Friday, November 21, 2014

Feed the Sea with Ghosts: The (Partial) Ballad of Deadstorm Pirates

Sorry it's been so long since I've updated, folks. Internet's been hard to come by 'round these parts, but I'm working at it. Right now, I'm typing this entry at the local library, and wanted to let you know about a game I recently played at an arcade in the area.

Well, "arcade" might be stretching things a bit. The steady march of technology over the past fifteen years have made the arcades from my childhood obsolete... the Dreamcast closed the performance gap between home and arcade hardware, and the rise of emulators like MAME means that players no longer have to run to the nearest laundromat or amusement center to scratch their retro gaming itch. These days, arcades are packed with redemption machines like Skeeball and coin bulldozers, along with action games centered around a gimmicky controller that's too impractical for home use. You know, steering wheels, massive rifles, a giant butt you can stick your fingers into... that sort of thing.

Yikes! You don't have to tell me twice!
(image from Namco America)
These games typically don't have much replay value, but for the first hour, the really good ones will have you convinced that they're the best things you've ever played in your life. Such is the case with Deadstorm Pirates, an obscure Namco release from 2009. Deadstorm Pirates combines the frantic gunplay of Sega's House of the Dead series with the high seas thrills of Pirates of the Caribbean, then adds a "golden gun" with unlimited firepower. There's none of that reloading nonsense here... just keep the trigger squeezed and you'll hose down the hordes of rampaging skeletons with magic bullets. A second player can join the party, and when both players fire at the same point on the screen, their bullets are given a power boost, especially handy against shielded enemies and during boss battles.

Thanks to the inexhaustible golden guns and a generous life bar, Deadstorm Pirates is pretty easy. I finished most of the first stage on a single credit, and would imagine a perfect playthrough would be possible with some practice. Nevertheless, the game is a blast the first time you play it, as all great light gun titles should be. The action is intense, with the screen routinely choked with skeletons, and the graphics, while a little plain, really sell the nautical setting with scurvy shipmates and violently churning seas. You'll even get a chance to steer your ship from time to time with a wheel in the center of the cabinet. Cranking the wheel is exhausting, but narrowly missing that haunted schooner makes it worth nursing a sore arm the next day.

"Wait, grim reapers too?"
"Never mind that, just keep shooting!"
(image from
The only real complaint one could launch at Deadstorm Pirates, aside from its limited replay value, is that the voice acting kind of stinks. It's not as enthusiastic as it ought to be, and it's even condescending at times. Really? Shoot the enemies with the golden guns? Gosh, I'm sure glad you told me! I was gonna try cutting them up with the plastic sword from a nearby Mazan: Flash of the Blade cabinet! (Yeesh.) However, you could make the argument that lousy acting is expected from light gun games after the legendarily awful performances in House of the Dead and its sequel.

I'd never heard of Deadstorm Pirates until this week, so its existence came as a pleasant surprise. I'm even happier to discover that it was released for the Playstation 3 not just once, but twice. It was originally included in a three game collection called Time Crisis: Razing Storm, and was offered on its own as a PSN download. At fifteen dollars for roughly an hour of gameplay, the download is more expensive than it probably should be. However, if Sony ever cuts the price during a flash sale and you've got some Move controllers stashed away in the closet, you'd be smart to hop aboard this ship.

Friday, November 14, 2014

South by Southwest

Just a quick heads up that I'm in Arizona right now, using my smartphone as a makeshift internet hub. So I'm not going to be doing much with the blog until I'm online in a meaningful way. See you then!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

One Step Back

You know, the Vita doesn't get much respect, but I've got to say that it's a massive improvement over Sony's previous handheld game system. I picked up my PSP for the first time in months, and while the system is still capable of some fairly impressive visuals, it's a disaster ergonomically. It feels like a brick in your hands, the D-pad is practically useless, and that stubby analog nub is no replacement for an honest-to-goodness thumbstick. Trust me, once you've upgraded to the Vita, it's incredibly hard to go back.

Annnnyway, I'll be taking an extended vacation in a couple days, so you may not be seeing too many updates to Kiblitzing until I've settled into my new digs. Of course, if the plane crashes, you won't see be seeing any updates at all, but let's hope it doesn't come to that.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Kiblitzing Defined

So, you may have asked yourself at some point, "Just what the heck does 'Kiblitzing' mean, anyway?" Well, it's a long story...

Let's rewind the clock back to 1981. That's around the time I got my first computer, the VIC-20. Designed by Commodore, the budget-priced VIC-20 quickly attracted a mainstream audience, and was the first home computer to sell one million units in the United States. There wasn't much it did especially well, but it was a capable video game system, with performance that struck a comfortable middle ground between the Atari 2600 and the ColecoVision. Commodore's beige breadbox had hundreds of games on both cartridge and cassette, serving me well in those lean years before I bought a Nintendo Entertainment System in 1988.

One of the games in my VIC-20 collection was Sargon Chess II. Like many folks with Asperger's Syndrome, I was something of a savant, learning to play chess at an early age. The only problem was that I didn't have the foresight or the patience to play it well, so I had to rely on a feature in the game called "Kibitzing." The computer would think of a move for you, which could either get you out of a jam or make a bad situation worse. However, a slim chance at victory was better than a guaranteed loss, so I milked that feature 'till the teats fell off. (It was also fun to use the edit mode to populate my side with queens and leave the computer opponent with one naked, helpless king. Try winning now! Mwa ha haaaa!)

Fast-forward to 2012. When I started this blog, I wanted to give it a clever, memorable title which doubled as a tip of the hat to the gaming web site I'd retired the year before. This is what popped into mind. It doesn't have the same ring as "The Gameroom Blitz," but it gets the job done... and it seems to fit pretty well now that I know what kibitzing actually means.

Contrary to what the instructions in Sargon II Chess would suggest, "kibitzing" is not a flattering term. It's Yiddish for backseat driving; offering advice that wasn't requested or even desired. I've often gotten the feeling that people weren't interested in my running commentary on video games... yet it still keeps coming!