The Playlist / Those Tenuous Twos

by Eric-Jon Rössel Waugh

You may have read the first part of this column in the December 2009 Play Magazine. It was intended as a single article, and the start of a whole series of such lists. In the event, I was asked (due to my incorrigible verbosity) to break the article into three pieces; only the first found its way to print. Here is the column in full.

Used to be, when a game was successful enough to demand a sequel, the design team would do its best to avoid repeating itself. Though I’m sure they mostly wanted to keep their job interesting, the practical effect was that if the games were different, they would both remain relevant. In an arcade, Donkey Kong Jr. could stand handsomely by its father, each shilling for its own share of the coin. You might call them companion pieces, rather than updates or replacements.

When home consoles hit, design teams were even more modest, and were generally left to do their own thing. So starting on the NES, you will see a certain trend: successful game spawns weird, only tenuously related sequel; fans of the original scratch their heads; a greatly expanded dev team releases a third game, which is basically just the first again, on steroids; fans think it’s the best thing ever, because it’s exactly the same, except better! And to hell with that weird second chapter.

Thing is… usually the second game is the most interesting you’ll ever see. Continue reading “The Playlist / Those Tenuous Twos”


There’s a bonkersly thoroughly contemplated recombobulation of R-Type on Xbox Live. It’s two-player co-op; it’s got an instant-respawn option, and a million redone graphics options. Hitting the “Y” button flicks between original 2D and remade 3D (with various graphics filters) at will. It’s an instant fade. Crazy!

This game seriously has some of the best music ever. Hearing that theme reappear and develop as the game progresses is weirdly poignant — I get a chill in the back of my neck, as I do whenever some permutation of “Esaka Forever” pops up. It’s just one of those soundtracks.

And the game is now more playable than ever! You can do the proper survival horror experience, or you can just have fun with it in full Life Force mode.


So a week ago I got my hard copy of The Slip. Almost pointless, except for posterity, yet it is nice to have on the shelf. And it’s a limited edition. (I’m #48,960/250,000.)

With that in hand, I ordered the rest of the recent NIN stuff I hadn’t bought — Year Zero, Y34RZ3R0REM1X3D, Ghosts I-IV. I did pay for the download of Ghosts, back when; again, though, hard copy. That all arrived today, and I notice he’s using the same packaging for everything now. Which is interesting. He must have gotten the digipaks in bulk.

Furthermore… well, his latest three halos, in order:

  • Halo 25: Two discs. Left disc, music; right disc, Garageband files. (This was just before
  • Halo 26: Two discs, both music.
  • Halo 27: Two discs. Left disc, music; right disc, DVD of rehearsals.

I see a pattern forming. Will his next album come with an Xbox game?

Something else hilarious. Up until With Teeth — maybe and probably starting with the leading single, The Hand That Feeds; I don’t have a copy, because none of the singles after The Perfect Drug have been worth it — you have Trent’s standard, hugely elaborate packaging, plus the standard parental warnings and publisher copyright info and vague threats about unauthorized reproduction and whatever.

With Teeth era: really simple packaging, and huge, fugly, obnoxious FBI warnings all over the back cover, that imply anyone who buys the album is a potential criminal.

That’s not from a NIN album; the With Teeth ones are far uglier. They’re just a painfully incompetent piece of graphic design. On Year Zero, that’s still there, if a bit more polished (so it looks like a negative image of the above) — and so is an even bigger parody warning, right next to it, in the same style.

And the disc uses heat-sensitive paint, so your fingerprints are clearly left behind.

After R3M1X3D, Trent is free from his contract, and the album backs… well, here’s what they say:

©2008 NIN
Manufactured and Distributed
in The United States by
RED Distribution, LLC.
79 Fifth Ave, 15th Fl

And there’s a bar code. Then in the back of the booklet, there’s a note that everything is Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial Share Alike. There’s a link to explain what that means. And again, “©2008 NIN”. And that’s it.

Who’s Badd?

Oh my lording kittens.

Watch the videos. Just. Do it. Halfway through the first one, if something doesn’t well up inside of you, you… uh, haven’t played the NES game.

I was really cynical until I started to flip through the pictures on the site. The earlier ones were pretty, though… a bit inscrutable. The videos, though. Oh lord, this is perfect This is exactly how the game should work.

Xbox game of 2008? I daresay!