Keep Pedaling to Keep Playing

It’s been said that the best way to tackle the issue of childhood obesity would be to hook those children’s video game consoles up to a pedal-powered generator. Of course, this was said by [Alex], the creator of Cykill. Cykill interfaces an Xbox to an exercise bike, so to keep the video game going you’ll have to keep pedaling the bike.

While there is no generator involved in this project, it does mimic the effect of powering electronics from a one. The exercise bike has a set of communications wires, which are connected to a relay on the Xbox’s power plug. When the relay notices that the bike isn’t being pedaled enough, it automatically cuts power to the console. Of course, the risk of corrupting a hard drive is high with this method, but that only serves to increase the motivation to continue pedaling.

The project goes even further in order to eliminate temptation to bypass the bike. [Alex] super-glued the plug of the Xbox to the relay, making it extremely difficult to get around the exercise requirement. If you’re after usable energy instead of a daily workout, though, there are bikes out there that can power just about any piece of machinery you can imagine.

Arbitrary Code Execution is in Another Castle!

When one buys a computer, it should be expected that the owner can run any code on it that they want. Often this isn’t the case, though, as most modern devices are sold with locked bootloaders or worse. Older technology is a little bit easier to handle, however, but arbitrary code execution on something like an original Nintendo still involves quite a lot of legwork, as [Retro Game Mechanics Explained] shows with the inner workings of Super Mario Brothers 3.

While this hack doesn’t permanently modify the Nintendo itself, it does allow for arbitrary code execution within the game, which is used mostly by speedrunners to get to the end credits scene as fast as possible. To do this, values are written to memory by carefully manipulating on-screen objects. Once the correct values are entered, a glitch in the game involving a pipe is exploited to execute the manipulated memory as an instruction. The instruction planted is most often used to load the Princess’s chamber and complete the game, with the current record hovering around the three-minute mark.

If you feel like you’ve seen something like this before, you are likely thinking of the Super Mario World exploit for the SNES that allows for the same style of arbitrary code execution. The Mario 3 hack, however, is simpler to execute. It’s also worth checking out the video below, because [Retro Game Mechanics Explained] goes into great depth about which values are written to memory, how they are executed as an instruction, and all of the other inner workings of the game that allows for an exploit of this level.

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Rebonding an IC to Save Tatakae! Big Fighter

Preserving old arcade games is a niche pastime that can involve some pretty serious hacking skills. If the story here were just that someone pulled the chip from a game, took it apart, and figured out the ROM contents, that’d be pretty good. But the real story is way stranger than that.

Apparently, a bunch of devices were sent to a lab to be reverse engineered and were somehow lost. Nearly ten years later, the devices reappeared, and another group has taken the initiative to recover their contents. The chip in question was part of a 1989 arcade game called Tatakae! Big Fighter, and it had been hacked. Literally hacked. Like with an ax or something worse.

You can read the story of how the contents were recovered. You shouldn’t try this at home without a vent hood and other safety gear. However, they did rebond wires to the device using a clever trick and no exotic equipment (assuming you have some fairly good optical microscopes and a microprobe on a lens positioner).

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Hackaday Prize Entry: A Better Way Of Cheating

Believe it or not, some video games are still developed for the PC. With video games come cheat codes, and when they’re on the PC, that means using a keyboard. You can easily program any microcontroller to send a string of characters over a USB port with the touch of a button. Believe it or not, a lot of people haven’t put these two facts together. [danjovic] has, leading him to build a simple and cheap USB keystroke generator for quickly typing in cheat codes.

[danjovic] is basing his build around a Digispark, a cheap, USB-enabled ATtiny85 dev board. This, of course, means there’s not a lot of pins to play with – there are only four I/O pins, and one of them is connected to ground by a LED. That leaves only three I/O pins, but [danjovic] managed to put seven different cheats in his project using diodes and something that is almost charlieplexing.

If you’re wondering, this is a very inexpensive project. [danjovic] is using a Chinese digispark clone, a handful of 1N4148 diodes, and a few tact switches. Anyone with a well-stocked part drawer or a tenner on eBay could build this. If you want the proof of work for this project, you can check out the demo video below.

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Lightweight Game Console Packs a Punch

Any maker worth their bits will look for new ways to challenge themselves. [Robert Fotino], a computer science student at the University of California, is doing just that: designing and building his own lightweight hobbyist game console that he has appropriately named Consolite.

[Fotino] wrote his own compiler in C++ that converts from C-like languages to a custom-designed assembler that he has dubbed Consolite Assembly. To test his code, he also wrote an emulator before loading it onto the Mimas V2 FPGA board. Presently, Consolite  uses 64KiB of main memory and 48 KiB of video memory; a future version will have 32 bit support to make better use of the Mimas’ 64 MiB of on board ram, but the current 16-bit version is a functional proof of concept.

consolite-status-leds-and-hardware-switches_thumbnailAn SD card functions as persistent storage for up to 256 programs, which can be accessed using the hardware switches on the Mimas, with plans to add user access in the form of saving game progress, storage outside of main memory, etc. — also in a future update that will include audio support.

As it stands, [Fotino] has written his own versions of Breakout, Tetris, and Tron to show off his project.

Not wanting for diligence, [Fotino] has provided thorough documentation of nearly every step along the way in his blog posts and on GitHub if you are looking for guidelines for any similar projects you might have on the back burner — like an even tinier game console.

[via r/FPGA]

Going Lo-Tech For The Perfect Pokemon Go Throw

We have our eyes on the horizon for an epic GPS spoof to catch some legendaries in Pokemon Go, but until that hack shows up, we really like [Brian McEvoy’s] hack for the perfect Poke Ball throw.

[Brian] started out thinking that a mechanical build would be the best way (we know he’s got the servo motors and controllers to drive them from this tea steeping robot he built last year). But the mechanics of that are just too complicated for what you get in return (less wasted Poke Balls).

He came to the realization that your finger is the best machine, it just needs some augmentation. Most of his Poke Ball throws missed to one side or another, so he turned to papercraft to guide his way. He made a tray from some paperboard packaging, then used two small stacks of Post-it notes to create a channel where your finger slides. Simply hold the phone and the paper with one hand, and use your other to follow the paper channel to a successful capture. The paperboard doesn’t affect the screen’s ability to sense your finger.

This is one we’re definitely going to try out. But visions of hardware hacks for the game that has rocked the world still dance through our heads. Are you working on anything? If so, we’d love to hear about (so send in a tip!). Those still in the idea phase can ring in below. We are weighing the feasibility of doing a man-in-the-middle between a phone and its GPS chip to spoof location. That feels like a pretty tall mountain to climb.

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Cheating at Video Games: Arduino Edition

[Javier] has put in his time playing Final Fantasy X. In the game, there’s a challenge where you have to dodge 200 consecutive lightning strikes by pressing a button at just the right time. [Javier] did this once, but when he bought a new PS Vita handheld, he wanted the reward but couldn’t bear the drudgery of pressing X when the screen lights up 200 times.


So he did what anyone would do: hooked up a light-dependent resistor to an Arduino and rubber-banded a servo to press the X button for him. It’s a simple circuit and a beautiful quick hack, all the more so because it probably only took him a half hour or so to whip up. And that’s a half hour better spent than dodging lightning strikes. According to his screen-shot, he didn’t stop at 200 dodges, though. He racked up 1,568 dodges, with a longest streak of 1,066. You can watch a video on his blog and pull the code out of his GitHub.

Why do this? Because that’s what simple computers are for. We hate these silly jumping mini-games with a passion, so we applaud anyone who cheats their way around them. And while not as hilarious as this machine that cheats at Piano Tiles, [Javier]’s hack gets the job done. What other epic video game cheats are we missing?