Happy Halloween!

And happy one year anniversary of West Mansion’s re-opening! I have a lot of great stuff for you today, including a world-exclusive interview with the man in charge of the special visual effects for the original arcade Splatterhouse, Takashi Oda!


Getting warmed up…

As October progresses, I’ve been building up a small collection of Splatterhouse stuff to post on West Mansion, which will lead to the October 31st post celebrating West Mansion’s first year anniversary online. You can see what I added today: https://splatterhouse.kontek.net/new.html

I’ve also made a decision. Updates throughout the year will be reserved for special bits of news, but October will be the month I go all out. That way, I can keep the site alive while continuing to focus on my writing.

See you the next time I update!

Of Writing, Updates and Covid.

Hey, I’m back.

First, West Mansion has been updated: https://splatterhouse.kontek.net/new.html

Second, I’ve been writing a lot recently. My long-gestating book Eating Candy in Outer Space is finally nearing completion! It’s the first of three companion books to Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman. Candy focuses on the non-gaming portion of my life: growing up in the ’80s, coming of age in the ’90s, and everything that went with those, from early interests like toys, to the various early loves and losses I had, early work experiences and so much more.

Eating Candy in Outer Space will be followed at a later date by The Chicken at the End of the Street, which picks up where Candy left off, at the dawn of the 21st century. In it, I discuss becoming a father, my first failed marriage, and how I ultimately met and married Bette, as well as the trials and tribulations we’ve endured since, such as the time in 2020 when I nearly died, as well as becoming a grandfather, plus plenty more wacky work stories and other anecdotes.

The third planned book is Digital Archaeology: Retrogaming Recollections. This is a book that I’m only compiling and editing. If you read Memoirs, you’re most likely familiar with the second half of the book, where I invited quite a few friends and colleagues to share their gaming memories. I decided some time ago that those stories were too good to be relegated to a backseat in Memoirs, and they all deserved to be in their own book. This time around, I’ve also put out an open call for more submissions, and a lot of people have already signed up to contribute. The closer the book gets to release, I’ll be revealing just who’s going to be featured in the book. So keep an eye on Twitter and the Memoirs Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/virtualcaveman

Which brings me to the burning question: what about Memoirs of a Virtual Caveman itself? I knew that splitting out the contributor stories into their own book would cause an issue with the book as it stands, but not to worry. I’m also working on it as well! The previous edition may have been called the “Definitive Edition,” but this new edition is going to be the Final Edition. This time, it’s all me. And I’ve already added plenty of new gaming stories from my past, cleaned up some of the errors in the previous edition, as well as making all sorts of other changes. And after this, that’s it. There will never be another “new, improved edition” of Memoirs published. Who knows, there may be an anniversary edition reprinting down the line somewhere, but as far as making any other changes to it, that’s it. After this, it’s done.

Of course, the artiste extraordinaire PrimeOp is handing the cover art duties. Of the four, Memoirs and Candy are done, but I can’t wait to see his takes on my ideas for Chicken and Digital Archaeology.

Okay, what about Covid? I finally caught the damn thing. Warded it off for over two years, only to have it come after me in my own home. It first really hit me one week ago, and I passed the worst of it on Tuesday, but there’s still that damned lingering cough. I’m just glad I was vaccinated, or it could have been a lot worse.

How many notable towers did ancient Babylon have?

I think as far as Namco is concerned, just one: Druaga’s tower (as thoroughly explored in the games The Quest of Ki, The Tower of Druaga and The Return of Ishtar). The story of Gil and Ki was passed down by the people, and became legend. But as was once said, “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth.” And centuries later, the tower still stands, but is now rumored to be the home of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

One intrepid archaeologist is determined to enter the crumbling tower and find the Hanging Gardens.

His name is Indy.

Indy Borgnine.

Babel no Tou – Namco – 1986

And boy, does he have his work cut out for him.

Babel no Tou is a puzzle game. A very devious, insanely difficult puzzle game that involves the proper placement of L-shaped blocks to get to the exit of each floor, which give Indy access to vines and moving platforms. Indy has a limited amount of strength he can use to pick up the blocks (they’re easily as big as he is, and can crush him if handled improperly), but this can be replenished by finding hidden pitchers. There are plenty of treasures scattered around the different floors of the tower, but sometimes they aren’t worth the effort to pick up. The exception to this would be the crystal balls, because sometimes you have to get them to open the exit door.

But it’s not all just moving blocks around, oh no. There are also plenty of creatures guarding the tower (surviving minions of Druaga’s, maybe?). Luckily, most of them can be defeated by crushing them with the blocks. Still, they make Indy’s life just that much more difficult. Luckily there’s no time limit, or he’d really be screwed. Another thing that makes life easier is a password system, as well as the ability to pause the game and view the entire room by pushing up and down on the d-pad.

Now, if you want to see the real ending of the game, you have to know what to do in the occasional “statue rooms” you come across. If you perform the correct task, an image will appear in the middle of the screen, among them a scorpion, a Japanese “money cat” and Pac-Man. There are eight total. At the very end of the game, you find yourself in a room to enter the password made up of the symbols you found. If you found all eight and put them in the correct order, Indy ascends to the Hanging Gardens and you get the code for the Pro mode.

Babel no Tou is definitely a challenge and a half. Anyone wanting to play this one all the way through had better be prepared to die, a lot.

Next time, I’m going to talk about a Famicom game that wasn’t by Namco. Until then, check out this longplay of Babel no Tou.