Gex: Enter The Gecko (PSOne)

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Look past the painful attempts to make Gex a gecko with ‘attitude’ though, and this is a platformer that’s still worth a look. ~Simon Reed

Gex: Enter The Gecko

I recall in my revisit of  Gex: Enter the Gecko on the Gameboy Color that the titular lizard had precious opportunity to make his abrasive personality come across – and how that was a real blessing. Sadly, in ‘Gex,’ the game in which the gecko was first introduced to the world, he manages to give you a very good idea of his ‘persona and you know what I find even more annoying than Gex himself? The game underneath is actually not half bad – but it’s overshadowed by the green ones constant chatter.

Gex - PSOne

Set up like an old school platformer, Gex sees you travelling around small hubs, each one focusing on a specific location – such as a horror world and a kung-fu universe. So far, so unoriginal. Of course, the game originally came out on 3DO in 1994, so perhaps these old fashioned sensibilities are to be expected. In each stage you have to recover a remote (or two) which then allow you to access new levels. Fortunately each remote can usually be found fairly easily, and are placed in clear view when you’re working your way through a level.

Gex - PSOne

Stages tend to feel a little open, although in actuality they’re quite linear. Gex has an ability to stick to walls you see, and this can make you easily go up, down as well as left and right. Further variety comes about through power ups, which you can either whack with your tail to add to your health bar or eat (by using your extendable tongue) to access short term abilities, such as fireball breath or a super jump. Despite these interesting gameplay mechanics however, the game itself can occasionally feel a little generic – but some credit must go to developer Crystal Dynamics that the game remains playable throughout. Controls are solid, and there are rarely any moments where the game feels broken or unfair.

Gex - PSOne

The only truly annoying design aspect is the password system – which requires you to collect a tape in every other level (and they’re usually hidden away) or beat an end of world boss. Whether the game is worth playing thought, simply comes down to whether you can stand Gex himself.  His wisecracks are just about acceptable – the first time your hear them. They’re repeated so much that they end up getting more than a little irksome though, and he seems to have to comment on something nearly every five seconds. Look past the painful attempts to make Gex a gecko with ‘attitude’ though, and this is a platformer that’s still worth a look.

 [Check out Simon’s Homepage]

Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero

Before he became the governor (or Governator, that is) of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the biggest box-office draws on the planet as the big-muscled action star of such classics as Commando, Predator, True Lies, and the first two Terminator films. However, during a brief foray into such comedies as Junior, Twins, and Kindergarten Cop, Arnie lost his edge a bit for the lighter roles and, arguably, almost ruined his legacy. Among these not-quite-hits was the critically derided meta-movie Last Action Hero.

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But, of course, since it was a big-budget film with a big-name actor, it was worthy enough to have a video game developed for it as released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console in 1993. And, like so many others, this license title proves to provide low-quality gameplay, the result of publisher Sony Imagesoft wanting nothing more than to turn a quick profit on a media commodity with a low shelf life in the popular culture of the time. This is not a video game that showcases imagination or innovation.

Gameplay

The first mistake this side-scrolling, two-dimensional (not even the third dimension of being able to walk into the “depth” closer to the background, but purely left and right or up and down) beat-’em-up is that the A button attacks and the B button jumps, which is not only in reverse from the legendarySuper Mario Bros. original NES game that set the golden standard, but also serves as a stark reminder as to what camp this cartridge belongs to: The crappy one with all the terrible games.

Oddly enough, though, in addition to the typical movement left and right, the player is also granted a move other than the basic punch: A kick, initiated by holding up when pressing A. This is a nice touch, it could be supposed. The player can also crouch, punch from the crouch, and try to attack in mid-air as well, with mixed results.

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The player takes control of Jack Slater, the movie-star protagonist of the movie-related movie, in a plot that loosely follows the film. It actually, at first, seems to follow it rather closely, down to the oddly rendered cutscene still frames that depict shots from the cinematic experience. However, rather head-scratchingly, the NES game departs from the movie right around the second level, when the boy dreams of a medieval setting involving a Robin Hood-like environment in which the player must then traverse. This seems like a tacky random add-on.

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Now, a rundown of the entirety of the gameplay of Last Action Hero the NES game: There are seven levels. Each ends with a boss. Each consists of either running to the end of a one-way path, or repeatedly going back and forth and ascending to higher levels. The enemies infinitely respawn. There are no points or other rewards for killing enemies, so they are best avoided. The best strategy for bosses is to crouch and repeatedly punch until the boss dies. Some projectiles can be dodged by crouching, some cannot. The player begins with three lives and a six-hit health bar for each, measured in hearts. Occasionally, health refills can be found. Continues are offered if all lives expire. Attacking range is short and hit detection is terrible. This is Last Action Hero on the NES.

Graphics

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This video game actually looks really good for an 8-bit title on the NES; though, by 1993, the console was in its twilight years and developers had little excuse to not know how to best make the on-screen action look. Examples from the first level alone: The police cars are displayed in bright detail, the background cityscape is creatively drawn in little pixels denoting window lighting per building, these windows flicker in moody atmospheric effect to match the rain, the protagonist actually wears a two-color outfit and is thus not prone to the Monochromatic Character Syndrome that many NES figures were drawn in, and the action proceeds fairly smoothly with little-to-no flickering or slowdown. That being said, some portions look better than others, the enemies get repetitive, and no amount of good looks can make up for awful gameplay.

Sound

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The music is not outright awful, but it hardly tries to break boundaries either. You can fairly clearly hear the buzzy and bumpy-grindy notes of the two square-wave channels on the hardware struggling to complement the non-ambitious whines and weak lilts of the triangle-wave piece. The effects are even worse, though; a series of hisses, thuds, and hollow bonks. With such a plethora of previous NES classic titles to have witnessed before, some with truly spectacular soundtracks, it is somewhat remarkable that the developers really did not try to at least grant the background tracks a broader range or add some punch to the punch effects.

Originality

By its very nature, a license game lacks originality. However, there is some flexible wiggle room that allows for potential innovation and creativity to nonetheless still be expressed; unfortunately, there is very little true vision to be found on this cartridge. The beat-’em-up gameplay mechanic is even more monotonous than the usual genre strictures, the lack of reward for dispatching of enemies really breaks the entire motivation for combat, and it may be the worst of the handful of Schwarzenegger-movie NES license games, turning in a magic ticket for one star out of five.

Ufouria: The Saga

Ufouria-The Saga

Ufouria: The Saga

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

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

Ufouria-The Saga

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

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

5/5

 

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

Batman forever

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

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

Batman forever

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

Batman forever

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

Batman forever

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

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

Sword Master

Sword Master

Overall Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Sword Master - NES

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

Gameplay

Sword Master - NES

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

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

Sword Master - NES

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

Sword Master - NES

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

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

Sword Master - NES

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

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

Sword Master - NES

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

Sword Master - NES

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

Sword Master - NES

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

Sword Master - NES

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

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

Graphics

Sword Master - NES

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

Sound

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

Sword Master - NES

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

Originality

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

Astrosmash

Astrosmash - Intellivision

How often is it that a game plays a big hand in your life? I mean, really big. Like, it brought upon the birth of someone, big. Ok, obviously I’m going to have to explain THAT one…

In this edition, Prixel Derp’s Chris “Sledge” Douglas takes a look at 1981’s Astrosmash, for the Intellivision. Designed by John P. Stohl for Mattel Electronics, this game is not only a ridiculously addictive shooter, its also quite possibly the only game that will adjust it’s difficulty level as you play! And this tension… well, you’ll see…

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

I had gotten and beaten Ocarina of Time shortly before this game came out. I couldn’t contain my excitement for awhile.
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Despite a lot of recycled graphics, Majora’s Mask is one of the most unique Zelda games ever. It’s dark, weird, has aliens, and is about the end of the world. Not exactly a typical adventure in Hyrule. Hell it’s not even set in our favorite Nintendo kingdom.

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The moon in Majora’s Mask used to freak me out. Wasn’t so scary looking far away in the sky when I played Ocarina.
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I didn’t like Deku too badly. Blowing bubbles and gliding were pretty lame.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
Goron Link was much better, strong but slow. Unless you were rolling, which was beyond awesome.
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Zora Link was the best. I loved zipped zagging through the water. Plus the twin blade fin attack was pretty neat.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
I do admit my disappointment with Oni-Link. I worked so hard to get every mask, and turns out he just plays like Adult Link in Ocarina….
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask
I did hate the 3-day system, crappy ways to save your game/inventory, and the fact that there were only 4 dungeons. It did have the best side-quests in the series, so I still love it.

Magical Tetris Challenge

Magical Tetris Challenge

Magical Tetris Challenge

Format- N64

Genre- Tetris, Disneyfied

Has the addition of Disney in any form ever made a game significantly better? Meteos: Disney Magic added nothing to the rather good gameplay of the original, just added some pointless storyline claptrap.

Even Kingdom Hearts, the game which is pretty much built on all things Disney, suffers from having too many cartoon characters to be even remotely understandable by outsiders. A little selective culling of Disney would do wonders there.

Magical Tetris Challenge

Magical Tetris Challenge is worse than those two though. Much worse. The first thing that hits you is its quite appallingly shambolic presentation. It feels like a SNES game for the most part, trying to cover up it’s low rent attitude with colour and Disney characters. It doesn’t work. A SNES version might have looked better actually.

The story mode is clealry the main focus, so naturally you play that first. You can choose from a few characters but the outcome is pretty much the same. Two animated freaks meet up and natter about nothing for a bit, and then suddenly Tetris is brought up in the conversation and – hey! – you’re playing Tetris, just like that.

Magical Tetris Challenge

It’s almost as if Tetris is somehow the solution to all these characters problem, like some kind of block based currency. It makes more sense than real life though – Tetris battles should be used everytime two groups disagree about something. That will, sadly, never happen though.

Regarding the actual block twisting part of the game, it works well enough – up to a point. There you are, twisting blocks, winning, laughing, and cavorting, but all of a sudden a freakishly shaped block appears.

Magical Tetris Challenge

You weren’t warned. You didn’t see it coming. A freakish tetronimoe outcast, it could take one of many forms. A weird zig-zag abomination, a ridiculously long one block beanpole or a ‘screw you’ lardarse square spanning many squares in width. It could be any of these, and they all mess your game up like no-ones business.

I can make it through the first stage of the story mode, and the second at a pinch, but not much further. The addition of freak blocks mean a tough game is made much more difficult. Balance is thrown out of the window.

There are some other modes, and somewhere there’s an option to actually play a proper game of Tetris. But really, the game fails in my eyes.

It’s not exciting and effective enough to be considered a colourful Tetris side attraction, and it doesn’t play the game straight enough to be considered a worthwhile Tetris game in of itself.

Fortunately I only spent 60p on it (haggled the seller down from £1) in a car boot a year or so ago, so the game being a failure doesn’t work out too badly on me. I would consider a purchase very carefully if you were to pay any more than that though.

Bad News Baseball

Bad_News_BaseballBad News Baseball

Among those familiar with the Nintendo Entertainment System library of cartridges, if you were to challenge them to name a sports game made by developer-publisher Tecmo, odds are they would name a football title. Tecmo Bowl and Tecmo Super Bowl are the popular choices, and deservedly so, as they are well-crafted, excellent video games. However, Tecmo kept their design chops up their sleeve for others as well, one of them being a quirky fun-filled hardball simulation called Bad News Baseball.

Gameplay

Bad News Baseball covers all the bases (boy, we could really have a field day with the baseball puns here; haha, “field day”) that a basic baseball game needs to hit: One-player mode, two-player mode, continuation into a full season beyond just a single outing, some form of stat-tracking, and an engine more robust than Nintendo’s original, and awful, Baseball.

The NES had a lot of baseball games. Even within the genre of sports, the sub-genre of baseball saw more titles than other well-respected categories, such as the JRPG. Now, most people were likely just to find a favorite or two, or perhaps avoid the baseball games altogether; however, getting to know the full roster lends a lot of enjoyable comparison.

Baseball games were programmed so similarly that some of the differences might be slight, but they are there. For example, compared to the R.B.I. Baseball series, Bad News Baseball is more fielding-oriented: Runners are much more likely to be called “OUT!” at the base, whereas in R.B.I., the A.I. is very forgiving, considering a runner safe even if they are barely just touching the plate pixel-to-pixel.

Bad_News_Baseball

Compared to Base Wars, the over-field camera in Bad News Baseball is tighter, more honed-in; which is great, since Base Wars always had a problem tracking line drives, leading to lost fielders and a screen full of green. Compared to Legends of the Diamond, Bad News Baseball has looser hit detection during batting, making it easier to blast home runs. Yet, of course, because of the emphasis on defense and fielders, there is a delightful balance at work, showing Tecmo’s strength in planning.

To put is simply: Bad News Baseball is not only a great baseball game on NES, but a great 8-bit video game altogether. Every baseball game had some sort of celebratory animation for home runs, but Bad News Baseball has several that it can cycle through. Most baseball games, even then, had on-screen umpires – but in Bad News Baseball, they are bright pink rabbits.

Okay, that is a little strange, but it does add distinctive character to what would otherwise be “just” a well-made sports title. Those rabbit umps, along with the Eastern influence seen in the very cartoon-like characters and interstitials, give Bad News Baseball a very distinct identity.

But if silliness is not the player’s thing, the baseball is more than in-depth enough to satisfy even a serious player. Bad News Baseball tracks the statistics for every player , even down to attributes for how well a pitcher’s ball breaks to right and left (yes, each has a separate value), every batter-fielder’s arm strength and running speed, even the stamina of pitchers that not only necessitate in-game substitutions but affect game-to-game readiness as well. Furthermore, every batter-fielder is graded on which positions they should field, with every roster having far more than a simple line-up of nine available, thus granting the player full managerial sway to customize their batting order, fielding positions, and pitching rotation. Good stuff.

Bad_News_Baseball

This is all not to say that Bad News Baseball is without its share of faults, though. Missing out on the MLB license to use real players is a little unfortunate, as fine as made-up players are. Although the graphics are great, all the players look exactly the same: There is never any difference in height, weight, race, etc., only some differing pitching styles, which is a bit bland and unfortunate.

The ability to jump up or slide to the side to catch batted balls is nice, but not executed as well as it could be. Thinking three-dimensionally, if the ball is behind a player in a midair, it can still be “caught” by jumping into its pixel-drawn flight patch. This effect, while exploitable, causes some cognitive dissonance. Worse, though, is the slightly-too-long pause to get down to earth with the jump, as though gravity has been lessened for such mighty leap.

Speaking of physics, every at-bat feels a little “off” upon close examination. It really seems like hitting the “sweet spot” on the bat, dead center of the wood in the middle of a perfect swing, never results in as good of a hit as strange tip shots off the edge of the bat when swinging too late, or a way-inside too-early shot. Also, seeing fastballs up to 111mph can be disorienting, but at least fatigue sets in quickly. Also, does anyone else feel like it is strangely, slightly difficult to move a fielder diagonally?

Bad_News_Baseball

The All Star Mode is a welcome addition for those in need of a harder challenge, but even the basic game is pretty stiff for newcomers or those inexperienced with baseball games. The A.I. is not exactly a deity, but does a computer batter ever, ever swing at a widely pitched ball? Pitching can be tricky, relying on the player to discover exploitable little un-hittable nooks and crannies, rather than truly outduel a batter at the corners of the plate. Trying to take on the mindset of a real baseball pitcher will leave the count full of balls and fastballs crushed out of the stadium.

Making a perfect 8-bit baseball game might be impossible, or at least extremely difficult within the constraints of both time and resources of the period. But if we do not rate on the scale of a high standard, to what purpose do we review through a critical lens? More simply: Bad News Baseball is great, but falls short of being flawless.

Graphics

If you can overlook the just-about-literal white supremacy in the game, the visuals are fantastic. Gorgeous interstitial animations highlight close plays on the bases, while a handful of different animated home run celebrations add more whimsy to an already-whimsical playthrough. Even the details look just fine: The players at the plate, on the field, the field itself, the menus, etc. This is a professional-looking 8-bit video game, oozing with flair and flourish.

Sound

The usual 8-bit baseball-game sound effects are in full gear: The rise-and-fall pitch of the ball in flight, the satisfying smack of a the digital sphere into pixelated leather, and the clap of the bat, among others. The background music is well-composed, and dives into technical exploits of the NES hardware sound channels that few dare to tread (dig that drumline), but – and this might just be reviewer opinion – does not really match the on-screen action. It is oddly disconcerting. Strange.

But the speech effects are fantastic, and part of this title’s appeal; the energetic, confident calls of the umpires truly add to the tension and impact of game-as-sport. Hearing the ump cry “SAFE!” for a close call at home plate brings a real, visceral pleasure.

Originality

The NES had about 20 baseball video games in its library. Some of them tried to gain sales through a weird hook: Base Wars had robot athletes. A Little League game featured children. R.B.I. Baseball 3 not only had the real Major League Baseball teams, but multiple years’ worth of period-accurate rosters to choose from for each.

In the case the Bad News Baseball, the catch is rabbit umpires and goofy cartoon visuals? Maybe, but so is the tight design, in-depth password system (although with an insane range of special characters in its alphabet), and the appreciated option to press Start whenever the player wants to skip a cutscene. All in all, this is simply a great game. Be sure to take advantage of the computer’s bizarre tendency to sprint a baserunner back to first following a tag-out there.

Overall rating: 4.0/5 stars.

Demon Sword

Demon Sword

Overall rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Sword - NES

Released in 1989 by Taito, a developer perhaps best known for their arcade ports, Demon Sword was a rollicking foray into classic Japanese martial arts action for the Nintendo Entertainment System. With a mysterious warrior set against gorgeous backdrops fighting relentless horde of demon foes, this was a title that implemented some great ideas in a slick package.

Demon Sword was also remarkably similar to an earlier Taito release, The Legend of Kage, which was produced in 1986 from the arcade game of the same title. Both feature identical controls for throwing weapon, sword, and jumping, with storylines featured around lone fighters against out-of-nowhere enemies en route to boss fights and power-ups, and even the same flair for tree-jumping and background-climbing. In fact, the two games were so similar that pirate copies of Demon Sword were often re-labeled and marketed as Legend of Kage 2. It can only be assumed that Kage had such success that Taito decided to reload a the similar development engine to create Demon Sword.

Gameplay

Demon Sword - NES

Demon Sword boasts fast-paced high-flying gameplay that feels like playing a video game version of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (though, in fair credit, that film paid homage to earlier Asian epics). Some may say that giving Demon Sword four stars out of five is awfully high for a cartridge clone of a game that was already an arcade retread, has sub-par presentation, holds limited depth, and offers a quirky difficulty level, but Demon Sword passes the fun test and gives us a game that is truly wondrous the first time you pick it up. If you have not tried it in a while, fire it up again, and remember how awesome it felt the first time you realized you could leap an entire screen upward and from treetop to treetop in one jump.

Demon Sword - NES

The player controls the hero Victar, who wields an old weapon, the titular “Demon Sword,” with which to battle the malevolent forces of the generically named Dark Fiend. Battling across three worlds of two levels each before the final world stage, this game utilizes the somewhat distinctive control scheme of having the up button on the directional pad jump, while the A button is a sword slash and the B button throws a dart. Whereas dozens of other platforms would harbor one button for jumping and one for attacking, Demon Sword instantly offered two buttons for attacking. This delivers wonderfully combative gameplay, and rather than marginalize the jump feature, it is quite

the leap, as the character seamlessly glides across the screen at superhuman speeds and heights. In addition to using the Select button as activation for spells that get collected, it is truly remarkable that so few NES title used a similar control scheme, when this one so clearly works to enormous enjoyment.

Demon Sword - NES

This can be a difficult game to master, especially some of the boss fights, but once you get the hang of the patterns of the infinitely generated hordes of enemies, it becomes a fun little romp. Victar can collect different power-ups; some that increase his life or respawn, others that change his speed or the speed of his darts, one that shortly allows him to throw darts in four different directions at one time, and keys that open special areas that reward miniboss-beatdowns with devastating special spells.

Demon Sword - NES

Demon Sword is one NES game that defies description: It is simply difficult to portray, in words, the b.a. awesomeness of being aiming to slash a sword, throw a dart in eight different directions, and jump like only a handful of other characters have ever jumped before, all while casting spells and collecting power-ups to defeat the relentless demon horde. It may not be for everyone, but this game is to arcade-style platformers what Guerilla War is to overhead shooters: A well-honed near-perfection that learned its lessons from previous, similar titles.

Graphics

Demon Sword - NES

The looks of the Demon Sword game are a step up from Legend of Kage, and intriguingly stylized, with colored outlines on the characters for example. Some of the background elements are perhaps too obviously tiled, almost to a distracting extent, but they are certainly colorful. Games like Ninja Gaiden boasted better and more dynamic level designs; however, Demon Sword definitely delivers in the “wow this game plays really fast and fluid without many flickering or sprite problems” department. A slick, somewhat-polished experience.

Sound

Demon Sword - NES

The musical accompaniment is nothing legendary, but provides an appropriately up-tempo beat for the levels, perfectly complementing the face-paced action. Otherwise, the music here is standard: The boss tracks sound like boss tracks, etc. The effects are simple, not understated or overwrought, and are standard without complaint with one exception: The sword-slash effect is very metallic, and sounds like contact is made even when you are swinging at air. You get used to it, but until then, it can give a moment or two of cofusion.

Originality

Demon Sword - NES

The control scheme for Demon Sword was masterful, seeming to provide an additional layer of gameplay that other NES titles could not offer. It may have been adopted from Legend of Kage, along with other elements, but no matter where it comes from, that control scheme should be lauded somehow, with the up button failing to catch on as a jump effect until the practice became nearly universal in the fighting game genre. Otherwise, the power-up system is well-done, if not completely 100% innovative; it is fun to know that some power-ups are immediate, while the magic spells must be earned in secreted areas and have limited use. The enemy designs are noteworthy as well, especially the bosses (one difficult-to-forget example: the old man boss on 1-2 that lobs overpowered bombs at you).

Demon Sword has its flaws: Quick play-through, learning curve difficulty, a hit detection radius that takes some getting used to, perhaps a penalty for following in Legend of Kage’s footsteps almost too literally, and a lack of polish in its audiovisuals. However, for taking the proven formula of the Kage game and refining it to provide one of the best, most intense martials-arts epic experiences on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Demon Sword throws four stars out of five.

Shadow of the Beast

Shadow_of_the_Beast_turbo-grafx-16

Developed by Psygnosis and published by Electronic Arts, Shadow of the Beast tells the story of a child kidnapped by mages. This child was transformed into a powerful creature to be used at their will. Years later you learn the truth of your past and set out to kill everyone involved and ultimately your master.

Batman

Batman - NES

Batman

Fuse together challenging fast paced platforming, gratifying fighting action, and an unmistakable awesome soundtrack. Now put it all into one video game and what you get is Batman for the NES.

Batman - NES

It remains to be one of the more memorable games of my childhood, and features one of the most unforgiving final boss fights I’ve ever encountered in a game. This game is based on the first Batman movie, although you may forget that once you see Batman’s purple suit, never before seen enemies, and some off the wall boss fights.

Batman - NES

 

You will find yourself beating down enemies, ninja gaiden wall jumping, and batarang spamming all the way to the Joker. A challenging, exciting, and highly enjoyable game in every way… this is one you dont want to skip over.

Pitstop II

Pitstop II

Pitstop II (1984)
By: Epyx Genre: Driving Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore 64 
Also Available For: PC, Amstrad CPC, Atari 800, Apple II, TRS-80
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Pitstop II

One of my many objectives when starting this humble blog was to finally force myself to try out some titles on the systems that have gone largely ignored by me over the years. The first one to enter my mind was the mighty C64. I may have become somewhat distracted since, but the process began with the pair of ‘Exploring the C64‘ posts for which I requested some game recommendations from seasoned C64 veterans. One of these recommendations was Pitstop, a game that turned out to be so bad I immediately thought I’d been the victim of a practical joke. Subsequent research, however, has revealed its sequel to be substantially better thought of. It’s taken me a good while to work up the courage, but here I shall find out if the ‘Pitstop’ name has been redeemed…
Pitstop II

It’s no surprise to find that it’s an F1-based game once again but it’s immediately apparent that it offers far more than its prequel. Impressively for the day, it’s a one or two-player game but regardless of which you choose, the game employs a split-screen viewpoint anyway – player one occupies the top half of the screen and drives a red car, player two occupies the bottom half and drives a blue car which is controlled by the computer in one-player games. The pre-race options screen offers you the choice of three difficulty levels, you can set the number of laps (3, 6, or 9), and you can select any of six real racing circuits from Europe and the US. As the name hints at, however, it can get a little more complicated than that.
Pitstop II

As well as the ‘red’ and ‘blue’ cars, there are also a seemingly unlimited number of other racers pootling around the circuits, at a much slower pace of course, which means they’re pretty much just there to make your life more difficult. That’s to be expected with a game of this nature but unlike most similar games, or at least ones from this time period, you also have to be careful how you drive as not only can you run out of fuel but you can also wear out your tyres too. Driving too fast around corners too often, for example, will soon see your car squeal off to the side like a burst balloon and stop dead. This, as well as the fuel situation, can be overcome by making one of the titular pit-stops. These can take some time but are unfortunately necessary if you want to make it to the end of a race in anything resembling a decent position.
Pitstop II

Mercifully, the CPU car also makes pit-stops from time to time as well which makes this a surprisingly fair game. It looks a lot nicer than the first game too – it’s far from a stunner but streets ahead of the hideous original. Control of the cars is a bit odd to start with – they feel very skiddy, as if you’re actually playing a bobsleigh racing game or something, but it’s fine after a bit of practise. There’s no in-game music here either, but apart from these minor grumbles Pitstop II is notable improvement over the original which scared me so. You’ll probably tire of the one-player game before too long but this was meant as a two-player game and in that capacity it’s fantastic. It’s still hardly the most complex racing game, even for its time, but Epyx have certainly made this a much more enjoyable game than the first effort.

RKS Score: 7/10

Barbie

Barbie

Overall Rating: 0.5/5 Stars

Barbie-nes

In 1991, Hi Tech Expressions developed a video game for Mattel called Barbie, based on the popular doll of the same name. If someone were to read this review and think, “I have never heard of Hi Tech Expressions,” there is a reason for that: Barbie was a terrible video game. To repeat, for emphasis: Barbie is an absolutely dreadful video game.

Gameplay

In this one-player horizontally side-scrolling two-dimensional platformer with loose run-and-gun elements, precision-jumping obstacles, and item-gathering, the sole controller controls titular protagonist Barbie, a blonde female who embarks on what the game’s opening narration describes as a “glamorous quest full of fun, magic and adventure.”

Barbie-nes

Instead, the player is rewarded with a bore chore full of ineptitude, impossibility, and irreconcilable flaws. The slow-moving, low-jumping Barbie is an enormous on-screen presence, which is quite a detraction considering that every object and being in the universe is trying to kill her. There are harmful elements that are literally impossible to avoid, the first of which is a bouncing tennis ball being batted down at the floor repeatedly by a floating tennis racket possessed by demonic spirits. Actually, it is technically possible to pass without being harmed if you begin walking and time your passage precisely, but the exactness required just to pass under a freakin’ tennis racket is far out of line.

Graphics

Barbie-nes

The title screen is easily among the top ten worst-looking NES video game title screens of all time, featuring a horribly mutilated/pixelated Barbie doll with splotchy, patchy skin and hair and clothes and whatever, it just looks gruesome. The actual gameplay does not get much better, but at least there are cutscenes in which Barbie performs exciting feats like sleep and read books.

Sound

Barbie-nes

The music is not rendered with skill, instead relying on repetitive sound that just thump-thump-thump a rhythm while too-high notes try to sting the ears of players. Perhaps somewhere within the level tunes was a worthwhile melody that merely got butchered by an incompetent development team, but what resulted was merely a notable fast-paced boogie there and a weird techno-pop track here. Players had better like boops and beeps and squealing bubble-gum melodies because Barbie serves it up non-stop.

Originality

Barbie on the NES is not even the best NES video game based on a toy, considering the G. I. Joe games and other examples. Perhaps its only visionary quality is that t could be lauded for being among the earliest video games to feature a female protagonist, even if Metroid could claim that feat three years prior.

Barbie-nes

The true tragedy of this game is that it could have been a championing lightning-rod title for female gamers and girl geeks everywhere, except that it was a terrible game with a shallow message, underworked theme, and bland storyline. The result is a Barbie video game that still gets rightly made fun of, since insulting it is at least a thousand time more enjoyable than actually trying to play it. Being seen as a potential challenge for die-hard NES enthusiasts, and the bizarre quirk of that weird “weapon” you can see Barbie throwing around from the beginning of the game, is the only reason this even gets a half star out of five.

Banana Prince

Banana_Prince

Banana Prince

Banana Prince is one of those missed gems that very few people know about. The game is genius! It’s such an enjoyable game! Why? Because it’s pure simple side scrolling action. The music is also gorgeous and the animation of the game is excellent. This is a must have for any collector!
Banana_Prince
The music is incredibly enjoyable. You will definitely not forget the wonderful tunes you’ll hear from this game. They are quite memorable and catchy. The sound effects are also excellent. There is very little to hate about the sound score from this gem.
Banana_Prince
The game has amazing animation and excellent detail. The developers made sure the game was animated enough for an awesome experience. I can’t say I’ve played a more animated and detailed game as this one for the Famicom. Then again, there are 1050 titles for the console so there might be others. Nevertheless, this game looks stunning!
Banana_Prince
The game is a simple platformer that is just too fun to put down. The game has a lot of different features from such games as Super Mario and even Zelda 2. Combine those two schemes and you have an awesome title if done right that is. Be sure to check it out! FUN FUN FUN!
Banana_Prince
The game itself is great. You’ll definitely have to come back for another run. The game is a great experience from beginning to end. Any platformer fan has to try this one out. The animation and beauty of this game makes you want to come back for more!

So to conclude, the game itself is a must have for any retro collector. If you want to go for the Famicom title, might as well get it complete with box and all as it’s very gorgeous to look at. If you want a US release, there isn’t one! You’ll have to get a reproduction of it though which is the next best thing!

Mega Man

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

Mega Man

The first Mega Man had a lot of potential which turned out to be the legend we know today. It all started with this simple side scroller game. The game developed into an amazing franchise and you’ll definitely feel the tough beginnings it went through. One can relate this game to both Mega Man 9 and 10 for the current gen consoles as it mimics the early beginnings of how tough gameplay could be. Anyways, lets take a look at this awesome game.

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

The music is what made Capcom games unique at many times during the NES era. You could just listen to a game’s music and know it was made by Capcom. The game has very awesome music although not as memorable as other Mega Man games. You’ll love the entire soundtrack that’s for sure. This is the beginning of something amazing after all.

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

The graphics are very stable. They are nothing amazing but it does make you feel like if you are in the future. The game looks and feels great overall. There aren’t that many weird things off from the game but it wouldn’t make any sense since it’s from the future. The bad guys are definitely known by many with such simple names as Cut Man and Guts Man…. Yeah, I remember those.

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

The gameplay is quite tough. This is one of the more difficult Mega Man games out there mainly because there is no Mega buster, no sliding, no E-tanks…I can go on and on. You’ll have to use your best Mega skills to get through this. It’ll be worth it though!

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

A game like this is good to return to from time to time especially if you want to have a Mega Man marathon. I had a few of those in the past…they are lots of fun! The game is definitely short enough to get through it in just over an hour so you won’t be wasting whole evenings on it. It’s Mega Man after all!

The game is the first one of the legendary blue bomber. It’s just so much nostalgia to play through it after such a long time. I feel it’s a great way to feel the beginnings of things and even look for inspiration. Games like these are legends and we should cherish them even if we don’t find them that appealing.

Astro Wars Review

Astro Wars - portable tabletop

Back in the early 80’s, the closest thing to having an arcade in your home was to have one of a plethora of electronic tabletops. In a sea of these portable tabletops, one stood out head and shoulders – Grandstand’s (Epoch developed), Astro Wars. Everything about this black and grey beast was and still is uber cool. It looks like a miniature arcade and it even plays like one. It has a 2-way metal joystick (for left and right movement) and one big plastic fire button – what more could you want !

Astro Wars - portable tabletop

Even after three decades, the hardware oozes coolness. Just look at the unit ! The display is a “vacuum fluorescent display”, or VFD (the box says Multicolour FIP Display !). This was used on consumer-electronics equipment back in the early 80’s, like calculators. Unlike liquid crystal displays, a VFD could emit a very bright light with high contrast and could support display elements of various colours.

Astro Wars - portable tabletop

The unit feels sturdy and can be powered by mains (6 Volt) or with four ‘C’ batteries. The unit is “portable” – perhaps only around the house as you wouldn’t want to lug it around.

Astro Wars - portable tabletop

So, how does this Astro Wars play ? Well, as a shoot’em up, it is quite simple – move your earth ship left / right to avoid missiles from the fierce squadron of attacking fighters and fire back to blast them into smithereens. Once you blast away waves of enemy fighters, warships and command ships, you attempt the docking manoeuvre – landing the upper module to the rocket part of your earth ship. Succeed with this manoeuvre, and you are given extra points. Speaking of points, once you reach 9999, the counter resets to zero and you have effectively “clocked the game”. When you do end up finishing the game, you still want to re-play it. Now that is saying something for a game that has been around for 30+ years. How many other games can you say that about ? OK, I hear people screaming Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, and yes, them too.

If you want a cool piece of gaming history with “pew-pew sounds” and a great game to boot, then hunt down this unit – you will not regret it.

BlazeOn

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Released by Atlus Co Ltd in 1992 this Japanese space shooter might look a little familiar when you first start off. Honestly, at first I thought I was playing a bootleg copy of R-type, but as the game continues on you find enough differences to move it out of the bootleg category and into the standard space shooter category.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Now don’t get me wrong if you love these types of games then you’ll understand there is only so much you can do, but the key question becomes, is the gameplay fun. In BlazeOn you fight one against an army of enemies and like R-type you are not always in free open space. You end up traveling inside enemy bases and end up fighting a boss at the end.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

When you start off your ship has two attacks, your main blaster and a missile that fires straight ahead at enemies. After a while you will encounter some enemies that when you kill them they will leave an outline of themselves and when you fly into it you morph into your own version of that enemy.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Now you have access to their abilities which gives you an even bigger upper hand on the enemy. Some of the enemies you can morph into have a special attack with limited charges while others are specialized for certain conditions like fighting inside the base and shooting at turrets and such.

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

Like most space shooters the idea is not to get overwhelmed, especially when in a base when you have enemies flying at you while turrets and other defenses are trying to take you out. Obviously the key is to be in an upgraded ship when you get to a boss so you can take it out quicker.

Overall the game is fun, you have you basic controls and decent fight music including individual scores for the boss fights. The game can get frustrating at times as some of the enemies you morph into are not especially useful when you get them. Again, twitch factor is the key to avoid being killed quickly like I am in the video.

Deathkeep

Deathkeep

As I prepared for the excruciating experience of preparing my entry into the Review a Bad Game Day worldwide self-flagellation exercise, I realized two key historical gaming themes: first, the rise of the 3D adventure was not without its failures along the way, and second, the history of putrid games released on the PC is an unfortunately long and varied one. My choice, the promisingly-titled first-person AD&D game, Deathkeep, is an evidential exhibit in both.

Deathkeep - pc game - gameplay screenshot

To understand Deathkeep we need to journey back in time to 1987, when Strategic Simulations, Incorporated (SSI), was granted the AD&D license from TSR, Inc. The next seven years were wondrous for the PC Dungeons & Dragons player, as the company released many quality RPGs, beginning with the Gold Box series (of whichSecret of the Silver Blades remains my all-time favorite), the Eye of the Beholderseries, and the later SVGA games such as Menzoberranzan and the Ravenloftgames. I can recall many hours of gaming in the AD&D universe thanks to the talented development teams at SSI. Unfortunately, this review is not about one of those games.

Deathkeep - pc game - gameplay screenshot

The AD&D license expired in 1994, which meant that no new development of games using the AD&D ruleset could be initiated, but games already under production could finish their development cycle. This is how Deathkeep could stay alive and be released on April 30, 1996, a full two years after the license had expired. So between the extra time given to the game and the need to make it the crowning achievement – the legacy, as it were – of the SSI experience with the AD&D universe, you would expect this game to well-nigh pulse with energy while still in the box. You would certainly not expect what appeared to be a very late April Fool’s Day prank from the lads and lasses at SSI.

Deathkeep - pc game - gameplay screenshot

The game begins with a brief semi-animated (mostly a slideshow that occasionally animates, similar to the early days of graphic adventures) which sets up the quest: Stop a generic AD&D villain from reacquiring his long-lost power by recovering three special Orbs from his ancient lair – his “Deathkeep” – which he raised amidst a Dwarven fortress, and deliver them to an ancient three-armed skeleton creature’s temple hidden within that same fortress. Well, not every game can have an interesting and creative storyline, and the hope of those starting the game was that perhaps the game itself would rise above the “every DM in the world has run this story” plot. Unfortunately, the opening sequence may have been the highlight of the game.

Deathkeep - pc game - gameplay screenshot

 

The first real worry that this game might be broken comes immediately after the opening sequence, when you choose your character. Typically in a RPG, a player selects their gender, race, class, abilities, equipment, and so forth, customizing their character and giving it their own unique stamp. In Deathkeep, the game presents a total of THREE characters to choose from: a male Dwarven Fighter, a female Elven Mage, and a male Half-Elf Fighter/Mage. Astonishingly, that’s it. Not even a choice in gender for each character, so if you’re not into cross-dressing but you do like playing Mages, you’re out of luck. At least you could name your character.

Deathkeep - pc game - gameplay screenshot

As for the gameplay itself, the control mechanism was efficient enough: you could opt to use your keyboard or your mouse for a full range of motions. Combat was handled by facing the creature you wanted to disappear and clicking on your mouse until it was gone. No real problem, aside from the incredibly chunky graphics, that is. Maps and inventory screens displayed in 640×480, but the game ran in 320×200, resulting in walls with very poor textures, and creatures that looked like they would be right at home in today’s Minecraft but with lower resolution. The whole game was just hard on the eyes, and considering the some of the amazing games that were released that same year, SSI really had no excuse.

Deathkeep - pc game - gameplay screenshot

So why was Deathkeep such an embarrassment? The answer lies in the timing of the loss of the AD&D license and what system the game was originally designed to play on: the Panasonic 3DO. Deathkeep was first released for the 3DO in 1995, a full year before the Windows release. The 3DO was a 32-bit video game system whose core processor ran at 12.5 MHz, and whose video output was either 640×480 or 320×240 (on 60 MHz North America systems…50 MHz PAL versions ran much better graphics at 768×576 or 384×288). The game was simply ported over to Windows, with less than stellar results.  Of course, the game wasn’t all that good on the 3DO, either.

Deathkeep - pc game - gameplay screenshot

Here’s a little humorous tidbit of knowledge found in the game’s documentation for anyone wondering why I don’t have any screenshots of gameplay: Deathkeep does not permit Windows multi-tasking. Attempts at doing so exits the game. Not a single screenshot utility works, not the standard PrtScn/Paint combo, not Gadwin, not MWSnap, not Screen Rip32, nothing. Perhaps the developers wanted no visual evidence that might implicate them in this sorry mess of a PC-RPG, perhaps not. Truly this is a bad, bad game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2ZKhaexa4E[/youtube]

Deathkeep was promoted as a 1st person 3D game set in the AD&D universe, with “…dungeon delving the way you like it – fast, furious and fun!”  I was one of the unfortunates who purchased the game upon its release (and still have it in my collection of AD&D PC games), and after revisiting it for this review, I am reminded of what I thought back in 1996: This game is neither fast, nor furious, nor fun. It’s games like this one that helped spawn the world-wide “Review a Bad Game Day” phenomena which hopefully will help gamers tell other gamers of some of the pitfalls that await them, while simultaneously presenting an opportunity for us to share our pain with sympathetic readers. So my fellow retrogaming enthusiasts, consider this a solemn warning: should you encounter the excrement that is Deathkeep in your travels, run, don’t walk, away from this game before you suffer as I have suffered!

Pooyan

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

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

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

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

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

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

Pooyan - arcade - gameplay screenshot

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

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

Overall 9/10

Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

Dune II The Building of a Dynasty - Gameplay Screenshot

Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty

If Empire Deluxe was the mother of “just one more turn,” Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty was the father of real-time strategy games. Published in 1994 by Westwood Studios, Dune II was based on the David Lynch Dune movie, which was in turn based on the classic novel by Frank Herbert, and was a sequel – in name only – to the previous 1992 Virgin Games PC adventure/strategy hybrid game, Dune.  The game’s designers further deviated from the film, novel, and game versions of Dune by adding House Ordos, which was not mentioned in either Herbert’s novels nor in Lynch’s film.  Of course, this was not an adventure game, so what cannon the game was based on didn’t make much of an overall impact on gameplay.

Dune II The Building of a Dynasty - Gameplay Screenshot

A sandworm swallows a harvester in Dune II

The plot was straight-forward: the Emperor needs more Spice from the planet Arrakis, and offers up the prize title of Governor of Arrakis to whichever House delivers the most Spice to him. Three Houses vie for the governorship: House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and House Ordos. Each House has different strengths and weaknesses based on their particular House zeitgeist: House Atreides uses speed, House Harkonnen uses brute strength, and House Ordos uses sneakiness. (Their prime units represent those traits, with House Atreides using the speedy sonic tank, House Harkonnen using the slow but incredibly powerful Devastator, and House Ordos using the allegiance-altering Deviator.) The Emperor’s Sardaukar make an appearance toward the end, providing an elite challenge just when you think that your victory is at hand.

Dune II The Building of a Dynasty - Gameplay Screenshot

A Harkonnen base in Dune II

As the game progresses, Spice blooms in the desert, and the Houses (either a player or the computer) sends harvester units to gather the bounty and return it to their base. The harvesters are exposed while gathering the Spice, and can be destroyed by enemy units or by the sudden appearance of a gargantuan Sand Worm. Protecting them from dangers is an integral strategic element of playing Dune II, as your score is determined by how much spice you harvest and return to your base. Of course, securing your base from enemy attacks and sending out an invasion force to wipe out your rival Houses are also important.

Dune II The Building of a Dynasty - Gameplay Screenshot

An Atreides base in Dune II

The list of features that Dune II debuted in real-time strategy gaming is impressive. It was the first RTS to use the mouse to move individual units. It was the first to use building bases and then units. It was the first to use a development technology tree, permitting the construction of advanced units only after certain buildings were constructed. It was the first to use units that you could move and then deploy as a base. It was the first to use different factions with different goals (and strategies). It was even the first to use a world map that you chose your next mission from. This is an impressive list, and these features are now commonplace in RTS games, but were fresh and new back when Dune II was released. All these would be found in Westwood’s own Command & Conquer series that would dominate the gaming industry for over a decade!

Dune II The Building of a Dynasty - Gameplay Screenshot

An Ordos base in Dune II

I fondly remember playing Dune II into the night (and the next day), cursing the computer as it launched a devastating attack on my base and thrilling to the total destruction of that same enemy. And I wasn’t the only one. The reviews for both the MS-DOS and Commodore Amiga versions were very positive (as were unit sales!), making Dune II a hit for Westwood Studios, which paved the way for the entire Command & Conquer series.   Two official follow-up games were also released,Dune 2000 and Emperor: Battle For Dune, in 1998 and 2001, respectively.  There’s even a non-official version: Super Dune II: The Destruction (in which you play either Mercenaries, Fremen, or Sardaukar).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tppjzT-su0Q[/youtube]

The game’s influence is still recognized by the gaming industry, evidenced by it’s placement in IGN’s Top 10 Most Influential Games, GameSpy’s Hall of Fame list, and Computer Gaming World’s Best Games of All Time list.  With both industry accolades and sales success, it is obvious that Dune II: The Building of a Dynasty has the pedigree to belong on any retro gamer’s ‘must play’ list, and is yet another in a long line of Westwood Studio masterpieces!

Joust

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

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

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

joust-atari 7800- gameplay screenshot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overall, 10/10

Loom

Some classic games are more obscure than others, but are no less gaming gems than those games that inspired a multitude of sequels and imitators.  LOOM, a LucasFilm Games (the original name of LucasArts Entertainment) product, is one such game.

Loom-PC-Gameplay-screenshot

The front cover of the PC game, LOOM.

Released in 1990, LOOM contained a complex plot involving the fate of the universe resting upon the shoulders of one gifted man-child who is the last practitioner of an ancient guild of magicians called the Weavers.  The plot was so complex, in fact, that the preamble goes on for 30 minutes.  You read that right.  Originally a cassette tape was included so you could listen to the audio drama before starting the game. In the later CD-ROM version, the audio file was included on the CD.

Loom-PC-Gameplay-screenshot

The classic retro game LOOM begins!

Bobbin Threadbare, the aforementioned only surviving member of the Guild of Weavers, must learn the ways of his craft.  This is not a simple adventure game; players don’t simply point and click their way to the grand finale.  In LOOM, magic is music and music is magic.  Bobbin can cast spells, but only as musical sequences on the C Major scale, and only if he possesses his “distaff,” a combination walking stick and wizard’s staff. Much of the game revolves around Bobbin seeking new “drafts” – the magical musical sequences – for him to use in his quest to save the universe from a “grey strand” that has unbalanced creation.

Loom-PC-Gameplay-screenshot

The Practice Mode of LOOM.

This game is pure delight from beginning to finish.  I loved the musical element and complete departure from the standard LucasArts adventure fare that this game provided.  The puzzles weren’t all that challenging, but different enough to be memorable.  The graphics were good for the time, also.  But most importantly, you couldn’t die or be returned to the beginning of the game for a simple mistake, making LOOM the first game to follow the LucasArts game design philosophy.

Loom-PC-Gameplay-screenshot

Standard Mode for LOOM

The game featured three challenge levels: Standard, Practice, and Expert, all relating to how the player learns the new scripts (spells) as they play.  With Practice mode, players could see the letters for the notes that were played. Standard mode takes away the letters on the notes, but instead the distaff glows when the notes are played.  Toughest of all – the Expert mode – removes both the glowing distaff and the musical letters, forcing the player to “play by ear” repeating the spells without the aid of any graphical representation.

Loom-PC-Gameplay-screenshot

Expert Mode for LOOM

Although this is a definitely a one-of-a-kind game, its creator, Brian Moriarty, claims that it was originally intended to be the first of a trilogy.  The sequel, Forge, would have followed Rusty Nailbender of the Guild of Blacksmiths in his fight to free his home from the evil of Chaos.  Following that would have been The Fold, wherein Fleece Firmflanks (I’m not making this up!) must restore the all the guilds to their former glory.  Alas, the sequels were not meant to be, and LOOM remains the unique game that it is today.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LnEMcquu2lc[/youtube]

This is a fabulous piece of retro gaming history, and one of the most sought-after PC games for most collectors.  If you have a chance to play it, do so.  You won’t regret your time spent saving the world!

Dragon Warrior

Dragon Warrior - NES - Gameplay Screenshot - Box

Dragon Warrior

You take role of a warrior (Elwood?) in order to save the princess and slay the dragon. Dragon Warrior(Quest in Japan and lately here) is the one that started it all in terms of quest style games. If you get a chance to check out the library of games for the Famicom you’ll realize that there are a vast amount of Dragon Warrior(Quest) clones out there. Most of the good ones were translated by true RPG fans while some others might or not still be in the works. Either way, you’ll have your best bet playing this classic of classics as you take a quest in the most initiative way through a realm full of freaks!

Dragon Warrior - NES - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

 

You(Elwood) take your role and start up as a wimpy warrior and must train hard to turn into a respectful killing machine. It’ll take you a while to reach your goal so you better be ready to sit down and level up by killing the same monsters over and over again. The music might get to your nerves since it’s so archaic (it’s from the 1980s for crying out loud!) So take a chance and plug in your Ihome or stereo and listen to some punk rock, it helps!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U5gnCG0AUI[/youtube]

 

Your quest will take you approximately twenty hours to complete for slow pokes like me, but I heard some hardy players have beaten the game in ten hours so go figure. I remember that the magazine Nintendo Power said it could be done in ten hours as well. Don’t worry though, do what you have to do, Elwood will always be there dancing on the same spot waiting for your command.
Till next time adventurer….

Elvira: Mistress of the Dark

For those of us who remember well the 1980s, the phenomenally endowed Elvira – the campy TV persona of Cassandra Peterson – was and is much loved.  Dressed in gothic attire that tended to display her front-facing assets, Miss Peterson was a staple of the late night television viewing, and a highly recognizable advertising brand.  Many and diverse were her following, including myself…as I admit to being an Elvira acolyte.

Elvira - Mistress of the Dark - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Box art for Elvira: Mistress of the Dark

Accolade tapped into this cult following with the 1990 release of Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, a horror-themed PC adventure game with RPG elements.  The developer was the aptly named HorrorSoft, which focused primarily on making games in the horror genre.  HorrorSoft was actually Adventure Soft, and was sub-branded to give the company the ability to explore both a new genre and a new gaming engine.  Elvirawas HorrorSoft’s second game, their first being the somewhat enjoyable “Personal Nightmare”(featuring an appearance by Elvira), and they didn’t disappoint.  From the back of the box’s flavor text – “Can somebody help me find my chest?” – to the ending credits, Elvira was a fun game.

Elvira - Mistress of the Dark - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

You play a helpful adventurer in Elvira, brought in to rescue the lovely Mistress of the Dark from the dangers of her own castle.  It seems Elvira’s quite-dead grandmother wants to return to the Realm of the Living, and plans to unleash a horrific assault on her surroundings – and upon her errant granddaughter, too.  Poor Elvira wants nothing to do with her grandmother’s schemes, but she’s lacking her usual magical arsenal as all her potion ingredients and equipment is scattered throughout her castle, and she needs you to collect it all and return it to her, while dispatching the nasty creatures that her dear grandmother has prowling the corridors and rooms along the way.

Elvira - Mistress of the Dark - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Like many RPGs and adventure games, inventory management was a straightforward exercise.  As you explored your environment (all 800 locations of it), approximately 300 objects could be picked up and placed into your pack, which was represented by a grid at the bottom of the screen.  Some objects could interact with others to create more powerful items (such as potions ingredients combining into potions).  The combat mechanism was equally as simple, involving clicking on either the “thrust” or “parry” icons at the correct moments (not button-mashing them into a fine powder, a laDiablo).  Some of the magical potions and items improved your combat or defensive prowess, which was absolutely essential when facing some of the more terrifying castle denizens.

Elvira - Mistress of the Dark - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Elvira was released on several gaming platforms, including MS-DOS, Amiga, Commodore 64, and Atari ST, and received favourable reviews.  Sales were sufficient to warrant a sequel, Elvira II: Jaws of Cerberus.  HorrorSoft would go on to make one more horror-themed PC game, Waxworks, before the company was abandoned to focus on the rebirth of its parent, Adventure Soft Publishing, and the release of theirSimon the Sorcerer series.

Elvira - Mistress of the Dark - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

If you are a retrogaming horror junkie, or a classic adventure game aficionado, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark is a game well worth playing.  It has the right mix of humor and horror, action and exploration to warrant a place as my Retro Game of the Week, and is a worthy addition to any retro gaming collection!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwlaVJ35CdI[/youtube]

Star Castle

Star Castle

I gave this game a whirl on a request from our Facebook Fan page and I must say, this game looked easier than it was. Star Castle is a vector arcade game and was made in 1980 by publisher and developer Cinematronics. The main objective is to take out the enemy cannon, which is surrounded by a defense shield. Your ship can move and rotate 360 degrees and fire a series of shots at the shields weakening and eventually destroying them. However, there are mines that fly off from the shield, which you must avoid. Once you take out enough of the enemies shields, the cannon itself begins firing at you.

star_castle_

Now you would think since you can fly anywhere, even off of the screen, it would be easy, but it’s not. First, I had a handicap which was the sound did not work. Second, and this is normal gameplay mechanics, the thrusters take a bit to get used to and you cannot just stop and turn on a dime so the result is you end up coasting into mines or not moving out of the way of the cannon fire fast enough.

Now, something to keep in mind, which I did not know, your goal is not to destroy the entire outer shield because if you do it will regenerate. This makes the game harder because you want to hit the same spots and make a small window in the shield to take out the cannon. As you can see in the video, I was not very good at this.

Overall, this game is pretty fun and like all classic games of this type if you do take out the cannon you start all over, but with more mines and faster shots from the cannon, but definitely a fun game and a great time waster.

Thanks to Mike Taylor for suggesting this game to try.

Super Sprint

Super Sprint - Title Screen

Super Sprint (1986)
By: Atari Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 3 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: NES, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

The overhead viewed racing game certainly didn’t start with Super Sprint – the genre goes right back to the pre-microprocessor, black and white games of the 70’s – but it’s possibly the most fondly remembered example of this all but dead genre. In the eighties and early nineties, there were a lot of these games around. Some were variations on Super Sprint, such as Super Off Road, others experimented with games that only showed a small part of the course at once, such as Motoroader for the PC Engine and, of course, Micro Machines (most popular on Amiga and Megadrive), which required lightning reactions by the player, and there were some which were viewed from an isometric viewpoint like Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing for the SNES. All of these variations on the original blueprint were exciting and good fun, esepcially in multi-player, and I’ll be looking at some of them later in this series of features, but it’s Super Sprint and its sequel, Championship Sprint, that old timers like me most fondly recall.

Super Sprint - Select Screen

There can’t be too many people that don’t know all about Super Sprint, and there’s not really too much that you can say about it. It was a simple game, even compared to others of the time. It’s based on either Formula One or Indy/Cart racing (probably the latter considering how unpopular F1 is in the US) and can be played by between one and three players simultaneously, whilst a fourth ‘drone’ car is controlled by the computer. This was before the days of linking machines together of course, so this is achieved by presenting each course in its entirety from an overhead perspective. The races are contested over four laps by four cars regardless of how many human players there are. If there are less than three players, the remaining places are taken by additional drone cars. Though there are only eight courses, the competition can go on for as long as the player(s) like, since the courses just keep repeating over and over again. The object is obviously to finish in as high a position as possible, but only the first three positions score points; the higher the position, the more points are awarded, but if you finish fourth, you’ll soon have to insert (giggity) more coins.

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 4

As can be seen from the screenshots, each of the courses feature a wide track, and they pretty much fill the screen. Since the whole course has to be shown at once, however, there are lots of bridges and sharp corners (including some 180 degree, and even a few 270 degree turns!). There are also a few features that are not exactly common on F1-style circuits. Some of them hinder your progress such as jumps (if you fluff it, at least!), tornadoes (which make your car spin around if you drive near them), and pools of oil (which do something similar to tornados), and some are there to help you like short cuts, bonus points, gold wrenches and gates. Not all courses have gates but when they are present, they allow you to take further short-cuts. Beware though – the gates aren’t always open – they open and close in regular patterns (and often seem to favour the computer-controlled cars). If you head towards one at high speed and it closes just as you get there, you often can’t avoid it in time and…….. BOOOOOM!

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 1

When you start the game you don’t get to choose which car you want to drive as they’re all identical (except their colour), but every time you pick up three gold wrenches, you can choose one of four upgrades. Three of them – higher top speed, turbo acceleration, and super traction – can only be chosen up to five times each, but the other, which gives you bonus points, can be selected as often as you like. Be careful if you upgrade your speed too much though, as hitting a wall too fast will result in your car exploding. A replacement is soon ‘choppered’ in enabling you to continue on your way, but it all takes time. It’s also possible to make the others cars crash by driving into them and knocking them into the wall, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, they can also do this do your car.

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 2

As mentioned earlier, Super Sprint was a pretty simple game, even back in 1986. There’s precious little music (including none in-game) and a few weak effects, and, while the colours are bold and the title and presentation screens are nice enough, the graphics aren’t particularly impressive either. The courses all look damn near identical (aside from their layout, obviously), the cars and other objects are all small and not especially detailed, and animation is almost non-existent, but this is one of those games that doesn’t need flashy or detailed graphics to be playable. Even far more modern variations on the theme don’t usually look particularly great – playability is all that counts here, and fortunately Super Sprint has that by the bucket-load. The cars here handle very precisely and have tight and quick turning circles. In fact, since the track is mostly very wide (compared to the cars) it’s easy to turn too sharply and end up driving backwards or something! This just adds to the fun when racing against friends though, and is rarely annoying. What is a little annoying, however, is something that’s commonly annoying in racing games – the computer-controlled cars. They’re inconsistent in their performance and are ‘magically’ unaffected by the hazards present on each circuit, like the tornados, but this was always intended as a multi-player game anyway. The courses are nicely designed for the most part though, and are varied enough in their layout to keep things interesting too.

Super Sprint - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Racing/driving games are among the most enjoyable multi-player games there are today. The strong sense of competition, not to mention the ability to fight dirty by making your friends crash, have helped to prolong the lifespan of many games that would otherwise have started gathering dust long before, and this game proves that this has been the case for almost as long as there has been videogames. They may have changed dramatically over the years, particularly as far as their appearance is concerned, but their roots run deep, so to speak. Super Sprint may be almost 25 years old but it has stood the test of time better than many much newer titles.

RKS Score: 8/10

 

Garrett Brown: Tapout Games

Tapout Games logo
Tapout Games logo
n-Space logo
n-Space logo

Name: Garrett Brown

 

Company: n-Space / Tapout Games

 

Profession: Game Designer

 

Favorite Classic Game: Archon

 

Quote: Archon was my favorite game as a kid. I liked the mythological creatures, the light vs dark aspect, the strengths and weakness based off of territory, and how it was based off of chess. I think it was pretty ahead of its time.


Portal is Free!

Portal Logo
Portal Logo

Portal is Free!

Until May 24th, Portal is now free. The game is short and most people can beat it in a few hours, so it’s worth checking out this short classic before the free period runs out, if you don’t have it already.

Portal is available for PC and for Mac.

Click here to get the game free and play it now.

Another World

Another World (Out of this World)
Another World (Out of this World)

Another World review (Out of This World) by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:
“Masterful action-adventure storytelling that set the way for games like Abe’s Odyssey and others.”

Overall Score:
10 out of 10

Overview:

Another World (Out of This World in the US) is a CLASSIC video game that is a perfect blend of adventure and action. The game is a platformer and plays similar to the original Prince of Persia, except with guns and the later Abe’s Oddysee.

The story goes something along the lines that you were working at a science lab with a particle accelerator during a really bad thunderstorm and lightning hit when you were conducting an experiment and that made a dimensional shift happen that took you into… Another World! As soon as you get there, you are being surrounded by these crawling little creatures that if you allow them to get near you will paw at you with a little venom tooth and it’s pretty much game over. I won’t ruin any more little surprises. This game simply has to be played.

The game needs no dialogue as the ways the characters react was simply amazingly done. The gameplay is fast and fluid. The game has cut-scenes that are really quick and whose animations are really well done for 1991. They’re not like cut-scenes in today’s games for which you might as well just eat popcorn or something else while watching. Another World plays very fast.

The game is available on 3DO, Amiga, Apple IIGS, Atari ST, DOS, GBA, Mac OS, Mega-CD, Mega Drive, Mobile phone (Symbian OS), SNES, Windows, Windows Mobile.

The game is from 1991, made by Eric Chahi, with music by Jean-François Freitas.

Here is the intro to the game:

Fun Factor:

Games where everything kills you are a lot of fun for me. There’s parts in this game where you are running for your life and shooting like a real gun fight. It feels more like combat from a movie like Ronin rather than something like Rambo.

The first time one plays this game, the game will most likely blow you away. The fun of exploring a hostile environment plus being a fugitive makes for a great adrenaline rush, as well as having to THINK. Fun Factor gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Difficulty & Difficulty Versatility:

Although I’ve played this game many, many times, it’s relatively easy to die. Pretty much everything will kill you in one attack, so you need to be careful at all times. Since the death system is realistic and it will depend on your knowledge of knowing how to react as well as your reflexes, the difficulty is perfect and real. Difficulty gets a score of 10 out of 10, since it’s realistic. I’d say this game is “NES hard”.

Since you can’t change the difficulty, Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 7 out of 10. To make the game easier would take away some of the excitement one gets playing the game. (This isn’t a modern noob-friendly game, so deal with it!)

Value:

You can pick up Another World at gog.com for $9.99. Their version gives you the game DRM-free, its manual, a bunch of hi-res wallpapers from it, its development diary, a technical handbook, as well as the soundtrack for the game. Considering how much of a classic this game is to me, $10 is a good value (the cost of going out to dinner) for a classic game that one will never forget. Value gets a score of 8 out of 10.

Replayability:

I’ve replayed this game about 30 times so far, although I know exactly what’s going to happen in every scene. I enjoy having the factor that I might not respond fast enough and still die. That makes the action more realistic offering a challenge not found in most of today’s games. Replayability gets a score of 8 out of 10.

Sound:

The sound is particularly important for this game. It makes up a lot of what make it great and what keep you feeling inmersed in the atmosphere of this game. My favorite sounds are the blasts from the energy gun and the cackle of the lightning and particle accelerator in the intro, as well as hearing enemies die. Sound gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Music:

Music is absent from most of the game except during the intro and ending. Although we are used to having most games playing music most of the time, in real life we don’t go around hearing a theme song in the background all the time, which makes the game have a suspenseful atmosphere. The intro music is tenseful. The ending theme nice and very soothing. Overall the music in this game gets a score of 7 out of 10.

Graphics:

For its time, the graphics and animations of Another World were simply amazing. I remember when I first played this game it had made me justify having upgraded to the Amiga for my gaming platform from my c64. Considering how well this game has always ran, how fluid everything looks, and how real the characters act, Graphics get and deserve a 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

This game almost never crashes, except maybe my Amiga version (mainly because my machine had overheating problems, my old Amiga 600). I give Stability/Reliability a score of 10 out of 10 for the gog.com version. I give the Amiga version a score of 8 out of 10 because of the rare crashes.

Controls:

The controls for this game are self-explanatory. The only thing that might get some getting used to, the first time you play, is how responsive the character is to running and shooting. One quickly learns to control the character perfectly. Controls get a 10 out of 10.

Performance:

This game has always run flawlessly and fast on all platforms. Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This is one of the games I’m most fond of from my Amiga gaming days. The story, atmosphere, and cinematics are unforgettable.

Longplay of the game:

The following video shows you somebody playing the game all the way through. It’s not a super long game but it’s still a classic game that holds a special place in my heart. This is the Amiga Longplay playthrough by cubex55 for Another World.

Leave your comments and feedback below, on our forums, or our social networking websites!

Dig Dug review

Dig Dug in-game
Dig Dug in-game shot

Dig Dug review by Honorabili

One Sentence Review:

“Pop that monster!”

Overall Score:
9 out of 10

Overview:

Dig Dug consists of you being this blue man in a white suit that digs your way underground to kill monsters in tunnels. You do this by impaling them with an air pump that has like a tip like Scorpion’s weapon in Mortal Kombat (weird, I know but it’s cute!). You them pump the little monsters with enough air until they pop like a balloon. The game keeps progressing as you kill more monsters and there are none left in that level. Each level is progressively harder (especially when multiple enemies come at you at once).

You can get an extra man every 20000 points and you can pick up fruit in the middle of the stage when you kill enemies in a spectacular way, accelerating your 1UP rate.

The original game keeps going for 256 levels with the remake having about 400 levels.

The game is available on most Ataris, the Intellivision, Apple II, Commodore VIC 20 and c64, for PC, NES, gameboy, Wii, and the TI-99/4A. The remake is also available under Namco Classic Collection Volume 2 for Xbox, Gamecube, and the PS2.

Fun Factor:

I always thought it was a trip to fill up cute little monsters with air and watch their belly burst. If you’re braindead like me then you will love this kind of action. As the game will become much harder later, you will have to react instantly to the onslaught of monsters and have to adapt to using the terrain to your advantage and tricking the game’s A.I. by timing your attacks. You will sometimes have to run like a little bitch for your life and that can be fun to do especially in an old game! Fun Factor gets a score of 1o out of 10.

Difficulty Versatility:

Dig Dug is a challenging game. It’s from an era where if you wanted to get a high score you had to be a good gamer. Continues? Never heard of them. You put in a quarter and you got a set amount of lives. If you lost them all, you had to pay again to replay from the beginning. If you like your games easy then Dig Dug is not a game for you. If you like a game where the A.I. will eventually come at you from every direction, really fast then this is your game. You do get one more life though every 20000 points.

The first levels are easy and the game constantly keeps acccelerating in diffuculty. There’s no way to alter that but the game is challenging enough as it is. Difficulty Versatility gets a score of 9 out of 10.

Value:

Since this game is so old now, most people will probably play the emulated (usually MAME) version which you can get for free.

The PS2 Namco Classic Collection version is now out of print and not available online. You can track it down either by calling your local game stores or finding it through ebay.

The Wii version you can probably get online from their store for probably a few dollars.

Overall, since you can either play this game for free or for a few dollars for the PS2 or Wii version, Value gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Replayability:

Most classic arcade games are highly addictive/replayable, unless you find them too hard/frustrating for you. You can pretty much set your own goal as you what you want your experienced with this game to be, whether to get to whatever number of level or whatever your high score will be.

Myself, I find this game fun and I often wonder to what level I can get to the next time I play. Considering I’ve played this game thousands of times since the 80s and I still play it, the game is a classic and very replayable. I give replayability a score of 9 out of 10.

Sound:

The sounds mainly consist of hearing the dragon roar (whistle) and your pump that fills up the cute monsters and pops the living hell out of them. For an old game the sounds are really well done and I think Sound deserves a score of 1o out of 10.

Music:

The music is so simple but it’s so catchy. The music is interactive in the sense that the little jingle will only play whenever your guy is walking. Mega64 makes fun of that fact and made a video where they go around harrassing people with it! Here is a video showing that:

It’s catchy and it keeps you playing this hectic little game. For a few simple notes, it’s a classic. Overall the game has like 4 little melodies but the main melody is the one that you will hear the most. Music gets a score of 10 out of 10.

Graphics:

The graphics look pretty cute for this old game and they are actually great. It’s fun watching the monsters blow up like a balloon and then POP! Graphics get a score of 10 out of 10.

Stability/Reliability:

This game actually has 2 bugs.

If you get to the end of the game, the game has a kill screen where you are basically stuck because the game will not progress any further. This happens when you get to the last level of the game (level 256) and beat it.

The other bug happens if you drop a rock on an enemy while you are pumping it with air and snuff it. It basically makes all enemies disappear making the level unbeatable but the work around is to trigger another rock to fall.

Other than those two bugs, mainly the rock one (because most people will NOT get to the last level), the game is rock solid. Stability/Reliability get a score of 8 out of 10.

Controls:

The controls are simple. Up is up and so forth, and the fire button always triggers the harpoon gun/pump which lets you kill enemies. Other than that you walk into the ground to tunnel and you make rocks fall by leaving a tunnel under it (to try to trick a monster into getting crushed). Controls get a score of 10 out of 10.

Performance:

The game runs flawless whether you play it on an arcade machine, emulation (MAME, etc), or on a console remake of it. If only all games could run as well as old games! Performance gets a score of 10 out of 10.

My history with this game:

This is one of the first games where I was impressed by an arcade game, specifically Namco and Atari. I remember seeing this around the same time I first played Ms. Pacman, another arcade favorite of mine. I’ve played Dig Dug over 1000 times, literally. It’s not as popular as the Pacman games but among the arcade community, it’s always a classic.

If you’ve never played Dig Dug, you are missing out on a major arcade game that is a corner stone for arcade gaming history. Go play it and stop reading this.

Techno Cop

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Techno Cop

This was truly one of my most favorite games on the Amiga. In 1988 the game was released for a number of platforms including the Commodore 64 and MS-Dos. In 1990 it was released for the Sega Genesis by Razorsoft.

Developed by Gremlin Graphics, Techno Cop was a single player side scrolling action game where you played a hardcore cop in a futuristic city. You began each mission in your vehicle where you drove to the hideout of the suspect you were to kill or capture. During the driving stage you would be attacked by enemy cars which you could shoot at, if in front of you or ram off the road. The driving part of the game looked at lot like your classic Outrun view with a Spy Hunter feel to the action. You had a time limit to reach the hideout and one you did you would exit you car and the side scrolling action shooter part of the game would begin.

Techno Cop driving
Techno Cop driving

In the side scrolling part of the game you would make your way through the various hideouts of the bad guy you were after. Most of the time you were placed in a rundown building of some kind blasting away at the bad guys as the approached you or popped out of closed doors. Strangely enough there were also kids jumping and playing in these criminal infested builds right next to the toxic waste barrels. Sometimes you would also come across nude or semi-nude women (in the Sega and future versions this was edited to full clothe the women).

Truth be told the graphics were pretty bad even for the late 80’s. Both the driving and side scrolling part of the game used the same backgrounds over and over with very little changes. Each level was the same, drive shooting at cars until you get your next subject then get out and traverse a rundown building until you find the boss and either kill or capture him. Your H.U.D. or heads up display took up 40% of the screen in the form of your arm and a predator-like wrist device which displayed your target, score, health, time limit, lives and an option to switch between a net or your gun.

Techno Cop walking
Techno Cop walking

What made this game fun was the blood and gore factor. Let’s face it, to find a game in the late 80’s where when you shoot a bad guy and they turn to chum was just awesome and the fact that there were nude ladies in the game just sealed the deal. You could also shoot the jumping kids, but who would do such a thing? Even with the horrible sound effects including a slurping sound whenever you picked up the giant money bag, this game had the kind of mindless violence and action that any kid of the 80’s would enjoy.

Techno cop was one of those games that you had to play over and over even once better side scrolling shooters were released. I mean it had a warning on the box which at the time was unheard of, what kid would not want it? Simply put, if you had a computer you had to have this game. It was the kind of bloody fun we would not see again until Grand Theft Auto was released. Yet, another reason the age of the Amiga and Commodore 64 was the gold age of PC gaming.