Gameplay: Exploring “Daze Before Christmas”

A few “daze” before Christmas, and all through the gameplay front, not a controller was being button-mashed to death, not even a mouse.

Actually, there was controller button-mashing, and all because of a Christmas game!

Phone Apps and Home Alone Emulators

Normally, if one is in the market for a Christmas game, one would turn to Home Alone as their (presumed only) game of choice. But if retro gaming isn’t for them, phone apps where one matches cookies and Christmasy stuff are always available.

And since I wasn’t willing to just play Home Alone (my boyfriend did a gameplay of it a few years ago, and it frustrated him), I sought out something different.

What I found was a game I’d never heard of before. A game where Santa turns potentially threatening toys and oversized rats into harmless presents to collect and drop on cities all over the world, all wrapped up in the bow of a side-scroller game.

That game, you ask? Why, Daze Before Christmas!

Daze Before Christmas

Daze Before Christmas is a 1994 side-scroller developed by Norwegian video game Funcom, and was released to the Sega Mega Drive in 1994 by Sunsoft, exclusively in Australia. A Super Nintendo release occurred in both Australia and Europe, but not in the United States. Daze Before Christmas was one of the last games released by Sunsoft’s United States division.

As Santa, you’re out to conquer the evil snowman who imprisoned your elves and kidnapped your reindeer. Using Awesome Magical Christmas Powers (my words), evil rats and toys become harmless Christmas presents. Santa collects these presents in each level, and drops them over major cities as the player progresses through the game.

The game consists of twenty-four different levels (like an Advent calendar), and pit Santa against the elements – dangerous toy factories, ice caves, snow, The North Pole, and the skies above London.

Yes, London.

Gameplay

The game’s colorful graphics and fun visuals are not merely cover for a substandard game. The controls are excellent, and compliment the fun visuals. I tried the first six levels of the game, and I had fun playing what I tried so far. The graphics are very 16-bit, the music Christmas, and it is not Home Alone. That puts it in a good light already!

So, whenever you’re ready, click play below and experience…

Daze Before Christmas

Upload via Allison Venezio / Allison’s Written Words

Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Oh hell yeah, Chicago did Hip Hop!

The Stone of Sisyphus Rolls On…

Returning to roots is not always a bad thing. However, if you’re Chicago, and your record label doesn’t like change, then, well…your album gets shelved.

I received the Chicago album Stone of Sisyphus as a birthday present. When I received it, I only knew “The Pull,” and “Bigger Than Elvis.” As you know, that’s because I wrote previous articles for both songs. Needless to say, I was excited about this gift. As a nostalgia archaeologist (or “Digital Indiana Jones“), I was fully prepared to immerse myself in deeper meanings and unreleased 1990s glory in a 2000s world.

What I found was the cooler, better-sounding 1990s answer to 1979’s “Street Player,” “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.” And guess what, they tried disco, so why not…Hip Hop.

That’s right, Chicago did Hip Hop!

Chicago Did Hip Hop?!

Much of Stone of Sisyphus feels like an experimentation of formats. The album departs from the power ballad rabbit hole of the late 1980s. While some of that is represented here, Chicago isn’t beating us over the head with it. They’re embracing the ability to stretch their creative muscles, hence, “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed.”

According to Robert Lamm:

When John McCurry and I were cutting the demo, I had the lyrics written, we had the track, and I never really sang a melody. I was just kind of riffing. The rhythm of the words was there, but the melody wasn’t. I went out into the studio to do a rough vocal, and McCurry pushed the talkback button and said, “Why don’t you rap it?” And we both started laughing: OK, let’s try that.

According to Bill Champlin:

I think the record company heard that [“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”] and went, ‘Wait a minute – white guys don’t do this.’ Simple as that. I told Robert I thought it was an awesome piece, but you’re running up against racial lines here. I think that’s the first time Robert’s crossed any of those lines in a good long while.

Of course, in 1993, Bill was experimenting with something far more epic than music…Hair, Party of one!

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” combines the sound of then-contemporary Hip Hop music (commonly referred to as Rap during that time), with the sound of Chicago’s “rock with horns.” I haven’t heard anything quite like this since Tom Jones rapped his heart out. And hey, his career was on a resurgence, so it had to work for Chicago, right?

Having alleged sex appeal probably didn’t hurt either.

Looking for the Big Hit…

It matters if I like it, right?

Because I do!

Unlike the aforementioned Disco Disaster known as “Street Player,” this song actually works! It is fun, funky, and experimental to the hilt! The obvious “we’re having fun” vibe is present throughout. And this grouping of lyrics?

I read somewhere that religion is for people
Who want to stay out of hell
I was praying for a sign or a vision or a message
Till you been there you won’t get well
I was sitting in a room I’d never recognize it
With a picture before my eyes
I’ve been sleeping in the middle of the bed again
I’m not sure this qualifies

I’d say a helluva good drug was available when Robert Lamm wrote this song, but he was clean for quite a few years at this point.

That Chicago Hip Hop Song…

Robert Lamm co-penned “Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed” with songwriter John McCurry, who has also worked with Cyndi Lauper, Billy Joel, David Bowie, Alice Cooper, John Waite, Belinda Carlisle, Julian Lennon, Joss Stone, Katy Perry, The Jonas Brothers, and Elliott Yamin. Robert Lamm is responsible for the vocals.

Someone that is quite possibly even more white than Robert Lamm. And Tom Jones.

Walter Parazaider discussed the exploration of this untapped genre:

Robert was just exploring another genre, which we’d been doing since Day One. I hink the only things we haven’t covered are Dixieland and polkas, and give us long enough we’ll probably do that too.

 

Because when you’ve done Disco, Hip Hop, Rock, and Power Ballads, this is naturally the course you must take.

Naturally!

I have to give Lamm kudos – on an album that already was quite the experimental mix, this song definitely stands out. And while “standing out” isn’t always a good thing, this was A Good Thing. I’ll give that it sounds bizarre for someone who had never rapped before (read: a 40-something-year-old white guy who sang in Italian on “Saturday in the Park”) to attempt it, but Tom Jones did it, so why not Lamm? Credit where credit is due, this song was creative in its efforts.

The disco album, on the other hand, was selling out.

“Sleeping in the Middle of the Bed”

And now, the part of the article where I unleash the song on you!

Ladies and gentlemen, Chicago rapping about religion, love storms, and lying dormant in a selected spot on a specified sleeping area.

Upload via Chicago – Topic

So now, you can tell everyone about that time that Chicago did Hip Hop…and prove it to them!

Not that this comes up in those bar/pub quiz nights, but if it does…

All-4-One…and All 4 Christmas!

It’s the most obvious time of the year to be into Christmas music. And as I said in my previous article about Chicago’s Christmas albums, I like my staples, but I also like some unconventional Christmas music. Hence, the Chicago Christmas album…and All-4-One’s 1994 effort.

All-4-One. You remember them, right? They came after Boyz II Men, were based in the Los Angeles area (unlike Boyz II Men, who were based in Philadelphia, PA), and had a smooth R&B sound. Ranging in age from 20 to 24 at the beginning of their fame, they were beautiful, soulful, and they even had that one guy with the really deep voice. Now, I’ll confess, playing any music by this group will make me scream like it is the mid-1990s, I’m fourteen years old, and I’m popping their CDs into my Sony Discman.

And I may or may not have screamed the same way over watching All-4-One perform on one of the David Foster concerts.

Uploaded by All-4-One (Official Channel)

Ok, I definitely screamed like someone who would throw their panties (but that didn’t happen!). Why would anyone…

I’m sure it has happened, folks. No, I’ve never done that!

All-4-One, consisting of members Jamie Jones, Delious Kennedy, Alfred Nevarez, and Tony Borowiak – all of whom are still a quartet today – released their first album in 1994, a self-titled effort. So naturally, when you have a hit album, a Christmas album is probably circling nearby.

Case in point:

OMG, yes. This. This album. This album spent the whole month of December in my Discman. I didn’t own any “traditional” Christmas albums in 1996…I owned this. I played the heck out of this CD for at least three years. It also has the distinction of being one of my first CDs in addition to being the first Christmas album I ever owned.

All-4-One puts the soulful spin on the traditional Christmas songs, giving them a 1990s R&B sound. If you think all R&B music sounds the same, you’re not fooling anyone. 1990s R&B had a sound all of its own, and while these guys were probably pegged as riding Boyz II Men’s coattails, they knew how to stand out the right way.

I’d love for you to bask in the warm glow of 90s R&B, with an album that was truly All 4 Christmas.

You see what I did there?!

Oh fine, just click play.

Admit it, your Discman/Walkman-toting ’90s childhood came screaming back just a little, didn’t it?

So, I ask you fine readers: What was your first Christmas album back in the day? I’d love to hear from you!

You can contact me on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut to tell me what your first Christmas album was!

Allison was a Walkman/Discman-toting ’90s child, and she’s proud to admit it. She didn’t buy her next Christmas album until the year she graduated high school, but this was her first, and she’ll always treasure it…even if she can’t find her copy and had to listen to it on You Tube (thank goodness for You Tube!). If you like what you’ve seen/heard here, she’s got a whole blog of Christmas craziness (until December 25th, of course, then it just becomes craziness as usual!), over at Allison’s Written Words. You can follow her blog on Facebook, and her on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

She really would love to know what your first Christmas album was!