Maniac Mansion review

I rarely do it but Today is the day that I most definitely will! I’ll start the review from the very end of it – the score. Why? Well, reasons may be many, some more other less probable but what the truth is, is that I, as most mammals do, only tend to try to simplify my life. I consider vast majority of my readers at least to be mammals, so I suppose they like things plain and simple as well. That said, if I mention the name of the game and the score, it’s obvious that all the old bastards such as myself will nod their heads in understanding and move away to other, more recent or less well known game reviews and those who still don’t know it (are there any gamers who don’t know IT!?) may find the score high enough to lure them into a quick read. For those that’ll stay and waste five minutes going through my endless blah, blah, blah, here – Maniac Mansion gets 9.5 out of 10. Thank you! Goodnight!



Maniac Mansion was developed and released by LucasFilm Games LLC (now known simply as LucasArts) in 1987 on Commodore 64 and then in 1988 on all other major platforms of the time – Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, DOS & NES/Famicom. And since all these represent different points in wide range of 8 & 16 bit machines, the game version varies slightly in terms of graphics & music depending on given machine’s capabilities. Have no fear though, over the top, B-class movie-like gameplay remains the same on all of these. And that’s the only thing that really matters here, right?! Right!

Maniac Mansion DOS EGA Title Screen
DOS EGA – Title Screen

From the technical point of view Maniac Mansion, often called MM, was a novelty of sorts. It introduced SCUMM (Script Creation Utility for Maniac Mansion) engine that revolutionized Adventure games genre offering a complete point and click interface instead of typical at the time – text based interface. It utilized now well known Verb + Object operation, where verbs would be a set of actions that player could take upon various objects in the game World. It’s easily noticeable that games that followed for years after used or based their own engines on SCUMM as it not only simplified interaction with the game but made it more fluid, life-like, so that the player would not get distracted by mis-typing lengthy boring-ass commands or using wrong words in former kinds of interfaces. On top of all that MM was the first adventure game that presented the player with more than one character to control simultaneously. Player could switch between them whenever he/she felt like it or needed to.

Maniac Mansion Amiga Main Hall
AMIGA – This is how the Mansion’s Main Hall looks like. It holds quite a few neat secrets as well.

Taking Video Games technology available at the time MM did not stood out in any other area really – graphics were OK but not mind blowing and lacked loved and cherished by everyone Rivers of Blood(tm)… Well, there was *some* blood in the game but hardly enough to keep a gore-hungry, silly TV-shows raised teens at peace. And music? Apart from truly awesome opening theme and few sounds (not on all systems though) during gameplay were practically abundant. Looking at the back catalog of games I played over the years, I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s not the graphics or even sound and music that makes a good game…

Maniac Mansion NES Secret Lab
NES – Secret Lab ain’t that secret no more…

Maniac Mansion, from beginning to an end is all story. Story, that is simple, short but drives the player from the first minute when he choses three of the seven available characters (one fixed though) to the last second of gameplay, or till he fails. Yes, in MM one can fail and not complete the game just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time or doing something unnecessary… And why would one wander around doing odd things, digging holes in piles of shit instead of following the flow of the story? Because, lets say that you love cheesy B-class movies that are so bad that they actually are really good… Now, in this World MM would be an absolute king and queen of those movies, all rolled into one!!

Maniac Mansion c64 screenshot
C64 – This is where it all began 20 years before…

You play the role of Dave and two of his friends who have to save Dave’s girlfriend Sandy (even those names seem as if the were taken out of an under budget production made for 75 cents and a promise of mention in the final credits) from the hands of mad scientist – Dr Fred Edison – and his army (well, actually only few) of mutated Tentacles… Sounds cheap & cheesy? It should, the story is so simple that honestly I don’t see it ever getting any better. At least not in 1987, when I was no more no less than six years old and Maniac Mansion was like reading a book that I could actually take part in and it did not suck.

Maniac Mansion Apple II Library screenshot
Apple II – Library – The source of all knowledge… And funny smells…

I’m not gonna spoil this truly awesome game for you by telling you about all the inside jokes, puns and 80’s pop-culture references because I know you’ll enjoy it far more discovering everything by yourself. All I’ll mention is the game offers huge re-playability value due to the fact that all the secrets and gags cannot be found on one playthrough. For one, the characters player choose at the beginning all have unique personalities and respond to same situations differently and may even need to find different ways of solving similar problems. Also many, many things in this game lead to failure but failure through tears of laughter as authors did not kept the best stuff only for actions progressing the plot. And this is exactly what makes a great game – when failure is *also* an option worth taking. ^_^

Maniac Mansion Atari ST kitchen screenshot
Atari ST – There’s no kitchen without chainsaw and some mature cheese.

Maniac Mansion, even though it changed the face of Adventure games genre forever cannot be treated like pure adventure game only. I’d say it’s an interactive movie with adventure and arcade elements at heart. Some puzzles must be timed perfectly to complete, other require smart switching between chosen characters and using their positions and available actions at just the right order. And at another time you’re sitting there watching the game unveil its cinematic sequences just to add depth to the story. Please, pretty please, with a rotten turd covered cherry on top, notice that I used italics whilst mentioning cinematic sequences. Oh, darn, I’ve done it again…

Maniac Mansion c64 tentacle
C64 – Tentacle in its full 8-bit awesomeness…

Why only 9.5 out of 10, if the game clearly was the next Bible!? Or Bible 2.0, if you please (I expect a lot of hate mail now, he, he… ^_^)!? Well, it sure was fun playing it and I even recall one time when as a child I played it with two friends, each of us taking a role of another character… It’s not difficult to guess we did not fare far in the game… Maniac Mansion is just awfully difficult at times, presenting the player with numerous dead ends upon reaching which there is no choice but to reload the game. Or even many time & monkey-like agility based puzzles that one may repeat time after time until perfecting them, so that he/she could progress just that little further in the game. Honestly, sometimes when I play it it feels as if my head was split and someone pissed inside – there seems to be the brain there but my reflexes just ain’t what they’re supposed to be, short-cutted or something. Or maybe I’m just getting old, that’s all? That said, all the humor, re-playability and utterly awesome setting of Old Mansion that holds unknown secrets and a lonely kidnapped girl do make me wanna play it again… Today… Must fight the urge to play the darn gameMust not choose the system nowI am the master of my own mind & willAhhEhhBollocks! I’ll give this bad boy one more roll. ^_^

Fury of the Furries review

Fury of the Furries is a side scrolling platformer with puzzle elements, published by Kalisto in 1993 on Amiga & PC. And a year later on Mac. The main difference between PC and Amiga versions (as I never played the Macintosh one) is the number of colors displayed on a screen. PC uses 256 of these whilst Amiga only 32. They are mixed and matched smartly however, so the difference is bearly noticeable. And in some cases I would’ve sworn that PC outing settled for only 32 as well.

Fury of the Furries PC title screen

The story line is quite dull and doesn’t shine above the early 90’s average for these kinds of games. You’re left in charge of four creatures that look a whole lot like critters. And critters were round, spiky haired, hedgehog like aliens who came to Earth to destroy the life on it in 1986 movie by the same title. It was a mediocre movie, I must add.

The pilot must’ve had one drink to many…

Anyway, in Fury of the Furries unfortunately, you are not mind-bent killing machines from space, but peaceful creatures on a mission to save your king that has been kiddnapped by the so called “the wicked one”, who in this game represents the ultimate evil. The four fur-balls you’re left with, differ in colour and set of abilities, which have to be properly utilised to complete each stage. Does this sound familiar to The Lost Vikings? Well, It should, because apart from being much bigger AND better game, they’re both quite alike.

Watch out for the Homing Bees!

As I was saying Furries you’re in charge of are all unique – the blue one is the only one that can dive and also it shoots bubbles in water. Green one is your friendly neighborhood spider-man. Well, it doesn’t walk on walls but has a line/grappling hook that it can swing on or use to pull objects when necessary. Yellow one controls fireballs of various power and the red one bites the dust – literally.

Another one bites the dust… This time literally!

The further you go the more time you’ll spend planning on how to complete each level since often you’ll find yourself with only one or two of these fur-balls available and sometimes not even through the whole stage but only at certain areas. And in the World of Fury of the Furries there’s many things that can kill you – starting from sharp spikes and pools of acid to mutated bees and other oddly shaped figures of game designer’s sick imagination.

It’s a small World… Not!

And since we’re on the World subject – the adventure takes place in a huge island divided into 8 regions which are then split into seperate levels and many hidden areas. Each region has unique feel and challenges to them, so mastering all will definitely take a lot of time and patience. After completing first two regions you’ll realize that you’re losing lives as often as cattle in an average sized slaughterhouse. Well, at least I did, since the difficulty goes through the roof starting with the third.

Fury of the Jungle… Starting from the third region onwards the game becomes uterly punishing and unforgiving.

Because, Fury of the Furries requires not only clever planning, but also mad gaming skills and in later levels some sick timing, which platform games of the 90’s were well known for. Fury of the Furries is no exception here. And nothing says challenge more than dieing 20 times in one level in less than 30 seconds from starting to play it, each time… Yeah… And that’s only second stage of third region that I’m talking ’bout here…

Why does the shark don’t give a damn about a dude on a surfing board but goes straight for me as soon as I get anywhere near the water!?

Fortunately, the game offers an extra life every 100 coins that you collect and since there’s loads of these in hidden areas, it’s an incentive to look for them from the start. And it’s not unusual for a level to have more than two secret sub-levels hidden behind the palm tree, in a pile of dust or under the shootable block of concrete for instance, so you’ll find yourself checking all possible places looking for those quite early.

Gotta get that money!

As I said before the story is not what makes this game special. The gameplay is. In fact, Fury of the Furries is so AWESOME that once you’ll start playing it, by the time you stop, you’ll realize several hours, days, months or even years have passed, the Earth is a nuclear wasteland, and you somehow missed the Armageddon. OK, that may not be entirely truth, but Fury of the Furries is a top notch game and a one of the best of it’s time and genre.

Spider-man, spider-man, the amazing spider-man…

In my opinion Fury of the Furries is one of those games that aged like wine does, it got better. Actually, it aged exactly like one of those very expensive wines, one that is so good and pricey that nobody even knows how it tastes like. Sadly, the same can be said about this game, as it never got the attention it deserved. When countered with platformers we got to play these days, all being easy, casual games, Fury of the Furries holds a serious challenge and completing it even on the easiest of levels will be time consuming. But also fun and rewarding.

Ripping bubbles in water…

All in all, it’s a great game worth time invested in it and a cheap buy as well. You can get it on eBay for peanuts and running it will require no more than some basic DOSBox skills or WinUAE configuration practice if you settle for Amiga version and don’t happen to have the real one. Like the best game reviewer on YouTube – Gaming Mill – would’ve said – Overall I give it 9 and a half out of 10. So, Thanks for reading, please leave a comment and make sure you give Fury of the Furries a try as it’s gonna be time and money well invested.

This is the end…

On the side note Fury of the Furries as a franchise has been sold by Kalisto a year after it’s premiere to Namco which then released it on SNES, Gameboy and PC (again!) as Pac-In-Time leaving most of the game untouched (in PC version), altering only the way the main character looks like – since there was only one of them in Pac-In-Time – Pacman – and how he accesses all of his abilities. Also if you don’t care much about owning original, Fury of the Furries is considered abandonware on PC & Amiga and can be downloaded from Abandonia & Planet Emulation sites respectively for each of the platforms.

Click here to get the official Fury of the Furries soundtrack.

Frontier (a.k.a. Elite II)

Frontier_elite2_box

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

That’s how you roll in style in space…

Well, this quote from the famous Star Trek series, that crippled many of the young geeky minds, can easily be applied to describe the game of Frontier. In fact this and MUCH more! But, let’s get to the heart of the thing while it’s still beating…

Departing from Matthews where dogs bark with their asses…

Frontier was developed by David Braben and released in 1993 by Gametek and Konami on various Amigas, Atari ST & PC. It’s a sequel to Elite hence why it’s often addressed as Elite 2 and predeccesor to First Encounters – which is also known as Frontier: First Encounters or simply Frontier 2.

100,000,000,000 Planets in Frontier sounds unbeliveable but it’s all truth!

But enough of the boring details, let’s spill some blood on this one… Frontier is a game of undefined genre. It’s a wild mixture of simulation, strategy with adventure and role playing elements. And as much as it seems that this kind of mix’n’match would not work out it actually does and the game is no less than brilliant! It’s a true sandbox experience where you have no laid out route to game’s completition and no scripted time or area predefined events. In fact, you can play it as long as you want and how you want. That is until you get killed or die in a far out system left with no hope of survival because you’ve spent the last of your money on slaves instead of fuel aiming for quick and illegal profit…

It’s not only mining colonies and military bases in Frontier, there are some modern settlements here as well…

The game World, or Universe to be more precise consist of just a bit short of 100,000,000,000 (!!) planets and moons. There’s also 82 kinds of missions/services generated randomly, so chances that you’ll run out of things to do and places to go are quite slim. In the World of Frontier you can become anyone you want! There’s many routes you may wanna progress in, like mining, piracy, trade, bounty hunting or working for one of the multi-system organizartions and picking either of the choices does not mean that you won’t be able to follow another if you decide to do so later on.

There’s plenty of random generated missions to go through, ranging from passenger/cargo transport to spying/assasination requests…

Loads of trade commodities, ship equipment, ship kinds and different fraction promotions, provide for a long and exciting gameplay. In fact when you start of you’ll find yourself in a small settlement with a very basic ship equiped with what seems like garbage and only 1,000 credits to spare and will have to take a long and hard route before feeling safe and comfortable in the dark World of Frontier. But this is exactly what makes this game so special – it does not lead you by hand mission after mission, instead it drops you somewhere in the middle of cold and dark nowhere and tells you to deal with it! And you will have to, cause otherwise you’re not a real man (or woman, since I don’t wanna sound sexist here).

Space: The Final Frontier…

That said, Frontier is a truly excellent product shadowed only by the fact that it is not a game for all.

Many people may not appreciate its hardcore „kill or die” approach and difficult beginnings. But those who decide to go through tough initial period usually fall in love with it because it’s an entertaining and deep experience that rewards patience.

Cobra MK I – it’s not a killing machine but I’ve flown worst.

It’s really impressive how HUGE game David managed to fit on one floppy and how well it worked out in the end especially that it is mainly one person’s effort. The game looks and plays the same on all systems yet all of these had some unique and system specific bugs in earlier, unpatched releases. Bugs like famous wormholes that allowed for huge jumps over great distances in Universe using just a tiny bit of fuel or „earning” money by endlessly „trying to sell” a passengers cabin with passengers still in it…

Each “dot” even if it has no name displayed here is a seperate solar system with its own planets and moons.

Frontier is quite cheap on eBay as it was fairly popular in the early 90’s, and hence many copies are still sold for prices that are easy to swallow. Same as with earlier reviewed Fury of the Furries, Frontier is widely considered abandonware and can be downloaded from Abandonia or Planet Emulation for PC & Amiga respectively, and run through either DOSBox or WinUAE.

Apart from these two ships and the crew on this station… In space noone can hear you scream.

As much as I’m a firm believer that any game that let’s you become a Space Pirate and not only blow people to pieces with various rockets, plasmas and lasers, but also trade slaves, drugs and radioactives, deserves an easy 10 out of 10, I won’t give it. I’ll settle for 8 out of 10 because as I mentioned before not everyone will find Frontier enjoyable – it’s a difficult game with no tutorial or hints and can just be a bit too overwhelming for a Sunday player.

Attacking other ships near Space Stations may turn their defences against you, ultimately bring an end to your Frontier life.

UFO: Enemy Unknown

UFO: Enemy Unknown is a turn-based tactical strategy game with managerial and role playing elements published in 1994 by MicroProse Software on PC and various Amigas and later on on Playstation.

X-COM_-_UFO_Defense_Coverart

I wondered for a while how does one properly explain what ingenious creation like UFO is, compared to other similar games. And found no answer… So I decided to give it a whirl, play it for a while and see how I felt about it after years long brake from seeing it last. That was a HUGE mistake! A catastrophe on an unthinkable scale! I can’t stress how much time I’ve „wasted” playing it, though it was not a waste per se. Well, as you might have guessed by now, the game is not bad by no means. In fact when I started playing it I couldn’t stop until I beat it. And beating UFO takes a lot of time and patience as the game in its early stages especially is quite unforgiving. Going through it however, with all its ups and downs left me with a clear view of what I wanted to share here with you… So, let me get to it straight away…

In the beginning there was chaos…” And there is loads of it in UFO as well, especially for a first time player. There’s tons of screens, stats and settings that may seem a bit overwhelming for a person looking for a quick strategy fix, but if you decide to take your time with it and learn everything that there is to learn about the game it will reward you hundredfold! With long, deep (Oh, yeah, I said it!) adventure, that when completed will leave you disappointed… Badly… Because you’ll instantly want MORE!

UFO or X-COM as they call it in the US is a product built upon the idea that could’ve easily been transformed into three different, smaller games. First of, there’s the strategy – Globe View – in which you build your bases, send intercepting ships to shoot of alien vessels and direct your troop transport crafts to various missions – like alien terror attack, alien bases or earlier mentioned shot down UFOs. Sounds cool? Good, because it is!

ufo_enemy_unknown_01

Then there’s a micro-managerial – Base View – where you decide on your base’s buildings placement and purpose. Each building has it’s price, time it takes to put up and also provides certain commodities – like living areas, research laboratories, defences, hangars or even alien interrogation rooms, so thinking the layout through is a must. In here also, you buy, sell, research & manufacture various kinds of weapons, ships, equipment & technologies. And this is where you train, equip and prepare your troops before they get sent on a mission that most of them may not come back from.

And last but most definitely not least – Tactical View – where whilst on a missions you’ll lead your soldiers turn by turn to their painful and bloody deaths… I mean to victory against bad and ugly alien invaders, which vary in kind power and abilities! Yes… Well, initially some of your troops are bound to meet their maker in the field of battle when put up against overwhelming alien force. As they progress in game though – earn experience & gain skills, each mission will become more and more bearable until eventually with help of high tech equipment and armor designed by your team of smart bottle-bottom-like glasses wearing scientists you’ll start earning a bit of advantage. I wouldn’t hold on to that hope from the start though as that will not happen until you’re many, many hours into gameplay.

ufo_enemy_unknown_02

Because UFO punishes the slightest mistakes in tactical approach, you will have to be prepared for some serious losses when playing X-COM for the first time. That is good however as if it was not so challenging it may have not end up being so AWESOME… After all, it is fun to spray long series of bullets through purple coloured alien brains. But what’s even more enjoyable in my opinion is starting your way with your soldiers brains being spread on a pavement and slowly earning your way through the alien horde whilst learning their genesis, weak and strong points and researching means to counter them effectively.

In UFO: Enemy Unknown one can see many influences by the earlier games, games like Laser Squad or Civilization, from which UFO took what’s best and mixed into something even better. Funny enough Civilization was released by Microprose as well and Laser Squad was developed by the same team that wrote UFO. Coincidence? I don’t think so… Anyway, as I mentioned before UFO could very well be three separate, good in their own kind games but instead Microprose opted for mashing it all up into one tough but entertaining behemoth of a creation that takes many evenings to complete and keeps you on your toes through out it until the very last minute of gameplay.

ufo_enemy_unknown_03

All versions of the game are virtually the same gameplay-wise with only some minor engine differences. Differences like Amiga version having two separate release branches, one with 32 and another with 256 colours graphics (all other systems get 256 only) and a bit better music and sound effects. Playstation outing being least playable out of the lot due to the limitations of pad control compared to the mouse. All that said, any version you manage to pick up will provide you with dozens of hours of fun and challenge, and that’s what UFO is all about!

MicroProse released two continuations to UFO – X-COM: Terror From The Deep & X-COM: Apocalypse. First being direct sequel with some minor gameplay setting tweaks & alterations and second released in high resolution but with reduced micro-management scale from the whole World to one huge Metropolis. There’s been some spin-offs developed as well but mostly were not worth any attention as they fared into different genres, badly I must add. Independent Developers have been craving to shadow the success of original, releasing many similar games, especially over the last few years. Unfortunately none of them came even close to perfecting balance of gameplay and its mechanics, and MicroProse’s original is still King of the Hill when in comes to tactical anti-alien warfare.

ufo_enemy_unknown_05

It took me two weeks of serious gaming before I beat the game and I only managed to do it on normal difficulty level. Can’t wait to see what happens if I raise it a bit even though UFO was challenging enough the way I played it. Overall I want to give UFO: Enemy Unknown 15 out of 10 but I can’t, so I’ll settle for what’s available at hand…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dupngnAS6yk[/youtube]

PC version is still on sale (well, again not still) and can be purchased on STEAM either separately or as a part of the Complete pack where it is sold along with both successors. Alternatively if you still own your original disks they can be easily used to install and run it through DOSBox. As for Amiga outing, the game same as the platform has been forgotten for years and is only available to download as an abandonware at Planet Emulation website.

Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight review

Have you ever wondered what would’ve become of a child of Cool and Awesome? I know, I did… And what if that child hooked up with Great and their kid became Rad that in turn done it with Super, getting her pregnant in the process?? Well, wonder no more! What we’d end up with would be an odd hairy & stinky behemoth – CoAweGraDSu. And if the name’s too long or weird sounding to you, let me rephrase it, so it’s more understandable – Cool, Awesome, Great, Rad & Super above all – Moonstone!

moonstone
Moonstone PC title screen

Yes, Moonstone. A rock that fell of a big, round slice of Cheese that hangs on a night sky bringing all vampires and other darkly creatures to life, or death. I don’t know, I’m not an expert on these… Anyway, what I know a lot about is a video game of a same name & that’s what we’re going to talk of today.

Weird drug-related rituals have been known for ages… And loved for ages…

Moonstone: A Hard Days Knight is an action hack’n’slash game with role playing elements in fantasy medieval setting developed and released by Mindscape in 1991 & 1992 on Amiga and PC respectively. Both versions look and play nearly the same & use the same palette of 32 colors, but PC version seems a bit more radiant & Amiga outing sounds much better… And freezes your computer more often, but that may just be me and not a common case. Anyway…

I guess it was and always will be that the blonde ones are the most popular…

The story unveils you being one of four knights summoned by the old and wise (or drugged as they certainly appear to be) druids to fullfil their request of finding the sacred Moonstone, neccessary to save their land. The story has many twists and turns to it whilst still being simple and enjoyable. In very short find the Moonstone, bring it to druids, save their realm – and most of all stay alive whilst doing it.

Beware of the red bastard that burps with fire and feeds of brains… Or so I heard.

Wether you choose to play alone or with friends, the game involves all four knights with CPU taking control of unused ones. Each starts in a different region of a map, ridden by different creatures and dangers. But all have to go through a same, awesomely BLOODY path to complete the game. How gory this game actually is? Well, let’s say that having an upper part of your body bitten of by a dragon or head choped by rivalring knight is not a very brutal way to die in Moonstone…

It’s not important how many you’ve taken with you if you fell in the end…

Between chopping, stabbing, cutting and running away for your life (yes, this may happen to you as well, especially when followed by a huge fire-breathing dragon) there’s many activities that a knight in the World of Moonstone can participate in. Such fun things as gambling, visiting a seer seeking an in-depth view of your future, shopping or even looking for an aid from a lonely Wizard that lives on top of Abandoned Tower – kind of like Saruman from Lord of the Rings did. All the best things that true knights enjoy doing when not killing, raping or drinking… Or all these in a same time!

Missed me! You blind, acne ridden, bad breath bastard!

There’s many ways casual player can die in Moonstone, but there’s also many ways a careful one can develop in it. The role playing elements in the game are mostly seen through skills developing along with the gameplay and equipment upgrades that can either be obtained by means of trade or by brutal murders. Both equally enjoable, yet only one of them costing you virtually no money. One could argue that it’s not enough to aspire to a role playing game, but that’s fine because Moonstone does not try to appear as one. Instead it stands for what it is – fun, gory and awesomely enjoyable Party Game – if you happen to be twisted and have friends that thrive in surrounding of blood and other inner body fluids. On the other hand if you do, it’s probably good that you and your friends play games and not go out on a killing spree that one would expect you to. ^__^

Go on, son! Go on, son!

Moonstone has that board game feeling to it, with map view played in turn based mode and encounters being more lively real time combat decided purely by player’s own skills and equipment. After few failed playthroughs the game becomes easy. In fact if you died in all possible places in all possible ways, eventually you learn what, when and how to expect in the World of Moonstone. However since the graphics are so polished – beautiful hand drawn sprites and backdrops – and gameplay is enjoyable to the point of bringing Mortal Kombat to shame with its rivers of blood and pain virtually spread all over through the whole game time, Moonstone is utterly fun time killer and a very good Party Game.

Darn Critters! Who would’ve though they can attack from above?

It took me a while to decide what should be Moonstone’s final score. On one hand I think it deserves 8 out of 10 for a single player experience, on the other 10 out of 10 in multiplayer mode… Because nothing says fun more than bringing few friends together just to chop off a limb or two of them, then steal from them and finally leave their still warm corpses to rot in a puddle of their own blood. I’ve made my decision…

Yeah… You sure told me… People did sure know how to swear back then…

Superfrog review

superfrog

Every 16-bit platform of yesteryear had their own unique best selling point. Quite often being a platformer game for that matter. Two main ones – SNES and Genesis had Mario and Sonic games respectively. Both very different to each other yet both awesome in their own ways. So, when others back in the early 90’s had tons of fun breaking their pads playing those, don’t think that I didn’t… Actually I didn’t as I had an Amiga 500 and neither SNES nor Genesis back then. That said I was not a sad bastard looking enviously at other people’s machines hoping to be invited for a game or two. Hell, no! I had my own ace down my own sleeve and it was no worst to the earlier two… In fact in some ways it could be considered a superior game!

In the heavenly year of our Lord, 1993, on Amiga and a mere year later on PC, widely known back then Developer forward slash Publisher – Team17 – of (currently Worms titles but then…) Project-X, Apidya I & II, Alien Breed I & II, Body Blows & Body Blows Galactic fame, amongst other great games, released a true gem – an answer to Sonic & Mario that Amiga owners needed and thrived for (and PC owners did not give a damn about as they had Wolfenstein 3D). That year a legend was born…

Project F? Nah…

Superfrog - a frog that every toads wants to be and also coincidentally an Amiga title screen...

The game leaves you in charge of – surprise, surprise – Superfrog – a once prince turned into a green hero on a mission to save his loved princess from alzheimer & dementia driven hands of each superhero’s of the era arch villain – the Mad Witch. Well, can’t tell you what was her exact name but she was a witch and was bad judging from an awesome intro that the Amiga version greets the player with.

Well, putting the story aside as it’s obvious it was not the story that gave Sonic & Mario their deserved fame – Sperfrog could be considered to be quite generic example of the platformer. Could be, but it wasn’t… Both PC and Amiga versions look and play virtually the same with an earlier mentioned difference of Amiga outing having an incredible cartoon-style intro drawn by once famous Eric Shwartz.

Is it a bird!? Is it a plane!? Nah… It ain’t!

And this is were the fun's at... Well, this and some more...

The main game is divided between five levelsForest, Castle, Circus, Pyramids & Ice – each built out of four stages and then there’s also a secret Space stage and a Moon level. I’ve mentioned Mario & Sonic games before as I’d like to use them as examples or even standards here, that I would then compare Superfrog to. It’s not going to be an easy task and I would not wanted this piece of writing to end up as a review of those two games, so I will mix and match some colorful screenshots here so it appears as if I’m still reviewing widely unknown Superfrog… Nah! I’m just fu… I mean playing with you all, it’s still gonna be a Superfrog review…

Because what made Mario & Sonic great is what makes Superfrog an underrated contender that should’ve been a champion amongst all three. Both console titles had beautiful graphics, excellent and well thought through level design, loads of collectibles and tons of fun to add to it all. How does our toad-face friend stack against them? I’d say he’s got some serious ground to defend and I don’t see him losing to any of the games in any of the fields mentioned…

You gotta face the facts! The game is AWESOME-tastic(tm)!

There are only three Rules of Survival(tm) in Superfrog... Or one three-pieced rule... If it moves or is sharp or you have no clue what it is - it will most likely kill you!

Superfrog’s graphics literally squeeze out everything that’s possible out of vanilla Amiga computers whilst keeping a solid framerate of 50 screens per second in a resolution of 320×256 on Amiga and 320×240 pixels on PC. Genesis by standard displays its games at 320×224 and SNES does at 256×224 pixels resolution. So, Amiga and PC do offer slightly higher resolution than Genesis and noticeably higher than SNES. But wait! That’s not all…

Arguably SNES displayed the most – 256 colors on the screen at once in its games and Genesis64, whilst Amiga in most cases only 32. Superfrog and mastermind geniuses of evil – Team17 – behind it however, managed to pull as much as they could out of hardware and the game runs at 64 colors, as well as Genesis titles do. Those colors are so smartly picked, mixed and rotated though that it looks as if there were many more… So, in theory whilst being similar to Genesis it does look bit less colorful than some of SNES games do. But I shouldn’t judge the book by it’s cover… And I shall not judge the games purely by their visuals either! …Today.

Amiga offered the highest resolution out of all platforms… Well, so what!? It still lost in the long run…

It's so cold that I froze my frog off... WOW! That comment is just SO lame...

Both console classics are well known for their ingenious level designs… Mario’s are smartly laid out and often require skills of the Dark Side’s degree and loads of patience and repetition to complete. And Sonic’s are built with speed of gameplay in mind. Superfrog is more on the earlier one’s side. The stages are vast and filled with many monsters (well, I wouldn’t wanna call those cute creatures monsters but they kill you, so I can’t settle just for cute either), traps, collectibles and switches and also often require for a player to reach within the earlier mentioned Dark Side of the Force to stand a chance at beating each of the latter levels… You will find plenty of hidden areas as well, especially in Castle and Pyramid levels and discovering all will not be an easy task at all – so Superfrog holds a lot of re-playability to it.

In gameplay area Superfrog does not lack either – there’s something new introduced with each stage so it continues being involving and whilst it’s easy to pick up and play it’s hard to master and VERY hard to beat! So, finding all of the secret areas and collecting all the treasures (gold, crowns, coins, fruit, etc. and my most favourite drinks of all time – Lucozade Orange – Hell yeah!) will surely take a lot of both – time & effort. There are no warps to latter levels as in Mario games, so you have to complete the game stage after stage but there is a password system and those can be won using collected coins in an arcade like mini games between levels… There’s also power ups that offer unique abilities to our hero – like flying or throwing green goo-ish looking creatures of a yo-yo-like characteristic at the enemies… Sounds odd? Well, play the damn game! You’ll love it anyway and also you’ll know what I’m talking about here!

The technique is to jump over the sharp bit… Or kneel down below it. Or Die. It’s really a game of choice!

It's not gambling if you KNOW that you ain't gonna win!

It’s real hard to summarize it all (and more that I did not mention not to spoil the game), to depict Superfrog as being a truly AWESOME game. I’m afraid that you’re just gonna have to take my word for it. And judging just by it, screenshots and maybe a feel for adventure you will give Superfrog a try… Because when you do, you won’t regret it! It’s a unique and challenging game (with one of the first ad-in-game placements – Lucozade Orange yo!) that could’ve been Amiga’s answer to Mario and Sonic if only the platform and game were half as popular as the two main 16bit consoles were… Sadly Superfrog whilst being moderately successful never reached the attention it deserved and was a hugely underrated production. If things were different I may have been writing here about Superfrog III – Revenge of the Toad or Superfrog VII – Frogs in Space but we won’t know that as the game never really got a chance to stretch its wings…

Sonic-speed transport system as presented by ACME. Sounds

This is the end... My froggy-friend, the end... The screenshot does not show the end though but to know it you would have to play it, you know...

Stunts (a.k.a. 4D Sports Driving)

When I was just a young boy and have seen today’s review’s game for the first time on my friend’s Amiga I knew I had to have it. In fact I wanted it more than badly! I needed it as one needs to find a toilet after a huge plate of burritos followed up by a gallon of sweet cider… It’s obvious however, that when you’re that young and have cravings for something, you have your ways of getting it… Begging parents to buy it for you, borrowing money from a friend or even be it finding a way of obtaining an illegal copy… Whatever means were necessary, for this game were well justified!

4D Sports Driving

Stunts (in Europe known as 4D Sports Driving – now how dull & silly sounding title that one is!) was one of those games that revolutionized its genre by being well ahead of its time, but I’ll get into this in a minute. The game was developed by Distinctive Software and released by Broderbund Software on PC & Amiga in late 1990. Just like my little sister, developed by my father and released in 1990 by my mother… Just like that! ^__^

Anyway, who has at least a vague knowledge of personal computer history, knows well that it was still the time when Amiga was the „King of the Hill” and packed most gaming power of all early 90’s platforms. PC VGA card’s 256 colour mode was not extensively used yet, so Amiga games stood out as better looking ones out of all 16bit Computer ports… Stunts was a fresh breeze of „new” in already well established by then Racing genre. What we expect to find in games today and feel as if it’s usual to have it was not as common in 1990 and Stunts by bringing a plate of those little changes to the racing games table changed the way we „dine” forever…

First of all there were multiple cars to choose from – all with various stats and specs, and all handled different to one another. There were not 40, 50 or 60 of them but more than a typical by then – „three or less”. 11 to be precise. It’s obvious that just having a bunch of cars thrown into a game does not make for an awesome racer but people at Distinctive Software knew that well and made sure that Stunts was not only a car showcase but also a bottomless bag of goods for all speed freaks…

With loads of different cars a Real Player needs variety in tracks as well, to keep him/her occupied. Devs could just drop a bunch of those on players and keep them happy for a relatively long time but they didn’t. In fact there was not a huge number of those but it made no difference nonetheless as Stunts took another, as time proved, much better route. There may have been only few tracks to choose from but they were really smartly laid out and what’s even more important & crucial here…

…they were ridden all over by numerous obstacles like ramps, corkscrews, loops, jumps, iced paving and many more to keep the game more challenging and raise the gameplay excitement in the same time. Sounds fun? It is! But you know what? There were many games that were fun and never made it big… Many! So, what exactly could push Stunts to stand out by a long mile ahead of the competition? Well, maybe…

…first EVER racing game Track Editor? Maybe? Nah! For sure! It was simple yet a powerful tool that allowed user to use all elements available in official tracks in their creations. Needless to say many of those quickly sprout out amongst players who challenged themselves to make the most daring or challenging tracks to play. By today (nearly 20 years later), there’s several thousands of these and the game whilst being only 8 years younger than me is still as playable as it was on a day of its release and much more fun than I could ever be. I wanna hear a loud „Hell Yeah!” here. ^__^

If that all was not much enough, Stunts also introduced something of similar characteristics to well-known achievements of today’s games. A player was not allowed to use all the cars from the beginning or play against all opponents, he had to slowly work his way up the „Racing Food Chain(tm)” to unlock tougher drivers and better rides. Now, ain’t that a lot of fun!?

Stunts was also first game to take place in full 3D environment with everything being built out of 3D polygons – tracks, cars, jumps, trees & buildings… You get the picture by now, I hope. ^__^ Now, in 1990 it was not a common practice… In fact, most people even did not think possible of having a 3D game running smoothly on a vanilla Amigas, yet alone a racing game. But then somebody (who knew nothing about that notion) came and just done it. Figures! Well done Distinctive Software, well done!! As one would expect from a truly „Groundbreaking Wind of Change(tm)” in Gaming World all that can be seen from various camera views and recorded as Replay to share amongst friends or prey on their weaknesses by showing them your Mad Gaming Skills… And nothing says more „Great Game” than being able to destroy your friend’s self esteems by beating them time after time in an awesome racer on tracks that you have made yourself just for the purpose alone! It’s like taking a Lolly Pop from a child, but more fun.

I know it may appear as if I am a bit over excited but just imagine for a second that it’s not 2010 no more, but humble 1990 and most games (Stunts alike) run in 16 colors in 320 x 200 resolution and not 1920 x 1080 in 16 Millions of shades with 3D acceleration, Depth of Field, Z-buffers, Fog and other numerous graphical effects which names tell me no more than a calorie count on a box of Rice Crispies… Also, try to visualize what one gets to experience after playing countless hours in racing games on flat gray surfaces filled with 2D sprites with three or even no cars to choose from (and usually they only looked different but handled identically) when one’ve seen Stunts in its full 3D glory!? I, for one was stunned at seeing Stunts and could not say much more than „awesome”. I know, I know, I’ve overused this word by now in my previous reviews and that’s alright as all those games were in fact awesome as well. But did they change their genres for years to come to the same degree Stunts did? I think that you realize by now that the answer can only be… No.

Rick Dangerous & Rick Dangerous 2

Rickdangerousbox

No time for love, Dr. Jones…” Well, in here there’s always plenty time for passionate and long lasting love, classic video game love that is!

Rick Dangerous – Amiga title screen Rick Dangerous II – Amiga title screen

Anyway, when there’s no Dr. Jones somebody has to step in and take his place and be that smart heroic persona that saves the day, in style. This is exactly where Dr. Dangerous comes in… Well, I’m not sure he’s a doctor but with that kind of surname he bloody sure should be!

Rick Dangerous – Level 1 – Amstrad CPC – Running away from a falling boulder, Indy style…

I realized I cannot review Rick Dangerous without taking a look at Rick Dangerous II – as these games are like Star Wars – sure, you can watch one and have fun but until you’ve seen them all you know nothing of the dark side… Or until you’ll push some LSD with magic mushrooms and few nicely rolled fat spliffs, but that’s just sliding a bit to much of topic here… ^__^

Rick Dangerous – Level 3 – C64

Games of the dark side (I should trade mark that statement!) that Rick Dangerous 1 & 2 surely are, were developed by Core Design and Published by Microplay in 1989 & 1990 respectively, on most major systems of the time – Amiga, PC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum & Amstrad CPC. And even though these computers all had different capabilities and limitations the game plays equally awesome on all of them and only benefits from slightly higher resolution and bigger sprites in better colors on more advanced ones.

Rick Dangerous II – Level 3 – Atari ST

The adventures take place in undisclosed early years of the 20th Century where you’re in control of British chap going by the name of Bond, James Bond. I’m sorry, I must have been stuck on the game’s similarities to a certain movie series – of course you play as somebody else… Jones, Indiana Jones. Ehm… I mean… Dangerous, Rick Dangerous! That’s more like it! Anyway, the similarities of Rick and Indy are many and they’re more than obvious – both Rick & Indy are adventurers seeking forgotten treasures and fighting bad guys for a living, and also they both sport hats & brown leather jackets, so popular in the early 1900’s. Now, that’s enough to become an heroic icon in my books!

Rick Dangerous – Level 2 – ZX Spectrum

As Rick, in both games, you’re bound to go through hundreds of screens – most of time each being a separate part of a bigger level – of blood, sweat and tons of swearing. Rick Dangerous with its hellish unforgiving laugh-in-a-player’s-face difficulty makes other tough games look like a kindergarten toys. In fact there were times when I thought that the game was punishing me just for playing it! Not many games have that kind of, ehm… …incentive to them, but that said it actually works quite well as inspite of being hard as my auntie’s cookies are – Rick holds tons of “just one more screen and I’ll go to bed” gameplay to it.

Rick Dangerous II – Level 2 – PC DOS – PC outing of RDII could work in two different graphic modes – CGA and VGA, with pallettes of 16 and 256 colors respectively, even though the game never really used all 256 colors.

Each level consists of numerous places and ways that your character can part with his life, and for that matter – he will! Constantly, time after time, playthrough after playthrough! Rick Dangerous is one of those games that back in the days of its release caused joystick manufacturers to see huge increase in profits. Not that there were so many users playing it and wearing controllers out but if others reacted to the game similar to how I did – their joysticks also ended up in pieces thrown at the wall. All of them, one after another, in one sitting… Yeah, I know, that was pretty stupid & lame… But so was I.

Rick Dangerous – Level 4 – PC DOS – CGA mode…

You are not helpless however – you have your wits, charm, adventurers 6th sense and also if the earlier ones are not enough – a gun & some explosives to help you go through each area. Both, bullets and explosives are limited though, so you’ll find yourself often stuck between an easy way to complete a difficult task or an unknown that may end up fatal because of you not having any means of defense. The sooner you’ll learn how to properly utilise and save these tools of the adventurers trade the sooner the game will grow on you as you’ll be able to complete a stage without dying in same spot more times than you have fingers… And toes… Put together.

Rick Dangerous II – Level 4 – C64 – Commodore most definitely sported the best looking and most playable out of the all 8bit outings…

I realize that these two games are tough as a year-old doughnut and tend to bring tons of frustration where its not necessary, but maybe it’s because they hold a serious challenge? And challenge is what’s pushes me more and more until I beat the basta… I mean game, until I beat the game! I don’t know the exact reason, but even though Rick Dangerous is as difficult as passing a whale on a toliet – through tears of anger and pain – it will no doubt grow on anyone who’ll spend time learning it’s gameplay mechanics & all the quirks. It’s not a game for everyone as on times it feels as if the Developers took pleasure in laying out incredibly tough obstacles just to see the player fail numerous times but it is a game for everyone to try and see if they’re up to the challenge.

Rick Dangerous II – PC DOS – Rick’s first experiences with ACID… He never listend in school when kids were tought just to say “No”…

Quick Note: I don’t know of any places that the game could be purchased other than eBay but if you just wanna give it a quick whirl, see how it plays, you can always find it either on Abandonia for PC or Planet Emulation for all other platforms, as Rick Dangerous is now considered abandonware. Also below you’ll find intros for both titles – they’re not much but they’re there nonetheless.

Blackthorne (a.k.a. Blackhawk)

Have you ever dreamed of being a lone marauder/renegade whose only true friend was his faithful gun and whose purpose in life was to kill everything that moved within the shooting range? I bet you did… And I know that I haven’t, you psychopath! ^__^ But I don’t mind acting as one in a video game, especially in one as awesome as…

Blackthorne title screen

It was developed by Blizzard Entertainment (currently of Diablo, Starcraft & WOW fame) and released on multiple platforms by Interplay Productions in 1994. And 1994 was a GOOD year! Not only for me finally realizing the obvious difference between men and women but also for games and gamers alike. There were more active gaming platforms than ever before or after, and the sheer amount of games released at and around the year of 1994 left players witch many gems to pick from which was good but also caused Blackthorne to go by largely unnoticed…

And I have been preparing to write this review all my life… Or last five minutes… Whatever.

I’ve decided to try a bit different approach and instead of telling you what is the game’s current state of affairs genesis, I’ll include a video intro, so you can see it for yourself and then proceed with reading…

Now, since you’ve went through this quite decent intro, we can continue… ^__^

Blackthorne (a.k.a. Blackhawk – European title) is like Flashback on steroids. On some levels it’s a better game as it’s more action oriented and easier to follow in terms of both plot and puzzles, on others it lacks depth and genuine „WOW” factor of earlier mentioned production.

Blackthorne screenshot

I went through Blackthorne like a hawk goes through freshly caught rabbit – with blood on my claws and madness in my eyes. I didn’t follow the back story much though but I had fun regardless, which would not be possible in Flashback that was heavily story driven. Anyway, a character that player controls has a wide palette of on-screen actions with which he has to go through each level killing good and bad alike. He can run, roll, jump whilst standing or running, shoot in various directions, throw grenades, use objects or hide in the comforting darkness of shadows. When hidden he cannot be targeted or seen, so it’s a good idea to use this to your advantage.

Blackthorne screenshot

The game’s filled with little puzzles but they are really nothing that would either catch your attention or cause you to stop to think things through. They’re more like common sense – you have to remember not to use all the grenades at once because three or four screens from where you are there may be a door that needs removing with carefully placed explosives and such. Simple stuff! That’s good though cause Blackthorne does not claim to be a thinking man’s game – it’s a simple arcade/action platformer with loads of shooting and on-screen blood. Really, what’s best in video games!

Blackthorne screenshot

The game looks slightly different on each of the platforms it was released on due to specific limitations & capabilities of those gaming architectures. Gameboy Advance being the most stripped down and Sega 32X the most feature rich versions. Fortunately they all play exactly the same. And that’s good because there’s not many things that say “Relaxing Sunday Afternoon” like putting a bullet through a head of an unknown defenseless guy chained to the wall… Or so I heard.

Blackthorne screenshot

All in all, Blackthorne is not a game you’ll remember for being the most innovative or having immerse story behind it. No, it won’t happen! You will remember it as a game that provided you with tons of fun and mindless slaughter in the name of whatever… Cause it’s not the reason that counts here, it’s the act of doing it… And body count. ^__^

Blackthorne screenshot

…and one last thing to remember: in the beautifully red color stained World of Blackthorne we NEVER give up!