Gamer Profile: Richard Garriott

Richard Garriott OGS Gamer Profile
Richard Garriott
Video game developer

Richard Garriott de Cayeux is an English-American video game developer and entrepreneur. He is also known as his alter egos Lord British in Ultima and General British in Tabula Rasa.
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Born: July 4, 1961 (age 56), Cambridge, United Kingdom
Spouse: Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux (m. 2011)
Books: The Sword of Midras: A Shroud of the Avatar Novel, MORE
Movies: Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission, Apogee of Fear
Nationality: American, British

Favorite Classic Game(s): PC: Myst, C&C1, BF1942, MoH;

Additional Favorite Games:

PlayStation 2: PaRappa the Rappa

iOS: Spyder, PvZ1, A Dark Room, Kingdom Rush, The Creeps, Monument Valley 1&2, Old Man

Myst

Command and Conqure

The Creeos

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Triforce Johnson (Twin Galaxies 35th Anniversary)


The historic Twin Galaxies arcade celebrated its 35th anniversary as hundreds of gamers attended the event in Ottumwa, Iowa to pay tribute to whom many call the father of competitive gaming, founder, Walter Day. We welcome Triforce Johnson back to the show to talk about the history of Twin Galaxies and its importance in video game history.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Billy Mitchell


The Obsolete Gamer Show returns with its 100th video interview and we welcome video game legend, Billy Mitchell to the show. Love him or hate him, Billy is a champion and world record holder known for his skills in Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and more.

Billy Mitchell has been featured in films such as The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters as well as many other video game documentaries and was part of CNN’s the 80’s.

Being from Hollywood, Florida we got to interview him in person and asked him about his reputation in the gaming world and his thoughts of subjects from gamers hating on each other to what advice he would give a gamer about to hit the big time.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Steve London (Halcyon 6)


We talk a look at Halcyon 6 the game inspired by classics such as Star Control, Master of Orion, X-COM, Civilization and new classics like FTL and talk to its composer Steve London who loves classic Commodore 64 and Amiga games, cool pizza toppings and the Toronto Maple leafs.

Halcyon 6 began as a Kickstarter passion project with a goal of $40k and raised over $180k. We get into all that and of course Steve’s love of music in our interview.

About Halcyon:

In the midst of a disastrous war, you and your ragtag group of Terran officers discover an ancient, derelict space station, and attempt to harness its mysterious power to turn the war’s tides in a grand, desperate campaign to save the human race from extinction.

Halcyon is available now on Steam early access.

Bonus: Check out some Halcyon game music from SoundCloud.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Walter Day


What do you talk about when you sit down with a legend like Walter Day? Crazy horror movies like, Deathbed and the time a 7 year old Japanese girl beat your friend in a video game of course.

Any gamer worth their controller or keyboard knows Walter Day and his work with Twin Galaxies and our conversation with him covers what was truly the birth of eSports and competitive gaming. We also discuss the changing face of gaming and the effect the internet has had on games and gamers alike and the legacy of Twin Galaxies.

You’ll want to check out this interview.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Tim McVey (Man vs. Snake)


This is why we love interviewing gamers. Imagine playing those hardcore classic games like Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man and Centipede and dominating them. Tim McVey not only did that but was the first person to reach one billion points in the game Nibbler. His score and that game is the focus of the documentary film he is featured in called Man vs. Snake.

We talk with Tim about growing up in the arcades and playing at the original Twin Galaxies and what it was like being a gamer when one quarter would get most players a few minutes max on a game while they would often go for several hours.

More on Man vs Snake:

If you ever played the game “Snake” on your early model Nokia cellphone, then you’re familiar with “Nibbler,” the original “snake” game. MAN VS SNAKE tells the story of Tim McVey (the gamer not the bomber) who in 1984, on a single quarter (and over forty-four hours of non-stop play) was the first person in history to score over one billion points on a video game.

This historic accomplishment led the City of Ottumwa to declare a civic day in Tim’s honor (Tim McVey Day) and present him with the key to the city. Twenty-five-years later, when rumors of a higher score surface online, attributed to Italian kick-boxing champion Enrico Zanetti, it calls into question everything Tim McVey has believed for decades and forces him to make a decision: either set a new world record, or risk losing his legacy forever.

Now middle-aged and out of shape, Tim discovers that reclaiming the Nibbler title will not be easy. Packed with unexpected twists and turns, the film documents one of the epic achievements of the classic gaming era and proves a powerful tale of the triumph of the human spirit.

Check out the official website for Man vs. Snake: http://manvssnake.com/

The Obsolete Gamer Show: The Omega Imperative

The Gamer Profile Show is back and we are talking The Omega Imperative. This retro inspired game is currently on Kickstarter and caught our attention not only because we love classic games but because of the uniqueness of combining the top down adventure of a Zelda type game with a space shoot-em up game.

We sat down with Mike Bonafede and Mike Lamark two guys who have been playing games since the Atari 2600 about their gaming background, their inspiration to get into game development as well as the challenges of getting their work out there.

Check it out and if you like what you see support their Kickstarter.

The Omega Imperative Kickstarter

The Omega Imperative on Steam Greenlight

BTG: Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

We’re heading back to New Orleans with the remastered remake of the 1993 classic, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. We go beyond the game trailer and talk with Jane Jensen about the recent release for iPad and Android tablets and what it was like bringing the Sierra hit to a new generation of gamer’s.

Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers is now available on the Apple App Store and on the Google Play Store.

William Watterson tells us about the Atari Warlords Drinking Game

A clip from the Obsolete Gamer Show featuring our conversation with actor William Watterson. In this clip William tells us about a very special drinking game involving the classic Atari video game, Warlords.

MAME of the Game: I spent a night in Super Castlevania

So this week J.A. decided to take M.A.M.E of the game back to its roots and play one of his favorite Super NES games, Super Castlevania.

We are not sure if he was drinking or not, ok, honestly he is normally like this, but we liked it so why not run with it. He played through the first three stages of the game and promises to deliver the rest in a future episode. So here’s hoping you enjoy his madness.

Check out our review of Super Castlevania 4.

Here you can listen to OST.

Check out our other M.A.M.E of the Game episodes.

How my Mom saved Christmas

This is a repost from a story I wrote a long time ago and has been featured a number of times, hope you like it.

In the age of online shopping and overnight delivery, the hunt to get the game or game system we want is less of a hassle than it used to be in the past. Sure, we can camp out for special deals and sometimes miss out on getting something on day one, but overall we have it easy. Regardless, for many of us gamers we had parents who struggled to make us happy on Christmas morning and it is important to remember what they did for us especially during the holidays.

NES Controll Deck

This is a story about my mother going on a hunt with me for my NES.

It was about a week before Christmas and the Nintendo Entertainment System was on every kid’s wish list. I had made bargains and promises and finally my mother agreed to get it for me. She was old school in that she did not keep up on anything technical and didn’t really even know where to go get it, so I was tasked to find out where to get it and she would go and pay for it.

It was Friday night and I was at home searching the phone book to call stores asking if they had the NES. Many of the stores were sold out and the smile on my face that I had when I started had quickly faded. Then I got a stoke of good luck. A Toys-R-Us had one, but the store was thirty miles away. To me that was nothing and when my mother walked in the door I had the address and directions to the store ready to go. I was bouncing around with all the energy of a child not taking notice of my mom’s condition. I doubt I even gave her a moment to rest before I was dragging her back out to the car.

Chicago

 

Now I grew up in Chicago, so in December it was bitter cold and snowing. There was ice on the ground and tons of people going home from work, out for the night or shopping as we were. The traffic was horrible, but all I could think about was my new NES and how I’d soon be playing Mario Bros.

We get to Toys-R-Us and I fly inside not waiting for my mother. In seconds I was at the electronics section. By the time my mother got there I was almost in tears. They had sold the last one just ten minutes ago. I had no back-up plan, no other store directions or addresses. I just wanted to die. My mom suggested we try a few stores on the way home which temporality lifted my spirits.

toys-r-us-nes-retro-ad

Seven stores later with no NES in sight I just wanted to go home and quit. I felt Christmas was ruined and didn’t even want to celebrate it anymore. Nothing my mom said or did make me feel any better. I had laid down in the backseat of the car when it came to a stop. I knew we couldn’t have arrived home yet.

I looked out the window to see another store. Now for the life of me I can’t remember the store name, but what I can tell you was it was not known for any toys or electronics for the matter. It was what I would call an “old ladies” store. My mom had dragged me there many times for clothes or home appliances and stuff.

I was actually upset that my mom had brought me to a store like this that had no chance to have my NES. However, I was pretty well behaved thanks to my mom’s firm hand so I did not put up a fuss. We entered the store and my mom headed for the electronics section. Then I caught a glimpse of it. My eyes widened, my heart began to race. It was a display of Nintendo’s behind a glass counter. There were at least ten of them. I couldn’t believe it and I guess that was the point. The store normally would not have carried NES’s, but since it was such a hot item and it was the holidays they did. I guess kids and parents alike did not think to go there to look for a NES so they had them in stock.

I was in heaven until my mom pulled out her checkbook. The lady behind the counter said they no longer accepted checks, only cash or charge. As I said my mom was old school and did not have a credit card and surely did not have the cash on her. I was ready to die again until the lady looked at my mother’s check number.

Now some of you might not know this but the number to the right of the check not only tells you how many checks you wrote but, at least back then, was an indicator of your credit status. Think of it like a credit score, the more checks you wrote the better your credit was. My mother had written over eight thousand checks which showed she could be trusted. The sales lady spoke to the manager and he agreed to sell my mom the NES. It truly felt like Christmas morning. I had my NES and all was right in the world. I was energized all the way home dying to play it.

Even though I was really excited I did take a moment to thank my mom and that was when I saw it. She was tired, like the tired you would have after working ungodly hours as a nurse. My mother was an LPN (licensed practice nurse) and she worked 12 to 16 hours shifts all the time. In fact many times she would work back to back and even overnights. As a kid with no responsibility, I did not fully understand the strength it took to come home after working that hard and having to drive me all over town for some game.

She could have ended our trek after the first store or told me to wait until the next day to go. I understood a bit more that day what it took to raise me and my sister as a single parent, but it took years for me to fully understand all her sacrifices. I made sure to think of that night whenever I got mad over something stupid. Sometimes I forgot and acted like she had never done anything for me, but then I quickly remembered that night and many other things she did for me.

That was not the first or last time that my mother and I went off on an adventure for something gaming related. Perhaps one day I will tell you about our hunt for Texas Instruments software. For now, think about your own parents and what they did for you and if you can, tell them thanks.

Profiled: Brad Smith

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Name: Brad Smith

Favorite Classic Game: Metroid 2 (Gameboy) Prince of Persia 2 

lizard

Gamer Profiles heads to the great white north to talk with developer, Brad Smith on his latest project titled, Lizard. His Kickstarter brings us a cool platformer for the NES where you explore an 8-bit world while wearing a lizard for a true retro inspired adventure. Brad has been a fan of classic games all his life from Metroid 2 on the Gameboy to Prince of Persia on the PC. Brad is also a fan of video game music and began creating his own music own music for the Nintendo.

We had a great time talking with Brad so check out the gamer profile and you can check out the Lizard Kickstarter and Brad’s website at the links below.

Lizard Kickstarter – https://www.kickstarter.com…

Brad’s Website – http://rainwarrior.ca

The Mummy

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The Mummy

The Mummy is good. No you, read that correctly.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

Although it had no right to be anything but absolute codswallop, this licensed title is actually a rather lovable NES style puzzle platformer.

It’s nothing spectacular, but it keeps thing relatively straightforward and is all the better for it.

Perhaps it’s no surprise when you consider Konami were involved though.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

Or, more accurately, Konami Compute Entertainment Nagoya – a now dissolved subsidiary of the huge Japanese Developer and Publisher.

The main thing that works about The Mummy is that it never feels that strongly tied to the movie. Instead it feels more linked to a game like Solomon’s Key – in spirit at least. This is a good thing.

It has you tackling self-contained stages, with the main task to collect a set amount of relics as you venture deeper into the tomb.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

The most interesting element of the game is that there are three characters to play as, and you’ll have to utilise each of their unique abilities to reach the end.

Evelyn has the largest jump, Rick is good in combat, and Jonathan handles the explosives.

Most stages just involve pushing crates, jumping over pits and detonating explosives to open up walls, but it’s suitably enjoyable in a firmly old-school way.

The Mummy - Gameboy Color

There’s a fair bit of trial and error involved though, and sometimes you can mess up completing a level with one vital mis-step in the latter stages. A rewind feature would have been a welcome feature in such occasions.

Fortunately there’s a password system – finishing the game in one sitting would have been an impossible task.

Still, if you treat the game as an old-fashioned experience you won’t be disappointed – the dinky graphics and solid controls do feel like they’re from another era, but it’s largely an era you’ll be happy to revisit.

Just make sure you don’t pick up the woeful The Mummy Returns by mistake.

City Connection

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City Connection

City Connection was a somewhat classic arcade game that debuted in 1985, offering players a fast-paced high-score challenge that demanded intense concentration and twitch-speed reflexes. In 1988, Jaleco published an 8-bit version for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Was the cartridge any better than the cabinet?

Gameplay

City Connection is a platforming puzzle game with a unique premise: The protagonist is off to see the sights that the world has to offer; however, rather than paint the town red, he wants to paint the streets white. This means that the goal is to just drive over every square inch of road that each city has to offer, completing a stage when every blank grid space has been marked in white.

City_Connection_NES

But rather than drive over one single road, presentation is given from a side view, with four tiers. This means that the controlled car must be constantly jumping up to higher levels, falling to lower ones, or hopping across gaps. The A button is used for jumping, as proper, while the directional pad corresponds with movement, of course.

However, the challenge arises in the fact that our mysterious driver does not explore these streets alone. There are always multiple police cars patrolling the byways, along with cats that just sit in the road and instantly take a life if struck. The player begins with three lives, and can earn extras when hitting 100,000 and 300,000 points.

To both foster bonus points and defend against cops, there are oil cans strewn throughout the stages. Picking them up adds them to an inventory, whereas the B button fires them ahead of the vehicle, striking law enforcement vehicles to render them harmless. If the player can stockpile oil cans without using them, 100 bonus points are awarded for each when the city is completed.

City_Connection_NES

If the player stays on one of the tiers too long, metal spikes begin erupting out of the ground, just one, that will sit there until moving to a different level. The cats, the spikes may disappear if the player simply turns around and lets them go off-screen before returning to their spot; although unlike the felines, the spikes tend to appear much more aggressively.

Thus, the player ends up with a maze-completion type game in the vein of Pac-Man but with platforming mechanics drawn somewhere through the ages from Donkey Kong. This is an arcade-style game, with six stages that endlessly repeat, purely for the pleasure of seeking the highest score. Two players can try in alternating turns.

City_Connection_NES

Oh, and there are balloons. They are worth bonus points, and grant a city-warp effect when three are collected. Magical warp balloons, yes. Even with those hexing helium semi-spheres, City Connection just poses too many cheap deaths in the player’s direction to really be any fun. This is a “challenge for challenge’s sake” sort of game, where only those who played it without other choice or in search of something utterly difficult and minimally rewarding would ever truly grow fond.

Graphics

In this reviewer’s opinion, the visuals of City Connection on NES are the game’s highlight. The protagonist car has some nifty animation frames, having the policing vehicles appear differently in each city is a nice touch, and the background details for the cities themselves are wonderful, with recognizable sights like Big Ben in London and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, along with portraying the locations in differing times of day. There is even a faux parallax scrolling effect at work, whereby the background is scrolling by a little bit slower than the streets themselves.

City_Connection_NES

Then again, this game has some serious flickering problems, with many police vehicles constantly blinking in and out of existence, which can be a distracting nuisance for the eyes. Also, while the arcade original actually used colors to fill in the streets, all NES players get is a bland, tepid, boring, depressing stark white across every roadway. Bleh.

Sound

The sound effects are barely noticeable, and never more than a brief one-note blip across the player’s consciousness. The music, while presenting itself as a decent arrangement of three sound-channel instruments, feels somewhat uninspired and gets repetitive. Eh.

Originality

While arcade-style high-score games have their place, and within their own category have varying tiers of quality, many of them lost something in their porting to home consoles in the 8-bit era.

City_Connection_NES

 

City Connection may have been one of them. Whatever the case may be, players are left with a subpar experience that, while not atrocious and certainly representing a game, raises a tough question: “If I had other NES titles to choose from, why would I play City Connection?”

The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island

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The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan’s Island is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Though it’s hard to believe someone wanted to make a video game based off of it. Though Bandai had that idea and did so in 1990. The Adventures of Gilligans Island hit the NES about 23 years after the show ended
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
The game is (obviously) set on the tropical island Gilligan and all his friends are stuck on. Well except Ginger for some reason. Tina Louise, the actress that portrayed her had clashed with creator Sherwood Schwartz because she thought she’d be the central character. She failed to return in most of the reunions, and I guess the same applied to her 8-bit self.
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
The game instead has the Skipper as the central character with Gilligan as your sidekick. You basically walk across the jungle looking for the other castaways. On the way the duo are attacked by birds, warthogs, and other animals of the jungle. The Skipper has the ability to punch (which doesn’t seem to do anything), but running away is more effective. Gilligan is so mindless that he often falls behinds or into pits. Leaving you to have to rescue him time and time again.
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
Overall Gilligan’s Island is often listed as one of the worst NES games ever made. It was a game nobody asked for, and even less people thought it was fun. It had unclear objectives, terrible combat, sub-par graphics, and some things made little to no sense. And to make matters worse, Gilligan isn’t even wearing the right shirt.

Phantasy Star

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Phantasy Star

The game itself is a gem from start to finish, but you’ll have to face a quest of over 50 hours and lots of grinding but it’ll be totally worth it. You’ll also be shocked by what happens in the story. It’s a very awesome quest so lets take a look at it in the different categories as usual..
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
The music is quite good as well as the effects. You know how much people brag about great 8-bit music and sound? Well, this is one of those titles. It’s great for the ears hands down.
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
The graphics are just awesome. You feel like you’re playing a vivid and alive game. The characters are very detailed taking into account the limitations of the hardware. You also have to love the cut-scene that happen throughout the game. I love it
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
This is your classic RPG hands down. You can level up and have lots of fun. The game is turn-based so it requires some savvy strategy at times especially with the tougher monsters and boss fights. You will also spend lots of time grinding which is perfect for classic RPG fanatics!
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
The game is worth a second play because it’s just amazing to play through. This is the best RPG for the Master System after all. It’s so full of magic and wonder. You will never put the controller down!
Phantasy Star - Sega Master System
You can’t go wrong with picking a Phantasy Star game but I do advice that you pick up this one as it’s just an awesome game nonetheless. You won’t regret it at all especially if you’re into Sci-fi style RPGs. It’s just a wonder over all and makes me sad that Sega hasn’t done a game like this in such a long time…

10 Yard Fight

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10 Yard Fight

So far in the NES Sport Series, we’ve taken looks at both Tennis and Baseball with less than stellar results. Could this be the savior to ascend the series out of complete poopdom? Let’s open up another Black Box and sneak a peek at the system’s first ever football game, 10 Yard Fight.
10 Hard Fight
And who are the three guys in the back blocking exactly?
Initially released in the arcades in 1983, 10 Yard Fight was the brainchild of the good folks over at Irem who made their name from the classic Moon Patrol. This would mark it as one of the few early titles to be created by another company, yet published by The Big N. How did a team of Japanese programmers wrap their heads around American Football in enough time to get a game made you ask? Well, since 1971, Japan has had the X-League, their own version of the NFL complete with a championship game dubbed the (I’m not making this shit up) Rice Bowl.
The X-League also showcases some of the gnarliest team names ever witnessed such as the All-Tokyo Gas Creators, the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers, and the Panasonic Electric Works Impulse. The Buffalo Bills doesn’t sounds quite as bizarre when placed next to those odd squads. I digress. Fast forward two years later and Nintendo was up to their ears trying to get games ready for the launch so instead of depleting the already limited manpower to create a new football title, they struck a deal with Irem to publish their established arcade hit.
10 Hard Fight
SEE?
For its era, 10 Yard Fight was certainly the most advanced available football game on the market. That doesn’t necessarily make it good. I’m sure if I was a castaway on a lonely island faced with the choice of either dung-beetle and squirrel for dinner, the squirrel will look like a 32 oz Porterhouse. The gameplay is 9 on 9, not automatic grounds for a game to be rated subpar due to Tecmo Bowl having the same limitation. No playbook is available as you can either lob the rock to a running back and call it a running play with the B button or pass to an open receiver with the A.
The problem is that you’ll find that unless you’re certifiably insane, you’ll never want to pass. The cornerbacks were all apparently cloned from Spider-Man and it is doubly bad as there was no depth given to the ball. That means if you throw the pigskin anywhere in the vicinity of these little bastards, its an instant interception. Running isn’t as broken but at times you’ll need the extra blocker to make his way into position which takes FOREVER. When I say forever, I mean you can probably get through a battle on any given JRPG in the time it takes the blocker to stumble to where needed.
The game clock is divided into two fast counting thirty minute halves, which I appreciate since I’d probably still playing the game of Baseball I began if I didn’t say to hell with it. The difficulty is ranked from high school to Super Bowl and is presented well with different uniform and endzone graphics for each. On a sour note, it gives the illusion that it is similar to a career mode, as any other team you defeat gives you the message “You are on your way to the Super Bowl!” but guess what? NESquester kicked the Super Bowl team’s candy asses before this review was started and was greeted by the screen below…
10 Hard Fight
…but…I…just…

THE FINAL VERDICT

4/10 Even giving the benefit of the doubt that it was 1986 like every game was given thus far, this just wasn’t a very good game then and is more than likely played in psyche wards to study how ADHD medication works now. Originally, it looked like a million bucks in the 1983 arcade market but already showed its age by the time the NES rolled it out. My friends and I were game critics in our own rights in 1986 on the schoolgrounds of Houston and while we could never quite agree on which He-Man character was the strongest, we were unanimous in the fact that 10 Yard Fight fucking sucked.
10 Hard Fight
But it sure made for one sweetass looking cabinet!

Chase HQ Arcade

Chase HQ

Chase HQ was my first arcade love. It’s the first arcade game I can actually remember, well, remembering. I knew the name, I would actively seek it out in the various horrible, dingy, seaside arcades I forced my family to take me to as a kid.* It was colourful, it was noisy, you got to drive a car, bash into another car, and a man leaned out of the window and fired a gun. Brilliant. Simple, effective arcade action. I did whatever Nancy told me to do. I still probably would.

So it was only natural I would want my very own version to play at home. As Lewis has already touched on here there was a time when everyone was obsessed with something being ‘arcade perfect’. The dream held by every school boy was that they could play an exact replica of the game they played at the arcade in the comfort of their own bedroom, away from the frightening puffa-jacketed older boys who might beat them up or intimidate them by standing right behind them and watching them play.

Of course it all seems so quaint now, bloated as we are on fancy graphics and plasma tellys. Why, the arcade itself now struggles to compete with home consoles, relying on ever more elaborate and expensive gimmicks to try and get people to fritter their pound coins away as they once did with their 20ps. Ahhhh, ’twas a different time.

At the time my brother and I were proud owners of an Amstrad CPC6128k (with disc drive, and I’m sure it was spelt disc not disk back then). Now the Amstrad CPC version of Chase HQ was never going to be arcade perfect. Even at 10 years old I knew that.

While the arcade version looked like this:

Chase HQ - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot - 1

The Amstrad CPC version looked like this:

Chase HQ - Amstrad CPC - Gameplay Screenshot

Didn’t matter though. I was well used to such differences and had lowered my expectations accordingly, I just wanted the chance to play Chase HQ at home. Is that really so much to ask?

I found a mail order company in an Amstrad magazine selling Chase HQ at a very reasonable price. I can’t remember how much now, something like £5, but it was cheap. I saved up the odd 20 pence and 50 pence given to me by grandparents and aunts and uncles until I had enough. I got my mum to write a cheque for me, posted my order and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And after about 2 months my parents tired of me asking if Chase HQ had arrived every time I got home from school. My dad called the company, it seemed they had gone bust. I wasn’t going to ever get the game. They had though, in a thoughtful parting gesture, cashed my mum’s cheque, effectively stealing from a 10 year old.

Now this is were Robert Maxwell gets involved. At least I think he does. I’m sure I remember my Dad saying the company had gone bust partly because one of Maxwell’s companies, I presume Mirrorsoft but again I don’t know, owed them a huge amount of money. So, in a roundabout way, Robert Maxwell stole Chase HQ away from me. How did he sleep at night? Maybe that was the final guilty nail when he was on that boat…

Though now I think about it (and having done a little bit of research on the internet – I checked wikipedia) that doesn’t seem that likely. Still, I like to blame him, he did enough crooked things that adding another seems fair enough.

I never got Chase HQ. Very soon after that incident it became increasingly difficult to find places selling Amstrad CPC games, certainly older ones. It seemed I just wasn’t meant to play it at home. In fact after that experience I stopped playing it in the arcade. The game had been soiled in some way.

So, how did Chase HQ make my life slightly better? Well, it taught me to be wary of ads in the backs of magazines – an important lesson to learn whatever your age.

Alone in the Dark

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Alone in the Dark

Way back when the graphic adventure genre was relatively new and ruled by games such as the King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry series, the concept of a survival horror game was an untouched subject area.  There were games using a haunted house motif, such as Poltergeist, released in 1982 for the Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer orUninvited, Infocom’s graphical text adventure released in 1986, but the game that set the gold bar standard and helped to inspire the flourishing of the entire subgenre was Infogrames’ 1992 classic PC game, Alone in the Dark.

alone in the dark box art
Box front for Alone in the Dark (1992)

Alone in the Dark was set in the late 1920′s, with gamers assuming the role of either private detective Edward Carnby or young heiress Emily Hartwood, who enter the sprawling Louisiana mansion, “Delcarto” in search of a piano supposedly stored in the attic.  The house is reputed to be haunted, and it’s last owner, Ms. Hartwood’s uncle Jeremy, committed suicide in highly unusual circumstances.  If that’s not creepy enough, after the player enters the mansion, the front doors slam shut without any help from mortal hands.  Like any good actor in a teenage slasher flick, Edward (or Emily, depending on who the player chose), heads up the stairs to find the attic.  And once they reach the attic, the game begins.

alone in the dark 3do
Alone in the Dark for Panasonic 3D0

Alone in the Dark is a game that dabbles in the  Cthulhu mythos.  The horrific situations found within the game display their Cthulhulian influence, and even the mansion is discovered to be actually named after Shub-Niggurath, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.  However, the creatures that Edward and Emily encounter are more standard fare (and are a mixed bag when it comes to frightening appearance), and do not possess the mind and world-shattering power of Lovecraftian monsters.

alone in the dark
Cthulhu references in Alone in the Dark (1992)

The atmosphere is aided by both creepy sound effects and a well-thought out musical score.  For example floorboards creak as they’re walked on, and the character’s footsteps echo through the room as an eerie reminder that you’re the only human in the house.  The music switches to a more aggressive melody when creatures appear, and returns to a sombre melody when they’ve been dispatched.  I still have great gaming memories of hearing the strains of Strauss’ The Beautiful Blue Danube in the ballroom (you could put records in the phonograph there and see what happens).

alone in the dark gameplay
Exploring the attic in Alone in the Dark

Some people say that Alone in the Dark was the very first PC survival horror PC game using the Cthulhu Mythos as a theme, but most forget that there was another game published within the same time period that can also lay claim to that title.  MicroProse published Magnetic Scrolls’ The Legacy: Realm of Terror in 1992, a game that was set in a haunted mansion, with bizarre Cthulhulian creatures to overcome.  The two had similar concepts, but of the two, Alone in the Dark was the better game, so usually gets all the credit.

alone in the dark legacy box cover
Box front for The Legacy: Realm of Terror

The game used a different style of graphic engine than gamers were used to.  2-D polygons (colored, not textured) were used to render 3-D objects in real-time, with very quick responses to whatever action the player attempted.  These 3-D objects were then placed against standard pre-rendered backgrounds.  The result was an impressive illusion that the entire game world was being rendered in three-dimensions.  It also permitted unusual camera angles that could be quickly switched from one perspective to another on the fly, which is what Alone in the Dark is usually remembered for by those who played it.

alone in the dark gameplay
Under attack in Alone in the Dark

Alone in the Dark did very well for Infogrames, and was released on multiple platforms, including MS-DOS in 1992, the NEC -PC9801 system in 1993, and the Panasonic 3D0 and Apple Macintosh systems in 1994. (It was also scheduled to be ported over to the Atari Jaguar system, but, alas, that project was canceled.)  Its success resulted in a number of sequels, including Alone in the Dark 2 (released in 1993, and featuring another haunted mansion), and Alone in the Dark 3 (released in 1994 and sending the player to the Old West).  The franchise was rebooted in 2001 with Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, where the player got to explore an entire island, and again in 2008, with Alone in the Dark, taking the series to the modern age.

alone in the dark inventory screenshot
Inventory management in Alone in the Dark

The success of the original Alone in the Dark franchise gave the entire survival horror graphic adventure genre its birth. In fact, every time you start up a game of Left4 Dead 2, give thanks to the developers of the granddaddy of them all, Alone in the Dark!

Dig Dug

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Dig Dug (Digu Dagu)

A lot of people are probably familiar with this game as it was an arcade game but I never really had an arcade near me when I was growing up so this was a whole new game for me when I played the Famicom version, as I was only familiar with Dig Dug II that actually was released on the NES.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

You play as Dig Dug, a little blue guy (kind of like a smurf in white overalls) who is basically an underground exterminator who uses something like a bicycle air pump to exterminate his enemies.  There are only two types of enemies you will encounter, Pookas who are the cute red round guys with the goggles and Fygars the green dragons who breathe fire at you through the dirt.  Gotta be careful or if you get hit you will be BBQ.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

Since this is based on an arcade game your objective other than just clearing levels is getting as many points as you possibly can.  This can be accomplished in several different ways. Just digging will earn you 10 points a block, which is alright but your time is better sent going after enemies.  Dropping a rock on an enemy will earn you 1000 points, if you kill 2 or more 1500 points each and any more than 2 is worth 2000 points for each enemy. Once you have dropped 2 rocks in the level other bonus items will appear for you in the middle of the screen, if you are able to get to it.  Fruits and Veggies or other bonus items like the ship from Galaxian, which is awesome by the way, for you to collect to get extra points. The item worth the most at 8000 points is the pineapple so if you see it be sure to grab it!  Also keep in mind that popping an enemy further down in the dirt is worth more so it may be worth trying to lure the enemies further down if you want to try to get max points.

Dig Dug - Famicom

 

This game originally came our in the arcades in 1982 (I wasn’t even born yet) its not the most graphically impressive game out there, but the sprites are cute and colorful and definitely get the job done.  At first sight this game gives the impression that it is very basic and simple, this is very deceiving.  It definitely requires some quick reflexes if you want to successfully evade and exterminate the enemy.

Dig Dug - Famicom

As far as I can tell we never got a copy of this game in North American on the NES, only Dig Dug II was released here which is also good by the way. So if you want to play this you will need to pick up the Famicom version. The nice thing is you don’t need to know any Japanese, so you really don’t have any excuse not to play.

For some fun arcade action Dig Dug definitely fits the bill!

One eBay you can find it complete in box for $39.60, at the moment there aren’t any loose ones listed though mine was like $2.

 

Diddy Kong Racing

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Diddy Kong Racing

While Mario Kart has been king of kart racing games since 1992, it has seen many imitators and rivals.  Diddy Kong Racing was the first kart racer (that I know of) that Nintendo had done outside the Mario series. Though technically Rare (who made the Donkey Kong Country series) were the real team behind it.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
 It featured a similar set-up to Mario Kart, with racing through colorful themed tracks with power-ups to use. The cast didn’t feature Diddy Kong’s famous uncle, but original characters. Most notable would be Banjo the bear (who would later star in Banjo-Kazooie) and Conker (the star of Conker’s Bad Fur Day) the squirrel.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
What also set it apart from Mario’s was the ability to use hovercraft and planes. The game received a very positive reaction from critics and gamers alike. It’s often remarked as one of the most beloved N64 games, with many thinking it was superior to Mario Kart 64.
Diddy Kong Racing - N64
No real sequel was ever released as Rare left Nintendo for Microsoft. Though surprisingly they came back to develop a remake of Diddy Kong Racing for the Nintendo DS. It featured online-play, but Conker and Banjo were absent. Though ironically despite some improvements, the DS remake received a mixed reaction. It wasn’t considered terrible but it was vastly overshadowed by Mario Kart DS.

Goof Troop

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Goof Troop

Capcom & Disney just fit together so well. You have Disney’s memorable characters backed up by Capcom’s outstanding record of classic game after classic game. Back in the day the Super Nintendo was THE machine to own Capcom games on. It had Street Fighter 2 before anyone else, it had Mario & it had some of Capcom’s finest Disney releases, including Goof Troop & the 3 Mickey’s Magic Quest games.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

While the 3 Mickey Mouse games were platformers, Capcom decided to make Goof Troop a Zeldaesque title. The view is similar to Zelda, the gameplay is similar to Zelda, you have some items that were in Zelda making appearances here. So why don’t we just play Zelda??? Good question.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Let’s answer that question with another question. What are the similarities between Zelda & Goof Troop? Here’s a list:

– Same viewpoint
– Same items such as keys, the hookshot & a candle (instead of a lamp)
– It’s just as fun

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

That third one is the clincher. It’s just as fun as playing Zelda. Yes it blatantly rips off certain parts of the A Link To The Past, but it stands on its own as a fun game that’s a lot easier than Zelda & is going to appeal to kids.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

For this review I managed to finish this in one sitting, it really is a very easy game & extra lives are in abundance. You collect red gems for extra lives & pieces of fruit to build up your life metre. Cherries give you 1 heart & bananas give you 2. Once you have 6 hearts you get an extra life. This is both good & bad, you see, when you have no hearts & you get hit you die. When you have hearts & get hit you can continue. If you get 6 hearts & then another life, it means you have an extra life but no hearts, so whereas before you could get hit & continue you now die when hit. It’s a very strange setup.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The game features little cut scenes that explain the story over the course of the game. Goofy, Max, Pete & PJ were out fishing together in separate boats. All of a sudden Pete & PJ’s boat is taken by a pirate ship. Goofy & Max go to rescue them but along the way find out that Pete resembles Keelhaul Pete, the pirate’s leader hence the problem. The pirates thought they were rescuing their leader. Pete of course takes advantage of this, but when the real Keelhaul Pete returns the rescue mission kicks up a notch as Pete & PJ really are in danger now.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The player can control either Goofy or Max, or in 2 player mode one player controls each of them. Goofy is the slower of the 2 but doesn’t slow down when holding an item, whereas Max is quick, but does slow down when holding something. Max can sometimes take 2 goes to hit an enemy whereas Goofy only takes 1. I preferred to use Max as he’s quick to get away when you don’t have a weapon, but it’s down to personal preference.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The controls are simple, you walk around with the D pad, B picks up, throws objects & allows you to catch, Y uses an item selected & L changes the selected item. Strangely enough Select pauses the game instead of Start. I always find it odd when a game does this, Turtles in Time is the same. Why the different button? Who knows…

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

So what are some of the differences between this game & Zelda? Firstly when the hookshot (or rope gun as the manual calls it) is used to bridge a gap the rope stays in place & you lose the item. There’s no overworld, the game is just a series of levels, & the game tends to focus more on puzzle solving than Zelda which is more action based.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

Also unlike Zelda you can only carry 2 items at a time, but it’s not a big issue here as you don’t need to backtrack after leaving an important item behind. The game is structured so it feels like a lazy trek through the levels. That’s the best way I can describe it really. There are no real tense moments where you’ll get stuck, or face an enemy that’s difficult to beat. If you do get stuck there are passwords for each of the worlds.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

The music gives the game a very Disney feel & the final level music just feels right for being on a pirate ship. The sound effects fit the gameplay well, but there’s nothing really special to note about them.

If you like Zelda but have either played it to death or just want to relax a little then Goof Troop is the game for you. The levels are a walk in the park, the bosses aren’t terribly taxing & it’s just plain fun. A bit too easy & a bit short, but it does the job.

Goof Troop - Disney - Capcom - SNES

 

I give this one 80%. It’s a lot of fun, but way too easy.

The Rolling Thunder Series

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Rolling Thunder

I’ve described my childhood circumstances in many past articles, including the nature of my relationship with arcade games. I simply didn’t get to play them very often, because my grandmother felt it was a waste of money to give me quarters for games that I’d only last a few minutes on if I were lucky. Looking at it from that perspective, you could arguably see her point. But that doesn’t change the fact that arcade games and arcades in general were simply amazing back in the 80s and early-to-mid-90s. If you weren’t around in those times to experience arcades as they truly were, back when they were new, exciting, and relevant, it’s honestly very hard to try and really describe it to you. In many ways, while home gaming (especially my beloved NES) was amazing in it’s own right, some rightly viewed the arcades as the pinnacle of gaming. How it used to work, is that arcade games would inevitably be “bigger and better”, at least in terms of graphics and certain types of content, than home console or home computer games. So in some respects, arcade games back during their golden era, were the vanguard of video gaming as a whole.

As a gamer, you would go out to wherever your local arcade was, and if you weren’t, like me, lucky enough to live in a big enough town that had it’s own local dedicated arcade, then you went to whatever businesses where such machines could be found, whether it was local pizza joints, bowling alleys, skating rinks, bars (if you were old enough of course), or even laundry mats or gas stations/convenience stores. You would go to these places to experience the newest advancements in video game graphics or sometimes even brand new concepts in gaming. And then, as the process went, if you were lucky, some of these arcade games would eventually be “ported” (with obvious downgrades to accommodate lesser technology), to some kind of home platform that you hopefully owned or knew someone who had one.

Rolling Thunder
You know….it’s still beautiful, in a simplistic sort of way.


One of my own personal favorites, that I of course rarely got to actually play, was a game called Rolling Thunder. It was at my local Pizza Hut, where so many other treasures came and went over the years, like Klax, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Double Dragon II, and Final Fight, and Pole Position II, and Ghost Pilot, and 1943, and my biggest childhood arcade crush, Street Fighter II. Rolling Thunder was a very intriguing, unusual game that for whatever reasons caught my attention, and it was one of the games I gravitated to most whenever we’d go out for pizza. One of the allures it had, I’d have to say, was the unique graphical presentation. It was a sprite based game, as almost all were in the 80s and early 90s, but as you can see above, it had a very simple, shaded, almost “pre-rendered” look, akin to an early prototype of the sort of thing games like Donkey Kong Country would pull off years later. The characters also had unusually smooth animation for the time it released (1986), and the game had a very intense, but subdued, moody soundtrack, very much “secret agent” type of fare, and the whole thing was just very novel in it’s approach. I suppose the other reason this game stuck with me, is because of the “Game Over” screen: when you lost, it took you to the big screen from the title, where the boss “Maboo” (this big green fucker) would laugh at you for losing. That alone probably kept me coming back, because as a kid, this really genuinely upset me that this assclown was laughing at me, and I wanted revenge.

Rolling Thunder
This asshole haunted my childhood. What a jerk.

Rolling Thunder was developed by Namco, creators of groundbreaking classics like Pac-Man, Dig Dug and Galaga. It was released in 1986, right in the midst of the “arcade boom” of that decade, and it was a different sort of game that caught people’s attention. At it’s core, it’s a side-scrolling shooter, similar to something like Contra, but unlike Contra where you just run, shoot, and hope you don’t lose too many lives per-level, Rolling Thunder was a lot more about strategy. The most immediately noticeable feature of the game when you start, is that you have limited ammo, even with the simple pistol you start with. You can’t ever totally run out of ammo with the pistol, but once you “run out”, you can only shoot one slow bullet at a time until you find more ammo. That alone plays into the “strategy” nature of the game.

Another main feature of the gameplay, is that the levels feature doors all over the place, and you can open pretty much any door you wish. However, it is sometimes a gamble, because certain doors have enemies that will pop out. Other doors (typically labelled “bullets”) hold more bullets for you, or even a temporary upgrade to a machine gun. And there are yet other doors that you can duck inside of to avoid enemies or enemy fire, and then pop back out to blast ’em in kind. Lastly, the other major facet of gameplay, and perhaps the one thing that this game really added to the gaming spectrum (as it was emulated by several other games down the road), was the ability to jump between the ground floor and an upper floor of each level. That in itself presented more strategy to be utilized by the player, to move upstairs or down to avoid obstacles or enemies. All in all, much like the graphics and music, like I said, a very unique game unto itself.

Rolling Thunder
He means it, dammit!

The basic story of the game, is that you are a secret agent called “Albatross”, who works for an international group called “W.C.P.O”, which stands for “World Crime Police Organization”. You are on a secret mission in New York, trying to rescue a fellow agent named Leila Blitz, who has been captured by the sinister terrorist secret society known as “Geldra”. Most of these “Geldra” goons are hooded baddies known as “Maskers”, who frankly look kinda like prototypes for the TMNT “Foot Soldiers”, as they are covered head-to-toe and come in different colors, each color having different weapons or abilities. The game has other enemies like mutant bats, ninjas, robots, etc., but the “Maskers” are the main course. Ultimately, the game plays out over two distinct parts, each having five levels, and at the end of the tenth, to save Leila, you face off with that green-faced asshole who laughed at you after every game over screen, “Maboo”. So at least, I guess, the developers were nice enough to give you the possibility of catharsis: if you could actually MAKE it through this fucking game, you could shoot that son-of-a-snake right in his smirking mug, and make him pay!

As you can see in the picture above, the game got it’s share of home “ports”, first coming to various home computers in 1987 and 1988. Tengen, Atari’s home console publishing arm that had infamous issues with Nintendo over their own less-than-scrupulous efforts to get around the NES lock-out chip that kept third party publishers from being able to put out more than five games a year on the system, put out many unlicensed (aka not officially approved by Nintendo releases) games for NES, and in 1989, one of them was Rolling Thunder. Namco didn’t yet publish their own games outside of Japan, and so they contracted Tengen to do it….which of course probably wasn’t the smartest move, but I digress. Nonetheless, Rolling Thunder on NES was, for all intents a purposes, a pretty strong port of the game. It didn’t have the technical prowess of it’s arcade original, but the core gameplay and atmosphere where still intact, and it’s still pretty damn fun to play. 

Rolling Thunder
Leila Blitz gets her revenge!

The first game was popular enough, that in 1991, Namco made a lesser-known sequel, Rolling Thunder 2. A slightly confusing affair, as the original game was apparently supposed to take place in the 60s, but now the sequel takes place in modern times, yet the characters in both games are named Albatross and Leila. In Rolling Thunder 2, Leila is now the main character, which is a cool touch, not only letting her get her revenge, but also making her one of the first playable female protagonists in gaming. The biggest addition to the sequel, was simultaneous 2-player action (a big feature in many arcade games of the day), with Player 1 playing Leila, and Player 2 controlling Albatross. They have identical abilities, outside of their visual differences, of course. The gameplay is essentially the same fare, focused on doors and jumping between upstairs and down. However, the level designs are more varied, this time splitting the game between Florida beaches and Egyptian ruins. The “Maskers” also this time become (if not visually) a bit more “Foot Soldier”-esque, as they are now robots, whereas in the first game they were live villains. Storyline-wise, Geldra, thought destroyed for good in the first game, is back, and it’s up to the heroes to stop ’em. 

Rolling Thunder
Our heroes, kicking ass.

The Sega Genesis (Mega Drive in the rest of the world), received a port of the game that included cut scenes and additional levels that featured new weapons and bosses. It was apparently successful enough to warrant Namco producing a third, Genesis exclusive game, Rolling Thunder 3, released only in North America in 1993. Gameplay-wise, it took a bit of a step back, once again only being single player, where part 2 was 2-players. But on the other hand, they greatly expanded the weapons format. Where the first and second games only made use of pistols and temporary machine-gun upgrades, in Rolling Thunder 3, you can choose one of 9 different “special weapons” before each stage begins, and you get two separate fire buttons, one for your regular pistol, and one for the special weapon. The special weapons, once out of ammo, can’t be used for the rest of the game, thus maintain the strategic element of gameplay. Another way the game differs, is that the levels now have no time-limit: instead, if you take too long, a sniper will eventually come out and try to kill you. Story-wise, the game seems to be a companion piece to Rolling Thunder 2, where while our heroes Leila and Albatross are busy fighting the main Geldra forces in that game, in RT3, a new hero, special agent “Jay”, is chasing after Geldra’s “Number Two” in command, another green-faced mother-fucker named “Dread”. In an era when the Super Nintendo tended to get most of the cool third party published exclusive games, Rolling Thunder 2 and 3 were an exception to the rule. 

Rolling Thunder
Albatross, Leila Blitz, and…………….Jay. Just Jay.

All in all, while I’m not as experienced with the sequels, I need to play them more, because the original Rolling Thunder will always have a special place in my gaming heart. If you’ve never heard of or never had a chance to play these games, find a way to do so (however that may be), because there are fun times to be had, guaranteed. And give my old pal “Maboo” a kick in the balls for me while you’re at it.

Sonic The Hedgehog

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Sonic The Hedgehog

This week we have Sonic for the Sega Master System. Why this version? Because it’s definitely one to play. Of course, it’s graphically inferior than the Genesis version we all know but it’s quite rare to find the US version around these woods. The game overall is not bad until you compare it to its more powerful predecessor. Enough talk, it’s a Sonic game after all so it can’t be that bad right? OK, I take that back…
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Sonic music in 8-bit sound is actually quite enjoyable but it’s definitely not for everyone. The sound effects are also a bit bland. I’m getting to understand why Sega didn’t released this game massively in the USA.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The graphics are quite good for a Master System game. Sonic looks like Sonic and not like a blob. The backgrounds and graphics of the stages are a hit. You never feel like you’ll jump into a fake wall or something. There isn’t that much distortion if there are too many things going on in the game so that’s a well deserved thumbs up.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The gameplay is easy. Sonic games for the Genesis were just as easy as pick up and play. They are fast and fun. This one requires a little bit more strategy and jumping without having to go as fast as the speed of light. It’s still fun in the end, it is classic Sonic after all.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Like many of the older Sonic games, this one is well worth a replay especially if you want to challenge yourself with your own goals like not taking a hit per level or collecting all the rings. Sonic games can be addictive too you know..
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
It’s the first Sonic game and it’s fun. What else is there more to say about this gem? It’s just really enjoyable! I suggest you get the European version as it’s the same thing and a lot cheaper!

The Flintstones

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The Flintstones

Whether or not these were a success has already been decided by history, but I’ve decided to revisit them, mainly because I’ve not played them all before, and also because I love the original cartoons. I have fond memories of the Top Cat and Scooby and Scrappy Doo Amiga games back in the day so it will interesting to re-visit these two most of all, however, the rest I am playing for the first time. Purely for alphabetical reasons out of the games I’ve selected, I’m going to first take a look at The Flintstones (1988) from Grandslam.

the-flintstones-amiga-

The title screen and theme tune appear nice and quickly on this single disk game, with even a little animation (inspired by the cartoon show) to get us into the game.

You play as Fred Flintstone, who cannot go bowling with pal Barney Rubble until he has painted a wall, once this mini game is completed you drive with Barney (also another mini game) to the bowling alley. The bowling section of the game makes up the majority of the game, once done you then go on a completely unrelated (in all senses of the word) platform style mission to rescue Pebbles, avoiding giant nuts and bolts along the way. Yeah, okay then.

The game play is, um, varied to say the least. A couple of mini games which consist of painting a wall and bowling, intercut with a driving game and rounded off with some platform action (Ed – I wouldn’t really call it action). With such a rich source of material that is The Flintstones cartoon series, that can be applied to a multitude of genres, you wonder how they could have failed. It’s a pure and simple case of “what were they thinking?”, or maybe they just weren’t thinking at all? Why did they think painting a wall would make a great game? Domestic chores, really? Even more frustrating is that if you don’t finish in the alloted time, the game resets and you have to start from scratch, with Wilma basically calling you useless and lazy.

the-flintstones-amiga-
Animated intro, with obligatory Yabba Dabba Doo from Fred.

However, for me, painting the wall was probably the most bearable part of the game, the controls weren’t as bad as I had read about, and with a little thinking involved it was actually pretty easy to beat if you stuck with it (good tip, do the top sections first, working from right to left, then the bottom working left to right). Painting done Fred is allowed to go bowling. The driving section consists of a side scrolling ride in the car, with Barney in the passenger seat, just don’t hit the rocks in the road, well, that’s if the terrible collision detection will let you avoid them. Oh wait, the car jumps? Really? Yup, you basically have to make the entire car ‘jump’ over rocks, otherwise your wheel falls off and you have to replace it. I’m really sure they could have thought of something a little more mind numbing, tedious and pointless? (Ed – Sheldon, sarcasm)

the-flintstones-amiga
Paint the wall in time, if not, the paint all magically disappears… gah.

Controls from this point onwards really do let the game down a lot. The bowling section really needed some more thought in this respect, the little Fred and Barney animations when they bowl could have made for a really fun part of the game, instead it is painfully slow, difficult, and boring, even the scoring is hard to read, and given this fills the majority of the game it seems like a plus not to make to the next section (lucky for me, I didn’t make it to the next section). Thankfully, someone else has been brave and kind enough to do the hard work for us, the Amiga long play of this game is on YouTube, see link below, where the wonderful cubex55 has saved me from tearing my hair out.

Finally free from the tedium of bowling with Barney, you suddenly have to rescue Pebbles in the games final section.  It unfortunate that the game descends into this, it looks rushed,  and the enemies are completely unrelated to the show, it seems like the worst idea I’ve ever seen for a platform section of a game. I’m still not even sure how we got from a night out bowling to having to rescue Pebbles? Domestic chores to kidnapping, who would have thought it. In the end it looks like the Flintstones family are all re-united and happy, awww.

the-flintstones-amiga-
Beat Barney at bowling, tedium strikes.

I do like to try to find some good in games, but this one was tough, the painting part of the game was okay, and the character sprites and little animations were pleasing to the eye (with low expectations, naturally).

Overall though it’s a frustrating menagerie of under-developed and miscalculated mini-games with the Flintstones name slapped on it. I guess in all honesty I don’t expect much from these types of licenses but occasionally you do get a good game in amongst them. There is also a Spectrum version of this game and a Master System one, in which the latter the characters are all the right colour on the title screen. Yay. For a game that retailed at £19.95 back in the day I expect a few people were disappointed with this choice of game.

A few stone age related games that won’t make you want to lob your Amiga out of a window are Prehistorik, Ugh! and Chuck Rock, so if you fancy a quick jaunt to the era of the caveman I’d recommend trying these 3, and leave The Flintstones firmly were it belongs, in the past.

Escape Plan

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Escape Plan

Escape Plan was one of the original launch title for the Vita, and one of the games that had me most interested in the system when I first saw it demoed. The game just oozes style, and I wanted to see how it played on the new device. Is this game something to load up on your Vita or should you just leave it to look cool on other people’s Vita’s?

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Keep reading to find out the whole story for Escape Plan on the Vita.

Story

This is a puzzle game so story is pretty bare bones… You play as two different characters, Lil and Laarg, two strange ink people who are for some reason imprisoned by a guy named Bakugan.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Considering that no one ever speaks in this game (although you do hear Bakugan getting upset once and a while), there’s no personification to speak of, and it’s sort of not the point, like in any puzzle game that isn’t Portal, the Story isn’t the focal point.

Gameplay

This is something that I was really wondering about when I first saw the game play. Escape Plan uses almost exclusively the dual touch screens for controls. This input method have you control your characters, and the things around the environment, like moving objects in the level to help Lil and Laarg survive and make it to the next screen.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

The sad part about this, is that it doesn’t really work quite well… I don’t think this has anything to do with the developers not knowing how to use the touch screens, but I think that sadly touch screen controls will always be less comfortable than button controls.

Feats that would be easy to perform with regular buttons become difficult and frustrating using the touch screens, and another problem is if you don’t have massive hands it’s difficult to switch between the back and front touch screens without changing your handle on the Vita, and that lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths in this game. The controls just never got out of the way like they do in other games where you just “are” the character.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

Many times I had figured out the puzzle quite quickly, but because of the slow and clunky controls it made me want to smash my console. This game does not play well.

Graphics

Here is something that the game does really well. Escape Plan runs in a retro black and white art style that really does look great, if Tim Burton worked in game design you might see a few more games with this design.

Escape Plan_PS Vita

The music in the game is also great, using classical music and old tunes to – with the black and white art style – create a cool atmosphere that certainly does make this game a pleasure to look at. It does show a great attention to detail, but sadly that great style doesn’t prevent the gameplay from getting in the way.

Is Escape Plan worth playing?

This is a game with a lot of style, but really it doesn’t deliver on the gameplay side. They had an interesting idea, but at the end of the day

Escape Plan_PS Vita-Gameplay Screenshot-2

I felt like I was playing something more at home on an ipod than a “hardcore” gaming device. It shows that the limitations of Touch screens still persist even when you have two of them. It was a noble effort, but the idea was ultimately flawed.

5.5/10

A good idea but Escape Plan’s controls are clunky and obtrusive.

Mach Rider

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Mach Rider

Intros be damned! Today is a special day because I only have four words for you. The same four words that have become a personal battle cry anytime I spot a douchebag recklessly swerving between traffic on his little pathetic Honda. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER.

Mach Rider_NES
Badass in name only. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER. Sort of.

Mach Rider, as is the case with a few of the launch day NES titles, has curious beginnings. The name and concept debuted as a Japanese exclusive toy way back in 1972. Children were given the choice of a red, yellow, or blue car that was propelled at high speeds from a launcher that came with it. One of the rare instances where Nintendo didn’t create an intellectual property first, it was licensed from Hasbro and Nintendo distributed it. The toy itself was a bomb so around the time the powers that be at “The Big N” were looking for new titles to draw people into their debuting system, the Mach Rider license was bought on the cheap and re-packaged into the game we know.

Mach Rider_NES
Seriously, if you’re weaving between cars on some of the busiest freeways in the country and I catch you, this gets yelled in your direction full blast. For reasons unknown, I can’t help it.

In an uncharacteristically dark story for 1985 Nintendo, the setting is a post apocalyptic Earth in the year 2112 after an alien invasion of the evil Quadrunners. Whether the programmers were Rush fans or randomly picked that year is a mystery that may never be solved. Mad Max’s pixelated brother in spirit, Mach Rider, is the protagonist who rides like the fury of vengeance on the aptly named Mach Bike to different parts of the Earth. His main goal to begin with is simply finding a new spot to call home but along the way finds other humans that need assistance being liberated from the alien’s tyranny.

Mach Rider_NES
Dodge puddle. Shoot down both dirt bike riding aliens. Make turn. Don’t crash into barrel. Do Chinese algebra.

As with most early NES games, there are a few different modes of play. The main story mode is the Fighting Course, where you are presented with the troubles of the sector you are in and given the choice between two tracks to race on, giving it a feeling of variety which is pretty neat. “You are Mach Rider!” crawls across the screen before each mission and gets you amped for the upcoming hellride. The game itself has more advanced controls than most in this era of the NES as you can upshift or (if you are feeling suicidal) downshift all while firing a finite number shots at the Quadrunners who try to not only run you off the road but post-invasion, decided to litter the road with as much shit as they could find.. The feeling of speed is well executed here for the paltry 5 frames per second and there weren’t many mistakes on turns that I couldn’t recall the next time I tried and could correct my previous errors. The sound is great as a frantic tune accompanies the journey and the bike gives you a different sound when an upshift is needed as opposed to many games where you have to look at your dashboard while a pebble in the road somehow atomizes your entire vehicle. It really gets my goat when racing games do that.

Mach Rider_NES
Nintendo sure had a thing with all their games having weird score systems that noone took very seriously in the early days.

The difficulty of the bike’s controls and the Quadrunners themselves are decent, but the relentless amount of crap in the road can make things quite unforgiving at times. More often than not a little puddle of water will send you directly into a barrel on the shoulder which can’t be avoided or shot. When an obstacle is plowed into, you oddly break completely apart and pull yourself together not unlike a blocky T-1000. After a few hits, the game ends and it’s time to try, try again. My major complaint with this mode is that Mach Rider’s story is never resolved. If you beat the 10th sector (after a load of practice), you are transported back to the first sector to start it all over again. It would’ve been nice to know if the poor guy ever found a crash pad to live out his life.

Mach Rider_NES
Glitch Death!!!

The second and third modes are almost exactly alike. Almost. Given a set number of kilometers to make it to in a predetermined amount of time, the second mode, Endurance is basically Fighting Mode without the storyline and an infinite amount exploding/reassembling, only costing precious time required to advance. This mode was used personally as a way to practice for Fighting Mode, as it gives you a great feel for the courses and how to avoid certain ways to go kaboom. Solo Course is the same as Endurance except everything on the course has been removed, so once again, if practice is needed, this is the place to go if you’re struggling with some of the high speed turns. As with Excitebike and Wrecking Crew, the unusable Design Mode rears it’s ugly head. Recently, I’ve gotten messages about the Virtual Console versions of the Programmable Series now being able to save/load so that’s awesome. However, for the sake of the original carts being the ones I’m reviewing, it’s a disappointment we couldn’t do it over for 25 years.

Mach Rider_NES
Only 4 buttons to press and still couldn’t make heads or tails of how to design a course. Guess that’s why I’m just a lowly reviewer.

THE FINAL VERDICT

7/10 A really fun romp to kill a few hours with, the mastering of the controls can take a little while and even then there will be death, death, and more deaths. The premise is very Road Rash-ish and as great as I think this title could’ve been, there are a few control issues, like the puddles, and being read-ended to oblivion can make it seem more cheap than fun at some points. It does have the distinction of feeling very different than others of its era as a futuristic story featuring machine gun shooting biker vigilantes wasn’t standard Nintendo material at the time and is worth checking out for that alone. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER!

Mach Rider_NES
In the future, one man is bold enough to sport a Mario/Spider-Man hybrid color scheme, Road Warrior shoulder pads, and the fabled Excitebiker’s helmet. HE. IS. MACH. RIDER!!!

Sadly, the story of Mach Rider was never resolved even in the “Vs” arcade version released the following year. In interviews, it has been brought up more than once that the F-Zero is the spiritual sequel of Mach Rider and Captain Falcon has a few of the same traits our mysterious wasteland wanderer possessed. Still, one can only wonder what became of him. Did he find peace in a new home that we never saw? Did the looping sectors mean he was only destined to ride and avenge until his eventual end via exploding barrel? Seeing as we all say we love a mystery yet deep down don’t, I elect a revival of the Mach Rider franchise!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up

TMNT Smash Up is everything that’s wrong with fighting games in the modern era. It lacks any sense of cohesiveness, more content with slapping characters on-screen to flail around without a sense of pacing or flow.

Trying to discuss motion controls in a fighting game is pointless. They simply shouldn’t exist. That said, even with the classic controller Smash Up is awful. Jumping is floaty, creating a disconnect between the player and the character. The lack of d-pad controls are unforgivable, making the already loose movement nearly impossible in terms of preciseness.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

That creates an additional issue when attempting to complete the mini-games, forced on the player whether or not they simply want to continue in the arcade mode… twice. Asking for any accuracy in a game with so little is absurd, yet that’s what Smash Up’s mini excursions are designed around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

An atrocious tutorial is a simple video, not one tailored to your chosen control scheme. The mechanics, such as ninja powers, are never explained. It creates a learning curve that forces the player out before they can be drawn in, something that makes a supposedly accessible melee brawler out of the reach of many.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

Mirage artists craft cinematics tailored to mimic the art style of the original comics, but also clashed with the in-game visuals capitalizing on the recent animated cartoon film. The comic drawings also appear rushed, with oddly proportioned characters and limited detail.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

If Turtles fans will gain anything, it is a set of voice actors who instantaneously create familiarity with the Turtles. They fit, even if the rest of the game does not. Smash Up doesn’t even seem to be a case of rushed development. There is not a game here that could have become anything besides a sloppy melee fighter. The end results are nothing short of disappointment.

Psychonauts

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Psychonauts

The other day I was looking back through the games I’ve covered so far on the blog, and it dawned on me that I have a very odd taste in games. Loads of people have been asking me when I’m going to cover classics like Sonic the Hedgehogand Sensible Soccer, but to be honest I’m more interested in writing about oddities like Doshin the Giant and Emergency Call Ambulance.

Psychonauts

 

That’s partly because odd games are a bit easier to write about of course. One of the most difficult posts to write so far was the one on Super Mario Kart – it’s clearly a fantastic game that had to be included on the blog, but how do you write something new and interesting about a game that everyone already knows everything about? I ended up going with the whole ‘which version of Mario Kartis the best’ angle, but I think I rewrote the whole post about three times before I was reasonably assured that it wasn’t incredibly boring.

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But the main reason that I tend to pick odd games to write about is that I genuinely like them. Give me the choice between playing Katamari Damacy andHalo 3, and Katamari would win hands down. That’s not to say I don’t like the Halo games of course,  but in the end they’re just a more refined version of a genre that’s been around for nearly 20 years, whereas there’s just nothing like Katamari Damacy out there (except for its sequels of course).

But it’s not just originality that attracts me – a good story is a plus too. I’m not one of those people who just keeps playing the same games again and again (I’m looking at you Ian) – I generally just play through a game once and then move onto something else. But the game has to make me want to see what’s around the next corner to keep me playing, and story is a big part of that.

psychonauts

Dark Sector is a good example of a game that doesn’t quite get it right – the story is all over the place, to the point where the game would probably have been better off without a story at all (watching the developers painstakingly try to explain why some young man has ended up with an organic, psychically controlled throwing blade for an arm is excruciating at times). Not only that, the limited story available is delivered through incredibly dull, poorly scripted cut scenes that actually leave you even more confused about what the hell is going on rather than illuminating the finer details of the hackneyed plot (which mostly centres around the usual mad scientist/femme fatale/betrayed friend gubbins). Thankfully, the game was saved from utter mediocrity by the small spark of originality that is the glaive – the amusement to be had from lopping people’s heads off from a distance was just about enough to keep me playing to the end.

psychonauts

The wonderful Psychonauts, on the other hand, has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to originality and story. In fact, it almost goes too far in the opposite direction – basic things, like the controls (which are ridiculously floaty), seem to have been added in almost as an afterthought, such is the focus on telling the sublimely ridiculous story. I won’t go into the details of the plot here (you can read the Wikipedia entry for that), suffice to say that at one point you get trapped inside the mind of a giant mutated lungfish and lay waste to an imaginary city – populated by tiny little mutated lungfish.

Graphically too, the game is exploding with imagination, and the stylized characters and landscapes are totally unlike anything I’ve seen before in a game (think The Nightmare Before Christmas, but set in a psychic summer camp). Not only that, in a welcome change from the norm, the voice acting is absolutely fantastic, and the deadpan one-liners often had me (genuinely) laughing out loud.

psychonauts

Most importantly, the game kept me playing not because I was trying to collect 100 of this, that and the other, or because I was desperately trying to get some obscure, yet utterly meaningless ‘Achievement’ – I kept playing just because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. Which is the way all games should be.

Venture

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Venture

 

Usually with games from the early 80’s you can either claim that they still retain a basic charm – or you can dismiss them as utterly archaic and not worth playing nowadays. I’ll do the former.

Venture hasn’t aged as badly as you might expect though. Sure, the graphics are incredibly basic, but it’s compulsive structure is timeless.

A basic dungeon crawler at heart, the game has two main styles of play. The first is a large view of each level (see screenshot below) where you control a tiny dot.

Venture-ColecoVision

Even on a huge television this dot is tiny – but once you figure out where it is (it’s at the bottom in the middle of the screen in the picture above) you’ll be fine.

Each level has four rooms for you to explore, which you enter using white doors. At first entering these rooms is easy, but the further you progress in the game the more aggressive the green squid-beasts that patrol the corridors become.

One touch from them and you lose a life, so when you exit rooms you have to be very careful not to immediately bump into them. There’s no way to fight back against them either.

This is contrasted by the challenges within the rooms themselves, where you can actually fight back (see top screenshot).

In these you are a much more distinguishable entity, taking the form of a smiley face with an arrow launcher (its name is Winky – no i’m not kidding).

Venture-ColecoVision

Within each room lies a treasure which you have to grab and escape the room with.

There’s always an obstacle to avoid or defeat in each one though, and most of the time it’s a group of enemies – which can either already be in the room or appear once you grab the treasure.

Sometimes there are other traps to avoid, such as tidal waves (blue rectangles – you have to use your imagination) and disappearing walls.

There’s a basic thrill to be had not knowing what’s waiting behind each door, and the way enemies take a second to appear once you’ve entered a room only adds to the suspense.

Venture-ColecoVision

The sound and music is also excellent, and not just for the time – it may consist of basic bleeps and blorks, but it’s genuinely charming and adds a lot to the old school atmosphere.

Although Venture isn’t a must-play by any means, it’s well worth a look if you ever get into the ColecoVision scene – it’s gameplay may be simple but it’s still a enjoyable slice of old-school action.

It even has a solid amount of content thanks to its range of difficulty settings and a serviceable two player mode.

Retro Arcade Watch

Retro Arcade Watch

Forget about wearable tech wristwatches like Sony’s Smartwatch or Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. If you want a cool retro timepiece on your wrist, then look no further than ThinkGeek’s Retro Arcade Watch.

Retro Arcade Watch

Once we received the Retro Arcade Watch, we knew a review was in order to let you know what we thought of the watch and most importantly, if it is worth shelling out your hard earned cash. Read on.

Design & Function

The Retro Arcade wristwatch is chunky. Don’t let the chunkiness dissuade you though – it sits comfortably on the wrist with no nagging bits poking and prodding your arm or hand. This is no flimsy timepiece. Made from stainless steel, the case is made to withstand normal day to day punishment. The case (arcade cabinet) is adorned with Galactic Defense decals and also has a joystick and fire-button to add to the arcade machine realism. For pure awesomeness, when the fire-button is pressed, it lights up the hour indicators and marquee in red and also makes pew pew firing sound effects. To power all this awesomeness, the watch requires a CR2032 and SR626 button cell batteries, which are included.

Retro Arcade Watch

ThinkGeek didn’t skimp on the band either, they partnered the cool case with a black leather band with white contrast stitching. The end result being a unique timepiece that is a throwback to the golden age of arcade gaming.  

 

Display

In keeping with the arcade theme, the analog-style time is displayed with a combination of dials – space rocks for the hours and minutes, and a spaceship for the seconds hand. Did I hear you say Asteroids? Well, you said that, we didn’t. As mentioned previously, when the fire-button is pressed, the hour indicator dots are lit up in red, so if you find yourself in a dark alley and you need to know what time it is, just press the fire-button.

 

Coolness

It’s an arcade machine on your wrist that can tell the time and has awesome lighting and pew pew sound effects.

Retro Arcade Watch

How much cooler can it get? Well, if you could play Asteroids or Galaga on it, then I guess it would have been on the super side of cool. However, for under 50 smackers ($49.95USD) you get a watch that can tell the time and provide a coolness factor for free.

Verdict

If you are an Omega or Tag Heuer kind of watch wearer, then the Retro Arcade Wristwatch may not be for you. If you like to show-off your inner geekiness, then you cannot go wrong with this watch on your wrist. At the least, you will send tongues wagging!

James Bond 007

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James Bond 007

If you were to take a guess, you’d probably expect James Bond 007 to be a bland and utterly unremarkable platformer of some kind.

So for it to be a largely unconventional RPG style adventure is a very welcome suprise.

Although it never gets near being of the same quality of its obvious inspiration, Link’s Awakening, James Bond 007 offers up a virtual Bond escapade that feel genuinely different to the norm for the franchise.

James_Bond-gameboy

The game eases you in, with the first stage set in China. You’re tasked with finding some secret plans by fighting your way through a temple.

There’s no actual action until you’ve fixed a bridge and talked to several villagers, which definitely goes against the Bond tradition of an explosive opening.

Things get going once you steal the plans though, with several thugs and a boss (femme fatale Zhong Mae) standing in the way of your escape.

James_Bond-gameboy

This is where the main similarities to Zelda begin. To equip weapons and items you press select, where you can assign actions to the A and B buttons.

When you start you’ll likely equip just a block and a punch, but eventually you can choose from an arsenal of guns, machetes and various Q gadgets.

Action is admittedly stilted throughout the game, due to the limited size of the character sprites that are used, but bigger bosses do usually require a bit more than button mashing to defeat.

James_Bond-gameboy

Puzzles in the game are generally simplistic, and are usually nothing more than dressed up fetch or search quests, but there are occasions where a little thinking is required.

One example is early on in the game, where you have to sneak past a guard in a bar. To do so you need to shoot out the light so he can’t see you. There’s even a quip – “I left him in the dark” – to enjoy once you’ve complete this task.

James_Bond-gameboy

Its somewhat ironic that its the Bond license that maintains your interest though.

The quips, the globe trotting (locations include China, London and Kurdistan) and the fan service are what really keep you playing.

Bond flirting with Moneypenny, things going wrong in Q’s lab (sending a jet-chair through a wall is a highlight) and M’s blunt but caring attitude to 007 are all present and correct.

James_Bond-gameboy

It’s therefore safe to say that James Bond 007 probably wouldn’t be worth playing if it didn’t star England’s most famous fictional spy, but is undoubtedly still worth looking into if you’re fan of the franchise.

A little like Timothy Dalton, the game tries something a little different and isn’t entirely successful – but is still worth investigating if you get the chance.

Virtual Pool 64

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Virtual Pool 64

In terms of content alone, Virtual Pool 64 is a success.

The big issue is whether this huge amount of content and modes is worth wading through today.

If you’re a pool fan it’s probably safe to say that it is though. Despite the game’s slightly dated visuals it plays a fairly solid virtual rendition of the ball potting sport.

The controls are undoubtedly the most important element of the game – without feeling suitably responsive and solid the main meat of the game would be largely worthless.

So it’s good to see they’re not bad. Not perfect by any means, but workable enough.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

Moving your cue (seemingly held by the invisible man) is done with the analogue stick. Adjusting the cue angle is done with the right C-button, while holding the R trigger helpfully allows you to see things from an overhead perspective.

Hitting the ball is a little odd though. You have to hold A, and then pull back the analogue stick, pushing it forward to strike the ball. The strength of the shot depends on how quickly you move the stick.

It’s unintutive at first, but eventually you get used to it. You can see what the developers were going for at least, attempting to recreate the cue movement with the analogue stick.

You can then start picking through the games many options and modes.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

There are nine variants of pool to choose from, and you can play in one-off matches, tournaments and more for each.

Four of them are the same thing but with a different number of balls though.

3-ball, 6-ball, 9-ball and 10-ball all see you potting the balls in numerical order, with the person to pot the last one the winner.

I personally have always found this version of pool to be a tad unfair (you can pot all but one ball and still be the loser), but I know many people who swear by it.

For everyone else you have the reliable, trusted 8-ball mode, with the option to play it US or English Pub style.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

If you don’t how this version of pool works i’m surprised you’ve managed to read this far into this revisit. Suffice to say, it’s the one version of pool you should think of when someone mentions the sport to you.

You choose a colour/ball type (plains or stripes) and you have to pot all your balls and the black before your opponent.

Straight Pool, on the other hand, is pretty much pot any ball on the table that you can up to a certain pre-set total. A little mindless, but fun enough.

Rotation sees you attempting to rack up a score of 61 before your opponent with 120 points available on the table. This is one of the less enjoyable variants.

Bank Pool is even more torturous, only allowing you to pot a ball if you hit the rail during your shot.

Virtual Pool 64 - N64

One Pocket is slightly more interesting, and sees you elect a pocket from the far end of the table which you must then try to hit as many balls into as you can. This one is like a hybrid of Hungry Hippos and pool, but it’s still not quite as good as that sounds.

That’s quite a lot to get your teeth into, and if you’re in the market for a pool game on the N64 (well, you might be) you won’t get much better than Virtual Pool 64.

Psycho Fox

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Psycho Fox

I must admit that when I first came to review this game, I failed to see why I had such fonds memories of it in the first place.  That was until I hit stage 2 and enter Skull Land!  From here the game picks up its pace a bit.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Like many other platformers of its time, the objective of Psycho Fox is to save a world that has been thrown into turmoil by some evil tyrant.  In this case the tyrant is known as Madfox Daimyojin.  With Bird Fly perched on his shoulder, Psycho Fox must trek through seven bizarre stages, each with their own stage boss, before encountering his nemesis the Madfox Daimyojin.  Who is Bird Fly you may ask?  Bird Fly is Psycho’s trusty sidekick that can fly out from his shoulder to defeat enemy creatures.  Bird Fly also acts a shield because while perched on Psycho’s shoulder, he can take one hit without dying…however you will lose your feathered friend.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

One of the coolest features of this game is Psycho’s ability to morph between fox, monkey, hippo, and tiger.  However this is reliant that you have obtained a “Psycho Stick”, which can be found hidden away in the eggs that are scattered throughout the rounds or by killing an enemy creature.  Of course each transformation has its strengths and weaknesses.   Fox is the original form of Psycho Fox and his abilities such as walking, acceleration, punching power etc are standard.  The hippo has tremendous punching power with the ability to break bricks.  This allows you to enter some sealed off areas, but ultimately his weight will let you down.  Monkey is known for his high jumping ability, while Tiger is a bit of an athlete who excels in running and long jumping.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Another feature is the end of round lottery bonus game known as “Amida”  To play this game you must acquire at least one money bag during the round…one bet per money bag.  Psycho Fox places a bet on a pathway that he then travels along, before receiving the prize at the end of the pathway.  Prizes include extra lives, psycho sticks, straw effigies, and magic medicine.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Or if you’re unlucky like me, you might get the booby prize.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

My favorite part of the game is defeating the stage 2 boss.  A fly of epic proportions, brain visible through his transparent shell, Psycho must douse his opponent with fly spray by jumping on the nozzle of the can provided!

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

The game takes you through a number of landscapes including desert, sky, wind tunnels, and underground caverns, before you meet your nemesis the Madfox Daimyojin.  In addition there are various hazardous implements you must avoid including disappearing bridges, slippery slopes, and needle-studded floors and ceilings.

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

Victory was mine and boy was it sweet!

Psycho-Fox-Sega-Master-System

One of the bonuses of this game is that once all your lives are depleted, there is an unlimited “continue” function enabling you to return to both the stage and round you left off.

However, my main frustration with Psycho Fox is the lack of a “checkpoint”.  If you happen to die, you must begin from the very start of the round.  This is very frustrating if you happen to die whilst battling a stage boss!  Another criticism is that Psycho Fox moves a little too slow for my liking.  This means that if you get to close to an enemy, and are not in a position to throw a punch, it is difficult to move away in time.  It is also hard to jump distances if you don’t have a bit of speed behind you.

By the time the credits had rolled I felt like it was ME going psycho, possibly because I had died at least 100 times!  But despite my frustration Psycho Fox is a great little platformer.   It features some neat realistic sound effects, for example when Psycho cracks open an egg with his fist.  The soundtrack is great albeit a little repetitive, and the game is rolled up in a bright little package.  The biggest plus it gets from me is the interesting modes of defeating the stage bosses it employs.

Robo-Squash

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Robo-Squash

Considering the genre was one of the first ones ever created, there’s been surprisingly few innovations in the world of bat ‘n’ ball games, but Atari, the very creators in question, tried doing just that with this slightly obscure release for their own Lynx ‘handheld’ (snigger). The objective does not, however, include the usual block-hitting tomfoolery that I had initially believed formed the basis of the game. Robo Squash is instead a tarted-up version of the very first bat ‘n’ ball game of them all, and indeed the very first popular video game full stop – Pong! Instead of the simple left-to-right-to-left-again gameplay of the original though, this example asks you to do the same thing but from an into-the-screen perspective! There’s a bit more to it than that though, of course.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Luckily your paddle is transparent…

Set against the backdrop of a rather peculiar political power-struggle of the far-future, you, playing as the champion of the ‘World Party’ must face your opposite number from the rival ‘International Party’ to decide the future of the world – eeeek! At the start of the game you’re presented with a four-by-four group of balls. Selecting one will start a round which consists of an into-the-screen view of the playfield. Your ‘paddle’ occupies the end closest to the screen, your opponent’s the opposite end. About half-way between the two in the middle of the screen is an assortment of bricks and a few other bits and pieces. The winner of the round is the first to score three ‘goals’ past his or her opponent or, less often, a quicker victory can be achieved if you manage to hit the elusive ‘mechanical spider’. There are several things that can make the process of winning a round a bit more complicated though.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Frog attack! Oops, I mean ‘dragon’ attack!

For one thing, the ‘ball’ appears to be a tomato or something similar as it leaves a big red splotch on the screen if you let it get past you! There’s also a seemingly random sprinkling of yellow and blue bricks which act as an obstruction but give you bonus points upon destruction, and there are a few power-ups items nestled among them too. These include a mouth (lets you catch the ball and shoot it from wherever you want), a dragon (lets you shoot fireballs to create a fiery distraction, although it looks more like a frog), a spiral disk (makes your paddle bigger), and an eye (helps you to see where the ball will end up). As well as all this, the ball predictably gets faster and faster the longer it’s in play as well which, along with the various visual impairments (splats, explosions, etc) can make this a pretty tricky game, especially when played against the near-infallible computer opponent.

Robo_Squash_Atari-Lynx
Oops, a rather unceremonious defeat again!

There are four difficulty levels though, and control of the quite accommodating paddle thing is surprisingly intuitive. Besides, games like Breakout and all its derivatives are the ones for solo-players; Pong and similar games were designed for two players and so is the case here. Aesthetically the game isn’t too troubling – the colourful bricks, power-ups, and the ball along with its splats work well against the grey backdrop, and the scaling is quite good too, as we’ve come to expect from the Lynx. The basic sound effects and lack of in-game music are less impressive but I still had a bit of fun with this one, albeit only for a short while as it’s a bit pointless playing it alone! That makes its appeal limited of course – these days, the chances of finding another Lynx owner are fairly slim never mind one also owns this game. If you should manage it though, Robo Squash would make the encounter a mighty entertaining one.

 RKS Score: 6/10

The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

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The Simpsons: Bart’s Nightmare

Bart’s Nightmare is often considered one of the better retro Simpsons games as well – although that may be because it’s not competing in a particularly strong field of candidates.

By today’s standards Bart’s Nightmare is an overly difficult and strangely structured beast – but it still has some interesting elements.

One plus point is the game’s presentation, which as you can tell from the screenshot is very colorful and quite unique.

simpsons-the-barts-nightmare

This is mainly as the developers used a hand drawn art style, which ends up portraying the bright colors of The Simpsons’s cartoon world quite well. It looks a little ramshackle by today’s standards, but still maintains a certain charm.

The music used is also quite strange, exuding an oddly lulling quality that is very hard to accurately describe (as you can tell from that hash of a sentence).

In terms of plot the game sees you play as Bart, who falls asleep at his desk while attempting to do his homework.

simpsons-the-barts-nightmare

You are then taken into an odd dream world where you must recover nine pages to get back to reality.

To find the pages you have to scour the game’s hub (see above), which sees you avoiding crazed mail boxes, old ladies who shoot kisses, bouncing basketballs and so on.

Finding a page is seemingly a random event – and at this early point is where the game may start to test your patience.

Finding the pages isn’t enough either. You have to jump into one when you find it, and select one of two doors to enter.

simpsons-the-barts-nightmare

Each one takes you to a different stage, with every challenge different from the last.

This is where one of the main problems with the game lies. Although it offers up a variety of challenges, each has its flaws – making the game a rather bittersweet experience.

Most of the problems contribute to the game’s over-difficult nature as well.

In the Itchy and Scratchy stage for example, it can be tough to avoid taking consecutive hits before you’re able to fight back.

simpsons-the-barts-nightmare

The Bartzilla stage on the other hand, doesn’t even have the common courtesy of giving you a life bar.

A Indiana Jones inspired block jumping stage also feels far too random to be fun.

The controls also needed refinement. Your jump (B button) is too stiff and inflexible to make you feel in complete control, and movement is a little stilted in general to boot.

Overall, Bart’s Nightmare hasn’t aged particularly well. It’s presentation now acts as less of a cover for its slightly sloppy structure, but if you’re a Simpsons die-hard you might get something out of this.

NES Remix 1 and 2

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NES Remix 1 and 2

I always view the NES era of gaming through sugar-frosted spectacles, forever unable to uncover much fault in this special time when I started identifying myself as a gamer.  Sharing notebooks full of passwords on the bus, the two-month long wait for Nintendo Power in the mailbox, and saving every penny for a year in order to buy Kid Icarus, these are the memories of a wonderful childhood.  Honestly, how can anyone really not love Nintendo?

NES-Remix

If you have ever left a game on pause overnight so as not to lose progress, you know exactly where I’m coming from.  Both volumes of NES Remix were made for people like us, the kids who could beat Castlevania in one sitting or still remember the location of every power up in Bionic Commando.  If you can still navigate through the Lost Woods from memory or decimate Ridley without taking damage, you will certainly find something to enjoy in NES Remix.

Think of NES Remix as your Nintendo favorites perfectly packaged for generation ADD.  Each game is broken into familiar bite-sized chunks that must be completed quickly in order to succeed.  Finishing levels earns the gamer stars, and stars unlock more levels and different titles.  You can also earn stamps to place on messages you leave for members of the Wii community, which Nintendo seems to think is better than a point-based achievement or trophy system.  Personally I would prefer a traditional ranking system where I could match up and meet with new players, but Nintendo doesn’t want their own army of Xbox Live assholes, and I can’t exactly blame them for that.

NES-Remix

Between both volumes of the series, tons of old favorites make appearances. Only a few of the choices are questionable, especially the “what in the fuck were they thinking” inclusion of the obscure and extremely terrible Wario’s Woods.  I would rather play through Captain Novalin (the 8-bit train wreck about living with diabetes) than be subjected to one more minute of Wario or his hackneyed woods.

The remix part comes in with 60 plus special challenges that completely change the familiar levels and games around.  Playing Donkey Kong with Link (who can’t jump) or plowing through lights-out Excitebike are just two of the awesome tweaks that make this the mode worthy of the purchase.  Some of the challenges are downright brutal. For example, imagine playing Balloon Fight (aka C-List Joust) while the screen continually shrinks.  The remix levels are hands down the hardest to complete, and they will certainly test your 8-bit mettle.

NES-Remix

Besides the palpable ire you will feel for Wario’s Woods, this game will also make you loathe the primitive jumping mechanics in Ice Climbers.  I never played it in my youth, but had I, this would have been the first game that made me contemplate unnecessary controller abuse.  You can’t float your jumps at all, which makes for an excruciating platforming experience, especially by today’s standards.

NES-Remix

The only other major problem I had was with the lack of attention given to Punch Out.  Most of the Mario titles get 20 plus levels, but Punch Out only gets seven?  And the final level is literally just you watching Doc train Little Mac in the park?  Punch Out deserves so much more than some slapped together levels.  Soda Popinski, Bald Bull, and Super Macho Man don’t even make appearances. Piston Honda serves as the final challenge, which is like getting a beer half filled with head—it’s still tasty, but it feels so incomplete.

Rumors are swirling that SNES remix is next.  If this is any indication of the direction the big N is willing to take with their back catalogue, they can just go ahead and take my ten bucks.

 

 

 

 

 

OGX #3 The Pre-E3 2014 Show

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OGX #3 The Pre-E3 2014 Show

e3_2014

With E3 2014 next week we decided to talk about what we were looking forward to most for our trip out to L.A and to reminisce on our previous trips to the expo. There is a lot to E3 besides what you see on the net or videos and it is definitely something you should experience live if you have the chance and if you plan to be out there look out for us. We will be recording everything to be featured on our future shows are articles. For now, I hope you enjoy the show and as always we appreciate any comments or feedback.

[The Obsolete Gamer Show]

[Alt F4]

[M.A.M.E of the Game]

[The Gamer Profiles Show]

[Beneath the Surface]

[OGX]

Iron Soldier

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Iron Soldier isn’t the greatest game in the world – put amongst the software libraries of the N64, Saturn or Playstation it’s positively mediocre. ~Simon Reed

Iron Soldier

A Jaguar exclusive, Iron Soldier also happens to be one of the most common titles on the system.

Fortunately it’s no disaster like Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (another common Jag title), but instead a fairly solid game that’s worth picking up if you’ve had a Jaguar inflicted upon you.

You take control a robot/mech, helping what sounds like a resistance group. There’s no real explanation of the over-riding plot, but it would be foolish to suggest that makes the building destroying action any less satisfying.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

At the start you have four missions to choose from (with 16 overall), which can be tackled in any order you wish.

Or at least, it seems that way. Some stages can be a real struggle if you aren’t equipped with weapons gathered from certain other levels.

Before you enter a mission you can tool up your mech with any weapons you may have, and you’re given a brief rundown of your objectives.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

This quick briefing has to be studied carefully – as not knowing exactly what you’re doing in a stage is suicide.

As soon as you enter a level you’ll probably be struck at how blocky the game is. If you needed any more evidence that the Jaguar wasn’t really 64-bit then here it is.

The next thing you’ll realize is that the controls aren’t the easiest to grasp.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

The simple task of movement requires you to press A and either up or down to start going forward or backwards respectively.

Once you’re moving (you can adjust the speed accordingly) you simply have to steer and shoot. Changing your weapons is tasked to the option button and – this took me a little while to realize – the numbered keys at the bottom of the pad.

Shooting is something you’ll be doing a lot as well, with endless streams of tanks and helicopters firing at you non-stop.

This is why knowing your objective is an absolute necessity, with missions being reasonably varied. Even if most basically just involve destroying stuff.

Iron Solider - Atari Jaguar - Gameplay Screenshot

The first stage, for example, sees you going around a city to destroy a warehouse. The second has you sinking docked boats, and another involves reducing a bridge to rubble with the use of grenades.

There’s no hugely complex action here, and the game is probably all the better for it.

Yes, the graphics may be ridiculously blocky, but the game still has some impressive explosions, and the way buildings dissolve into showers of cubes is actually rather charming, in a retro kind of way.

Iron Soldier isn’t the greatest game in the world – put amongst the software libraries of the N64, Saturn or Playstation it’s positively mediocre – but for the Jag it offers up some solid robo-destruction action.

Pathetic displays of Nudity in Classic Video Games

Just like how dads in America used to hide their Playboy magazines it should be no surprise that wizards and spell makers of old would do the same. ~J.A. Laraque

Pathetic displays of Nudity in Classic Video Games

The other day I was told that the laser disc version of the movie, Who framed Roger Rabbit, is worth a lot of money because you can slow down the speed enough in a specific scene to get a Basic Instinct shot of Jessica Rabbit. If you are creepy enough to go research that yourself then these displays of nudity in classic games are for you.

Diplocephalus: Castlevania Symphony of the Night

The ultimate Myspace angle monster, you guys remember Myspace angles right? Diplocephalus is a monster from the Sony PlayStation game, Castlevania Symphony of the Night.  She has a beautiful upper body, but look out below because she is attached to a horrible monster.

nudity in gaming

When you hit her she turns and you get a shot of her bare hind quarters.  I just realized this is a monster representation of a hot click dating an ugly dude.

Big Snail: Metal Slug 3

A long time ago desperate horny boys with cable television would turn to the adult channel which was naturally scrambled and stare at it for hours for a few milliseconds glance of a semi-unscrambled signal. This is exactly what the nudity here is like.

nudity in gaming

In Metal Slug 3, when this monster spays you with acid, if you are a guy you dissolve into bones. If you are a girl, the acid dissolves her clothes and for a second you get a few frames of her naked body. Look, if they took the time to code it in the game we might as well take the time to stare at it.

Lizzy: Rampage World Tour

Why did all the boys love to play the lizard in Rampage, for the few seconds of heavy pixelated nudity when she reverts to her human form that’s why. Her expression is similar to waking up in bed next to someone you though was attractive last night at 3am after you had twelve beers only to wake up to a nightmare.

nudity in gaming

And don’t worry about the pixelated dots; they have breast augmentation that can fix that right up.

Centerfold: Secret of Mana

Just like how dads in America used to hide their Playboy magazines it should be no surprise that wizards and spell makers of old would do the same. In the 16-bit RPG, Secret of Mana, there are mystic book enemies than once in a while show you a nude centerfold spread of a woman lying on her stomach.

nudity in gaming

It’s cool though because even ancient spell-weavers needed a little me time.

Medusa: Super Castlevania IV

Ever had someone yell; “Oh my God, Look at that!” and you turn around too late to see it? I never noticed Medusa’s nipple-less fun bags when I used to play Super Castlevania IV on my SNES. I was too busy worrying about the snakes flying at me, but apparently a lot of parents noticed it.

nudity in gaming

 

You know, a lot of busty women always say; “My eyes are up here.” In Medusa’s case it’s better to remain focused on her boobs.

Peter: Power Instinct 2

It makes sense with all the fighting games and all the fighters and all the powerful attacks on people, many with little clothing that parts would become exposed. In fact they have videos all about women’s tops being ripped open in fighting games, but for as many horny teens that there are who would ask for that there are ten times that many who would beg you not to have this.

nudity in gaming

Rule one of Street Fighting should be put to on some high quality underwear.

Phantasy Star Online

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While the old series was more or a less a compeitior to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, PSO was in a class of it’s own. ~Adam R.

Phantasy Star Online

While Sonic Team might be constantly criticized for never really getting Sonic right when 3D came along, their magnum opus during the Dreamcast era was Phantasy Star Online. Which revived the classic Phantasy Star series after a 7 year break.

Phantasy Star Online

 While the old series was more or a less a compeitior to Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, PSO was in a class of it’s own. The only thing like it were MMOs like Everquest on PC. It was to be played online as players can choose different classes and join other players to conquer levels and defeat bosses.
Phantasy Star Online
 The game later came out with different editions like a 2nd version with new content on Dreamcast. After the “death” of the Dreamcast, Sega ported an enhanced version on Nintendo Gamecube. There was also an Xbox version later on, but oddly it’s unplayable now since it had no offline mode and the online service for the original Xbox is gone.
Phantasy Star Online
This was one of the games I was always meaning to get, but never did. I never had broadband (until 2005) or got the internet adapter for Gamecube which was a big reason for it. Unless they come out with a Xbox Live Arcade version, I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to try it out. I hear the sequels never recaptured the magic of the original.

Donkey Kong Flash Game

 

Donkey Kong Flash Game

One of the most classic and hardest original arcade games out there. The idea is simple, Donkey Kong has kidnapped Mario’s girlfriend Pauline (Way before Princess Peach) and he must jump over the barrels Donkey Kong tosses as well as fire. Besides his timing and jumping skills Mario can sometimes use a magic hammer that destroys the barrels. If he reaches the top he rescues the girls or maybe Kong climbs higher. Funny enough, most gamers never got past level 3 of the original game.

  • Use the Arrow Keys to Move

  • Use the Space Bar to Jump

Freakin Funky Fuzzballs

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This was a fun little game in its day, but even then there was not much replay value, though, as once you mastered the fine art of fuzzballdom and cleared all its levels, there was nothing more to accomplish . ~Dan “Magisterrex” Epp

Freakin Funky Fuzzballs

With a title like Freakin’ Funky Fuzzballs, you can expect a little gaming weirdness will be coming – and you’d be right. This is the setup: you have a fuzzball that needs to be guided through various maze levels looking for the keys to escape, while avoiding its nasty fuzzball brethren who want to dispose of it. There are tiles on the floor of each maze, some which contain food for your little fuzzball, and some which contain treasures (like magic rings, armor, wands, potions, scrolls and shields). You better plan your route, as your fuzzball moves through the maze it can only cross the same tile twice before it disappears. There are also traps waiting for your poor little fuzzball, so stay on your toes!

Freakin Funky Fuzzballs - Gameplay screenshot

Sir-Tech was known for producing the Wizardry RPG series, so Freakin’ Funky Fuzzballs was a complete departure from their norm. (I picture the Wizardry team, burnt out from living an all-RPG, all-the-time existence, seeing this game and falling in love with its sheer absurdity.)  The game was credited as the work of Ian Currie (game design, graphics, and programming) and Robert Koller (game design and graphics).

Of the two designers, Currie would go on to work on several Sir-Tech games, such as Realms of Arkania: Star Trail, the Jagged Alliance series, and Wizardry: Nemesis, as well as more recent non-Sir-Tech offerings (since they went out of business in 2001, but not their Canadian chapter, which lasted until 2003), such as Star Trek: LegacyEmpire Earth III, and Dungeons and Dragons Online: Eberron Unlimited.

Freakin Funky Fuzzballs - Gameplay screenshot
Freakin’ Funky Fuzzballs item list

This was a fun little game in its day, but even then there was not much replay value, though, as once you mastered the fine art of fuzzballdom and cleared all its levels, there was nothing more to accomplish . Even so, Freakin’ Funky Fuzzballs is a nifty little game that accomplishes what it sets out to do, and if you haven’t played it, worth picking up and playing through.  A true Forgotten Classic!

[Visit Magisterrex Homepage]

Little Big Adventure 2: Twinsen’s Odyssey

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It features a truly great and imaginative story and it’s gameplay is one of the best that I have seen in an adventure game… ~Harris Aspros

Little Big Adventure 2

The amount of time I spent on this game is unbelievable, partly because the first time I played it I couldn’t understand what was happening since I didn’t know English. But I played it more times a few years ago and whenever I remember this game I get overwhelmed with nostalgia
Little Big Adventure 2 -Twinsen's Odyssey

What is Little Big Adventure 2: Twinsen’s Odyssey

It’s an adventure game (again) and I find it one of the examples which show that the sequel can be better than the first game.  Developed by [Adeline Software] in 1997 and re-published by Activision (they used to not suck so bad) the same year with the name Twinsen’s Odyssey. It follows Twinsen’s adventure to uncover an evil plot behind some alien kidnappings around the neighbourhood.
 Little Big Adventure 2 -Twinsen's Odyssey

Why it’s Great

It features a truly great and imaginative story and it’s gameplay is one of the best that I have seen in an adventure game (some should take note). It is a great experience and you would do well to give it a shot.
Little Big Adventure 2 -Twinsen's Odyssey

Where you can get it

This one is actually (and strangely) available, you can find it at [Good Ol Games] for 5.99 USD.