dnd-game

Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game

Once I started playing Dungeons & Dragons as a kid, I voraciously consumed anything related to the game. One of my “holy grail” items was a copy of Mattel’s Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game and one Christmas there it was under the tree. I was ecstatic and spent the entire winter break playing it. There is even some vague recollection of me playing it alone at the kitchen table while my family was celebrating new years even in the living room.

Why was I obsessed with this game? Well, besides the print ads for the game, there was this magnificent commercial. They stopped running it before I got my copy, but how could you forget an ad like this?

In the game, a player moves on an electronic board trying to find the treasure and bring it back to a room. Along the way you will encounter walls, other players (in 2 player mode) and of course the dragon. The game was pretty easy to jump into, but I remember it took me a while to really master it. My big issue was the dragon. You just could never tell where it was going to be and in 3 hits, it could slay you. Yes, they did include an incredible dragon figure, but that was only to approximate where it was and more than not, I was way off.

While the game board and figures were beautiful, it was really the sounds that made up this game. As you moved around the board, the pressure you place on the square you landed on would trigger a sound. In a quiet room, you could actually sense the building tension from these simple sounds as you grew closer and closer to the dragon. This tension is something I rarely get in modern video games, outside of jump scares in horror games, and it is a very memorable use of simple technology.

My copy of the game died in the late 80’s. As the time, I wasn’t playing it much, so it moved to the back of the closet and eventually into the basement. At some point my sister threw it in the trash. Not a huge loss, even if now it makes me sad. One bright spot, she only through the game board out. So my figures survived and that amazing dragon is still in my possession and has been used in several pen and paper gaming sessions over the years. The Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game is the game that just keeps on giving.

Dungeons & Dragons

animated-series

Listen to the background music from Star Trek: The Animated Series

The music from cartoons, especially the stuff made in the 60’s and 70’s is criminally underrated. Many big time talents made beautiful tunes that set the mood for low quality animation, often carrying the story forward when budgets were tight.

A few weeks ago, I talked about the talented Ray Ellis and on persons amazing work trying to reclaim his music from the Spider-Man Animated Series. Ellis also worked on other great shows. One of my favorites is Star Trek: The Animated Series. It has deep stories, new characters and music that we just didn’t get in the original Star Trek. Sadly, they never did a full release of the soundtrack to the show.

That is where the internet comes into play. Intrepid YouTuber Grimbot2 took a stab at editing together the available music and put together a great 15 minutes of audio that is full of great songs and musical cues. Here is a rough breakdown of what you will hear courtesy of another YouTuber, MetaRed Coding and Gaming.

0:00 Theme Song
1:00 Intro to episode #1
1:15 Intro to episode #2
1:27 Mystery #1 Music / Part of Intro to episode #2
2:20 Mystery #1 Sound
2:28 Mystery #2 / Romance Music
6:10 Action #1 Sound
6:15 Action #1 Music
6:43 Action #2 / Surprised Sound #1
6:58 Surprised Sound #2
7:14 Action #2 Music
8:41 Mystery #3 Music
9:20 Mystery #4 Music
10:14 Action #3 Sound
10:19 Action #3 Music
11:10 Action #4 Sound
11:13 Action #4 Music
11:57 Intro to episode #3 / Action Music #5
12:30 Mystery #5 / Part of Action #5
13:02 Mystery #6 Music
13:43 Mystery #7 Music
14:41 Action #6
14:54 Closing theme

While not as long as the Spider-Man music, this is great stuff and if you are a fan of Star Trek, it will really trigger some great memories.

Thanks to Geekfilter, the Co-host of Saturday Morning Trek, for sharing this with me.

1900-cry

Was there really a 1-900 number for crying?

This commercial is amazing. Mostly because I am not sure what to make of it. When you called this 1-900 number do you hear people crying? Is it supposed to make you cry? Would a caller be happy paying 2 bucks for the first minute and 45 cents each additional minute or would they cry again once their telephone bill arrived?

When these pay-to-call numbers started proliferating in the nineties, I was always surprised at the number of services you could find advertised on TV during late night. Sure the world has an appetite for the more “adult” offerings that these services provided, but I didn’t know they had an appetite anywhere near of what was being supplied. When the offering was less mature, and not related to Santa Claus or a celebrity, I found it even extra confusing.

Before watching the commercial, you should familiarized yourself with the full cast of criers. Each one is brilliant and deserves your respect. You have:

The woman over the sink…

Weepy business guy..

The red bathrobe sobber…

Mullet guy with single fake tear…

Now here is the commercial in its brilliant entirety. I have watched it over twenty times today and I am still not clear exactly what calling it would have provided. Did anyone out there call it? Was it something to make you cry? Perhaps someone on the other end laughing at you because you were foolish enough to call a number that was supposed to make you cry?

bezos-taco-bell

Remember when Amazon’s Jeff Bezos appeared in a Taco Bell commercial

The world was an interesting place in the early 2000’s. Taco Bell had ended its very popular Taco Bell Chihuahua ads (RIP Gidget) and was looking for a fresh face to help sell its various incarnations of the exact same thing. One of their ideas that surprisingly did not catch on was using Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos as a spokesCEO. At this time this did not strike we as weird for some reason, but looking at it now it is a real head-scratcher.

The commercial opens in a boardroom, in what I assume are Amazon’s offices. A group of seemingly smart people are gathered around Mr. Bezos as he complains about having seen everything in the world of PDAs and Handhelds.

taco-bell-demo

But wait! Here is a handheld you have never had before Jeff. It is Taco Bell’s new Chicken Quesadilla. Being a good CEO, he demands a demo. So the person I assume is the director of cheesy deliciousness steps up to the plate and grabs a handful and takes a bite. She then spend the better part of 5 seconds wordlessly appreciating this scrumptious new food and everyone is very impressed.

taco-bell

I am not sure how/why they got Jeff in this ad, but it makes for a great snapshot of the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. It was a time before the dotcom bubble popped and CEOs of a company that wasn’t even associated with Taco Bell could be the star of their commercials.

TRON Love Scene

Was this scene from TRON too “sexy” for audiences?

Disney’s TRON was a risk for the studio. It was a more “adult” film, but you might be surprised to learn that the film was almost a little more “adult” in nature. Like many films, extra scenes were shot for TRON that wound up on the cutting room floor. Some of those scenes are cut early, but with TRON, you can tell when a scene was cut by how much animation was done for it. It is a good indication of just how close the scene was to making the final cut.

In this scene TRON and YORI visit her “apartment”. It is a plain room, but not for long. With a wave of her arms, not only does the apartment transform in an amazing bit of animation, but YORI herself changes. Turning from:

yori tron sexy

into

tron sexy

People who worked on the film have differing opinions as to why the scene was cut (we also get one dissenting opinion). Director Steven Lisberger thought the scene was too sentimental, while star Bruce Boxleitner remarked in the anniversary DVD that it was just confusing. Bringing into question the sexuality of what up to this scene had been depicted as anthropomorphized computer programs. Visual Effects Supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw believed the scene added a lot to the film.

I tend to agree. It adds a deeper level of humanity to these programs. Something we would get more of a dose of in TRON Legacy. If it had been in the original cut of the film, it would have been something TRON fans would have been discussing for decades afterwards. Instead we get a great, but more sanitized version of the film.

Here is the entire scene in its scintillating glory. Do you think it was best left out?

For more information on TRON, check out the TRON Retroist Podcast and the TRON Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast. (Yes, we love TRON at the Retroist.)

sexy tron

lincoln

An eyewitness to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln makes a television appearance

Even in 1956, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was a long time ago, but to one man the memory was still very much alive. His name Was Samuel J. Seymour and he went on the Garry Moore hosted TV show, “I’ve Got a Secret” as the last living eyewitness to that terrible event. An event that was so shocking that the audience is actually stunned when they learn his secret. It doesn’t take long for the panelists (Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball) to figure out his secret and when they do, we get to hear what a 5-year-old takes away from being there during such a pivotal moment.

It was not the gun shot. It wasn’t people freaking out. No, he remembers being concerned for the man who had fallen out of the balcony. That man was John Wilkes Booth, who had leapt from the balcony after the fateful shot and injured himself when he did. I am not sure if that is just his more concise telling of the story for television or the real thing that stuck in his mind 90+ years later. For more info about Mr. Seymour, check out the 1954 article in the Milwaukee Sentinel that inspired this historical TV appearance. In the article he goes into a lot more detail about what he remembers. It is remarkable.

retroist-podcast-berzerk

Learn all about the video game “Berzerk” on the Retroist Video Podcast

On today’s show, I start off by talking about how after breaking an Atari joystick while playing Berzerk, I grew closer to one friend and further apart from another. Then I jump into the star of this episode, the Stern arcade classic, Berzerk. I talk about the people and company who created the game, the gameplay, strategy, ports, sequels and much much more.

This video podcast was done by Justin M. Salvato of boxing4free.com and is a video-ized version of the original Berzerk podcast I did.

Enjoy!

Not a video fan? Listen to the original audio episode:

Like what you hear/see? Listen and subscribe to the Retroist Podcast!