Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Birds in Video Games: California Games and Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage (NES)

I am old enough that I plated the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) when it was new. It ruled. We had our own console and games, but we also partook in the time-honored and must-missed pastime of shlepping to the video store to rent games.

Renting was a great system, because back in those days you could beat an entire video game in a night or a weekend, rather than spending hundreds of hours tweaking the length your avatar's moustache handles or whatever games are like now. Plus, you didn't feel bad about playing a crappy game because you were only out the cost of the rental.

Two of those crappy games were California Games and Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage. 

I remember them specifically as rentals because each had its own eye-catching box art that was hard to miss on the shelves. California Games, from 1987, featured a babe in a yellow bikini. The cover of Town & Country Surf Designs: Wood & Water Rage, from '88, was an absolute mess of shit including a surfing gorilla, a giant yin-yang, and some guy in like a tribal mask? It looks like hell, but I remember it clearly.

Both games looked to cash in on the late-80s popularity of skateboarding, surfing, and other "alternative" sports. Town and Country Surf Designs, aka T&C Surf Designs, is actually a surf shop in Hawaii, which is, having been to plenty of skate/snow/surf stores in my day and meeting the owners, quite a goddamn coup if you ask me. 

Anyway, California Games lets players choose between skateboarding, surfing, footbag, "flying disc," roller skating, and BMX. T&C Surf Designs has just surfing and skateboarding. Wikipedia tells me that California Games was a massive blockbuster, selling more than 500,000 copies. T&C Surf Designs was less of a blockbuster, and, in my experience as a player, sucked ass and was wicked hard.

But since they are both outdoor games they both have birds in them. Let's start with T&C Surf Designs.

Players, like this cat in a tuxedo (??), encounter a gull-like bird during the surfing stage. The bird flies in from stage left and tries to knock the player into the water. It's not a very well rendered bird. Logic would assume it's a gull, but there is nothing that black and white anywhere, and the bird is proportionally more like a goose with its big head. Frankly, I don't like it and don't want to talk about it any more.

There's a better-looking gull in California Games. 

This bird flies over the players head during the footbag stage, and the player can kick the sack up and cause the bird to flip out of control. It's a well-done gull! Gray wings with black tips and a yellow bill. The unmarked yellow bill makes this a pretty good fit for a Short-billed Gull (though the proportions and size are off), which can be found in the Bay Area in winter. The extremely revealing shorts that Alex is sporting in this screencap aren't maybe ideal for winter (though they are ideal for showing off those buns! Get it, Alex!), but there appears to be snow on the mountains in the background so who knows.


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