Red Baron

Red Baron

What you’re about to read, is an excellent guest post by Bill, who is a blogger for think SMART, that came up with some rather intriguing educational DS games and even a little something for the Wii. Bill lives in Hell’s Kitchen, once game-tested for Dynamix, and was eaten by a Grue many, many times. You can read more of his material here.
Stomping on turtles? Watching gravity win out against science with the help of fire and lead? Barrel rolls? Spinning hedgehogs doing loop-de-loops?
Red Baron

All of them fun, but limited in a sense. In the early 90s, games played out in little capsules. I could win the battle, build the city, save the princess, but it all disappeared the moment I flipped off the computer. Even the occasional game that told a story through the progression of levels felt hollow – there wasn’t much of a world behind whatever obstacles I’d been tasked to overcome. It was like some perverted version of Descartes: I play; therefore, the world exists.

Red Baron

Then along came a little company named Dynamix, a game maker determined to challenge my little philosophy. Red Baron was the first game I can remember that convinced me I was playing inside a “real” video game world, and that my actions had both immediate and broad implications on its future. The world, of course, was the Western Front of WWI. And from the moment you first signed on to join the fight against the German menace, the game kept a clock running on that world. Time crept forward between battles; as you moved along history’s timeline, battles were fought, world leaders met to make big decisions, and the war machine turned out technological advancements like faster planes, or machine guns that wouldn’t overheat as quickly.

Red Baron

Whether or not you got to use those cool new toys depended on how you flew, and Red Baron did a great job of rewarding good play. It kept track of your kills, how many times you’d been shot down, and if you’d managed to down one of Germany’s many “real-world” Aces. Rack up the kills, move into a better aerodrome. Better aerodromes meant better planes, and the chance to fly alongside one of the Allies’ elite Aces. Nothin’ wrong with some smarter AI piloting your wingman.

Red Baron

Between battles, you’d keep up with the “real world” through the game’s newspaper. I can’t tell you how proud I was (or how embarrassed I ought to be, today) when the newspaper’s lead story was on my bravery in shooting down some minor German Ace, or the stoic countenance I’d sported upon receiving my first medal. There was my teenage pride when, mouse in hand and Mountain Dew nearby, I’d read that my squadron’s efforts had led to a break in the lines, or frustration in reading about the Red Baron’s exponential kill-count. The newspaper was a (virtual) tangible anchor for the game’s sense of reality. Brilliant, really.

Red Baron

Reality didn’t begin and end with the in-game world, however. The various flyable planes each had their quirks, strengths and limitations. Guns would jam, often at the worst possible moment. One of the planes’ wings could literally rip off if you banked too hard, too often. You might parachute out of a plane and pray you avoid getting hit with flack.

Then there was the nightmare of your pilot taking a bullet from an enemy machine gun – as you lost blood, you’d begin to black out. Lose too much without finding an aerodrome or crash-landing (and hoping for a sympathetic farmer), adios. Game over. You’d have one last chance to read about your remarkable achievements and regrettable death in the aforementioned newspaper, and that was it. Reality was pretty harsh in WWI.

Red Baron

All of this would be for nothing if the gameplay wasn’t fun; luckily, it was amazing. The dogfights were edge-of-seat serious business, dodging around flack while emptying a machine gun into a zeppelin was the pinnacle of fun gaming. The game stomped its left foot in the muddy history of The Great War and placed its right foot in the shifting ground of an adjustable-reality flight simulator.

Red Baron put its feet down and straddled a line called “Best Game of Its Time,” and I’d dare anyone to try and knock it off.

Which is why I’m confused. It’s a strange phenomenon: Red Baron was – at the very least – the best flying game of its time, if not one of the best flight sims ever. In my opinion, it was the best game to come out around that period of gaming, beating out the likes of Civilization. For whatever reason, however, it’s also a game that today often goes un-remembered when bloggers and game magazines come up with “best of” lists. Strange.

Well, this is my little scream into the ether, for all it’s worth. Red Baron was and is one of the best games ever made, and God help you if you disagree.

Alien Breed

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Alien Breed

Oh, the hours I used to spend playing this bloody game. Not only was Alien Breed one of the best games on the Amiga, it was also one of the hardest – not least because of its incredible stinginess when it came to handing out health and ammo. God knows how I had the patience to keep playing, but I just couldn’t put it down.

Actually, when I come to think of it, the main reason this game was so damn hard was the control system. Because the Amiga only had a one-button joystick, you had to move ever so slightly in the direction you wanted to shoot before pressing fire, meaning that if an alien was sneaking up behind you, in the process of turning round to shoot it you’d more often than not end up walking into it instead. Of course, on modern consoles this problem could easily be solved by just assigning one thumbstick to movement and one thumbstick to directional fire, but obviously this wasn’t an option at the time (and I seem to remember The Chaos Engine suffered a similar problem).

alien_breed

Still, ropey controls aside, this was a brilliant game, and a brilliant-looking one too – the level design really managed to capture the feel of the Alien films the game was so shamelessly ripping off, and it’s still one of the best-looking Amiga games out there. Although I always wondered about the character design – why did the protagonist have an orange head? Did Earth’s government send one of the Incredible Crash Test Dummies to defeat the alien menace?

alien_breed

My favourite bit was when you were tasked with activating the level’s self-destruct system (obviously in homage to the films:  “Mother! Turn the cooling unit back on! Mother!…You BITCH!” (Alien), “I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.” (Aliens), and so on and so forth (love those lines)). Suddenly the clock in the top left corner would start ticking down and you’d be left to frantically steer your crash test dummy in the direction of the (incredibly far away) elevator, cursing every godforsaken alien that leapt out in front of you and panicking as your already slim supply of bullets ran out. Classic Amiga gaming.

alien_breed

However, I can’t write about Alien Breed without mentioning Team17′s (ridiculous) long-running feud with Amiga Power. Like many Amiga owners, I was a big fan of Team 17, and the company turned out some absolutely classic Amiga games (the Alien Breed series, Arcade PoolProject XWorms, etc.), but any time that Amiga Power gave one of their games a mark below 90%, they’d throw their toys out of the pram. It was ridiculous. Sure, they made some great games, but they also made some highly questionable rubbish – F17 Challengesprings to mind – yet for some reason they seemed to think that everything they touched turned to pure gold, and they even tried to sue AP for giving one of their games (Kingpin) a low mark. You can read Amiga Power‘s account of the Team 17 ‘vendetta’ here, and here is a link to an astonishingly libellous article in the French magazine Amiga Concept, which basically claims that AP killed the Amiga by giving low marks to Team 17 games.

alien_breed

For me though, Alien Breed (along with its many sequels) was Team 17′s finest hour, and I’m very intrigued by Alien Breed Evolution, the Alien Breed remake (of sorts) that recently appeared on Xbox Live Arcade. Sadly, according to theGamespot review, the new game seems to do a good job of capturing the negative aspects of the original with its ‘repetitive and dated gameplay’, ‘occasionally unwieldy controls’ and ‘instantly forgettable’ story (although at least they’ve made it a little easier this time around, so hopefully players will be less inclined to gnaw their own limbs off in frustration). Reading this review made me think that perhaps I’m seeing the old Alien Breed through rose-tinted spectacles, that perhaps the mist of nostalgia has obscured the frustrations and limitations of Team 17′s magnum opus. Perhaps, as the review claims, the original AB is an example of ‘a classic game that wouldn’t hold up too well if you were to go back and play it today’.

alien_breed

Perhaps. But whatever the reality, I still have fond memories of this rough-edged Amiga classic, even if Team 17 tarnished their crown somewhat through their litigious relationship with AP.

alien_breed

And what’s wrong with being ‘repetitive and dated’ anyway?

Amazingly, the incredibly badly drawn intro took up an entire disk. Still, the music was good, even if the graphics looked like something from Tony Hart’s Gallery:

Resident Evil Gaiden

Resident Evil -Gaiden
While Capcom canned the Gameboy Color remake of the the original game, that didn’t stop them from developing on the system completely. They made a “kiddie” version of Resident Evil for the GBC near the end of it’s lifespan.
Resident Evil -Gaiden
The game starred Leon Kennedy from Resident Evil 2, and Barry Burton who was a side character in RE1 and RE3.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

The game was pretty true to the series in a couple of ways. The trademark ammo was there.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

So was your healing items.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

And of course your arsenal.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

The plot of the game had you stuck on a cruise ship full of zombies. Someone has got to fire that travel agent who books things like that. What’s next? Snakes on an airline flight?

Resident Evil -Gaiden

So the rest of the game was kinda like Metal Gear on NES.

Resident Evil -Gaiden

Except battles went first person once you encountered a zombie. Except crow-bar equipped zombies with ketchup on them doesn’t scare me much.

Tetrisphere

N64_Tetrisphere

Tetrisphere

Tetrisphere feels like the type of game that might have been bought over to a fair few consoles – at least the Playstation – but no. It’s an N64 exclusive, and maybe as a result hasn’t been remembered by many.

It hasn’t even been re-made, or ported to the Virtual Console. This is the type of the game that will probably be forgotten with time, if it hasn’t been already.

It’s a shame, as it’s not actually that bad. In fact, you could argue that it’s a hidden gem.

N64_Tetrisphere

One thing you need to enjoy this though, is to forget Tetris when going into the game. Despite taking up half of its name, that classic puzzler is a completely different experience to the one served up here.

If to emphasise that this a ‘brand new’ idea, the game starts by slinging thumping weirdo funk into your ears. This is a game with ATTITUDE, and it wants to make sure you’re aware of this fact.

This effect is ruined somewhat by the cutesy robot characters with googly eyes that you see throughout the game, but whatever.

N64_Tetrisphere

Also unlike Tetris, you’ll need to go through the tutorial if you’re going to understand the game. Because boy, is it complicated. Or so it seems at first.

Basically (and I say ‘basically with caution), you place different blocks onto a 3D sphere, and have to match up the same tiles with each other in groups of at least two. Due to the 3D element though, you can do this in terms of tiles on top of each other, or side to side.

Once you grasp this, and it takes a few minutes, you can start destroying large amount of blocks at once. You’re helped by the ability to drag blocks where you want – as long as there aren’t any in the way of course – and the helpful fact that the shadow of the block you’re about to place changes colour if it will start a combo.

N64_Tetrisphere

It’s hardly a pick up and play title. But credit to developer H20 Interactive, they tried to squeeze as much as they can out of the concept.

There’s a two player mode (strangely, none of my friends want to play the game), and a solo option with plenty of options.

Rescue mode has you opening up a hole in the sphere to rescue a tiny robot, Hide and Seek has you finding items hidden away in the play area, and there’s Time Trials and VS the CPU modes to round things off.

Considering that the game is fairly common (I picked mine up in Gamestation’s BOGOF deal for £1 when the shop was actually good), i’d say it’s worth checking out.

H20 Interactive made this and the rather good New Tetris, also on the N64, so they clearly knew what they were doing in terms of puzzlers (actually, they only made 3 games – the other was the divisive Aidyn Chronicles).

It’s not as brain meltingly addictive as Tetris, but at least it offers up something unique – and is therefore miles better than tripe such as Magical Tetris Challenge.

The Best of The Obsolete Gamer Show 2013

J.A. and Ignacio

For the Obsolete Gamer Show team being able to chat with people about video games is just about the most fun we can have. We get to be silly, have fun, laugh, a lot, and talk with people from all over the world. These are not just podcasts, they are fond memories and good times and we were proud to have them all and wanted to bring you some of the best moments from OGS 2013.

Originally we wanted to do a standard interview type podcast, but let’s face it, it had been done before. We still had fun, but we felt like we were trying to be too professional, then it got crazy. We ditched that format and just talked about whatever we want and honestly it was some of the funniest stuff we ever did.

However, we also wanted to continue interviewing people, so for 2013 we decided to combine the two. We reached out to people in the gaming industry and invited them on to chat via Skype which we then converted into the podcast. Later on, we added our Google Hang Out Live video show so we could have video as well as audio and it has been a hit.

We began the 2013 season talking with Fatal1ty and it was great talking about being a pro gamer as well as mixing the love of video games with being kick ass at it.  Ryan Culver was one of the most interesting guests we had because not only did he play Nathan Drake in the Sony commercials, this guy lives an awesome life and I swear I have to see one of his airplanes one day.

We always are on the lookout for Retro inspired games and we found a cool indie one and had a great conversation with Mike Oliphant, creator of Kung Fu Fight. We discussed indie developing and the challenges of getting your work out there. We also got to talk with Caleb Fox of Wargaming America about World of Tanks, a game our founder Ignacio is very fond of.

Obviously gaming communities are huge and we have been part of the Raptr network for years now. We are currently working on a project with them that we hope to show you in 2014, but we had a chance to talk with Casey Scheld about how the Raptr community has grown over the years and its goals for the future.

So if you have been following us at all you know we have had a relationship with The Jace Hall show for some time. It began with us wanting him to be one of our first high profile gamer profiles and from there we added an interview and more. When they launched their channel 1337 Lounge Live, they were kind enough to invite J.A. Laraque on and it was an awesome time. Since then J.A. has appeared on their channel and their video game talk show Game Talk Live. One of the first people I met on the lounge was host, Xander Denke, and it was great to have him on the show to talk about the lounge and dealing with guests coming on the show. In the video version, he even shows us a little behind the scenes of the lounge so you will want to check that out if you haven’t already.

Now while Obsolete Gamer is mostly about classic gaming we have often talked about all types of subjects from modern gaming to even gaming health and politics, but sometimes you need to get with a legend and be schooled in the ways of gaming and that is exactly what happened when we talked with gaming legend William Volk. This guy knows his stuff and you have to see the full podcast because there was so much awesomeness in it, it could have been 60% of the best of 2013 by itself. Seriously, it was a great and informative conversation and we were honored to have him on.

The great thing about Gamer Profiles is it gives us that opening to reach out to people in the gaming industry. Sometimes you get a little knowledge about the person and move on and sometimes you create a friendship and have an awesome chat via Google Plus. That is exactly what happened with actor William Watterson who among many other things was the voice of Jim Peyton in Lost Planet 3. When we do a podcast we are not sure how long it will be. Sometimes the guests have time constraints and sometimes they are not as talkative. Sometimes you just click and the conversation flows as if you have known them for years. Honestly, it was great and we talked about everything from gaming to comic books even sports and of course movies and acting. We added the complete 55 minute interview and I know you will enjoy all of it.

Included in this 217 minute podcast is also some of our funnier segments where we talk about everything from hiring in-gamer assassins to gamer girls who are not completely girls as well as an extended intro clip track. Now we know it is a lot to listen to and we can break it up into individual segments later, but it’s a fun listen especially if you have time to kill.

I hope you all enjoyed listening and watching our podcasts as much as we enjoyed doing them and for 2014 it is only going to get better. We have a lot planned with lots of guests, more interaction and additional shows and programs that will cross over with OGS.

We want to thank everyone who came on the show and a special thanks to all the listeners because without you there is no OGS.

As for the podcast itself, head on over to our Podcast Page to choose how you want to listen or download the show.

or listen here [mp3j track=”http://obsoletegamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/The-Best-of-The-Obsolete-Gamer-Show-2013.mp3″]

Until next year!

Gamer Profile: Jay Mohr

I loved Donkey Kong Jr. and spent so many rolls of quarters on it. There was also Dig Dug at my local Ihop and I wore that out too. I wasn’t particularly good at Dig Dug but I loved digging and digging and planning on how the rocks would fall and blowing dudes up with my air pump. Donkey Kong Jr. I loved because it had it all for the time. great graphics. Jumping, swinging, timing and a mission to save someone. ~Jay Mohr

jay_mohr_blizzcon

Favorite Classic Games: Donkey Kong Jr. and Dig Dug

Leisure Suit Larry Box Office Bust Jay Mohr Trailer

Jay mohr

Jay Mohr at Blizzcon 2010

 

Make sure to check out Mr. Mohr’s website at: http://www.jaymohr.com/

And follow him on Twitter @jaymohr37

Be sure to check out our other celebrity gamer profiles.

Apple Bandai Pippin

Apple Bandai Pippin
Yes Apple was into gaming (besides Macs) long before the iPhone. They teamed up with Bandai to make a console of their own.
Apple Bandai Pippin
The specs were pretty much like a Mac computer. It even ran on the same OS.
 Apple Bandai Pippin
Controller was a little plain and goofy though. Also less than 20 games were made for the system. Yikes…..

Tomb Raider: Curse of the Sword

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Format- Gameboy Color

Genre- 2D platforming adventure

I recall the two Tomb Raider games on GBC getting a good reception by most game critics – I think the original even got 100% from one magazine, incredulously.

I never picked one up though, until now. And I can kind of see the appeal, even if age has tarnished its best feature.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

This is the second entry in the GBC Tomb Raider series, and it starts off in a fairly low budget fashion.

The opening cutscenes are all blurry still images, with some dodgy music in the background. After a few though, it’s straight into the game.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

You play as Lara Croft (i’m sure you knew that) and have been attacked in a friend’s museum and seen a rare artefact (I think it was a sword – the title would suggest so anyway), and have to get it back.

Irritatingly, you start off with no weapons, meaning you can be blocked off by bad guys who just stand in your way ominously, and hit you if you get too close. Those guys are real lazy – you can be jumping around, collecting keys, and they just don’t even move.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

So to start with, you’re merely climbing around, trying to find a way through the museum.

Instantly, you can tell a lot of effort has gone into the animation of Lara. For a GBC game the running, climbing and jumping is very fluid and quite impressive.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

It’s a game that has a similar style to Flashback and Prince of Persia though, in that your control of your character is very rigid. You can only move in set distances, and have to line up vertical jumps perfectly in order to get anywhere.

I personally find this style of game restrictive and not much fun, but I suppose it works for more considered platformers such as this.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Eventually, after jumping and climbing your way through a few rooms you’ll get a gun. It won’t surprise you to find that using it is incredibly clunky, and firefights usually involve both sides taking unhealthy chunks of damage.

Fortunately health packs are everywhere, even though you do have to lean down to pick them up for some reason. You don’t even use them when you pick them up either – they’re stored on an inventory screen – so why you have to use a button to pick them up is rather odd.

Tomb Raider- Curse of the Sword

Save points, which are indicated by little diamonds, are also fairly frequent, meaning the game doesn’t get too frustrating.

Generally then, Curse of the Sword is a solid game, but hardly an incredible one. Many of its deficiencies are masked by the rather top notch graphics, but with age that advantage has faded. Worth a low priced punt, but not much else.

Iridion 2

Iridion_II

So the music in this game is just like any of the great shoot ’em up titles there. You feel an atmospheric rhythm as you fly through the level shooting your enemies down. You can’t ask for any better music for a game. It fits with the action packed levels and does justice to your ears. Well done!
Iridion_II
  The graphics are well done and not lazily developed! You have some great scenes especially during level gameplay. It’s amazing that developers were able to fit the size of these levels in such a tiny screen. Portable development is always challenged by it so it’s great to be able to see a game taking a savvy turn to the way it looks. With great SNES-style graphics, you can bet this game is worth a look.
Iridion_II
The gameplay is very enjoyable nonetheless. You are able to pick up power ups and shoot down your enemies. You can also pick up other items along the way and recover your energy. You’ll have a lot of fun dodging the rain of bullets coming your way and just like any games of this genre, you have to keep your button on the trigger in order to defeat the massive bosses you come across.
Iridion_II
This is the perfect game to have in your collection that will make you come back to it especially for a shoot ’em up fan. If you are one of those perfectionist that doesn’t want to be damaged a single time in the entire run, then you will surely come back to this one. It’s no Ikaruga, but it’s a great alternative especially when you are short in space.
Iridion_II
The game is definitely worth a purchase. This is one of those obscure games that everyone turn their heads away from because it wasn’t released by Nintendo. I gotta say, give these third party developers a chance and they’ll gladly invite you to play their most amazing titles. Be sure to not miss this one, highly recommended!

Prehistorik 2

Prehistorik 2

Prehistorik 2

This is one more of the first ever games i played on the PC. Prehistorik 2 is a dos platformer (an-oter sequel from which I did not play the original) developed by Titus interactive in 1993. I remember I had no idea how to install a game on the family 3.86 computer and I had to ask my cousin to come and install it for me.

Prehistorik 2

The premise of the game is very simple, you are playing as a caveman finding hamburgers and fridges full with modern-day food everywhere killing animals and dinosaurs along the way while trying to get to the end of the level. It’s a game full with secrets which added a-lot in the level of entertainment it was offering.

Why I love it

Prehistorik 2

Like I said before it’s one of the first games I played on my 3.86, it is clear that a-lot of time was devoted by the development team to make this game a fun and an enjoyable experience. The large amount of secrets that can be found and little details, like the caveman becoming out of breath if he runs for a big distance are just some of the things that show that the makers where passionate about what they were doing.

Kid Klown

Kid Klown

Kid Klown

Welcome back to another look into gaming’s obscure, but awesome, past. Today’s exhibit? A little known NES gem entitled “Kid Klown in Night Mayor World”. Developed and published by Japanese studio Kemco, the company that brought such NES classics as Spy vs. Spy, Deja Vu, Shadowgate, and the Bugs Bunny games, this title, like certain others (Super Mario Bros. 2, Yo Noid!), started out as somewhat of a different beast. Originally titled “Mickey Mouse III: Yume Fuusen” (Mickey Mouse III: Balloon Dreams),  it was essentially the same game, only part of a Mickey Mouse series of games. In fact, this game was called “Mickey Mouse III” in Japan because they had done this before, with what Americans know as Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle. Crazy Castle originally featured Roger Rabbit in Japan, but they later made a version with Mickey Mouse after losing the rights, along with the Bugs Bunny version for the states.
Kid Klown
The Game Boy versions of Crazy Castle 1 and 2 are known as Mickey Mouse I and Mickey Mouse II in Japan, hence this game was somehow the third in that series. Confused yet? Well that’s okay, because Kemco would continue the series as Bugs Bunny’s Crazy Castle in the states, until Crazy Castle 5 for the Game Boy Advance, which wound up starring Woody Woodpecker. For those counting along at home, that makes 4 different characters from 3 different animation studios (Disney, Warner Bros., and Universal) that Kemco had to license from. But hey, the series DID see a total of 10 releases (at least in Japan, one of which was made into a Real Ghostbusters game in NA and a Garfield game in Europe, if you can grasp that), so I suppose ultimately it paid off right?
Kid Klown
ANYWAYS, disregarding the somewhat messy (but intriguing) history of the series that the original Japanese version originated from, what WE here in the U.S.of A got, was a peculiar, but fun, game called Kid Klown. The original Mickey game was released in Japan in 1992. Our version with the righteous Klown dude (first name Kid), arrived in April 1993, what happened to be a very good year for the NES (Kirby’s Adventure anyone?). So, focusing on OUR version here today, the setting sees a family of clowns traveling with their circus, when they run across a mysterious magician named Night Mayor. I want to take a moment, first off, to comment on the fact that the pun-name NIGHT MAYOR is, in my humble opinion, fucking fantastic.
Kid Klown
It’s just the right amount of cheese to tickle my “Man That’s Awesome” bone. So, as you might surmise given his name (and his nefarious mustache), Night Mayor is up to no good, and he asks Kid to help him open a magical treasure vault. Kid, having been warned NEVER to talk to strange and creepy magicians out on the highway at night by his wise and loving parents, basically tells Mr. Mayor to “piss off”. So, in a fit of indignation, said bad fellow uses his wicked magic to kidnap the Klown family, and challenges Kid to follow and find them, if he ever wants to see them again. And thus it’s off to the races we go!
Kid Klown
If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’ll reveal the silly pun. Night Mayor = Nightmare! Get it? Awesome right? Indeed. Moving on!
So as far as the game proper is concerned, here’s the scoop. You’ve got yourself six major areas (plus the opening level), each one having a different theme. I can definitely see how in the Mickey version, you were traveling through some kind of magical dream world. But it fits with a kooky game where you play a balloon-wielding clown fighting a guy named Night Mayor as well! The thing that stands out about this game the most, of course, is in fact said balloons. The graphics are solid (in fact there’s some very inventive sprite effects at points), and the soundtrack is cheery if not unremarkable. But where the game enters the “kicks ass” arena, is in the gameplay. Why it kicks is, is because Kemco really did a number on inventing balloon mechanics the player can employ.
Kid Klown
In no particular order, you can use these inflated bags of fun as: weapons, a means of floating for longer jumps, a platform to bounce off of performing high jumps, a shield from certain enemy attacks, etc. Talk about versatile. And it doesn’t end there. You can aim balloon fire directly overhead, as well as choosing to toss short-range balloons, or hold the B button down to throw them further. And of course you can even drop the balloons straight down, as a weapon or a platform to jump to higher places, or you can even just hold it out in front of you like a shield. If you ask me, that’s pretty damn ingenious, especially for the 8-bit era, not to mention the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever really seen a similar set up in any other game I’ve ever played. So Kemco deserves major kudos for really taking the Mario “run and jump” platforming standard, but making it their own.
Kid Klown
The other area that this game really stands out, for anyone who has ever played it, is that while on the surface it seems very much like an “easy kids’ game”, it also packs some serious punch in the difficulty department in a few areas once you get deeper in. The different areas include a charming forest, a crazy toy factory, a giant beanstalk land complete with an evil Cyclops giant at the end, a land of snow and ice, a stage made up of living (and dangerous) candies and pastries, and finally Night Mayor’s gigantic castle. The game really does ramp it up the further you get, as well. I just recently played through it again myself, and god damn, there are some parts that’ll make you cuss out the game like nobodies business.
Kid Klown
For instance, in Stage 3, the beanstalk stage, you have to climb vertically, but are bombarded while doing so by swarms of enemies that include among other annoyances, evil clouds that shit lightning all over you. Then you’ve got Stage 4, with it’s slippery ice, but worse yet, snow drifts that you actually get stuck in, which makes getting across super fun, while being attacked by enemies. and then of course, there’s Castle Night Mayor, which takes the SMB1 concept of having a maze-like castle with plenty of wrong ways to go, and cranks it up to 11, by having doors that make you fight previous bosses, doors that take you right back to the beginning of an area you just got through, or even all the way back to the beginning of the castle. And unlike Bowser’s final castle in that hallowed NES standard, Night Mayor is more of a dick, so his castle is bigger, with plenty of genuinely fucked up moments, most especially the final area, which is a room of doors which, you guessed it, all but one lead you to other areas, including the very damn beginning of the level. So have fun choosing the wrong door several times (unless of course you CHEAT and use the internet).
Kid Klown
All in all, this game is well worth playing in my expert opinion. It controls well, is fun to play thanks to the inventive balloon mechanics, has a lot of replay value in spite of a few throw-your-controller moments, and the game just honestly exudes fun. From the gameplay, to the level design, right down to the carnival-like minigame between stages that allows you to throw balloons at targets to gain back health, 1up, etc. Plus, as I’ve already mentioned, the bad guy’s name is NIGHT MAYOR, and that right there should be worth the price of admission. The game actually turned into a series, but the SNES and PS1 entries, for instance, were weird “always moving” games that saw Kid on a rolling ball, rolling and dodging through levels. None of them showed the same cool gameplay mechanics or sense of fun-ness the original had, so in my personal view they’re really not all that worth checking out.

But do yourself a favor, and get your hands on a cart of the NES original if you can, or find “other” means to play it if you have to, but play it. Or else the Night Mayor will give you…….unpleasant dreams!

Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout

Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

In 1990, Kemco released a Warner Brothers licensed video game cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System starring a cast of Looney Tunes characters. This was Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout; a classic, even formulaic, platformer that had the player controlling Bugs Bunny throughout. Was this game any good?

Gameplay

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

This NES adventure follows the two-dimensional 8-bit platform standard: The A buttom jumps, the B button attacks (with a mallet, in this case, as is appropriate for a Looney Tunes cartoon character), and good ol’ Bugs must avoid enemies and hazards like bottomless pits, spikes, and precision-jumping obstacles, often with moving platforms

The “story” is that it is B. B.’s 50th birthday (and he sure is spry for a 50-year-old guy) and, in his rush to get to his big birthday party bash, he seems to run into all kinds of trouble, including all of his famous friends like Daffy Duck, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, and others attacking and trying to kill the legendary rabbit.

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

The control is fairly tight, and Bugs is able to jump pretty high, which only makes sense for a rabbit in a cartoon world. There are some enemies he can jump onto and stand on without taking damage, and he can collect carrot icons for points. The end of each stage is a boss battle with another one of the Looney Tunes line-up, though this almost always just consists of the character moving back and forth, possibly also jumping, all in a regular pattern Bugs must merely avoid and counter with mallet attacks. The only exceptions are minor character traits like that Yosemite Sam fires his pistols at Bugs, or that Foghorn Leghorn is big and invincible so you must beat Henery Hen instead.

Graphics

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

For an 8-bit title, Birthday Blowout looks decent. The environments and elements are colorful, the WB toons are recognizable, and the NES could have done much worse. Otherwise, though, this is not a game that stretches the console to its limits or goes anywhere truly revolutionary with its presentation.

Sound

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

The sound effects are bland and the music is atrocious, like elevator music given a pep pill and made more annoying high-pitched and upbeat. Reviewers on sites like GameFAQS have humorous comments regarding the music, like “This game is great – if you mute your television.” Seriously, the soundtrack is repetitive, low-quality, and ear-grating.

Originality

Bugs_Bunny_Birthday_Blowout

For a license title, Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout actually does deserve some credit for crafting a somewhat potentially fun little platformer. The enemy designs are original in some portions, albeit random, including a selection of foes that consist of inanimate objects made aggressive. One interesting point is that, at certain portions of the game, Bugs Bunny can descend into rabbit holes by pressing the down button, in a sequence similar to the pipes found in Super Mario games.

When all the factors are boiled down (into rabbit stew, you could say), Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout is an average game, almost archetypically so. It is a playable platformer, that actually had some effort put into it as a license-game cartridge, and shows some solid level design; however, the music is nightmarish, the gameplay never progresses to any sort of play experience beyond what you see on the first level anyway, and the bosses are uninspired. In addition, spoiler alert: The ending is notoriously odd and seemingly misguided, with all of Bugs Bunny’s “friends” revealing that they are the ones hosting the birthday party and their earlier attempts to kill them was just a funny joke or something contrived like that. Blowout hammers home two and a half stars out of five. The cartoons were more entertaining.

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier

Super Star Soldier (1991)
By: Hudson Soft Genre: Shooting Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16 First Day Score: 734,600
Also Available For: Nothing
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, PlayStation Network

Super Star Soldier

I originally started playing this game with a view to reviewing it quite a few weeks ago now – it is after all arguably the Engine’s most famous shmup (along with Gunhed) and I hadn’t played it before so this was a major issue to rectify! Not too long after starting, however, I discovered it had a prequel on the NES and MSX which, after playing and subsequently reviewing, found rather disappointing, and that got me thinking. The NES and PC Engine – both 8-bit consoles, both home to dozens of arcade conversions and arcade-style games, and yet the Engine is significantly superior with regard to games of this type (sorry NES fans!). I guess it’s a little unfair to compare them but does the extra power of the Engine really make that much difference? I suppose it must do as after playing the frankly rather boring Star Soldier, this Engine sequel immediately looked ten times better…

Super Star Soldier

One aspect of the original game that impressed me was with the number of stages – an unusually numerous sixteen. This sequel has a mere, though still decent, eight, but they are of a higher quality and are also much more varied. They all scroll vertically of course, and take place over enemy bases (or giant ships, maybe), planetary surfaces, in caverns, and in open space, and they’re filled with the usual mix of enemies – small ‘n’ fast ships, often flying in formation, larger more powerful ships, lots of scenery/ground-mounted guns and missile launchers, and of course large bosses at the end of each stage. Power-ups are found in the smoking hulks of a certain type of ship and include four main weapons represented by coloured rings – red is your default weapon which powers-up into a multi-directional shot, blue gives you ring lasers, yellow unleashes a swooshy flame-thrower, and green gives you a mighty crackly-looking lightning cannon.

Super Star Soldier

Each weapon can be powered-up four times by collecting successive icons. Grabbing more after that has a smart-bomb effect. Whichever main weapon you choose, you can bolster it with either heat-seeking missiles or a pair of shot-absorbing drones, both of which can also be powered-up. Contact from an enemy or their fire reduces the power of your weapons by one level so as long as you keep collecting icons, you should be able to progress quite far into the game. Luckily, the desire to do that is much greater here than with the prequel and part of this is down to the graphics which are superb. The smaller enemy ships often whizz around at ultra-sonic speeds and the larger ships are all great designs, especially some of the bosses which include a giant mech and what looks like that strange creature in the garbage compacter in Star Wars! As mentioned earlier, everything is far more varied here as well – just compare the screenshots to those in the Star Soldier review and I’m sure you’ll agree!

Super Star Soldier

The first stage rather reminded me of Gunhed, which is no bad thing of course – it’s mostly filled by a large metal structure brimming with guns, but the second stage differs about as much as it could, taking place over a forested planet! The third is similar but features a much more fiery landscape with jets of flame and fireballs occasionally escaping from the lava-filled areas. After that we find ourselves in open space with pretty stars and stuff in the background before entering some icy, obstacle-filled caverns. After that comes the obligatory enemy battleship and confrontations with the final bosses. Destroy all these and the evil ‘Star Brains’ are once again defeated! There is a little slow-down on the odd occasion but overall this is certainly among the best-looking shmups on the Engine and one of the most appealing I’ve played on any system. Even the weapon effects – something that’s often lacking in other games – are superb.

Super Star Soldier

The red multi-shot isn’t too spectacular but the blue, yellow, and green weapons are all fantastic which is all the more impressive considering the delightful backdrops and large number of enemies sometimes on screen, and there isn’t even an annoying stats/score panel in the way of it all! The weapons all have unique sound effects too, which are pretty good, and each stage has its own decent tune, so all in all there’s not really anything that’s less-than-splendid about Hudson’s fine sequel. Control of your ship (which is called the Neo Cesear, incidentally) is fast but precise and I rarely had any problems with the collision-detection. It’s even a surprisingly fair game too – the stages have restart points, the power-ups are quite numerous, extra lives are awarded on achieving certain scores, and the boss attack patterns are challenging without being too tough. Super Star Soldier is probably not quite as amazing as the great Gunhed but it is a fantastic shooter – sometimes fast and manic, other times slower and more cerebral, but always entertaining and everything the first game wasn’t!

Riot Zone

Riot_Zone

Riot Zone

You might have heard of a game called Riot City, but because of Sega’s rights to the main characters and bosses, Westone and Hudson Soft had to do some creative reconfiguring and came up with Riot Zone. Riot Zone was released in 1992 for the TurboGrafx-CD and featured two characters out to stop an evil crime boss who kidnapped a girl name Candy.

Riot_Zone

Does this sound familiar or even kind of standard for side scrolling beat em up games? Well, that is because this is pretty standard. The game plays a lot like Final Fight and toss in some Double Dragon just because we can. The gameplay is simple, you walk from left to right fighting enemies that can appear from both sides of the screen. Like Final Fight, you face a boss at the end and move on until the final boss. Unlike Final Fight, there are no weapons, only items for health and points.

Check out the video review for Riot Zone.

Motor City Dragstrip

Motor City Dragstrip

In today’s world, online multiplayer gaming is an everyday thing. People rutinely go online and can fight, wrestle, and shoot others in real time. But back in MY day (I say as I feel my hair greying), for online multiplayer games we had only a few options. One was a major online service like CompuServe, PlayNET, GEnie, or Q-Link (a direct descendent of the above PlayNET, which later begot America Online). Another were MUDs on the then nascent Internet, which
was only available to government workers or college students and staff. As for my family, however, we chose BBS, or Bulletin Board System, door games.

Motor City Dragstrip

For those who don’t know (and for those who already do, please bear with me here), a BBS was a computer system, usually owned and operated by a hobbyist, that other computer users during these primitive times could call up and do any number of things: send e-mail (though at this time, not exactly what WE would consider e-mail), download or upload files of various types, and play games. And many of these games allowed for multiplayer play, although most forced a turn-taking scenario. This meant that while YOU were playing a game against a human player, the computer was actually doing the playing using the stats that player had built up while he WAS online. And when you were done, your opponent’s stats would be updated, and this would likely affect how he plays the next time he logs into the system.

There were many different genres of such games: from gambling, to sports, to even multiplayer RPGs. But the one that yours truly, Chris “Sledge” Douglas used to play the most, was Motor City Dragstrip, commonly known as MC Race due to the zip file that the game was packed into.

Motor City Dragstrip

Motor City Dragstrip was written by John Parlin for Motor City Software in 1990. There may have been a number of versions, but the one I have played the most and still currently use is 2.0, which was released in 1991. The game consists of a one on one racing mode, but your racing is not controlled directly by you. In fact, the only skill required is the ability to press the Enter key when the ANSI light turns green. NOT before, or you will forfeit your victory, and certainly not after.

As BBS users of the day used modems which had extremely low bandwidth compared to what we have today, there are no “graphics” per se. Everything is drawn on screen using ASCII text and shapes and ANSI color codes and animation. Many other such door games are done this way as well and it’s… fine. It’s perfectly functional, but not particularly good, even compared to other ANSI work.

Motor City Dragstrip

The winner is simulated by the computer based on your stats, which include fuel level, engine type, and condition of your tires. You can also choose your favorite brand of car, but I honestly have no idea if that aspect factors in or not.

Motor City Dragstrip

In between races, you can do a number of things to better your chances of winning in the Pit Stop Menu. Here, you can fuel up, change your tires, change your engine, or even change your car entirely. Of course, this all costs money, but if you don’t you can have your engine die, fuel run out, or even blow your tires which (apparently, as you can’t actually see it happening) can send you careening out of control destroying your car and potentially kill your crew.

Oh, and speaking of your crew, be sure have enough crew. You start off with one, but if you don’t hire more, he will get fed up and quit.

Motor City Dragstrip

Of course, with a game like this, there are some major flaws. First, if you buy a Supercharged Hemi right away, really the only opponents who can beat you are those with the same engine. Sure, the next engine below it may have a tiny fraction of a chance to pass you out, but odds are that you will always come out victorious. Add that to the fact that you get $15,000 to start out with and everything is pretty affordable, and this game can become boring real fast.

Motor City Dragstrip
You’d probably have more fun being a little LESS conservative.

There are two aspects that do actually help this game out, despite what I just said. Of course, playing against another real BBS user rather than the computer is always fun. Again, this is done in the aforementioned turn-based style, and your opponent will have no idea what happened until he logs back in to that BBS. The other is the gambling system. This definitely helps balance the game out, as when you do keep piling on the wins, you get tempted to wager more and more money on the races. In fact, my most recent playthrough had me absolutely dominating until I made one HUGELY bad bet and lost. Of course, blowing out my tires and killing one of my crew wasn’t a huge help either.

Motor City Dragstrip
I’M SO SORRY! Please send my regards to the family of…
umm… squinty??

In conclusion, Motor City Dragstrip was a fun little trip back in time for me… but I really can’t recommend it to today’s modern gamers. Even though there really is no skill involved other than some light inventory management, the race wager functionality does certainly add a bit of excitement to the procedings. This game was definitely WAY more of a fun experience on an active BBS with multiple real life opponents.

If you really want to give it a shot, look for a zip file starting with MCRACE. With all the BBS CDs that are available through textfiles.com or even archive.org now, it shouldn’t be hard to find. The registered version, however? That’s a completely different story.

Here’s a video of the gameplay in action… and as you will see, it was not without tragedy…

Super Star Wars

Super Star Wars

Format: Super NES Genre: Run and Gun Released: 1993 Developer:Sculptured Software/Lucasarts

Super Star Wars blew my tiny little adolescent mind when I first played it. Graphically it was superb, with crisp and colourful visuals that really captured the look of the film, and even today it still looks pretty damn good. In particular, I remember the Mode 7-generated battle above the Death Star was spectacular at the time, as was the climactic fight against Darth Vader’s TIE fighter at the end – although sadly I only saw this on a couple of occasions because the game was so f*****g hard. But more on that in a minute…

super-star-wars

As well as looking fantastic, Super Star Wars sounded amazing. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it has possibly the best sound effects and music on the SNES – the 16-bit versions of the famous Star Wars tunes are absolutely spot on, and the sound effects are probably the meatiest on the console (apart, perhaps, from the OTT gun noises in Super Smash TV). Particular praise should go to the noise that the womp rats make when you shoot them – it sounds more like a train being shunted off a bridge than the demise of a fleshy sci-fi creature (listen to the video below to hear for yourself). But then again, the extravagant sound effects are in keeping with a run and gun game that has all the knobs turned up to 11 – I mean, practically everything explodes in a ball of flame when you shoot it, even the Jawas (who also fly comically off the screen with a satisfying ‘ooOOOtiiini’ noise lifted straight from the film).

super-star-wars

But for all its preening good looks and aural bombast, Super Star Wars was always a little rough around the edges when it came to the gameplay department. Sadly, the massive sprites and evocative music don’t quite cover up the shoddy collision detection, inept bosses and utterly infuriating level design…

…but at the time I could forgive it – the all-consuming desire to see the next gorgeously realised level had me hooked, and the showy visuals – not to mention the fact that it’s Star Wars goddammit – were enough to keep me plugging away until I finally, FINALLY, managed to finish it. Although looking back now with the benefit of hindsight, I’m amazed I had the patience…

super-star-wars

Here at 101 Video Games, we generally write our reviews based on our personal memories of the games, rather than what they’re actually like to play now. The idea is to generate a record of the games that enriched our lives, rather than a list of ‘top’ games – hence the inclusion of games that taught us a valuable life lesson (Rise of the Robots) or that simply made us smile (Dog Walking). However, I got so nostalgic about Super Star Wars after watching videos of it while researching this post, I ended up downloading it from the Wii Virtual Console so I could play it again.

A fatal mistake.

super-star-wars

It all started off pleasantly enough as I happily romped across the dunes of Tatooine, blasting the local fauna into oblivion with carefree abandon and generally having a whale of a time. But then I started noticing the cracks…

[Lewis sits playing through the first level of Super Star Wars. Gradually his brow begins to furrow and a slight frown plays across his mouth as he nears the end of the stage. We listen in to his internal monologue…] “Hold on, no matter what I do, I don’t seem to be able to avoid getting hit by these creatures – maybe my reflexes aren’t as good as they used to be? …Or is it because you actually CAN’T avoid them and the developers just decided to throw loads of health boosts at you to make up for it? Wait a minute, here’s the sarlacc pit boss… oh, you can’t avoid his attacks either. And now I’m dead and the restart point seems to be practically at the beginning of the level. That’s …erm… frustrating.”

super-star-wars

Yes, 17 years is a long time in the world of video games, and little things we now take for granted – like reasonably spaced restart points – were thin on the ground back in 1993. But there are some aspects of Super Star Wars that are frankly just the result of poor design, like the inability to avoid getting hit, or the all-too-common ‘leaps of faith’ where you can’t see the platform you’re meant to be jumping onto (which usually results in you landing in that all-too-common ‘insta-kill’ lava instead).

[We rejoin Lewis’s inner monologue as he starts level 3 outside the Jawa sandcrawler.] “Ah, I remember this bit! I love that noise the Jawas make when you shoot them! Right, just need to make my way to the top of the sandcrawler by navigating these moving, wafer-thin platforms… Oh. I’ve fallen right back to the beginning. Right let’s try again… Hmm, seems a little tricky to persuade Luke to do that spinny ‘super jump’ thing, I seem to end up doing a ‘normal’  jump half of the time… Oh. I’ve fallen again.]

super-star-wars

[Fifteen minutes later…]

“Right, finally got to the top! Now I just need to jump insid… hold on, gun emplacements? WTF? Oh. Dead again.”

[Another fifteen minutes later…]

“OK, I think I’m getting near the bottom of the sandcrawler now, although those myriad boucing lasers and security flamethrowers were a tad annoying. Still, I’ve been playing for ages, so I can’t be too far away… Hold on, I’ve come to a dead end and I can’t see what’s at the bottom of this drop. Must be another platform I guess, I’ll just jump down… Oh. It’s ‘insta-kill’ lava. That’s a bit… erm… irritating. Oh, and I’ve been taken back to almost the very beginning of the level… Right, I think I need to stop playing and find somewhere I can hurl this controller in rage without damaging any expensive electronics equipment.”

In a nutshell, Super Star Wars is just a tiny bit infuriating. But my younger self just couldn’t get enough of it – perhaps in the pre-internet, pre-’instant access’ era I had a little more patience. And let’s face it, games were just harder back then, not like these namby-pamby modern games.

So bearing that in mind, I’ve decided to embrace Super Star Wars for what it is and dismiss its faults as the foibles of a bygone age – welcome to our video game canon old friend. Although if it’s all right with you, I’d prefer to remember you as the esteemed game of my youth rather than the frustrating throwback I bought in a fit of nostalgia.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

Okay, the trilogy of X-Men (technically, Marvel) articles on the weekend. I doled out Marvel vs. Capcom 3 for the Playstation 3, then Marvel vs. Capcom 2 for Xbox Live – now I’m headed back to the Super Nintendo.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

I couldn’t think of any throwback Marvel vs. Capcom games I had floating around the house (though I recall similar beat ’em ups in the arcade once upon a time) – so I decided to look around for an X-Men or Marvel title, and found X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse for my Super Nintendo and figured I’d toss it in for a bit. Now, while the other two games I talked about this weekend were fighter games, this one is a beat ’em up/platformer. It lacks the depth of field you find in Final Fight, Double Dragon or Streets of Rage, but you have to time your jumps and memorize attack patterns a bit more along the way.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

Early on levels are designed around whichever mutant you are going to play (Psylocke, Wolverine, Cyclops, Beast and Gambit). It’s an interesting idea, since most games of this sort let you pick from a pool to get through a level – and that happens later in the game, but early on each X-Man is assigned a task in a different location, forcing you to use them all. This is a good and bad thing since you may prefer one character over the others, but it does add a bit more variety to the gameplay as well when you have someone like Wolverine who just tears through people using his claws while moving left to right, as opposed to someone like Beast who can cling to ceilings and attack enemies from above as well.

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse

The story’s a bit of a mess, which is often the case in these older comic games, but the sounds get the job done and the graphics actually look pretty good. I didn’t spend a ton of time playing this one again – I honestly don’t have the patience for memorizing platforming like I did years ago, but I got a grin out of my time running around beating people up along the way.

Galaga Destination Earth

Galaga Destination Earth

During one of my misadventures, we were driving across the hot and dusty desert when we came across a small nameless thrift shop in the middle of nowhere. I was just looking for something to drink, but to my surprise this hole in the wall actually had some video games too. A small stack of original xbox games, some ps2 sports games, and some cases that appeared to be ps1 games. I rummaged through the stack and found Galaga: Destination Earth. No manual, no label, just a cracked plastic case with a disk inside. “How much for the game?” I asked the guy behind the counter. “I dunno, hows about $1?”
“SOLD!”
Galaga-Destination Earth
Without thinking twice, I gave the man his dollar and was out the door quicker than I had arrived. It’s not that hole-in-the-wall places in the middle of nowhere scare me, it’s just that…yeah, they scare the living bejeebers outta me for reasons too extensive to list in this post…which is supposed to be a game review. Moving right along!

When I got home the game sat in my bag until I finally found some time today to pick it up and play. Let me tell you, this ain’t your momma’s Galaga!
No sir, this is a completely new take on the entire series.

Galaga-Destination Earth
The opening sequence recaps the occurrences of the first game in a lengthy cut scene. After the events of the original Galaga, humans won the war against the aliens and everything was good, that is until humans decided that they wanted to colonize space. Guess where they wanted to colonize? In the area where the aliens were coming from. Oh yeah, fantastic idea! Let’s piss off and attempt to take over the territory of our enemies after years of peace for no particularly good reason. Who feels like another war?! YEEHAW! Needless to say, the aliens aren’t happy and you’re sent in to uh, save people or something. It’s kind of ass backwards story-wise.

Galaga-Destination Earth

The controls are similar to the original; just move and shoot, move and shoot. Simple right? Wrong! The first wave is classic, you just shoot them as you would in the original arcade game, enemies above, but then shit hits the fan. This game, as a shooter, doesn’t know what it wants to be. Your camera is constantly changing perspectives with each wave. One minute you’ll be in a side scrolling perspective, the next you’ll be in a tunnel shooter, then it’s a rail shooter, then back to the tunnel perspective, all while you’re trying to shoot enemies and avoid projectiles as well as space debris. This may sound cool in theory, I mean, Einhander got it right, but this game does it all wrong. When you’re in the the tunnel shooter parts of the stages (which is a majority of the time) you’ll find yourself flailing around trying to figure out the difference between up and down, and where the aliens are at in relation to your ship. I’ll remind you this is a PS1 game so the graphics are a little bit, how you say, confusing. Well, the graphics were pretty good for the ps1 in general as far as the look goes, but it’s really hard to tell the distance between you and an enemy. They fly all around the screen, get closer and farther away, but you can never really tell where they are in relation to your ship so sometimes you’ll run into them, other times you’ll miss shooting them all together. This game has serious depth perception issues and it’s extremely frustrating.
Galaga-Destination Earth
Another thing that really pissed me off was the shooting speed. Your ship fires so slow that you could literally get up and grab a snack or two before you’d need to press the shoot button again. It’s that bad. There are power ups that you can pick up but they don’t seem to do anything at all. There’s also health packs. Yes, health packs in a Galaga game. Unlike the original, you don’t die if you get hit, you have a health bar in the top left of your screen. You will need every ounce of that health and the 3 additional ships you’re given to make any progress in the game at all due to the terrible muddled messes that make up each level.

Galaga-Destination Earth

Another fun addition to the game, and they might have been going somewhere with this, is that each new level gives you objectives or missions that you must finish to complete the level. These, however, aren’t fun at all because of the depth issues. Take for instance levels where you have to collect a certain number of an item. It’s kind of hard when you’re constantly screaming at your tv screen like an idiot, “WTF?! I TOTALLY HIT THAT! UGH!”.

Because down is up and up is down and it still doesn’t matter at all because this game has problems and wants to take it out on you. Because it hates you. It hates you because it knows that it will never be as good as the original. It makes everyone else around it suffer because IT suffers. This game is terrible and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Galaga: Destination Earth gets a 4/10

Arcadie Review

Arcadie

It is quite exciting receiving goodies in the mail. This time around, we received the cool looking Arcadie. On first impressions, the unit stands out – I love anything that looks like an arcade machine. Upon closer inspection, the packaging doesn’t give away too many details, just minimal information on the compatibility and the website of the manufacturer for more detailed specifications. I guess with finite real estate on packaging, you have to grab potential customers’ attention with colouring and buzz words.

Build Quality

Arcadie

The Arcadie feels quite sturdy and takes a bit of punishment. The joystick is nice and tight and centres itself, while the buttons have a nice click when depressed – no hint of sponginess. Can it withstand years of punishment? Well, having had the unit for a few weeks, that is difficult to determine. Only time will tell. Unless you wrench the stick and abuse the buttons beyond their normal use, then there should be no reason for the unit to breakdown any time soon. When playing games, we did find that we had to tilt the unit away from us so that we could get a better viewing angle of the screen.

Arcadie
Arcadie Alien Invaders is a beefed up Space Invaders clone that plays quite well.

Compatibility & Games

Straight off the bat, the Arcadie is compatible with Apple’s iPod and iPhone devices up to and including the iPhone 4S and iPod Touch (3rd and 4th Generation). Unfortunately, if you have an iPhone 5 or above, you miss out. Not only is the Arcadie hampered by limited hardware compatibility, it is also limited to proprietary software. The good news is, Zeon are releasing games exclusive for the unit and the best bit is, they are totally free (via iTunes App store). Let’s hope they keep on releasing more games for the Arcadie, as it needs them.

Arcadie

Before you ask, the games that are available are beefed up clones of well known retro classics like: arcadie Blasteroids (Asteroids), arcadie Alien Invaders (Space Invaders), arcade Ping (Pong), arcadie Tanks and arcadie Hop Along (Frogger) . The games are quite fun to play, but not for too long. The novelty of playing on an arcade stylised cabinet is still quite cool. If only the Arcadie was compatible with other retro released games on iTunes. It’s a case of, what might have been.

Arcadie

 

Verdict

For the price of the Arcadie (sub $25 AUD for the blue unit), it is worth having it as a cool item – either to show off on your shelf or act as a stand for your iPhone or iPod. Will you use it to play games or will the novelty factor wear off? These are valid questions that can only be answered on an individual basis. I do get caught up in the nostalgia that certain items provide and I can safely say that the Arcadie certainly does this, albeit in a limited fashion. If you have an iPhone 4S or an iPod Touch, this is well worth a look.

Ufouria: The Saga

Ufouria-The Saga

Ufouria: The Saga

I’ve been known in the past to complain about games & systems that Australia never got & how much better the Americans (& the Europeans in some respects) have it than us. Yes I am somewhat of a whinger, but let’s look at the history. When I think of games that never made it to Australia I think of:

Final Fantasy 2 & 3 – SNES
Megaman Collection – GC
Cubivore – GC
Megaman 64 – Nintendo 64
Hey You Pickachu – Nintendo 64…

Ufouria-The Saga

… actually that last one isn’t a bad thing… My girlfriend still has nightmares about yelling into that microphone & having the little electric puffball do either nothing or something else. ANYWAY, let’s save that for another review. As it happens, there were a few English releases Australia did get that the American’s did in fact NOT get. Sounds strange I know. Traditionally games come out in Japan first, then get translated for North America, then if they feel like it we might see a PAL release. That was not the case for Ufouria, which for some unknown reason was released in Europe & Australia, but not the US.

Ufouria-The Saga

Ufouria is a platformer that is similar to Wonderboy 3. It offers one big world to play in rather than individual levels & includes different areas that only certain characters can access. Seeing the similarities so far? The only real difference is that Ufouria features 4 seperate characters & Wonderboy 3 features changes to the 1 character, but from a gameplay perspective that hardly matters. For those not familiar with Wonderboy 3, let’s have a look at what makes this a great game.

Ufouria-The Saga

The game starts with Bop Louie (I’ll get to the names later) who has been transported from his homeworld of Ufouria to this mysterious world with 3 of his friends who he has been seperated from. Bop Louie has the ability to bop his head into enemies to defeat them. All the characters start off with one ability, but upgrades for each character are available. For example, later in the game Louie can gain the ability to climb calls.

Ufouria-The Saga

The first thing Louie needs to do is to rescue his friends. The problem is that when you find one of Louie’s friends they start to attack you. I’m probably giving away part of the storyline here, but each of Louie’s friends has been brainwashed & must be defeated to knock some sense into them & have them join your party. Freeon Leon is the first candidate for some brain wash bashing. He has the ability to swim on top of the water & walk on ice, which will lead you to Shades who can float, then Gill who can swim underwater. You can change characters are any point in the game which you will need to do on a regular basis.

Ufouria-The Saga

Aside from battling your friends, there are also bosses in the game who each offer a different challenge. While they can be difficult (particularly the one in the submarine) you never feel like they’re impossible to beat.

Ufouria-The Saga

The music is very boppy & enjoyable. At the recent Ultracade event I got to hear a remix of the main tune which surprised me as I didn’t think the game was popular enough for that sort of attention. Sound effects are your standard Nintendo platform affair, so there’s nothing that really stands out.

Ufouria-The Saga

The controls are brilliant. One thing Nintendo systems are good at is platform games & this is no exception. All the characters move just as they should. You feel the bump as a character slips on the ice & falls over. You feel the inertia as you slowly start moving in the water & progressively speed up.

Ufouria-The Saga

Now onto the names. In Japan there is a series of games based on a character called Hebereke. Ufouria is one of the Hebereke games rebadged for the Western market. Not only the names have changed, but the character sprites have been modified from the Japanese original for some strange reason. Bop Louie is actually the “Westernised” version of Hebereke himself. This doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way shape or form however.

Ufouria-The Saga

To make things even wierder, the Australian & European versions differ slightly. The main character sprites look the same, but the health status & a few other minor things were changed. The bulk of the game is the same, which begs the question: why?

Ufouria-The Saga

If you have difficulty the handy password option is there to allow you to continue your game. The only problem with this is you always start in the same spot, so if the boss is a fair distance away you have to go all the way back to them, but everything you’ve done up to that point is unlocked.

Overall if you owned a NES but loved Wonderboy 3, this was a great alternative. The controls are outstanding, there is minimal sprite flicker with the graphics & the music is brilliant. So it’s time to be patriotic people. Put your hand on your heart & declare to the world just how proud to be Australian. After all, we got Ufouria & the US didn’t.

5/5

 

One Piece: Treasure Wars 2

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

Format- Wonderswan Colour

Genre- Board game

Oh man, oh man, oh man. I have no idea what they’re saying. I have no idea what they’re doing. I have not got a clue what that’s supposed to represent – and that thing? Not even an inkling of an idea.

So goes an average session with One Piece: Treasure Wars 2 (full subtitle: Buggyland e Youkoso), when you don’t speak Japanese.

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

You might think this means that I can’t really say much about the game from an accurate critical viewpoint. And you’d be right. But that doesn’t mean I can’t make generalised, largely unhelpful comments. So here we go…

As soon as you start, the game has clearly been given some love in the presentation department. A cool musical beat thumps away in the background, and although it may be repetitive, it helps keep me slightly entertained.

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

And that’s just as well too, seeing as the opening cutscenes are lengthy and jam packed with incomprehensible dialogue.

Not even the dinky character model animations, which are detailed and quite expressive, can help me understand what exactly is going on.

The menu options, once you get there, are thankfully largely in English though, and you can make your way to the main game mode with little fuss.

You choose a character from the many available (I chose a smug looking guy in a suit), and begin the game proper.

One Piece- Treasure Wars 2

It’s kind of disappointing then, that this seems to be little more than a boardgame style effort.

You wait for the CPU characters to roll the dice and move around the board (you can’t seem to skip this either), and then when it’s your go you do the same.

The main aim seems to be to collect items and the like, and then use them against the other characters on the board. You get a mini cutscene every time you use an item, which play out a little like the battle scenes in Advance Wars.

For some reason the CPU opponents seemed to have a grudge against me specifically, and handed me my ass on a plate. I simply started the board from the start once I had been bashed enough, so i’m not quite clear on how you win the game.

Despite the clear language barrier, I still don’t think the game is particularly exciting. It’s slow paced, and there’s little action to get the gamer with less cerebral tastes even slightly excited.

What did get me excited though, was that the cartridge itself has little red and green lights that flash while your playing. I couldn’t believe this at first, and I don’t think any other Wonderswan games in my collection do this. Why this cart does this, I do not know. It’s very cool though.

Perhaps the fact that this is my most memorable part of the game says it all. Avoid, unless you’re a One Piece fan – who also happens to speak/read Japanese.

Tetris 2

Tetris 2 Super nintendo

Tetris 2

The success of the original Tetris prompted the creation of a lot of clones, sequels, and spin-offs. Despite all of those, this was the “real” sequel to Tetris.
Tetris 2 Super nintendo
Unlike Tetris, 2 seems to have dropped all the Russian influence from the game. The setting appears to be more like a childhood room in a Japanese house.
Tetris 2 Super nintendo
Unlike some other Tetris variants, this one plays differently enough from the original but you can tell it has the same basic formula. Instead of clearing all blocks, you must also take care of the little bomb blocks as well. Once they’re cleared, the round is over, and you proceed.
 Tetris 2 Super nintendo
There’s also a decent puzzle mode added for those want a real challenge. Despite all that, it’s not going to rival the original to almost any player. It’s a decent puzzle game, and I could see people back then having their fair share of fun with it. On the other hand I can why nobody has really tried to re-release the game since the 90’s.

Score: 7 out of 10

F1 2011

F1 2011

For Ps3,Xbox 360 3DS, PC and Playstaion Vita,
release: September 2011 20th(US) 22nd(Aus) 23rd(UK)

F1 2011

F1 2011 (the game) is a sequel to the BAFTA winning FORMULA ONE videogame from Codemasters. And coming with the tagline ‘Be The Driver, Live the Life, Go Compete’ I wish! well the live the life bit 🙁

The first game, whilst a rush to publish, had all the game elements and polish fans of the F1 series were looking for.  Now with more time for the developers to ….erm develop, the sequel promises the following.

F1 2011

Co-op Championships and split-screen mode,
16 players in online Grand Prix mode with 8 ai drivers to complete the pack.
Two new circuits in India and Germany
All twelve teams and twenty-four drivers, all the new rules, KERS, and DRS
New Parc Ferme area, expanded and revamped Paddock, Pit Lane, celebration and reaction cinematics,
Enhanced media interaction system, “Authentic” new damage failures,
New atmospheric effects, dynamic clouds, advanced rain model affecting on-track grip

F1 2011

New!!! however does not necessarily mean better , but I am impressed with the additions.

Early reviews heaped lavish praise for improvements in handling and Ai and the additional layer of strategy in the game with the inclusion of KERS and DRS.  However it was the lauded Ai which also drew the potentially most damaging criticism, suggesting it made the game very difficult. And what about all those “NEW” additions? nope game critics weren’t overly impressed suggesting they did little to change the core gameplay.  Which is kinda good as the first title was a cracker, even though I still can’t get first place at Monaco grrrrrr!

F1 2011

Currently scoring 85% (xbox), 86% (Ps3) on Metacritic, seems we have a winner 🙂

F1 2011

Reviews Summary:
The most complete representation of the sport to date
A must buy for F1 fans, a better game than last year
An absolute blast, whichever skill level you approach it from
Strip away the new lick of paint and it’s tough to tell F1 2011 apart from its predecessor
well-crafted and solid racing simulation, doesn’t shine on innovation
For a seasonal update there’s a remarkable number of tweaks and changes
Play it properly, and F1 2011 is an incredibly satisfying experience
Not without its problems, but it has moved the series forward

SteelSeries Apex [RAW] Keyboard

Hey internets! This is Liz Poisonkiss, altruistic gaming hedonist extraordinaire!

Once again, I got my hands on a great product that I just have to talk about. The SteelSeries Apex [RAW] keyboard is an overall win in my book. Oh, let me count the ways!

steelseries-apex-raw

First off, I must clarify something so that this review gains some perspective. I use my keyboard a LOT. I wear down most keyboards really quick.  I’m constantly writing papers for my graduate program, composing emails, and doing some pretty intense PC gaming. So I was glad to get my hands on the Apex [RAW] keyboard.

This keyboard’s a little bigger than my other one because it extends down to form a  hand rest at the bottom. I’ll admit to preferring a smaller keyboard to conserve space but what it lacks in compactness it makes up for in performance. It’s low key profile and responsive keys don’t miss a beat as my fingers fly across the keyboard. The anti-ghosting modifications don’t let my game slow down when every second counts. Also, don’t you just hate it when you’re gaming full screen and in the middle of a heated battle and suddenly the game minimizes and your start menu pops up? Yup, you’ve hit the Windows key. But never fear, this keyboard gives you the ability to disable the Windows key and avoid all that mess!

steelseries-apex-raw

Not to mention all the freaking macro keys! There are 17 macro keys with two levels at your fingertips that give you the ability to instantly access 34 macros all customizable via the SteelSeries Engine. That’s a refreshing time saver!

Oh, another deceptively simple but nifty feature that the Apex [RAW] keyboard has is drainage holes. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been writing late at night while enjoying a steaming mug of brain go-go juice (coffee) to have it spill all over my keyboard. At that point my work is abruptly interrupted as I run with my keyboard to the sink and say a silent prayer to the computer gods that my keyboard will not be a completely sticky unusable mess. At least I know that with this keyboard I stand a chance.

steelseries-apex-raw

Compared to its big brother (SteelSeries Apex) the Apex [RAW] gives you the essentials you need for a fraction of the price. For only $69.99 you get top notch long lasting performance on a budget (some of us have to pay tuition).

One more thing, I’m writing this review on my Apex [RAW] keyboard and I completed one semester (4 months) of work, emails, gaming, and it survived two coffee/drink spills. That’s why this keyboard wins.

liz

Tech specs:

Connection: Wired USB

Cable: 6ft rubber coated

Build: Plastic

Key switch: Rubber membrane

Backlighting: 8 brightness levels of white light

Gaming: 17 dual layer marco keys, extra arrow keys, Capable of disabling Windows key.

USB pass-through: No

Audio pass-through: No

Goodies: Low-profile keys, Anti-Ghosting technology, Media controls, Drainage holes for spills.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

Price: $5.99

Original release date: September 22nd 1999

Release date on PSN: December 3rd, 2009

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis

Story

This episode of the Resident Evil chronicles follows Jill Valentine who was in the original game in the series and you are in control of her for most of the game. Once again you’re stuck in Raccoon City, and of course it’s full of zombies and yes you have to escape.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

The problem with this story is that it doesn’t compare to that of RE2, in the previous game you get two characters to play as, and even though you play through a lot of similar areas the storyline is so much more interesting. As well the characters actually have motivations I can understand, the story in RE3 on the other hand, feels thrown together, and I don’t find myself caring for anyone in this game, nearly as much as I did in the former.

Gameplay

The gameplay is mostly the same as the other two, except you get a nice 90 degree turn move by pushing down and then the run button which really makes the game a lot easier. It’s still clunky by today’s standards though, and having played through the first three games back to back to back it’s really starting to grate on me. If you’re familiar with the other two in the series though, you’ll be at home with this.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

As I said before, you’re only in control of one character in this game, and the campaign is quite a bit shorter than RE2 (like half as short). Now to be fair most of the last game was back-tracking, but because of the story that drove me through it I didn’t mind. This iteration though, re-uses a lot of locations from RE2, and I was really looking forward to some new environments, but it all looked the same, nothing new to see here, sadly.

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

If you notice the Nemesis in the title you’ll wonder what that is, Nemesis is another bio-weapon from Umbrella corp. that chases you around trying to wipe out the last members of S.T.A.R.S. of which your character is the final one remaining. We already had something like this in RE2 again, and if feels just like a recycling of the last game. The difference is in RE3 you get two options each time he appears, usually between fight or flee. Depending on which one you choose you’ll see a few different areas of the game, but make no mistake this is linear progression, and Nemesis is there to get you to hurry up. But because most encounters with him let you press a button and escape, he doesn’t feel like much of a threat.

Graphics

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

They are once again very much the same from RE2, some of the environments were recycled as well, and it does sort of seem like it was thrown together with spare parts. One thing that stands out in this one is the pre-rendered cut scenes. Characters during these scenes display believable emotions, and that’s a huge step up from the last game. Other than that, it’s a cookie cutter cut and paste of RE2’s graphics.

How it holds up today

I must say after RE2 I was really interested on where this series was going, but I found myself disappointed with how this game turned out. There’s a lot of action to be sure, but after the other two games I don’t feel there’s much of a threat to the same slowly moving zombies, and blowing there heads off, while still enjoyable, started to lose its charm…

Resident Evil 3 - Nemesis

I’m happy that I finally finished the trilogy, and plan to play the rest of the series because it’s so influential in gaming, but this one dragged on for me, it didn’t have me glued to my console like the last one did (and took me a few weeks to complete compared to the week or so the last one took). Also I completed the campaign in a measly 6 hours, while the other two games in the series were much longer.

If you have the choice between all three RE games, go for the second, it has the best story, epic bosses, and is a real heart pumping experience. This latest one was still enjoyable, but not up to expectations. Perhaps RE: Code Veronica on my Dreamcast will treat me better.

7/10

Pipe V

Pipe V - Famicom

Pipe V

I was looking online for must play famicom games and one title kept popping up, Mr. Gimmick.  Problem is there are none for sale on eBay so I decided to do the next best thing, get a Pirate Cart.  For some reason the Pipe V is what its called.

Pipe V - Famicom

So I was super excited when the cart came in the mail the other day. I popped it in the Famicom and everything was awesome!

Pipe V - Famicom

The first level was gonna start then something weird started happening. There was no floor…

Didn’t matter what you did, just kept falling into the water and dying. I was super bummed, didn’t matter what I did it wouldn’t work.

So fast forward 4 days and I read something online that set off an alarm in my head. Pirate copies are made to work with famiclones not the original console. So when I got home I grabbed my Yobo NES and famicom converter and plugged it in.

Pipe V - Famicom

Pipe V - Famicom

Yay it worked!! There’s a floor now! I was super excited so I got up early this morning to try it out. It’s a super cute platformer that is challenging, that’s why the pirate cart has 30 lives on it.

Pipe V - Famicom

I haven’t completed the whole first level yet, I had to get ready for work but check out these screenshots I took.

Pipe V - Famicom

Star projectiles Gimmick throws that bounce around.

Pipe V - Famicom

I think this is the level boss. I think he was one of the “toys” that was in the box at the beginning.

Pipe V - Famicom Pipe V - Famicom

Well that’s as far as I got so far, but look for my 1 hour First Impressions soon!

Arm Champs II: Video Games that Break our Bones

Arm Champs 2

Arcades are products of a dying caste. On the decline for the past two and a half decades, it has become increasingly more difficult to find them. And when you do manage to wander into an arcade, unless it’s a Friday or Saturday night, chances are you’re all by your lonesome. The lights of machines twinkling, games beeping and talking to you as if they have been waiting for someone to show up for a very, very long time. The vestiges and ghosts of people remain only in the form of high scores, but no living souls are in sight. These are testaments to a once thriving subculture that rose in the late 70’s and waned in the mid 80’s and ultimately was dissolved by home consoles.

Go on. Hit the jump for more about unconventional arcade cabinets, broken arms and my personal quest to defeat a videogame’s arm.

twin galaxies
Best arcade players of all time (at the time). Taken at the Twin Galaxies Arcade, Ottumwa, 1982. Photo was featured in Life Magazine.

I haven’t seen a picture like the one above in a non-gaming magazine, well, ever. This is a sad fact. Only a few remaining large-scale arcades, or, I should say, beacons of hope, remain. Such as Funspot in NH. In these few select locations, the people seem to remember why arcades used to be popular. For the fun and excitement of live, high-level competition and intensity of playing a game with the pressure of others watching. Will you buckle and face the humiliation of public defeat or step up and overcome the odds as you digitally etch your name into the hall of fame?

Arm Champs 2

Unfortunately, in the years following the Golden age of video arcade games, arcade popularity has, overall, slipped off the map. However, new ideas have emerged in an effort to bring gamers back out of their living rooms. Deftly moving fingers and button mashing would no longer be sufficient to satiate the “masses”. Games of greater kineticism and physicality started appearing. Games that employed peripherals, such as the light guns of Virtua Cop or Big Buck Hunter, the motorcycles of The Fast and the Furious Super Bikes, the stage and pads of DDR and the arm (yes, arm!) of Arm Champs. And yes, kiddies, all of these were out pre-Wii (not to be confused with PeeWee), Kinect, Playstation Move, etc.

Arm Champs 2
In mid-October of 2010, during a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando Florida, me and fellow contributor Jamie Richardson (Yes, we’re married. And yes, this was our honeymoon. Anything else you want to know?!) stumbled upon an arcade in the New York section of the theme park. Enchanted by the charm and nostalgia the arcade made us feel, we proceeded to haphazardly spend our hard earned money (wedding gifts) on tokens and played arcade games until our yearning hearts were content. Of all the claw cranes with console prize boxes, classic game cabinets and themed pinball machines, I was (for some inexplicable reason) most fascinated by a machine called Arm Champs II. Yep, you got that right. That’s a sequel to Arm Champs. But only equally as evil. Check out some of my masterful shaky cam of the title screen.

You can see why I had to play this. Arm Champs II is a 1992 game from Jaleco that pits you against the Terminator arm of a robot video game. That’s right, you arm-wrestle it. Little did I know at the time that people have had their arms broken from similar game cabinets in Japan, resulting in recalls. All I could think was, “Oh this looks like good, clean fun!” The surprising results of my herculean efforts can be viewed below. Thanks so much to my new wife for narrating this and humoring her pasty, frail, geek husband! It’s too late now babe!

In case you didn’t catch it at the end there, Jamie asks, “How does success feel?” To which my best reply was, “I’m sweating.” How ignorant of me. I wasn’t even thankful that I didn’t have any broken bones.

Arm Champs 2

Not unlike the robot boss, I also emphatically repeated, “No way!” over and over (and over) again after my unexpected victory. I couldn’t believe that I was Number 1. What? I’m not too sure about the 1992 wiring in this cabinet. How can I, king of nerds, be the top score? Ohhhhhh wait … I get it. They must reset it every week to make kids (and weaklings) feel good about themselves. Well you know what I think about that? Mission accomplished, Universal Studios. Mission accomplished. Now I know I’m stronger than videogames.

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

Batman forever

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

Many will not-so-fondly remember the “other” Acclaim Batman Forever game, a disaster of imprecise controls, illogical level designs, and visuals so sub-par, it was hard to make out what you were doing. That mess found its way onto countless game consoles, including the lowly Game Boy, the last place it should have ended up.

Batman forever

However, on the PlayStation and Saturn, Acclaim published the arcade version (ports by Iguana), hence the title Batman Forever – The Arcade Game. Instead of falling into the platform genre, The Arcade Game was a simple beat-em-up, but one completely lacking in direction, logic, or thought, in addition to the problems of 16 and 8-bit platformers.

Batman forever

The games co-op play only made things more confusing, as the muddy, pixelated digitized visuals caused Batman to blend with the background, and Robin to somehow look like some of the more colorful enemies. Instead of establishing a flow or pacing, BF – TAG just tossed everything onto the screen. Power-ups are everywhere, and the game randomly seems to stop as the superheroes suck in their the newly found abilities. Other times, it stops so either can explode into an explosion of lightning (?) to clear the screen. Various combo counters took up valuable areas of screen real estate, making an already difficult to see game even worse. Of course, they can also shrink (??). Why, for what purpose, is anyone’s guess.

Batman forever

Controls are impossibly slippery, while limited animation makes it seem as if characters are skating around the backgrounds instead of walking on them. For the record, they are. Everything moves so fast (the complete opposite of the other Forever game), it becomes impossible to grab the basics of punching or kicking. The epic and certainly expensive soundtrack is culled from the films, unintentionally hilarious considering the absurdities occurring on-screen.

BF – TAG is a Batman game with zero focus, an attempted showcase of the advancement of digitized visuals, which when done well, could work in favor of the developer. When done poorly, you end up with this, a game where the budget is so squarely focused on the graphics, nothing was left for the gameplay.

Snakes of Avalon

snakes of avalon
Let’s start with the easy bits. Snakes of Avalon is a freeware adventure game that comes with a traditional point-and-click interface and is the creation of Igor Hardy and Alex van der Wijst, who apparently employed the musical talents of Thomas Regin and the acting of Drew Wellman. It also is quite an excellent offering that happens to take place in a single room. Well, sort of, as this is where Snakes of Avalon stops being your average AGS game.
snakes of avalon

It is, you see, set in a bar named Avalon starring a hopelessly drunk, obviously unshaven, very confused and quite alcoholic character in what can only be described as a trippy (near) murder mystery. Actually, make that a deeply surreal (near) murder mystery, sporting a variety of all powerful hallucinations, ugly babies, beer, sinister wives, tons of toilet humour, a perpetually occupied toilet, dirty glasses, at least one time-machine, living posters, love, murder, obscure movie references, a Lucasarts logo and a majestic, yet sadly stuffed, talking moose. As you might imagine such an intoxicated design makes sure the game feels much bigger than your average one-room offering. Or is it actually bigger than that? Better play it and find out.

snakes of avalon

Space and even time in Snakes of Avalon is a most relative thing after all, and the protagonist’s warped perception of everything makes sure the game is actually much longer and quite a bit more challenging than its excellent and confined location would imply. As for the puzzles themselves, well, they are at times taxing, enjoyable and -impressively- make sense in the demented game world.

Oh, and the thing does look delightfully odd too, with its deeply cartoon-like art, smart animation, brilliant cut-scenes and lovely background art, though admittedly the music is what will really blow you away. Provided you enjoy your Jazz, that is. And if you prefer listening to it from a dear old scratched record than say one of those mp3 thingies, you’ll be in musical heaven.