Kid Chameleon

Kid Chameleon

An attempt to mimic Mario – in a few ways at least – Kid Chameleon offers something much different to Sonic’s speedy antics on the Mega Drive.

It’s a solid platformer, and for fans of the genre it’s worth investigating.

Kid Chameleon

You play as Kid Chameleon, who must enter a virtual reality arcade machine and defeat an evil entity who is trapping kids within the game itself.

There are several worlds, with each one containing two to three levels.

The game starts off, as so many platformers often do, with an ordinary looking forest level – but even these aren’t as dull as you’d expect, thanks to the title’s main gimmick.

Kid Chameleon

You can collect suits throughout stages by hitting the various P blocks (most of the time they just hold gems), and grabbing masks which transform you into various forms.

These include a sword wielding samurai, a knight who can charge and destroy walls, a Jason Vorhees clone who can fling axes, and – most amusingly – a tank driving skeleton.

Fortunately the costumes aren’t the only entertaining thing here, with the enemies themselves an interesting bunch.

Kid Chameleon

They all pose different threats, including crawling hands who restrict your movement, lava-men who leave a trails of fire behind them, and tiny green slime beasts.

The only surprising thing about the cast of foes is the lack of bosses at the end of each world. They would have been worth seeing if the smaller foes in the game are anything to go by.

It’s a shame then, that the level design itself isn’t up to the same standards of the cast of enemies and power-ups.

Kid Chameleon

Too often the game expects you to somehow understand its strange design quirks, such as the fact you can walk through some walls as they’re in the foreground – even though they look nearly exactly the same as all the other walls.

Other times it can be plain cruel, like in a Under Skull Mountain level, which slides you down ramps straight into pits of spikes. It does this twice as well – talk about unfair.

Kid Chameleon

The game only gets harder as you progress as well, and there’s a lot to get through.

With no save system very few people will see the end, or even want to – despite the game’s admirable qualities.

Despite its problems, Kid Chameleon doesn’t hold up too badly today though.

Kid Chameleon

Its simple graphics can look a little dull if the world you’re in isn’t set in an enthralling setting, but there are enough inspired moments to hold your attention.

It doesn’t stand out in a crowded genre, but it doesn’t disappear out of view from it either.

Asterix and the Great Escape

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 Asterix and the Great Escape

The French comic book star Asterix has questionable appeal across the globe (especially in the US and Japan), but has still been the topic of a literal smorgasbord of games.

This Mega Drive is far from the worst outing for the French ‘hero’ (although I will admit I have played only a few Asterix titles), but it still has some sizeable flaws that make it hard to truly enjoy.

The standard plot involves Getafix and Dogmatix getting kidnapped by the Romans, with Asterix and his rotund pal Obelix setting off to rescue them.

To do this they travel across Europe completing short stages.

Asterix and the Great Escape

You can choose between Asterix and Obelix before you enter each stage, although you can only select the other (if you want to) when you lose all your lives and use a continue.

The game starts as it means to go on however, giving you no guidance and beating you over the head with a misjudged difficulty level.

Opening with a simple stage set in a village that lasts around a minute, the game then truly throws you into the deep end with the second level.

It not only demands that you to know how to equip items, it also expects you to realise that you have to go backwards from where you start to grab an essential potion.

Asterix and the Great Escape

Even if you do somehow figure that out you’ll need to act fast – the clock is ticking.

The time-keeping aspect is one of the most notable elements of the game in fact, and helps and hinders the title in equal measure.

You are rarely given any time at all to complete levels, and you’ll often be reaching the ‘exit’ (a special potion) with milliseconds to spare.

Obviously this is massively unfair at times, but it does inject an added amount of tension and panic when you’re leaping and punching your way through stages.

Unfortunately constant design mis-steps threaten to make the game an entirely frustration filled affair.

Asterix and the Great Escape

One example is the underwater level that arrives early on. Even when you overlook the design inconsistency (in one of the previous stages touching water hurt you) it’s still got a sadistic streak a mile wide.

It not only has an irritating wibbly-wobbly filter in front of the screen, there are also foreground objects that actively hide dangers from you.

The main example is falling blocks, and the seaweed mostly conceals them from you – meaning you’ll have to tread very carefully.

But a conservative approach isn’t possible if you’re going to complete stages in time, as previously mentioned.

Asterix and the Great Escape

So here lies the game’s main problem, and if a correct balance between challenge and unfairness had been found this could have been a hidden gem.

As it stands the game only occasionally glimmers – some potion based abilities are genuinely interesting, such as ones that inflate you and help you build cloud platforms – but is ultimately dulled by repeatedly poor design choices.

It still looks good though, and it’s colourful cartoon graphics and comic book flourishes (see the ‘paf!’ bubble in the screenshot above) have clearly had a lot of work invested into them.

It’s just a shame you can’t say the same for the gameplay.

NBA Action ’95

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NBA Action ’95

To its credit, NBA Action ’95 was revolutionary. While EA was tinkering with a 3/4 view for their NBA series, Sega loaded NBA Action ’95 with then unheard of features like create-a-player, trades, injuries, and more. In 1995, it was the most feature-packed sports game ever made.


Unfortunately, all of that time spent developing those bonuses led to a hysterically funny basketball game. Situated in an illogical overhead view (where the players still appear as if viewed from the sides), every player was a force on the court. Chicago Bulls center Will Purdue could lead a fast break down the court every time, and the game’s total lack of defense meant he was an offensive powerhouse.


Lay-ups and dunks were missed more than jumpshots, and an absurdly high levels of foul calling meant you spent extensive time at the line (and made it even harder to play defense). Glitches (or a total lack of acceptable animation) results in players warping from the top of the key to the basket when dunking. Stepping out of bounds was only a problem when the referees decided it was.


NBA Action ’95 was so terrible, it contained a weird charm. There was (and still isn’t) anything remotely like its bizzare combination of simulation aspects and broken arcade gameplay. A level of complete unpredictability happens during every game, but that doesn’t mean its a classic, or even acceptable. On the bright side, Marv Albert’s now unintentionally funny, “Serves up a facial,” commentary may be the best aspect of the actual gameplay.

Shadow Dancer

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Shadow Dancer

Subtitled ‘The Secret of Shinobi,’ this is actually a do-over of the arcade game of the same name.

It’s not quite classic enough in my opinion to be classed a proper Shinobi successor, but it’s still a damn fine game in its own right.

shadow dancer

You play as a ninja, who can jump, throw shruikens and summon a fire attack. You can also strike foes with a blade if you get close enough. There’s also a white dog that follows you, but I don’t think it does anything of note.

You scroll to the right, basically shooting down foes with your shruikens, and avoiding their attacks/bullets. And it’s pretty damn important that you avoid their attacks, as one hit and it’s back to the start.

shadow dancer

This makes the game a lot more difficult than it would have been otherwise. Ducking usually allows you to avoid the bullets that come flying at you, but with no room for error, one mis-step can send you right back to the beginning of a stage.

Fortunately levels are quite short, and can be rattled through fairly quickly if you know what you’re doing. I believe you have to save a set amount of hostages held throughout the levels to progress, but they’re usually found along the path you’re going down anyway.

shadow dancer

There’s a decent range of ideas in the levels as well, such as one being ripped apart by an earthquake, and another allowing you to jump into both the fore and back ground.

The graphics are clear and detailed, and the animation is as fluid as you’d expect from a title with a Shinobi connections.

shadow dancer

Bosses are fairly simple, but are made a real challenge due to the ever present ‘one hit = death’ element.

It all adds up to a game that’s a challenge, but one you’ll end up relishing rather than rejecting. Although a genuine cart of the game will cost you a fair bit, it can be found in a few of those Blaze Mega Drive collections – which is nice.

Shaq Fu

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Shaq Fu

I just had to do this because this game is so awesome. So awesome it deserves a pick of the week. After seeing it for a total of three times at my flea market trip last Sunday, I decided to give it a shot and wow what an amazing game this is.

shaq fu - sega - genesis


For a side scroller the graphics are superb and the sound just outstanding, just try playing the game with the stereo plugged in and you will have one of the most amazing soundtracks in video game history! I’m not kidding! The gameplay is simple, you have Shaq doing the Shaqattack! doh! and much much more!

Once you pick this game up, you can’t put it down!


btw….this is all a sarcastic entry….this game is pure shit but since no one in the entire world will pick it as a game of anything, I decided to be a nice guy like usual and do it myself. Screw this game! UP THE A-HOLE!

Alien 3

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Irritatingly Alien 3 has many hallmarks of a top title – but I can’t help but feel some of the design choices have been made purely for masochists. ~Simon Reed

Alien 3

In yesterday’s Lucky Dime Caper entry I rambled on about how I preemptively expect most old school 2D platformer style games to be infuriatingly tough. Alien 3 is a prime example of exactly why I have those expectations. Irritatingly it has many hallmarks of a top title – but I can’t help but feel some of the design choices have been made purely for masochists. The first thing that strikes you as you’re thrown into the game is how clear the design of it all is. Rather than the overly dark and grimy recesses of the film, there’s a pleasing crispness to the game.

Alien 3 - Sega Genesis

You play as Ripley, with your first mission to save a set amount of fellow humanoids who have been trapped by the aliens. To complicate matters you have to escape using a specific door, as well as reach it before the clock at the top of the screen reaches zero. You’re also never told that this is what you need to do, but fortunately it’s a fairly straightforward mission. Still, some instructions would have been nice.

Alien 3 - Sega Genesis

One other notable feature is your large arsenal you have at your disposal. A missile launcher and a machine gun are two of the finest from the selection available to you. These weapons aren’t enough to stop the aliens regularly handing you your ass on a plate though. Instead of going down the slow, tension addled route the game throws aliens at you like they’re going out of fashion. They leap at you so quickly that they can be nigh on impossible to avoid completely. Worst of all Ripley takes far too long to get up once hit – not a good thing when you’re up against the clock.

Alien 3 - Sega Genesis

It doesn’t help that your control of Ripley can feel a little stiff. You feel slower and far more useless than the aliens – this concept works well in the films, but in a game it’s a potent recipe for frustration. The game may be a good looking and reasonably varied in its design – but the difficulty kills it.

Altered Beast


Format- Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Fighting platformer

Altered Beast

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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



Okay, there is a chance you played it – but I would guess it’s unlikely.  This gem of a game came out for the Sega Genesis (and was called Langrisser overseas).  I am not sure what inspired me to pick it up at the time.  I had heard nothing about this game in any of the magazines I read, none of my friends had played it, but something about it caught my eye when I was mulling what game to purchase next.


But something about the back of that box must have sparked my interest, because I took the game home, put it and and began to play.  The define what Warsong is, I would say it was a fantasy strategy/RPG hybrid – maybe the first I had ever played quite like it.

I immediately loved the game’s art style.  The graphics had a colorful, anime feel to them when showing character portraits.  The actual battles that took place were actually pretty active as soldiers kill each other off.  The backdrops and map designs were actually pretty well detailed also.


The sound and music get the job done.  There was nothing terribly memorable about it, but this was a game that was more about the tactics.  It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the music, but I don’t recall it ever particularly bothering me either.

So how did the game play?  Well, there were two aspects to it.  There are the leader characters, and they are the most important.  Hints of Fire Emblem here, as when a leader dies, he or she is gone for good.  I recall saving often to prevent that from happening.  Shades of Dragonforce follow, as each of these main characters had soldiers units they could control.  Each character has a range or aura of influence and if their soldier units fight within that range, they got bonuses to their stats.  Each leader can hire different kinds of soldiers at the start of each level, and there is a sort of rock/paper/scissors mechanic to which soldier units perform best against one another.


There are other factors as well, such as terrain and if your leader characters have any gear equipped (at the start of each level, a scenario is given to you and you have a chance to spend your hard earned gold on different kinds and quantities of soldiers, and that is also when you can choose to put a piece of equipment on a leader character).  I recall getting so good at the game that I could go through the first couple of levels or so without buying any soldier units, to conserve money for when I would need it more in subsequent levels.


When a leader character dies (the enemy units are made up of these as well), their support soldiers will perish as well.  Some levels also have assorted neutral characters who will go after anyone who gets to o close.  Some missions are designed for certain types of soldiers as well – for example one of your heroes can hire mermen and they are almost essential for water combat – but useless in levels without water to cross.

The game is made up of twenty levels, which may not sound like much, but each stage can take quite some time to get through.  The menu and controls are very simple to navigate and while it is easy to learn – there is are so many different tactics and unit strategies to apply that there is perfectly valid reason to come back and play again once you beat the game.

The story itself is nothing new – good guys are put on the run for attacking bad guys.  Good guys regroup after getting smacked around a bit in the first level, and rally a force to defeat not only the known bad guys, but the evil controlling them behind the scenes.  It is all really well presented though, with story pieces between levels and dialog scenes from characters on maps.  While you have no options to change the storyline itself, it was actually one that I found fairly interesting.

The RPG elements come in the form of gold, equipment, experience and levels.  In fact, this game was the inspiration to a leveling system I implimented on my MUD over a decade ago that I called a Tier system.  Your characters start off a specific class, level up to a point, and then choose one of two.  Level up some more, and you can again choose one more new class from a new set of branching options.  Some characters were so similar that their later tiers became the same thing, like Magic Knight, but there were unique ones too.  For example your lead character Garrett can become a King class, and no one else can.  Each tier brings new skills and powerful stat boosts and adds a good deal of replay value to the mix.


And replay I did – I can recall beating this game at least three times – maybe more.  And it was a hit among my friends who initially asked: Warsong?  What’s that?

But these were the same friends I had gotten hooked on strategy games on the NES years before too (Nobunaga’s Ambition, Bandit Kings of Ancient China and Romance of the Three Kingdoms to name a few) – so they gave it a shot and not a single one disliked it.  Most of them borrowed it long enough to beat the game once if not twice (and one other friend borrowed my copy for a day and a half.  I was a bit surprised when he handed it back to me and said I could have it back.  I asked if he had not liked it – turned out he simply went out and bought his own copy afterward).


To this day, this ranks as one of my favorite all-time video games, and influenced my opinion on what a strategy game could be.  It also had clear effects on my own game design years later for my MUD, Kingdoms of the Lost.  I played it again recently and feel that it holds up pretty well today still.  If I bring it up in conversation with most gamers though, none seem to have ever heard of, let alone played this under-appreciated classic.

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If you are interested in how it plays?  Here is a quick video down below that really shows off a lot of the game as you start off in a scenario where you and your troops are under heavy attack right off of the bat.

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions

Killzone was supposed to “kill” Halo. Despite Sony playing avoidance with regards to sparkly magazine hype, covers began to explicitly plant Killzone as Sony’s hyper contender against an unexpected Xbox juggernaut starring armor-clad Master Chief. Killzone, as many would realize upon its PlayStation 2 release with a system-taxing engine, was not even set to punch Halo, let alone kill it.

Oddly, we didn’t learn from history. As Street Fighter II perched up arcades and sanctioned head-to-head competition with Midway’s ferocious Mortal Kombat, it was Sega who would potentially “kill” Street Fighter II.

Eternal Champions was their weapon.

Eternal Champions

Video game magazines, never one to shift shelf space to blitz sensationalist, exclamation point-filled text (GamePro’s embarrassing run of multi-issue Bubsy exclusives never matched), primed Genesis owners who were long deprived of Capcom’s Street Fighter IIEternal Champions would tilt the console war, or rather, we were told it would. EGM’s December, 1993 issue came complete with dual covers, declaring the title, “Truly amazing!” before a four person review team scored it 8,7, 5, and 5 in the next monthly installment. EGM would reset the cycle a few months later, declaring dinosaur rumbler Primal Rage better than Mortal Kombat 2.

Eternal Champions

In many ways, Sega and Sony both charted analogous pathways: Each first party were stout believers they had something. Sony continues to stress Killzone as a tentpole PlayStation franchise, and its improvements with each subsequent entry show growth amidst dominating first-person competition.

Sega drifted Eternal Champions from its Genesis origins onto a glossy Sega CD update, complete with grisly fatalities sprawled onto the disc with eerily smooth animation. Gangster era enforcer Larcen would be shrunk to clumsily occupy space on Sega’s handheld, the Game Gear, via Chicago Syndicate. A final gasp, an unplayable multi-verse in X-Perts, signaled a franchise collapsing in on itself. Sega’s dreams of elaborate spin-offs and knock-out financial competition with Capcom and Midway (and indirectly Nintendo) would die there.

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions would plunder its time faring gimmick from 1992′s Time Killers, a sickly exploitative brawler that pitted past & future in blood splattering conflict, enough to make Mortal Kombat whimper. Sega’s headstrong fighter would eschew colorful, explicit ferociousness, partly due to subdued hardware capabilities. Locked to 64 colors (the Sega CD port finding itself a rare 256-color mode user), Eternal Champions ran with enlarged sprites to make Super Nintendo Street Fighter characters appear trifling in comparison, yet meek with dried up purples and browns. With system exclusivity allowing for peak fidelity, Champions would still fall prey to lackluster splash in an era where saturation was an attention hook.

Eternal Champions

Sega tried, creating a strategic fighting landscape with limitations on spammy projectiles, and in turn, forced spacing. Sega instead locked themselves out, explicit in their trendiness as they grabbed for something other than Street Fighter’s blast of uppercuts and fireballs. Unfortunately, without familiarity, Champions was instantaneously off-putting and uncomfortable (literally when conjoined with Sega’s Activator peripheral), while publicized violence – especially on Sega CD – was something executed on random timing or luck.

Eternal Champions

For its inarguable clumsiness, Champions is locked to Sega hardware, exhibiting design ideals which aimed older in order to pick away at an aging Nintendo audience, game playing landscapes maturing as they entered ’90s. Nintendo would learn their lesson. Fixating on a grungy campaign of illicit fonts, technological gains, and wonky TV ads, Nintendo’s spirited attitude would splice itself into Sega’s methodology.Champions, while a lesser influence in that drastic marketing modification than censored Mortal Kombatports, remains a historical relic. Released as the two console companies became embroiled in heated competitiveness, Nintendo was still playing nice as Sega reached for a teenage jugular.

Amazingly, it’s still happening. Microsoft’s glowing pink cavalcade of Covenant weaponry in Halo trots out playfulness against Sony’s bleakly visual saga of inter-species warfare in Killzone. Indirectly, the war begun by Eternal Champions still plays out, only with different combatants.

Battle Mania

Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
So we are back with another entry of the week! This time around we have the awesome game Battle Mania for the Sega Genesis. This is an awesome shoot ’em up game for the classic console. It’s totally recommended! And here is why!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The music and sound effects are spot on! You will definitely feel upbeat and ready for battle with the music score of this gem of a game. Totally overjoyed with power!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
 The game looks wonderful and there is always a lot of action going through each of the stages. The stages also have awesome backgrounds and the enemies are very detailed. You definitely will get a joy from looking at this game.
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The gameplay is genius! You can guide your two gals through the stages and detach them as you go in order to plan an strategy for victory! You’re going to need all your cunning to get through the stages but it’ll be an enjoyable experience overall. If you are a fan of shoot ’em ups and cute girls, then check this baby out!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
The game is always a fun journey from beginning to end so you’ll definitely find it enjoyable and challenging. Why not try to beat the game without dying once? That will make your entire afternoon a blast!
Battle Mania - Sega Genesis
To conclude, the game is just awesome! With great graphics, awesome gameplay, and a high rate of replay value Battle Mania will be one of your favorite Genesis games ever! The game is a little pricey but I’m sure you can find other alternatives or just use a damn emulator!

Micro Machines

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Micro Machines (1991)
By: Code Masters Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Master System, Game Gear, SNES, NES, Game Boy, CDi, PC, Amiga

People will always have differing opinions of things. Whether it’s games, films, music or anything else you can think of; there will always be at least one person that worships something and another who hates it with just as much passion. However, generally speaking, good things are regarded as good by the majority and likewise bad things remain bad. This is as true of video games as anything else but there’s bound to be a few people that dislike well-regarded games and that includes me – it was the whole reason I created the ‘Overrated!’ feature here at Red Parsley of course. I’ve only covered four games so far though, which suggests it isn’t something that happens too often, but if there was one game I always had at the back of my mind to add to the feature, it would be this one. I don’t think there’s any game so universally lauded that I dislike, but I caught a lot of flak for its omission from my recent Top Five so I figured it was as good a time as any to address the issue!

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Micro Machines themselves – the little toys – are pretty cool. I’ve even collected a few such as the range they released based on the awesome Babylon 5, and when the game was released it was met with universal acclaim from reviewers and players alike. I’ve always been keen on games of this type so I sought it out with the utmost haste. Being equally keen on my splendid MegaDrive, it was this version I plumped for and first impressions of the game were… superb! The presentation is outstanding with nice cartoony intro and options screens which give you the choice between single or multi-player games. The latter offers the choice of ‘Single Race’ or ‘Tournament’ for two players while the former allows you to choose between ‘Head to Head’ or ‘Challenge’ games, and it is the first of these that I prefer by some way which is basically the two-player mode but against a CPU-controlled opponent.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Before starting you first need to choose your own character as well as your opponent’s from a selection of eleven cartoony human oafs whose skill level supposedly increases gradually from one to the next. You’ll then race each other in your various miniature vehicles over a series of courses based on household locales. The first, for example, sees you racing powerboats around a bubbly bath tub! Other vehicles include Sports Cars, Formula One Cars, Tanks, Turbo Wheels (buggies), Warriors (hot rods), 4×4’s, and Choppers, and they are raced around the house on things like desk tops, breakfast tables, snooker tables, and even around the workshop and garden. All race locations feature items and obstacles appropriate to their setting which most of the time make themselves unwelcome. In the two-player Single Race mode you can choose a vehicle which is then raced over its ‘home’ course, but in all other play modes the courses are arranged in order and you have to win one to see the next.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Unfortunately, this is where the problems start, at least as far as I’m concerned. The single player Challenge mode features a series of twenty four races which includes several courses based on each house location with corresponding vehicle type used. Races are against three CPU vehicles with very simple rules – complete the required number of laps and finish in the highest position possible. If you finish in the top two, you can move on to the next race. If not, you’ll lose a life. All the other play modes feature one-on-one races, whether that’s human vs the computer or another human. On the left side of the screen are eight coloured circles – four red, four blue. The object is to turn all the circles your own colour which is done by getting far enough ahead of your rival that they drop off the screen. Each time you manage this, a circle is filled in your favour. This can make races very short or immense endurance contests depending on the skill and luck of the participants, with the latter playing a notably more prominent role than the former in my experience.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, in all head-to-head play modes, by their very nature you’re frequently racing high up the screen with little warning or view of upcoming corners and obstacles. Secondly, the design of the courses, while original and very appealing, also leaves masses of obstacles all over the place which not only slow you down if you hit them, but are also very easy to get stuck behind. On top of that, many of the courses take place on a table or something similar which means slipping over the edge and crashing to your doom is also commonplace. I can’t really say the courses gradually increase in complexity and difficulty as you might expect, either – the course that makes me most angry is only the third, and the one after it is a piece of cake! As annoying as all this stuff can be, it’s all manageable in slower vehicles like the 4×4’s or Tanks, but when you have to zoom around courses in fast, skiddy vehicles like the Sports or Formula One cars, mistakes come often which soon proves immensely frustrating.

Micro Machines - sega genesis

It might seem like a game that’s hard to get pissed at judging by the screenshots though. As mentioned, the presentation is fantastic, and the audio is great too, with plenty of catchy tunes and various noises. Graphically, there are no flashy special effects or anything here and it’s easy to see why the game looks more or less the same across a variety of systems, but it’s still very pleasing on the eyes nonetheless. It’s certainly a mighty colourful game and the appropriately tiny vehicles all look nice enough as they career through the smoothly-scrolling courses, but the varied backgrounds and the great attention to detail is where the work has really been done. Most of them show great creativity and are filled with a conveniently-arranged mess befitting their setting. For example, the breakfast table course is marked out by Cheerios (or something similar) and has various foodstuffs dotted around like waffles and fruit. On-course obstructions are caused by spillages such as baked beans, and there’s even a cereal-box jump!

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Most of the other courses are just as detailed and imaginative, and discovering their various sights and features is highly enjoyable the first few times you race them. However, as amusing and comedic as the game may be, the object is still surely to make progress and win races while having fun, not instead of? Success comes from driving round the more difficult courses time and time again until you can do so blindfolded; until you can do so without making even the tiniest mistake. Doing so is immensely tense/exciting during the race and immensely satisfying afterwards, but this is likely to happen far less than the alternative which I at least found incredibly frustrating and rage-inducing: winning, winning, doing well, BANG! … stuck behind trackside object, near-instant last place… racing, racing, doing well again, regain the lead, skid a teeny bit too far on a corner, fall off the table, near-instant last place, racing, cross the finish line in last place, lost a life… GrrrrrRRRRRR!!!!

Micro Machines - sega genesis

Okay, I know I’m probably going to take a right kicking from the legions of Micro Machines fans who loved and still love this game and its sequels; I know its faults that annoy me so are mainly limited to certain courses on which the faster vehicles are used, and even then can be found in many other overhead racers (though not nearly so prominently, I submit), but I can scarcely recall any gaming experience that makes me as angry as this one is capable of doing – something which is much more pronounced in the Challenge mode in which you have to manage to go without making a mistake for much longer than the short bursts of skill/luck required in the other modes. Control of the vehicles is flawless though, admittedly, and with two players, both of you are as disadvantaged as each other I suppose (unless one has had a lot more practise!) but winning is still often more down to luck than skill.

Micro Machines - sega genesis
Based on my prior experiences with this game I was preparing to give is cursory play to refresh my mind, then duly unleash the diatribe it deserves and give it a very low score, but I suppose I have to begrudgingly admit that I enjoyed Micro Machines much more this time. It’s still reallyannoying though, and frequently so – some times I’ll play it and do extremely well, even having enormous fun in the process, then catch myself thinking “this game is great, I was wrong, I’ll give a glowing review!”, but then my next session with it makes me angrier than ten Incredible Hulks and I end up smashing stuff up. The ideas behind the game are amazingly great and there’s many laughs to be had here, but in the end, this is a great example of a game that can be effing awesome and incredibly annoying, often within seconds of each other! Does that make it terrible game? No, I guess not, but it’s not a great one either in my opinion, sorry.


RKS Score: 6/10


The Pagemaster

The Pagemaster

Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Platformer

Well, this a load of cack. The film this is based on was loved by me as a child (even though now I can see nowadays it’s no masterpiece), but this interactive adaptation is just tripe of the highest order.

Perhaps in its day it was a given a bit more leeway, but now it can only really be enjoyed by those suffering with masochistic tendencies.

First off, controlling virtual Macaulay Culkin is all wrong – it feels as if he’s greased his shoes with the way he slides uncontrollably all over the place.

The Pagemaster

This lack of solidity extends to the gameplay as well. The rules of the game aren’t explained at all, leaving with you guessing to progress.

Enemies are the main frustration. Occasionally they kill you instantly, but if you approach it in another way you can kill it, but it’s all guesswork. You attack by collecting items (also not detailed in-game), but you can also do some kind of punch if you run and jump.

It’s all so frustratingly oblique – did the developers expect kids (or me) to read the instructions? It just unfairly increases the level of difficulty, which is fairly high anyway.

The Pagemaster

Then there are characters which might be enemies, but you’re not sure, so you avoid them. For example, some books can be found just sitting around (see pic), but don’t seem to serve any purpose even if you risk getting near them. Why are they there?

Graphically its okay, but it’s hard to care about such things when the game is constantly spewing frustrating situation after frustrating situation into your face.

Perhaps it gets better after a while, but that’s no excuse for the churning tedium they inflict upon you in the game’s opening. If they can’t be bothered to provide a well balanced game, I definitely can’t be bothered to play it.

So don’t buy this. It probably won’t burn as well as a book, but i’d advise you throw it on a fire regardless.

Toy Story


Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D platformer

This is an interesting one, in a few ways you might not expect.

First off, the game followed several months after the film, which was, as everyone knows, a huge success.


Perhaps the delay was to to make the game better – after all, no-one knew if the film was going to be a hit, and this could have therefore made the developer re-think producing a cash-in rather than a product that was a worthy accompaniment to the film (not that is something that happens often).

Although this is not a crushingly soulless exercise in licensed based tedium, the game is still nowhere near the classic the film is.


The first thing that you notice is that the game is by Travellers Tales, now of Lego-based fame. Toy Story shares hardly any of the traits of its present series of titles however.

Plumping for pre-rendered style graphics, the game doesn’t appeal that much in the cold light of 2011. It doesn’t help that the general feel of the game isn’t quite solid or tactile enough, making you not feel completely comfortable with the controls.


You play as Woody, with the opening stages offering up a pleasing amount of variation. There’s a typical side scrolling level, a open rescue mission and a racing section in the first three stages alone.

I managed to get to the nightmare based boss level, and I have stepped no further. I imagine the game continues in the same vein as its opening though, as long as it follows the plot of the film.


You can certainly tell it’s from a talented developer, but the game is still no classic and looks fairly dated by today’s standards. If you’re an Toy Story obsessive though, this is worth hunting down.

Oh and one last thing – the guy who is supposed to be impersonating Tim Allen did a terrible job – he sounds nothing like him. The Tom Hanks voice though, is passable.

Cool Spot


Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D platformer

You probably know that Cool Spot was 7 up’s mascot during the 80’s and 90’s, but only really in the US. Therefore the UK got Spot surfing on a generic non-branded bottle in the games opening screen rather than one with a 7up label…but this is all rather beside the point. What’s important is how the game itself holds up.

Personally, I found this a tough game to like. Spot himself is a well animated character, but to the point where his slow ‘i’m so cool’ walk makes the game more annoying rather than fun. The same can be said for the game overall.


Plus, the opening level alone is tough enough to make you spit your lemonade out in sheer frustration. Set on a beach (see picture above), the stage is swarming with crabs that for reasons unknown want Spot dead. Difficult to simply jump over (you usually just end up landing on another one and hurting yourself), to make decent progress you have to slowly work your way to the right and picking off the crustacean cronies one by one with your soda spray attack. This is not fun.


The next level on a port is teeming with even more foes, and it’s here where I usually struggle to progress any further. I’m not helped by the fact I find Spot a fairly annoying character. He’s not as detestable as say, Gex, but I find his laid back attitude makes him look more a tool than actually seem cool.

Even the rather good music can’t save this game from being merely a forgotten relic of the over-populated 16-bit platformer crowd. Cool Spot might be worth a punt at a low price to see one of the better games based on a drink, but it’s in a very small playing field in that respect – and there are certainly a lot better platformers out there.

Contra: Hard Corps



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.

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……

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:

Whenever you shoot something, which is constantly, your enemy explodes in a beautiful shower of fireballs. The problem……’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)

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.


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

Dragon’s Fury

Dragon’s Fury (a.k.a. Devil Crash MD) (1992)

By: TechnoSoft Genre: Pinball Players: 1-2 (alternate) Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 22,593,300
Also Available For: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16
Download For: PlayStation Network

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

For two years, Devil’s Crush had been thrilling Japanese (and to a lesser extent, American) PC Engine gamers before, unlike its prequel, it finally received a conversion, and it was MegaDrive owners who were the lucky ones to receive it. Handled by Technosoft (famous for the Thunder Force series), it’s a more or less a straight conversion of the Engine game (aside from the unnecessary name change), but there are a few noteworthy differences. Aside from a few small, almost unnoticeable changes, the main table in this version looks pretty much the same as it did on the Engine – everything’s in the same place and everything does the same thing, though the ball feels a little weightier and doesn’t seem to bounce around quite so much.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

As far as I can determine, all the bonuses and scoring techniques also remain unchanged, too. The graphics are slightly different, though. While good in both versions, this version appears less colourful and slightly fuzzier and less defined than the Engine version, and the surface of the table is much brighter here, which makes the colours at least appear to be less contrasted. I actually prefer the graphics of the Engine version by quite some margin but that’s just me. Check out the shots in both reviews and make up you own mind as to which version you think looks better. The music has changed very little during the conversion process, though the sound effects are slightly different (and better) here. Since they are one of this game’s strongest points on the Engine they certainly increase the enjoyment of playing this version, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

One significant difference between the two versions is the bonus tables. There are still six of them here but only two of the ones from the Engine version have survived the transition; the other four are all new. I’m not sure that they’re better but they are probably easier (except for number six which is well ‘ard). Also, this version has an ending! If you can defeat all six bonus tables, you’ll progress to a final table featuring ‘King Dragon’ (or King Demon, depending on which territory you’re in). Defeat him and you’ve completed the game! If you’re like me though, you’ll purposely avoid reaching him in order to achieve the highest score possible.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

Which reminds me of perhaps the biggest difference between the Engine and MegaDrive versions of this great game – the difficulty. This was the version I first played, and it’s the version I’ve spent by far the most time playing, and I’d like to think I’ve become pretty good at it, achieving scores in the nine-figure region fairly easily. This, however, proves a lot more difficult when playing the Engine version. For example, the top section of the table is where high scores can be quickly amassed, and it’s A LOT easier to get there, AND stay there for prolonged periods on this MD version. It’s not that the tables on the respective versions have been designed differently though, nor that this game has been badly converted by TechnoSoft. The ball physics is outstanding on both versions, but, as mentioned briefly earlier, they are slightly different here, which results in a couple of tricks I learnt when playing this version, didn’t work when I started playing the Engine game.

Dragons Fury - Devils Crush MD - Gameplay Screenshot

So there you have it. Both versions are essentially the same. The Engine version is more challenging and looks prettier (in my opinion), this MegaDrive version is easier and louder. Both are amazingly playable, both are as addictive as hell, but this version is the one where I cut my teeth, so to speak, so I’ll always love playing it.


RKS Score: 9/10

Home Alone


My Home Alone knowledge goes as far as being forced to watch the first movie because of a girl…’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.


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.

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.”

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.

The Lost Vikings

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Lost Vikings, The (1992)
By: Silicon & Synapse / Interplay  Genre: Platform / Puzzle  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: SNES, GameBoy Advance, Amiga, CD32, PC

Now that I think about it, the sub-genre of platform/puzzle games, on which I am rather keen, is a little obscure as genres go, but the combination of two older and exceedingly popular types of game has proved to be a fantastic partnership. Examples have taken many weird and wonderful forms over the years and one of the most interesting (though not necessarily best) is of the sort that includes multiple characters with differing abilities. This was of course made popular by the great Lemmings. Dozens of similar games soon appeared and most were average at best, but The Lost Vikings is a pretty rare example of another game taking that premise, putting a different slant on it, and actually succeeding.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Starring as the multiple characters in this game are the Vikings of the title who are indeed lost. Actually, ‘captives’ might be a more appropriate word as our three Nordic friends have apparently been abducted by the curiously-named Tomator, emperor of the alien Croutonian Empire, who has been collecting unique and interesting specimens for his intergalactic zoo. They obviously weren’t confined very effectively though as they immediately set out to escape their shackles. To do this you must guide them to the exit on each of the 41 levels (or 37 in the other versions) which are set over various themed worlds (through time, of course!). The first is apparently set within the Croutonian spaceship but others include an Egyptian one (obviously), Pre-Historic, and even toy/food-related ones (not sure what time-period it’s supposed to be though!).

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Before I get carried away though, I’ve just realised how rude I’ve been by failing to introduce the stars of the show – the Vikings themselves! So, say hello to Erik the Swift, Baleog the Fierce, and Olaf the Stout! As you may have guessed, they each have unique abilities so you must use them all as a team to successfully finish each level. Erik can run and jump around the platforms and can also smash down certain walls by headbutting them, Baleog is equipped with a sword and bow (with infinite arrows) with which to battle the various enemies, and Olaf has a large shield which protects him (and indeed the others if they’re behind him) from enemies and hazards, and he can also raise it above his head and glide down from high places.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

To complete a level you must succeed in guiding all three Vikings to its exit. On the first level this takes about one minute but as you go through the game the levels get larger and more complicated as you might expect. They are multi-tiered and most feature ladders, colour-coded keys/locks, switches, and various monstrous and not-so-monstrous enemies. As you progress you’ll encounter more and more obstacles and features such as spring-pads, moving platforms, and even a device that inflates our heroes allowing them to float! The enemies take many forms usually related to the environment you’re in. The pre-historic world, for example, features vicious cavemen, small dragons, and… umm… snails. There’s also numerous guns and other projectile-firing devices around, and a touch from any of these things, or indeed falling too far, will cost the unfortunate Viking one of his three health points.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

Contact with some of the hazards found in the levels, such as spikes or electric forcefields, can cause instant death too, so careful planning is required for the most part, rather than charging around recklessly. Fortunately, hit points are replenished each stage and there are also a few items that can help you such as various foods to replenish your energy and smart bombs to clear the screen of enemies. These items can be transferred from one Viking to another too, depending on who’s most in need, which further emphasises the teamwork aspect of the game which is so prevalent. In fact, in some versions of the game (including this one) it’s possible for you and a friend to control more than one Viking at once.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
As I mentioned earlier, after the success of Lemmings there was a good few games released that tried their own take on the ‘multiple characters with differing abilities’ formula, but in most cases it either seemed unnecessarily tacked-on or that the developers put too much emphasis on it, forgetting to create decent stages for them to explore in the process! Luckily, Silicon & Synapse (who would later become Blizzard Entertainment of Warcraft fame) got the balance just right with this amusing adventure. The levels are well designed for the most part and before each one there’s some humorous banter between the three Vikings (via speech bubbles). They all have unique abilities but they are simple too, and all vital for successful progress through the game’s ever-tougher levels.

The Lost Vikings - Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot
Aesthetically, The Lost Vikings is pretty average. It doesn’t really need flashy graphics and, whilst there is a lot of colour and some nice backgrounds and foregrounds, it’s certainly not ground-breaking either. It’s the same with the sound – effects are kept to a minimum and the music suits the game well enough but isn’t particularly memorable. As with all games of this type though, it’s other aspects of the game’s design that counts, such as level and character design. Happily, near enough every aspect of the gameplay is spot-on. The Vikings themselves are appealing (helped by their entertaining chatter) and are easy to control, and the difficulty curve is reasonably well-balanced too. The only problem is that there’s something of a ‘trial and error’ aspect to some sections of the game, and if you make a mistake and kill a Viking it’s all the way back to the start of the level, and they can get pretty big and complicated later on! Still, each level has a password and it is addictive, with the unique abilities of each Viking making for an interesting and fairly originally-designed game that’s well worth a look.


Retro King Simon is a 36 year old guy from England, and likes lots of stuff, including retro videogames, movies, and anime. You can check out his blog here – Red Parsley.

RKS Score: 8/10

Road Rash 3

Roadrash 3- Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot

This is definitely one of the funnest games on the Genesis. How can you say no to beating up the competition? It’s just that fun and you have to do it while you are driving like a maniac against traffic at some points. Road Rash 3 showed us that motorcycle type games can really be fun unlike that other title that came out for the SNES hmmm can’t quite get the name of it but all I remember is that your driver flew out like a plastic toy which was fun at first but annoying later on.

Roadrash 3- Sega Genesis - Gameplay Screenshot


Road Rash 3 is very simple. You just start the race and try to make it to the finish line by beating up the competition. It can get a little tough because you might focus on one of the drivers you want to beat up and forget to look at the road. It’s a multitasking game! Stay sharp and keep your balls in your place, you’ll do fine. The previous games of the series are really good and fun as well, I do suggest to play this one first because in my opinion, it’s the most complete one but I could be wrong, it’s all about personal taste.



So that should do it, not much to say and I don’t really want to spoil peoples fun so pick this one up and why not, pick the other ones up as well. A nice motorcycle beat em up is waiting for you.

Famicomfreak is a classic gaming writer and collector you can view his main blog here – Retro Gaming Life

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?

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!


Stormlord - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Stormlord (1990)
By: Hewson Consultants / RazorSoft  Genre: Arcade Adventure  Players: 1  Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis  First Day Score: 18,050
Also Available For: Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, PC, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Symbian Mobile OS 


Censorship is a funny thing. Whether it’s games or movies, it seems that it’s fine to feature regular, gratuitous, and often unnecessary violence and gore, but as soon as there’s some nudity? Well that’s just plain evil. Only someone truly sick would want anything to do with that kind of thing. Even older games with limited visual prowess weren’t safe. Indeed, for all its positive qualities, and there are a good few, Stormlord is still most well-known for the teeny bit of nudity it featured. Arriving first on the various home micros of the day courtesy of celebrated British coder, Raffaele Cecco, the game soon found its way to the MegaDrive too, but even with Sega’s liberal censorship policies it was here that it met with the most controversy yet.

Stormlord - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot
The game, you see, is a side-viewed arcade adventure set in an enchanted world known by the less enchanted name of ‘The Realm’. It is here that the evil Queen Badh has trapped innocent fairies in spell-bubbles and it’s up to you, as ancient warrior, Stormlord, to free them. The aforementioned controversy? The fairies were naked. That’s it! The fact that they’re really small and you couldn’t even see their bits and pieces didn’t stop Sega demanding that RazorSoft cover them up. Okay, there is also an occasional larger woman with a nipple peeking out but she’s just part of the scenery and doesn’t appear often. Stormlord is a pretty damn tough game though so I guess the less distractions the better!

Stormlord - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot
The action is spread over ten gruelling levels and you have a set number of fairies to rescue on each (within a time limit) which are of course dotted around in mostly inconvenient places, often surrounded by traps, enemies, or both! Luckily Mr. Stormlord can contend with both. He is able to fire magic stars or, if you hold down the fire button for a second or so, a more powerful sword. Either of these will take care of most monsters easily enough which include wizards, dragons, goblins, caterpillars, bees, skeletons, and flying fiery things. Unfortunately the traps cannot be shot. These generally consist of plants of both man-eating and pod-spitting varieties, pits of fire, rain-clouds of death, fire-breathing dragon heads and more besides.

Stormlord - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot
The levels, as well as featuring all this nastiness, are also home to a number of more helpful items. Most of these are found close to a specific obstacle you’ll need them to pass, such as a keys and high-jump boots, to honey (attracts bees) and umbrellas (protect from evil rain). The only problem here is that you can only carry one item at once. Something else that helps you get around the different sections of each level is a friendly eagle. If you stand on the relevant stone pad, he will swoop down and carry you (by your head – ouch!) and drop you off elsewhere. You’ll have to be careful when you use these though as they are often one-way trips, and that’s the biggest problem with Stormlord. Progress through the levels involves a lot of trial and error and if you make the wrong move, you’ll sometimes have to start all over again. Grrr!

Stormlord - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

It’s also necessary to retrace your steps quite a bit here, which is part and parcel of arcade adventures really, but given this game’s difficulty and the fact that the enemies respawn, this doesn’t assist progress in the game much. Indeed, I had this game for my MegaDrive for many years and I could never get any further than the third level! That said, I did enjoy the game for the most part and its presentation is superb throughout. The soundtrack is fairly atmospheric and the effects are great (including an amusing wolf-whistle when you touch the woman-shaped scenery). The graphics meanwhile are well-defined and really nice while they last too, but there’s not a huge amount of variety. While the level layouts do of course change substantially, getting increasingly harder and more complicated as you might expect, there’s just two different sets of scenery graphics for example – the enchanted forest and the fiery castle you can see in the screenshots.

Stormlord - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot
All of the sprites are very nicely drawn too (especially the sexy fairies – hee hee!) but feature very little in the way of animation, even Stormlord himself. His posture doesn’t change when jumping or doing anything and he moves rather stiffly, even when he dies! If he suffers a glancing blow he’ll just growl and carry on with the task at hand, but direct contact with any enemy or trap results in him crumbling to a pile of bones on the floor. Fortunately he controls nicely enough though, the game is hard enough without those kinds of problems! It’s a real shame Stormlord is so tough too. It looks nice, has some good features, and I like its fantasy setting, it’s just too difficult. Like me, you’ll probably persevere for a while but when you’re playing the same sections over and over again and still not even halfway through the game, you’ll probably just give up.


RKS Score: 6/10

Atomic Runner

Atomic Runner - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Atomic Runner a.k.a Chelnov (1992)
By: Data East Genre: Run ‘n’ Gun Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: ???,???
Also Available For: Arcade, X68000
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Having recently looked at an ‘on foot’ vertical scrolling shmup in Elemental Master, this seems like a good opportunity to look at a horizontally scrolling game of the same type, and it’s a game that got off to a some- what dubious start. Originally released as an arcade game titled Chelnov in 1988, it seemed to take its inspiration from the Chernobyl nuclear incident! After surviving a catastrophic explosion at a nuclear power plant, Chelnov, a coal-miner, finds himself highly irradiated and the recipient of some new abilities. Seeking to harness his new abilities for their own questionable ends, an evil organisation attempts to capture him. In order to evade their clutches, Chelnov must fight, using his abilities to defeat the organisation. Needless to say, this story didn’t really go down too well, particularly in light of the game featuring Soviet iconography too!

Atomic Runner - Gameplay Screenshot 2

After the furore of its Japanese arcade release, the game saw quite a few changes upon its MegaDrive release four years later. Now known by its original subtitle of Atomic Runner, the story was changed to a more formulaic alien invasion-type scenario which saw Earth’s major cities attacked and their residents mercilessly slaughter- ed. Hiding in an underground laboratory, Chelnov’s dying father explains that the aliens have been on Earth before and designed an ‘Atomic Suit’ for the Pharaoh’s. Using the design-schematics found in an ancient pyramid, he was able to build a suit which provides Chelnov with super- human strength, agility, and apparently the ability to throw various weapons out of his hands! Using these handy features he must do his best to rid the world of alien scum!

Atomic Runner - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Anyway, now that all that multi- story shenanigans is out of the way, onto the game! Whilst more of a run ‘n’ gunner than an out-and-out shoot ’em up, the focus of Atomic Runner is still very much on shooting, and unlike most run ‘n’ gunners, it uses forced-scrolling more akin to a traditional shmup. However, the seven levels do feature various platforms around which Chelnov can jump, and some parts even feature (admittedly limited) multiple routes. There are twenty different kinds of standard enemies populating the levels, including both mid-level and end-level bosses, and they must all be either avoided or eliminated in one of two ways – either by using Chelnov’s energy weapons or by jumping on their heads, Mario-style, believe it or not!

Atomic Runner - Gameplay Screenshot 4

It is however easier, not to mention far more entertaining, to blast the crap out of them with energy weapons, and there are six kinds: Laser (which you start the game with), Boomerang, Light Ring, Spiked Balls, Morning Star, and Homing Missiles. Each of them has differing rates of fire, range, and power, and you can only have one of them at a time. Each is more suited to certain parts of certain levels but they appear frequently so you can chop and change between then as often as you like. Each weapon can also be powered up, and in three different ways, by collecting ‘UP’ icons. These come in three colours – yellow increases shooting range and bullet speed, red increases bullet size and destructive power, and blue increases bullet count and rapid-fire ability. If you repeatedly die on the same part of a level, a super-power-up appears which increases all three of these attributes fully, in one go. Other power-ups include one which increases Chelnov’s jumping height, and two for bonus points – one for two thousand, and one for five thousand.

Atomic Runner - Gameplay Screenshot 5

These power-ups are usually found being carried by the flying skull/spider things, who drop them when shot, and the scenery features flaming torches which also release them. When Chelnov loses a life he will lose all power-ups collected so far, but luckily they are plentiful so it doesn’t take too long to power back up again, and each level has numerous restart points too. That doesn’t mean that this is an easy game however – given the forced-scrolling nature of the game, Chelnov’s movement around the landscape is a little limited. He can shoot in eight directions as he runs through the levels and you can marginally increase and decrease his speed as he goes by pushing forward or backward on the controller, and he can jump also straight up or forward, but that’s about it.

Atomic Runner - Gameplay Screenshot 6

The levels are set over a diverse range of landscapes and are one of the most appealing aspects of this game. They are titled Atomic Laboratory, Mutant Plant Zone, Mayan Jungle, Egyptian Desert, Treasure Room, Siberian Snowland, and New York, and all look fantastic – this is among the prettiest run ‘n’ gunners I’ve played with regards to the backgrounds and scenery graphics, and the sprites, weapons, etc, aren’t half bad either. The music is pretty decent too, with some tunes being more memorable than others, but it’s all very nice, presentation-wise. It does occasionally seem like the collision detection is a bit off and Chelnov sometimes seem a little sluggish to respond to a command, but there’s no major problems. Having said that, it is possible to get trapped behind an item of scenery and crushed by the scrolling! But that’s the key to this game – practise. Enemies often appear from behind you, so if you stay to the left of the screen you’re likely to die often, but play it enough, get used to controlling Chelnov, and learn the enemy patterns, and it proves to be a challenging and reasonably fair game. There’s not too much else like Atomic Runner around, and for that reason alone it’s interesting, but it’s a very playable, if sometimes frustrating game regardless, and well worth a try.

RKS Score: 7/10

Star Control

Star Control - Title Screen

Star Control (1990)
By: Toys For Bob / Accolade Genre: Strategy Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: PC, Amiga, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

The Star Control series is not the most well known series of games but they have amassed a fiercely loyal group of fans over the years. This is largely thanks to the stunning second game in the series which, as some Red Parsley readers may know, is my favourite game of all-time. However, much of the groundwork for that game was done here with this under-appreciated original, including the creation of many of the series’ races and their associated mythologies. It was certainly an original and perhaps even unusual concept featuring a combination of two genres. Some loved it, some hated it. It’s also pretty complicated to explain, so here goes.
Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 1

The backstory for most of the races here was largely fleshed out in the epic sequel but about all you get told here is that there are two opposing space-faring empires – the Alliance of Free Stars (which includes Earth), who stand for a peaceful and prosperous galaxy and the Ur-Quan Hierarchy. Who do not. The Ur-Quan are an evil, oppressive race bent on enslaving and/or destroying all sentient beings in the galaxy, and the Hierarchy is the group of races they have conquered who have chosen to fight alongside them instead of remaining imprisoned on their home worlds. The Alliance and the Hierarchy each have seven races in their ranks, with each possessing one type of starship. The main game in Star Control is a strategy game set on a single screen featuring a rotating starfield. This starfield is a spatial world, multi-dimensional and moving about a vertical axis and consists, largely, of many stars.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 2

Before playing, you must choose your control options and which side you wish to play as (Alliance or Hierarchy). The control options are Human, Computer, Cyborg and Psytron. If you choose Human, then all decisions are made by you, choose Computer and all decisions are made by the computer (set one side to each setting for a normal single player game). Choosing Cyborg will result in the computer fighting your battles but you will make all strategic decisions, and Psytron vice-versa. The computer has three skill levels, and this can also be altered at this point. Once this is done, you then choose one of fifteen scenarios. These are basically missions with set objectives to achieve (which usually involve blowing the crap out of your opponent), although the starting conditions vary considerably, such as what resources you start with (if any).

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Each of the scenarios has a brief background story and are split into three groups of five – ones which start off in favour of the Alliance, ones which favour the Hierarchy, and ones which favour neither side (neutral). Most scenarios will see you start with a starbase – the Alliance one will appear at the very bottom of the starfield and the Hierarchy’s at the very top – and it is from this point that play begins. Gameplay is turn based with each turn enabling you to perform three ‘actions’, such as moving a ship, building a new ship or establishing a mine or colony, etc, before your opponent gets the same choices. You can play against a friend, the computer or a mixture of both (Cyborg or Psytron).

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 4

The object of the game depends on which scenario you choose, but most involve destroying the enemy Starbase/Starships. All the stars in the starfield will initially appear blue which means that they are unexplored. When one of your ships arrives at a star, it will turn one of three colours depending on which type of planet orbits it: white, green or red. A white world is a dead world and is valuable only for its strategic position (potentially). A green world is a life world which is suitable for colonising. A colony provides a place for a ship to recruit new crew members to replace those lost in combat, and also speeds up ship movements, as moving from a colony world does not cost an action. A red world is a mineral world suitable for mining. For each mine you have in operation, you will receive a Starbuck (the game’s currency) per turn in addition to the single Starbuck your Starbase generates per turn if you have one. It is possible for these colonies and mines to be destroyed much quicker than they were built, however.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 5

To destroy an enemy’s colony or mine, simply move one of your ships onto that star. If an enemy ship is guarding the facility, then a battle ensues – if you win the battle, then the facility is destroyed. If it is unguarded, then it is automatically destroyed. Bear in mind, however, that your opponent can do the same thing to your colonies/mines. Luckily, it’s possible to fortify your installations. A fortification is a defensive web which no single ship can easily destroy, and through which no single ship can pass (with the exception of two specially gifted ships). If you should move a single ship into an enemy fortification, your ship is stuck. To be freed, it can attempt to besiege it (which gives only a ten percent chance of success) or wait to be joined by another ship. Any two ships from the same side automatically destroy an enemy fortification. These conditions, of course, apply to both sides in a battle. Colonies, mines and fortifications all take two turns to build.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 6

Movement and combat in Star Control is achieved via the use of Starships – you can move your Starbase (which takes all three actions of your turn), but you cannot fight with it. You might start your chosen campaign with a full compliment of ships or you might start with no ships – it again depends on which scenario you choose. You can have no more than seven ships in your fleet at any one time, however. If you start with none then you must build them at your Starbase. There are fourteen types of ship in total – seven Alliance and seven Hierarchy – though you’ll only be able to build ships from your chosen side. They vary in cost and ability considerably, though fortunately you can build more than one of any type of ship. For example, if money is tight, then you could build seven of the cheapest ship available relatively quickly in order to spread out establishing many mines and colonies until you’ve got enough money to build some better ships at which point you can begin attacking the enemy, but you could get attacked yourself as you’re attempting to do this, so some careful planning is required.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 7

At any point in the game, if one or more ship from opposing sides should meet at the same star, then battle will begin once that turn has ended. If your single ship met, for example, four enemy ships then you’ll have to fight them all, one at a time, until there is a winner, and you will be unable to visit a colony to replenish your crew until battle is over. Battles are fought in real-time and viewed from above, and the screen will automatically zoom in or out depending on how close together the two ships are. The screen also uses screen-wrap which means that if a ship appears as if it’s about to disappear off the edge of the screen, it will reappear on the other side of the screen. Gravity also comes into play in battles. Each ‘battlefield’, for lack of a better term, contains a planet. This planet has its own gravitational field which pulls in ships that stray too close, but you can use this to your advantage by using the gravity as a slingshot to fling yourself at high speed away from an advancing enemy. Contact with the planet can be fatal, however, especially if your ship has a small contingent of crew. There are also asteroids flying about every now and then which do not possess any gravity, but can affect the path of your ship if they hit it, though these can be destroyed with a single shot.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 8

Providing a helping hand in battles, however, are the Precursors. The Precursors were a race who inhabited space approximately 300,000 years ago. Both their origins and subsequent demise are shrouded in mystery, but they did leave some of their technology lying around when they left/died out and it can be used to improve your starships. When exploring stars, you may stumble across one with leftover Precursor technology on it (or rather, on one of the planets orbiting it, but it’s the same difference as far as the game is concerned). If this is the case, you will be told immediately and the artefact is then automatically fitted to whichever ship is in use at the time.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 9

The ships themselves possess numerous characteristics which differ from ship to ship such as thrust, turning speed, weapon range, weapon damage etc. Each has a finite supply of crew and fuel. These are represented as small dots on the information panel on the right of the screen. Crew members are lost when an enemy’s weapon impacts on the ship or if the ship crashes into a planet. If all crew members are lost then the ship is destroyed. The fuel powers the weapons and is reduced each time the weapons are fired. The fuel supply will automatically replenish if no weapons are fired but the speed at which it does so varies from ship to ship. Each ship’s main weapon is different, but is generally a projectile type weapon with a specific range, which again varies from ship to ship. Each ship is also equipped with a ‘special ability’. This is sometimes another weapon, but is more often something else. Some examples include the Ur-Quan Dreadnought which can launch squadrons of autonomous fighters, the Ariloulaleelay Skiff can teleport, the Chenjesu Broodhome launches enemy fuel-sapping drones, the Illwrath Avenger employs a cloaking device, etc.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 10

Star Control also features another play mode called Melee which is just the starship combat from the main game without any of the turn-based strategic play. Simply choose seven ships (from either side) and fight against your chosen opponent (human or computer) until one of you runs out of ships. This is basically a spaceship-based equivalent of a Street Fighter-style game with one-on-one battles to the death! It’s entertaining fighting against the computer, which has three skill levels, but this game comes into its own between two human players. Some epic battles can be had here and it’s addictive as hell! A practise mode also exists in which you can choose a single ship and fight against your opponents single ship, again fighting one-on-one to the death. This is obviously the best place to learn each ship’s abilities and intricacies before braving a full-on war!

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 11

As you might have guessed from the screenshots, despite its gameplay innovations, Star Control is hardly the pinnacle of MegaDrive technical achievements. The graphics are functional with nice enough sprites but the backgrounds are all black starfields and there is precious little animation here. There are a few nice static screens though, including some good ship profiles, and the rotating 3D starfield in the main game is very impressive. There is no in-game music but there are a few short tunes here and there and each race has a ‘victory ditty’ played when their ship wins a battle. The sound effects, however, are excellent, consisting of a lot of sampled explosions, weapon fire, and even a few stranger things like a dog barking!

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 12

Star Control was a fairly unassuming game when it was first released and went unnoticed by many, but it nonetheless holds a very special place in my heart. This is partly because it led to my discovery of Star Control 2 (which I bought on a whim during a fleeting visit to my local second hand game store as a result of liking this game), but it’s also a great game on its own merits too. It’s a bit of an unusual concept, but one that, initially at least, proves highly intriguing. However, the main game won’t hold your attention for ever. It’s still enjoyable to return to, even once you’ve finished all the scenarios, especially when playing against a friend, but the fantastic Melee mode endures to this day! I fondly recall many great battles against friends in this mode, particularly against my good friend, Stu (“If I hit a planet, it’s a draw!”) and it remains one of my favourite two-player games even now. But hey – even if it sucked, it still gave birth to the mighty Star Control 2!

RKS Score: 8/10

Sonic 3

Sonic 3 - Sega Genesis Box
Games with speed have always caught my attention so Sonic had to eventually come along into the mix for the pick of the week. Sonic 3 defined how a Sonic game should be and should always be. The game not only delivers a beautiful gameplay experience but a wonderful sound score among other things. The replay value is great and the best part of all, the game saves! Yeah, you have three spots to save your progress and come back for more. Sonic 3 is the Sonic game you should play, screw that crappy Sonic 4 game.

Sonic 3 - Title Screenshot

The game starts you off like similar Sonic games. You usually start up in some type of jungle area which developers did on purpose mainly because there could be a new Sonic player out there just getting into the series and wanted to introduce them to the game mechanics with lots of freedom. Sonic veterans will also enjoy the first couple of stages as they can get familiarized to the changes of the game from the previous counterpart. Moving on, the game is what you expect of a Sonic game back in the early 90s. It’s fast, fun, and has a wonderful sound track. There are many reasons why this game is on the top of the list. Sonic comes with some new tricks up his sleeve but you’ll have to figure that out for yourself as this article is meant not to spoil your fun by exploring this game. I’m just here to give my opinion anyways and it’s only up to you to take my opinion into account.

Sonic 3 - Gameplay Screenshot
Furthermore, this is a game that you won’t feel trapped and stressed out. The game delivers difficulty in a savvy way. You can just feel the flow and try your best. If not then don’t worry because you can save your game and continue on after you broken a few windows or walls from rage of losing in the game.

To conclude, this game is everything that a Sonic game should have been and if it wasn’t for the downfall of transferring Sonic to 3D so bad then we wouldn’t be seeing the horribly painful games nowadays. I say if it didn’t work in 3D then go back to the 2D games but with Sonic 4 being just a so-so game, I think it’s too late to go back now.

Marble Madness

Marble Madness - Title Screen

Marble Madness (1991)
By: Atari / Electronic Arts Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: Arcade, Master System, NES, GameBoy, GameBoy Advance, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, C64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Apple IIGS

Originally released in the world’s arcades in 1984, Marble Madness was another cracker from the then red-hot Atari. At least, that’s what you’d be forgiven for thinking, given the game’s popularity. In truth, it was a competent enough arcade game for its time, but somewhat less suitable as 16-bit console release seven years later. Marble Madness, you see, is a very simple game – you control a marble which you have to guide to the end of the level or ‘goal’ within a strict time limit. Achieve this and you’ll get to tackle the next level. Each level is viewed from a 3D isometric perspective and is set on a series of raised platform sections. The surface of these levels is far from even though – it leans at all manner of angles, and ramps, chutes, bridges, and other such things also adorn the landscape and must be traversed in order to succeed.

Marble Madness - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Many obstacles and hazards also hinder your progress. Chief among these are the Steelies – evil black marbles which will try to bump you off the side of the level at every opportunity they get. You can bump them back and even off the side of level, but it all costs you time. Other enemies include Marble Munchers, Hoovers, Acid Slime, Terrordactyls, Hammers and Pistons, all of which cost you precious seconds. If your marble falls off the side of a level, takes too high a drop, or falls victim to one of the traps, you’ll lose it. You have an infinite number of marbles but losing marbles costs time, so it’s best not to make a habit of it! Very helpful in certain situations is the turbo button. This will cause your marble to travel faster and is often the difference between a crushed marble and a victorious marble, but you’ll also run the risk of whizzing straight off the edge!

Marble Madness - Gameplay Screenshot 2

And that’s about it! As I said, it’s a simple game. The problem here is that this conversion is pretty much identical to the arcade version. “But that’s a good thing!” I hear you cry. Usually, yes, but no effort has been made here to improve on the arcade game – something that was more than possible in light of the MegaDrive’s 16-bit mega-power. Initially, Marble Madness is good fun, though somewhat frustrating, but you’ll probably just be getting into it only to find – it’s over! That’s right – Marble Madness has a mere six levels. This was just about passable for an arcade game, but a home console game? I don’t know about you but I demand more for my £40! What there is of the game plays nicely enough though, and the graphics, whilst hardly pushing the MegaDrive to its limits (you would have a tough time telling this version apart from the Master System version!), are decent enough. As is the case with many isometrically viewed games, the landscape is covered in a grid-like pattern and looks neat and tidy and organised and everything. Each level is fairly colourful but there’s nothing much else of note.

Marble Madness - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Possibly the most horririfying thing about this game is the ‘music’. Examples featured herein range from poor right down to ghastly I’m afraid. Some of it can barely be considered music! The only reprieve is on level two which features a fairly reasonable tune, although it is looped and frequently repeated. Sound effects aren’t much better either. I don’t usually like to criticise someone’s hard work too much unless it’s obvious that they’ve put in no effort, but this one will have you reaching for the volume button pretty quickly. At least there is both music AND effects though I suppose! Regarding the gameplay – as I mentioned earlier, what there is of it is decent enough – ball movement is satisfactory and the levels, though frustrating on occasion, are pretty well designed for the most part but, as mentioned, there’s only six levels in this game. Six! It’s not as if they’re long ones either – I’ve completed this game in less than ten minutes, and it can be done in less than five! To think that some Playstation-licking casual gamers complain when a game can be completed in a ‘mere’ ten hours! The existence of a simultaneous two-player mode here livens up proceedings a little, and can be fun for a short while, particularly if the two players decide to try and take each other out, but that’s really the only reason to play this more than once.

Marble Madness - Gameplay Screenshot 4

So there you have it. A legend, right or wrong, which was an enjoyable five-minute diversion in the arcades, but as a MegaDrive game it just isn’t enough. If there was, say, 30 or 40-odd levels on offer here, this would be a pretty good game, maybe even a great one, but a six-level game that can be seen in its entirety in five minutes is unacceptable. A good idea, but there’s just not enough to Marble Madness, unfortunately.

RKS Score: 4/10


Battletoads Title Screen

If you want to play an updated NES version of Battletoads, then the Genesis version is the one for you. I feel that this version is a lot easier especially in the second level where you can rack up all the extra lives a lot easier and at a quicker rate. As many of you know, the NES version is brutal and will take you countless of tries to get pass the later levels. It gets to a point of frustration but not in the Genesis version, at least this one takes a lot less tries to get passed such levels. This game really feels a lot more polished and more fair in gameplay than the NES version. Of course, you will still have a tough time in the two player mode and you will probably be better off playing one player unless you have a buddy that’ll do the job just as good as you can.

Battletoads Box Genesis

So lets move on, the game is as fun as the other counterparts. You’ll enjoy the graphics and sounds of this one as the Genesis takes advantage of them. The gameplay will be challenging but it will keep you coming for more.

Battletoads Gameplay Screenshot Genesis


Well I highly recommend this title especially if you won’t give the NES version a chance. This one is the game not to miss and it’s mighty cheap on Ebay. Go Toads!

Battle Squadron

Battle Squadron - Title Screen

Battle Squadron (1990)
By: Innerprise Software / Electronic Arts Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis First Day Score: 200,700
Also Available For: Amiga

The days of the 16-Bit Console Wars were an interesting time to be a gamer. If the SNES was better at one type of game, the MegaDrive was better at another. One area in which many agree the MD had a firmer foothold is that of the shoot ’em up. Yes, the SNES had some blinding examples of the genre, but the MD won the day through sheer weight of numbers. An early example of the vertical scrolling shooter on the MD is Battle Squadron, a product of the bygone era of bedroom coders which saw many talented enthusiasts try their hand at that programming lark. Most games resulting from these endeavours were of course very limited, but on the odd, rare occasion, something much more interesting would emerge. Battle Squadron’s success was probably not that immense, but Martin Pedersen did well enough from it to enable him to help form Innerprise Software who subsequently went on to develop several more titles.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Originally released on the Amiga, Battle Squadron is apparently the sequel to fellow Amiga blaster, Hybris. This installment sees you facing off against the evil Barrax Empire, which initially appears to be nothing more than a bog-standard pretext to a bog-standard vertical-scroller. Actually, to be fair, it’s not the most remarkable shmup ever, but it does have a few tricks up its sleeves! For starters, there are no levels. Well, kind of. You start above ground fighting off swarms of enemy fighters as well as lots of ground-based vehicles and gun turrets. Before long, you’ll come to a big crater or chasm of some sort in the ground which you can enter. You don’t have to though – you can fly straight past if you want to as it will return over and over again. You’ll need to enter eventually though, and upon doing so you’ll be faced with an underground area crawling with different types of enemy craft and installations, at the end of which is a boss. Once you defeat the boss you’ll return to the surface again. If you enter the underground section at the first opportunity every time, you’ll eventually fight through three surface sections and three underground sections before you get to face the Ultimate Alien Force of Evil. To quote the instruction book: “You will face Surlotech in the final battle. He’s known for cruelly toying with enemies and laughing at their feeble attempts to destroy him”. Sounds like a charming fellow.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 2

When playing this game, there’s one thing that quickly becomes apparent – Battle Squadron must be one of the most enemy-laden shooters ever – they’re everywhere! It’s lucky then, that there is sufficient weaponry available (though barely so) to ‘convince’ them that their agenda is a flawed one. You start the game with the Orange Magma Wave. This is just about sufficient at the start of the game but needs to be powered up pretty quickly. Once this is done, it becomes a formidable weapon which has a fairly powerful forward shot as well as four less powerful shots which fire at diagonals. Other weapons are the Green Emerald Laser which is very powerful and fires rapidly, but has a very limited range (straight forward), Red Magnetic Torps, which covers most of the screen, but aren’t too powerful, and the Blue Anti-Matter Particle Beam. This weapon also fires very quickly, and shoots both forwards and backwards, but again, has a limited range.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 3

These tools of destruction can be found by destroying the Barraxian gunships that carry ‘X’ capsules. Once freed, these drift back and forth across the screen changing colours as they go. Collecting them will give you the weapon of that colour and collecting another capsule of the same colour will power it up one level. If you’re destroyed, your weapon’s level will be reduced by two, though thankfully you don’t have to restart the level! One helpful way to avoid being shot down, however, is to deploy a ‘Nova Bomb’. These swirling waves of destruction, more commonly referred to as smart bombs, destroy or damage everything on the screen (except your ship, obviously). More importantly, they also rid the screen of enemy bullets. These can be stockpiled by collecting the ‘M’ icons that result from the destruction of an entire squadron of enemy fighters (which appear increasingly frequently), and it’s a very good idea to save as many as possible – you’ll need them later on!

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 4

But what of the enemies? Poorly designed ones have been known to ruin otherwise decent shooters, so thankfully that’s not the case here! There are fourteen different alien attackers altogether – not a huge number I’ll grant you, but there are some highly creative ones among this contingent. Some are your standard gun turrets or formation-flying, few-shots-to-kill aircraft, while others are far meaner. One original feature of Battle Squadron from which it derived much of its fame is its ‘Chameleon’ ships. These are sister ships to the standard fighters, except they’re invisible! They can be detected by the funny noise they make when your weapons strike them, and by a slight shimmering of the area over which they’re flying (in a similar style to the titular creature from the Predator movies). Some enemies (mostly the various kinds of gun turrets) leave behind green ‘X’ icons when you’ve destroyed them “exposing their jewel caches”, and each one gives you a thousand points at the end of the ‘section’ (i.e. when you go underground or back above ground).

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 5

Despite the fact that Battle Squadron was first released on the Amiga, this version is near enough identical. That doesn’t mean it looks bad though. On the contrary. Though there’s not many backgrounds, and one of the later ones will make your eyes bleed (not to mention render enemy bullets near invisible!), the graphics are very decent. The sprites are varied and some of them pretty sizeable, and there’s some lovely parallax scrolling on the underground sections (something the Amiga version lacks). Scrolling is also smooth, even with 15 or more enemies on the screen at once! It’s not just your eyes that get a treat here either. Game music fans will be pleased to hear that the sounds accompanying this manic shooter come courtesy of the great Rob Hubbard, which pretty much guarantees top quality music. Whilst there aren’t many tunes, the ones that are here are memorable and of typically high quality, as are the superb sound effects.

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 6

One of the first things you’ll notice about this game is undoubtedly its difficulty. Whilst it’s true that the number of lives, credits, enemy bullets on screen at once and enemy bullet speed can all be altered, even on the lesser settings, this game is still tougher than a disgruntled Chuck Norris. There’s not a single enemy in this game that goes down from a single shot, so until you’ve powered up your ship, prepare to practise your bullet-dodging skills! Even once you’re powered up things are no picnic either. Undestroyed gun turrets can still fire at you from behind after they’ve left the screen, Chameleon ships appear from holes in the ground (sometimes right on top of you), and there’s even heat-seeking missiles that can’t be shot down! With a bit (or a lot) of perseverance, however, some lengthy and impressive blast-a-thons can be enjoyed. One extra special thing about Battle Squadron is that it has a simultaneous two-player mode! A rare thing indeed for a shooter. It’s just as hard with two-players though, so don’t go forcing a friend into playing just so you can see the ending!

Battle Squadron - Gameplay Screenshot 7

Overall, this is a tough game, but not unfairly so. Okay, so invisible ships appearing beneath you don’t help matters but it’s not like it’s one of those ridiculous ‘bullet-hell’ games! One thing’s for sure – you won’t get a second to relax when playing it. It’s like a gaming equivalent of one long sweaty-palmed adrenaline rush! There’s always something going on and its difficulty will keep all but the most awesomely skilled of gamers going for a while, and all but the most pathetically skilled will most likely want to keep trying to beat it.

RKS Score: 8/10

Sonic 2

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Sonic 2 is a game to pick up and play and have a good night with. It should definitely be in everyone’s gaming collection. ~Luis Zena

Sonic 2

Sonic 2 defined the way we looked at sonic games. This is probably the best sonic for the Genesis (Sonic 3 comes real close) because of how many memories we had with it. For me, it was the first Genesis game I ever played, in fact, it was the first time I ever saw the Genesis and it was all thanks to the popularity of this franchise. The game is breath taking from beginning to end with some of the best level design in any Sonic game.

Sonic 2 - Gameplay Screeenshot 1

The game consists of three levels per world and a boss fight. If I remember correctly, there are eight worlds with three levels each. I myself haven’t reached the end but one of these days I will try to accomplish it. Either way, anyone can pick it up especially since the game is so common to find and usually has a collector value of .50 cents so there really shouldn’t be any problem picking it up. The reason this game was so common was because Sega packaged it with the Genesis console to help pump up sales which worked for a while and gave Sega the lead over Nintendo during the early 90’s console wars. Furthermore, the game has excellent sound and peculiar bad guys that turn into animals when you kill them.

Sonic 2 - Genesis Box

To conclude, this is a game to pick up and play and have a good night with. It should definitely be in everyone’s gaming collection. I also suggest if you don’t want to buy a genesis get the recently released Genesis Collection disc for the next gen consoles. It brings tons of games and will definitely satisfy your Sonic needs. Until the next retro game of the week.