Dead Heads Have A New Way To Pass The Time Online
I just started playing a new game on the internet. It wasn't just any game either. It was the Grateful Dead Game at gratefuldeadgame.com. This game might the best thing there is on the net. If you are a Dead Head like me, stop reading this for just a second, go put on your old tour shirt, grab a loaded bong, and meet me back at your computer...
My grandfather moved my family from Idaho to Eugene, Oregon after attending a Grateful Dead concert at the Oregon Country Fair. My family and I went to at least one tour stop a year until Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. I still have several tour shirts that I consider to be 'family heirlooms.' I still own a 'Skeletons in the Closet' vinyl that is still in it's seal. I have cousins that have begged for me to just let them touch it! Needless to say, I am a HUGE Grateful Dead fan.
Now combine my love of Grateful Dead with my love of video games. Loyal readers know that I have a large collection of arcade games at my house. I don't have food in the fridge, but you know I have Pacman and Dig Dug machines in my living room! I actually took courses in college to learn how to make computer games. I still have a couple that I am working on, and plan to roll out on TWB eventually. However, I may have to hold off, because I could never make something as awesome as the Grateful Dead Game.
Since I have seen what goes into making a computer game, I know first hand how impressive their game is and how hard it must have been to make. In video games, the items you see on the screen are called 'sprites.' For example in the Mario Brothers game, Mario is a sprite, the mushroom power up is a sprite, coins are sprites, etc. I have never, ever seen a game with such vivid and beautiful sprites as found on the Grateful Dead Game. If you like tie-dye and psychedelic colors, then look no further than this game.
The game itself is a pretty basic, yet addictive 'platform' style game. I like to think of it as a cross between Angry Birds, Mario Brothers, and the best acid flashback a person could have. Before you start playing the game, I suggest customizing your bear. You can customize your bear with hats, glasses, tops, bottoms, etc. Some of the items are free, some you have to purchase credits for, called 'stealies.' I am still finding my identity as a Dead Head Bear. To be honest, I never thought I'd have the opportunity! You can see what I look like currently in the picture to the left :)
After making the bear, play the game! I spent at least half an hour after clicking the 'play' tab just sitting there and taking in the awesomeness of the game. Like I said, I am a HUGE Grateful Dead fan, and probably an even bigger video game nerd. So when I saw the glory that is this game, I think I was just awe struck for a minute.
All of the background music is courtesy of the Dead. All of the art inside of the game, both the sprites and the background art, is all classic Grateful Dead. I can literally point out image after image that is tattooed on members of my family and friends.
After I realized that I hadn't even begun to play the game, I started pressing buttons to figure out what the controls were. The left and right arrows move the player. The 'A' button shoots seeds out of a sling shot, the direction of which is controlled by the arrow keys. That's where the similarities to Angry Birds comes in. Although, unlike Angry Birds which has just one location to shoot stuff from, the Grateful Dead Game allows the character to move to any spot in the level and shoot seeds. You hit stuff with the seeds for strategic purposes (no hints!), and if the seed doesn't hit anything useful, it instantly becomes a rose on the ground!
The 'S' button jumps. If you are a 'Grateful Dead Game bear ninja' like me, you will discover that you can hit the jump button twice for extra hops. If you can master the art of the double jump, you can get your imaginary tie-dyed martial arts belt like me. You might be able to get a black belt in Kung Fu in real life, but it pales in comparison to my imaginary tie-dyed belt from the 'martial arts school of Grateful Dead Game bad-assness.' I can shoot seeds with the best of them my friend, and duck all bad guys with my above average nimbleness. Loyal readers already know that I do balloon animals. I also used to be a competitive text messager (I know, I'm a nerd). As a result, I my finger dexterity is second to none!
Now that you have all the basic info, it's time to start the game. I spent so much time bouncing around with my custom bear that it took me a minute to realize what I was supposed to be doing. There are a series of doors. Stand in front of the first one and press the 'up' key. Whenever you need to go in a door, press the 'up' key. The first level has great instructions to get you into the flow of the game. Once you have mastered that level, you are now ready to go to the other levels. The goal is to get your bars full and get to the end of the level. What does 'bars full' mean? You will see when you play!
This game is more than just jumping around trying to find things. If you are a Grateful Dead fan like me, you will realize why this game is called 'The Epic Tour.' There is so much music, so much video, and so much classic Grateful Dead goodness in this game that it should go on tour itself. I played it for hours last night, unlocking footage that I had never seen before and jamming to songs that I haven't heard in awhile. I literally broke out the Chong Bong, which never happens due to fear of breaking, and toked all night like I was at a Dead show. As I'm righting this article right now I feel the need to load a bowl, click the 'play' tab on the game, and start all over again.
Any real Grateful Dead fan prides themselves on being on the 'cutting edge' of Dead culture. My step-uncle has a custom Grateful Dead leather jacket that costs more than his car and appliances combined. One of the hottest items in my uncle's family is a Grateful Dead/Portland Trailblazers basketball autographed by Bill Walton. The Blazers had a fan on TV commercials for awhile where the soul purpose of the commercial was to highlight the fan's tie-dyed shirt with skeleton basketball players in Blazer uniforms on it. If you are one of these kinds of people, or know someone who is, you will look like THE MAN when you show them this game. Trust me, I am already winning nephew of the year here in Oregon.
My uncles have been making fun of me since the days of Atari. 'Johnny, when are you going to go outside and do something fun, I'm putting on the stereo anyways,' was a common when I was growing up. Well now who's telling who what's up?! Now the common expression at my family functions will be, 'Sorry uncle, no you can't use my laptop to play Grateful Dead Game. I'm too busy pimping out my bear!' Haha, paybacks are a mother!
Below are some screen shots of the game. If you can look at that artwork and not be instantly pulled in than you have stronger willpower than I do. I want to thank the creators of the Grateful Dead Game. What you have done is bigger than just making a game for entertainment. To loyal fans of the Dead, this is like having a time capsule for the rest of our lives. It puts a new spin on an oldie but goodie, and will no doubt introduce the greatness of the Dead to a new generation of fans. Since 1995 and the passing of Jerry, I can't think of too many things that have made me as happy as this game has in regards to the Grateful Dead. Somewhere Jerry himself is playing this game in the after life. Hopefully he is able to get to the end of the game with full bars like the Johnny Green bear did :)
P.S. - I have family and friends that are huge Dead Heads up and down the West Coast. The biggest Dead Head fans on the planet (by far) live in and around Salem, Oregon. People can debate it if they want, but for reals, there are two families specifically around Salem, Oregon that bleed Grateful Dead like no others I have ever seen!
Like I said in the article, Johnny Green bear was able to get 100% full bars and get to the end. Can you??
More levels and features are going to be added regularly, I can't wait!