sessions after days, hiding from sunlight like unsparkly vampires, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a challenge. Perhaps this is due to the long loading times, the scarcity of actual mini-games and the inability to skip or speed up the computer’s turn.
In this way, Mario Party is a lot like riding the Cobra at Gold Reef City – lots of waiting around before a small jolt of fun. It didn’t help knowing that a vast majority of the game relied on luck, and I often felt frustrated with the balancing or rather, the lack thereof. And annoyingly, it’s very similar to Mario Kart in that the computer will just catch up towards the end to add some stress in a “weird fixed game show” sort of way.
MarioParty10_2
Hope you packed some Peaceful Sleep.
One of the bigger challenges I faced was that the game requires a Wii-mote in order to play.
Long ago I gifted my Wii to undeserving niblings, leaving me with only one Wii-mote. I found this to be problematic, but also rather indicative of the machine’s shortcomings as it can’t seem to shake off its Wii legacy. This is perhaps a reason why the Wii U failed to take off; I’m sure lots of people still buy Wii U games and try playing them on their Wiis.
Perhaps I’m biased because the original N64 had four controller ports, and lent itself to local four-player split-screen action. I guess it’s a sign of the times that online play has eroded this previously-popular method of gaming.
MarioParty10_4
Feed me Mario… and Peach… and Luigi… and Wario.
Mario Party 10 does continue a long tradition of first-party games on Nintendo’s Wii U console, in that the graphics are amazing. They have a sheen to them that rivals Super Mario 3D Land and Super Smash Bros for the Wii U. The game really is a pleasure to behold, it’s just not a lot of fun to play.
I’m a huge Nintendo fan, but I can’t help but feel underwhelmed at this offering. Forgettable mini-games, poor pacing and no real memorable moments make Mario Party 10 the Hulk Hogan in a John Cena world, holding on to something past and being unable to evolve.
This review originally appeared in HTXT.co.za