Pooyan

Pooyan was a Stern/Konami collaboration for arcade release in 1982. It’s considered a classic among the old-school gamers, although it seems most people I’ve spoken to have never heard of it or played it. It was ported to the Atari 2600 and just about every computer in the ’80′s, but I remember the arcade version well.

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

The gameplay is simple, as you are a mama pig trying to defend her piglets (pooyan) from jerk-ass wolves who (as we learned from kid’s tales) love nothing more than to eat some sweet pork. Normally, she would just hide behind the brick walls of her house, but it seems the Masons are on strike and can’t build her a house quickly enough. She then takes what she learned from the Porky Pig/Robin Hood cartoon and fashions herself a bow and unlimited arrows.

The game repeats two screens, but as in the case of most older arcade games, the levels get faster and more difficult as you move along. The first screen has the wolves on top of a cliff and they’ve mastered the use of the helium balloon. They will ride them down off the cliff’s edge and if they reach the bottom, will climb a ladder on your side and eat you and the piggies.

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

You have two weapons: The arrows, which are dull as shit, as they can’t pierce the wolves’ fur but can pop the balloons and (SPLATTER ALERT!) will send them to their deaths. Or, you can toss huge pieces of meat at them, which are heavy enough to bring everything down to Earth. Where does she get the supply of meat? No one’s talking, but I don’t see any of Mama’s red-headed stepchildren present. The second screen has the wolves riding up the cliff via balloon, and you will take the same defensive actions. The only difference is if enough wolves reach the top they will push a huge boulder on top of you, basically tenderizing their dinner. There are a bonus screens where you do similar actions for points, but just toss the meat.

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

The graphics are fine, nothing special. Very colorful, and you can tell what everything is. The music is very cute, with some classic tunes being heard during gameplay…some music you will recognize.
A simple, but eventually hectic game, with just the one joystick and one button. Easy to pick up and play on MAME if you get the chance. Very unique and quirky gameplay, and I think you’ll find yourself addicted. Highly recommended, and you don’t have to put a lot of time into it, as most games will probably last you 5-10 minutes.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ByIl9QQmeM[/youtube]

Overall 9/10

Berzerk

“Intruder alert! Intruder alert!”

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

You are that intruder. You play as a “humanoid” trapped in an unlimited amount of single-screen mazes, chased (very slowly) by Cylon-looking robots with lasers. I have no idea why you are there, and why the robots hate you so much, but they are constantly shouting orders like “Kill!”,”Destroy!”, and “Attack!” via speech synthesis, a rarity in 1980 arcade games.

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

I remember being addicted to this game back in the day…simple to learn, difficult to master. With one joystick (to move/shoot in 8 directions) and one button (laser), your objective is to survive as long as possible by shooting the robots that are blocking your way to the exit on the other side of the each maze-screen.

Everything has an “electric” feel to it, from the laser shots to instant death from brushing against a wall. You receive points by destroying the robots, but you can’t hang around too long before escaping or “Evil” Otto will quickly be on your ass. Otto, a body-less smiley face, is the “Smoke Monster” of video games. A true indestructible enemy that will chase you down like a heat-seeking missile.

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

Simple, but addictive, gameplay kept my quarters flowing in the early ’80′s, always wanting my shot at Otto…but it was not to be. One of the more underrated “villains” in video-game history, he was always taunting me and I could do nothing about it.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb4gWvqbsYA[/youtube]

Highly recommended if you get a chance to play on MAME.

8/10

Battlezone

atari_battlezone-gameplay-screenshot

Ahhhh…Battlezone. This game really takes me back. A 1980 Atari product, and a fine one it is. I can remember when this beauty of a cabinet showed up in my arcade. I had never seen anything like it. Not only did it have some pretty cool side art and marquee, but the controls looked outer-worldly. With the dual-joysticks and the periscope viewer, I felt like I was actually a tank-gunner. Battlezone was always lined with people awaiting their turn, so I spent more time with the Atari 2600 port (awesome on its own), but I was always willing to shove a couple of quarters to try and be all I could be (I normally failed miserably).

atari_battlezone-gameplay-screenshot
For the few of you who haven’t played Battlezone, it’s a 1st-person, vector tank-shooter set on the freaking moon, of all places. Although gravity doesn’t come into play anywhere in the game, so they could have just set it on Earth. But, two aspects of the game probably will explain why they did it this way; One, the background is constant black, giving it a “30 Days of Night” feel to keep you on edge, but I’m sure the reason for this was for the bright green vector lines would show better. Two, they decided to throw flying saucers and tank-sized guided-missiles at you as an extra slice of variety of just shooting other tanks. Anyway, it works well and I now wouldn’t want it any other way. The HUD is all in red, which has your score, number of tanks left, and most importantly, a radar showing you exactly where the next tank is. When it appears directly behind you….MOVE YOUR ASS!! This brings me to…..

atari_battlezone-gameplay-screenshot
…..The object of the game is to manuever your tank around huge geometic shapes, like squares and triangles (that can also be used as shields), all while avoiding tank-fire and setting yourself in a perfect line of fire to blow your cannon up the dirty Panzer’s caboose, making a splended looking explosion of green line-segments. Manuevering takes some time to master, which was difficult to do in the arcade days, having a line of other pimple-faced kids wanting to stick their sweaty, greasy foreheads on the same viewfinder I was using. The dual-joystick controls were designed to move the left and right tank treads. Both forward to move forward, both back to move back, then a combination to veer left or right.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo4bSrD4ZDQ[/youtube]
Points were earned for the destruction of the other tanks, with special bonuses for the flying saucer (which doesn’t shoot back and always scoots on the ground..never really flies) and the “appear out of nowhere” missiles, which you had better shoot before they get on you.This game was ported almost everywhere in those days, so if you never had the arcade experience you may have picked it up on the many consoles and computers in the early ’80s. The arcade version is also on Microsoft’s Game Room, which plays very well with the dual-joystick 360 controllers, and can be picked up for just a couple of bucks. Well worth it. Happy hunting!

Overall 8/10

Contra: Hard Corps

 

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot

Contra: Hard Corps

Let me start by saying that while this is a true, crazy Contra game, Hard Corps was a bit of a disappointment.
The good parts: You can play as 4 different characters, which would be great for the replay value….if it were possible to actually finish the game the first time.

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
The graphics are absolutely beautiful (as expected); there are some cool cut-scenes; heat-seeking-missile guns are always a good thing; there’s enough variation in bad-guys to make it interesting; the bosses are many and very well designed……

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
Here’s the problem: Where the earlier Contra games (arcade and console) are notorious for their difficulty and 1-hit kills, at least there is a high fun-factor in overcoming the challenges and looking for the patterns…. Hard Corps does not have this. Here’s why:

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
Whenever you shoot something, which is constantly, your enemy explodes in a beautiful shower of fireballs. The problem……..it’s so huge and bright, you’re constantly being cheap-killed by a stray bullet!!! The normal dexterity needed to play these games are normally reserved for AD&D 2nd Edition Thieves (Yep, I’m old). I get that. But, when you can’t see what you’re trying to dodge, it just takes all the fun out it. I’m not freaking Daredevil! (2nd nerd drop..I’m done)

contra-hard-corps-gameplay-screenshot
If you’re a fan of this genre, or a Contra completist…go for it. It has all the juicy goodness of awesome weapons, cool music, huge bosses, robots, and great controls. But for me, I’m going back to Contra III, for the SNES….and that’s saying something, because I’ve always been a ‘Sega over Nintendo’ guy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfwnSPK48TU[/youtube]

Overall: 6/10 solo 7/10 co-op

WWF SuperStars

It’s Wrestlemania time, and I thought I’d tackle the first licensed wrestling game that I remember playing, WWF Superstars, by Technos in 1989. Overall, this is one of favorite all-time grapplers, but it also has a couple of flaws that I normally would choose to overlook.

WWF Superstars - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

There are 6 total wrestlers that are playable, each with their own mannerisms and finishing moves; Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Savage, Big Boss Man, Honky Tonk Man, Ultimate Warrior, and Hacksaw Jim Duggan. You’ll see Hulk with the Leg Drop and posing to the crowd; Macho with the Big Elbow and a brutal clothesline; the Shake, Rattle, and Roll; and etc…..

The character sprites, as well as the audience, are big, bright, detailed, and colorful, and capped off with a huge ring to play in. The pumped-in sound is constant, and does give you that feel that you’re performing for a sold-out crowd.

WWF Superstars - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The play itself is a joystick and just 2 buttons, one for a close grapple and the other for attack. After a grapple, you can toss your opponent into the ropes (which bounce nicely) for a kick to the face or an up and over move. Each player will have similar offensive moves such as a hit/slap or kick, but there are variants such as the finishers. There are also typical wresting moves like suplexes, piledrivers, etc…, but there are also special perks like going off any top turnbuckle, or tossing a man over the top rope for 20 seconds of unrefereed mayhem with tables and chairs. Just about everything you would have seen during the super 80′s wrestling explosion, you’ll see here.

WWF Superstars - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The game itself is strictly a tag-team tournament, so no solo character play here. But, as your life/exhaustion meter dwindles, you can tag in your second character to help. It’s also a 2-player game, so your buddy can be your partner or your opponents. You’ll fight through just 3 matches made up from the other 4 wrestlers before you reach the tag-team champions in Ted DiBiase and Andre the Giant (neither playable characters). After you beat them you’ll be crown champs, but have to play a couple of more matches the retain the title to be considered game-beaters.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6Mw4ClNPp0[/youtube]

Mostly, I loved the game, but here are the flaws that I alluded to before: Firstly, there are only 6 playable characters. Great ones, yes… but I would kill to be Andre and press Hogan….I was denied. Secondly, there is an easy trick around the life meter: As long as you have plenty of quarters plugged into the game (or credits through MAME) you can hit the start button and refill. So, if you’re getting hammered you can do your own version of “Hulking out” and retain full life. The game is pretty easy if you use this “cheat”.

But overall, it’s a crapload of fun, and I try to enjoy almost any smack-talking game. This made for a fun arcade time back in the day. Highly recommend it.

Overall 7/10

Crystal Castles

I usually praise developers for bringing me something unique, and this game can be categorized as such…or maybe “odd”…”weird”.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

A 1983 Atari product, Crystal Castles is a game that stands out. From its crazy-detailed cabinet art to its glow-in-the-dark trackball, you wouldn’t be able to miss this in any arcade. But, how does it play? The “Crystal Castles” are 40 isometric levels given a 3D look. You play as a goofy-looking bear wearing Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Throughout the pathways of the castles are scores of gems and jewels. Your mission is to collect them (for points) as quickly as possible. The trackball moves you around and there is a jump button, as well. To reach the different levels of the screen, you’ll use ramps, stairs, elevators, and secret passageways.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

To stop you in your mission are a multitude of creatures: There are wormy things that eat the gems, taking points from you. You can avoid them or (only while they’re eating) run into them, which kills them. There are killer trees (that chase you?!?), which if jumped over will freeze them for a short time. Also, skeletons and ghosts, which should be avoided. One of the bonus items you may capture for points is a pot of honey, but you’ll have to watch for the swarm of bees protecting it. Lastly, every so-many levels is an ugly Witch (I think these are her castles from which I’m stealing), who you can avoid, but will probably need to kill because she’s hanging around gems you’ll need to complete the level and move on. So….there’s this silly little hat that you can find and put on, making you invulnerable for a short time…and the only way to kill her.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

As you can see, this game is a little f’ed-up, but it has quick, intense gameplay. The levels will be more difficult as you progress (as usual), but there are “cheats” in form of level-warps, if you choose to use them. A couple of neat additions to the game: Whenever you get killed, a word balloon pops over the bear’s head, usually a comic-book curse word (#$^!). Also, the importance of being careful on each level, but still having to maneuver quickly. As you delay, your gems are being eaten, costing you points…and there are bonus points for who/whatever grabs the last gem. If a creature gets it, you’ll go to the next level, but lost out on the bonus.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoUJYWJ6KQ4[/youtube]

I do find it odd that the bear’s motivations are stealing money, and the honey is a bit of an afterthought….and why does he need to wear clothes on his feet and head? It’s hard to tell, but he may actually be wearing a thong. Also, why would the Witch ever want to stay at her castles when they’re clearly overrun by ghosts and goblins? There is also an actual ending to the game, which I’ll never be good enough to see (lack of continues). But, if someone knows what it is, please let me know. This was truly a lot of fun, and will always get my recommendation if someone is looking for a “different” kind of retro game.

Overall 9/10

Pengo

 

Pengo Cover

I probably should have liked this game more than I did. Pengo is an overhead maze-puzzler, and I generally love these games. The ability to use my brains (for once) in a video game, add a little action, sprinkle in some cutesy characters and music, normally would equal “retro arcade goodness”. But, here’s why Pengo didn’t really do it for me:

Pengo Cover
Sega put out Pengo, a cute red penquin, in 1982. I remember this being rather popular, but for whatever reason didn’t give it much of a look. Set in a maze of ice-blocks, the goal is to kill all of these blob-like creatures, called Sno-Bees…even though they could have just used bees, I guess…or called them “Sno-blobs”…not really getting this. Anyway, you push-slide the blocks around, which will shatter when they hit something…preferably a blob. After you kill one (there will be 3 on-screen), another will hatch from an ice block and you’ll continue smashing them until they stop hatching, usually around 8-10. When the level first starts, the blocks from which the blobs hatch will briefly “flash”, allowing you to destroy those blocks, if you wish, before they hatch, making it easier to finish the level…..in theory.

Pengo Gameplay screenshot
Here’s my problem: The blobs don’t move like the slow-asses I’ve seen in the movies. Matter of fact, it seems like they’re actually faster than me. They melt-through my ice-block weapons on the way to me, and I can’t tell you how many times I was waiting behind a block to shove and they started melting it before I had a chance to use it. I was literally spending all my time running for my life, and just tossing ice randomly. I haven’t panicked this much in a game since the first night of Left 4 Dead. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have “mastered” the game, but holy shit, it was tough for me. The controls just seemed a bit off, which added to the frustration.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hdDKxfrAbs[/youtube]
There are a lot of ways to gain points in the game; obviously killing blobs, but also there are 3 diamond blocks on every level. These are indestructable and make for a good weapon, but if you’re able to line the three up, you’ll receive bonus points. Again, I don’t know how you’d ever have time for this…good luck. Also, the quicker you finish a level, the more bonus you receive…capping off with 5000 points if you do it under 20 SECONDS!!!! Christ….
I do love the animation and music, and I’m sure this is a well-loved classic…..but I don’t.

Overall 5/10

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf

SNK developed this classic striker in 1988, and that would be about the same time I discovered it.

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf - Gameplay Screenshot

My brother was in college during that time, and he and his college buddies were addicted to it. In fact, I don’t remember them ever playing another game.

The Masters got me thinking about this game, although ironically, Lee never won that tournament, his only Major fail. But, I put a lot of time into it back in the day, and like real golf, you find you never really master it.
LTFG is a 4-player game, with only 4 characters playable (conveinent). There’s Pretty Amy, the accurate-conscious lady in the pink skirt; Miracle Chosuke and Super Mex (Lee’s happily-embraced racist nickname), who have a good mix of accuracy and power; and my favorite, Big Jumbo, who has the pop in the club, but has a 3-click meter that runs faster, making it more difficult to hit the perfect shot.

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is pretty simple, just 2 courses (US and Japan), 18 holes each. Nothing too intracite like today’s games; no leveling up, buying new clubs and outfits, no cash prizes. Just grab your bag and start swinging. There’s definitely something too the retro-styled golf where you can just pick up and play.

Typical Nintendo sounds ae in full effect here; an opening musical-title piece, the high-and-low tones when the ball is rising and falling, the positive reinforcement tune when you birdie, and the negitive “thud” when the ball hits the “super rough” (words that still pain me to this day).

Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf - Gameplay Screenshot

Graphically, typical 8-bit sprites for the players, but there are multiple camera angles…a nice add for this era. There was the overhead shot of the hole, so you could play in your head how you would manuever around the bunkers and trees, as well as deciding if you could the wind to hit the far fairway (if only you could hit the perfect shot, Big Jumbo!). The common camera behind the shot would switch to in front when the ball was in descent, a very nice touch for 1988 NES.

There are also enough little touches to give this game a high replay score; the wind being a factor, and the changing slopes of the greens (arrows pointing the way home).

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

There may be better golf games out there for the NES, but I haven’t played one. So for now, this gets my highest recommendation for the console. With only a few flaws (4 golfers, 2 courses), you and your buddies will probably find yourself addicted…and according to guys I know, probably never buy another game.

Overall 8/10

Superman: Atari 2600

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot

Growing up a video game and comic book lover, you can imagine how I felt when my two passions merged, and at the age of 9, had a chance to play the Superman cart for my Atari. It was everything I could ever want; Superman flying around, Luthor trying to kill Supes with Kryptonite, Lois needing more saving, etc… Fantastic!
Now, here is how I feel at age 41…
The game starts with Clark leaving one of those old-time phone booths, and as he walks to the next screen, the bridge blows up. The object of the game is to capture Lex Luthor, 6 unnamed criminals, and find/reassemble the 3 pieces of the bridge. Superman has the power of flight, strength, and x-ray vision to help you accomplish this.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
The first part that bothers me (and there’s a big list), is there’s actually no proof that Luthor had anything to do with The Great Metropolis Bridge Explosion of 1978. Whatever reason, I felt Superman was just picking on him a bit. All Luthor does is fly around the entire game with a propeller coming out of his head, and for some reason, wearing Aquaman’s Underoos. As embarrassing as that is, I’m guessing he committed no crime. Also, why these random 6 criminals? Only reason I see is they’re carrying these huge tommy-guns (what year is this anyway?), but they never actually use them.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
The characters are very blocky, but they’re colorful enough to figure out who is whom, although Supes has no hair. Lois wears a pill-box hat (again, what year is this?) and seems to find herself in trouble, get in the way, etc….so, she’s easy to locate.
The sound effects couldn’t be more annoying, with the flying sound (90% of the game) bringing back horrible flashbacks of 2AM TV static. The flickering when multiple characters are on screen leaves me to believe this should have been the first game to come with the “epileptic seizure” warning. The “maze” of Metropolis is beyond frustrating. You could actually be on the jail screen, fly down 1, then fly back up 1, only to find you’re not at the jail, but somewhere else. Insane.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
There are kryptonite satelittes flying around, and if one hits you, Lois magically appears for you to “kiss” to get your powers back. That makes 2 cases in Superman canon where a magic kiss was used, and that’s 2 times too many.
Finally, there’s a helicopter flying around that serves as the same purpose as the bat in Adventure….to piss you off. It just flies around picking up your bridge pieces and making them harder to find, and occasionally carrying Lois around by her hat.

Superman - Atari 2600 - Video Game screenshot
Friday, I talked about one of my favorite co-op adventures in The Wizard of Wor, but this one of the worst. Yes, they made Superman a co-op game. One person can control him flying up and down, where player 2 can jump on the right joystick and control him flying left and right………….seriously.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r7U2TFIayos[/youtube]
In conclusion, some games just don’t age well, and this is one. I recommend keeping your fond memories intact, and don’t actually ruin them with reality.

Overall 3/10

The Flash

The Flash - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Let’s start by adding Sega and Probe Entertainment to the List of Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery, because they seem to be more against him than with him.

Clearly, they were trying to ride the Sonic popularity wave from 2 years prior and make a “sequel” with another fast guy, but this game just didn’t work.

The Flash - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

The object of the game is to defeat The Trickster, who has somehow become the mayor of Central City. Now, I know his job is tricking people, but am I to believe that he’s smart enough to convince an entire city to vote him into office, then declare Flash a criminal so everyone is against him? Even for an early-90′s comic story, this is ridiculous. The Flash needs to get through various levels of the city to reach/stop Trickster, so there’s a lot of running and jumping. Problem is, while Sonic had this huge, open area….Flash has these little city neighborhoods, and it gets confusing. He really moves too fast to see where you’re going, or sadly, what you’re landing on. Obviously, Trickster’s first order of business was to create huge potholes and spiked-pits throughout…was this the platform on which he ran? Who would have voted for this?

The Flash - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

You must reach the far end of the level in a certain amount of time, or Trickster releases a remote robot/droid that will actually outrun the Flash and kill him. Question: If he can invent this mechanical marvel that can run faster than the speed of light, why doesn’t he just patent it, sell it to the government, and retire? Why go through all the crazy shenanigans?

The Flash - Sega Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Flash does have 2 forms of combat; If he’s standing still, he can waste flunkies or open “boxes” by “vortexing” his hands. Also, if he’s running, he’ll spin like a top. Both of these look cool, and are a classic use of his powers. The game looks good, and has a neat comic style. Also, love it or hate it, there are tons of the obligitory coins…er…lightning bolts that Flash can collect, even though I don’t see the point. The Barry Allen-Flash was one of favorite characters when I was a kid, so I love me some Flash, but this just do too much for me. Too crazy-difficult and pointless. And I’ll leave you with 2 words……….Trickstermobile, really?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cMno7Q3PCU0[/youtube]

Overall 4/10

Donkey Kong

Everyone in the world knows of Donkey Kong, so there’s not much I could say about the game that you don’t already know. Still, that’s not going to stop me from talking about it a bit.

Arcade Cabinet - Donkey Kong
In 1981, Nintendo popped this gem out into arcades everywhere. One of the most popular, highly rated, and often ported/imitated games, but unless you have the drive and determination of Steve Wiebe, or the hair of Billy Mitchell, it’s actually a difficult game. I think in the “King of Kong” documentary, Billy said that most people don’t get past the 1st 4 screens. That’s probably correct. I can’t imagine the amount of quarters I went through, sometimes just trying to get a sniff of the 3rd and 4th levels that I saw others get to as I watched over their shoulders. That changed for me, of course, as I got older and discovered MAME. Still, I don’t necessarily excel at the game, even today.
The concept of the game is ineteresting and silly at the same time.

Donkey Kong - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot
For whatever reason, a huge gorilla is loose. Not sure where he came from; The zoo? Escaped from a secret lab? Jurassic Park?? All I know is that he is here, and he wants nothing but to kidnap a cute girl in a dress. Instead of calling the police or animal control, the local plumber decides to take it upon himself to rescue her. Armed with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, and assumingly zero ninja skills, he finds her at the top of a steel structure. “Donkey Kong”, as he’s called, which I believe translates to “stupid monkey”, has taken a defensive stand at the top of this structure. As the plumber (from now on called Mario) ascends this structure, Kong starts rolling huge kegs of beer towards him, trying to kill him.

Donkey Kong - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

This seems like the work of a genius (not stupid) simian, possibly one of those in the old Flash comic books. For now, Mario can only jump over the barrels. When some of these kegs reach the ground floor, they have been known to catch fire (obviously from the alcohol inside). The odd part is it seems these firey barrels can actually defy the laws of physics and move upwards and EVEN CLIMB LADDERS! Along the way, Mario does find weapons in the form of an ACME oversized mallet. But, he never seems to use these on monkey, but to crush the barrels and put out the fires. When Mario eventually reaches the girl, Kong quickly grabs her and runs off. That’s a hell of a lot of work for no payoff, that’s for sure.

Donkey Kong - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Screen 2 has Kong taking her to a factory that makes giant pies. Not only do you need to avoid these pies, but there’s more fire. Didn’t work the first time, but Kong is not giving up. You will find another mallet in which to put out the fires, as well as smash pies, but again cannot be used against the beast himself. Upon reaching the top, Kong will again escape with the girl, making Mario very heartbroken, Clearly he has fallen in love with the girl.
Then, on screen 3, Kong takes her to another steel structure, this one has a lot of missing parts making Mario do a lot more jumping. Kong just stands guard, beating his chest as you try to avoid the fire and a seemingly infinite amount of giant springs that try to knock you to the ground.

Donkey Kong - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Again, after manuvering through this mad gorilla’s Bondish-like trap, Kong escapes with the girl. This is beginning to smell of BS. I’m not convinced I’ll ever get to rescue her.
Screen 4 is a bit different. A straight-forward steel structure that has 8 “pins” in it. As you walk/jump over these pins, you pull them out. More fire, but this time a blue color, meaning hotter and more aggressive. Again, more mallet-action or avoiding the fire, whatever seems easier. But, as you pull the last pin, the tower of steel collapses, and Donkey Kong falls 100 meters straight on his head. The girl is rescued, and it seems she also loves Mario. All is good!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhFV5-qbbIw[/youtube]

There’s a reason this game is a classic. It looks beautiful, everything runs smoothly, fun as hell, and it’s story of the underdog that defeats the big bully and wins the heart of a girl.

Controls: Arrow keys and space bar.
The game earns a 10/10.

Joust

I have a huge list of “favorite” arcade games from when I was a kid, and JOUST has to be near the top.

In 1982, Williams produced this hit with unique game play, and has been ported a number of times since, and most very well done.

You play as a knight who rides on a FLYING OSTRICH! It seems the regular horse-jousting games were sooooo 1981, they decided to pull that crazy idea out of their butts. Somehow, it worked.

joust-atari 7800- gameplay screenshot

The object of the game is to get through as many levels/points as you can, and like most arcade games, there is no true end. With one joystick to move your bird, and one button to flap the ostrich’s wings, you need to lance all of your other flying opponents. The faster you “flap”, the faster your knight will rise, then use gravity to lower yourself. Unlike most games, where you can start and stop on a dime, Joust tries to add a little realism….if you can just get past the original concept, of course. Wave after wave of knights appear, and you take them down by hitting them with your lance just a little higher than theirs. If vice-versa, you lose a life. After you hit them, they turn into a huge egg, which will bounce around the floating rock platforms, but eventually stop. Running over these eggs gives you bonus points and is essential, because eventually they will “hatch” new riders and remount.

Other enemies include the pterodactyl, who will show up if you take too long to complete a wave. It’s very quick and relentless, chasing you around the screen with an unbelievably annoying battle cry. It can be killed, if hit just right, but only the advanced players are able to do this, me not being one of those. I prefer to avoid.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1itbuQM3oug[/youtube]

At the bottom left and right corners are lava pits, which will swallow bouncing eggs and if you get too close, a FREAKING HAND reaches out and grabs you!

The difficulty ramps quickly, and if I get to 40,000+ points I figure I had a nice game. Visually, it’s as fantastic a game as you’ll find for that era.

Another bit I wanted to add is this is a very fun game either solo or with 2-players. In 2-player mode, you can work as a team, or “accidentally”(hehhehheh) knock out your buddy.

I’ve never been able to figure out where this crazy place is supposed to exist, not Arthurian for sure. It really seems like the developers just threw a bunch of crap together to see what would happen, but it turned out to be a masterpiece.

Overall, 10/10

Star Raiders

I remember getting Star Raiders for a present back in 1982. The first thing that comes to memory was how the box was a bit bigger and heavier than most of the 2600 carts we had bought. When I opened the package, along with the game and manual was a giant touch pad. I thought, “How cool is this?” After I started the game and realized I had to have at least 3 hands to work the joystick, red button, and pad, I knew I was in trouble.

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
Star Raiders was originally released a couple of years earlier for the Atari 8-bit computers. An original 1st-person space sim/shooter that took advantage of the keyboard to do many things such as commanding shields, weapons, warp drive, etc… This is the reason for the touch pad, and it was a pain in the ass. Don’t get me wrong, I love peripherals, but if I can’t play an Atari 2600 with 1 joystick/1 button…I don’t want it.

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
The game itself is a bit boring. Just a grid “Galactic Map’ and the 1st-person space view with the target reticule in the center. The “stars” flying past you are a nice touch, and they’ll move as you do, left and right (or in space, there’s no such thing as left or right, I guess).

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
Ships will appear as you reach their grid quadrant, but seem to just randomly appear. Sometimes, the only way you know they are there is when they shoot you. When this happens, there is the typical 2600 sound-effects, but cool red flickering to let you know you have taken damage. You can repair and replenish your constantly-draining energy. Keep your close eye on the energy numbers dwindling at the bottom of the screen, because if it gets to zero…game over.

Star-Raiders-Atari-Gameplay-Screenshot
Depending on the difficulty you choose, you may have to defeat as many as 40 ships to complete your mission. The ships are the basic 2; one that looks like a Klingon Bird-of Prey, the other a Tie Fighter turned on its side. You have phasers and photon torpedoes at your ready, unless you take specific damage to them, then repair (at starbases) will be necessary. This game is a bit repetitive, and the difficulty is ramped high, with special mention in the “Activision Decathlon Hall of Fame of Joystick Snappers” as you wrench on it to try and keep the alien ships in your sights.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_VDM8nC9sM[/youtube]
Overall, I appreciate what Atari tried to do here, and I had fonder memories of the game before I tried to play it again. I respect the game for being a pioneer in the genre, but I think it tried to do too much, taking a lot of fun out of it. I need more action and less Starfleet Academy work. Not a bad game, just not a very good one either.

5/10

From Russia With Love

Most of the Bond-related games over the past 20+ years have been either 1st or 3rd-person shooters, with a couple of 80′s text-based computer games being the exceptions. But, one game jumped out at me, and it’s something I was looking forward to firing up.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
In 2005, EA put out a game called From Russia, With Love, based on the 1963 movie. This is a spoiler-heavy walkthrough/review of a magical day for me:

Opening mission has Bond, who looks exactly like Sean Connery, and is VOICED by him, looking cool at a party. A Prime Minister’s daughter gets kidnapped by OCTOPUS (no SPECTRE license). Fight my way to the roof, where they’re escaping via helicopter.

Many ways to dispatch the thugs. There are a lot of weapons and gadgets that I accumulate throughout the game, even if I just have a Walther PPK to start the game. When I’m too close to shoot, I automatically perform some Bond-ish hand-to-hand move to take them out. Looks cool, and saves ammo. I found a lot of ammo/armor throughout the game, but there are multiple difficulties if you’re looking for a higher challenge.

When I reach the roof, I beat a guy up for his jet-pack, now I’m flying around shooting missiles at the helicopter. After destroying it, a cool cut-scene has me flying through it, saving the girl. I tell her, “My name’s Bond…James Bond”, then fly away.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Opening ‘movie’ credits start, with actual scenes from the film! This was just 20 minutes or so into the game, and I’m hooked!
Next, I fight more OCTOPUS thugs through a hedge-maze, then I’m KILLED by Red Grant, played by the awesome Robert Shaw in the film. A cut-scene shows “Bond” to be an OCTOPUS training exercise for Red (the game’s main bad guy, working for Rosa Klebb) to practice killing Bond. I also find out that their mission is to trick Bond into stealing something called Lektor (some decoding device), then stealing it from Bond after killing him, which is payback for Bond killing Dr. No. Ridiculously convuluted, but very Bondish.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
After flirting with Moneypenny and getting briefed by M (I’ll be off to Instanbul to meet Russian-hottie Tatiana), I have a training-session with Q and pick up gadgets like the Q-copter (spies through vents and self-destructs) and the rappel-device (you’ll use both a lot).
Kerim Bey is your contact in Istanbul, and brings you your Aston Martin. This chase level is action-packed with guns/missiles/tire spikes as weapons against the evil Russians. Bonus coolness for taking out a tank.
Next level has me rescuing hostages and disarming bombs, capping off with the first appearance of the bazooka, to destroy another helicopter. Time to spy on the Russians.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
More Aston Martin action, then cut through some Russians to steal a boat. I need to get under the Russian consulate to use a periscope to spy.
My eavesdropping learns the Lektor is in a vault, and that the Russians are going to kill people in a Gypsy camp. Karim heads to the camp to warn ‘his” people. After kicking more Russian ass, I escape through the underground tunnels via jetpack. Some awesome jetpack-on-jetpack action!

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
The gypsy-camp was more hostage-rescuing, and I get the sniper rifle for the first time.
Next mission has me saving Karim’s ass again with a lot of sniping. Feels good killing Russians.
I meet Tatiana for the first time. She’s in my bed, of course, and I show her my 007…she’s now in love with me.
We, along with Karim, have to break into the Russian Consulate to steal the Lektor. I think this was probably the longest level.
Another car chase on the way to the train, Orient Express, which is our escape.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Red is on the train, kills Karim, and tries to kill me. I fight him off, but he escapes with the Lektor while I’m occupied with some ‘roided Russian flunkie. I fight my way to Red, and kill him, his body taken away by a speeding train. I have to inform Karim’s son that his father is dead…now I’m pissed. Red’s assisstant, Eva Adara, has escaped with the Lektor.
I infiltrate an OCTOPUS complex looking for the Lektor. More jetpacks and car chases. Some robot tank comes after me, as well. I take back the Lektor. Blow the base for the fun of it.
Another Aston Martin chase on the way to the docks to steal a boat. have to get out of the country.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
Long boat ride with Tatiana driving and me turretting people/boats/helicopters.
Rosa sneaks into my hotel room and tries to kill me with a huge-ass blade in her shoe. I keep her at bay, and Tatiana help me kill her…good girl.
Last mission is pretty long. OCTOPUS is pissed, so they’ve threatened to nuke. I break into their secret base, and kill a lot of henchmen. Eva tries to kill me with a jet, but I jetpack-missile her dead. After disarming the nuke and setting bombs to blow the base…….I run in to Red. I should have looked for the body.
He’s the final boss, as he’s taken residence inside a 4-tentaculed mechanical robot that shoots lasers, bullets, and grenades. After destroying the mech, I put a bullet in Red for my friend Karim.
Game ends with Bond in bed with Tatiana, of course. Well done, sir.
From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
This game is overwhelmingly awesome, but I’ll start with the few bad points:
It’s really easy, even with the hardest difficulty-setting. There’s not much need for duck-and-cover stealth fighting because it’s heavy on extra ammo/armor health. You can do a lot of run-and-gunning, but I found myself having more fun being sneaky.
Also, as a lot of these 3rd-person games can do, the camera can get “stuck” and get you turned around.
There’s probably 8-10 hours of gameplay, not counting multiplayer, which I never got into.
It looks beautiful. Character recreations are spot-on, and the backgrounds/locations/animations are great.

From Russia with Love - EA - 2005 - Gameplay Screenshot
A lot of cut-scenes. Well done, and a lot re-created from the original film.
The music is perfect. Again, taken from the Bond films and gets your blood pumping throughout the game.
Controls, especially with the auto-lock, are done well.
The fun-factor is off the charts, a Bond fan or just one of the action-adventure genre.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tl-FtpJ0fQ[/youtube]

The replayability is there, with multiplayer. But there is scoring in the campaign. A lot of secrets to find buy going back through it. Also, bonus story-levels to unlock.
A ton of gadgets, including sonic cufflinks to stun baddies, and the attache case that has auto-machine gun.
Different outfits for Bond. If you’d rather not get blood on your white tuxedo, go with the black stealth look.
There’s a crazy amount of fun to this game, so if you want to fire up the original Xbox, this is a fantastic game with which to start.

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out

Who would win in a fight….Mike Tyson or Mr. Dream?

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

I was sitting around the other day thinking about an old Twitter review I did. It was Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It seems to be a favorite with NES fans over the years, so I fired it up to play a little. I didn’t give it a perfect score, mainly because I played the hell out of the arcade Punch Out!!, and the console version just didn’t measure up. Honestly, that wasn’t a fair score, because I try to rate games compared to the actual system they belong. But, my personal bias allowed me to knock it down to an 8/10 (still a great score). I decided for my punishment, I would allow Iron Mike himself to give me the sound beating I deserved. A couple of right crosses from the man himself will knock some sense into me.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

So I’m Googling a little information about the game and I realized something that most people already knew…
Nintendo re-released Mike’s game a couple of years later. Either because of the rape conviction or because he had lost his title by then, Nintendo didn’t renew a contract with Tyson, so he wasn’t in the new game. From what I gathered, the new game, just titled Punch Out!!, was exactly the same as the old game except for one thing…they replaced Mike with a huge white guy named Mr. Dream.
Reading some comparative news about the games, I was getting conflicting answers. Most people say the game is the same, while others swear that either Tyson or Dream was more difficult to defeat. While this may be just psychological nonsense, I have to find out if this is true.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

OBJECTIVE: To end this decades-long debate, and find out who could defeat whom.

The problem is knowing that the two boxing greats will never be put in the same room together, I was going to have to play both games and face both monsters one-on-one.

The gameplay is pretty simple: I play as a small guy named Little Mac. I’ll have to fight through 10 or 12 other boxers to get to the final fight, Tyson or Dream. Each match is 3 rounds of 3 minutes in duration. If I knock down my opponent (or he knocks me) 3 times, it’s a TKO and the match is over. I think it’s possible to win a decision, but I don’t want to take the chance. I need to go for the kill. The 2 controller buttons will throw left/right punches. Holding up or down on the pad will face-punch or block. Left/right will dodge opponent’s punches (I hope).

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
In typical boxing-crookedness, I’ve already cheated. I’ve been taking PED’s for days, loaded up my controller with brass knuckles, and downloaded game-tips from the internet. DING! DING!

The game starts with a tune-up fight: A guy named Glass Joe, who is really just a punching bag, or practice to get used to the controls.
The graphics look cool, decent sound effects, and Mario is your referee. Between plumbing and rescuing ladies, you wouldn’t think he’d have time for a night job, but good for him living the American Dream.

Glass Joe goes down, and there a huge list of un-politically-correct boxers in my sight.

Von Kaiser, the big German.
Piston Hurricane, the Japanese guy.
Don Flamenco, the Spanish guy who prances around.
King Hippo, the ugly fat guy.
Great Tiger, the dude from India wearing a turban.
Bald Bull, the crazy Turk.
Soda Popinski, the Russian.
Mr. Sandman, huge black dude from Philly with the 70′s hair and sideburns.
Super Macho Man, the ‘roided pretty-boy from Hollywood.
Then, gap-toothed Tyson himself.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Mike enters the ring looking like the crazy bastard he is, and I’m looking forward to using the tip and tricks I’ve learned to exploit his weakness and take him down. Mario calls for the fight to start and here I come. About 8 seconds into the match, I realize he has no weakness and I go down and I go down hard. I call for my trainer, the well-respected Doc Louis, to throw in the towel. But the old, deaf S.O.B. can’t hear me over my cries of pain. I reluctantly get back up and try to throw a right body blow that does zero damage. I think it just made Mike more angry, kind of like the Incredible Hulk. Tyson responds to my limp jab with a massive uppercut that actually shook my controller….and these controllers weren’t manufactured to do that like current ones. Doc just sits there offering advice like “Watch his left!” and “Join the Nintendo club!”. Consider yourself fired, sir. I decide to fake like I’m asleep, like I was taught to do if I were ever to be alone in the woods with a huge grizzly bear. Assuming Mike was as dumb as an animal, I thought that would work. Oddly, the Nintendo Gods lifted me upon my feet, and threw me in the path of another Iron-Fist-of-Fury, sealing my fate. A TKO called by Mario, and this match was over.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

TOTAL TIME: 14 seconds.

I couldn’t just jump into the “rematch” with Mr. Dream. I needed to get a good night’s sleep to heal the injuries. So, off to bed.
A couple of hours later, I awaken in a cold sweat. The nightmares of being mauled by a pack of Bigfoots were just too much for me. I needed to “get back on the horse” and take on Mr. Dream, or I’d never have my life back.

I cheat-code my way through most of the fighters and find my way to the Dream-fight.
Pre-match stats show this dude as 99-0, hailing from a place called Dreamland. Kind of a pretty-boy, but I can’t put enough emphasis on the 99-0.
Match starts and he moves the same way Tyson did, so I’m hoping to use my past match as practice.

Mike Tysons Punch Out - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
I try to stick-and-move, but I got knocked on my ass by a blur…I assume it was a legal punch, but can’t be sure. I notice Doc Louis didn’t take the hint, as he’s still offering crappy advice (they really want me to join that club). I try throwing meat at my opponent, thinking I can distract him long enough to get in at least one punch….didn’t work, as I fall to the mat for the second time. I try to hold my controller pad down, thinking my avatar may stay down for 10 seconds to end this debacle, but he rises again. I start throwing the kitchen sink at him hoping something good will happen, but only got as far as “kitchen si..” when a fist the size as my head sent me through the ground, halfway to China. A final TKO from Super-Mario, and it’s over.

TOTAL TIME: 18 seconds.

I decided to re-score my review.
I grade on a 0-2 scale in 5 categories, for a max score of 10.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BBtQ3PmN4c[/youtube]

GRAPHICS/VISUALS:2
It looks fantastic, with a dozen unique fighters, cool fighting motions, and even “flashbulbs” going off in the crowd.

AUDIO/MUSIC:2
Crowd noise, punches thrown, some voice announcing, even Mario starting the “fight”.

CONTROLS:2
Perfect. An entire boxing match with a pad and 2 buttons. Works very well, very fluid.

FUN-FACTOR:2
It was a blast trying to learn weaknesses of fighters, climbing the ranks, then take your shot at the Dream-title.

REPLAY VALUE:2
You will spend a lot of time on this game trying to beat the big man, and if I ever do it…I’m guessing I’d want to do it again.

OVERALL:10/10

Maybe it wasn’t the most scientific of methods, but to answer the question, “Who would win in a fight?…Mike Tyson or Mr. Dream?” My money would go to Iron Mike. But, there is still the chance that those two monsters would still be beating on one another until the end of time.

Die Hard

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot - Cover

Alright, to be fair, this isn’t exactly what I would call a great game. But, it is a game based on the GREATEST CHRISTMAS MOVIE EVER MADE!!!!

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
You are the awesome John McClane (Bruce Willis)visiting his wife duringChristmas time at theNakatomi Plaza holiday party. But, an infestation of Euro-trash has spoiled his reunion. WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL!!!!!!!
The terrorists, led byHAAAANNNSS!!!! Gruber, have taken the party-goers, including John’s wife, to the 30th floor. Also, the 30th floor is where the money vault is where the stealing be happenin’.

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

OBJECTIVE: Save the hostages, protect the money, and kill all 40 sumbitches.
This is a top-down, action game that has McClane in his wife-beater doing some major ass kicking. WHHOOOO!! YIPPEE KAI YAY, MELON-FARMERS!!!!

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There are 40 baddies to kill throughout the building levels, by fists or weapon. You’ll need your fists, because I find myself running out of ammo very quickly. But, it’s just as fun pummeling these ass-wipes. After dispatching the Germans (YIPPEE KAI YAY, MY FRIENDS!!), use the elevator to the next level, finding more weapons (NOW I HAVE A MACHINE-GUN, HO HO HO!!) and more bad guys.

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
Some cool features include listening in on their radios and the “foot meter”. This is because like the movie, you’re actually running around in bare feet, OVER GLASS!!! You’ll replenish health by drinking soda and finding first-aid kits.

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Eventually, you’ll fight your way through all, including Karl (who is probably still crying over you wasting his brother) and HAAANNSS!!

Die Hard - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There are some really neat cutscenes, and some small nods to the movie, like finding detonators and the helicopter/roof scene.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WV0NCiN2i5c[/youtube]

The game is really a lot of fun, and gets the testosterone going. WHOOOO!!! YIPPEE KAI YAY, MOTHER HUBBARD!!!!!

Home Alone

HomeAlone-game

My Home Alone knowledge goes as far as being forced to watch the first movie because of a girl…..it’s always a girl. I’ve been told (thanks @CrapDracula) that the Home Alone game has completely different game play depending on which console it was purchased, which I found odd. But thankfully, the Genesis version seemed to capture the fun parts of the first movie.

You play as Kevin, the Macauley Culkin character, and you have to protect the neighborhood from the Wet Bandits, played by the Wonder Years voice-guy and Leo Getz.

Home Alone - Sega Genesis

There’s some really unique game play here, which won me over right away: There’s an overview of the “neighborhood”, which consists of the 5 houses that Harry and Marv are trying to rob. The game gives you 20 minutes to slow down the Bandits before the cops arrive. You do this by staying ahead of them inside the houses. Moving around the neighborhood in a motorized sled, you enter each house to set up traps. Once you’ve entered, there’s a blueprint map where you do this; marbles, toys, oil…a number of things to slow them down, because they seem to be too stupid to look down at the floor, I suppose. Once they’re inside, you go into “attack” mode, using weapons against them. You’ll find items by running over snowmen outside or just grab something off the shelves in each house. There’s another map where you’ll put these items together, likeMacGyver. Because of the lead character being a little boy, I had plenty of enjoyment blasting these two idiots in the groin with a snowball cannon. If they catch you, you’re hung on the wall for a couple of seconds before you wiggle loose.

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

The characters look like the actors…very well done. The wintery setting and the story taking place over Christmas vacation makes this a fun and memorable game for that time of year. Plus, I try to remember Macauley during his “good old days” before Michael Jackson got a hold of him….I think I meant that literally.

Freeway

FREEWAY, designed by David Crane (Activision). I remember actually looking forward to games by Crane, who I still consider the greatest of all time.

Freeway_Cover - Atari - 2600 - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

Freeway is a pretty simple game. Either 1 or 2 players control a chicken who is trying to get to the other side of a multi-lane highway filled with speeding cars. Unlike Frogger, the chicken can only be moved up or down. When struck by a car, the chicken is knocked back a couple of lanes, which may put you in the headlights of another vehicle….

Freeway - Atari - 2600 - Gameplay Screenshot
You have exactly 2 minutes and 16 seconds to cross the road as many times as possible, or get 1 more than your opponent in 2-player mode.

Overall, I like the game. The graphics are nice and colorful. The bright, yellow chicken moves its little feet quickly across the road. I say “little”, but it’s about 5 foot long. I like to pretend it’s escaping from KFC ‘s Double Down assembly line. The many cars look different, with unique shapes and sizes. A neat little animation of the chicken getting knocked backwards is a nice touch.

Freeway - Atari - 2600 - Gameplay Screenshot
The sounds of cars and trucks speeding by are solid, and the horns will beep to warn you they’re speeding through, because no one in the city is going to stop for poultry.
This game is a nice little time-waster. Fun and easy to pick up and play.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYjZ88RAGN8[/youtube]
I’d give this a 6/10 for the 1-person game, 8/10 for 2 player, which is great for smack-talk.

Old Game Reviewer reviews classic and retro games, you can check out more of his great work on his blog here – Old Game reviewer.

Haunted House

 

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot

The other day I was chatting with one of the neighbor kids. Not in a “creepy old man” way, more of a “I wonder if his parents taught him the value of a dollar? Because I want to talk him into raking all my leaves…for a dollar” way. It seems little Johnny was smarter than I thought. After all, he’s a PS3/Xbox gamer, and he realizes games are in the $60 range. He’s into Halo, Call of Duty, and the Left 4 Dead series. These games are favorites of mine, as well, so we actually had something in common. Anyway, after a little zombie-talk, I was flooded with memories of scary games from my younger years. Two of these stuck out, so I thought it was time to replay them to see how they stand up to today’s standards. So, I enter my game room with a leaf-covered yard and one dollar still in my pocket.

 

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot
First game I thought of was Haunted House by Atari, for the Atari 2600. I remember playing the hell out of this game. It was one of my favorites…let’s see if I still enjoy it. Speed-reading the instructions, here’s all you need to know:

Old guy died and his ghost is still “haunting” the house. There are other creepy-crawlies in there as well. Four floors to the house with six rooms on each floor, stairs seperating the floors. Some doors are locked, so finding the master key is “key”. There’s a magic scepter which will keep away the creepies, but not the ghost. OBJECTIVE: Find the three pieces of an urn and return to the front door. Seems simple, but there is a catch. You can only carry one item at a time. So, if you are keeping the monsters away with a scepter, you can’t use the key to open doors. If you’re carrying the urn, you can’t…you get the idea.

 

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot
Game start. Everything is pitch black, which is cool, except for two eyeballs, which is you. The controller’s red button does one thing. When you press it, you’re circled by a flickering light, which is supposed to represent a lit match. That’s the only way you can see the items to pick up. Nice touch. The match will last for a little time, then go out. Hit the button again, and we have light. The amount of matches you use combined with how many times you’re “killed” (you have 9 lives) is your score for the game.

Haunted-House-Atari-2600-gameplay-screenshot

There’s no true “walkthrough” because every game has items randomly placed…which is good. Here were some highlights/lowlights:

I grade on a 0-2 scale in 5 categories, for a max score of 10.

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

GRAPHICS/VISUALS:2
The eyeballs will ‘look” the direction you’re moving. Flying bats and spiders look like bats and spiders. The ghost chasing you looks cool. Flickering lightning!

AUDIO/MUSIC:2
This was an important part of the game. A distinct sound when you go up or down stairs, and when you are bumping into walls. Footsteps. A cool “wind” sound when a monster enters the same room you’re in (it blows out your match).

CONTROLS:2
Your eyes move fluidly, and you bump into a lot of things (because it’s dark). Done well.

FUN-(FRIGHT)-FACTOR:1
It’s okay. I enjoyed it more as a kid. But, you run like hell when you see the monsters coming at you. A little-girl scream might have come out of my mouth on occasion.

REPLAY VALUE:1
It does have scoring and different difficulty levels, but I probably wouldn’t play it again…at least until next Halloween.

OVERALL: 8/10
A very well-done game for an old console

Old Game Reviewer reviews classic and retro games, you can check out more of his great work on his blog here – Old Game reviewer.

Justice League Task Force

Justice League Task Force - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Let me start off by saying I’m not a huge fan of fighting games, in particular the 1 vs 1 games like Tekken or Mortal Kombat. I get bored with them easily, and all I seem to do is “button-mash” and hope for the best. Having said that, I wanted to try JLTF, because as a huge DC guy, I wanted to play around with the heavy hitters that I’ve known all my life. Thought that may pull me into it, instead of fighting with “fat guy who open-hand slaps me”, “dude with chain that strangles me”, or “hot chick who flips around but boobs never fall out”. Plus, this is supposed to have a storyline with Darkseid, so how bad could it be?

Justice League Task Force - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
The game doesn’t start well. I choose Superman, of course, because he’s the baddest and I want to mow through people. The first thing I notice is Blizzard/Acclaim didn’t have the plums to tell DC that they weren’t going to model Supes after Jurgens’ mullet-Supey, so I’d have to look at that the rest of the way. Just sad really.

Justice League Task Force - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
The storyline has Darkseid attacking a military base?!?! Big Blue is going to contact a JLAer to tell them about it. Suddenly, Green Arrow attacks me!!? WTF? I’m forced to fight him, which should lasts .0002 seconds, but somehow he’s fighting off cold breath, heat vision, and punches….that’s realistic. After “battle”, I decided to talk to Aquaman to see what’s up, AND THAT DUDE ATTACKS ME!!! Where are the villains?!

Justice League Task Force - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
This keeps going on until Superman figures out that the real heroes must be kidnapped and he’s fighting robots. Holy crap. Once Batman, Flash, and Wonder Woman “robots” are torn apart, Darkseid decides to throw CHEETAH at me!…………yes, Cheetah is the chick that wears a cat costume. Worst. Villain. Plan. Ever.

Justice League Task Force - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
For whatever reason, I was forced to “fight” her, when all I really wanted to do was let her break a nail on my Kryptonian abs and make her go poop in her cat box. Despero is next, which is nice, because he’s a tough dude, and…well…HE’S A BAD GUY!! Darkseid is still not ready to face me yet, as he throws a Superman robot at me, I guess trying to confuse me. He forgot that as a boy in Smallville, I used to make these robots so Lana Lang wouldn’t think Clark/Supes were the same person. Should have done your homework, son. After the recycling was taken out, Darkseid decides to come after me himself. Getting hit with those Omega Beams, I thought,”Boy, he always talked a lot of smack about these, but they’re not really doing that much damage? Kind of a wimp.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqkZq1ps-GM[/youtube]
After it’s all done, my hero-buddies show up and we scold Darkseid about doing property damage on Earth…seriously.

Now do you see why I don’t like these games. It’s just ridiculous that all these costumes are on the same power level, and the winner is the person who presses buttons the quickest….unless it’s Superman Vs Muhammad Ali…..that shit was real!

Old Game Reviewer reviews classic and retro games, you can check out more of his great work on his blog here – Old Game reviewer.

Sega Rally Championship 2

Sega Rally Championship - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot

The release of Sega Rally Arcade Online for XBLA got my blood pumping for some “arcade-style” racing, my favorite style, as I’ve mention in the past (see Quick Take-Ridge Racer). Not that I have anything against sims, but just popping a quarter (or 2, or 4) into a machine, squishing my ass into the driver’s seat meant for a teenager, grabbing the grease-smeared steering wheel, and hitting the accelerator (what’s a brake petal?), is what video game racing is to me.
Having recently acquired Sega Rally Championship 2 for the Dreamcast, I’ve finally found a little time to see it in action. Being a port of an arcade game, I wanted to see how the DC hardware would compare….and luckily, I immediately felt like I had an arcade cab in my home.

Sega Rally Championship - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
The graphics of SRC2 are tremendous. Jumping right into a game, I noticed the frame-rate is top notch and the backgrounds move fluidly. Didn’t really notice any slowdowns, shudders, or jumps. I was a little worried how it look, but pleasantly surprised. The weather effects look nice, and handle accordingly. Being a hater of the brake petal, I learned quickly that I’ll have to adapt to the elements (ice, gravel).
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the options:

Sega Rally Championship - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot

There are a great number of tracks (a lot will have to be unlocked), but it seems like just under 20. Also, a number of themes, including desert, city, mountains, snow, rainy, etc…. 8 cars to start (some reason I like the Celica), each with their pros and cons, and there will be a number more to unlock (again, somewhere around 20). Add all of that together, and that’s a lot of options. One of my Ridge Racer complaints was a lack of variety, SRC2 doesn’t disappoint there.
Other features:

Sega Rally Championship - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
You can use the 1st-person or behind-the-car looks, as well as split-screen for the head-to-head competition

.
There’s the Time Trial mode, the regular Arcade mode, and a 10-year Championship mode that I haven’t yet tried.

You can also choose your “co-driver” who shouts out when there’s going to be a turn or jump, a feature that I found cool and fun. And for those of you who like to tinker with your rides, you can do that as well… modding your tranny, brakes, tires, etc…

Sega Rally Championship - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
I’m just getting into the game, so this is a very “quick” take, but I’ve played enough to know what I like…
To summarize, SRC2 is a beautiful port of a very fun arcade racer, with smooth gameplay, and enough variety in vehicles/courses to keep you coming back.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5kbtwSRDCo[/youtube]

Old Game Reviewer reviews classic and retro games, you can check out more of his great work on his blog here – Old Game reviewer.

Captain America & The Avengers

[youtube id=”xGuK8g3XHeQ” width=”633″ height=”356″]

The game itself is fairly short, similar to the X-Men Arcade game, but in our case it was a good thing because we were popping in quarters until the game was finished. As someone lost all his lives, someone else was cranking them in so we could complete it. ~Matt McKee

Captain America & The Avengers

This review is based on the 1991 Data East arcade game involving the Marvel Comics superhero group.

I was always a huge comic book fan, with Captain America being one of my favorites, and by proxy…The Avengers. Combining my love of comics and games, it seems I would like nothing more than to play a superhero-based game. This game is a traditional side-scrolling beat-em-up that alternates between that and some shooting screens, just enough diversity to make things interesting without taking too much away from the arcadey action.

Captain_America_&_The_Avengers_gameplay-screenshot

I remember (what I think) was the first time I played it. My older brother was away at college and a buddy and I went to visit him for the weekend. While we were there, the three of us and a friend of my brother (another comic geek) went to the the mall arcade. Now, there were a lot of heroes present; A man saving a woman from a giant monkey, another flying his spaceship defending the Earth, a third eating ghosts…Okay, the last one is not really a “hero”, but the point is there was no one around to stop the Red Skull and his lackeys, and they needed stopping…. ’cause as the great sports hero, Mark McGwire, once said, “Nazis….is bad.”

The game itself is fairly short, similar to the X-Men Arcade game, but in our case it was a good thing because we were popping in quarters until the game was finished. As someone lost all his lives, someone else was cranking them in so we could complete it.

Captain_America_&_The_Avengers_gameplay-screenshot
You play as any one of 4 Avengers who have close-up and long-range battle attacks. Captain America slings his mighty shield, Iron Man shoots his repulsor beams, Hawkeye’s bow and arrows, or Vision…with his……visiony-like thing that he does. You’ll fight through lesser villains like Klaw, The Living LaserWhirlwindSentinelsWizard, TheGrim Reaper, The MandarinUltron, and Crossbones. That’s a lot of sweet Marvel-villain action. Fighting through the levels, you will gain assistance from hero friends like NamorWonder Man, and the Wasp, who will drop power-ups, health, and give you moral support.

Graphically, everybody is bright and comic-book perfect. Even when there’s a lot of action going on at once, there’s no slowdown and it easy to see what’s going on amongst the chaos. Some fun, loud, energetic music accompanies the heroes throughout the mission, and is a welcome addition.

The plot of the game is pretty unimportant sadly, but all you need to know is Red Skull is a bad guy, so give me someone to hit.

Although this game is known for the crazy English translations (you have to play it to appreciate it), it’s truly a fun beat-em-up with 4 people using superpowers, and that’ll always get a thumbs-up in my book. I also owned the Sega Genesisversion, and played that to death…a very fine port. But, if you have a chance to play this on MAME, you won’t be disappointed.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World - SNES - Box

There’s no doubt that the Mario series is one of the greatest runs in the history of gaming, and no doubt thatSuper Mario World is near the top (if not THE top) of the list. Here is where I give you my opinion. Let me tell you why I’m a bit odd…

I had mentioned during a Sonic review that I preferred that series over Mario. I understand that I’m in the minority, but let me explain…I’ve always preferred my games a bit linear. I like having a goal. I like going from point A to point B to complete that goal. The thing that drives me crazy about the Mario games is that there is so many hidden things, so many warps, so many crazy-ass things going on at the same time, that I sometimes forget why I was playing in the first place…the GOAL. I don’t care about capturing every coin, or every power-up, or finding every secret entrance…I just want to grab that princess and tickle Bowser with my moustache. …or was that the other way around? I just wanted to make myself clear.

Super Mario World - SNES - Map

Anyway, the first thing I wanted to add was…I had fun. I had a lot of fun. There were a couple of times I got stuck and had to hit YouTube for the walkthrough, but …what the hell.

The game starts with the princess getting captured again…which is ridiculous, but these games aren’t known for their clever storylines. Bowser is back with his little minion-creatures, and you have to stop them. Luckily, your brother can help (if you play co-op), and you have a new buddy named Yoshi, who is kind of a cute, lizardy/dino thingy that eats constantly…including most of the bad guys. You can (and will) ride him like a horse, although I personally didn’t have much need for him as long as I had cooler power-ups (more on them later).

Super Mario World - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot- 3

The graphics were the first thing I noticed, where I could tell a huge difference between the NES andSNES processors. The basic look of characters and backgrounds were mimicked from SMB3, but a nice upgrade with the brighter colors. Didn’t look too cartoony, which I thought may be a problem for me. I know this was an early title for the SNES, but was damned impressed with the varied look of the backgrounds, and how smoothly everything ran.

The classic Mario music was all here…light and bubbly for the most part. Very cutesy and expected for the game. It was mixed up for different stages and “boss” fights, the tone changed when necessary…just enough to notice and appreciate, but not distracting.

The sound effects were fun and funny, again expected. Nothing that really jumped out at me…just typical Mario stuff. Jumping, grabbing coins, etc..

The controls were solid, although it can be difficult trying the “combo” buttons like flying (and hold flight). Mario moved fluidly, sometimes a little too fast, but that’s more my problem. Overall, very nice.

Super Mario World - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot- 4

Back to the gameplay, the map system is still present, very similar to SMB3. Complete a level, and a pathway appears for you to travel to the next area. All pretty simple, although there were some hidden areas that needed accessing for pass-through. This is why I needed YouTube. I don’t mind secret areas if they are “bonuses”, but usually frown upon them if they are necessary. Nothing more frustrating to me than completing a level, then finding out I have to redo the level because there was some ordinary block that I was supposed to hit, which will open a secret room, which will give me some key to open another path. Again, I know most people love that stuff, but it irritates the hell out of me. If I’m playing a Tomb Raider game, I don’t want to escape a temple, fly to Rome, complete half that level, then be told the key to the underground tomb is under a rock back in the flippin temple…got it? Having ranted that, this game didn’t nearly have as much of that nonsense as I expected, and (to me) nowhere near as much as some other Mario and Zelda games.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXvHHwOYTFg[/youtube]

I will say the overall challenge of the game was not very high (which I liked), not including my cheating. CHALLENGE, I like. Frustratingly impossible, I don’t. I was grabbing power-ups like they were going out of style, and I found an area or two where I could farm the crap out of 1-ups. Not cheating exactly, but I wanted to make sure I could complete the game. Most levels were pretty easy to get through, and the replay value (for most people) is extremely high because of the countless secrets.

The bosses were ridiculously easy, just bounce on their heads a couple of times…and there you go. Not really a challenge.

Mario could get super, ride a dinosaur, swim, fly with a magic cape, spin-kick some dudes…all good fun. I really did enjoy the hell out of this game, and the imagination that goes into developing something like this should always be held in the highest regard, even if you’re not a fan of cute platformers (which I am).

I also found myself highly addicted to completing the game, which is the highest compliment I can give. I certainly never got bored with it, or probably ever would. Maybe I’ll get back to it someday and try to find those many secrets I passed up…the game does have save features after all.

Overall, I give it a 9/10. In most people’s eyes this is a perfect game, and it is great. But, the game was either too easy or too difficult, depending on the level or if the “hidden area“ NEEDED accessing. That balance was just wacky. But, it was fun…and that’s usually all I ask out of a game.

 

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider - Playstation - Box

I can’t imagine there’s a human being out there reading this that hasn’t played this game, or at least knows everything about it. Before all the sequels (good and bad), all the comics (good and bad), and all the movies (good and bad), there was the original game that set everything up.

Soon after I purchased my PSOne, my cousin stopped by my apartment. I didn’t realize he was a big video game guy until I talked to him that day. He didn’t live too far from me and we talked about getting together. My brother was already over and I told him we were playing the Playstation. He told me he had one as well, and was going to bring over some games. I don’t remember any of the others he brought, because I don’t think we ever got past Tomb Raider.
“It’s an Indiana Jones chick who jumps around and shoots stuff.”

Tomb Raider is a 3rd-person action-adventure game which really plays like a classic platformer in 3D. Your hero, Lara Croft, is a rich girl who grew up in archeology, but her parents died when she was younger, leaving her with money and boredom. You’ll learn a lot more of her backstory in future games.

Tomb Raider - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

In this particular game, she’s hired to search the world for objects which have ties to the Lost City of Atlantis. She will battle animals, creatures, and humans, as well as the occasional mythical figure. Always armed with two guns and unlimited ammo, this will be her signature.

Tomb Raider is more about puzzle-solving than shooting, although there is enough of that. Throughout the levels, which will take her around the world, she will collect items and treasures, pull levers, push blocks, climb walls, jump to ledges, all while avoiding breaking her neck or falling into a death-pit. All in a normal day for an adventurer. Not only can she walk, but run, flip, and swim in water.

A true magical adventure, this game had me hooked. Looking back at it now, the graphics are pretty blocky, but the game play was/is something special.

Tomb Raider - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

I can’t finish this review without mentioning one of my favorite moments in video game history……the first time Lara’s walking around and the gigantic T-Rex comes seemingly out of nowhere, and I had nothing but the dual-pistols. Literally a crap-your-pants moment.

Obviously, this marked a special moment in gaming. I can’t stress enough how this was literally a game-changer. Combining great graphics and level design, wonderful music, engaging gameplay…..it almost seemed like you were in a movie, and a must-own for any gamer.

Only two negatives about the game, and they’re not minor; First, you can’t save where/whenever you’d like (they would change that in the sequels), but you have to find the save points. Secondly, the camera angles can be brutal, and sometimes get stuck. Can be very difficult to make a crazy jump when the camera is not cooperating. This will be a problem throughout the series.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uL1cwhNDWkw[/youtube]

The great Tommy Shaw once said, “Don’t go messing with a girl with guns.” The man was right-on, she’s totally badass.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Title Screen

I’ve told the beginning of this story before, but I’m assuming nobody ever reads this stuff anyway so it’ll be new to you.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sometime in the early ’90′s…not sure when, but it was after the launch of the Sega Genesis and after they started packaging Sonic the Hedgehog with the consoles….but sometime in the early ’90′s my brother said to me, “Hey, my buddy I work with has a Sega Genesis and he doesn’t need it because he already has one. I guess his brother stole it from a toy store, then panicked and left it in the arcade next door. So, Mike is keeping it, but would rather have $60.” Obviously, with a deal this good and no love for Johnny Law, I jumped at the deal.

So, I believe the first Genesis cart that ever entered my 16-bit beauty was the classic platformer. That’s not surprising, because a lot, or even most of you, can say the same. However, what I will say next will shock most of you….I’ve always loved the Sonic games more than the NES Marios….Hell yes, I said it. Eat it, Nintendo. Sonic was my boy. At least the first couple of games before he went 3D on me. That’s not really my style. For the record, nothing against Mario, but after an all-consuming Saturday run at SMB3 that ended after 9 hours in a power surge that completely wiped out all existence of my game…..I vowed never to play it again. A vow I have kept until this day.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

I can also assume that there isn’t a single person who will read this article that is unfamiliar with the Sonic games, so there’s no reason for any set-up. But, the recent 20th anniversary event that we chronicled at Thumb Culture brought back those memories. Hanging out in my old apartment, enjoying my “futuristic” 3-button controller that Sega (and Mike’s criminal brother) put into my hands. Yep, I could still hear that goofy Sonic title music. Goofy, but I love it. It’s catchy, and will stay with you throughout the entire gameplay.

I decided to fire it up in my man-cave, and within seconds I found myself at the iconic Green Hill Zone Act 1. It’s amazing that one can play a game that they haven’t seen in over a decade, but still remember when to accelerate, when to brake, and where all (well, most) of the little hidden goodies are. The backgrounds still look beautiful after all these years, and Sonic’s irritating ‘foot tap’ when you’re taking too long to move him was still a delight to see. There’s a total of 18 beautifully-designed levels to run Sonic through (6 Zones, each with 3 acts), and while they all seem a little similar, they all still have their unique qualities. Some Zones may allow Sonic to take advantage of his speed, while others force you to master his jumping ability.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

One thing that I always loved about this game was you could take different pathways to reach the end of the level. You can, if you choose, run at lightning speeds to reach the end in record time, or slowly collect all of the rings and power-ups. There are a number of vertical platform levels to explore…or not. It’s up to you. There’s not necessarily a set pattern to learn like other platformers. Everything is always in the same place, but the size of the levels and the ‘openness’ make replay-vale high.

The levels themselves seem to increase in difficulty, including the boss fights, which is not always the case. The Green Hill Zone seems like a practice tutorial compared to others, although the Chaos Emerald ‘special’ levels all make me dizzy. They could be exactly the same and I wouldn’t know it.

Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot - Special Stage
The jingle of collected rings still puts a literal smile on my face, just as much as taking a cheap hit from a segment of a spiked worm makes me want to throw my controller….the two interlaced emotions that are necessary for a great game. It shows that you’re invested in it. That you’re putting everything you have into it. The rings aren’t exactly necessary, but holding at least one allows you to take a hit (consider it a shield), collecting over 100 gives you a free man (er…hedgehog), and having a good chunk of them at the end of the Act opens the Chaos Emerald levels. The Emeralds themselves are never mentioned in the game for why they need collecting, but they do give you more points, so why would you not? Plus, you can earn ‘continues’ during these stages. Continues that the mediocre (like me) need to be able to complete the game.

There are plenty of different badniks in Sonic, but they were created by the evil Dr Robotnik, who frankly was a pretty crappy inventor. All I had to do was jump on top of his robots a couple of times and they’d blow up. It’s not like I’m a freakin’ elephant for Christ’s sake! How much damage could a little hedgehog do?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CqOlpQ7sepE[/youtube]
Overall, the game is nearly perfect, and there’s a reason why the cute and lovable character became the Sega mascot. While not all of the dozens of Sonic games are good…or fun…or even playable, the original one should be in everyone’s Genesis collection…and probably is. From the colorful and beautiful graphics, to the legendary level design….. from the catchy music to the memorable characters….Sonic the Hedgehog is a must own.

I appreciate Thumb Culture giving me a chance to write about these experiences, and hearing similar (or not) stories from the readers. For every mention of being a poor enough Sonic player where I’ve never been able to capture all the Chaos Emeralds, someone else will tell me how they’ve done it. Every mention of Dr Robotnik, someone will tell me they always call him “Dr Eggman”. The gaming community is pretty special, and now that Thumb Culture 2.0 is back, running, and more beautiful than ever, I’m going to continue writing little retro-blurbs here and there. This has been a very quick take about a 20-year-old mammal (didn’t even have to look that up) that wears sneakers, runs at high speeds, and saves the green lands from evil animal-snatchers, and maybe I’ll do another one in another 20 years. SEGA!

Fable

Fable

I do love RPG’s, but when Fable was originally released I didn’t jump on it. First off, I’ve acknowledged that I’m a cheap gamer and I like the bargain bins, and secondly, I was getting geared up for Halo 2 (which would take most of my time). Third, I have a buddy who loves playing all 3 games and other similar RPG’s, like the Elder Scrolls run. Over the years, he would tell me of his gaming exploits, which were usually something like, “Yeah, this game is awesome! I have a bunch of wives, but they were coming after me for child support, so I had to take them out into the woods and kill them.” and “I played as a chick this time, and got VD and pregnant.”……This was enough to keep me away for a while. But, I knew I’d get around to it sooner or later.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

Before the game was released, there was enough hype surrounding the game to assure it would never live up to all the expectations. I don’t care about that. All I care about is having fun. It doesn’t matter to me if a game is delayed for years, or if it fails to deliver what it promised. After I insert the disc into my Xbox…”How does it look?” “How does it control?” “How much fun am I having?” These are the questions I ask myself. Having said all that, let me get into Peter Molyneux/Big Blue Box/Lionhead Studio’s Fable.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

All RPG’s have a story, some better than others. With Fable, the main story is pretty standard: Little boy’s village raided by bandits, father killed, mother and sister taken, strange man takes in boy so he can grow up and get revenge.
You play a short time as a boy, and then as a teenager, basically to get used to the controls. A little more than a tutorial, but that’s really what it is. When you reach manhood, the main quest starts. I know people who have put 40-50 hours (maybe more) into Fable, but I did 13. Here’s why: I’ve also never been a huge fan of “sandbox” games. I prefer linear. I understand I’m probably in the minority, but I like having a goal/quest/mission, then accomplishing it.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

In Fable, there is the main quest that will be fleshed out in increments by your mentor(s), but also a crapload of side quests. Most gamers want to get more for their money, and you’ll get this with Fable, because there is always something to do. But, nothing drives me crazier in a game than given my main quest with a “Time is of the essence! You must rescue ‘so-and-so’!”, then also having the option of romancing women, escorting traders, and stopping to smell the flowers, with no consequences after doing so.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

Sometimes, there’s so much going on that the main story is forgotten, and that should never be the case. I would have skipped the side quests completely, but for a couple of reasons: One, I wanted to see for myself so I could write about it, and two, I wanted to do just enough to level-up properly so I wouldn’t be under-powered against bosses when I finally reached them. But come on, there are just so many escort missions I can do before I was bored silly.
Having said all that, Albion itself is a beautiful place. From the water, to the woods, to the villages…..they spent a lot of time making everything look unique. Except for the people, who all look the same…. I think I married sisters. There is plenty of world to explore, and loading times aside, it was worth it to wander from section to section to see what the next part of the country looked like.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

The music was cute and very ‘fairy-tale’ like, the score was spot-on what I want to hear in the background when I’m playing a game like this. It was a very welcome addition to the game.
Combat is also an important part of an RPG, and this is done in real-time. You have your close-combat weapons (and there are plenty from which to choose), your long-range, and your spells. One of the cool things about your character is he doesn’t have a ‘class’ so to speak, meaning no fighter/wizard/whatever.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

He can do all of these things. As you kill enemies, you get experience and can take those XP to build up your character pretty much the way you want. You can make him extremely strong, very fast, or proficient with spell-casting. If you play the game long enough, you’ll eventually max out all. One of the really cool things I found was when I came across a huge sword that my character had a hard time carrying/using, but after I ‘strengthened’ my character, he was waving it around with no problem.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot
There are also the typical spells, with the fire/lightning strikes which I mostly used, along with a spell that gave me double attacks. Again, everything looked pretty cool, but the ‘lock-on’ targeting system was a major pain in the ass, with a lot of innocents getting fried on accident. And there were many times where it stayed on when I was trying to run for cover, which left me a bit defenseless. The enemies are many in number, but sparse in variety, and they look cool. Mainly bandits, huge wasps, some werewolf types, and a couple of others. There are some small bosses before the big ones at the end…. I just called Rock Monsters ‘small’, for some reason. The final bosses were way too easy, and I considered myself underpowered.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

Another huge aspect of the game is what I call the “The Sims”, which I didn’t really want to do. This is the interaction with the townsfolk. Now, every game has you talking to people for info, that’s pretty standard. Fable wants you to spend valuable questing time literally flexing my muscles, flirting, showing my trophy-kills, and giving gifts to impress people, as well as showing a scary face or giving the middle finger to people I don’t like. There’s a lot more of this than I just mentioned, and there are reasons for doing so, I just had zero interest in this. If I want to play The Sims, I will buy those games.

Fable - Xbox - Gameplay Screenshot

I appreciate what they tried to do here, by making the game unique and ‘more real’ (I guess), but I think it takes away from the core gameplay. I did take a couple of wives, just so I could say that I did it, but it was empty gameplay…and oh yeah, my mother was being tortured during all this…sorry, ma. A man has needs.

I could go on, but by now you pretty much have my take:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXjXVRgT39o[/youtube]

Beautiful-looking, slow load times, wonky combat, good main quest story, unnecessary side quests, Sims stuff that doesn’t interest me, and easy bosses.
If I rate the game so just the main story, I recommend it. On the whole package…not so much. But, I know there are plenty of you out there that want to get that great hours to price ratio…and this game will do it for you.

Lady Sia

Lady Sia - Gameboy Advance
Lady Sia came out in 2001, which was very early in the GBA life, but it was a pleasant surprise.
An action-adventure platformer, Sia is a queen whose land is ravaged by a warlock and his animal minions. She alone has to hack her way through these creeps to reclaim her land. Not really sure why it seems like every game I play has ‘magic guy’ creating weird animal hybrids. That really doesn’t seem like the thing I would do if I had that kind of power. But anyway…..

Lady Sia - Gameboy Advance
There’s actually a very long and detailed story that unfolds throughout play, but I don’t want to give anything away. What I will say is this is a realitivly short game, with just a handful of main levels, and a few smaller levels within. Sia is armed with just a sword and an “energy blast”, and each level’s mission has her recovering a stolen family item; from a better sword to magic rings. These items will help her defeat the 4 bosses and the main one at the end.
The 32-bit, cartoony animation is neat, and the fluidity of her movements are top-notch for the little system. Little touches like using her sword to grab a ledge to pull herself up were nice additions. Sweet background music and sound-effects, as well.

Lady Sia - Gameboy Advance
The replay ability is fairly high, with a nice addition of a scoring system. Along her journey, Sia will refill her energy blast (in the form of gems), hearts (life), and rescue commoner-hostages. All of this, along with time spent on the level, gives you a score. This also gives you a reason to explore the entire level.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed2m0FtWhV8[/youtube]
Again, it’s a very short game, and maybe a little cutesy for the tastes of some, but I found it to be a lot of fun. The only true negatives are the lack of a real challenge, and the occasional occurance of Sia ‘sliding’ during her combo hits. It can be annoying when you’re whooping ass on a rat-dude, and you keep running into him instead of carving him up into cat food. But, this certainly won’t ruin the game for you. If you’re like me, and you still weep over Xena, Warrior Princess not on TV anymore, this is a decent substitute.

 

Flashback: Quest For Identity

 

Flashback - Quest For Identity - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
Also just known as “Flashback“, this 2D platformer was originally released in 1992 for the Amiga computer, but was ported all over the place including the Sega Genesis, which I’m reviewing today.
I remember reading through one of the many video-game magazines that were out at the time (don’t really remember which one), and there was a preview for a game described as “CD-ROM on a cartridge”. A game that was going to use motion-capture technology so the ‘platformer character’ would seem to have very fluid mobility. A game that was based in a dark sci-fi universe instead of the usual cute-fantasyland. A game developed by the French….alright I admit that last part didn’t sell me on it, but the rest made for a launch-day purchase, and those that know me realize spending full retail doesn’t come easily for me.
Flashback - Quest For Identity - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

 

Delphine Software, now long gone, was the French Developer behind Flashback, and had previously given us Another World/Out of This World. Not to mention a future game by the name of Shaq Fu and a Playstation sequel, Fade to Black. Although not a true prequel of FlashbackAnother World is still seen in the eyes of the computer-gaming community as genius.
Flashback is set in the future of spaceships, holograms, and jetpacks…although they still use bullets in guns. Your hero, a Galaxia Bureau of Investigations agent named Conrad Hart wakes in a jungle with no memory of who he is or what he’s doing out there. Luckily, a holocube is found nearby with cryptic instructions. He discovered that shape-shifters are on Earth and have been infiltrating the government for takeover. He was captured, mind erased, and after escaping, wakes on this jungle-planet. The game is Conrad’s story to regain his full memory and stop the aliens. I remarked on Twitter as I was playing the game that it’s a sci-fi tale that combines elements of “Total Recall“, “Running Man“, and “They Live“….and I had a lot of agreements. Why “Running Man“? Everybody loves a killer-game show. Eventually, you’ll make your way to the alien planet and take the fight to them, but I don’t want to spoil any more of the game for you. Trust me when I say it’s worth the ride.

Flashback - Quest For Identity - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Visually, it may seem at first like a standard screen-to-screen platformer, but once you get into it you’ll be blown away at the phenomenal work with the backgrounds and the intricate level designs. The levels are linear, meaning eventually there is only one way out of an area, but with clever use of backtracking, it seems very wide-open. Conrad himself, as I mentioned before, looks human. That may sound silly now, but in 1992 was groundbreaking technology.

The way Conrad runs, jumps, stops, rolls, even pulls his gun will blow you away. I admit the first go-around with the game I just held the fire button down and shot in the air because it was so damn cool to watch the cartridges fly out from the gun. Also, I think you’ll appreciate little touches like Conrad‘s jacket flapping while running, and the fact that you can’t actually see a ‘bullet trail’ after shooting.
Each level has it’s own unique environment, from the thick jungle on Titan, to the city of New Washington, the Paradise Club, and the Death TowerDelphine went all-out to give us a fantastic view of this universe, and there are a number of ‘event’ cut-scenes that help move the story along.
Flashback - Quest For Identity - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
Audibly, the sound effects are a bit sparse, by design. Like in a classic movie, it can be a bit silent until DANGER STRIKES, then the heart-pounding, blood-pumping music adds to your frantic gameplay. It was a welcome display of ‘just enough to tantilize’, but certainly not too much.Like a Tomb Raider game, there will be switches, keys, and hidden items that will allow you to enter and exit doors. Solving puzzles have always been a favorite of mine, but if you’re frustrated easily maybe this isn’t the game for you. There will be some controller-throwing moments when you’re trying to make a particularly-difficult jump, especially given the fact that Conrad will die if he falls from to great a height. All you have is your gun for weaponry, but it has unlimited ammo. For defense, a shield which will take a couple of hits before going out, and can be recharged at certain stations. Also, a force field will be found later, along with other cool items like a teleporter and rocks…yes, rocks. Don’t laugh, you’ll need them. Save stations are also spread throughout, and I believe not too far apart. But, keep in mind there’s only one save “block”, so don’t do anything stupid and save directly after (I’ve done it). 

Flashback - Quest For Identity - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
Flashback: The Quest For Identity still holds up perfectly today. A 6-10 hour adventure that looks gorgeous, has clever and confusing puzzles, tells a great story, and has plenty of mutant-killing action. If this game is not on your Top-10 Platformer list, then you’ve never played it. A must-have for any Sega Genesis collection.

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

Ridge Racer

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

About 2 weeks after the launch of the PS1 in the USA, a buddy of mine who bought about every console in those days, said “We need to get the new Sony console. I read great stuff about how good it looks. Plus, we can link them up!” I was still pretty heavy into my Genesis, and didn’t know if I wanted another console, but after playing Ridge Racer at the store, I was sold.

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot
A launch title (Namco 94-95), with 7 other games (I bought 2, and will talk about the other tomorrow), Ridge Racer truly felt like an arcade game. The graphics were a huge step up from my Sega product, and with the nifty music blaring on my 26 inch RCA (still have it), I finally had a good-size monitor to enjoy the 3D-goodness.

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot

In Ridge Racer, there were the usual game modes, Time Trials and easy/medium/hard. You raced with 12 cars, trying to beat them (to unlock) and your previous low times. The music pumped throughout, and in a new twist, you could take out the game CD and put in music of your own while still playing. The different cars didn’t vary much, and they seemed to control about the same…except for the elusive Black Car.

Ridge Racer - Playstation - Gameplay Screenshot
The Black Car was the Holy Grail of the game. After you defeated the other modes and cars, you were able to take on the evil one. If you could defeat it, you would own it. Namco’s version of The Crossroads. One of the most difficult ‘bosses’ I ever faced, the only way to win was to run a perfect race…meaning if you scraped a wall, or skidded too much on a turn, the sumbitch would pass you and you’d never catch up. I put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that challenge, and still fondly remember the day of victory. With the powerful engine and control of The Black Car, you could improve your times even more.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hPw8-A-k8M0[/youtube]
Other goodies included turning around and driving the tracks in mirrored-look, as well as changing your driving view.

Overall, it was a special game that was needed at that time. The console that (in my opinion) was the biggest jump in technology from the previous ones started off with an almost-perfect arcade port. It was beautiful and it was fun. It may not stand the test of time with a ton a sequels that were pumped-out, but will always hold a special memory for me.

Rayman 2: The Great Escape

Rayman 2 - The Great Escape - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot

For all of you gamers who have never experienced a Rayman game, you’re missing out. The first game was a decent PlayStation hit, and a fun 2D platformer. But, Rayman 2: The Great Escape is on a different level. A true 3D platformer, Ubisoft really takes advantage of everything the Sega Dreamcast hardware can do.

Rayman 2 - The Great Escape - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
Rayman himself, is a little creature without arms and legs, his hands and feet just float around his body. He shoots energy balls from his hands (which ricochet, a cool feature) and his long ears allow him to float or fly like a helicopter. Also, in an homage to the classic arcade character Q*bert, he and his friends speak a gibberish-language. Luckily for us, there are subtitles.

Rayman 2 - The Great Escape - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot

At the end of the first game, Rayman and his buddies saved his world, and in the sequel, more of the same. A crazy boss named Admiral Razorbeard, with his awesome ship and his lackeys, the Robo-pirates, are trying to (once again) take over the world. He has also kidnapped Rayman’s friends and a lot of other creatures. Your mission, is to collect 4 masks that will summon the world’s God to get rid of the Admiral.

Rayman 2 - The Great Escape - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
There are almost 20 levels total, including mini-levels, for you to enter. Using your energy balls as weapons, you’ll jump and use your helicopter ears to float long distances in a mostly-linear 3D environment. Along the way, there will be creatures in cages to rescue and other balls of energy called “lums” that you will need to collect. Some of these are for health-replenishing, some are necessary to complete the mission. For example, there are 1000 yellow lums in the game. Most completists will play the levels over until they find them all…I’m not one of them. One of the few flaws of the game is they made me backtrack (one of my gaming pet-peeves) to collect a certain amount of lums to go forward with the game. Just finding the exit of the level wasn’t enough. Personally, I think that should be the choice of the player, and not the developer….just sayin’.

Rayman 2 - The Great Escape - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
The other big flaw (which is common in this type of game) is some brutal camera angles. While you can rotate the camera on the X axis, you can’t the Y, causing some “leaps of faith”. There are also times where the camera is “set”, which wasn’t always the best angle to use, in my opinion. These two reasons are why it’s not a perfect game. There were some true “throw the controller” moments.

Rayman 2 - The Great Escape - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
I love this 3D-platforming adventure, and I give props to the developer for mixing it up, giving some variety in levels. Early in the game, there’s some “water-skiing” behind one of his friends, and an area where he can use his ears to fly. Pretty sweet.

Rayman 2 - The Great Escape - Sega Dreamcast - Gameplay Screenshot
I probably had a good 10 hours or so of gaming, which is just enough to keep it fun (before grinding sets in), and also enough to feel I got my money’s worth. There is a high replay value for the achievement whore who needs every lum. I believe if you can collect all 1000, there’s a bonus level…I will never see this, sadly.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpVzjt9aLH0&feature=related[/youtube]
With the cool 3D graphics, a beautiful mythical world to explore, the great controls, and cute and funny original characters, this seems to be a must-have for any Dreamcast collection. Highly recommended.

Legendary Axe

legendary_axe_cover_image_large

My last day of Sword & Sorcery Week has me re-playing Legendary Axe. Been a while since I’ve fired this up, and I’ve never been able to finish it (Damn yooouu, No-Save-Game!)

This game is another hack-and-slash scroller, but also a fine platformer. You’ll find yourself doing a lot of jumping and climbing, and in my case…falling.

You play as a red-haired caveman armed with a legendary axe, which frankly looks like an ordinary hatchet that he could have picked up at Oog’s Hardware. But, some bad guy has kidnapped his woman, and he wants to get her back. It seems Axe-guy isn’t finished dragging her around by her hair yet.

Legendary axe - turbo graphix 16 - gameplay screenshot

The first thing you’ll notice is the bright, colorful level design and backgrounds. Victor Interactive Software really put forth some effort, and I thank them for it. There are 6 levels of game play (that I’ve never finished), ranging from the jungle, to caves, to mountains, etc…

Each level has it’s own mini-boss (crazed bears, huge boulders), and eventually, the Big Bad himself. Have a mentioned I haven’t ever reached him?

Throughout your journey, there’s a number of highly-detailed creatures that you’ll hack, from huge spiders, to half man/half animals, but you’ll always be annoyed by these little flying bats. To help you, there are plenty of power-ups in form of a small tiki idol, which can increase your health, give you a free life, of improve the strength of your mighty axe-blow.

Legendary axe - turbo graphix 16 - gameplay screenshot

Overall, the controls are fine, I didn’t have any problems except for the ones that show my lack of platforming skill.

Recapping: Beautiful-looking, decent controls, plenty of detailed levels/creatures, unique bosses, plenty of power-ups… I recommend playing.

Now if I could only rescue the girl….I need someone the sweep my dirt-floor cave.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcnk0JKYL3k[/youtube]

Overall 7/10

The adventures of Batman and Robin

Snes-adventures-of-batman-and-robin

I was looking forward to this game, after playing a lot of mediocre to poor ones this week. I had heard good things about it, and was a big fan of the 90′s cartoon, for which it was based. Konami put this out in 1994, around the time they changed the name of the cartoon from Batman: the Animated Series. The cartoon was very good to exceptional, and if they didn’t screw up that feel, we would have a winner.

Snes-adventures-of-batman-and-robin 2
Good news! I start play and find they incorporated the fantastic animation, as well as music from the series. It’s more than a typical scrolling action/platformer that gives you plenty of things to do to mix it up a bit. The first level pits you against The Joker, as you’re invited into his Funhouse for a rescue mission. You’re given a number of Bat-toys incuding the Batarang/rope/stars/goggles, etc…Luckily, they give you a reason to use your gadgets, and they’re not just for show. You fight, jump, and Batrope your way through his puzzles until you reach the first boss, a huge toy soldier! After that, Joker puts you on a runaway roller-coaster and tosses bombs at you. If you make it through that, you’ll face the Clown Prince, himself.

Snes-adventures-of-batman-and-robin 3
There’s probably a dozen levels throughout facing all of your favorite Arkham-escapees; Catwoman, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, and more. They each have their unique levels that makes it seem like a bunch of mini-games. Again, it looks beautiful, plays well, and the music makes you feel like you’re playing inside an episode of the series.

The adventures of Batman and Robin - SNES - gameplay screenshot 1
Two negatives on the game; Robin is barely around, and doesn’t really do anything, so if you thought this would be a kick-ass co-op, you’d be wrong. Secondly, and most importantly, THERE’S NO VOICE!! Everything is in text! I could just imagine how good this game would have been had I been experiencing the great Mark Hamill taunting me as The Joker instead of having to read, “HAHAHAHA! Follow me into my funhouse, Batman!”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNA9f4OBXe4[/youtube]
Just saying, if you’re going to do it…do it right.

Obviously, I’m pleased with the game, and if you have your old SNES sitting around, pick this up. It’s Bat-astic!

Keystone Kapers

Keystone Kapers, designed by Garry Kitchen (ACTIVISION).

keystone_kapers_cover
The object of the game is for the player, who controls a keystone cop (equipped with a billy club), to catch a convict (dressed in b&w stripes). You’re in a 4-story department store, starting in the bottom right corner, and the convict has a bit of a head start. He will try to reach the roof, and if this happens he gets away. You have 50 seconds to reach him, and there are escalators and elevators to help. Also, there are many obstacles in the way that you will have to either jump over or duck under. This includes radios, bouncing balls, and toy planes. A hit from a plane takes away a life (you get 3), and other obstacles take off 9 seconds. If the timer reaches 0, you lose a life. The game potentially could last forever, because there is no true end to the game. But, the pace gets rather fast and hectic.

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

You can earn a “Billy Club” patch with 35,000 points. Back in the day, you were able to take a photograph of your TV screen, send it toActivision, and they would send you an “achievement” patch for a job well done. Points are earned by time left on the clock after capture, and the occasional bag of money picked up while running.

Overall, a very fun game. The officer and convict look cool, and the animation of him running with the billy club is funny.

Controls work well, although sometimes I have problems lining up with the elevator.

Not too much audio or sound effects, just some footsteps and a sound when you jump or run into something.

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is very repetitive, but the pace picks up after a few rounds. I find myself not even blinking after a couple of minutes of game play, worried about what is in the next “room”.
It’s a game that makes me want to get right back into it to improve my score.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeY1ML0d3CI[/youtube]

Overall 8/10

Zenji

Zenji - Colecovision - Gameplay Screenshot

One thing I always loved about the Colecovision is how beautifully bright the colors were, compared to the Atari 2600 and Mattel’s Intellivision. I played all 3 as a kid, and always thought the CV was the best console, even though the Atari turned out to be my long-term favorite, mainly because of the quantity of titles and a quality controller. Having said that, I was playing Zenji today, a puzzle/maze game (Activision 1984) that plays/looks as well (maybe better) on the Colecovision than any other console or computer.

Zenji - Colecovision - Gameplay Screenshot
At first glance, Zenji seemed to be a simple ‘kiddie’ game, with easy gameplay and cutesy graphics and background music. Then as I played more, I realized it was much more than that.
The screen is filled with yellow and blue hexagons, within them are white pathways. You are a rolling white ball with a smiley face (don’t ask me why). As you roll on the paths from hex to hex, you can rotate the hexes 90 degrees at a time, turning the pathways green and eventually connecting them to make one continuous path. After completion of the pathway, you’ll move on to another level, larger with more dangerous hazards. Seems simple, as I said, but a couple of things are in your way: First is a time limit, 30 seconds for a smaller maze, up to 60 for a full-screen…..that is not a hell of a lot of time to connect 42 (6×7) of these things!

Zenji - Colecovision - Gameplay Screenshot

Secondly, roaming fire (think Donkey Kong) will try to kill you. Just when you think you can outsmart them by rotating out of their way, blue fire will appear and start shooting at you! What kind of kid’s game is this?!?
The gameplay is fast, addicting, and will challenge your reflexes and brain……because I think the pieces will only fit one way.
You score as you connect the pieces, and whatever time is left after level completion. High scores are kept (Yay!).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8uGGs2ZKxc[/youtube]
I’ve always been a fan of this genre, and I easily think this is one of the better games I have ever played. It’s much more than just connecting pipes, a game I’ve seen done a million times. Frankly, any time I have the chance to play the Colecovision without using that damned keypad, I take it. Zenji is a must-own for the console.

Yars Revenge

Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600
Backstory on Yar’s:
It’s a simple game, really. A Yar is this giant, flying insect. Its enemy is the Qotile, who hangs out on the right side of the screen. It’s protected by a shield, which can be shot or eaten by the Yar. Once there’s a “hole” in the shield, you can use the Zorlon Cannon, which appears on the left side of the screen, to kill it. There’s also a small, slow-moving missile that can kill you. It follows you relentlessly, like the Terminator. There’s a “neutral zone” in the middle of the screen, which will save you from the missile, but not the Qotile’s main weapon..the deadly “swirl”. The swirl is like a can of Raid. Kills Bugs Dead. At certain intervals, the Qotile will turn different colors and periodically shoot out toward the Yar. A really cool feature (and one you will NEED to use) is that Yar can fly through the top of the screen and “pop” out of the bottom, or vice-versa. The missile or swirl cannot do this.

OBJECTIVE: To reach 1,000,000 points, turning the score back to zero, and getting the revenge for the Yars.

I fire it up, and it still has that cool background music. Sounds a bit like an old refrigerator droning on and on before it dies.
Yar moves around very quick and smoothly, controls are nice.
You get more points for eating the shield than shooting, so I’m going to get in close as much as possible.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 40 G- COOL HAND
(Eat 50 pieces of shield)

After there’s a hole in the shield, you have a couple of options: You can continue eating the shield for more points, or get right to the BIG points. It’s 1000 to shoot the Qotile while he’s sitting there; 2000 to wait until he turns into the swirl; or 6000 points to shoot him while he’s shooting toward you. The risk/reward of shooting him in mid-air is the way I like to go for a big reason: This is the only way to get a “free man”. You will max out with 9 lives, but you’ll need them.
Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600

I’m out of practice a bit, but I opt to eat a little shield, head back towards the left side of the screen, then wait for the swirl to turn red. After the color change, he’ll “swirl” in place for a second or two (2000 points), then attack. I have to time the Zorlon Cannon just right, then move out of the way so I’m not hit by it (Yes, you can kill yourself with your weapon)….AARRRGGHH!!!!! Got me! I am a little out of practice.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 30 G- MAN IN BLACK
(Go Down in a Burning Ring of Fire)

After I get the hang of it, and the timing down, I hit my first flying swirl for 6000 points!

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 50 G- JUST LIKE SHOOTING WOMP RATS
(Get your first moving kill)

There’s a lot of repeating until you reach 70,000 points. This is when the shield will turn from orange to blue. Now, the swirl will come at you 3 times more frequently. The missile will continually get faster and more relentless throughout the game, so now you have to use some skill.
I get on a roll and start knocking them out.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 50 G- KESSEL RUNNER
(Destroy 2 swirls in less than 12 seconds)

This continues until I reach 150,000 points. The shield turns gray. The good part about this milestone is the swirl will go back to shooting at you at its normal frequency. The bad news…it now acts as a guiding missile, taking a 90 degree turn toward you.
The strategy here takes quite a bit of skill and hand/eye coordination. I mentioned before about using the top-to-bottom “gateway”. You’ll have to now or you’ll never survive. The idea is to be at the top when swirl shoots, then go through to the bottom. When the swirl turns straight down towards you, fire your cannon to time a direct hit. Don’t forget to move right quickly to avoid the 3-way collision. After I get the pattern down, it becomes fairly easy.
Yars-Revenge-Atari-2600

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 100 G- MAVERICK, YOU HAVE THE NEED FOR SPEED
(Reach the quickest level of gameplay)

At the 230,000 point mark, the guiding swirl remains, but the frequency is back up the 3 times normal. It’ll stay that way for the duration of the game.
It feels like I’m going to break my joystick, but I zig and zag this way for a while.
I lose a life on occasion, but after about an hour or so of game time, I finally turn it over.

BLEEPBLOOP!
ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED 200-G YOU ARE THE LAST STARFIGHTER
(Singlehandedly wipeout the entire Qotile fleet)

Nice to see I’ve still got it.

I grade on a 0-2 scale in 5 categories, with a max score of 10.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvjajVf3BEc[/youtube]

GRAPHICS/VISUALS:2
Pretty fantastic, with bright colors and a cool-looking, flying Yar. The explosion after a Qotile hit is a full-screen death-rainbow.

AUDIO/MUSIC:2
Background sounds are ominous. Unique sounds for Yar eating, swirl shooting, and explosions.

CONTROLS:2
Yar moves fluidly and easily with just a simple joystick. 1-button to fire.

FUN FACTOR:2
Off the charts for me personally. Insect vs. alien combat for universe supremacy.

REPLAY VALUE:2
I could pop this game in for a while every day. Even after you’re good enough to turn over the score, the fun factor makes this one of the best 2600 games ever produced.