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Ground Kontrol: To Funland

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I have recently returned from a much needed retreat. We trekked halfway across the continent of North America to visit the fabled land of Portland, Oregon. Its good to be home, but at the same time I wish I did not have to leave so quickly. I got the chance to visit two arcades on my trip, some nice places to game that are severely lacking where I live! Close to where I stayed is a fairly big tourist town near the beach, and there’s a pizza place that has a big arcade attached to it. Sounds just like the pizza place on the corner we all grew up with doesn’t it? The difference is that this one had a lot of cabinets, with a lot of newer games! The second one is the already well known location in downtown Portland, Ground Kontrol.

Funland

http://www.funlandseaside.com/

The first arcade is called Funland, and its attached to a Fultano’s Pizza. They claim to have been around since the 1929, which would likely make them one of the oldest, continuously operating arcades in the entire United States, probably high in the running for North America as a whole. This makes this arcade a bit of a relic, but there is a distinct lack of video games actually from the 80s or earlier here. The earliest game I saw was a Galaga/Ms. Pac Man combo cocktail. Other than that the oldest game was Street Fighter II. This place is the definition of the modern arcade, gone are the money changing machines where you pop a bill in and get a bunch of quarters in return. Instead you load your money onto a card, and then swipe the card through a reader at every machine.

There are a lot of machines to enjoy in Funland, with multiple rooms to peruse and explore. The back room is where all the fun lies. Pinheads might feel a bit left out as there are only four tables at this place, and they’re all newer Stern games. I did enjoy the Tron table though. There are plenty of light gun and racing games here at this location, and there are a lot of cabinets hailing from the mid-late 90s to enjoy and get nostalgic over.

The problem during my visit is that many machines were out of order, even some that were turned on said “Out of Order” on the card scanner. They have 3 full Daytona USA units on the floor, but every one of them was out of order! There was a Sega Super GT next to it, and even that one only had one half of the machine turned on and in working order. The big attraction here was getting to play these brand spanking new arcade games, Time Crisis 5 and the 2 Star Wars Battle Pods they had here are so new that they haven’t had time to get all arcade sticky!

Ground Kontrol

http://groundkontrol.com/

Those looking for a nostalgic arcade trip will highly enjoy Ground Kontrol. You’ll pop quarters into machines all night here, both arcade machines and pinball tables! There are some newer Stern tables here as well, but the selection is dominated by classics from Williams, Bally, along with a handful of other companies like Sega. The arcade games include many classics that you’ll just have to pop a few quarters in, even a fully stocked Playchoice-10 is available. I visited this location with our very own member, Nupoile! He even brought his wife along for the ride.

Keep in mind that there are adults consuming alcohol at this location, and there is some stickiness as a result. That’s about the only downside to the experience I had there. I was going to play Nightcrawler in X-men and having a big puddle of sticky goop right next to my joystick was not the best. Smash TV’s movement stick was almost dead as well, but that was the only technical issue I experienced there. Everything else worked well and there was plenty of choice on both the lower floor, and upstairs.

Downstairs is all arcade, all day. There’s a bar down there as well. We’re all here for arcade first so we’re going to leave our glass in the convenient cupholders attached to nearly every machine in the entire building, right? There is plenty from the old school here, but not much from the new. More old school arcade cabinets are found upstairs, but they’re not quite the star of the show there. Expect to hear some people trying to form full 6 player X-men groups, along with teams of Simpsons and Turtles in Time players! Four player Blitz is a must have, and both arcades delivered that fix. Nothing beats elbow dropping your opponent after throwing him to the ground.

Upstairs is as close as you can get to the Heavenly Gates if you’re a pinhead. Classic pinball tables line the walls on the second floor, with a couple of newer Stern’s poking their head in as well. There were plenty of excellent games on the floor. A few favorites here include Scared Stiff (two multiballs on my first blind play!), The Addams Family, Theater of Magic, South Park and Tales of the Arabian Nights. Of course like any good arcade their selection of games on the floor changes from time to time as well.

Ground Kontrol is a must visit location if you find yourself in the Portland, Oregon area. If you’re a fan of arcade video and pinball games you find a nice corner to relax in here, and plenty of beer to quench your thirst. Unlike most bars and restaurants I visited in the area this one had few beers on tap in comparison, but more in line with what I’m used to. Everywhere seemed to have at least two dozen beers on tap, while Ground Kontrol was getting by with six, the red ale I tried was quite delicious.

Psychotic Reviews: South Park: The Stick of Truth

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The Stick of Truth was probably one of the most anticipated RPGs of the year. Its based on the popular Comedy Central show known for its crude animation style, rude characters, profanity, and insightful satire. Matt Stone and Trey Parker are two of the best writers in the show business today, including their smash hit musical The Book of Mormon, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, and the beloved classic BASEketball on their resumes its easy to see how the legions of South Park fans would flock to a game written by the show’s actual creators and lead writers.

The game was developed by Obsidian Entertainment, themselves known for being excellent writers and world designers. They also have a nasty reputation for releasing broken and buggy games. Is this true with The Stick of Truth? There are some bugs I experienced, but they didn’t really hinder gameplay. A few design decisions hurt the overall experience more than a graphics bug and the one crash I experienced.

The graphics bug involves alt-tabbing without pressing Escape first. It could lead to the characters bugging in and out of existence and was fixed by quitting the game and restarting. It was rather annoying, but didn’t completely break the game. The save design hurts the game more than anything. It seems to be a save anywhere type of system when it is really a checkpoint based system. So, saving right after a cutscene was usually fine, but saving halfway down the street would mean the reload would put you back at the beginning of the street.

The actual game itself is quite beautiful. The art makes it feel like you’re playing through a short season of different episodes. You play through different days, with all the kids having to go to bed once the sun goes down. These days are built around plot events, not the passage of real time, which flows well with the way the game is written. The world is open, but feels more like a side scroller since you can only cross streets at crosswalks. South Park is not a large town though, its always been referred to as a little mountain town somewhere in Colorado. Some areas seem to be left out, but every building has something to do in it. Well, except the bank. And you can probably figure out what happens there if you’re a fan of the show.

The game’s writing is spectacular, and the RPG design leaves even more room for references namely in gray junk items. Everything from Alabama Man to Space Cash is there to be found somewhere. The characters are just as they are on the show, with attacks based on their history. For example, Kyle has an Elemental Summon attack which is nothing more than Kick the Baby.

Or the most feared attack of all, Mr. Slave’s ass.

The timing attacks and defenses in battle will remind long time gamers of RPGs like Super Mario RPG, Mario & Luigi, Paper Mario, and some more real time battle systems like the Tales and Star Ocean series. Combat is rather easy though. I played on the hardest difficulty and still found myself rolling through the game by spamming armor lowering attacks. I played as Jew, so my main attack against bosses and defense heavy enemies was Circum-Scythe, it was quite satisfying to use that attack against enemies such Pedophile and Meth Head.

As a whole, The Stick of Truth is a very well done game. If you’re not a fan I would still recommend it as the writing is absolutely hilarious and vile at times. I found myself laughing hysterically at certain events, and smiling through most of the game as a fan. This game should go down in history as one of the best licensed games out there. Stiff competition in that category I know, but it really is that good and probably the best overall game in terms of technical issues, writing and story, and overall gameplay polish that Obsidian has released so far.

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