Tagged: Sega

Catching up with Jambo! Safari after 17 Years

Earlier in the week I recounted my sub-par experiences with pinball during our vacation to Disney World. But just a few feet away from those janky machines was one of the best surprises of the whole trip: Sega’s Jambo! Safari. I probably haven’t touched the game since 2000 and at the time it wasn’t as appealing as Crazy Taxi, Emergency Call Ambulance or any of Sega’s other wild arcade racing games. I may have played it five or six times in my life but just recently I’d been thinking about it more intently.

This also reminded me of the pseudo-port/sequel that Sega released on the Wii in 2009. Jambo! Safari: Animal Rescue has some of the same gameplay as the original but it’s also inflicted with Wii-itis: the compulsion to throw in kid-friendly motion controls and minigames. On top of that it looks like a slow paced zoo sim that requires you to pet, feed and manage your animals. Look, I’m just here to powerslide around Africa… at least that’s all that I remembered about the arcade original.

The machine we found at our resort was in the streamlined stand-up cabinet which made managing the brake and gas pedals a little tricky and uncomfortable for me. Nevertheless I was happy to dive in and rediscover what set Jambo! apart from the rest. “It’s like car fishing,” Katy and I agreed. Jambo! Safari takes the race-the-clock design of Crazy Taxi and mixes it with Sega Bass Fishing of all things.

After you rope an animal you have to manage a tension meter to wear them down until you can finally line up a second shot to net them. If it weren’t for the timer it would be painfully easy but as the seconds tick away you push to be faster which brings out the game’s hilarious shenanigans. Grappling a large animal or powersliding too sharply can send your jeep barreling into comical spins. As animals elude you they’ll throw up a mocking emote while the broken English text chides you.

Some of the “Final Research” missions are coin-gobblingly sleazy if you aren’t ready for them but overall it was a surprise and a treat to play again after nearly 17 years. Check out the 2-part video above for an overview of the machine that we found and a few brief rounds with this unsung Sega classic.

Pinball at Disney World in 2017 isn’t so Magical

I found the one thing that's completely not magical at Walt Disney World: the pinball.

I found the one thing that’s completely not magical at Walt Disney World: the pinball. For starters, the parks are practically devoid of arcades now. The shop attached to Space Mountain that once had a small assortment of machines is now 100% merchandise. With Pizza Planet at Hollywood Studios being transformed into PizzeRizzo there are even fewer places to find some games at the parks, not to mention pinball.

Our home-away-from-home this time was Port Orleans French Quarter whose tiny, misshapen arcade had one pinball machine, TRON Legacy. We were killing some time waiting for our bus back to the airport so I finally gave it a shot. Almost immediately my ball got wedged in one of the side lanes and the machine had to go through its auto-shaking routine three times before it was finally released. Also, any time “Shoot Again” was active it would return multiple balls so I usually had 2 or 3 in play at once.

Earlier in the trip we stopped over at Port Orleans Riverside, a much larger resort that’s basically attached to French Quarter and shares similar Louisianian theming. Their arcade was three times the size of French Quarter’s and had 4 Stern tables lined up in the back for what amounted to $0.25 per play. The first one I played was Indiana Jones and I knew it was going to be a catastrophic game as soon as my credit activated the table.

The right flipper was not only super weak but it would constantly get lodged in place. Only the ball hitting it would cause it to drop back down. Making any specific shot from the right hand side was more impossible than usual for me. Somehow I still managed to get a multiball which resulted in a satisfying explosion of chrome balls from the Ark of the Covenant. Similar to TRON though, all of the balls were returned after multiball ended for the remainder of my game. Trying to get a ball back into play with 6 of them stacked up was kind of more fun than the table itself.

Sega's Jambo! Safari was a great surprise at Port Orleans Riverside

I didn’t get to check for pinball at any other resorts on this trip but after these experiences it would probably have end with more disappointment. “Ramshackle” is the word I’d use to describe the pinball at Disney World’s resorts. As entertaining as the janky behavior was I would have preferred to fail at pinball on my own terms. The highlight of the trip as far as gaming was concerned definitely goes to Sega’s Jambo! Safari which I haven’t played in … *does the math* … wow, over 15 years! I’ve got some video of it that I’ll hopefully have posted later this week.

Let’s ignore Sonic’s checkered past for one day – he’s 25 today!

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It’s Sonic’s 25th Anniversary today and Amazon is the winner so far for unexpected tributes. The homepage features the video above wherein Sonic runs past his numerous, sometimes questionable milestones without flashing a hint of embarrassment at pretty much everything past 1999. They even picked Palmtree Panic from Sonic CD for the music instead of the typical Green Hill Zone tune! Good on ya Amazon, now go buy some Sonic stuff and help me make a few pennies.

In related celebratory Sonic news, the indie game music label Materia Collective is releasing a huge remix album at some point today. It sounds classy as hell from this preview track, I’m looking forward to hearing the rest. And poking around Bandcamp yesterday I came upon this totally outstanding rearranged album from 2012, Mindwipe Goes Sonic. Damn it’s good!

If you haven’t seen it elsewhere there’s also a Sonic Humble Bundle going on but they’ve broken it up so every tier has at least one of the games you’d really want in a Sonic collection. That t-shirt in the $35 tier is preeeeetty tempting though.

Happy B-Day Sonic! Here’s to a comeback title I can finally get into.

Sega Networks acquires and invests in more Mobile studios

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If any hopes were still smoldering that Sega’s new focus on the Western market with PC and mobile games was an elaborate smokescreen to hide a stunning return to form of wild Japanese creation, I’ve got a bucket of water for you.

Sega Networks, the mobile division of the ramshackle organization that is Sega proper, has announced some major acquisitions and investments today. Demiurge Studios, the team that most recently created Marvel Puzzle Quest is now wholly owned by Sega. The division has also established a majority share in San Francisco’s indie startup, Ignited Artists, and made a “strategic investment” in the UK studio, Space Ape Games.

Naturally, all three groups are mobile focused and while that isn’t my favorite platform to play games on, I’m willing to give this new effort from Sega a chance. There’s plenty of talent in the three studios and maybe (just maybe) they can take some old Sega IP and breathe new life into it. Failing that, maybe their Free-to-Play, microtransaction-filled castle defense games will bankroll a Sega product I’d be interested in. Say, a reboot of Doctor Robotnik where you’re capturing cute animals and turning them into Badniks.

Now Playing: Dragon Coins (Android, iOS)

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There are two types of mobile games that usually catch my eye. There’s the physics games like Stair Dismount… and there are coin dozers. Why are coin dozer games so captivating? Maybe it’s because I never, ever wasted my arcade tokens on them when I was younger. That’s not to say I didn’t want to watch my hard earned token set off a shower of coins that would enable my crippling wax bottle candy addiction. It just always seemed like a better value to keep playing shooters and brawlers. While arcades with physical coin dozer games have mostly fizzled out, the coin dropping fire from my youth never has.

First it was Game Circus’ Coin Dozer on iPad and their many variations. Then Coins vs Zombies which added all kinds of weird wrinkles. Now Sega has gone and combined coin dozers, collectible card games and role-playing games in the questionably dubious Dragon Coins. Why so uncertain about its dubiousness? Being a mobile game, Dragon Coins is naturally bogged down by stamina timers, friends lists, consumable items, and no less than four different currencies. That said, I have yet to be bombarded with ads or requests to spend real money. They’re both in there but the game doesn’t assault you with them which is good because there’s a lot going on in this game.

Forget about that mobile stuff and let’s focus on the gameplay. You’re some kind of hero in charge of a team of five monsters represented as collectible cards. Each has an elemental affinity, unique health and attack ratings and special skills. You choose four monsters, designate a Leader (which unlocks a unique skill of its own) and pick another players’ monster to fill in the fifth slot before heading into battle. Coin Battle!

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The game is broken up into an array of chapters and areas and battles but there’s no story to tie any of it together. Basically, poke the Mission button and then the Start button. You’ll see the familiar coin dozer interface with your five monsters at the bottom of the screen and waves of enemies at the top. Your goal is to strategically drop coins in the upper area and hope they push coins off the bottom edge to charge up your monsters’ attacks. Some monsters take multiple coins to charge up so there always seems to be something kicking off as the momentum builds and the coins slide around.

As you attack with multiple monsters you’ll build up a combo causing enemies to spill gold and health coins and skill cubes across the board. This is where Dragon Coins feels the most satisfying. You can only drop a prescribed number of coins before the enemies attack but with combos you can keep filling the board with coins and tearing them apart. Collect the skill cubes and you can unleash all kinds of powerful, temporary boosts like making the pusher move faster, bringing up walls on the sides of the board and doing double damage. There’s a great tension to battles as you build up a glut of coins until they’re teetering on the edge and then try to manage your boosts as everything explodes with a single drop.

It’s a coin dozer game you guys! It’s not especially hard and you’re encouraged to grind past missions to build your team but that’s where the mobile stuff kicks in. Leveling up monsters requires you to Fuse and Evolve them with other random monsters you find while battling. This costs Gold Coins but you’ll never get that many coins without grinding old missions. Playing missions costs Stamina which slowly recharges over time or can be refilled with a consumable item. These items also cost coins but these are Rainbow coins, the really rare currency you can buy with cash. I’m several dozen missions into it now and have yet to be cut off. I usually do a few rounds at a time and quit just as I’d run out of Stamina for the hour. But I know it’s coming, the moment when the enemies get so hard or the Stamina drains so fast that the game offers that simple solution: hey man, you’ve got all those Rainbow coins, get a fix, I’m here for ya.

It’s icky. I hate those mobile game “features” but Dragon Coins is a strategic and fun evolution of the coin dozer. It’s got permanence and progression — quite a bit with 758 monsters — and for that I’m willing to deal with energy and currencies. Will I ever catch ‘em all? Doubtful, but for the time being it sure is fun (and free) to try.