Altered Beast

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Format- Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Fighting platformer

Altered Beast

Yeah, I know. ‘Wise from your gwave,’ Elmer Fudd, etcetera etcetera.

It’s probably a small mercy for the game to be famed for it’s amusing opening voice though, otherwise it probably wouldn’t be remembered at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Basically a very straightforward side scrolling game where you punch and kick various nasties, the one thing the game has on its side is its almost incredible simplicity.

Altered Beast really has little in terms of depth – its just the same thing, for every level, with added difficulty the further you progress.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

Move right, punch baddies, collect the orb from the special wolves, power up, find the boss, defeat the boss, end. Rinse and repeat.

The main variation comes from the bosses, but there’s little attempt to make the different settings (cave, gwaveyard (sic), etc) affect the gameplay in any way at all.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The game is still tough to grasp at first though, feeling clumsy and a little unfair. If you give it a chance however, you soon adapt to the attack patterns that are the most effective, and start making slow progress. It’s still a pain at times of course, but that’s probably to be expected.

There’s no real getting away from the clumsiness of the game in the end though, in both its controls and presentation.

AlteredBeast-Sega-Mega-Drive

The controls feel unbelievably wooden, mainly because the characters are all so stiffly animated. The whole things feel like a puppet show at times.

Graphics wise, the game looks good in stills, but in movement doesn’t appear so impressive. There are lots of things that look out of place, like the mist which bosses dissolve into when you defeat them, that just don’t fit into the aesthetic of the game. This results in giving the game a weirdly low budget veneer, even when you take into consideration its age.

All in all, the game’s a bit of a clunker that you’ll either despise or embrace for its dated look and feel. I personally have nothing against Altered Beast, but wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone.

Gamer Profile: Evan Hahn

snowed in studios logo

 

Name: Evan Hahn

Company: Snowed In Studios

Profession: Game Designer and Software Engineer

Favorite Classic Game: The X-COM Games

 

x-com poster

 

Quote: X-com is a great mix of strategy, exploration, and interacting systems that the player can use to their advantage. It also does a great job at making you care about characters without making a story about them.

Bio: Evan is the game designer and lead programmer of Windforge. He has worked on over 10 shipped games including Deus Ex: Human Revolution Director’s Cut, Swypeout Battle Racing, and Microsoft Tinker.

 

Kickstarter_Banner_Windforge

Project: Windforge

Project Info: Windforge is a steampunk building block RPG, with fully buildable airships. It’s kind of like a mix of Contra and Minecraft with flying airships. It’s a game that embraces freedom, creativity, and chaotic emergent action. There a million things to do in Windforge, even pretty outrageous things like mining whales for meat, or even turning them into airships.

windforge gameplay screenshot

Check out the Windforge Wiki.

Check out the Kickstarter campaign here.

Check out our interview with Evan.

Family Game Night 4

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Overall I would still recommend this game to anyone with either a passion for board or family gaming.  It has its shortcomings, but they are not fatal, and there’s enough that’s right about Family Game Night 4: The Game Show to override that which is deficient.  Give this game some playtime when you have a hankering for some simple, clean, and non-violent fun! ~Dan Epp

Family Game Night 4

Family Game Night 4: The Game Show is a collection of mini-games set within a broader game environment.  You are a contestant (and can play with others or against computer opponents) playing to win a virtual version of the Hub Network television game show of the same name.  Some of the games you play include: Scrabble Flash, in which you attempt to form as many words from a set amount of Scrabble tiles as possible; Connect 4 Basketball, in which you must aim your basketballs carefully to form a row of four balls or to prevent your opponent from doing the same; Yahtzee Bowling, wherein the pins are the dice that you must knock over with your bowling ball; Sorry! Sliders, a shuffleboard-style (or curling) game in which you must attempt to slide your pawns into the highest possible scoring areas; and Bop-It Boptagon, which is essentially a hand-eye coordination and reaction game.

Scrabble

I found the various games to be a mixed bag in terms of “fun,” which arguably is the best metric to judge a video game based on a television show based on board games.  I enjoyed the Scrabble Flash and Yahtzee Bowling, and found I could play these two games multiple times while still maintaining a sufficient level of “fun” gameplay. Connect 4 Basketball could be challenging once you started shooting simultaneously with your opponent, but the Sorry! Sliders became dull very quickly as the gameplay did not seem to alter much from game to game.  Finally, Bop-It Boptagon was an experience that I did not repeat twice, and the memories of my abject failure are too painful to translate into the written word.

Connect 4

Mr. Potato-Head is the host of the game, and though he is not annoying like the bizarre host of the Family Feud Xbox game (the memory of whom has scarred me for life), he also doesn’t add anything to the gameplay.  The animations of the avatars are a bit silly, and not dismissed immediately with a button-click, which makes them a little irritating.  The play-by-play voice was a constant, “go get ‘em, tiger” kind of happy, which lost its charm over time.  Note to developers: if you want to see how a host can be engaging, perhaps even annoying, and yet bring you back for more, check out the You Don’t Know Jack series of games.

Bob it

A quick note: although the game features Kinect compatibility, as I am one of the last Xbox 360 owners in North America without a Kinect accessory, I did not test it with anything besides a standard wireless controller.

Family Game Night 4

Overall I would still recommend this game to anyone with either a passion for board or family gaming.  It has its shortcomings, but they are not fatal, and there’s enough that’s right about Family Game Night 4: The Game Show to override that which is deficient.  Give this game some playtime when you have a hankering for some simple, clean, and non-violent fun!

Thanks to the Classic Game Room for the awesome video review.

Sword Master

Sword Master

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Sword Master - NES

Activision may be best known for their Call Of Duty series, but they have been producing video games for decades across multiple platforms, including a hefty array on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Although some of these cartridges were outright stinkers, like their renditions of Ghostbusters and Super Pitfall, other were decent or even good. Somewhere in the latter mix lies the side-scrolling action title Sword Master, developed by Athena Co.

Gameplay

Sword Master - NES

Sword Master is a side-scrolling action game in which one player controls the protagonist, the Sword Master, is an admittedly generic plotline revolving around rescuing a damsel in distress from the clutches of some evil dark lord who has resurrected an army of undead abominations with which he is now attempting to take over the world. Of course.

There are seven levels, each of which concludes with a boss fight, and typically has a mini-boss somewhere in the middle as well. This title can barely be considered a “platformer” in the literal sense; although there is jumping from surfaces to other surfaces of different elevations, and even some precision-jumping puzzles that involve pattern-oriented enemies, unlike traditional platformers like the Super Mario Bros and Mega Man series, the running and jumping movements are not the emphasis here. The combat system takes the spotlight, and shows some muscular depth.

Sword Master - NES

The player’s character does not move quickly and, in fact, jumps forward in a hop slightly faster than walking movement alone. The A button performs the jump, and the B button attacks with the sword, offering some options for attack depending on which direction is pressed on the D-Pad as well. Pressing Up with the strike will swing overhead, just hitting B along will jab forward with the blade, and holding Down will go to a crouch, offering a low blow with the sword from that position. Also, our hero can move forward while crouching, a neat touch.

Sword Master - NES

Additionally, the Sword Master himself also uses a shield as well. Holding Up will hold the shield up, while pressing Down steadies the shield straight ahead. Neither renders our character invincible, but make it possibly to block oncoming attacks from projectiles such as fireballs or the incoming weapon-swings of other warriors. This will be especially essential for certain boss fights.

The challenge, then, comes in trying to deftly deal with dexterous dastards ranging from leaping wolves, flying bats, floating eyeballs, dark knights, evil wizards, lizard men, and other medieval-fantasy tropes, along with some truly unique (note the flaming flying giant sperm beings in the village). This slowed-down, fight-emphasizing gameplay really turns this into a game of strategy over speed and tactics over tricks. Surviving the onslaught unscathed will require the player to master the swordplay involved; which is perfectly appropriate, given that the name of the game is Sword Master.

Sword Master - NES

This makes Sword Master a sophisticated choice, a gamer’s game, a hardcore old-school brutalization, a test that those saddled with ADHD are going to have a problem with. Now, that prior sentence makes it sound like this is a hipster’s classic, a true all-time great, and a vastly overlooked NES cartridge; however, do not misunderstand, there are certainly some flaws that prevent Sword from being a four-star game or better.

The game is very challenging. Not quite Ninja Gaiden or three-life Contra challenging, but a grueling, despairing gauntlet nonetheless. While difficulty alone is not a bad ingredient, and can even be a strong point, and may even be so here, there are undoubtedly some moments in Sword Master that merely amount to frustration, not tightly honed missives.

Sword Master - NES

Then there is the scroll mechanic. Many 8-bit video games had a scrolling threshold related to the position of the protagonist on the screen. If you play Super Mario Bros., you will notice that Mario tends to stay right in the center of the game. Others games have the character going slightly past the middle before the screen starts slowly. These are fine options, and allow the player time to react to oncoming stimuli. But in Sword Master, the player is punished for well-skilled efforts by having the screen scroll forward even if the Master is four-fifth’s of the way across the play field. This makes for some rather brazenly hard reaction-time conundrums, unless the player intentionally plods forward at a slower rate.

Sword Master - NES

Aside from the black-and-white flaws and strengths, there are a few elements that must be judged on a player-by-player basis. The foremost example may be the level-up system. As the player slaughters creatures and kills people, an experience bar increases, until filling up and gaining a level, which grants a couple more ticks on the health bar. This is an intriguing way of going about things, but later in the same, enemies are doing more damage, while the health pick-ups (a potion) still merely heal a miniscule amount. This discrepancy is questionable, even if nitpicky. One nice note: Enemies that take more than one hit to kill show a health bar of their own, an addition that would be much appreciated in many other NES games that otherwise withhold.

Sword Master - NES

Next for consideration is the transformation element. Yes, Sword Master has a transformation effect in play, after getting a cloak, in which the player can transform into a mage (that is a wizard, for you non-geeks out there) and press Start to bring up a spells menu, with available magics picked up from defeated enemies. The foursome ranges from a classic fireball to vertically oriented lightning bolt. Holding the B button powers up the spells before unleashing. But excited players must consider the cost: Every spell-cast chops down the experience bar, until the original Sword Master form is reverted to. This seems somewhat steep, especially since the mage has no shield and is thus more vulnerable.

Sword Master - NES

Oh, and there are five continues, and a level that entirely consists of projectile-dodging, and believe it or not, the instruction manual refers to the flying flame sperm enemy as “Fire Seed.” No kidding.

Overall, Sword Master is a meaty, well-developed, distinctive game. The sword-fighting takes some getting used to, although the acclimation process is very intentional, even if a total mastery will still lend some “what the-” moments of unexplainable enemy-interaction weirdness.

Graphics

Sword Master - NES

This game looks fantastic. This may sound contradictory, but the motions are smooth, even if the animations are a little stiff. One obvious graphic area in which Sword Master shines is in its background visuals. Oh my. These are among the slickest-lookin’ backgrounds on the console, top-notch stuff. Just check out the gorgeous parallax scrolling two-layer work in the initial forest level as an example, but even in the static background images of the village and the castle, the detail work is solid. Along with some fun turns at enemy design and minimal issues like the flickering and slowdown sometimes seen on other games, this is a decidedly visually appealing game.

Sound

The auditory department of Sword Master I intriguing. The sound effects, maybe for the best, are subdued, striking quick and quiet in their flourishes. But when the protagonist attacks, rather than hear the swish of a sword, the player hears a cheap little voice effect. Okay, maybe trying to be impressive, but any “ooh” or “aah” effect is lost when it is repeated hundreds upon hundreds of times.

Sword Master - NES

The background music is not bad. The sound-engineering folks at Activision & Athena show off their chops by demonstrating a thorough understanding of the NES console hardware limitations, using all available sound channels to the max, and working in some nifty effects. Yet, perhaps humorously, for all their technical prowess, the actual compositional strength is limited, as the melodies are not especially memorable and nothing here stands the test of time as a memorable NES classic background tune or stage music.

Originality

Sword Master is fairly distinctive. While other NES games may have a sword-swinging figure at their core, no other title quite emphasizes the swordplay workings as strongly as the Master. Even though the storyline is incredibly generic, at least the execution is respectable, and makes it clear that this is not a game that was ever supposed to be about the story, but about the gameplay. With some quirks intact, it remains a solid game, and is awarded a score of three and a half stars out of five.

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Buck Rogers: Planet of Zoom (1982)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 23,297 (one credit)
Also Available For: Master System, SG-1000, PC, MSX, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, ZX Spectrum, TI-99/4A, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari XE, ColecoVision, Coleco Adam, Intellivision
Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

It may have taken a few years but it still wasn’t long before the first few licensed video games started to appear. One of the first such games to grace an amusement arcade was this example, by my beloved Sega no less, and was based on the (mis)adventures of Captain Rogers. Well, I say ‘based’ but this is a game that, name aside, has pretty much nothing to do with the source material – something that would become a familiar story in the years to come – but as we all know, that doesn’t necessarily make it a sucky game, just an unfaithful one. Planet of Zoom, for example, takes the form of an into-the-screen shooter. Nothing unusual there for a 70’s sci-fi show, I’ll grant you – plenty of shooting done in most of those. However, as long as it might have been since I’ve immersed myself in the gallant exploits of Buck, Wilma, and Twiki, nothing else from the game seems familiar.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Actually, now that I think about it, I can’t even be sure that we’re playing the game as Buck! Oh well, whoever may be at the controls, it’s your job to guide their ship through a tonne of dangerous stuff, and the best means of doing this is by blasting the crap out of it all. To this end, the ship offers unlimited use of its cannon, and you can also move it around the screen freely and increase or decrease its speed as you see fit. Each round is divided into eight stages (or sectors) of which there are three types – trench (as seen in the screenshot to the right), open space (next shot down), and planet (bottom shot) – but the object of each is the same; namely, to either fulfill an enemy quota or to finish within the time limit. If you can take down the required number of enemies before the time expires, you’ll move on to the next stage with any remaining time awarded as bonus points. If the timer runs down before you do this, you’ll still progress but with no bonus.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

Most of the stages merely pit you against various kinds of oncoming enemies which include many flying saucers, hopping ground-based buffoons, red/purple versions of your own ship (almost), fast winged vessels, and angry-looking grey/red craft. As well as being mighty dangerous by themselves, most of them can also fire missiles and stuff at you, and there are also a few other hazards too. One of the trench stages features a series of barriers with gaps on the left, right, or middle, one of the planetary stages has a load of weird slalom-style gates (which offer only your continued existence as a reward for passing though them), and there is also a stage featuring a much larger boss ship which, for some reason, attacks with its back to you allowing you to simply blast all four of its engines to see it off. Defeating this befuddled clot isn’t too hard and each time you do it’s on to the next round where the stages are in a different order.

Buck Rogers Planet of Zoom

This process goes on forever as far as I can tell, which means things could potentially get more than a little repetitive. Fortunately, the action is fast and involving enough to keep this from setting in too much. The stages all look the same each time they’re repeated but they work well – the scrolling is pretty fast and the enemies move quickly via some superb scaling. The colouring is also impressive with lovely pixelly explosions, nice shaded skies, and even some occasional eye-melting psychedelic effects on some spacey stages. The sound is a little more basic, consisting only of a constant blooping sound (the ship’s engine?), as well as shooting and explosion effects. They’re loud though, and do contribute to the enjoyment of Buck’s adventure which is a pretty decent one. I think it’s clear Sega’s inspiration for Space Harrier lies here, and the later game is understandably the one that’s more fondly remembered, but I was pleasantly surprised by its spiritual predecessor which is more playable in some ways as well as being slightly easier. Buck and friends may have a pretty limited involvement but they can still be fairly proud of this.

RKS Score: 7/10

Donkey Kong Jr. Math

donkey kong

Donkey Kong Jr. Math

Well, it was bound to happen. Time to review a stinker. Not just a stinker, mind you, but a post-Taco Bell chased by black coffee with a side of Taco Bell for dessert type of stinker. Light a candle and say a prayer because here is the unwashed skidmark of the Black Box games, Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Heaven help us.

donky kong
“I can either play this or a math game like it? Kiss my Huggies!”

First, a quick history lesson in what I mean by “Black Box” since there has been a question or two on the definition. The Nintendo Entertainment System launched in small quantities on October 18, 1985 in selected areas of New York City. Due to the video game crash of 1983 (thanks Atari!), noone was willing to entertain the thought of selling home game consoles ever again. Therefore, Nintendo, steadfast in their resolve, changed the name of the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) instead to an “entertainment system”. How this actually worked when it is obviously a game console, I’ll never understand. Anyway, on the day of the initial launch, there were 18 titles ready to go. They all came in a black box and in the lower left hand corner, they were marked with te type of game it was.

If you look at the Clu Clu Land and Super Mario boxes in my prior reviews, you’ll notice the symbol for the “Action Series” and “Light Gun Series” with Hogan’s Alley and so forth. Hence, “Black Box”. The NES had a true launch in February of 1986 with more titles and after that is when the third party publishers started releasing games and didn’t want to conform to the labels of their games, so the idea was scrapped. Hindsight 20/20, it was a good move, because what the hell could you label something with multiple genres in it like a Battletoads or Guardian Legend? One of the categories was “Education Series” and while it probably had good intentions and may have had some legs in future titles, it only had one game ever attached to it. Why? It sucked so fucking bad that it killed off the idea completely.

donkey kong
“I warned him if he starred in that goddamned math game, I’d disown his ass for Diddy Kong. Junior is dead to me. There is no Junior”

Which brings us to Donkey Kong Jr, Math. Seriously, all I want to type here is what a pile of shit it is, journalistic integrity be damned. But with heavy heart and mind, there is no choice but to roll my sleeves up and stick my hands deep into the doo-doo and pray I come out of it with a filth that can be washed away.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
More like calculate how long before this game gets thrown into traffic.

The game sure looks like DK Jr. from the arcades but that’s where the similarity ends. There are 3 modes to “play” but the only difference between A and B are that B uses negative numbers. The gist of it is that Papa Kong gives you a number and you have to jump to a vine with a number (you can only hit one at a time), then travel to the mathematic symbol you want, then hop to another number, etc, until you have the total Donkey asks for. Example, Papa gives me the number 77, you have to jump to 9, then the times symbol, then 8, then hop your baby gorilla ass back to the plus sign, then back to the 5 and you “win”. That is IT. The game booklet never lets on that it is 2 player only so you have this poor, pathetic looking pink DK Jr. off to the right who dies when you complete a problem. What the shit is that? Be great at math so you can slaughter your own kind ruthlessly? Wait, maybe this game did teach a 1%er a thing or two growing up.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
The unnamed pink twin of DK Jr tugs at my heartstrings. Math = genocide

The final game mode makes zero sense from any sane perspective. You choose the type of problem you want to do and then Kong presents you with one. Sort of. To solve it, all you need to do is push a block up past the Nitpickers who never seem to touch you and that’s the game! This mode can be beaten within 5 minutes and I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is supposed to accomplish. If I watch numbers be added for me, it will instill a photographic memory strong enough to always remember what these two numbers added up equal to?

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
No bullshit, this took me about 2 seconds to beat.

THE FINAL VERDICT
1/10 Widely regarded as one of the worst launch titles ever. Probably started out as a decent concept, but something seriously got fucked up in the development process. That or Nintendo had no beta testers at the time because this game just feels rushed and broken. It killed Donkey Kong Jr so dead that the only other appearance he made was in 1992’s Super Mario Kart for the SNES. The 1 point is for the decent graphic port but to go higher than that simply isn’t possible. The idea was for kids to want to mix games and learning, but who is going to pop this shit in when you have ANY other game laying around? Brain Age this isn’t. They couldn’t give this craptastic cart away. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a shower. I feel violated having played this…

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX

Zelda DX brings you an adventure like no other. Lets take a look!
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx
I decided to pick the DX version mainly because of the added features such as an extra dungeon, photographs to print with your Gameboy printer and of course, color. All of these make an already amazing game even greater! As usual, lets take a look at the game in the different categories.
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx
If there is something more memorable about the Zelda games is the music and this one is no different. The music of this game is splendid! I fell in love with every soundtrack especially the mountain track. I should have that one as a ring tone! Anyways, you will find a lot of memorable tunes and only wonder how much amazing the music would sound if this game were ever to get a remake on lets say the 3DS? Totally fantastic!
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx

The game looks and used the best the gameboy had to offer. Not only that, but the game looked more beautiful in color. You can’t get anything better than Zelda DX graphically wise. If you think about it, the graphics were really advanced for the year it was released. This little handheld was sure able to do a lot more than anyone ever though. No wonder it was never taken down by its competition.

the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx

The gameplay is sensational. You have the A and B buttons to equip whichever combinations of items you feel more comfortable with. Of course, you have to know when to use certain items because you can only get so far with a shield and sword. With an array of weapons, challenging dungeons, and comical situations this Zelda game is as enjoyable as the day it was released. The freedom Link has in this game is nothing but great. You’ll feel as if you can do almost anything! Exploring and discover is also a huge plus in Zelda games! Be sure to find all the heart pieces and don’t forget to knock against certain trees. There is a lot to love indeed.

the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx
This game is one that you can play over and over and never get bored that’s for sure. I have probably played through this game over ten times and still find it amazingly fun. Why? Because it’s an enjoyable experience that not once makes you want to put it away. Be sure to try to beat the entire game in one sitting for the special ending ^_^
the-legend-of-zelda--link's-awakening-dx

So to conclude, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to mention this twice but I’ll say it again. This game is an absolute masterpiece. You have to play through it at least once in your lifetime. If you are new to Zelda, then this is a great way to step back into Link’s past. You will also not have to spend a fortune on the game as you’ll find it for really cheap (I got mine for 2 dollars). So that’s about it, glad to be bringing this series back to life! Lets keep order and until next week!

Capcom Vs. SNK: Pro

Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1

Capcom Vs. SNK: Pro

I had played Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO on Gamecube many years back. I’ve never played the original game though. I was kinda surprised my girlfriend had an old copy of the game. Not terribly excited to play the original, but I’ll give it a shot.
Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1
The game is basically the same version as the one in the arcade except with a few new features and whatnot. It was a pretty big deal back in the day since it was the first time Ryu could fight Terry Bogard or Chun-Li could fight Mai Shiranui. It offers a suprisngly large cast of characters. I remember being far more disappointed in the original Marvel Vs. Capcom for such a small cast in comparison to the 2nd game.
Capcom Vs SNK Pro PS1
It’s basically what you would expect from Capcom in the past 15 years. Since I already played the 2nd game to death, I was a tad unthrilled at the offerings on the table. I was also mad that they didn’t include analog control even though the PS1 version was released in 2002. I loathe the PS1’s D-pad, and during fighting games my hands feel cramped and the stiff buttons prevent me from reaching my true potential. If you’re not bothered by the PS1/PS2 controller’s D-pad then this a decent fighter, but there’s plenty of better ones to choose from.

Score: 7 out of 10 

TumblePop

 Tumble Pop

TumblePop

Back again for another round of forgotten gaming classics. This time, we take a look at another fairly obscure arcade game that was mentioned last time around, that being 1991’s TumblePop. TumblePop was made by Japanese developer/publisher Data East, who were one of the kings of the arcade’s heyday. Data East was responsible for such early arcade hits as Burger Time, Astro Fighter, Karate Champ, and Ring King. They also made later hits such as Karnov, Two Crude Dudes, Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, Heavy Barrel, Captain America and the Avengers, Kid Niki, Breakthru, Bloody Wolf, and the Magical Drop series. They were also a big name in the late 80s/early 90s home console market, producing such hits as Joe & Mac, Congo’s Caper, and High Seas Havoc. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention their infamous (but decent) Street Fighter II ripoff, Fighter’s History, which became a short-lived series of it’s own.
Tumble Pop
It SUCKS, while it CUTS!

Unlike the last entry, Avenging Spirit, TumblePop was more of your traditional arcade fare: light on story, big on high scores and just outright fun. The basic premise of the game is that you play a pair of “Ghost Buster” type characters, who use (get this) vacuum cleaner type gizmos to suck up ghosts, demons, aliens and other monsters. A concept that would, in some form, pop up again years later in Nintendo’s own Luigi’s Mansion. Once you suck up enemies, you can blast them back OUT of the vacuum thingy to use as projectiles against other enemies. And therein lies the core gameplay mechanic, and basic fun of Tumble Pop.

Tumble Pop
I’ll have the Calamari, Bob.

Similar to the Taito classic Bubble Bobble, when enemies are destroyed, they often leave behind goodies for you to collect, such as coins, etc. In fact, the game seems largely inspired by earlier hits like Bubble Bobble as well as Capcom’s Buster Bros, and the game takes the same classic arcade approach of the action being limited to little “Screens”, instead of the kinds of sprawling levels seen in the later side-scroller genre. Like those earlier games, it also features two player simultaneous co-op gameplay, which just adds to the pandemonium. Along with goodies from enemies, you also collect occasional letters that, as you can see in the picture above, eventually spell out “Tumbepop”, and when you get the full word, you are whisked off to a timed bonus stage where you can get even MORE high-score ensuring goodies, as well as extra lives.

Tumble Pop
Alright Mister, FREEZE!

The game plays out over 10 different areas, representing (mostly) real places on earth, such as New York, Moscow, Japan, Egypt, Australia, etc. In the final two areas (SPOILERS) the game sees you travel to Outer Space and finally The Moon. Each area features it’s own themed monsters, as well as typically one big boss fight at the end. And as you have seen in these pictures, there are some crazy bosses, like a giant octopus, a killer snowman, a giant clown robot, a flaming dragon, an enormous genie, etc. And if that weren’t enough, if you failed to defeat all the monsters in a given time, a Dracula-type dude will wander on screen and if he catches you, you lose a life. Major bummer. Totally bogus! But I digress.

Tumble Pop
What the hell happened? Now we’re colorless AND adorable!

As mentioned in the previous article, as coincidental Fate would have it, unfortunately the only platform that TumblePop was ever ported to, like Avenging Spirit before it, was the original Game Boy, in 1992. Again, awesome for Game Boy owners, too bad for anybody else. As again, this would have made an amazing NES game, or even SNES or Genesis game. I certainly would have loved to have rented or maybe even owned it on NES as a kid. The one big difference between the two however, in my personal experience, was that I actually got to PLAY the arcade version of TumblePop as it was long a mainstay of the local area skating rink. As a matter of fact, as a call back to an even earlier article, remember that buddy of mine Harold, whose favorite game EVER is M.C. Kids? Yup, well TumblePop was pretty much his favorite arcade game too. And wouldn’t you know it (unlike his modern taste in games), BOTH of these classics were actually fun! Damn you Harold!!

Tumble Pop
I guess it’s true what they say…being on game box art really DOES make you gain weight!

It should be mentioned that the Game Boy version of TumbePop differed slightly, in that it featured a “World Map” of sorts, where you could even exit areas if they were too hard and come back later, as well as an on-map Shop where you could use coins collected to buy upgrades. Pretty nifty all around. And, again like Avenging Spirit, the Game Boy version of TumblePop, as luck would have it, is available for download on the 3DS eShop. I would highly suggest giving both games a whirl, as they’re well worth it.

Well, that about wraps it up folks! Another fun game, faded from memory, but now resurrected through the power of….well, my bodacious writing! Go find yourself a copy of TumblePop, and suck away!

Yolanda

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Yolanda

Today is review a bad game day, a day I’ve been dreading. Mainly because I’m not only bad at reviews of good games, I’m even worse at writing reviews of bad games! Confused? Then we’re off to a good start. I had a few choices for this review, all on the Amiga, Rise of the Robots (1994) for one, a game called Graffiti Man (1987), andBattletoads (1992), another disappointing arcade conversion for the Amiga.

yolanda

However, the game that stuck in the back of my mind was Yolanda(1990), no matter how many bad games I started to remember playing this one always seemed to be at the top of that list. You play as Yolanda, the mortal daughter of Hercules, cursed by a jealous Hera because of her beauty, the only way to lift the curse (any man Yolanda falls in love with will die) is to repeat the 12 tasks of Hercules. To be honest on the box this sounds like a pretty neat idea for a game.

yolanda

The game play is platform based on a single screen, and as soon as it starts it looks like it could be quite an enjoyable game; platforms in place, check, enemies present, check, protagonist standing heroically, check. However, a few seconds after the level starts the platform beneath you either gives way or bursts into flames. Um, right… try again? Sure, why not. Level re-starts… hey wait… this isn’t the same lev….. Poompf. Arrrgghhh!!! (Ed – expletive replaced with generic sound of frustration). This is pretty much a summary of how most of the game will go for any player, novice or pro. You have to learn quickly that you only have a few meager seconds to move off of the platform you start on otherwise you will instantly perish in fiery style.

yolanda

However, once you’ve mastered the initial ‘avoid fiery death’ you have the rest of the level to deal with. The objective for each level is simple (although I’m still not sure how any of it relates to the 12 tasks of Hercules), you must reach the exit door, which initially appears as a creature of some kind and then changes to a door once you’re on the move. The phrase easier said than done has never been more relevant in this game. Two main reasons are the poor controls (once you’ve jumped you cannot maneuver or change direction) as well as the terrible collision detection. Once you’re hit by an enemy you will die instantly, and the level re-starts, but as mentioned before, it is not always the same level.

yolanda

The two problems above don’t even come close to the major issue this game has, which drops the playability down into a minus score. If you’re lucky enough to time a jump properly, and avoid any enemies, you may still not make it. Without any clues to guide you, platforms will disappear or burst into flames as soon as you land on them, leading to certain death. (Ed – meh, more like instant death ‘every’ time). Each level is like this. You have to memorize and learn the traps and pitfalls of each level, some of which can be completed but most (if not all) seem virtually impossible due to their randomness.

yolanda

Sometimes there is a fine line between a game being difficult, and a game being unplayable. I believe the controls and buggy game play ofYolanda land it squarely in the latter. Every level needs to be learned, every jump timed perfectly, every platform memorized. However, even if you do all this some levels are just impossible to complete, alongside the random level select it makes the game very hard to play and very very frustrating.

yolanda

When I first played this (budget version, £7.99) I really looked forward to it, the blurb and the box art sold the game to me, even the title screen and music I remember fondly. The title screen artwork and the music remind me a lot of The Great Giana Sisters, which I really like. The graphics aren’t so bad either, however, none of these elements can make up for the fact the game is terrible. I personally don’t think it went through enough, if any, play testing, otherwise I think they would have gone back to it and created a half decent platformer. For a commercially released game it feels poorly made and unfinished, I’m surprised it received reviews of above 20% back in the day.

Thanks for reading this review, take a peek at some of the links below for more information on Yolanda! Given some of the original retail prices for this game I’m glad I paid the £7.99 rather than the £24.99.

Information:

Lemon Amiga page for Yolanda, game info and screen shots.

Reviews:

Review of Yolanda from Amiga Action 12 (Sep 1990)

Game Rating: 70%

Cost: £19.99

Review of Yolanda from Amiga Format 15 (Oct 1990)

Game Rating: 49%

Cost: £24.99

Review of Yolanda from The One for Amiga Games 38 (Nov 1991)

Game Rating: 4/5

Cost: £7.99

Skies of Arcadia

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Format: Dreamcast Genre: RPG Released: 2001 Developer: Sega (Overworks)

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Skies of Arcadia

Yes, that’s right another Dreamcast game for the list – no complaining back there. Hey, look, it’s not my fault that a signficant proportion of THE BEST GAMES EVER MADE were released on one particular console. (Funnily enough, I was never a big fan of Sega consoles before the Dreamcast came along, but I became a bit of a DC fanboy after I got one. Ah, Dreamcast, you were taken far too young! May you rest in peace in forgotten console heaven…)

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

In terms of set-up, Skies of Arcadia is pretty much your standard Japanese RPG fare:  a young boy from a small village is summoned by destiny to save the world by fighting random, turn-based battles across strange new lands filled with a multitude of manga-style characters, and so on, and so forth. We’ve been here before (Grandia, Final Fantasy, etc. etc.), but the difference with Skies is the sheer imagination that has been poured into the game world, along with the strong sense of ownership you feel over the characters.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

The game world is composed of a series of floating islands that you navigate between using your trusty flying pirate ship. I couldn’t really find the screenshots to do it justice, but this floating world looks fantastic, and there’s a real sense of wonder as you explore new continents and find hidden treasures. In fact, finding the hidden ‘discoveries’ became such a distraction for me that I regularly abandoned the main plot in favour of locating these hidden gems, which were revealed by vibrations of the joypad.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

Then there’s your ship’s crew – as you progress through the game you can recruit more and more members to your crew, each of whom provides some sort of boost when battling an enemy ship. (Incidentally, the ship battles are fantastic, and make for a diverting change from the usual monster battles – see the video below for an example.) The personalities of each of the characters really shine through, and by the end of the game you find yourself becoming quite attached to your motley crew of air pirates.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

The big downside to the game for me was the random battles – I’m not totally against random battles per se, but there should be an option to avoid them if possible. Later on in the game you can purchase items that let you avoid all confrontation, but earlier on you have no option but to plough through whatever the game throws at you, which got frustrating at times. The hardest part of the game occurred about a third of the way through, when you were tasked with finding an item among a series of floating rocks. The trouble was, you were constantly attacked as you flew your ship between the rocks, and this one section became so frustrating that I almost jacked the game in right there. Thankfully I perservered, which was a good thing since the game got a whole lot better from then on in.

skies of arcadia-dreamcast-

It’s difficult to say exactly what sets Skies of Arcadia apart from its JRPG ilk – it could be the imaginative setting, or the neat mixture of ship and monster battles, or perhaps the excellently crafted characters. Whatever it is, it had me totally hooked, and if you’re an RPG fan it’s an absolute must buy. (NB. If you’re planning to get it, you might want to look out for Skies of Arcadia Legends, an improved version that was released for the GameCube/Wii.)

Rival Turf

Rival Turf

We promise to make no mention of this game’s classicly terrible box art in this post… oh wait.

RIVAL-TURF-

Anyway, upon release of the Super NES, Final Fight was a big deal. While Capcom’s port was impressive in a number of ways, it was missing multi-player and third playable character, Guy. With Streets of Rage drawing attention in the Sega department, Jaleco decided to fill the two-player beat-em-up void on the SNES with Rival Turf.

RIVAL-TURF-

Rival Turf isn’t terrible, but it’s generic and brutally difficult. The two characters, Jack Flack and Oozie Nelson (seriously) patrol the streets in levels that are nothing short of blatant knocks on better games. Enemies are the real issue, coming in with names like Skinny and Butch. They’re incredibly overpowered, laying on unblockable combos at will.

RIVAL-TURF-

Collision detection is sloppy, and the cheap animation doesn’t help matters. The game would spawn two sequels, including the far better Brawl Brothers and moving back into sloppy territory with The Peace Keepers, all SNES exclusive. Rival Turf is easily the worst of the lot, and while not the most painful beat-em-up experience on the system (Bebe’s Kids, we’re looking at you), it’s utterly amazing how a game could sell well enough to spawn a sequel purely on multi-player aspects.

Bodycount

Developer/Publisher Codemaster has released their next first person shooter. Does it equal their last generation title Black, or should it be taken out back and tossed in the dirt? Read our review to find out.

Bodycount-

First person shooters are a dime a dozen at this point, and all do basically the same thing. Here’s a selection of firearms, the world is in trouble, pick your weapon loadout and go save it. It’s a recipe that has worked for Call of Duty, Battlefield, and countless others. Most games give those with patience an edge over their AI opponents. Sneaking around corners, lying low, or crawling all have their benefits. Bodycount tries the same recipe but with no bonus for patience.

Bodycount-

Bodycount is a FPS for those that want to run-n-gun Rambo style, through as many bad guys as your console or PC can handle. You are given a silenced pistol at one point, but once you find your weapons cache you will want to say to hell with that pea shooter. Give me my G36 assault rifle and/or Super 90 shotgun. This game wants you to be a killing machine, and does a good job of creating that experience.

Bodycount-

The story for the game is fairly generic. You play as Jackson. A former US soldier who is now an agent for an organization called The Network. It is your job to find solutions to problems that governments can’t handle. Genocide in Africa? No problem. Grab a few weapons and grenades and wipe out the genocidal horde. Want to end a civil war? Take out the leaders and their forces. While on these missions, you’ll run across some enemies that don’t belong, and it’s up to you to find out who is really behind the civil unrest in both Africa and Asia. The story isn’t exactly gripping, but it’s not thrown in as an afterthought either. There was some thought put into it, but the bottom line for Bodycount is the gameplay.

Bodycount-

Gameplay for Bodycount is simple. Here’s your objective. Here are your weapons. Complete the objective. Sounds simple. Now add a huge number of bad guys, with a largely destructible environment, and you get the big picture. This is an arcade style, in your face shooter, where killing is always your main objective. The name of the game is Bodycount, and that’s what you want to rack up. Leave a trail of lifeless, limp bodies in your wake, along with shredded walls, doors, and windows. If it’s not made out of tin, you can blast through it. There are few places to hide in this game, and most of those places will disintegrate when high amounts of lead are applied. Concrete barriers, plywood walls, even wood doors are no match for the bullets. You can shred through a wall in a matter of seconds, and anyone hiding behind that wall is dead meat.

Bodycount-

Each mission level gives you multiple paths to choose from. You aren’t locked into a linear path and this is a double edged sword. Not only are you not locked into one set path, the AI isn’t either. While they aren’t the brightest bulbs in the box, their thought process can still be tricky enough to outflank you, and drop a grenade in your lap. If you are on a mission that requires you to defend your position, be sure to take note of all paths around you.

Bodycount-

At the end of each story mission you are given a grade based upon how well you did on that mission. During your firefights, you can achieve Skill Kills with headshots, backstabs, and shred kills (killing through walls is soooo fun). String these together and you’ll keep a combo going that will affect your overall grade at the end of each mission. Rack up as many kills as you can, but remember that well placed shots will net you a better overall grade than just running and gunning through each level. We found this to be a little counter productive for an arcade style shoot-em-up, but it does add replayability to each mission. More than one run through for each mission isn’t a bad thing.

Bodycount-

The firearms at your disposal are basic at first, with a pistol, assault rifle, shotgun, and knife to start out with. This expands to include ten overall weapons to choose from, plus your knife. The weapons are highly detailed, and vary in power and rate of fire just like they should in real life. You can’t access your weapons cache until you are in a mission, but most missions have them near the beginning. Use your mini-map in the lower right corner to locate it. Grenades have three ways to be thrown. You can do the standard one button press that has a short timed explosion, you can cook your grenades by holding the button for a few seconds, or (our favorite) you can double tap the grenade button and it will explode on contact. Why cook when you can have instant gratification? See a large group of bad guys congregating in one spot? Double tap that frag for a fun little skill kill that will grow to whatever number was in that group. You also have mines at your disposal, and occasionally a defense position is needed and mines become a priceless, albeit limited, commodity.

Bodycount-

As you take out bad guys, they’ll drop ammo and intel energy. This energy is gathered and fills up your intel meter. As you progress through the story, you unlock four different enhancers that show up on the bottom left of your screen. The Adrenaline boost makes you invincible (as long as your meter is full) and is very effective against a large group of enemies that you want to run through. They can’t hurt you, but you can definitely blast them all to hell. There is also an Exploding bullet enhancer that is very effective against the heavies with mini-guns. The Artillery enhancer can be used to take out emplacements or groups of bad guys. The Target Pulse Wave starts out as a way to better see the AI, but once upgraded becomes a way to disable some of the bad guys.

Bodycount-

Online Multiplayer is also available. You can have a free-for-all deathmatch, team deathmatch, or you can buddy up with another player and play some co-op. Co-op will have you facing wave after wave of bad guys and it’s a fun way to rack up your online kills.

If you are looking for a game where you can sneak around, leave this alone and pick up Deus Ex. If you are looking for a game that allows you to blast through bad guys, walls, and doors with no worries about noise or alerts, this is a title you might enjoy.

Bodycount provides the guns, glory and bad guys. You provide the balls.

Bodycount: Rambo Welcome.

7

1 Quarter Run: WWF Wrestlefest

wwf-wrestlefest

WWF Wrestlefest

Welcome to 1 QUARTER RUN, where I try to get as far as I can with ONLY 1 quarter!  No continues, replays or savestates!

wwf-wrestlefest

Why do this?  I’ve been a gamer for a VERY long time.  That being said, I’m constantly trying to improve myself.  These “let’s plays” are my attempts to improve myself and talk about the game and its surrounding context at the same time.

wwf-wrestlefest

My first entry is WWF Wrestlefest.  I had done a text review of its predecessor, WWF Superstars, some years back. However, it was THIS game that TRULY set the standard for great wrestling games during an era when wrestling games had a hard enough time being “good.”

wwf-wrestlefest

So come and join Prixel Derp’s Chris “Sledge” Douglas as I take on WWF Wrestlefest’s Saturday Night’s Main Event mode, and see how well I can do on this notorious quarter muncher!

Hydra

Atari-lynx_Hydra

Format- Atari Lynx

Genre- Racing style shooter thing

Another Lynx game that looks better than it plays. This is getting tiresome. I didn’t have high hopes for Hydra admittedly, but still.

Atari-lynx_Hydra

The game doesn’t start well. The cartridge has a very boring label, and the main menu screen has a ditty in the background that seems to be trying to make your head explode by reaching the highest pitch possible. Listen to it and you’ll know what I mean.

Getting into the actual game, you have three maps to choose from – easy, medium and hard. I choose easy, and i’m greeted by a screen of a boat on a river.

Atari-lynx_Hydra

The boat is fuelled, i’m ready to go, I press A to accelerate, and…nothing. B? Nothing. Up? Nothing. Hmmm.

Finally, I choose down and the boat judders into life. Down. You press down on the d-pad to accelerate. Up is slow down. Genius.

Atari-lynx_Hydra

I can kind of get what the developer was trying to do – up to tip the boat back to slow down – but in reality it doesn’t really work, especially with a d-pad as rubbishy as the one the Lynx possesses. It’s very difficult to accelerate and have a decent level of control at the same time.

The driving bit of the game itself is simple though, or so it seems. You clip along the river at a decent pace, shooting bad guys and collecting weird sparkly orbs. Suddenly, you find yourself running out of gas. Where are the gas pick ups?

Atari-lynx_Hydra

There are some items floating above the river, but I had no idea how to get them. Inevitably, it’s soon game over. You can take hits from enemies and restart where you died, but if you get an empty fuel tank, it’s all over for you.

So I end up looking through the instruction manual – something I loathe to do – and find out jump is the option 2 button. The one at the bottom right of the system.

Although you can just about reach it, it makes an awkward control system even more of a fudge. And it’s not a slab of sweet fudge either, but a bitter, out of date rotting mess of fudge. In such an action orientated title such as this, these muddled controls are near unforgivable.

So eventually I get a grasp of the controls (as well as I can), and the game improves a little. It does look very nice indeed, with 3D caverns and reasonably detailed enemies.

But in the end, it’s just all just works to cover up for the over complicated controls. If only the developers had worked as hard on making the game suited to the Lynx’s control scheme as much as they had on the portable’s graphical capabilities, Hydra could have been a winner.

Cabal

Cabal_Arcade

Ah yes, Cabal. This war themed arcade game throws you and a friend right into the thick of battle. Your mission is to maim, kill and blow up everything in sight on twenty (20) different screens (four screens per stage, with a total of five stages). Should you reach the end and defeat the evil dictator, you are free to relinquish your guerrilla fighting days and just become a run of the mill commando.

Cabal_Arcade

Ask any arcade gamer about Cabal, and you will notice a wry smile come over their face. Cabal had you ducking behind walls to escape enemy fire all the while you shoot back and destroy everything on screen, from buildings, tanks, helicopters, submarines, walls and trees to animals! Using your onscreen cross-hair, you aim and fire. Your soldier starts with his trusty single-shot gun (with unlimited ammo), however, there are power-ups (shotguns, machine guns, grenades) hidden on each screen, hence the importance of shooting and destroying everything in sight. Once the screen has been leveled out, your soldier moves on to the next screen or stage.

Cabal_Arcade

Cabal set the blueprint for a number of shooting games, from its own successor, Blood Bros. to SNK’s NAM-1975. These games may be better (for some gamers), but you have to pay homage to where the inspiration came from – Cabal: Dare the Danger!

GraphicsNice large sprites. Items on screen blow up with great satisfaction (buildings collapse in dust when their foundations give in to your incessant fire)

88%

SoundExpected frenetic war machine noise

85%

PlayabilityThe screen does not scroll, but the gameplay is hectic. You will love blowing up everything on screen

85%

LastabilityStill great to come back to and shoot everything in sight, including the pigs!

83%

OverallUsing the trackball may get some getting used to, but once you do, Cabal will dare you to play it. Get ready to destroy everything

82%

 

 

 

Cabal_Arcade

Manufacturer: TAD Corporation
Year: 1988
Genre: Shooter
Number of Simultaneous Players: 2
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Joint
Control Panel Layout: Multi-Player
Controls:
– Trackball: Optical
– Buttons: 2 (shoot and grenade)
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)

Retro Gaming: Brasil

Retro Gaming in Brasil

Retro Gaming: Brasil

During my stay in Sao Paulo Brasil my wife and I made a stop at Bubsy Games. Retro gaming stores are sometimes hard to come by and I am very glad there are still a few around. Every time I’m in Sao Paulo I make sure to stop by Bubsy Games. I ended up trading some games with them and always enjoy stopping by.

Retro Gaming in Brasil

They have a small tv to test games out on, I love the air brush art on that thing.

Retro Gaming in Brasil

Retro Gaming in Brasil

A few of the gems I picked up in the trade. I’m stoked on Time Killers for the Sega Genesis and also the pirated Ninja Gaiden III famicom cart. I’ll be enjoying these a lot when I arrive back home. Thanks Bubsy Games!

Retro Gaming in Brasil

Interstate ’76

Interstate_76

Interstate ’76

Oh yes, A lot of people that know me, tend to forget that I was once deeply involved in what I consider to be the dark ages of my gaming journey. The PC-gaming era.. It wasn’t all bad, it started great with the DOS/Windows 3.1 era where I didn’t have to worry about performance of games or anything, as I was still getting used to the simple factor of console gaming (I sold my SNES to put towards a 486 DX4 100Mhz with 8MB RAM, a 1MB video card and 540MB storage 1995), all I had to worry about was fuffing around with autoexec.bat and config.sys.

Interstate_76

As soon as Windows 95 came out and changed the way we played games on the PC, especially when developers started to make games to run in Windows, it was saying goodbye to command line interfaces, and hello to icon-doubleclicking. Interstate ‘76 was one of many titles which will always remind me of the better times of PC gaming. Even though I was trying to run a game which required a Pentium 90 with 16MB RAM.

Interstate_76

i76, released originally in 1997 was based on the same game engine used in Mechwarrior 2, which was yet another classic DOS series.

Interstate_76

The game is set in the mid 1970’s where there was an oil crisis in the United States. You play as Groove Champion, the main antagonist (who is set out to find out who killed your sister), alongside with your partner Taurus and the mechanic Skeeter. The story unravels more to find that the villains have a plot to destroy the main oil supplies across the US and Groove alongside with Taurus have to stop them.

Interstate_76

As I said, i76 is based on the Mechwarrior 2 engine, meaning you drive around in 70’s muscle cars armed to the teeth with guns/missiles/etc, with full customisation on what weapons are used as well as the working condition of them (as you get to salvage car parts from missions after destroying enemy vehicles).

Interstate_76

If there was one thing I was fearing before getting this game as of late, as well as back in 1997, was how on earth was I going to control a car with a keyboard? Well I was actually quite impressed with the controls considering that a keyboard is digital and well steering wheels generally are analogue. No, the controls are great in this game, I’m really impressed. Graphics were typical of what to expect from the late 90’s as shown below in the screenshots:

Interstate_76

The cutscenes are minimalistic yet adding a style which works for such a game.

Interstate_76

And the soundtrack is amazing, composed by Arion Salazar, who of course is the founding member of Third Eye Blind. Very funky and a strong 70’s feel to the music. Here’s an example of the Title song:

Interstate_76

The Nitro pack, which is the mission pack that comes with the i76 pack you get from GOG, puts you back further in time where you play as Taurus and Skeeter alongside Groove’s sister Jade before she was murdered, and in this mission pack it focuses more on the many auto-gangs in the desert.

Interstate_76

Considering the amount of levels you get, the customisability of your vehicle (for single player AND multiplayer), to get the Interstate ‘76 Arsenal pack for US$6.00 is, well.. there’s no excuses to not add this to the collection once again. This is a fantastic re-port of a classic Windows 95 title, which now works on XP, Vista and Windows 7 also. For this review, I ran i76 on VMware Fusion for OSX in a Windows XP Virtual Machine. End result was perfect and performance was not an issue on a 2GHz+ iMac.

Blade Runner

BladeRunner_PC

Blade Runner

Everybody has seen the movie (I hope) however there is a great game also with the Blade Runner logo on it , released in 1997, it follows the Blade Runner Ray McCoy. It is set in the same universe as the Blade Runner movie but it follows a story of it’s own, although many characters of the movie appear in the game as well.
What is Blade Runner
BladeRunner_PC
Blade Runner is a Point and Click adventure game by Westwood studios that was released back in 1997. Unlike the movie, the game follows Blade Runner Ray McCoy who is trying to hunt down a group of replicants. It is one of the first 3D adventure games ever and it does a great job of telling us a side-story inside the Blade Runner universe.
Why it’s Great
BladeRunner_PC
Because it is set in the Blade Runner universe and it has it’s own story, it references many parts of the movie and back in the day it was 4 cd disks. Oh did I mention that it has thirteen possible endings?

Where you can get it

BladeRunner_PC
I tried to do a research for a place that can be selling the Blade Runner game, unfortunately I was only able to find it only at the standard places that you find great games nobody wants to remake or republish:
Buy it at Amazon
Buy it at Ebay


“I was just finishing up my twelfth hour on patrol when I got the call. Welcome relief considering that the most action I had seen all night was a schizoid grandmother doing the shimmy in her underwear in the second sector.”

Ray McCoy

Splash Lake

splash-lake-

Splash Lake

The idea of a bouncing Ostrich with a very sharp beak named Ozzie was enough for me to at least take a look at this game. Splash Lake was released by NEC in 1992 for the Turbo Grafx-16. This puzzle game features an Ostrich named Ozzie who uses his sharp beak to break holes in the bridge he is on causing his enemies to fall, into the lake, where they splash, hence, Splash Lake.

splash-lake-

Check out our few video review with commentary.

Gambler

Gamble by parker bros

A little known classic board game that deserves more attention than it gets is the 1974 version of Gambler, by Parker Brothers.  This game plays very much like its title implies: forget about strategy; throw the dice and let Lady Luck be your copilot.  And since you don’t need to puzzle out your victory, any group of players can jump right into the game with a brief scan of the rules.

Since this is a Parker Brothers board game, the game play is similar to others of the period: you take turns throwing the dice, moving your token and experience the joy of whatever you’re required to do on the square you landed on (like “Making Enemies” –Roll one die and all other players pay the Jackpot 10 times the number rolled or “Win a Few…Lose a Few” – Place bet. Roll Dice. Even total wins amount bet from Jackpot. Odd total, Jackpot gets amount bet.  Sometimes you draw a card, like, “Good News/Bad News” – Platinum Discovered Beneath Alberta Tar Sands!! (But you traded your stocks last week. Nosedive. Pay the Jackpot $40 or “Good News/Bad News –Hot Tip From Your Stock Broker!! Roll doubles and cop $250 from the Jackpot.  With each play, sometimes you come out a winner, sometimes you’re penalized; and it’s always a gamble.

Gamble by parker bros

This is not a game for the anti-gambling crowd.  When playing this game you gamble at every opportunity, and often entice your opponents to gamble with you.  You bet on the horses. You visit casinos. You play bingo. You play the lottery. If there’s a way for you to gamble in this game, the designers’ thought of it and you’re part of it.  There is even a special “Sweepstakes” dice shaker that you use to try to win big.  Mind you, my sister and I played a lot of this game in our younger days, and the biggest gamble I make these days is taking a chance on a new brand of coffee at the grocery store, so it doesn’t seem to have corrupted our psyches with its wicked ways.

If you’re looking for a retro game that you can enjoy without having to take a course in the understanding the rules, Gambler is the game for you.  It’s suitable for 2-6 players, ages 8 and up.  The more the merrier in this game, though!  Have fun!

WWF Superstars

 

WWF Superstars

Technos Japan, 1989

One of the first major licensed arcade wrestling games to hit the US streets did so in 1989 when Technos Japan released WWF Superstars. While not an immensely deep game, it did offer its share of action and enjoyment to those who had enough quarters (it ate quarters like nothing else, save WWF Wrestlefest).

The story: Flashback to WWF in the late 80’s, after the amazing Hogan-Andre feud. Bobby Heenan, then Andre’s manager, sells Andre’s services to the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase (who brought Steve Austin into the WWF).

Their main rivals are the team of Hulk Hogan and Randy “Macho Man” Savage, the Megapowers. This feud was enough to make DiBiase and Andre, the unplayable boss characters in this game, demigods in the eyes of those who played against them.

The Game:

Graphics:

The graphics would fit right into the world of Double Dragon, as they both have a very similar style.  It is definitely well above what the most popular home console, the NES, could do at the time.

Gameplay:

In fact, the punching in this game is Technos-y; IE very much a flailing style not unlike the aforementioned Double Dragon.  Quite different from their actual punches but that’s… fine.

When you pin someone, you immediately control your tag team partner.  This is useful for trying to block your opponent’s partner from breaking your pin, but it can be disorienting at times because as soon as the pin is broken, you’re back in control of your main character.

There is no way to regain your health… even if you tag out.  The only way you can heal yourself is to insert more quarters.  Once your power hits 0, you have no chance of kicking out of a pin.  And, your power does not regenerate EVEN if you win and go on to the next match.  You better either conserve, or have enough quarters ready to go at it.

The sequel, WWF Wrestlefest, would later improve on this mistake, allowing you to regain some health while tagged out.

Sound:

The intro music is fantastic.  I had that tune trapped in my head ever since I first laid eyes on this at Crazy Eights Arcade in Waterbury, CT.  This song absolutely signified WRESTLING to me for quite a bit of time.

Furthermore, when you’re low on power, the music can get QUITE dramatic… until you insert that quarter like you’re supposed to, ya dingus.

WWF Superstars

  Insert coin! Something you’re going to see quite often in this game.

 WWF Superstars Hey… all but two of these guys were still working all the way up to 1999!

Honestly, having six distinct characters to choose from was pretty good for a 1989 game.  A lot of games, including the previously released WWF Wrestlemania for the NES may have had multiple characters, but in many cases, they had the exact same moveset.  Here, each character had their own movesets!

Also unheard of was the fact that each character had their actual finishers (well, except for Duggan of course, who used a clunky bulldog, instead of his 3-point stance clothesline).  Again, this was a feature COMPLETELY missing from the aforementioned WWF Wrestlemania.

WWF Superstars

 Do you have what it takes?

In other words, do you have $50 in quarters?
Seriously.  Games like these were serious quarter
eaters.
 

WWF Superstars 
Ahh… good ol’ New York.  Appears to be Madison Square
Garden.  Noticeably absent is the Iron Sheik, bragging
about how many times he sold the place out.

 WWF Superstars

To demonstrate this game, I chose the Mega Powers.  The only matches available in this game are tag-team.  While this may be unfortunate to today’s wrestlegame fans, it is nevertheless a fun way to spend some pocket change in 1989.

And after 3 gutwrenching and heartbreaking matches for my opponents (and possibly for the poor fans in attendance who had to watch the same tag-team fight over and over again):

WWF Superstars

 WWF Superstars

 WWF Superstars

Mean Gene: “They’re claiming themselves challengers to your world championship belts.”“No one can beat the Mega-Bucks”, Andre says, while gazing longingly at Virgil…

“I’ll put you to sleep with my Million Dollar Dream!”

WWF Superstars Those lazy bastards!  They couldn’t be bothered to drawa new scene for Ted and Andre’s entrance, so they just decided to reverse it!

So as you may have guessed, your final opponents are Andre the Giant and Ted DiBiase.  Andre is a notorious pain in the ass.  Do not try any power moves on him…  he can EASILY reverse them!  Once in a while they will work, but it’s best not even tried!  DiBiase is no slouch either, but Andre is SERIOUSLY tough.

After beating the Mega-Bucks:

WWF Superstars

 WWF Superstars

Your victory celebration!

Elizabeth: “I am pleased to present you

with these championship belts!”
But wait there’s more…

 WWF Superstars What??  Do mine eyes decieve me?
Is that the Budokan? Yes it indeed is!
I made many a trip here when I lived in Japan.

 So,yes.  After winning in New York, you are instantly whisked away to the land of Giant Baba and Stan Hansen, as the WWF invades Japan!  Could we be in for some 5 star classics, ala Misawa vs. Kawada?

WWF Superstars 

Nope.
No matter where the WWE goes, it’s always the same.

Hey, didn’t ya ever notice that the computer can duck,

but you can’t? And is DiBiase teaming with the Warrior?  
Only three more matches to go… again.

WWF Superstars 

This again??  “Declaring ourselves”?  I thought we were the champs!

WWF Superstars 
But we already have… nevermind.

Despite my apparent frustration with this game, I actually love it!  At this point, wrestling games, at least in the US (with the sole exception of Pro-Wrestling for the NES) were pretty much garbage.  WWF Wrestlemania for the NES was garbage, and Microleague Championship Wrestling (the C64 / Amiga game which was pretty much rock-paper-scissors with primitive FMV) was nothing but novelty.  WWF Superstars was pretty much the only game in town for a “proper” wrestling game.  It was great for its time, and it still holds up pretty well today!

The only things close to a “port” (and as Bobby Heenan would say, “I use that term LOOSELY”) would be Ocean Software’s 1991 WWF Wrestlemania for C64, DOS, Amiga, etc., and WWF Superstars for the Gameboy, both of which emulated the graphic style and had more contemporaneous wrestlers but added a weird promo mechanic.

But those are for another time!

Burnout

Burnout_arcade

Burnout (2001)
By: Criterion Games / Acclaim  Genre: Racing  Players:  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: Infinity
Also Available For: PlayStation 2, Xbox
Burnout_arcade

As many regular readers here may know, the demise of Sega’s fantastic Dreamcast took with it my enthusiasm for all ‘modern’ gaming as well. Consequently, a vast majority of systems and games released since then went largely ignored by me. Still to this day I’ve used a PS2 only very briefly, and I’ve never used an Xbox, but the GameCube is a bit different. My appreciation of racing games is also well-known and it was these games that consumed the bulk of my time with my shiny Dreamcast so my interest in modern gaming was again briefly piqued by a magazine cover I saw. The magazine was Edge whose cover was only usually awarded to notably important or prestigious subjects so when I saw one dominated by a new racing game called Burnout, I took immediate notice, particularly when I saw the text accompanying the image – “OutRun meets 3DO Need For Speed”…

Burnout_arcade

That said, any interest I had in video games at all during my post-Dreamcast depression was intermittent so it took me a good while to get around to playing Burnout, but when I finally did it was the GC version that I plumped for and my first impressions were mixed. It certainly isn’t a game to bog you down in exposition – as far as I can tell there’s not even a basic outline of your objectives beyond the obvious goal of being ‘number one’ (snigger), never-mind anything as radical as a backstory, but that isn’t too important with games like this. All the game does give you is a choice of several play-modes – Championship, Single Race, Head to Head, Time Attack, and Special. The first two consist of races against three CPU-controlled cars over ‘street’ courses which of course are crammed full of civilian vehicles. Single Race (arcade mode, basically) give you a choice of five fictional cars – Supermini, Sports Coupe, Saloon, Muscle, and Pickup – and three courses to race them on.

Burnout_arcade

Doesn’t sound like much I agree, so luckily more cars and courses can be unlocked by racing (well) in the Championship. This is the mode you’ll probably spend by far the most time with and it consists of two types of race – Grand Prix and Marathon races. There are four Grands Prix, which are each a series of three races over several laps of circuit-based courses (the number of laps depends on the length of the circuit), and two Marathons, which are single races over one long point-to-point course. Both types of race have a fairly strict time-limit to reach the numerous checkpoints but successful completion of each unlocks subsequent Championship races, more courses, more options for the Special Mode, and Face Off races. There are four of the latter which are head-to-head races against a CPU-controlled opponent in a new car. Win the race and you unlock the car for future use!

Burnout_arcade

This does of course bring the total number of cars available in the game to nine – the un-lockables are (skip this part if you want it to be a surprise!) – Roadster, Saloon GT, Tow Truck, and a Bus! Each vehicle is modeled on a real world equivalent (unofficially, of course) and differs with regards to its acceleration, top speed, and handling. The first two don’t matter too much as your opponents will generally be of an equal standard anyway – i.e. if you choose a slow car, they’ll be slow as well, so finding a car that handles according to your preferred driving style is most important. Some of them stick to the road like glue and obey your every command without question; others skid and slide around all over the place! Everyone knows it’s way more fun going for the fastest, craziest option though, and to that end I would recommend the Dodge Viper. Ermm, I mean the ‘muscle car’ – it’s big, heavy, and a challenge to control around corners, but it’s fast!

Burnout_arcade

There are a total of fifteen named courses through the game but only five of them are wholly unique – Interstate, Harbor Town, River City, Hillside Pass, Gridlock USA – the others are made up of sections taken from these courses, sometimes reversed or at different times of day (or night). Although they’re all comprised of public roads, there’s still a reasonable variety of types and features. Their names should give you a good idea or what they’re like but you can expect to tackle inner-city areas, motorways, coastal roads, quiet country lanes, and various others featuring undulating surfaces, tunnels, long sweeping corners, sharp right-hand turns, bridges, and lots of other stuff. As mentioned, all roads are filled with normal road-users as well, including everything from normal cars to buses, petrol-tankers, and big trucks, and these are predictably involved in much of the action.
Burnout_arcade

Travelling the sort of speeds typical of this game, it doesn’t take too much contact to cause a crash. Indeed, hitting stationary objects like walls and barriers is normally enough but touching any other vehicle that isn’t travelling at a near-identical speed (i.e. your opponents) will result in a usually-spectacular accident, often involving numerous other vehicles as well. Whilst it was almost certainly the often-leisurely drives around attractive locales that Edge magazine had in mind when they compared Burnout to OutRun, it was surely the huge crashes that made them mention the original Need For Speed. I guess Criterion were rather proud of them too – each is replayed from several angles and gives a damage figure in dollars. There’s even a ‘biggest crash’ category in the records screen, tempting you to cause them on purpose in pursuit of the record for each course!
Burnout_arcade

This can be tremendous fun as you might imagine, but believe it or not there is actually some incentive for avoiding accidents where possible, and that it what gave the game its name to begin with – the Burnouts! This is represented by a meter in the bottom-left of the screen and there are a few ways of gradually filling it – getting ‘air’ by driving over bumps and hills fast enough, driving on the wrong side of the road without crashing, drifting around corners, and by ‘near misses’ – in other words, nearly hitting civilian cars. Once the meter is full it’s available to use by pressing the relevant button which causes a significant increase in speed for… about thirty seconds if memory serves. This does of course greatly increase the likelihood of a crash as not only do the other cars come at you faster, but it also makes cornering a lot more difficult. When they do come though, they can be among the most spectacular crashes of all!
Burnout_arcade

They certainly do look impressive as well, whether you cause them on purpose or not! In fact, everything looks good here really – the cars, courses, roadside, and scenery are all fantastic and superbly detailed, but this kind of stuff is the least we expect from 21st century gaming – what impressed me the most was the smaller stuff. You can change the color of your chosen vehicle and the races take place at various times of day so the lighting there is great as well, and the attention to detail is superb – weather effects, your car’s shiny windows and bodywork reflecting the sky and parts of the scenery, its drive wheels kicking up dust if you veer off track, its headlights reflecting off the road surface during wet night races, your indicators flashing when you turn corners, shadows appropriate to the sun’s position, other road user honking at you if you get in the way… it’s all here!
Burnout_arcade

Even better is the sense of speed which was the best I’d experienced at the time and still impresses now, especially when using the ‘bumper cam’, and even more so when using a ‘burnout’ – everything gets a tinge of blurriness as your pace immediately increases, reflections pass over your car faster, tunnels approach scarily, it’s pulse-quickening stuff! And then there’s those crashes… The crashes are undeniably a visual high-point – sometimes your car will just stop dead, other times roll numerous times down the street, it can get wedged under trucks, stuck between two buses; hitting a crash barrier or something can even send you spinning through the air, but the results are usually the same for all vehicles involved – smashed windows, dents and scratches all over, and a million different types of crumpled bodywork. I’m no physicist but I’d say the vehicles also behave exactly as they should in these high-speed collisions too which is perhaps even more impressive.
Burnout_arcade

As entertaining as the crashes are though, I always found them a bit overrated. Games like Destruction Derby were created specially with crashing in mind but Burnout, however good its crashes may be, was designed as a racing game first and foremost, and in this regard it’s fantastic. The Championship mode probably won’t take too long to complete but all the courses and cars unlocked therein are available for use in Single Race and Head to Head modes which helps prolong the lifespan of this fine game, and then there’s the hitherto unmentioned Special Mode. To start with this only offers race replays and a music player but it’s also possible to view the credits, access a Survival mode (challenges you to race for as long as possible without crashing), Free Run (lets you race a course without any other traffic around), Free Run Twin (two player version of Free Run), all of which is unlocked in much the same way as the courses and cars.
Burnout_arcade

Even all these play modes will only last so long though. As with any other driving game, the thing that will or won’t keep you playing after you’ve seen everything is simply how enjoyable it is to play, and this is probably Burnout’s greatest strength. Part of the reason for this is the racing system which is surprisingly fair – if you race well but crash occasionally, your opponents will usually be very close by, constantly jostling for position, although not too violently. If you race really well and rarely or never crash, they’ll be way behind, and if you crash every thirty seconds you’ll never catch them up, or at least the leader! Something else that’s very welcome here is the fallibility of the other racers – they all make mistakes and frequently crash, often right in front of you, leaving you with a pile of wreckage to try and steer around unscathed! Possibly a tougher enemy than your opponents though, is the rather harsh time-limit which necessitates fast but careful driving in order to make each checkpoint. This, however, may sometimes seem impossible due to the design of the courses.
Burnout_arcade

They’re not badly designed you see, just realistically, and since real roads are not designed for 150mph races, there’s lots of potential problems. As well as the many, many normal road users who move around as real drivers would, changing lanes, turning at junctions, stopping at traffic lights, etc, there are plenty of tight (and often blind) corners, and even things like crossroads to try and catch you out as well, frequently successfully. The control of the cars is one of my favorite things about this game though. Each is noticeably different and testing the limits of them all is great fun – push any of them too hard and they’ll complain! The floopiest one is also, not in-coincidentally, my favorite, but even the weediest ones will give in eventually. What all this basically means is, although it can often seem like a tough or even unfair game, it’s more than possible to navigate each course quickly and safely. It’s definitely not a game to simply hold down the accelerator and bash your way around each course, but careful as well as skillful driving make playing it a thoroughly entertaining experience.

First impressions of Burnout are ultra fantastic – the very superb presentation, flashy graphics, eye-melting speed, and of course the crashes! Criterion definitely nailed it from an aesthetic point of view, although the oft-criticized in-game music is very much background music and quite inconspicuous. Get past the initially dazzling exterior though, and second impressions of the game may put you off a little. It seems as though you crash every thirty seconds without being able to do anything to prevent it and numerous angry shouts are sure to leave your mouth while playing. Stick with it though, and you’ll soon see that practice absolutely pays dividends. Time spent with the challenging courses and flawlessly-handling cars soon becomes immensely enjoyable, you’ll start finishing races without having crashed at all, laps times will continually come down, and Burnout soon becomes one of the most exciting, addictive, edge-of-the-seat racing games ever seen at the time.

RKS Score: 8/10

Bucky O’Hare

Bucky O’Hare

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Bucky O'Hare - NES

Bucky O’Hare was a comic-book character and star of an animated television series that proved to be a popular enough license to eventually lead to Konami producing a video game based on the canon. Concerning the space-faring green rabbit Bucky O’Hare and his ragtag crew of anthropomorphic creature-person heroes and their fight against the dread forces of the toad menace to save the Aniverse.

Gameplay

This one-player game begins with the player controlling the protagonist Bucky O’Hare, whose four shipmates have been captured and stowed on four planets generically named after colors. From an initial stage-select screen, Bucky can tackle the planets in whatever manner he wishes in order to save his comrades before taking the fight directly to the Air Marshal of the frog fighters.

Bucky O'Hare - NES

Gameplay is in the style of a two-dimensional platformer run-‘n’-gun type of title, whereas the A button jumps and the B button fires a blaster. The player can fire directly upward with Bucky’s gun and also fire while crouches. Each level offers their share of pattern-based enemies, precision-jumping puzzles, and fast-paced battle scenarios, all of which end in a nice little boss fight.

Where Bucky O’Hare begins to become somewhat distinctive is in the fact that after each crew member is rescued, you can instantly switch to playing as that character, and scroll through all available cast members by pressing Select. Each squad member has a slightly different weapon (Deadeye’s pistol fires in three directions but at a short range, Jenny has a quick laser that fires from her forehead, etc.) and a special ability activated by holding the B button (Jenny can launch a “crystal ball” attack that the player can control with the directional pad, Blinky can hover for a limited amount of time, etc.). It is this combination of character traits that enhances the challenge of each level as the player must decide which is best for the given situation. What complicates (or makes more tactical, at least) matters is that there are power tokens spread out throughout levels that upgrade each character’s inherent ability, each of which can be upgraded a few times, usually resulting in a longer duration of their particular specialty.

Bucky O'Hare - NES

With the standard platformer formula in place, Bucky adds items and power-ups, character selections, a robust health bar, a smattering of one-ups and continues to go along with a decent password system, and “hidden” levels apart from the initial four offered to form a thorough sci-fi laser-blasting adventure.

Graphics

Bucky O'Hare - NES

The character sprites are big enough to pose distinctive characters against some just-okay backdrops, but in some cases it is the enemy designs that outclass the heroes. For example, there is a portion of the Green Planet (Act 5, specifically, as the levels are divided) when multiple large crafts fly overhead, firing at the character, and all done with minimal flickering and slowdown issues. Then, at the end, a solid boss match with a toadbot who throws enormous boulders that crumble into deadly shards. On that same stage, though, this game shows its occasional “meh” qualities, with running water that is only bothered to be animated at its surface, lending an odd, ethereal appearance as it seemingly hovers a couple feet over the ground, yet landing in it instantly kills the controlled character.

Sound

Bucky O'Hare - NES

This title boasts the usual high-quality Konami effects, many of them recognizable from their library of other NES games (try the Start/pause button in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartridges, or notice the explosion sound of the defeated bosses), along with good background music in place for appropriate ambiance. The skillful renditions reflect painstaking attempt at optimizing what the hardware had to offer, and results in an action-oriented, multi-layered beat throughout.

Originality

While other sci-fi themes had been done before for two-dimensional platform titles, and anthropomorphic protagonists had been seen before, no game was quite like Bucky O’Hare. This does not represent a perfect video game, nor is the experience without its aggravations, flaws, and outright bizarre bits (a spider enemy that drops down from a tree and explodes?!). Nonetheless, this game came late in the support cycle of the Nintendo Entertainment System console, long after Konami had mastered the basics of game-crafting and was able to spin a unique, enjoyable romp here, deserving of a respectable three and a half stars out of five.

Half Life 2: Episode Two

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Half Life 2: Episode Two begins right where Episode 1 left off. The Citadel has come crashing to the ground, City 17 is in ruins, and your train out of dodge has derailed. You awake to find Alyx outside, thankful you’re alive. She helps you out using the Gravity Gun, and thus begins your mission.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Host to a data card that the Combine desperately wants and needs, Alyx and Gordon must rush to White Forest, the resistance’s new base in the wake of City 17’s destruction. The game follows Gordon and Alyx as they make their way across the countryside that surrounds City 17 and to White Forest, where Doctor’s Vance, Kleiner, and Magnusson  are waiting for their arrival with the data, which is needed to launch a missile that will close the Combine portal, leaving the Combine trapped on earth without reinforcements.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The story is fantastic. The characters are well known by now, as is the struggle, and never does that struggle seem more important than in the final hours of the game, when the portal can be seen looming in the dark sky and striders are flooding the forest towards the resistance base and the missile silos.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The story is excellent, but, the journey to get to White Forest begins a little too slowly. After leaving the train we are treated to a stunning view of City 17 and the outdoor environment of Episode 2. However, the game quickly leads you underground, into Antlion nests where you feel confined and frankly, a bit bored. Antlions just aren’t fun. And tight spaces aren’t a whole lot of fun either when there beckons an entire world of forest and mountains above.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Nonetheless, Episode 2 throws you into the outdoors after about an hour and a half of crawling in Antlion tunnels, and you rarely venture back in. The huge difference in this game is the size of the environment. You are surrounded by wilderness, small towns, farmhouses and lone radio towers. There are rivers and stunning mountains rising in the distance. It’s liberating and it creates a feeling that the Half Life world is truly real. While playing, I was left with a very certain impression that the world had been abandoned with the Combine invasion fifteen years earlier. Everything was falling apart, buildings left to rot, and it was overwhelmingly awe-inspiring to see the world as a place where humans had been shepherded into ghettos and where the Combine used the earth as a mine, taking natural resources over time.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

One of the main questions surrounding the game was the introduction of a new enemy: the hunter, which is a difficult foe in the different gaming environment. Episode 2, however, also introduces three more enemies as well: an acid-spitting Antlion, an Antlion guardian, and the Combine Advisor. While serviceable enemies, the Hunter steals the show. A vicious, fast-moving, and deadly adversary that stands about eight feet tall; the Hunter seems to travel in packs and it shoots electrical bolts that stick to surfaces and explode, zapping health and energy. It is a welcome addition the Half Life story, and I expect that we’ll see more of it in Episode 3.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

The lighting and other graphical qualities are fantastic, and even though better graphics can be found across current-gen consoles, Valve enlisted such incredible art direction that the Source Engine’s age is barely showing. The environments look wonderful, the spaces feel appropriately vast, and the character models still look amazingly realistic. They display emotions on a level I’ve never seen before in a game, and I still don’t think any graphical engines model human characters so well.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Sound use is excellent in Episode 2. The music kicks in at the right moments and serves to inspire fear, excitement, or manic abandon. The weapons sound appropriately tuned, and the voice acting is fantastic as usual. And of course, the screaming of headcrab zombies is utterly terrifying and spine-tingle inducing.

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

There was some criticism of the length of Episode 1, and that has been rectified in Episode 2. Episode 2 offers a range of diversity that is unrivaled in gaming and is quite long. From the driving segments to the use of the Gravity Gun, to physics puzzles to shotgun diplomacy to huge battles from underground lairs to shaking valleys full of striders, Episode 2 is amazing. It is roughly six hours long, and it is well worth the journey (and the price).

Half Life 2 - Episode 2 - Xbox 360

Episode 2 isn’t perfect. Though the opening sections of the game make the eventual arrival in the forest seem incredibly liberating, they are a bit of a slog and they make it tough to begin the adventure. And though the story is enthralling, I still want to know more about the G Man and the seven hour war. Looking beyond those minor faults, Episode 2 is at least every bit as strong a Half Life experience as the game’s that came before it and has me excited for the final episode. No other game offers such a diverse, fantastic, and entertaining variety of puzzles, strategy, excitement, and story. Episode 2 is well worth adding to your game collection.

Final Score: 93%

+ Great gameplay                                                   – Opening section of game is a bit slow

+ Wonderful art direction                                    – Story could still use some insight

+ Pulse poundingly exciting

Hogan’s Alley

Hogan's_Alley

Hogan’s Alley

Now these are the exact moments that make me glad I began this project. I went into this thinking there was no way this game was going to have any kind of history other than being a memorable Black Box title and left my research blown away. Ladies and germs, I present to you a game steeped in more links from the past than just about any out there, Hogan’s Alley.

Hogan's_Alley
Nice touch with the bullet in the logo.

Let’s dig into the history for a moment because it’s so damned captivating to me. The original Hogan’s Alley was presented back in the 1890’s and starred one of the country’s earliest comic strip stars, The Yellow Kid. The strip was written and drawn by the famed Richard F. Oucault and featured in the pages of New York World, owned by publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who is presently more well known for the Pultizer Prize, an award for journalistic excellence. Hogan’s Alley was popular enough to be on billboards and a ton of merchandise for the time but quite a bit of legal wrangling between Pulitzer and another famous publisher, William Randolph Hearst caused the Kid to quietly fade away.

Hogan's_Alley
An early strip feautring the original Hogan’s Alley. How many video games do you know with roots dating back to the 1890s?

Fast forward to 1920, two years removed from the World War I, and the FBI learned through a survey conducted throughout the major police departments at the time that marksmanship was becoming a lost art. Out of the all cities surveyed with over 25, 000 residents, only THIRTEEN had marksmanship programs. Obviously, this needed work so Hogan’s Alley was established at Ohio’s Camp Perry by the Army and the NRA.

Hogan's_Alley
Have a nice day indeed!

Beginning in 1924, there were national contests held at the camp for sharpshooters and the like. There was no blank ammunition laying around so instead they opted to use real live ammo on cardboard cutouts set up around their virtual city, hence why the game’s targets are presented as they are. World War II brought an end to the contest but in 1954, the camp re-opened and in 1987, they took it a set further and went absolutely batshit with the idea, creating an actual small town for simulated combat.

Hogan's_Alley
No. Fucking. Way.

But yes, there IS a game to discuss isn’t there? Hogan’s Alley was one of the first Light Gun games (or “Zapper” if you will) to be released and like most Black Boxers, was released to the arcades prior to the NES launch date. There are 3 modes you can get your Elliott Ness on with, which seems to be par for the course for the Zapper series, but who’s going to bitch when they could’ve easily put out one mode and called it good?

Hogan's_Alley
Shirtless gangsters on what appears to be the surface of Mars. MISS!

Game A is your standard 3 target shooter. This would be one of the rare times I enjoy no kind of musical track because if you’re an FBI agent trying to concentrate, the last thing you want is bouncy chiptunes blasting in your ear. There are 3 types of townsfolk in the sim you can shoot and 3 you can’t or else it registers as a “MISS!” and your game is over at ten. The tricky part is that the professor is colored just like a baddie and the grunt with the shotgun is colored like the stand-alone ‘stache sporting policeman, so it does take a bit of skill not to accidentally send Professor Sad-Shit to hell.

Hogan's_Alley
Seriously, look at the sour puss on that professor. Should we shoot out of mercy or not? Or do we shoot because he looks like Walter White and we really don’t know what a criminal looks like always?

My favorite was always Game B. It takes you right into Hogan’s Alley and feels trickier and better paced. Still a lack of music except for a groovy little number in between rounds which is fine by me. If you’ve ever played this mode, the words “fuck!” and “shit!” will enter even the cleanest vernacular after you just pumped poor Miss Nobody full of lead. Second verse, same as the verse, 10 misses and it’s ce la vie!

Hogan's_Alley
Game B FTW

The third option is lame compared to the rest of the awesome goings on. You simply try and bounce tin cans into a side wall with point values. Not too easy but not impossible either. When compared to the other 2 modes, this will be the one most likely to collect virtual dust.

Hogan's_Alley
About as fun as it looks. A solid 15 seconds of entertainment.

THE FINAL VERDICT


8/10 A really great launch title and on a personal level, I always enjoyed Hogan’s Alley more than Duck Hunt. Not the popular opinion, but three very distinct modes when DH only adds an extra duck and some clay pigeons make this one rise above. The controls seem a bit sharper here as well as there aren’t as many cases of “OH BULLSHIT, I SHOT THAT FOR SURE!” going on. Pile those onto a fascinating history and Hogan’s Alley is a title that shouldn’t have been looked over.

Hogan's_Alley
Nintendo and FBI mash-up!

For more information about the Yellow Kid and the origins of Hogan’s Alley, check out Brian Cronin’s INCREDIBLE blog at CBR here:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/05/28/comic-book-legends-revealed-209/

And for the most surreal site I’ve seen in awhile here is an actual link to the FBI’s real life Hogan’s Alley. It exists to this day as a training facility and I’d sell my soul to Zarathos to walk through here one good time:
http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/training/hogans-alley

Ninja Gaiden 2

Ninja Gaiden 2

Ninja Gaiden 2

So it’s another week of a retro gaming pick. This time around, we have a classic for the NES. It’s Ninja Gaiden 2 for the NES. This is actually the first one I played for the console. I remember renting the game and getting fed up due to its difficulty. The Ninja Gaiden series are one of the most challenging series for the NES.
Ninja Gaiden 2
The music of the game is classic. It’s upbeat and fun! The sounds are pretty much the same as the ones from the first game but it doesn’t matter, it’s still catchy to your ears.
Ninja Gaiden 2
The graphics of the games are just awesome. The cut-scenes are pretty awesome and cinematic. They are quite memorable you know. It was our first glimpse at seeing movements and story-line in between stages.
 Ninja Gaiden 2
The gameplay is tough! If you really want an old school 8-bit challenge, then this is it! Look no further unless you want something even more difficult like Battletoads. You’ll be trying to beat this game for hours, days, even weeks! Once you do, you’ll feel so accomplish and will never want to play through it again!
Ninja Gaiden 2
If you are willing to replay this game again, you have guts! It’s quite difficult so the average gamer will definitely put it down once it’s finished. The hardcore gamer would come back to it from time to time but the wizard gamer will try to beat it without taking any damage in the entire game!

This game is a must have for your collection. This is just awesome! The game itself is a classic and it’s not that expensive. The replay value is debatable as it varies depending on your gamer blood. In all honesty, get it!!

Kung Fu Kid

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Format- Master System

Genre- 2D scrapathon

Kung Fu Kid

This game reminds me of The Ninja on the Master System – in both a good and bad way.

Many Sega produced titles for the Master System were very odd indeed, and Kung Fu Kid is no exception. Their games for the system weren’t particularly polished and had several odd touches in them. They weren’t broken in any fundamental sense, but felt as if they were at times.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Take the first stage for instance. There are three ways it can go. The first time you play it, you’ll get your ass kicked. Angry men and leaping dolls (see, there’s the ‘odd’ touches I was talking about) storm across the screen at you from both directions.

You’re armed with a kick and a large jump, but you’ll most likely get your rump served up to you on a plate, confused at how to survive such an onslaught.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

The second way is probably the way the developer envisioned you progressing. Inching your way to the right, you kick away foes (these ones only take one hit – small mercies), and try your hardest to avoid being hit. You have to build up a rhythm of move, kick, move kick to survive. Then, the boss.

The best way to beat the level though? Jumping. Leaping over the enemies is incredibly easy, and you’ll find yourself at the end of the stage in no time.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Best of all, the fast moving dudes can’t get to you if you use this method, as they get stuck behind the jumping dolls, leaving you to stroll away unchallenged. Slightly broken design at its finest.

The first boss battle, an old wise warrior (that’s what he looks like anyway), is not so easy though, and you have to have a bit of luck to beat him.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Levels get a bit harder, but in every one the same mantra of jump, jump, jump remains. Kung Fu Kid? More like Jumpy Boundy Boy.

Bosses however, generally get easier. Once you recognize their attack patterns you can open up a whole can of whupass on them.

One of the main reasons to stick with the game is to see what weird enemy the game will throw at you next. Tiny lobsters, zombies and what look like tin soldiers all stand in your way – i’m not sure why Sega though these enemies would fit into kung-fu game, but they’ve been shoehorned in nonetheless.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

One enemy, that first appears in the third level though, is particularly worth seeing. Frogs. Tiny, cute green little frogs. Now don’t get me wrong, as I kid I didn’t put firecrackers into frogs and watch them go boom – like my Dad admitted he did – but the amphibian cruelty in this game had me in stitches.

About halfway through the third stage a small frog comes a-leaping at you. As with any enemy, you prepare to unleash a kick. But unlike the other enemies, which are knocked back a little and destroyed when hit, when you kick a frog they fly like a missile across the screen, taking out any other enemies that appear in their path. It is one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen.

Kung Fu Kid - Sega Master System

Even better for those with a vendetta against frogs, the end boss for that stage is a huge version of the small green amphibians. It’s a spectacularly easy boss fight in fact – just barrage him with consecutive kicks right to his huge froggy nads and he’ll fall down like a pack of cards. Simple.

It’s in the fifth stage of the game where things get much tougher. Your jumping tactics aren’t as effective here, and you’ll probably end up taking on the boss with a weakened health bar.

Still, the game is never really unfairly difficult, and you can usually work your way through all seven stages if you’re patient enough.

What else is there to say about Kung Fu Kid? It’s weird, very weird indeed, but that’s undoubtedly part of its charm. Pick this one up if you see it abandoned at a car boot – and endless frog flying hilarity will be yours to cherish forever.

Profiled: Daryl Rodriguez & Jeanette Garcia

[youtube id=”Os9Uo1CAaGs” width=”633″ height=”356″]

Name: Daryl Rodriguez / Jeanette Garcia

Company: World 1-1

Profession: Independent Filmmakers

Favorite Classic Game: Metal Gear

Jeanette_Garcia_Daryl_Rodriguez_Word_1_1_FilmCourage_Kickstarter

Quote: It showed me that video games can achieve a cinematic experience.

Bio: Two filmmakers from Miami focused on creating a visual history of the video game industry.

Project: World 1-1

Kickstarter Page

Project Info: World 1-1 is the first in a documentary series on the history of video games. This chapter is about the early years including Atari and how they helped to create a new industry. It focuses on the business deals, the personalities of the pioneers, and the creations of the engineers. This documentary will be a combination of interviews, archival footage, and reflection that retells the story to a new generation that may not know the roots of their favorite hobby.

 

Demon’s Souls

Demon Souls

Demon’s Souls has been out for awhile now in the US, but only recently has gotten released in some other locations. I put off picking this up because while it looked and sounded good, I tend to wait until games are a bit cheaper to acquire them. Additionally, the game is always being touted as insanely hard, and in my ‘old age’ I’ve grown to enjoy slightly less taxing games. Sure, as a kid I walloped on Ghosts & Goblins, the Ninja Gaiden games, Contra without the 30 lives code and plenty of others. However, I’ve gotten to a point where getting my butt handed to me by lines of code does sometimes get frustrating and I wasn’t sure I wanted to take this particular plunge.

Demon Souls

However, I can say after giving this game a good long play, it was a lot of fun – despite some frustrating moments along the way. That said, I feel like the game can be had at an incredible value, if you are someone who can enjoy a challenging game without getting too frustrated with it.

Graphics – 8.5:

Demon Souls
The animations sometimes feel just a shade off, but the magic and fire effects are nice, and the world is imaginatively presented. I’ve also seen some slowdown at odd times; and a world of lag and slowdown when one of my matches got invaded. That might fall under something other than graphics, but it was graphics that seemed the most affected (I was blocking but taking huge damage from a guy who also appeared to be blocking. Things were just not lining up at all). That said, the rest of the game looked really good, with some very impressive scenes – some of which really stood out (like the dragon sweeping the bridge to burn everyone on it).

Music and sound – 9.0:

Demon Souls
All in all, it sounds good. Narration is solid, sound effects are somewhat varied with voice acting at most interactions. The voice acting is not always great, and I wish I could just skip through the repetitive people sitting in the Nexus. I have surround sound however, and it should be noted that it has been a lifesaver for me at times in this game; on par with the zings of Modern Warfare’s bullets. The music is also very impressive. It fits the theme of the game wonderfully.

Gameplay – 8.5:
Demon Souls
This is a tough one for me. The game responds pretty well most of the time, though the lock-on mechanism can get you in trouble early on until you master it. As I’ve mentioned, the game can be hard. Now, I don’t think it’s quite as hard as some people make it out to be, but there are some cheap deaths in there (a pit you see that it looks like you should be able to descend but actually leads to death, any time something knocks you back when you’re on stairs/a ledge, or a ridiculously hard enemy you have no business fighting but might not have any idea of).

Intangibles – 9.5:

Demon Souls

New game plus is cool, if brutal. Tons of customization. A deep game that makes you feel like you’re genuinely learning as you play. I mentioned above that there were cheap deaths, but most of the time it’s just your own fault for not handling the situation properly. Also, the online aspects really deserve to be mentioned. There’s a unique, almost beautiful in my mind, system of online play where you can see bloodstains on the ground and see the final moments of a player’s life. There’s been several times I touched it and watched someone barrel ahead only to get dropped from an attack they never saw coming – but I did thanks to that experience. Also you can leave messages that you can rate as useful as well. There was one part with a bridge and a dragon swooping down where the advice saved my arse. The PVP aspects I’m kind of down on. It’s creatively handled when you can invade someone else’s realm, or they can invade yours, but almost every time it’s happened my game stuttered and broke up pretty badly. I’ve seen others complain about the same thing and the general response from others is: play offline. In my opinion, you’re doing yourself an overall disservice if you do so. It adds a tremendous sense of ‘life’ to your world when you see ghosted images of other players, bloodstains and messages on the ground.

Overall – 8.75:

Demon Souls

Demon’s Souls is hard. It’s meant to be hard. There is no easy mode. It doesn’t hold your hand or give you easy replays like Final Fantasy 13 does. It does however create a challenging, atmospheric adventure that if you can play without getting too frustrated, will provide you with a good deal of accomplishment as you conquer new tasks. The online features are pretty unique and for the most part they’re enjoyable, if not perfect. Adding to the game’s value in my mind is how much cheaper it has gotten of late. Gamestop had new copies for $40 and used for $26. Not bad for a game that many people thought of as Game of the Year for the PS3. I’m not sure I’d give it that particular title this year or last, but it is a solid action-RPG game that gives you a lot to do on your adventures.