Sega's Dreamcast is an older video game system, but there is fresh fun coming out for it.
I hadn't booted up my dusty Dreamcast in years, but a new title, Irides: Master of Blocks, prompted me to hook it up. It's a puzzle game that challenges players to match blocks of similar colors to clear them, create different combinations and score points. The game, released recently for $21.90, was published by the GOAT Store (short for Games of All Types, www.goatstore.com), an online operation specializing in retro games and hardware.
Popping in the CD was a blast from the past: the game was easy to pick up and play. Irides looked surprisingly good and played remarkably well, reminding me that this really was a new game even though it was running on an 11-year-old game system.
The Dreamcast console might be discontinued, but the entertainment endures thanks to retro gaming enthusiasts Dan Loosen and Gary Heil, co-owners of the GOAT Store, who just won't let go.
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"My philosophy with all our games is that there has to be something different about the game to make it worth publishing," Loosen said, noting that his latest release is often compared to the popular puzzle game Lumines. "With Irides you get into game-play elements that we really thought makes it stand on its own."
For example, in addition to the single-player experience with escalating levels of difficulty, Irides includes a cooperative mode in which two players can work together, and a multiplayer mode in which as many as four players can compete. The game also has 15 musical tracks to keep the ambience fresh while working through the challenges.
"The Dreamcast is a console that was reverse-engineered legally, and that allows programmers to make games legally but also utilizing all the features of the system," Loosen said. "The games that we've published use the resources of the console and a huge programming library from original programmers. It's a rather robust, modern system."
Irides is the fifth Dreamcast game the GOAT Store has published. Loosen discovered the game in 2006 from Florian Zitzelsberger, a programmer and founder of Mad Peet (www.madpeet.com) in Fullerton, Calif., who also has released a version of the title for the iPhone, known as Blocks2.
"It takes a while," Loosen said of getting games on the market. "All of the games we've published are independent people doing this work in their spare time. They get it done when they have time to get it done."
In a modern gaming culture of elegant graphics, advanced virtual physics, motion control and online competition, is there space for games like Irides? Loosen says there is, as long as big profits aren't a priority.
"We don't do this to make tons of money," Loosen said. "As a whole, we have probably broken even over the years. You are not going to make a lot of money doing it."