Video: EA Chicago’s Unreleased Marvel Game

Posted on August 22nd, 2008 by Frank Cifaldi

Friend of Lost Levels (or at least fairweather forums poster) Andrew Borman has posted very nice straight-from-debug shots and video of an unreleased EA Chicago-developed Marvel fighting game at his brand new website, The game appears to have been a one-on-one fighter taking place in a number of large locales, with destructable environments, pedestrians, and a really, really strange art style on Hulk.

This untitled game most likely ceased development after EA shut down its Chicago office in November of 2007. It is currently unknown if, like the Fight Night series, EA continued development at another studio before its public separation from Marvel in January of this year, but I doubt it.

The build Borman “was able to take a look at” (whatever that means!) is pretty early in development, so the video is fun to watch. You get to see a strange Golden Age-style Captain America let out some aggression on portable toilets, and some environments are really buggy and have fun effects, like floating mid-air prisoners at Ryker’s Island.

Borman also has exclusive shots and video of Def Jam ICON 2, another project apparently canceled when the studio was closed down.

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Actual M2 in-game footage!

Posted on August 22nd, 2008 by Frank Cifaldi

D2Over on the forums, PC Games That Weren’t webmaster Timo Weirich has been posting footage of real game code running on what must be real Panasonic M2 hardware!

This stuff is a real treat, as game footage from the system — despite its media popularity and close-to-launch-ness — is incredibly rare. Here is what he’s posted so far:


video #1
video #2

IMSA Racing: (dig that music!)

video #1
video #2

Iron & Blood:

M2 port
Original PlayStation version (for comparison)

While I’m on an M2 kick, here’s a brief collection of videos from Konami arcade games that ran on M2 hardware, to give you a better taste of what the games might have looked like if the console came out:

Battle Tryst
Evil Knight
Heat of Eleven ‘98

There are also some various other M2-related videos on Youtube, but let’s just keep this limited to real game code running on the hardware. Stuff worth noting: D2 was completely reworked for the Dreamcast and is a different game, Iron & Blood was not a planned game as much as a tech demo, and the announcer from Heat of Eleven ‘98 needs to narrate every game ever.

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Unreleased Jaguar Game for Sale, Expensive

Posted on August 22nd, 2008 by Frank Cifaldi

blackice.jpgBlack Ice, White Noise was an ambitious 3D adventure game for the Jaguar CD that was canceled by publisher Atari right around its Alpha phase. It is an interesting historical footnote for two reasons, the first being that this dark and seedy (and extremely expensive) cyberpunk thing was an internal response to Sam Tramiel mandating a new mascot for the Atari brand (the lady in the red jacket, I guess?), and second because it is a third person 3D game where the main character explores a large 3D city by either walking or stealing cars, designed several years before that one game came out that all the other games copied for a while.

The game itself is old news for readers of [insert credit], but today I learned via gameSniped that copies of Alpha builds of the game are for sale at unreasonably high prices! You can pay $1,500 on eBay, if you’d like, or you can buy direct from the licensed distributor. There are two separate builds of the game - both are in Alpha, and while one is more feature-complete, the earlier one crashes less often. For some reason both builds are $30 each, and you can’t get a deal on a bundle, so I guess you can either spend $60 to get all you can out of the experience or choose what’s more important to you, less crashes or features like “the infamous ‘Zebra Hooker.’” You can also get the soundtrack for $20, which was written by the guy who wrote Herb Alpert’s Rise and, if his disgrace-to-god website is to be believed, Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize. He did some other game music too - the video game discography is kind of hidden on his site, but you can see it here. Before you get excited, no, he didn’t do the soundtrack to The Adventures of Batman and Robin on the Genesis, he composed the music for the beautifully animated cutscenes in the Sega CD version that sounded nothing at all like the music from the show.

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Desert Bus for Hope

Posted on November 26th, 2007 by Frank Cifaldi

Some wackos at have started a charity event near and dear to my heart, and certainly to this site.

Remember Desert Bus, the infamous and evil mini game designed by Two and a Half Men producer and former Saturday Night Live writer Eddie Gorodetsky? It was included on the unreleased Sega CD title, Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors, described on this very site in early 2006. The premise, if you don’t want to click on that handy link, is simple: players must drive a full-sized bus from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV, an incredibly boring drive through endless desert. The bus never goes over 45 mph, and it veers to the right ever so slightly, meaning that you can’t simply tape down buttons and walk away; if you do, the bus crashes, and a tow truck takes you back to the beginning, in real time. Oh, also, the trip takes eight hours. Eight real world hours of endless desert.

The game was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek response to anti-game legislature of the time from former Attorney General Janet Reno, an answer to the controversy that games had become too violent. Desert Bus was publisher Absolute Entertainment’s first in a line of games “stupefyingly like reality,” an alternative to ultra violent games like Doom or Night Trap. Rather than simulating gun-toting or, um, trap-springing, players would simulate real world ordeals, like driving a bus for eight boring hours.

The LoadingReadyRun guys are playing a huge marathon session of Desert Bus in an effort to raise funds for Penny Arcade’s Child’s Play charity; the more that is donated, the more hours they put in. As of this writing they’ve been playing for two days and eighteen hours, and still have about thirty-two hours of driving ahead of them - which increases as more donations come in! And in a move that just warms my damned heart, Desert Bus creator Eddie Gorodetsky and Penn & Teller themselves have contributed a significant amount to the $11,000 that has been raised so far.

God speed, you crazy bastards. Or 45mph, I guess.


Previously-Unreleased NES Game Now For Sale

Posted on November 21st, 2007 by Frank Cifaldi

Available for sale at RetroZone is a first for Nintendo Entertainment System enthusiasts, a mass-produced cartridge of a previously-unreleased title, Airball.

Originally a computer game published by the relatively obscure and long-defunct MicroDeal (my personal favorite title of the company’s being Cuthbert Goes Walkabout), the NES version of Airball was being ported for publishing outlaw Tengen in the 90s, just in time for system sales to be completely destroyed by the new 16-bit consoles.

The developer behind this particular port was none other than Novotrade, which was primarily a port house at the time - in fact, its only other documented NES development is Impossible Mission II. Novotrade eventually found their shining star with a time-traveling dolphin named Ecco, changed names to Appaloosa Interactive, developed one of my personal favorite B-games, Jaws Unleashed, and then kind of disappeared…does anyone know if the company’s still around?

The game itself is a pseudo-3D isometric fetch-quest, along the lines of Knight Lore, Alien 8, Batman and the like (or, if you’re only console literate, Solstice on the NES). As the NES-exclusive opening cinema shows, an evil wizard has turned the player’s human character into a ball, and sets him on a journey around his castle to find a handful of items he’s misplaced. The catch, though, is that the ball has a slow air leak, and will turn into a useless, immobile pile of rubber when it runs out. The player must balance his or her efforts between locating scattered air pumps to stay mobile, dodging all sorts of pointy things that the castle seems to be entirely constructed out of, and locating the wizard’s crap, the actual locating usually being only half of the puzzle with the rest consisting of tricky jumps, item manipulation, and luck.

Novotrade’s port shows a lot of loving care, with thought put into making a notoriously difficult computer game accessible to a console audience. Exclusive to this version are Easy and Normal modes, which tone down the amount of damage the ball can handle, eliminate the danger of over-inflation on the air pumps, and rearrange the quest items to much more easily-accessible rooms. Hard mode is an accurate recreation of the original computer game, which makes the quest longer and more dangerous with one-hit kills and entire castle wings that are unnecessary to visit at lower difficulties.

Other new touches include an original soundtrack, awesomely crappy voice samples for the wizard’s dialog, the ball’s ability to automatically shift to the nearest “track” when the player stands still (very handy when exact placement is necessary to avoid death), and both opening and closing cinemas.

The physical product, currently at $35 USD, comes in a custom-made clear plastic shell, and includes a glossy label, manual, and even a box! The ever-vigilant NES World has an extensive review that includes new images and video, for those curious. There’s also a game solution available at GameFAQs which is, to my knowledge, the first walkthrough to appear online for any variation of this game.

Virtual Console Alternatives

Posted on November 8th, 2007 by Frank Cifaldi

Earlier this year on our forums, I came up with a stupidly clever way to let everyone play the massive backlog of unreleased NES games we had piled up. Every Monday, when Nintendo released fun, classic games on the Virtual Console, Lost Levels would release a bad unreleased game that no one had ever heard of.

From February through June we managed to nearly release one brand new, previously-unreleased NES game every week, with very little fanfare. This was stuff that we didn’t get around to writing proper articles for, so they never quite reached the front page here. And, surprise surprise, no blog or news outlet picked it up. Well, here fellas, I’m going to make it easy on you, with links to each forum thread for further information.

Eleven Previously-Unreleased NES Games for the Discerning Software Pirate

1. Buzz & Waldog

Buzz & Waldog is a pretty interesting cartoon platformer from Korean developer Daou Infosys. This was going to be published in the United States by a company called Innovation Tech which, if I’m not mistaken, was the short-lived (as in, they never released anything) publishing arm of a mail-order games company called The Ultimate Games Club. If you read game mags at the time, you might remember Innovation for Video Games & Computer Entertainment’s coverage of The Dinosaur Dooley, a rather bland Game Gear game that used unauthorized 8-bit renditions of Nirvana and Ugly Kid Joe songs. Actually, that one didn’t come out either, maybe I should make a post about it.

2. Scarabeus

Scarabeus is a puzzle game with mechanics similar to Polarium on the DS, developed by Source the Software House for the extremely short-lived video game division of Matchbox. This game actually did come out in simplified form on the original Game Boy, with the title Pyramids of Ra (this is why the graphics are in black and white!). Game designer Ross Harris stopped by to discuss this title, among other games, in the above-linked forum thread. Apparently, Scarabeus was reworked at one point to be a Wizard of Oz tie-in, of all things!

3. The Adventures of Dr. Franken

This is another unreleased port from the Game Boy, this time from British developer Elite. In this game, Dr. Franken must find the scattered remains of his dead girlfriend by running around in his pajamas and jumping over things. Those British developers sure did enjoy the “run around a large map and collect keys” genre, and this game is a shining example.

4. Time Diver: Eon Man

Eon Man is a pretty decent platformer develped by A.I. for publisher Taito that readers of my old site may remember. British developers may love the collectathons, but man, Japanese NES developers sure loved recreating Ninja Gaiden back then. The gimmick this time around is time travel, with Eon Man braving different eras to stop bad guys from copying the plot of Terminator. I did a video feature on this back when I thought Lost Levels should have a Youtube show, but I got lazy and never finished it.

Note that the version of this game previously floating around the internet was some kind of strange Chinese bootleg, this particular ROM is from an authentic Taito cartridge.

5. Dragon Wars

This is one of those oldschool first-person RPGs that only masochistic supernerds still talk about. Originally a computer game by Interplay, this NES port was done for Kemco. This was released in Japan, but the above is an unreleased English translation, which unfortunately isn’t complete in the build we acquired. Not very fun, but I do have a soft spot for old Kemco music, so it has some nostalgia value.

6. Titan Warriors

Probably the most exciting of the lot, Titan Warriors is a completely unreleased home conversion of Capcom’s top-down shooter Vulgus with tons of new material, not the least of which is an original soundtrack that sounds like it came right out of Bionic Commando or Mega Man 3.

7. Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends


8. The Legend of Robin Hood

Action RPG about the hero of Locksley. It’s in an early state, but it has some interesting features, including a full day-to-night cycle and the ability to club a bear to death for no reason. This game wasn’t entirely canceled, it was recycled and remade into the much more straightforward and boring Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves to coincide with the movie of the same name.

9. Makai Island

Another extended home port of a classic Capcom arcade game, this time Pirate Ship Higemaru. Unlike Titan Warriors, this port was released in Japan. The above English-language translation, however, is the only one currently known to exist.

10. Mickey Mouse Dream Balloon

This game wasn’t technically unreleased, though the final version, Kid Klown, did not feature Mickey Mouse in any way, shape or form. All in all, not a bad little platformer, with some interesting mechanics involving bouncing balloons. Oh, and the best intro screen of any video game, ever.

11. Xybots

Bland and ugly port of Atari’s arcade game of the same name.

Such Things That Never Was

Posted on November 7th, 2007 by Frank Cifaldi

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about a new blog that, gasp, talks about unreleased games, and I’d feel pretty stupid not making a post about it!

Such Things That Never Was is set to detail all sorts of silly things that never made it through production, including movies and, in a very successful effort to steal the thunder away from my lazy ass, games. Its author, the mysterious Surfer Girl, seems to have some connection to the games industry that is more on the developer side than mine, as she’s dug up info on tons of recent projects that never got as far as even being announced.

The post most often discussed is “18 canceled games you never knew existed unless you worked on them,” which is just what it sounds like. And given that I didn’t work on any of these games, all of them were news to me, including an updated Joust (complete with screenshots!), Freelancer 2, an Alone in the Dark sequel by Computer Artworks (developer of the also-dead A Sound of Thunder game), a spooky action platformer by True Crime developer Luxoflux called Ghost World (unrelated to the comic book, I’m assuming), an Oni sequel by Angel Studios (now Rockstar San Diego), and tons more.

And hey, don’t miss her other, somewhat more random blog, Surfer Girl Reviews Star Wars, which has lots of interesting secret tidbits from around the games industry. I don’t know if any of these claims are true, but here are a few highlights that interest me personally: three new Wario games are in development, the Mario/Dragon Quest hybrid board game Itadaki Street DS is getting a release stateside, Ubisoft is working on sequels to both Beyond Good & Evil and Red Steel, Retro Studios is working on a new game that is not Metroid and not an FPS, a Chu Chu Rocket sequel is in development, and these apparently early screenshots of Prince of Persia 4 look a hell of a lot like Ico.

I have no idea who Surfer Girl is, and she wants it to remain that way (as expressed in our email conversations), but like my old boss Simon Carless, I do have a guess, and I’m sure it’s wrong. Assuming she’s not outright lying, here is what we know about Surfer Girl, mostly taken from her interview on Kotaku Australia (there’s a Kotaku Australia???):

-Is a girl
-Occasionally surfs
-Was a journalism major
-Is an industry “insider,” emphasis hers
-Has been playing games for “15-20 years”
-Is a fan of Lost Levels, but hates how infrequently I update (this one’s for you!)

Well, I’m a fan. Hats off to you, Surfer Girl, whoever you are. You had the balls to take one of my fantasies and make it real, and I’m a bit jealous because of it.