Cool World

Cool World

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was an 8-bit home video game console that played host to dozens of licensed titles; that is, cartridges based on pre-existing licenses, such as movies or cartoon shows. These games were usually of sub-par quality, since the developer was typically just trying to turn out a quick game in order to profit on the fleeting popularity of the license itself. In this case, the developer was Ocean and the license was a movie (starring a young Brad Pitt, oddly enough) called Cool World. This NES video game was released in 1992, near the end of the console’s official supported life cycle.

Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Gameplay

The player controls protagonist detective Harris, who needs to collect five pieces of a map that shows the connection points between the real world and Cool World, a cartoon-infused weird doppelganger of Earthly reality. He is after a sultry woman named Holli, whose actions may cause the destruction of both realms. In order to do this, the player must play through four selectable stages in order to unlock the fifth, a tower in Las Vegas on which the Golden Spike is located, which has the power to save the worlds. Or something like that.

Harris is a monochromatically rendered little guy that jumps with the A button, moves as entered on the directional pad, and can use weapons by tapping the B button, but holding the B button makes him crouch. This is as silly as it sounds. The Start button pauses, and the Select button cycles through an on-screen selection of the weapons, such as the Pen, which has to be found in each level and can suck up enemies; the Eraser, which can be thrown in order to eradicate one enemy (and turn it into a life-restoring candy cane); and the Bomb, which is a special weapon that differs in each level, and is needed to defeat the boss.

Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

The play control is not good. Harris is remarkably focused and cannot do two things at once. Three examples: He cannot use a weapon in mid-air while jumping; he cannot move diagonally at all, requiring movement in a cardinal direction at all times; and he cannot even use the Select button except when standing still. Thus, rather than create a fun, fast-paced, fluid gameplay experience, the entire ordeal is slow, stilted, and made more difficult than it really needed to be.

The level design is also very questionable. Some require puzzles to be solved, like on Main Street when the player needs to enter the Slash Club, but has to figure out that he has to blow the lid off a green trash can with a bomb, then push it to the left in front of the bouncers, in order for the smell to drive them away from the entrance. Another level is an unforgiving skateboarding level, with lots of one-hit kill opportunities, slightly reminiscent of that aggravating Great Wall of China stage from Bart Vs. The World. Yet another level has a latter part consisting of an enormous, vertically oriented straight-down tunnel that has to be relentlessly navigated. Often, a hidden room must be found; if it is not, then by the time the player reaches the boss, he or she will not have gained enough of the special weapon to defeat the nasty foe.

Overall, Cool World is an intriguing challenge at best. But the most damning aspect of this game is poor design, as though every development decision is made with no further thought or consideration of how it would actually play out. This is not among the all-time most difficult NES video games ever made, neither is it really among the very worst, but it is both hard and bad. In other words, it bads real hard, a phrase which makes just about as much sense as the premise of Cool World itself.

 Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Graphics

The year is 1992. Nintendo Entertainment System video games have been being produced for several years now, and have come a long way in their complexity, stylism, genre breadth, and overall general discoveries of how to stretch the console to its hardware limits. Cool World looks okay visually, and its graphics may actually be its highlight, but it is nothing outstanding for its era, and actually can be seen as evidence of Ocean’s laziness, given the potential for something more striking. Perhaps items like background repetition, palette-swap enemy types, and mindlessly drawn environments can be forgiven, though, in the face of such imaginative surroundings; then again, they were inspired by a movie, and stand merely as a meager attempt at capturing the spirit of the film, which itself was a below-average result.

Cool_World_NES-Gameplay-screenshot

Sound

The sound effects are lame and minimalist. Look no further than the mind-numbing “kssh” effect of the bartender’s bottles hitting the floor, over and over, in such dismal, monotone, uninspired fashion. Then there is the background music, which is amazing in its ability to sound like it has so much potential, yet end up only ear-grating. In all seriousness: Portions of this game sound as though they were actually, purposefully intended to annoy the player. Some of the tracks utilize that same annoying echo-synth layer used in titles like Micro Machines, which seems to only cheapen the quality of the music, not enhance it. A few quick piano-like ditties would usually add some respectability to a soundtrack, but not here, where they only serve as crescendo to an auditory world of hurt. The music never delves into any real depth, and ends up more of a nuisance than an enhancement.

Originality

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6XysybtnTzU[/youtube]

The game is based on a movie, so the concept is not original. Some of the play scheme is interesting, like the item-switch function, yet is executed rather poorly, given the many superior iterations of the same function in prior games. Perhaps the most creative function is Harris using a pen to suck up enemies (yeah, it seems counter-intuitive, but there you have it), then finding empty ink vials to dump the ink into, which restores an amount of life respective to the number of enemies that were sucked up.

Overally, though, this is simply a poor game, and not fun, only worth a play-through for those seeking a quirky retro challenge. Cool World draws one and a half stars out of five.

Panzer General

By the 1990′s, turn-based strategy war games had become highly specialized with a very thin customer base.  Most required a grognard’s ability to juggle multiple battle statistics at once, and had a limited visual appeal.  Then, in 1994, Strategic Simulations Incorporated (SSI) released Panzer General and the wargame genre transformed into a mass market product.

Panzer General game box

Panzer General game box.

Unlike real-time strategy (RTS) games, turn-based strategy games permit the user time to ponder their next move without having to press the pause button.  The drawback is that once you’ve committed your resources you must watch your turn – and your then your opponent’s – play out.  To state the obvious, chess is an example of turn-based strategy.

Typical combat screen in Panzer General

Typical combat screen in Panzer General.

Panzer General offered players both single scenario play, in which they could assume the role of an Allied or an Axis general, as well as a Campaign Mode, in which the player attempts to win World War II for Germany.  The campaign runs from 1939 to 1945, and as units gain battle experience, they become stronger, and the player (as general) gains access to upgrades and reinforcements – assuming they are victorious, that is.  If the player achieves their scenario objectives with five or more game turns to spare, it is considered a “Major Victory,” which unlocks further game elements.  Major Victories enable the player to alter history, such as invading Britain on the heels of victory in France, or even landing an invasion force in North America to capture Washington, D.C.

The invasion of Malta in Panzer General

The invasion of Malta in Panzer General

The game was published across several platform, including versions for the Panasonic 3D0 system, MS-DOS and Windows based computers, Sony PlayStation, and for the Macintosh.  It also spawned a plethora of sequels, including: the 5-Star Series (Allied General, Fantasy General, Pacific General, People’s General, and Star General), Panzer General II, Panzer General 3D Assault, Panzer General III: Scorched Earth, and Panzer General: Allied Assault.  Clearly gamers enjoyed wargames once again!

Furious combat in Panzer General.

Furious combat in Panzer General.

Panzer General was both well-reviewed and well-received by the gaming public.  Besides receiving high review scores from the critics, gamers just kept playing the game.  To this day, there are sites on the Internet devoted to this game, with hundreds of scenarios, new units, and even new features.  Mods are the fountain of youth for classic games, and Panzer General was no exception, as they managed to keep the game fresh and interesting years after its release.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2H6pnOZCUg[/youtube]

Ultimately, the game’s fabulous gameplay coupled with its genre-changing aspect make it a classic retro game that every retrogamer needs to play!

Guerrilla War

 

Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Ah yeh, Guerrilla War, released by SNK in 1987, was the first game I played with a rotary joystick. Unlike Ikari Warriors where you had the joystick to move side to side and shoot, Guerrilla War allowed you to move your fighter and at the same time, rotate the gun to shoot in 8 directions !  This rotary “gimmick” seemed to work, as it was used on other games, notably, Heavy Barrel and Midnight Resistance.

                        Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is a 1 or 2 player survival shooting game, in the mould of Ikari Warriors. Play can be simultaneous or either player can join in at any stage during the game. The players have machine guns to mow down baddies and grenades to lob at them. Along the way, the players can also get into tanks and cause maximum damage (and get further into the game). There are bonus weapons too, when certain enemies are killed.

                        Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The freedom fighter, and communist leader connection was due to the original Japanese version of Guerrilla War, titled, Guevara. The Japanese game was based on the exploits of the revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara and the Cuban commy leader, Fidel Castro. Fearing extreme anti-Communist sentiments in the West, SNK did a regionalisation of the game’s dialogue and instruction manual for its US and European releases.

Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

The game’s description was changed to: The country is struggling against the cruel domination of the king. The guerrilla leader and his comrades attempt to secretly land on shore, but the king’s military is waiting for them. Fight your way inland and attack the fortress.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4JmBDVWV-0[/youtube]

If you want to play a superlative Ikari Warriors rip-off, then this is your game. The rotary joystick is a godsend, as it allows you to walk and shoot in all directions, causing absolute carnage. Go on, throw a coin in the slot, and play some Guerrilla War.

 Guerrilla War - SNK - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot - Cabinet

Manufacturer: SNK
Year: 1987
Genre: Vertical Scrolling Shooter
Number of Simultaneous Players: 2
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Joint
Joystick: 8-way Rotary
Buttons: 2 [Fire and Grenade]
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)

 

 

Rayman 2: The Great Escape

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Double Dragon 2

Double Dragon 2 - NES - Gamplay Screenshot

This is definitely the best double dragon game for the NES. I personally had a horrible time with double dragon 3 because of the difficulty and well, one life! They got a lot of things wrong that they did right in part 2. Anyways, double dragon 2 is one huge masterpiece with a great cooperative play with a friend gameplay. Playing with yourself as bad as it may sound, it’s OK but playing with a friend is a hell of a lot of fun! Just think about it! You can also pick between game A or B which simply means if you want to be able to hit your buddy or not. I like hitting my friend!

Double Dragon 2 - NES - Gamplay Screenshot

 

The game is very complete and challenging as well. There are about eight missions to go through and they all come with very unique scenery. You are also given continues to help you continue through your quest. If you play the game enough though, even at the hardest mode, you’ll be able to beat the game with ease. All your friends(foes) from the first double dragon are back well at least the ones I remembered.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWfNVX6AXDU[/youtube]

 

I can’t tell you how many times I played this game with my brother and we surely didn’t got tired of it. Well, we did until Super Double Dragon was released! So that’s about it, until next week!

Gemini Wing

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Gemini Wing (1987)
By: Tecmo  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 85,980 (one credit)
Also Available For: ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST, Amiga, MSX, Sharp X68000

Like most people (or game fans, at least), I have a fairly extensive list of games I always meant to play but never got around to as a result of time or financial constraints, but Gemini Wing has never been among them. My only memories of it are the rather lacklustre reviews the home conversions received, notably on the Speccy (which had blue and yellow monochrome graphics as I recall), so when I decided to take a look at the arcade original of this vertical-scroller (which is actually a few years older than I realised), I didn’t have very high expectations. Initially, however, it’s been a pleasant surprise! I hope my luck holds, I could do with a decent new shmup to play…

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Even for shmup standards, Gemini Wing has a pretty hideous storyline that I won’t inflict on you here, but suffice to say, every alien race in the galaxy has apparently declared war on Earth! Things aren’t as bad as they might seem though as the invading aliens didn’t reckon on the ingenuity of the Gemini Wing fighter. It is using this that you (and a friend) must engage the terrifying alien fleets across seven stages of vertically-scrolling action. It appears you’re fighting the actual aliens themselves here too, for the most part, rather than their spaceships and stuff and they’re quite a diverse bunch that wouldn’t look out of place in our gardens and forests!

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

As you can probably tell from the screenshots, many of the aliens look like insects, other animals, and plants, and they include centipede’s, bats, various types of flies, praying mantises, spiders, beetles, trees, even single-celled organisms! The bosses are similarly organic in nature. The first, for example, is a walrus, and the next a pair of one-eyed snakes! Like Metal Black, recently reviewed here, Gemini Wing tries to do something a bit different with the weapon system too, and with a bit more success this time. Your fighter is equipped with a reasonable, though poor range, cannon, but you may notice the ship also has a tail of circular icons behind it.

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

These are called ‘Gunballs’ and each of them represents a different special attack ranging from three-way fire, to homing missiles, to a wall of fire, and others. They are used in the order they trail behind you and each lasts for one brief attack, acting like lesser smart bombs of a sort. More of them can be collected by destroying a certain kind of alien called a ‘Bringer’ which have ‘Gunball tails’ of their own! Bringers are hard to kill but each time you shoot one will change the type of Gunball they are carrying. When it carries the attack you want, you can steal them by flying into them and snatching them. Be careful though as they can also steal your Gunballs in the same way!

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Not all the Gunballs are weapons though. Certain ones will also give you speed-ups, an extra life, or award you with bonus points too. If you do manage to destroy a Bringer (it takes a lot of shots), its Gunballs will scatter around the screen, much like your own if you lose a life. This does of course make things a little easier as you can gather up most of your lost power-ups again when you restart (which happens immediately from the point you died). That’s not to say this is an easy shmup though. As well as numerous medium and large enemies, there are frequent swarms of dozens of smaller enemies (like the green things to the right) and they often move lightning fast!

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Others attack from behind while some, such as the beetles, come flying down the screen straight at you. Most of the enemies have horribly unpredictably flight paths too, especially the smaller ones, and it’s not just the aliens who cause problems. Many of the stages are home to hard-to-reach guns and there are various kinds of barriers that you have to try and shoot through as well. Fortunately the Gunballs are fairly common but you’re still likely to become overwhelmed now and then! The game can sure handle a lot of sprites on the screen at once too – there are sometimes literally dozens of several different types attacking at once.

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Your ‘tail’ of Gunballs following you around can be a bit distracting too, but this isn’t the hardest shmup in the world either. The sprites and backgrounds are both pretty varied, and the sprites in particular look nice. However, Tecmo missed some great opportunities as well. For example, the first stage takes places over a giant canyon of some sort. Some parallax scrolling here could’ve looked amazing and given the game a real sense of scope! Nevermind though, it’s still looks decent enough. The music and sound effects are pretty average though, it has to be said, and not something that you would even notice really unless you actually tried to.

Gemini Wing - Arcade - Gameplay Screenshot

Initially at least, this appeared to be a bright, cheery game which kind of reminded me, thematically, of a vertically-scrolling version of recently-played Amiga classic, Apidya, what with the abundance of insect-like enemies and all (well, vice versa since Gemini Wing came out first but you know what I mean!), and plays a little like PC Engine great, Gunhed. Having something in common with those two fantastic games is certainly no bad thing and, while Gemini Wing is not as good as either of them, it is a pretty half-decent and playable game. It has a great two-player mode (and yes, the players can steal Gunballs from each other!) and proves a nice challenge too. The difficulty increase is gradual with only a few overly tough sections, and there are some innovative features here which work well. As mentioned earlier, to me at least, this has always been one of those games that was just, sort of… there, but having now given it a chance, it has proven to be a rather pleasant surprise.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGWq0n0tQ8g[/youtube]

RKS Score: 7/10

Duke Nukem 3D

“Who wants some?”
These words always bring back awesome gaming memories of this installment of the magisterrex Game of the Week: 3D Realms’ 1996 PC games classic, Duke Nukem 3D.  Many hours were spent blasting away aliens, looking for all the secret rooms, and seeing how much of the environment could be manipulated.  And all the while Duke Nukem ripped off one-liner after one-liner, just like a good action picture from the 80′s.

Duke Nukem 3D - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Duke Nukem 3D 1996 Release

“Damn, those alien bastards are gonna pay for shooting up my ride!”
The story was pretty straightforward.  Aliens had taken over Los Angeles, and had genetically mutated a bunch of mankind (including all L.A.P.D.’s officers, turning them all into Pigs).  This was bad enough, but when they shot down Duke’s shuttle, it was time to make them pay, and Duke spends the rest of the game wiping out the alien menace.

Duke Nukem 3D - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Duke Nukem 3D Atomic Edition

“It’s time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of gum.”
Players could look up and down, change altitude with a jet pack, get shrunk by a shrinkray, go anywhere they wanted.  There were levels in bars, levels where you had to go underwater, levels where you had to fight in the dark.  This game was the total package.  But it wasn’t for the kiddies, though, with plenty of cussing, a constant array of strippers, partial pixelated nudity, and lots of gooey bits left over when Duke’s enemies got zapped.

Duke Nukem 3D - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The Kill A Ton Collection

“I ain’t afraid of no quake!”
Part of the fun is finding all the hidden references to other games or movies.  Some of the characters (well, their dead bodies, at least) or items you find are:  The Terminator, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, The Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Doom guy, a video of the OJ Simpson car chase, and the alien mothership from Independence Day.  These are the kind of small touches that make a good game a great game.

Duke Nukem 3D - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

The T-800 looking a little flat in Duke Nukem

“Shake it, baby.”
To the no one’s surprise, it turned out that throwing cash at strippers and blowing away partially nude women can get your game put on the kind of lists that prevent Wal-Mart from displaying it on their shelves.  3D Realms found Duke Nukem 3D banned by Brazilian authorities, required to release a parental locked version to access the Australian market, and even placed outright on the “List of Media Harmful to Young People” in Germany.  Back in 1996, this game was mired in controversy!

Duke Nukem 3D - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

A pixelicious Duke Nukem 3D stripper.

“Hail to the King, baby!”
Duke Nukem sold over 300,000 copies in its first week of release.  It went on to spawn several re-releases, like the Atomic Edition, East Meets West, and 3rd party level compilations and other mods, like Duke!Zone and Nuclear Winter.  In the end the sales of Duke Nukem 3D were in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and made Duke Nukem easily one of the most recognizable franchises and characters in the gaming world.

Duke Nukem 3D - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

East Meets West Pack

“What are you waiting for? Christmas?”
If you never played Duke Nukem 3D, go on and pick this game up.  It’s still a lot of fun, even after all these years – as the best games always are!  And don’t forget to download the high-resolution pack, which transforms this classic into a 32-bit juggernaut of retro gaming goodness!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBrvyM4JZ4Q[/youtube]

Legendary Axe

legendary_axe_cover_image_large

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

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

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

Legendary axe - turbo graphix 16 - gameplay screenshot

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

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

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

Legendary axe - turbo graphix 16 - gameplay screenshot

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

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

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

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

Overall 7/10

Tiny Toons

Tiny Toons - Konami - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
I actually played the pirate of this game but fell in love with it nonetheless. Tiny Toons for the NES is how a very funny cartoon converted to a console should have been done. Konami did a lot of things well in this game which went up through the SNES era but that’s another story. Tiny Toons is your average platformed that can turn a hell a lot better if you love the cartoon as the familiarity is uncanny for such a game. You’ll see characters from the series all over the place. The story of the game is very simple, Babs Bunny has been kidnapped and it’s up to Buster and the rest of them to save her. They will have to go through six awesome levels filled with enemies you may have seen in the cartoon DUH!

Tiny Toons - Konami - NES - Gameplay Screenshot
The game is very interesting as you can pick a partner from the duck(Plucky), the Tazmanian devil (Dizzy), and the cat (Furball) to accompany you on your journey. This is key as each character has their own ability therefore they will be useful in different ways on each level. Some of them are more useful than others so it’ll take you at least one run through the entire game to figure out what level each belongs to. It doesn’t make any difference since if you already went through the game once, you already know and figure out everything you need to know in order to beat it so take your best guess!

Tiny Toons - Konami - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The levels are very easy if you figure the patterns and what not. You can probably get through the game in less than an hour but it’s fun over all. The music is quite good as well as it familiarizes with the cartoon’s at some points not all of course. To conclude, this game is very easy to pick up and play which can be very good for people who aren’t ready to learn new gaming styles and to through hour-long tutorials. Yes, this is the power of retro gaming at its maximum! You better believe it!

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

The adventures of Batman and Robin

Snes-adventures-of-batman-and-robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Zone

Fantasy Zone - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Fantasy Zone (1986)
By: Sega  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: Master System  First Day Score: 9,100
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, MSX, X68000
Download For: Wii Virtual Console

Love them or loathe them, videogame mascots were big business in the 80’s and 90’s. Every system needed one and most of them received one too, for good or ill. Well, they did until ultra-violent First Person Shooters became the staple of each machine’s lineup, at least. Anyway, Sega is best known to most for Sonic, but before they conjured up that pesky blue hedgehog they tried out a couple of other potential characters. One of them was Opa-Opa, a curious sentient spaceship type of creature. He didn’t last long as head mascot though – Sega soon switched their attention to Alex Kidd before he too was forgotten, but Opa-Opa is an endearing little chap all the same whose games remain fondly remembered today. This is the first.

Fantasy Zone - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Fantasy Zone saw his debut with this Master System release being converted from the arcade game of the previous year. It, and indeed the later games in the series are set in a place called… umm… the Fantasy Zone, oddly enough, which consists of several planets. In the midst of some sort of spacial recession, the residents of one of these planets, Menon, decide to try and strip all the wealth from the other planets to fund the construction of a huge fortress in the Fantasy Zone. Understandably upset at this blatant lack of community-spirit, the residents of the remaining planets nominate Opa-Opa to stop the forces of Menon. To do this he must visit each of the eight planets they’ve occupied and kick them out, which means taking to the skies in the form of a side-viewed shmup. But this is no run-of-the-mill side-scroller.

Fantasy Zone - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

Each but the last of the eight stages is free-scrolling, meaning he can fly in either direction, and they are also looped. Populating each of them are six enemy ‘bases’ (large Menon creatures) which just, sort of, sit or hover there, spawning smaller Menons periodically. The object of each stage is to destroy all the bases, at which point a large boss will appear. However, to make life as difficult as possible for you, each stage is also home to a large variety of absolutely bizarre smaller Menon creatures. Some of them are solitary but they generally attack in formation. Opa-Opa is equipped with a weak but rapid-fire twin shot cannon and he can also drop small bombs. Contact with any enemy, large or small, is of course immediately fatal, however. The pesky Menons are useful for one thing though – destroying a group of them or a base results in a coin dropping from their last position and bouncing around for a short time before disappearing. Grab these quickly and you can spend them in the shop to upgrade Opa-Opa’s abilities.

Fantasy Zone - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

The floating shop icon appears at the start of each stage, and occasionally later on too if you spend enough time on a stage. Upon entering this apparently Tardis-like shop you are presented with various items covering three categories. Opa-Opa is apparently a winged creature and the shop offers the chance to give him bigger wings, or even one of several engines. These are of course speed-ups, and a similar range of upgrades are available for his standard shot (such as wide shot, laser, seven-way shot) and his bombs (twin bombs, fire bombs, heavy bombs, etc). The speed-ups will last for the remainder of the life but the shot upgrades are timed and most of the bomb upgrades only last for one shot, so pick your targets carefully!

Fantasy Zone - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

If there’s one thing that the Fantasy Zone games are known for, it’s their cute, garishly-coloured visual style. Whilst it would be unfair to focus just on that, it’s certainly easy to see where the reputation comes from! This is among the most colourful games I’ve played – some stages such as the first feature bright greens, pinks, and blues, whereas others such as the third stage are adorned in more restrained pastels, but the sheer variety in colours used throughout the game really is amazing. The sprites are mostly small but nicely drawn, although I’ve absolutely no idea what most of them are meant to be, but the variety of the visuals through the game is amazing. Something else Fantasy Zone is well known for is its excellent audio. The original music and effects featured here are of a very high standard and would go on to be used for most of the other games in the series, and the tunes have been remixed several times to great effect.

Fantasy Zone - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

No matter how cute and colourful the game might look, however, it certainly isn’t easy! The smaller Menon attackers in each stage are infinite and there only to get in your way. They grow ever faster and more plentiful as the game wears on, and they change direction without any warning. Some of them have such erratic flight paths/formations it’s hard to predict where they’re going to go, and therefore where you can go, and their bullets travel at lightning speeds in the later levels. With all this in mind, it’s fortunate that the collision-detection is spot on, to the pixel. You still won’t get far in this game without careful use of the shop and its wares though, and each time you purchase most of the upgrades, they’ll increase in price for the next time you need them!

Fantasy Zone - Master System - Gameplay Screenshot

There really isn’t anything else quite like Fantasy Zone. Its unique gameplay style, not to mention its eye-bleeding visuals, mean the series has its detractors of course, much like any other, but there can’t be too many gamers who don’t appreciate this classic. It’s precise play-mechanics make it a joy to play and it’s as addictive as any shooter I’ve played. Despite its challenging nature, it’s such a happy, vibrant game, you can’t really help but enjoy it.

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

RKS Score: 8/10

Battletoads

Battletoads - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

Hmmm what do you get when you put one of the toughest games on the NES in a portable handheld? The toughest portable handheld game! Not hard to figure out huh? But to be perfectly honest it’s not one of the hardest handheld games but still tough and very high on the list. Battletoads brings you the toads in a portable adventure most likely to its NES counterpart rather than the SNES one(yuck what a disappointment). Hmmm anyways, this game brings you the toads and well from my personal experience racking up extra lives is quite easy on this certain game.

Now, I know that you can do it the same way in the NES and SNES versions but the screen leaves you a limited amount of room which in the end result leaves you with less space to move around. Do you understand what I’m trying to tell you? Well, to conclude you have a better chance of hitting the falling birds to rack up extra lives….congrats you just passed Battletoads 101!

 

Battletoads - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

Overall, you will get a game that challenges you and keeps you coming for more! You have the great music that keeps you on your feet and well the monsters which you beat up in the most hilarious ways. It’s ok if you haven’t played a toads game before because this would make a great introduction to the series even though there aren’t that many toads games to begin with…..To this day I asked why weren’t there more toads games….I could sure use them right about now….then again that Battletoads phone call prank wouldn’t be that funny because yes they would have Battletoads on stock…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog6qXg7Nkg[/youtube]

 

I sure hope you can pick this adventure up for your handheld…hell even use the emulator with a big screen! You can’t go wrong with the toads…they will just piss you off and make you come for more in the end!

Castlevania 2 Belmont’s Revenge

Castlevania 2 - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

We always had lots of great games to remember from the old gameboy library and this one is no different. Konami was savvy enough to see their mistakes on their first title for the gameboy and work on it. Castlevania 2 Belmont’s Revenge brings you a very improved gameplay experienced and a very memorable adventure. The music if you have heard it has been used in Castlevania titles from today and that just shows you it’s that good. It really is!

Castlevania 2 - Gameboy - Gameplay Screenshot

There are lots of things to like about this Castlevania. First of all, you can start the game from four different levels so the game won’t feel very linear for once. The gameplay is your usual kinky wiping and jumping procedures and the enemies will be more familiar if you played the first gameboy Castlevania. The game does bring out an enjoyable enough experience so that you will have the will to come back for more. The game is not that easy so it’s suggested for moderate players that won’t get mad and throw the gameboy against the wall when they get their asses handed to them.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2dollw8pMtM[/youtube]

Overall, this game brings out a better improvement as well as better music and graphics. If you disliked the NES counter part even though I don’t see why you would, this is the game for you. It is not that expensive so getting a copy of it shouldn’t be a problem but if you are a very cheap person then emulation is your answer. Until next week!

Keystone Kapers

Keystone Kapers, designed by Garry Kitchen (ACTIVISION).

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

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

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

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

Atari - Keystone Kapers - Gameplay Screenshot

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

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

Overall 8/10

Drift Out

From the screenshots this game probably looks awesome, and it is pretty unique in the way that it moves. Unlike similar games where you simply steer the car around the track, here you steer the track around the car! It's an interesting approach which kind of reminds me of F-Zero on the SNES (although non-3D, obviously), and can take some getting used to. However, Drift Out is a very tough game and it's not just because of this! The courses look nice, featuring the type of backdrops you might expect to see - wooded areas, dusty tracks, desert areas, shallow water, mud, etc, but there are also a lot of roadside objects and it's very easy to become stuck by one of these which pretty much ruins any chance of doing well in a race, and it's this which is Drift Out's main problem.

Drift Out (1991)
By: Visco Corp  Genre: Overhead Racing  Players: 1  Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade
Also Available For: Super Famicom (variation)

Overhead racing games were one of the earliest types of games to appear, with their history extending as far back as the 70’s, so as you can imagine the genre has undergone quite a few changes in the intervening years. One of them is obviously the standard of graphics, but there’s only so much that can be done using the Super Sprint style view. The best way to improve graphical quality was to zoom in closer to the action. It might seem obvious but it didn’t become commonplace until the 90’s. Many of the titles that then appeared were rally games, and Drift Out was one of the first. It’s actually Neo Drift Out that I’m personally more familiar with but in the interests of chronological accuracy I’ll look at this one first! I don’t know how well-known it was at the time – I at least never saw it, but it was a very pleasant surprise!

Drift Out - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot

Well, initially at least! As mentioned, Drift Out is based in the world of rallying and is surprisingly realistic for an arcade game. You initially have a choice of seven cars, including such (kind of) familiar names as Fard, Toyata, Subaro, Mitsuboshi, etc. You then have to qualify for the race where each of the twelve racers start in successive increments. Each course is viewed directly from above and from a zoomed in perspective. Fortunately you get warned about each course’s many corners by large on-screen arrows but it still takes a bit of practise to successfully complete a course. As mentioned, each racer starts in increments so you’re strictly racing against the clock here, but if you race well enough or badly enough, you will see other cars and can overtake or be overtaken by other cars.

Drift Out - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot

From the screenshots this game probably looks awesome, and it is pretty unique in the way that it moves. Unlike similar games where you simply steer the car around the track, here you steer the track around the car! It’s an interesting approach which kind of reminds me of F-Zero on the SNES (although non-3D, obviously), and can take some getting used to. However, Drift Out is a very tough game and it’s not just because of this! The courses look nice, featuring the type of backdrops you might expect to see – wooded areas, dusty tracks, desert areas, shallow water, mud, etc, but there are also a lot of roadside objects and it’s very easy to become stuck by one of these which pretty much ruins any chance of doing well in a race, and it’s this which is Drift Out’s main problem.

Drift Out - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot

I can’t tell you how many courses there are here because I honestly don’t know. You can’t choose which you want to race on, the game emulates an actual WRC season, so if you want to see later courses, you’ll have to qualify by performing well in previous courses. Maybe I just suck at this game (and there’s a good chance of that) but I’m confident I didn’t get very far. Every time I think I’m doing well, I end up not taking a corner well and getting stuck against a barrier or rock or something similar. The collisions remind me of the original Ridge Racer or Wipeout where you stop dead and just keep bumping against the obstacle until you manage to free yourself. Okay, it’s not always that bad but it’s very frustrating and, for me at least, ruins what initially looked like being a really enjoyable game.

Drift Out - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot

The presentation is very nice here though, it’s one of the reasons why first impressions of the game are good I guess. The title screen is laid over a rolling demo of the game and all the menu/presentation screens are nice. There is no music, either in game or otherwise, with Visco Corp instead opting for realistic car noises, but strangely they seem totally out of sync with your performance. It’s almost as if it’s just a recording of a rally car! The graphics are very nice with much or the roadside featuring impressive detail, and the cars all look authentic. It’s just a shame I didn’t get to see more of the game. I realise arcade games are generally pretty tough in order to get more of your money, but you’d have to spend a fortune practising each course here before you saw everything!

Drift Out - Arcade Gameplay Screenshot

Despite the frustrations involved, I have had some enjoyment playing this. Steering the course around the car is tricky to start with but it’s satisfying to do well (satisfaction I felt all too rarely!), plus this game provides a rare opportunity to race a ‘Fard’ Sierra! There are some great ideas here but ultimately it’s just too frustrating. Still, there are a couple of sequels, maybe we’ll have more luck there…

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

RKS Score: 5/10

Mother

Earthbound - Mother - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

Probably the only way to get a copy of this game is by reproduction method which is really worth it but if you are a cheap bastard, you can get the rom of the game with the translated patch included in it. So here we go, one of the big mistakes Nintendo made was not to release this masterpiece. The game is just a groundbreaking hit and Nintendo didn’t know what they were thinking. In fact, they had the chance to release a lot of crappy ass games errr Star Tropics 2 which also came with a battery packed in like Earthbound does…..so why not?? Nintendo, you are truly a scumbag. Anyways, we did got the one for the SNES but missed out on the GBA one so what the hell? Lets move on. The game plays like an upgraded Dragon Warrior title except with very interesting twists and a very interesting storyline. Hmm you can even fight hippies in the game with their own theme song to drift you out of your seat so to speak.

Earthbound - Mother - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is long and fun, the leveling system is simplistic and ideal for a NES game(We don’t need it to be so complicated especially when you are trying to have fun). Also, the characters are just your typical regular people! This game doesn’t take place in the past during the middle ages or the future? This is one of the few games that gives you the present life feel and does a good job at it. Overall, I don’t want to say much but I would highly recommend you getting a repro of it or like I said earlier, a rom file(you cheap fuck!). Either one will work…..

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PJTURgpMYM[/youtube]
To conclude, the game has a lot of interesting facts but mentioning them will probably take the fun out of it so it’s better if you find it out on your own so no spoilers for you guys. That should be it for now, so until next time.

Other recommendations:
1. Earthbound(SNES)
2. Mother 3(GBA)
3. Roms for both you cheap bastards!

Did you know?
Earthbound is called Mother in Japan….neat!

Starfox

Starfox - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot
Star Fox a.k.a Starwing (1993)
By: Argonaut Software / Nintendo EAD  Genre: Shooting  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Nintendo SNES  First Day Score: 15,100
Also Available For: Nothing

I don’t know about you but I thought the 16-bit console era was a fantastic time to be a gamer. Both Sega and Nintendo’s offerings each had some unique and desirable software and each continued to push their hardware further and further. Then, at around the mid-way point of their war with Sega, Nintendo decided to up the ante with their ‘Super FX’ chip. Created by British developer, Argonaut Software, the chip was essentially a graphics accelerator which could be incorporated into a standard SNES game cartridge but allowed far superior graphics to be used. Specifically, for the first time the painfully slow SNES CPU could produce in-game polygon graphics and throw them around at a pretty decent speed. This would surely give Nintendo’s machine a crucial advantage over Sega’s powerhouse and also allow games that the MD couldn’t hope to rival. But did it?

Starfox - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot
In order to showcase their new technology, the alliance of Argonaut and Nintendo not only created a new game from scratch but an entire new franchise, and on paper it sounded promising. Centering around the star-faring Lylat solar-system, a mad scientist named Doctor Andross has been banished from the peaceful planet of Corneria (populated by anthropomorphic animals, of course). After fleeing to Planet Venom (also in the Lylat system), he declares war on Corneria and unleashes a huge army to that end. General Pepper of the Corneria Defense Force consequently summons the mercenary Star Fox unit to combat Andross and outfits them with state-of-the-art prototype combat fighters called Arwings (why are they always ‘prototypes’, isn’t there ever any ‘tried-and-trusted’ ships in the game world?). The leader of the unit is Fox McCloud, and joining him are teammates, Falco Lombardi, Peppy Hare, and Slippy Toad.

Starfox - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot
The gameplay takes the form of a 3D polygonal shoot ’em up and sees you and your teammates flying across various planets and through intervening sections of open space until you reach Planet Venom and ultimately destroy the ‘Core Brain’. There are three differing routes to your destination representing different difficulty levels and each features unique stages. You always start on Corneria and end up at Venom but even they have some differences depending on which route you take. You are always accompanied by your teammates who generally fly in formation behind you, but they occasionally break formation to pursue an enemy or if they are being pursued by one, and they often need your help (except the ultra-lairy Falco), but while you try you’ll have to be careful not to inflict friendly fire upon them (pay special attention, American gamers – hee hee!).

Starfox - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot
Whilst not exactly an ‘on rails’ shooter, your forward motion through all the stages is fixed, much like Space Harrier, for example, affording you a limited degree of movement within them. That said, most stages also feature numerous obstacles in addition the many enemies which must be avoided. The Arwing does possess thrusters and retro-rockets though, which allow a limited increase or decrease in speed, and it can also turn ninety degrees to the left or right to sneak through narrow gaps too. The game also switches between first and third-person perspectives with the former preferred for space stages and the latter generally used when flying over a planet or landscape of some sort. The enemies are all polygon-based too and range from small fighters and gun emplacements to huge battleships armed with various guns and missiles, and as well as taking as many of these out as possible you’ll also need to avoid the aforementioned obstacles which include buildings, asteroids, falling towers, floating debris of numerous types, as well as destroy the boss at the end of each stage.

Starfox - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot
To take on the forces of Andross your team’s Arwing fighters have been fitting with Laser Blasters, a limited supply of Nova Bombs, and an Energy Shield. It is possible to upgrade your blasters and replenish your supply of bombs by collecting the relevant icons you’ll occasionally encounter, and there’s also two types of ring. Flying through one kind will replenish some of your shield energy while the other acts as a restart point if you die. Your Arwing fighter can also be damaged if you fly into (or get flown into by) building or large enemies which can break off part of its wings, reducing its maneuverability in the process. Luckily these can also be replaced by collecting the relevant icon, which certainly helps the already tricky gameplay! That said, the difference between the three ‘routes’ to Planet Venom is noticeable, but you’re bound to want to see all the stages so you’ll have to battle on through the easy levels and hard levels alike! One tip to making the game easier is to protect your teammates – they take damage like you do and once they’re gone, they’re gone!

Starfox - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot
As the first Super FX-powered game, Star Fox certainly does its job of showing off the capabilities of the new hardware. I imagine certain sections of this game could be replicated by a standard SNES or MD but there’s no way either would be able to run everything so smoothly. Obviously things look pretty basic by today’s standards, and smooth or not the game has a pretty slow pace, but this is still a pretty impressive technical achievement, with enemies whizzing around, bullets and missiles flying back and forth, etc. The music is less impressive but still not bad and your teammates (who blabber on constantly – see the screenshots!) have amusing ‘talking’ noises. They’re a nice touch actually and add a lot of charm to the already distinctive gamplay. Once the novelty wears off though, it can be very a frustrating game, and replaying levels can get very choresome.

Starfox - SNES - Gameplay Screenshot

To be honest, prior to this review I hadn’t played this game much and I didn’t like it at all. I was intending to play it for a bit, confirm it sucked, then rip into it here, but I was surprised to find that it’s actually not bad! It plays like a cross between Amiga and ST classic, Starglider (also by Argonaut, probably not coincidentally) and After Burner, but brings a lot of uniqueness and character to the table as well. I still think it’s overrated and doesn’t warrant the adulation it received and apparently still receives, but neither is it a flashy hardware demo with no gameplay as I
previously thought.

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

RKS Score: 6/10

Circus Lido

Circus Lido - Gameplay Screenshot

Circus Lido (1991)
By: Unipost Company Limited Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NEC PC Engine / TurboGrafx-16  First Day Score: ??,???
Also Available For: Nothing

I’ve always been a big fan of platform/puzzle games despite not being very good at them, so I’m always happy to discover a new one, and this is a pretty obscure one! I’ve been able to find out very little about it but it appears to be a Japan-only release which could go some way to explaining that. As you probably hadn’t guessed from the somewhat peculiar title, the star of the game is actually a chameleon! Under your control, it’s his job to clear each of the single-screen stages of insects. To do this, he must lick them up with his long, sticky tongue, and then regurgitate them into one of the carnivorous plants that also populate the stages. The insects are of course scattered around the screen in some awkward corners which necessitates our hero clambering around the many platforms. The only problem here is that he can’t jump!

Circus Lido - Gameplay Screenshot
Instead of jumping around the platforms, or even using ladders, our chameleon friend has a more novel approach – he can use his curly tail to pull himself up! He can only do this with certain kinds of platforms though (the smaller, spirally ones), and they are of course cunningly positioned, which is where the puzzle element comes in. Trying to work out how to get to certain parts of the screen can be a real test of the grey matter, even early on. Some of the platforms are moveable too. These are colour-coded and feature a small gap in them at which point the chameleon can climb up. Simply press the relevant button to move the platform left or right so the climbable gap is in the right place. Somewhat surprisingly (though mercifully), you are not burdened by a time limit here, and even more surprisingly, contact with the insects does nothing to our lizard friend. In fact, most of the insects will actively avoid him, but some are able to attack by firing or dropping projectiles. These do kill him, as does straying too close to the hungry canivorous plants that you have to feed the insects to, but the main challenge here lies in working out how to move around the screens.

Circus Lido - Gameplay Screenshot

And therein lies the both the good and bad sides of Circus Lido. It’s a novel approach to the platform/puzzle genre, and has some great, pretty original ideas. The only problem is, it gets too hard, too quickly! I like to play games all the way through before I review them here, but I simply can’t finish this one. In fact, I doubt I can get anywhere near the end of it! This, combined with the game’s obscurity resulting in little online reference material, means I don’t really know a lot about it. I’ve no idea how many stages it has, for example, and there may well be other things I don’t know about the game that might make it easier. For instance, when you eat one of the basic blue insects (I think they’re cockroaches or something), your chameleon can walk faster while it’s in his mouth, so it’s possible that eating the other kinds of insects bestows some sort of special ability upon him too, although my best efforts to test this theory have proved fruitless so far!

Circus Lido - Gameplay Screenshot

With all this in mind, it’s difficult to really know what to make of this game. Technically it’s proficient enough, though hardly pushing the Engine to its limits. The graphics are quite dark for the most part, tidy and nicely detailed, but don’t vary a great deal (as far as I’ve seen, at least), although the standard background style does at one point give way for a garish, multi-coloured one! The music is quite peculiar but catchy and enjoyable, and seems to suit the game well. As far as actually playing the game goes – I enjoyed it a lot… until I got stuck! Our lizardy friend moves rather slowly around the screen (much like a real one would, I suppose), and if you make a wrong move it can (and often does) result in the stage being unwinnable, so you have to give up and start again. Luckily each stage has a password though, so if you run out of lives you at least won’t have to keep starting from the first stage. When I first played this game I really liked it. It’s original, has some interesting ideas, looks and sounds fairly pleasant… It seemed like my sort of game, but it has just proven to be too hard. I’ll keep trying it as it is very addictive, but unless any of you know any tricks I can try here, I’m not sure how much further I’ll get!

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

RKS Score: 6/10

Sword of Mana

Sword of Mana - Game Boy Advance

One of the more interesting games for the GBA is surely Sword of Mana. Supposedly this is the first Seiken Densetsu game in the Mana series but was for some reason renamed to Final Fantasy Adventure in its original release. I’m guessing it was more of a popular name to put into a title to raise sales. Either way, as much as I loved the original, this one is a great improvement over it. Of course, I can’t say I miss the classic gameboy colors but this is a totally different experience altogether. The game is a well done remake that proves yet again how Square kept milking their old games into “remakes” This time around though, they succeeded in a positive note. The game plays like any of the other Mana games(The good ones at least), and delivers a very satisfying gaming experience. You are able to pick from a male or female character which you will name whatever you want(Name advice, Petunia, Resputan).

Sword of Mana - Game Boy Advance

 

So here we go in a new grand adventure, you will probably feel at home with the beat em up style gameplay it brings as well as Mana cards you can use to summon your magical powers. Sadly, this game doesn’t bring a link cable gameplay option which would have made it an incredible experience(Some of you may remember Secret of Mana on the SNES, three players!). You can still connect two GBAs with the games but only for trading purposes, this isn’t Pokemon you know! The game does deliver you with companions who will aid you on your quest but won’t stay long with you, just like the original(Remember that mage that looked like a red mage?). The game also has a very interesting gameplay feature which involves finding items on certain days which is a big plus as it’ll make you play the game for a certain amount of time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnE3e13z1LA[/youtube]

Overall, like always don’t want to give out too much so you can enjoy and find yourself yet another great gaming experience.

Yars Revenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nice to see I’ve still got it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Express

The Last Express
I do know that the precious reader of Gnome’s Lair has been quite aware of my interest (or is that fascination?) with The Last Express. I have after all been constantly mentioning the thing both via Twitter and Facebook, and have also grabbed a digital copy via gog.com, which I promptly installed. But should I review it? I really don’t think so. More than a few excellent reviews and retrospectives for this truly unique, groundbreaking, gorgeous and amazing adventure game are readily available and are way better written than anything I could hope to come up with. That’s why I have chosen to do something I’ve never really done on this blog; namely write a series of posts more or less detailing my experiences through the game.
Here I go now…
Being a traditionalist, I didn’t immediately start playing after downloading and installing the game. Oh no. I read through the manual, watched the mostly spoiler free making-of video and even had a glance at the digital version of the Quick Reference Guide. The manual was unsurprisingly the best part, what with it trying to explain the intricacies of the game’s non-standard interface and features, while wisely providing minimal only information on the plot and some interesting insights to the Orient Express -the setting of The Last Express– itself.
The Last Express
The game itself starts off with an impressive if short intro movie that managed to immediately set the tone and introduce me to the amazing visuals on offer, though intriguingly failed to also introduce me to my apparently Irish avatar and his motives. This lack of knowledge has so far proved an excellent idea, as I slowly get to uncover who I’m guiding (most probably to his doom), discovering his shady -hopefully revolutionary, what with Mr. Robert Cath being Irish a few years before Ireland’s war for independence- past and finding out what it is I’m supposed to be doing. As for the newspaper clipping discovered in my pocket, the same clipping that let me know I was a wanted man, was too vague to enlighten me, but intriguing enough to get me hooked.
The Last Express
The game’s interface, on the other hand, is rather intuitive and more or less straight forward, despite the rather odd way the inventory works. Also, the fact that The Last Express is played in real time and comes complete with an incredibly handy rewind time feature, allows for complete freedom of exploration, true in-game choice and a relaxed pace. There simply is no anxiety for dead ends, which I thought -and still think- is necessary to enjoy such an investigation heavy adventure.
The first few hours are, after all, far from action-packed. As Robert Cath I fought a guy, sneaked around, eavesdropped and enjoyed the excellent French, Serbian, English, African and Russian accents, disposed of a body, got a feel for the train, helped an ageing aristocrat make it through the night, met some surprising characters and even hid in a toilet while waiting for a policeman to leave the train. I particularly enjoyed reading through a 1914 newspaper, that ominously foreshadowed the Great War.
The Last Express
Importantly I also found out that I’d better get the passenger list, some papers and a certain suitcase from the off-limits luggage compartment. Following characters and trying to either chat them up or spy on them proved quite a bit revealing too, whereas climbing in and out of my cabin’s window has not been particularly enlightening though incredibly fun, but, I’ll admit, hardly as elating as breathing the atmosphere of the turbulent and politically tense times before the First World War.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G3Cbw1Y9UQ[/youtube]
A Russian anarchist arguing with a young lady of a Czarist affiliation, a German capitalist that wants to purchase gold, Serbian patriots that had something to do with my deceased (and inelegantly disposed) comrade and some sort of colonial royalty make for an incredible assortment of characters, that turn the confined space of the train into a vibrant setting as lively as you’d imagine it. Oh yes, I might have not progressed as much as I’d hoped, but I’m definitely enjoying myself.


Super Double Dragon

Super Double Dragon - Super Nintendo Entertainment System
During the late 80s and early 90s you couldn’t go to a video game arcade and not play a beat em up game. These games were so popular that people would spend all their quarters on them just to get past a few levels. The games were challenging but they were also about team work, or being an asshole. I’m sure many of you heard of playing cooperative mode only to have your friend pick up the power up which you needed the most. There weren’t that many good ports of arcade games to consoles due to the difference in hardware and such but there was a game that was purely made for 16-bit beat em up action, that’s where Super Double Dragon comes in.

Super Double Dragon - Super Nintendo Entertainment System

Super Double Dragon is also known as Double Dragon 4 and it’s by far the best Double Dragon game to date. The game’s soundtrack is a joy to listen to and the gameplay is incredible. You feel like you are in control of your guy more than in most other beat em up games. Billy and Jimmy come packed with amazing moves that help you create different ways to defeat the bad guys. Just like the other Double Dragon games, you don’t know how much life bar your opponent has so all that’s left to do is to beat the hell out of him (or her at some times but not in this game) and hope they will vanish after getting their ass kicked.

 

Super Double Dragon - Super Nintendo Entertainment System

The game doesn’t have that many levels but makes up for it with great level design. The places are very atmospheric to their surroundings and make you feel like if you are in that city looking at Billy and Jimmy beat up all these freaks. You’ll be able to use all kinds of weapons including knives, sticks, nun-chucks, and objects. They will become very helpful to defeat those assholes but you should beware of the knife because if it hits you, you are dead! There are different bosses in each level as usual but you never get the feeling they are the boss until they come out of nowhere and start to beat you up. They have no boss song or anything which makes the game look even more real, gotta love going in the streets and beating bad guys up. The police never shows up!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27Ukz-L-MXU[/youtube]

 

All in all, this game is a masterpiece and with added techniques and even the “bulk” mode technique you’ll be able to have a blast. This game is just that much funner with a pal as well. It’s for sure that two heads are better than one.

Exolon

Exolon (1987)
By: Hewson  Genre: Run ‘n’ Gun  Players: 1  Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 15,850
Also Available For: Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, Enterprise 128

Exolon gameplay screenshot

Having recently revisited one game by the great Raffaele Cecco, and the one I knew best, I thought it might be time for a long overdue look at another, this time on the system where he made his name. I was always enticed by the attractive-looking screen shots of Exolon in the Speccy magazines I enthusiastically read in the mid-to-late 80’s too, which makes the fact that I never played it all the more odd. There’s no story here as such with the game merely plonking you on some alien-infested planet and advising you to proceed from left to right wiping them out! This involves guiding your battle-hardened space marine through 124 screens filled with everything the aliens can throw at you.

Exolon gameplay screenshot

The marine is outfitted with the snazzy Exolon suit, a powerful exoskeleton equipped with a hand blaster and backpack grenade launcher, and it is these that will facilitate your progress. The screens, or ‘zones’, are occupied by a mixture of targets. Some feature aliens themselves who swarm from right to left across the screen indefinitely. These can be taken out easily with your hand blaster but there are also ground-based guns and missile-launchers which can only be taken out by grenades, and it’s the same for the non-hostile but still inconvenient obstacles which appear to consist of hardware such as satellite dishes as well as strange alien structures. You’ll also encounter land-mines which can’t be destroyed at all. Your brave space-marine is a little delicate though as contact with one of these, or indeed any enemy/bullet/missile, results in instant death!

Exolon gameplay screenshot

The first thing you’ll probably notice about this game is the quality of its graphics which really are superb. The colourful screens full of well-defined sprites and objects are enjoyable to battle through and still impress today. The sound is pretty minimal though with just a few basic effects to listen out for. Control over spacey is pretty good – he can jump and duck to avoid enemies and, although his blaster and grenades supplies are finite, he can pick up more along the way which also includes a power-up for the blaster. You’ll get a bonus at the end of the level (25 screens equal one ‘level’) if you forego the upgrade but I’d get it if I were you – this is a pretty tough game (much like all of Mr. Cecco’s games, in fact)! It’s not too unfair though with few screens proving notably harder than others and you should make gradual progress, and you’ll want to too as Exolon is a well-designed and thoroughly enjoyable run ‘n’ gunner and among the best on the Speccy.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGpQxt3vn3o[/youtube]

RKS Score: 8/10

TMNT IV: Turtles in Time

TMNT Turtles in Time

This was the first ever SNES title I ever got with the good old console and what an awesome ordeal! The game is just amazing and prove how close consoles were getting to the arcade machines we praised so much in the early 90s. The only thing the game is missing is the four player feature which would have made it a perfection of all perfection for the SNES. Anyhow, this game gave me endless hours of fun. I can play it over and over without getting bored.

TMNT Turtles in Time
Konami made sure you played their games to the death. The only way to see the real ending is to beat this game in hard, you have no other choice. Unlike today’s games, this was what gaming was all about. The game is full of amazing gameplay and great animation. This game started to show what the SNES could do and what the Genesis couldn’t do. Speaking of the Genesis, the game completely changed with another story but similar gameplay. The game was fun as well but in my personal opinion, the SNES rules on top.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDq1EczJ5M0[/youtube]

 

What else to say about this gem? the game has some interesting options like changing the turtles colors from the cartoon to something called comic. Each turtle has their own strengths and weaknesses. Picking up this game will cost you at least 20 dollars loose but if you are as lucky as me, you will find a CIB copy for 2 bucks. Har har har! Until next time!

Kudos

Kudos - PC Game - Screenshot
Indy games. Absolutely refreshing and interesting, that’s what they are. Well, that, and sometimes flawed, but surely not more mindless copies of horribly boring and deathly uninteresting RTS or FPSs. Take Kudos for example. It’s 100% indy, it’s smart and it’s one of those games you wouldn’t understand how it plays, unless you actually tried it out, and that’s a quality I love.
Then again Kudos isn’t just quirky. It’s a bloody great game. A game that managed to make the TOP 10 indy games list of Game Tunnel, while also earning a 7/10 (!) from the illustrious Eurogamer site and a rather unique “I really, really like it, even though it depresses the hell out of me sometimes / 10” from Angry-Gamer. Then again (yes, again!) this is the only game that happily informs you -a mere 20 seconds after installation- that you “had a bad day at work today, which will not help your mood. Today, after bills and tax, you earned 15,88$“. Nice.

Kudos - PC Game - Screenshot

It’s also a life simulator, in case you were wondering, and it’s pretty much turn-based. More Jones in the Fast Lane or Alter Ego than The Sims really, as each day consists of two turns and you (well the in-game you) can do one thing each turn, be it working, shopping, socializing, drinking, studying, reading or anything else you’d fancy. There are quite literally hundreds of options. And believe me, you’ll try to explore them all. Kudos is really addictive. REALLY addictive. Adding insult to injury it’s also constantly reminding you how miserably your -actual and very real- life is being managed, especially while playing the addictive Kudos. Oh, and you can’t actually lead the life of Stalin or Cicciolina. Damn!

The eye-candy side of the game is definitely simple, but -face it- that’s also the case with Football Manager, and no one complained. Still, the graphics are simple, the few animations quite excellent (love the flies really -almost thought they were real for a moment) and the sound of the whole thing quite decent. Have a look at this lovely gameplay video/trailer and you’ll figure quite a few things out:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9-lIXwIiz8[/youtube]

That’s an (eight) out of (ten). And you should really try it. At least for a while. You’ll definitely be hooked.

Commander Keen 4

Commander Keen 4 - PC

This time around we have a classic for any PC gamer that was around in the early 90s. Commander Keen IV is what made the franchise complete as it unveiled a game like no other. Commander Keen was what Mario is for Nintendo, a franchise that always delivered but like any great franchise it must have it’s ace game. This game is Commander Keen at its best and it shows. With great graphics(for its time) And awesome mechanics and sound, there is very little to dislike about this game. The plays very simple, it’s your average platformer but with a spark of creativity that makes it very enjoyable. You play as Billy once more and are on a quest to save some old people! Yeah, these old people are actually a community of keepers that have been kidnapped. Your mission my friend is to save these keepers, sounds simple huh? It’s not! Especially in the later levels as the game becomes more challenging than ever before. Overall, the game is just enjoyable from beginning to end although there are many secrets to be found(I haven’t found all of them).

Commander Keen 4

The music of the game is enjoyable as well, if you are lucky enough to play it in true DOS then you will also be able to choose from the PC speaker sound which isn’t bad at all just very retro. If not, you can always use the wonderful and probably best emulator ever released DOS BOX and find yourself a copy of the game, you’ll do fine like that as well. I wish I had my classic PC out so I could be playing it in pure DOS but I will have to settle for Dos box which is not bad but I think most of you know how much I love classic original stuff(Except Famicom, I wuv Famicom pirates).

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

To conclude, this amazing masterpiece published by Apogee and developed by ID software Is something that any gamer should play period. It will cost you nothing now that the episode is everywhere on the net and in the end, you’ll have a very enjoyable retro gaming time. I’m telling you this for your own good, be sure to pay respects to the roots of gaming and try it out.

Top Five PC Engine Shoot-em-ups

5. Image Fight (1990)

Image Fight - Gameplay Screenshot

Developed by Irem soon after they unleashed R-Type, this fantastic vertical scroller is for some bizarre reason far less revered than its sibling, which is odd because even a quick session with it reveals Irem were more than adept at this kind of shmup as well as the horizontal variety. It’s not the flashiest shooter ever – the graphics aren’t particularly impressive and the music is instantly forgettable, but it is challenging, well designed, and, much like R-Type, features some interesting power-ups. Rather than the now-legendary Force from that game, here it’s possible to attach a variety of devices to the front of your ship, each of which give it a different weapon. A top blaster which deserves more recognition.

4. Magical Chase (1991)

Magical Chase - Gameplay Screenshot

For a long time an Engine exclusive, this horizontal-scroller is so charming it’s as if you’ve had a spell cast on you by the ‘Star Maiden’ protagonist of the game! It’s a horizontal-scroller in a similar vein to Cotton (which was released around the same time) which sees you in control of a witch complete with broomstick (but apparently no black cat) battling six demons and their bizarre minions across the six stages! A very strange but nonetheless compelling and highly playable little game which looks fabulous, has a fantastic soundtrack, and constantly beckons you to discover what lies around the next corner.

3. R-Type (1988)

R-Type - Gameplay Screenshot

Until the PlayStation came along, this remained the most faithful conversion of this eternally worshipped, all-time classic yet seen (Lord knows why it never appeared on the MD, come to think of it, that could’ve been a cracking version). Despite the fact that it was initially spread over two separately released Hu-Cards, it was still hard to fault it. The graphics and music are near- faultless and as close to arcade perfect as anyone could reasonably expect, and the timeless level design and gameplay is faithfully recreated. This was a God-send for the game’s many fans.

2. Gradius (1991)

Gradius - Gameplay Screenshot

As is the case with R-Type, this was arguably the best version of Gradius until the arrival of the 32-bit consoles, although the X68000 effort was also superb. While it’s true that the graphics are simplistic and do suffer from bouts of slowdown now and then, they are also beautifully defined and the twinkly, multi-coloured stars in the background are hypnotic! The remixed soundtrack here is fantastic too, and among my favourite shmup soundtracks on any system, but it’s the finely honed gameplay that keeps me coming back. Challenging it may be, but the difficulty curve is well pitched and there’s so many distinctive touches (including an extra level) it’ll take ages to see all it has to offer.

1. Gunhed (1989)

Gunhed - Gameplay Screenshot

It’s amazing to think that this was one of the first shmups released on the Engine. After all these years it’s still one of the finest vertical-scrollers I’ve played on any system. It’s true that there’s a vast number that I’ve still not played but that doesn’t detract from the sheer quality of this classic from Hudson. It eases you in with the gentle opening stage before gradually ramping up the intensity to sweaty-palms, edge-of-the-seat levels – this really is a game that oozes quality in every department. Given the Engine’s prowess with this genre, it’s possible I may encounter an even better shmup at some point but it’ll have to be something really special to beat this legendary game.

Streets of Rage 3

Streets of Rage 3 - Sega Genesis - Gameplay

This game is not my favorite but still good. It contains a lot of upgrades from the second one that will appeal to some and disgust others. it’s your choice if you want to pick this game up and play, but if you chose yes, it’ll cost ya quite a bit.

The game is part of the trend of beat em up games during the early 90s. This genre was very popular and both Sega and Nintendo wanted in on the money making beat em up master gaming goodness! In my personal opinion, the streets of rage games beat Final Fight by a long shot. By the time Final Fight 3 came out, it was just the same thing as the first one, except with different characters. Streets of Rage 3 introduced different characters as well as new aspects to make the game play different and better to some.

Streets of Rage 3 - Sega Genesis - Gameplay

Overall, I say it’s worth a pick up if you can find it for a reasonable price. The game usually goes for 30 dollars loose and at crazy prices boxed. I suggest you hit the thrift stores and keeps your eyes opened for this gem for the Genesis. If you are not into hunting, just pick up the Genesis Collection games for the new consoles which has all three Streets of Rage games. Pick it up, play all three of them, and pick your favorite, if you can that is.

J.A. P.S.

The music was pretty awesome in a drug induced way as well, check out this boss music!

[mp3player width=300 height=100 config=fmp_jw_osg_config-xml.xml playlist=streets-of-rage-3.xml]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igDpLXSNS6E&feature=related[/youtube]

Kid Gloves

Kid Gloves - Amiga

Kid Gloves (1990)
By: Logotron Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Commodore Amiga First Day Score: 48,550
Also Available For: Atari ST

The poor old Amiga games industry was ravaged by pirated copies of games flooding the market and friends copying games for each other, it was this more than anything else that brought Commodore down in the mid-90’s. I’ve always tried to avoid that sort of business but when I belatedly got my Amiga, a friend gave me a box of discs with copied games on. Some didn’t work, others were pretty sucky, but of them all Kid Gloves is probably the one I played the most, guiltily of course, but seeing as it was later given away free by Amiga Power magazine I don’t feel so bad now! However, since I no longer have my Amiga and have developed a deep fear of using WinUAE, it’s been a long time since I played this game. It’s not looked upon too favourably by the Amiga community these days, I wonder if I’m about to destroy my happy memories of playing it too…

Kid Gloves - Amiga

It’s a pretty simple game which sees you, as Kid, attempting to rescue your kidnapped girlfriend or some such nonsense. In order to do this he must make his way through the danger-filled, flick-screen world between him and his goal. Each of the screens are populated by various creatures and obstacles, such as pigs, goblin things, whirly blades, etc, which move in short, simple patterns, and some which remain still, such as fire. Contact with any of these objects means instant death for our hapless hero. Fortunately he can fight back, against the creatures at least, by firing coins at them, and there are other weapons available in the shop that appears periodically including Flames, Deathstar, and Megalaser. Many of the screens also contain other items like food (for points), keys (to pass barriers), money (to spend in shops), smart bombs (to clear screens of enemies), and ankh’s (for extra lives) and he can also use magic to turn the barriers into food too.

Kid Gloves - Amiga

If there’s one thing about Kid Gloves which is still as true today as the first day I played it, it’s that it’s a pretty tough game! Some screens have objects such as blocks that fall down when you touch them to help you reach certain areas. Not only does this kind of thing kill you if you go so much as a pixel too close, but they can also have the opposite effect and prevent you from accessing an area. Most of the enemies in the game either walk backwards and forwards on platforms or bounce on the spot but there are also some that appear some time after you entered a screen. These ones can move freely around the screen and pursue you like Baron Von Blubba! Luckily, unlike the Bubble Bobble meany, these can be shot, but they always appear in the same place regardless of where you are on the screen which means they might appear right on top of you if you’re not careful! There are also some fireball things that move much more quickly around the screen if you hang around for too long, and these cannot be shot. However, leaving the screen then returning to it will reset everything to its original place, except the enemies which do not reappear.

Kid Gloves - Amiga

That’s pretty much the only problem with this game. I knew even back then that it was a simple game, looking more akin to a Public Domain game than a full-price release. The backgrounds and sprites look okay but are poorly animated and hardly push the Amiga to its limits. There is some nice sampled sound effects and speech though, and a pretty decent title-screen tune, but there’s no in-game music. None of this is really reason to dislike the game, it just has a few minor gameplay flaws that are so frustrating. The collision-detection is pretty shocking for one thing which obviously doesn’t help matters, and the controls can be really fiddly too – you try going up or down a ladder in a hurry! I never could get very far in Kid Gloves and that hasn’t changed since I started replaying it. Every time I think “right, I’ll get really far into it this time” it just ends up annoying me too much and I play something else. I don’t think it’s aged too badly, but it’s flaws are more apparent to me now. Ultimately it has a certain charm but this is a very average game that could’ve so much better with a few tweaks.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjjHNqxLJ5M[/youtube]

RKS Score: 5/10

Kirby’s Adventure

 

Kirby's Adventure

Kirby’s Adventure

By the end of the NES era we have seen it all for the NES although Famicom owners would always see more than us with such games as Gimmick! and Sweet Home. Nintendo brought one final platformer to the dying 8-bit console to remind us how wonderful the console was and has always been. Kirby’s Adventure debuted in May of 1993 which left the 8-bit console in a high stand point. The game is a joy to play in all departments. The music is memorable, the graphics are the best the NES can bring, and the gameplay is just fun. The game even came with a battery built in so that you would be able to save your games and continue on from where you left off. The game is really long as well as it contains lots of worlds something like Super Mario Bros 3 although this game lets you save it unlike the Mario game.

 

Kirby's Adventure

The gameplay delivers a very satisfying experience. You feel like you have total control of Kirby as you can fly anywhere and suck monsters to get their powers. The power up system is great as well as you can get certain powers that will help you defeat stronger enemies later on the level. The difficulty of the game is moderate so I suggest you have some patience especially in the later parts of the game. You’ll just have to find the right strategy for certain levels. Speaking of levels there aren’t only levels but bonus levels as well and a power up room too. The bonus levels are simple and very rewarding while the power up levels are well a power up level, nothing much can be said about that.

Kirby's Adventure

 

To conclude, the game is a joy to play and not pricey that you have to spend your entire savings on. The game is quite fun and should be part of anyone’s collection. It’s a must have!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyU-mKTAauk[/youtube]

Feyruna: Fairy Forest

Feyruna Fairy Forest - PC - Gameplay Screenshot
Detailed sprites, a colourful cutesy game character, pure arcade action and fantastic hand-painted backgrounds… it’s got to be another (only slightly) retro Amiga game, right? Well, shockingly, no. It’s Feyruna – Fairy Forest, a brand new PC indy game from Germany, sporting some refreshingly old fashioned game mechanics and lovely 2d visuals. Interested? Good, let me elaborate a bit then.

 

FFF, as Feyruna – Fairy Forest will henceforth be referred to, probably features Feyruna, a fabulous fairy (which could also be the name of FFF’s setting mind you, but really, I like the idea of calling the fairy Feyruna), and is quite frankly an alliteration heavy casual and/or retro gamer’s wet dream. It also is one of the more polished (but less innovative…) indy games I’ve recently seen and one of the few PC offerings with three unlockable mini-games. They might not be much, they might be simple, basic even, but they’re definitely a touch that shows the amount of care gone into the game.

Feyruna Fairy Forest - PC - Gameplay Screenshot

Then again, bonus games are just that, a bonus. The main course of FFF has the player assuming the role of a fairy (you know, the one probably named Feyruna), a decidedly non-slutty female character, and going on to liberate places from the Princes of Darkness in a rather ordinary plot, that certainly doesn’t takes itself that seriously. After all, FFF, just like every other action heavy game before it, isn’t about plot, it’s about fun, and this it delivers in abundance.

The game, a reflex honing experience with slight shoot-em-up tendencies, is surprisingly non violent and thus quite appropriate for kids, families and small orgies. You, the player, the happy lil’ sprite, travel through 60 levels, each comprising of a beautiful screen, enemies trying to kill/stall you, power-ups and glowies (and butterflies and stuff) you must collect, and …uhm… collect stuff and avoid/destroy the baddies. Eventually you’ll have enough stashed glowies to progress to the next level, that will definitely be more challenging and might also add a new enemy, power-up or tactic to the whole experience. Mind you, that even though the gameplay does indeed get repetitive, these constantly appearing new elements do keep FFF an addictive little pass time, while some progressively tough boss battles to spice things up.

Now, have a try for yourselves. Download the FFF demo. Oh, and I suppose…

That’s a (seven and a half) out of (ten).

Baku Baku Animal

Baku Baku Animal - Sega - Gameplay Screenshot

Baku Baku Animal (1996)
By: Sega Genre: Puzzle Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Saturn First Day Score: 17,250
Also Available For: Arcade, Game Gear, Master System, PC

After the unprecedented success of Tetris, a good few companies jumped on the ‘falling block’ puzzle game genre, and one of the biggest offenders was Sega. After buying the rights to Columns, it soon snapped up Puyo Puyo too. None of these addictive games, however, was to appear on their new Saturn console, so instead Sega came up with their own game, and quite an original one it was too! The King (of somewhere) is apparently looking to hire a zookeeper to look after the animal-mad Princesses pets! The game is basically a test at a job interview. If you win, you’ll get offered the job! Like the games before it, the action takes place on a single screen, in this case divided vertically down the middle. Player one controls the action on the left side of the screen, and player two or a computer-controlled opponent controls the right. As is usually the case with games like this, the concept behind the gameplay is a simple one. Sets of two blocks drift down the screen, one after another. Pictured on each single block is either a food or an animal. All you have to do is match the food with the animal that eats it!

Baku Baku Animal - Sega - Gameplay Screenshot

There are five different animals in the game and each will eat only his favourite food when he lands on some (monkeys eat bananas, mice eat cheese, etc), but since food blocks appear more often than the animal ones it’s best to group foods together as much as possible. This is the best way to play the game as chain reactions can occur this way resulting in not only larger scores for you, but will also see a load of random blocks dumped on your opponent’s side of the screen! This will obviously not only screw up their attempts to do the same to you, but will also push them closer to the top of the screen which results in game over. The longer the game goes on for, the faster the blocks will fall down the screen. Occasionally, a pair of coins called ‘BB Coins’ will appear in place of a food/animal block. These will make any blocks they touch, and any other blocks of the same type on that player’s play field disappear.

Baku Baku Animal - Sega - Gameplay Screenshot


There are two play modes to choose from in Baku Baku (plus a secret third one) – Arcade and Ranking modes. Arcade mode is the same as the arcade version as you might imagine. Here, you will challenge a series of opponents until you get to challenge the Princess. Beat her and win the game! Arcade mode is also where the two-player action is to be found. The ranking mode is for one player only, and is more or less the same as the arcade mode except your opponents carry on forever. Beat as many as you can and then receive a ranking for your playing skills such as number of attacks, number of chain reactions, and the least amount of time elapsed. Also featured is a hall of fame and a movie viewer, both accessible from the options screen where it is also possible to alter the difficulty level and increase or reduce the number of different animal types.

Baku Baku Animal - Sega - Gameplay Screenshot

As with most puzzle games of this nature, its simplicity means the technical strain on the host system is kept to a minimum. It’s a nice, colourful, happy looking game though, and features a decent rendered intro detailing the story. The animals themselves are particularly amusing when they grow bigger to eat the foods! The music and sound effects are also suitably happy and upbeat (there’s even a ‘bangin’ dance remix hidden on the disc), and that’s pretty much the case throughout the game. You know what you’re getting with games like this and, whilst there are no real surprises and the one-player mode won’t last you long, this is still one of the best games of its type. Everything about it is top quality and it’s a lot of fun, especially when challenging a friend. A novel and amusing take on the much-copied falling block game and one well-worthy of your time.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GMzVGK0V5Y[/youtube]

RKS Score: 8/10

Shinobi

Shinobi - Sega Master System

Shinobi (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Shooting Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 331,150
Also Available For: Arcade, Nintendo NES, PC Engine, Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum
Download For: Wii Virtual Console, Xbox 360 Live Arcade

The original version of Shinobi was a fantastic game for its day and proved to be extremely popular, but for many years the only version of it I knew was this version that Sega treated all of its loyal Master System customers to. It’s one of the few conversions handled by Sega themselves and happily it’s a splendid version of the arcade great, arguably the best, but it’s not identical. The game’s story is still the same, which involves the children of the Oboro clan (or of various world leaders, according to the Western versions, as I recall) being kidnapped, but unlike the arcade version where rescuing the children was mandatory, here you don’t actually have to rescue them. You can though, if you want, and it’s a very good idea to do so anyway, for each one bestows upon courageous Joe a reward of special magnificence!

Shinobi - Sega Master System

The biggest and most immediately obvious difference between this and the arcade version (as far as gameplay is concerned) is the existence of a life-meter. Poor Joe would keel over after a single hit in the harder, money-grabbing arcade version, but here you afford to be a little more reckless! This does make the game easier as you might expect, but don’t expect it to suddenly be a walkover because it’s not! This is still a pretty tough game and one that I never managed to complete in all my years of trying (although I could get to the final boss without too much trouble, after all the practise I had!). The actual stages themselves, though, are faithfully recreated and contain the same enemies and obstacles as their parent, and playing through them is pretty much unchanged.

Shinobi - Sega Master System

As previously mentioned, the poor, traumatised children being held hostage in positions of questionable strategic significance are apparently each in possession of a special reward that Joe will receive upon rescuing them. Unlike the arcade version in which Joe starts with shurikens before he obtains a gun, here the transition takes longer. His normal shurikens are first upgraded to a rapid-fire variety before being replaced by fast-firing knives, then small, bouncing bombs, before he finally receives the powerful gun, with each upgrade being provided by a child. There is also one each stage which will allow entry to the between-stage bonus round seen in the arcade version. Successful completion of this then rewards Joe with ninja magic, and if you manage to take out a blue ninja during this round, you’ll get two magics instead of one!

Shinobi - Sega Master System

Others child power-ups include one which extends his life-gauge and another which refills it to maximum. Each stage features a power-up child, and one to bestow each of the other rewards mentioned. Any remaining children on a stage will award Joe with bonus points. Anyway, enough talk about children, that’s pretty much the only differences between the two versions other than the aesthetic. The humble MS does a decent job of replicating the graphics of the arcade version though. The sprites are understandably a bit smaller and suffer from some trademark MS flicker when a few are on the screen at once, but apart from that they’re a good match, and the backgrounds and bosses are all instantly recognisable too. The music is also reasonably accurate, although there are fewer tunes here, with the game instead repeating the same tune for most stages, but it’s a good one and is more prominent than the somewhat inconspicuous music of the arcade game. Sound effects are also superb here and very distinctive.

Shinobi - Sega Master System

As most of you already know, Shinobi is overall a fantastic game. It was perfectly suited to the era in which it was made, but of a high enough quality to remain just as enjoyable more than 20 years later. Most conversions of it were at least pretty decent – even the Speccy gave it a good go – but the best conversion is usually acknowledged to be the PC Engine version which, with the exception of the missing bonus stage, is close to arcade perfect. It has, however, always been this mighty fine Master System version that I’ve had the most affection for. It has good, colourful graphics, catchy music, and challenging and additive gameplay which it’s hard to fault. Impartial I may not be, but anyone can see that this is about as good as Shinobi could be on the MS, and that’s very good!

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

RKS Score: 9/10

Final Fantasy IV: The After Years

Final Fantasy IV The After Years - Video Game Screenshot
This time around we have a Wiiware title released in 2009. I know this is a retro gaming related post and it does hold true as the game plays like an oldie. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years takes you back to a world of great adventure! If you are a Final Fantasy veteran(Like me) You are going to enjoy this one as it’ll take you to events years later after the original Final Fantasy IV story ended. Wouldn’t you enjoy such a great blast from the past? I know I did!

Final Fantasy IV The After Years - Video Game Screenshot

 

The game starts you off in a quest to become a knight. You play as Ceodore, son of Cecil who is accompanied by Biggs and Wedge to help you on your quest. As usual you should know that when characters are named Biggs and Wedge, they usually hit the bucket real quickly(Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy VI did this). The game plays like its 1991 counterpart and delivers remixed music from the same with great success. It’s such a blast from the past listening to the battle music of Final Fantasy IV once more. The world of Final Fantasy IV hasn’t change much and there will be more than one familiar face I’m sure you’ll recognize with ease. Remember, it has been years after so some of these characters are either older or just grown up.

Final Fantasy IV The After Years - Video Game Screenshot

Moving on, the battle system delivers the same Final Fantasy IV experience although there may be times that battles just keep coming up over and over without letting you explore more than two steps. It’s bearable though mainly because fighting is so much fun. The game does have a very unbalanced gold to experience ratio as once you move further in the game, you will get over 3k of experience while only gain around 500 gold. It’s not surprising though as the original was somewhat like this. It’s helpful in the end as leveling up is quite easy. I was able to level up over fifteen times in less than an hour!

Final Fantasy IV The After Years - Video Game Screenshot
The game will have a very interesting story that mainly involves Cecil and this mysterious girl who is after the crystals. Kain also makes a big entrance and is part of the main story. I wish I could tell you much more but I wouldn’t want to spoil everything, it’s just a great ordeal! You will for sure venture into similar territory and might get confused for a second thinking you are playing Final Fantasy IV once more but you are not! This is The After Years after all meaning it’s not a new world but an older one.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8po__GDy5o[/youtube]
I do suggest this game for hardcore Final Fantasy veterans and retro RPG fanatics. I don’t think it’s for everyone as it contains a lot of old school gameplay that might scare some gamers off(Not me!). The game does deliver a fascinating experience and has many extras with it as well. Sadly, that’s the bad part of it as you’ll need to spend 800 wii points (8 dollars) For the first part of the main story and another 800 wii points (8 dollars) For the second part of it. Then you have all the side stories from all the characters of the original which will cost you 300 wii points (3 dollars) Each! And there are around five or six of them which means you’ll be spending a vast amount of money for it. But there is light at the end of the tunnel as there is going to be a release of all of this for the good old PSP with the Ultimate Final Fantasy IV Collection.

Saga Frontier

Saga Frontier - PS1 Disc Front

This week we have a game that is said to take 140 hours to complete! At least that’s what it says so on the box and they are quite close to it. Not only do you have to have a memory card just for that game but there are seven quests to complete in order to see the ending! Each quest has their own ending. Be sure to keep an eye on each ending as each is just bizarre. From all of them, I think Blue’s ending is the most bizarre but I won’t spoil that for you. Just play the god damn game!

Saga Frontier - Title Screen

Square released a whole line up of RPGs including Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy Tactics, and others during the 1997-1998 era. It was an era where the RPGs flourished and were finally respected and known by everyone especially due to Final Fantasy 7, you couldn’t ask for anything better. This is where Saga Frontier came in with their traditional gameplay and big battle system. You can have up to 15 characters in your party although you can only use 5 at a time. Before every battle, you can pick which party you are going to bring out so it’s quite interesting build your party for each kind of scenario. As for myself, I would only use one party filled with humans as they are the best race of all in the game at least. The game also has a very different level up system which only levels up attributes you have used up. For example, if you have taken a hit then your HP will level up and if you have used magic then your MP will level up. It’s very weird but it works especially for humans.

Saga Frontier - Gameplay Screenshot 1

The world is huge and the music is very catchy. You will be leveling up a lot and barely getting through dungeons as the difficulty is very moderate and sometimes frustrating but I’m sure if I was able to get through them, you are too. My favorite feature of the game is the combos with other members of your party. You can have up to five combined combos which means all the members will combine their attacks into one for massive damage. This is by far the best feature of the game and it’s what keeps the battles interesting. There are also villages you can travel to where you can get some new power ups and magic which is crucial for being able to advance in the game. The number one rule of this game is pick up Gen at the bar in the Junk city! You must add this bastard! He may be a drunk but he comes in handy in any quest. You also gotta love his victory action! He rocks!

Saga Frontier - Gen_Headshot
To conclude, the game is quite entertaining but not for everyone. The stories aren’t that strong but they are strong enough to make you wanna see what comes up next. Be sure you pick this one up when you have a chance as there is a lot to love about this game. You can’t beat 140 hours of gameplay!

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQTWMPLY4Ug[/youtube]

Top Five PlayStation: Racing Games

I’ve always been of the opinion that fancy graphics are far less important than a well-designed game. I think my continued love or retro games and enduring disdain for modern gaming is evidence enough of this, but there’s always been one exception – driving/racing games. Try as they might, developers in the 80’s and early 90’s were rarely able to fashion both a playable and convincing into-the-screen racer outside of the arcades, and I can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many I personally liked. That is until the CD-ROM-based consoles appeared. The Need For Speed on the 3DO was perhaps the first indication of what this medium could do for the genre but it took the release of the Saturn and PlayStation for it to reach full bloom, with the latter system producing both the most numerous and most impressive examples yet seen.

I personally got into PlayStation gaming late, sticking loyally with my good old Saturn for as long as there were games made for it, but eventually I had to join the ranks of the competition. When I did, a majority of the time I spent on it was spent playing driving games. I certainly didn’t play all of the ones on offer but of the ones I did play, here are in my opinion the Top Five:

Special Note: A big thanks to Martyn Carroll, Facebook friend and editor of the original version of Retro Gamer magazine (and contributor to the current incarnation) for providing me with a working PlayStation emulator for this piece. Yes, I own the originals of the games featured here, but I needed the emulator to get the screenshots, so… thanks Martyn, I owe you one!

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

 

If I review any PS1 driving games in my upcoming feature that get really high scores, they don’t appear in this Top Five because I hadn’t played them before! (a.k.a covering my arse!)

5. Total Drivin’ (1997)

Total Drivin

I bought this game cheap with no prior knowledge of it on the off-chance it might be worth the risk. Luckily it paid off! Whilst far from the pinnacle of the PlayStation’s graphical achievements, it is pretty innovative in other ways. The championship mode, for example, features races in various locations around the world and consequently on a variety of surfaces. To this end, there’s not just one type of racing here but five – Rally, Sports, Indy, Buggies, and Dakar Rally! One of my favourite things about this game is that your opponents aren’t just bunched up behind you waiting for a mistake – the better you race, the further ahead you’ll get. You can even lap them if you’re fast enough! This is a great and underrated racing game with a lot more variety than even Gran Turismo.

4. Porsche Challenge (1997)

Porsche Challenge

This was the first game I ever got for my PlayStation when I finally gave up hope for my beloved Saturn, and I was very pleased with it. Admittedly, looking back, the graphics are a little ropier than I remember – the car models are nice (as you would expect from a game with an official license) but the draw distance isn’t great and there’s a fair bit of pop-up, but luckily it still plays very nicely. The only car available to drive is the Boxster but there are six different coloured ones to choose from, each driven by its own character, some of whom exchange banter between races. There’s only four courses to race over but they’re pretty long and there’s many variations of each (mirrored, reversed, extra sections, with shortcuts, etc), and all are very enjoyable to drive around. A not-too-hectic racer that provides a really pleasant driving experience.

3. Ridge Racer Type 4 (1998)

Ridge Racer Type 4

I don’t care what anyone says, Ridge Racer sucks big floppy donkey dicks and so does its ‘sequel’, Revolution. Rage Racer, however, was where Namco started rectifying this situation and RR4 (complete with ridiculous and unnecessary Type in its title) is arguably where the series peaked. Featuring a huge number of courses (for RR standards) and billions of car variations, it’s already infinitely better than the stupid original, but it also vastly improves the horrifying handling problems that blighted earlier efforts too. It has a number of play modes including an excellent career mode, and in my opinion is one of the best looking racing games to appear on Sony’s debut console with races taking place at various times of day meaning some lovely lighting effects. Ridge Racer finally becomes a must-play!

2. Colin McRae Rally (1998)

Colin McRae Rally

Yes, the second game in the series (also on PS1) is technically more impressive but I’ve always preferring playing this original. It pretty much kickstarted the whole rally game craze by itself, and with good reason – driving Mr. McRae’s iconic blue Impreza around the world’s rally courses was a fantastically enjoyable experience. Near enough any kind of driving surface (and weather condition) you can think of is catered for here and the attention to detail is amazing – watch your car get progressively dirtier throughout the race (and damaged if you keep hitting trees!). There’s no in-game music, no opponents to race against (on-screen, anyway), just precision driving, and it had arguably never been done better.

1. Gran Turismo (1998)

Gran Turismo

I’m sure a majority of PlayStation gamers would opt for the second game in the series as the peak of the genre on their favourite console but I’m not sure any driving game had as much of an impact on me as this original. It pretty much rewrote the rule book on what could be achieved in a driving videogame with its license tests forcing you to earn the right to race in the game’s various classes, huge range or real cars to buy, race in, and customise, near-photo-realistic replays, and hugely intricate championship mode. It’s amazingly playable and addictive too – I had great fun gradually building up my Honda Prelude to an all-conquering rice-rocket! There was more to this game than most racing fans could dream of at the time and it still impresses today.

Germ Attack

Germ Attack

I’m not the type to say no to a free game, even if it means reviewing it, and Germ Attack, was indeed given to me as a free review copy. Further good news is, it is actually a smart, nice little game. Bad news is, it’s another color-matching casual game, in the style of Sweety Puzzle (by the same developer).

Germ Attack, though, introduces an interesting and rather successful twist to the color-matching mechanics, that makes for quite a refreshing gameplay experience. Instead of placing colored candy on a grid a la Sweety Puzzle, arranging falling colored objects a la Columns or utilizing a Baku Baku mechanic, Germ Attack lets you rotate (apparently colored) germs, as they are placed on the playing area. Not easily described, but simple and intuitive, and you’ll get the whole idea by playing the demo for 15 seconds. Here’s a screenshot:

Germ Attack Gameplay Screenshot

Got it now? No? Doesn’t matter. Trust me, it’s really addictive, and for the price of 6.95$ you get 60 well designed and quite varied levels, presented with great hand-drawn graphics. Have a look by clicking here. Or here. No, here!

That’s a (seven) out of (ten).

Indie Game Reviews: x3

Mr Smoozles Goes Nutso
Mr Smoozles Goes Nutso

Mr Smoozles is an anthropomorphic cat. Nothing to shout about, I know, except he’s an anthropomorphic cat starring in his very own web cartoon and a creation of Broken Sword and Beneath a Steel Sky writer/artist Steve Ince, meaning he’s a pretty smart cat indeed. Mr Smoozles goes Nutso, on the other hand, is quite obviously the game of said smart cat, which also happens to be a rather brilliant, humorous and particularly cartoony arcade adventure by -again- Steve Ince, sporting a preposterous plot about alien invaders, parallel realities, more anthropomorphic cats and mind control.

The game plays like a simplified adventure with some light arcade elements and mostly demands that the player solves simple puzzles, embarks on a few fetch-quests, avoids the rampaging Mr Smoozles and a few other enemies, explores the impressively detailed game world and generally stays alive. Nothing too demanding really, but excellent -if a tiny bit repetitive- fun dressed up with some lovely graphics and a suitably retro soundtrack. Oh, and do expect some brilliant and at times elaborate easter eggs, as well as more than a few references and nods to Revolution games.

You can (should, really) buy a copy and/or download the demo over here.

Galcon Fusion

Galcon Fusion

Deep yet incredibly simple strategy games have been a firm favourite of mine ever since I spent eight hours waiting for a ship and playing Advance Wars. Happily Galcon Fusion doesn’t have to be played under dire circumstances to be enjoyed and is probably one of the best games of this sort the PC has to offer. It really is simple to learn, incredibly addictive and an absolute bastard to master. All the player has to do, you see, is click on a planet and then click on another planet, and a fleet will leave the first and attack or strengthen the second. That’s the basic gameplay mechanic and it only gets marginally more complex, as you learn that fleets can also be clicked on and that the mouse-wheel is a most lethal space war weapon.

Getting to grips with the whole thing and taking on multiple opponents in a variety of scenarios is -initially- a simple and extremely enjoyable experience. Try going for the game’s challenging bits and online multiplayer masters though, and you’ll discover the huge difference between simply enjoying and actually mastering Galcon Fusion. Can’t find fault with it really, though truth be said it’s not a game for everyone. Smart retro-visuals are quite nice too, though what should really impress retro lovers is the text-only mode of the thing.

Find out more, look at the iPhone version and give it a try here.

Grid Runner Revolution

Grid Runner Revolution
When Grid Runner first appeared on the VIC-20 it was nothing more than a great but a simple and quite unassuming little budget game. Now, over 20 years later, Jeff Minter, the game’s original creator, has evolved it into the absolute shmup extravaganza, complete with tons of levels, fluffy sheepies, amazing pyrotechnics, eye-melting visuals, an ear-melting soundtrack, many extras and that quirky Llamasoft humour. Oh, and some finely tuned shmup gameplay with some brilliant touches, that even manages to subtly innovate. Losing a life, for a example, can be mitigated by picking up a nice sheep, whereas each life is represented by a different ship (not sheep, mind) with unique features.

 

What’s more, the (almost) original VIC-20 and C64 versions of the game have also been included, as well as an excellent Thrust-like game mode, online leaderbards and a wealth of other features, that make it an essential purchase. Yes, even people that don’t really like shoot-’em-ups will enjoy this one. It really is excellent, and the free demo will easily convinve you.

To get a copy of Grid Runner Revolution (and of course the equally brilliant Space Giraffe) and all of Llamasoft‘s now freely available classic games just follow this woolly link.

DeathSpank

Deathspank - PC Game Screenshot
Back during the desperate times when Ron Gilbert was failing to find a publisher for his Diablo meets Monkey Island game, the skies were dark, gamers were gloomy and gnomes disappointed. Nowadays DeathSpank has not only been published, but after much delay even ported to the PC, the one platform one would think would have been ideal for the game’s launch. Anyway; we might be going through the deepest and most savage recession capitalism has ever known, multinationals might be teeming up with nationalists in preparing the bombs that will help the system flourish once again and the police might just be the only facet of the welfare state that’s going stronger, but we gamers can be happy, for DeathSpank is a great little game indeed. And we can even play it with a mouse and keyboard.

 

In our times of barbarism and boring mainstream games DeathSpank is a wacky splash of colour. It looks surreal and lovely, can at times be really funny, plays well, and -more importantly- actually does what it was supposed to do. It’s a shiny Diablo-clone that effortlessly though sporadically manages to do a pretty decent impersonation of Monkey Island, what with its simple puzzles and dialog trees. Interestingly and despite the fact that only a handful of puzzles made it into the game, they are all quite varied and smart.
Deathspank - PC Game Screenshot

 

The hack-and-slash CRPG aspect of the game is on the other hand extremely rich. There are tons of different and outrageously named weapons, bits of armor and objects to collect, dozens of quest and side-quests, a rich selection of silly baddies, two kinds of chicken, a ridiculous amount of  loot, many locations and a rather big world to explore. Combat itself is close to perfect and always satisfying, making great use of the keyboard-mouse combo, but also allowing the traitorous among PC gamers to use a joypad. Disgusting, I know, but that’s what kids seem to enjoy these. Unfortunately joysticks have been wholly ignored. Oh, and what I really thought was brilliant in the mechanics were the ways in which all the tedious bits of Diablo-clones have been eradicated: players can teleport around the map, store their weapons in a variety of chests, access a handy quest journal, consult a variety of helpful maps and -above all- use the brilliant grinder to turn loot into gold pieces.
Deathspank - PC Game Screenshot
What though actually helps raise DeathSpank above the soup of mediocrity that are Diablo-clones, for let’s face it that’s what it really is, is the combination of a unique presentation and a generous helping of humour. DeathSpank features truly beautiful graphics that create a unique, colorful world not entirely dissimilar to a pop-up book, excellent voice-overs and so many and varied jokes you are bound to both constantly chuckle and at times properly laugh. Apparently, it also features a plot, but this being a review on a blog, it really shouldn’t be much longer than it already is. Let me just add that beating DeathSpank took me 12 hours.

 

Verdict: If you either love Ron Gilbert’s work or care for humorous RPGs, you really can’t go wrong with DeathSpank. It’s a great game and it’s already available on Steam. If only its Monkey Island elements were more apparent, this would have been a true classic.

Rocman X

Rocman X Gameplay Screenshot
There are lots of pirates out there that catch our attention one way or the other. This one is no different as Sachen took Rockman and turned it into something else. Presenting Rockman’s retarded cousin, Rocman X! We are not talking about X from the series by the way, this is Rocman X not X(I hope you see the difference by now). Rocman X is your average pirate platformer. What makes this game unique though is the use of Rocman X who is also known as Rochman X for some reason.

Rocman X Gameplay Screenshot

The game plays better than your average pirate game as you are able to do what you can do in most games actually worth playing. You can jump and shoot your boomerang although half the time you’ll have to aim real well so you can hit your monster. For some reason the monsters evade your boomerang with ease which can get quite annoying. There is also a charge technique which is not a stronger boomerang technique but it rather makes you jet horizontally through the level. If you get hit though, you will stop using your technique so you are at the mercy of the monsters with this technique. You also collect money which must be to buy items or something, I haven’t encounter a shop or anything but then again I never really got that far. Maybe the shops are hidden or you could get an extra life once your money hits 100.

Rocman X Gameplay Screenshot

The game is quite fun if you want to play something challenging but I advice you that if you don’t have any patience you’ll be left with a big gap in your head. There is stuff to like and to hate about this game so I suggest you try it out before you actually purchase it. We have to thank emulators for that. Going back to the game, the levels not only go left and right but up and down, it’ll be up to you to conquer each level but of course you’ll be running into lots of dead ends. Be sure to learn to use your boomerang first as you’ll need it to be able to preserve your energy for the rest of the level. Destroying the monsters help as you can also get pills of energy to be able to recover some life from any damage taken. Sachen did a very nice job with this game but I will say it again, it’s not for everyone.

Rocman X Gameplay Screenshot

If you want a very challenging and obscure platformer for your 8-bit console, then I suggest you pick this one up although it won’t come as cheap or often. Be ready to pay around 15-20 dollars for one as the cheapest although I have seen eBay auctions ending them in the 50s so beware. There is also an even harder to find version for the Gameboy which I luckily own 😉 The game plays the same way as the Famicom/NES version except that it’s portable. It feels exactly the same. It’s very odd that you can only play it on the Gameboy Color or Original Game Boy Advance. The SP won’t run it for some reason but then again maybe it just needed some cleaning, once I get that game out of my storage unit I’ll see if there is anything to be done. Either way, be sure to pick up and play Rockman’s retarded cousin adventure!

Aero Fighters

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

Aero Fighters a.k.a. Sonic Wings (1992)
By: Video System / Tecmo Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 191,600 (one credit)
Also Available For: SNES, PlayStation 2

As any self-respecting shmup fan knows, now and then comes a game that, despite not being hugely remarkable in itself, goes on to prove very important in the genre at large. Aero Fighters is among these. Obviously it wasn’t the work of just one person, but having a significant role in its creation while working at Video System was a certain Shin Nakamura. Shortly after its completion, he and a few colleagues left to form the now legendary Psikyo who went on to create some of the finest vertical scrollers seen during the remainder of that decade and beyond, including such classics as Strikers 1945, Gunbird, Sengoku Blade, and Zero Gunner. Not all of Psikyo’s great shmups drew inspiration from Aero Fighters (perhaps more commonly known by its Japanese name of Sonic Wings), but all of them owe it a debt.

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

Like most of the Psikyo games that followed, Aero Fighters is a vertical scroller, on this occasion a military-based one. Before play begins you are given the option of choosing from four pilots, each representing a different country, and each possessing a different attitude in their outbursts in the between-level cut-scenes. The US pilot is predictably cocky (“I’ll fly anywhere at anytime!”), the Japanese one is all business (“Next mission…”), the crazy Swedish guy just laughs each time, and the British pilot is only interested in his bit of skirt (“Enemy took my bride”). Each of them also flies a different jet fighter (based on real aircraft) equipped with a powerful, rapid fire main cannon as well as a screen-clearing smart bomb style attack, although you only get two of these per life.

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot
The main cannon on all the jets can be powered-up four times by collecting the floating icons left behind when you destroy some of the larger enemies, although the power increase from the fourth upgrade is only temporary. You will also find addition smart-bomb icons now and then but that’s the extent of the weapon upgrades in this game – no giant, screen-filling beams of death here, you have to do your despot-vanquishing the old-fashioned way! One nice feature present here is the way you play through the stages. They are set in various countries around the globe, with the first three you face being in a random order. The pilot you select doesn’t face a stage in his home country, so each time you play the game may present the different stages in a different order. Which is nice.

 

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

After completing the first three stages, taken from the four pilots home countries, there are four more stages for you to battle through, in a set order this time, before the evil terrorists are defeated. It’s a great approach to a shmup and one that sees you return to it over and over again. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s a damn fine blast too! Graphically the game is pretty awesome. Aside from the bosses, the sprites are fairly samey – jets, helicoptors, tanks, gunboats, etc, with minimal animation, but later on some more interesting ones appear, and the bosses are pretty impressive throughout, especially the giant transforming tank thing (in the shot to the left), and the smart-bomb effects (one of which is also featured to the left) are awesome, as are the fantastic backgrounds!

Aero Fighters - Sonic Wings - Gameplay Screenshot

Sound-wise, there’s not too many effects, but those that do exist are great with a particularly satisfying shooting sound, and most of the music is great too, especially on the stage with aircraft hangars in the mountains! However, as you might expect if you’ve played any of Psikyo’s games, Aero Fighters is really tough going! Luckily you can continue forever as long as you keep pumping in the coins (or pressing ‘5’ on the keyboard!). The enemy onslaught is relentless here and their bullets move really quickly most of the time too – on some occasions it seems impossible to not lose a life, and things do border on ‘bullet-hell’ insanity at times. Hard or not though, no one can deny that playing this game is an exciting, adrenaline rush of an experience, especially for two players at once, and the short time you’ll likely be playing for makes it one of the most addictive shmups I’ve played!

RKS Score: 8/10

Goonies

Goonies - Gameplay Screenshot 2

Goonies

This time around, we have a true classic for the Famicom/NES. Goonies was a side scroller like no other for its time. It had very unique items and collectibles as well. I mean why in the world would you need to use an space suit? nevah! Anyways, the game is challenging at times and follows the story well sort off. You do start off at the house where the bad guys were in. You also get a fat guy that keeps shooting at you but you never see that dirt bag old lady at all.

Goonies - Gameplay Screenshot 1

The levels are pretty simple. Just beat up a rat and get the bomb. Place the bomb in the door nearby and get what’s inside. You must find three children and a key to be able to exit the level. Make sure you also pick up the items in the doors, well you’ll have to anyways because you need to blow them all up. The levels take you through an underground level and sewers as well. It’s a pretty fun game overall! The ending is also worth it all the way! You must beat this game!

With simple gameplay and a great fun factor, this game is a must play for any retro gamer. It’s very odd it was never released in the US even though it was based on a US released movie…

I never really got into Goonies 2 as well which was released here in the US because it just didn’t felt like a Goonies game. I’m not saying it’s a bad game, I just should probably give it another chance. Anyways, since there is not US release I suggest you buy one of those multicarts which are really common and have a very good chance of coming with the Goonies game in it. If not just play the rom!

Cobra Triangle

Cobra Triangle - Gameplay Screenshot

Cobra Triangle (1988)
By: Rare Genre: Overhead Racing Players: 1 Difficulty: Hard
Featured Version: NES First Day Score: 168,250
Also Available For: Nothing

One of the reasons I decided to start covering this genre of games is that it’s one I’ve enjoyed immensely in the past, but so far this enjoyment has been limited only to a handful of titles. There are still many I haven’t actually played before, so what better excuse to start? For the third game in the feature, I thought I’d take a look at one that tried to do something a little bit different. Enter Rare. This NES-exclusive is a bit unusual for an overhead racer for several reasons. Not least of these is the fact that it’s single-player only! That’s right, the feature that is often the main appeal of games of this nature is entirely absent! Do not despair, however – much has done by our ever-reliable friends at Rare to ensure the longevity of this, one of their first forays into the racing genre and, for a change, it features not cars but speedboats!

Cobra Triangle - Gameplay Screenshot

It’s a scrolling, isometrically-viewed affair which only shows a small part of any given course or arena at any time, rather than the more common single-screen racers. One reason for this is that it’s not even a racing game at all! In looks and style you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s one, as I did before I played it for this feature, but there’s not a great deal of actual racing going on here. The game consists of 25 ‘missions’, and on initial evidence, all seems normal. The first mission sees you racing along a river amidst other speedboats, but rather than racing them, it seems the object is to shoot them with your boat’s onboard cannon! In the next mission you must race up a straight waterway jumping ramps to grab airborne items. Next you must safely dispose of some mines while opposing boats try to stop you, then you have to navigate an obstacle-strewn stretch of river while fighting the current. Other missions include protecting swimmers from enemy boats, jumping waterfalls, and shooting targets.

Cobra Triangle - Gameplay Screenshot

Every few stages you are also faced with a boss. These take the forms of giant sea-monsters such as serpents or crabs! Of course, as well as accommo-dating enemy speedboats, the various waterways also feature additional hazards. These include sharks, logs, whirlpools, ramps, electrical shockwaves, and gun turrets on the river banks. Luckily, not all the luck is going against you. The numbered Pods carried by some enemy speedboats can be collected to power-up your ‘Cobra Class Speed Boat’, equipping it with turbos, cannon upgrades, higher top speed, missiles, or a forcefield. These power-ups are collected in a Gradius style, i.e. you can save up the Pods you collect and choose which power-up you want. The more Pods you collect, the better upgrade you can choose. You’ll probably need them all!

Cobra Triangle - Gameplay Screenshot

My playing of this game for this review represents my first extended session on an NES game ever! This is because, for those who don’t know me, I was a big Sega fanboy back then and fiercely loyal to my Master System! I was obviously aware of the NES and many of its games, but I didn’t play them. Cobra Triangle is, however, one of the ones I’ve always wanted to play, thanks in no small part to the review in C&VG and the glowing recommendation that accompanied it. Now that I’ve finally played it, what do I think? Well, as I said earlier, it’s not really what I was expecting – I thought it was basically a water-based equivalent of Super Off-Road! But nonetheless, it’s good fun, original, but tough!

Cobra Triangle - Gameplay Screenshot

Graphically, Cobra Triangle is fairly average in my view. Granted, I have little to compare it to from personal experience but things look pretty basic here. Backgrounds are largely featureless and pretty repetitive, although both they and the water do change colour every few missions (the ice level looks nice). The sprites are pretty nicely drawn, though a bit small, and their animation is somewhat lacking. They all look similar from what I’ve seen too, and there’s a bit of flicker when things get busy. The bosses aren’t bad though – they’re pretty big and have a bit more animation than the smaller enemies. The music here is fairly uninspiring too, unfortunately, and not memorable at all. Sound effects are fairly varied but pretty minimal. And if I hear that Goddamn ‘hit-by-a-whirlpool’ noise one more time I’m going to smash something. Anything.

Cobra Triangle - Gameplay Screenshot

In fact, the game in general is really difficult and pretty frustrating. Some missions are easier than others but things gets insanely tough later on. For example, if it wasn’t for the benefit of being able to save my game position on the emulator, it would’ve probably taken hours just to get past the waterfall stage. You have to take a run-up to make it over the waterfalls (for there’s not just one!) but the ramp is small and usually moving from side to side. On top of that, there’s often whirlpools before the ramps which throw you off course! It does get ridiculous at times, but it’s not all bad – the mine disposal stages are good fun, as are the boat shooting runs. I just wish all the missions were a little more forgiving!

Cobra Triangle - Gameplay Screenshot

Despite the average presentation in this case, Rare usually pull out all the stops when it comes to design and gameplay and it’s no different here. The game is full of original touches and its very notion is unique – I’ve not really played anything like it before or since. To be honest though, original or not, I just didn’t enjoy playing it that much which is a shame as it could’ve been such a great game if it wasn’t so damn difficult!

RKS Score: 6/10

Penguin Land

Penguin Land - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Penguin Land (1987)
By: Sega Genre: Platform / Puzzle Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega Master System First Day Score: 9,450
Also Available For: Sega SG-1000

Back in the late 80’s when my beloved Master System was my console of choice, I was rarely able to add to my game collection. I had around 8 games, mostly considered classics nowadays and highly rated back then. As I spent time looking through the magazines of the day, there were, however, always a few games that I wanted but was never able to get my hands on. Penguin Land was among these. Despite the unspectacular scores it generally received in the magazines, I found myself taken by the premise and screenshots and decided that I had to have it! This was, I suspect, mainly due to my fondness for platform/puzzle games, but it wasn’t until many years later – around 10 in fact – that I finally got round to buying it. Was it worth the wait?

Penguin Land - Gameplay Screenshot 2

As you may have guessed from its name, Penguin Land features… a penguin! He is no ordinary penguin, however – he’s a space penguin called Overbite, Penguin Mission Commander, who has rather carelessly lost three eggs on a distant, icy planet. After flying to retrieve them, he has to push them back to his spaceship and safety. This must be done over the course of 50 vertically scrolling rounds through which you must push the egg carefully without breaking it, from the top of the stage to the bottom. Of course, it’s not that simple, for there are various hazards awaiting you and your egg, not least of which is a time limit. Polar bears, rising and falling section of rock walls, birds that drop bricks on your egg if you don’t move it for a while, and ghosts which mess up your controls are also out to hinder your progress as much as possible too!

Penguin Land - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Luckily, with his eggs trapped on apparently such a hostile planet, Overbite is free to walk and jump around the rounds to his hearts content. A vast majority of the blocks are blue ice blocks. Overbite can break the ice blocks beneath him by pecking them and the egg can then be pushed through the gap. Be careful though – the egg can’t fall more than three blocks downwards without breaking, so you’ll have to take some time to consider which blocks to break. There are also cracked blocks which break as soon as the egg touches them, stone blocks which can’t be broken, and tubes which Overbite or his egg can drop through. Also sprinkled liberally around the stages (increasingly as you progress through them) are rocks, which can be pushed around much like your egg, and can also be pushed off platforms onto polar bears below!

Penguin Land - Gameplay Screenshot 4

Like most platform / puzzle games, Penguin Land is a simple concept, yet fiendishly addictive to play. The graphics, whilst pretty repetitive (only the background colour changes really) are neat, appealing, and suit the game style well. There is some slight sprite flicker if too much occupies one line, but it’s rare. There aren’t many tunes in the game though. A few little ditties and just the one main game theme. It’s a jolly, catchy number, but may soon grate, especially if you dislike this kind of tune to start with! Sounds effects are minimal but decent enough. As is often the case with games like this, though, it’s the gameplay that makes all the difference. It’s easy to start playing but hard to master, and with 50 challenging rounds to play through, it will last a fair old while! You can choose any of the first 30 rounds from the title screen and there’s even a level editor with which you can create additional rounds and save them on the cartridge’s battery back-up.

Penguin Land - Gameplay Screenshot 5

After waiting so long to play this game, I won’t say I was bowled over by it when I finally did get to play it. To be fair, it was probably an unspectacular release, even when it came out, but it has proven to be a highly playable and addictive little puzzler that not many people seem to know about. If you like platform games that require a bit of thought and planning, give this charming game a try!

RKS Score: 7/10

Mega Man

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Even with the bigger screen, things feel crowded and you’ll end up face to face with a lot of robots with no room for comfort. This game feels bothersome at times but hey it’s Mega Man, it can’t be that bad right? ~Luis Zena

Mega Man

Mega Man on a Sega console was something we never were lucky enough to experience but for some apparent reason we got Mega Man for the portable handheld, the Game Gear. What minds though this would make up for not bringing the better installment to the Genesis console? I’m not sure but the more I think about it the more it became certain why the Dreamcast failed. But enough about other Sega consoles, we are talking about the Game Gear. I frankly loved this console although I felt it was missing the RPG touch. I did managed to play a very good quality US released RPG and that was rare for the handheld. I even picked it Retro Game of the Week a year ago or so. So lets get started, the game is your average Mega Man game although the Game Gear screen does a better job than the Game Boy one in the portable business especially for a Mega Man game. Even with the bigger screen, things feel crowded and you’ll end up face to face with a lot of robots with no room for comfort. This game feels bothersome at times but hey it’s Mega Man, it can’t be that bad right?

Mega Man Game Gear - Gameplay Screenshot

The game is a compilation of Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 5 bosses and battles. That’s not bad at all since they had some interesting robot masters to begin with although everyone else felt they were already running out of ideas (Mega Man 9 and 10 proved you wrong suckers!) The game does feel at times that it was changed to try to make it into a different Mega Man game but did that to no avail. The game just feels like a shattered down NES Mega Man title and that’s all there is to it. I don’t say that in a bad way it’s just that Mega Man games on portables had their disadvantages mostly due to the screen size and with the crowded monsters and so-so sound, it just doesn’t cut it.

Overall, this game brings you a portable Mega Man and that’s about it. It’s not a new experience but can be a good experience if you look over the flaws which every game has anyways. You will battle your robot masters and do so not only in a hostile environment but with added difficulty. Make sure you don’t get game over because your game will really be over. This game is great as a collectible and for a night of rage and cursing.

Captain Quazar

Captain Quazar - Title Screen

Captain Quazar (1996)
By: Cyclone Studios / 3DO Genre: Shooting Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: 3DO
Also Available For: PC

Despite its innovations, I think it’s safe to say the 3DO didn’t exactly set the world alight, sales-wise. There are various reasons for this, but when I think about how scarce some of its games were back then, it hardly seems surprising. I can’t remember how I had heard about Captain Quazar now but I knew I wanted it. But even when it was originally released, I never saw it in any shops – I had to buy it on mail order, so scarce was it. It’s therefore hardly surprising that most gamers haven’t even heard of it, let alone own it. So, is it one of those ‘flashy-but-no-depth’ games that were so common in the early days of 32-bit gaming, or is it actually any good? Read on!

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Captain Quazar is a hero for hire, although not an especially bright one, and the tasks for which he has been hired on this occasion are befitting his particular talents. In other words, a good old-fashioned spot of mindless violence! The angry policeman overseeing his work (who reminds me of that newspaper editor guy from Spider-Man) has tasked him with taking down three ‘evil crimelords’ who are turning the galaxy upside down. Namely, Doobah who runs the spice mills on the desert planet of Kragg, terrorist leader Zang who runs training camps on the jungle planet of Kesh, and Ox who is planning an invasion from his volcanic stronghold of Moog. To achieve these aims, he must basically destroy everything and kill everyone.

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 2

The game is viewed from one of my favourite perspectives – 3D isometric. There are ten large levels which are divided over the three planets, and each has a different objective. On level one, for instance, you must destroy a set number of rockets containing an addictive spice, though you’ll only get a short time to do this as they start to launch as soon as they appear on the screen. On level two, you must free a load of slaves by locating colour-coded keys and unlocking their cages. On level three, you must destroy mining equipment in a vast underground spice mine which is very dark. The only illumination is provided by lamps strategically located throughout the maze of mine shafts, and they can be shot, so no mindless blasting is recommended here – it’s damn near impossible to work out where you’re going when they’re broken! On level four – the first level of the second planet, you must find stolen items of art and free hostages before escorting them to a teleporter. This level is home to vast patches of poisonous grass and stretches of water. Captain Quazar can swim, but the water is home to lots of vicious hero-eating fish! Anyway, I’m sure you get the idea.

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 3

The levels are of course also riddled with various henchmen of the three main villains. Each planet features some unique enemies not found elsewhere too. For example, the desert planet features spice henchmen – some are puny, some are not. Some have orbiters, some are even invisible. The third level of this world also has dangerous tunnelling machines which can inflict pretty major damage as you might expect. The jungle world features terrorist henchmen, deadly plants and flying probes, and the lava planet features the most enemies of all including bullet and missile-proof military henchmen, floating turrets, radars, brutes and invincible electric snakes. All of these enemies can cut the Captain’s quest short in a hurry too as he only has a limited energy meter and a few lives.

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 4

The Cap’n has a few tricks up his sleeve to take out some of these irksome minions though. These include his rapid-fire personal cannon which can also be upgraded to a super-gun or equipped with high-powered missiles, grenades, super-grenades, flamethrower and an electric ray. All of these weapons are limited in supply, so keep an eye out for extra ammo. Some random enemies leave sparkly diamond thingies behind when killed, too. Collect this ‘mana’ whenever you see it – each time you pick some up, your mana-meter will go up by five percent. When it gets to a hundred percent, you’ll get an extra life. Other useful items are the force shield (temporary invincibility), invisibility potion, speed boots, orbiter (a drone that follows you around and zaps any enemies that get too close), antidotes (which counter the effects of the poisonous plant life on the jungle planet), snorkels (which let you breath underwater) and flares (which help you to see in the underground mine). Extra lives, continues, door passes, forcefield passes, cash and gems can all be found lying around too and there is also a shop that appears at the end of each level (and occasionally in the middle of a level). Pretty much anything can be bought for the right price from ammunition to health.

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 5

The game’s levels don’t just feature hoardes of enemies though – also to be found are various types of buildings. Each, when destroyed, has a certain effect. For example, each ‘area’ of each level contains a barracks. If this is not destroyed, the flow of enemies will be constant. If you destroy it quickly however, you can soon wipe the enemies out. Other buildings and features include teleporters and elevators (both of which require a code), guardhouses/ headquarters, which contain a henchman who can then be interrogated (they’ll usually give you teleporter or elevator codes), and safe houses (which invariably contain money or gems). The desert planet even features the odd oasis which replenishes your health to a limited degree.

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 6

With all these areas to explore and items to collect, you might be thinking that this is a big game and you’d be right! I was recently playing it for five to six hours and I only reached the start of the fifth level which is absolutely enormous! Luckily there is a save-game facility at the end of each level, and an in-game map which only shows the areas that you’ve already explored. Some destroyed buildings leave a map clue behind showing a secret area on the map, of which there are many. There is also a simultaneous two-player mode with the second player controlling Captain Quazar’s partner, Lieutenant Pulzar, but it’s not split-screen so it can get a little crowded, and both players tend to get in each other’s way. The game is tricky right from the start, and it gradually increases in difficulty from that point on – the lava planet is rock! (snigger) This is a tough game though, I still can’t finish it. Can anyone?

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 7

As mentioned near the start of the review, I have a great fondness for isometrically viewed games, probably stemming from my Speccy gaming days, and this is a good one. Each level is colourful, varied, features amusing looking enemies, and the scrolling is nice and smooth. The explosions are particularly impressive, especially after a super-grenade has been unleashed but, bizarrely, the explosion will only occur if the area in question is presently on the screen – you could throw a super-grenade, immediately run away, and come back ten minutes later and witness the ensuing explosion! There is also a bit of slow-down when things get busy, but it’s not bad enough to affect the gameplay.

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 8

Like many early CD-based games, Captain Quazar also features a rendered intro sequence which is probably one of the best I’ve seen! It begins with a short rendered story along the lines of “The galaxy was once a lovely place to live, but then things changed. A band of intergalactic outlaws started causing chaos” etc, which is narrated in an amusingly frantic fashion. This is followed by a Captain Quazar rap performed by some highly humorous robots. Equally amusing, but rap-less cut-scenes punctuate the action too, mostly showing the more-brawn-than-brains Captain himself. The game also features some great music. There is a different tune for each of the ten levels, and some superb cartoon style sound effects are also present. The best thing however, is the Captain’s voice – he sounds even stupider than Homer Simpson!

Captain Quazar - Gameplay Screenshot 9

This is a pretty tough game and a bit of practise is required before significant progress can be made. It took me a while just to get off the first level! Once you’ve got used to it though, it’s an enjoyable romp, and it’s also very satisfying to play, what with all the wanton destruction and all. Even the walls can be destroyed in some areas! Control of Captain Quazar is pretty good, athough it’s sometimes difficult to hit the diagonals in a hectic situation. But most importantly, playing this game is enormous fun. It’s challenging, occasionally frustrating, but remains highly enjoyable nonetheless, and features some nice touches like the police chief shouting at you and even singing songs if you leave the game paused too long. Unfortunately, good games are pretty rare on the 3DO, but ones that didn’t appear on any other consoles are even rarer still. This alone makes Captain Quazar noteworthy. It’s not easy to get hold of but it’s well worth the effort if you want to try something that’s not only a bit different, but also great fun.

RKS Score: 8/10

F-Zero

F-Zero Super NES Box

F-Zero

One of the most amazingly classic racing games for the SNES is surely F-Zero. It was a very unique game for its time and deserves a spot at the Retro Game of the Week. The game is huge with lots of crazy tracks and your rivals as well. You have different difficulties to pick from as well as different tournaments to pick. The game is pretty simple except it’s set in the future and the race tracks have uniqueness all over. One unique factor is that the sides of the roads damage your car so driving carefully is a must. You get a lot of help with the wings on the back of your car which will help you glide to the side by pressing the R(right) and L(left) accordingly.

F-Zero Gameplay Screenshot 9

 

The game also has a lot of difficult tracks even at the easiest settings. The tracks with the big ramps are one of the more difficult ones since you need to be at certain speed to be able to get pass it. You have to take the ramp with speed enough to pass it or else you will fall down to what I’m guessing is a circuit area? Anyways, your car will explode. One of the problems I had with this game is that damn about to explode car that I always knock into when I’m driving. He takes so much of my life and sometimes even kills me! My best strategy is usually to use a turbo when I see him. It’s just me though.

Therefore, this is a very unique title to pick up and play. There are no two players so this is not a multiplayer game. You should also check out the GBA release as well as the awesome Nintendo 64 and Gamecube releases. Until next week!

Super Bros 8 (FC)

Super Bros 8 - Title Screen

The main point of this is obviously to give the word out on some of the more interesting pirates or hacks out there. There are just so many out there that it’s impossible to keep their numbers. Who knows how many pirates are out there, we’ll never know for sure.

Super Bros 8 - Gameplay Screenshot

So this week we have Super Bros 8 for the Famicom/NES consoles. The game is actually a hack of Don Doko Don 2. The game has been hacked to look similar to a Mario game and how so? Well all you had to do was Hack the title screen to show Mario in it instead of that little old guy and of course the character’s sprite. Overall, it’s a great game! Playing as Mario in an unknown world is typical for a Mario game (Just check Mario 2 for the NES) And something tells me this would have made a better Mario game if it would have been one to begin with. We gotta thank the pirates for releasing this one for sure. It is after all my favorite pirate cart out there.

Super Bros 8 - Gameplay Screenshot 1
The game is quite simple. You are Mario and you have a hammer so what must you do? Beat every enemy up by hammering them to their deaths. You are also able to pick up power ups to give your hammer powers as well as to help you jump higher. The levels are very entertaining and the music score is exquisite. You can’t go wrong with this game!

If you are able to pick this game up, lucky you as it’s not that common. For those of you that want to play it emulator style, well here you go. I’ll hook you up with therom.

Namco Museum: 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection

Well, well…. It hasn’t been so long ago… I mean it’s only been 50 years since the founding of Namco and almost 30 years since the oldest game of this compilation was released. On the other hand this blog has existed for less than one day, and this definitely is the first PC game review to appear here. That’s quite a paradox. Maybe.

Anyway. Namco’s Museum is an almost decent (budget) collection of some classic, some not so classic and a few pointless games, hoping to please retro gamers, to teach new gamers some old tricks, to teach young dogs strange tricks or to please the average casual gamer. There are 16 games on offer, two of which (PacMania and Galaga `88) are unlockable by attaining (pretty low) highscores in PacMan, Ms. PacMan or the original Galaga, which are actually three of the best titles available in this compilation, and are decently emulated. The other games included are:

Dragon Spirit, which I had never played before, and is a passable top down shooter with an appropriately ridiculous backstory and cute graphics .
Pole Position and the radically samey Pole Position II, both aged beyond recognition (they used to be quite nice guys back then) but excellently emulated.
Galaxian, which has always been a poor man’s Space Invaders.
Mappy, the strange little unknown game that is fun for five minutes, but tends to get nervous, act stranger and gradually reduces the poor player to a horrified excuse of a person.
Rolling Thunder, a decent platformer/shooter with nice graphics.
Xevious, the classic Namco Classic.
Skykid, which is pointless, annoying and obscure, but I guess perfectly emulating the horror of being a skykid (?).
Rally-X, a very interesting car game. An absolute time sink.

Oh sorry, almost forgot. When (and if) you buy Namco Museum you will also be able to play Digout and Bosconian.

That’s the deal. Just take into consideration that there are virtually no extras (like interviews, photos, videos etc), very few options, very slight but usually annoying sound problems and the overall presentation isn’t as sleek as it should have been. And you could always download MAME for free instead. On the plus side you get to hear five ‘classic’ 80s songs while browsing through the games and it wont cost you a fortune.

That’s a (five) out of (ten).

 

Tyrannosaurus Tex

Tyrannosaurus Tex - Gameboy Color - Gameplay Screenshot

Tyrannosaurus Tex

Back in the year 2000, Slitherine Software announced the release of what was to be the first first-person shooter for a handheld. Tyrannosaurus Tex followed the story of a maverick cowboy through 28 levels with six different types of guns and ten different types of enemies. While the game was actually 2D, because of the first-person perspective, it would have played and looked a bit like a 3D game.

The game was to come out in late 2000 and then late 2001. Originally, Eidos was to publish the game, but they dropped out and when TT missed showing up at E3 the rumors were that the game was dead before arrival. However, IGN was able to take a look at the game and stated that it had fast paced action and a smooth animation to it.

Tyrannosaurus Tex - Gameboy Color Box

The game itself was to start off with a training level where you were taught how to play the game and blue text would appear on screen to give you hints and tips on what to do. Since we are talking the early Gameboy color here it is no surprise the world of Tyrannosaurus Tex was mainly halls and corridors kind of like the first Wolfenstein. All the object in the game are drawn spites and the enemies were drawn at different sizes to emulate the close and far effect.

The enemies themselves also looked a bit plain with not much detail. Most enemies only had a few colors at most and when you killed them, they exploded into tiles. From what we can gather, the idea was to have violence without making it to gory or maybe it was just the system limitations. You could pick up different weapons and hit the select button to choose one and by hitting start, you could view the world map.

In the end, the game was never released and sources claim Slitherine wanted to release a ROM of the game, but the rights went back to Eidos. Personally, I would not have played this game, but the reviews did claim it was a pretty good game considering. Unfortunately, we will never know.

UPDATE 2016: The rights to the game were acquired by Piko Interactive and the game was finally released. To find out more visit here: https://pikointeractive.com/blog/its-official-tyrannosaur-tex-gbc-is-ours/