The Pagemaster

The Pagemaster

Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D Platformer

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

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

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

The Pagemaster

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

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

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

The Pagemaster

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

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

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

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

Gauntlet

Gauntlet_Atari

Gauntlet (1985)
By: Atari Genre: Maze / Run ‘n’ Gun Players: 1-4 Difficulty: Easy-Medium
Featured Version: Arcade First Day Score: 20,332 (starting with 2000 health)
Also Available For: Master System, MegaDrive, NES, Lynx, PC, Amiga, Atari ST, Apple II, Atari 8-bits, MSX, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

I suppose it was only a matter of time before the ‘Maze Games’ feature here at Red Parsley arrived at the Gauntlet series for a review but the decision to return to it wasn’t a hard one. This is mainly because it’s one of my favourite games but I’ve actually spent surprisingly little time with the arcade original. The decent conversion for the Spectrum occupied much of my time in the late 80’s before the fantastic Gauntlet 4 arrived on the MegaDrive (basically a conversion of the first game but with tonnes of extras) and occupied much of my time in the 90’s as well! The series certainly has its detractors, though, who argue that it’s repetitive and frustrating. I definitely didn’t agree with them back then but perhaps time has dulled the appeal of Atari’s classic. Henceforth, I shall find out…
Gauntlet_Atari

The basic gameplay of Gauntlet (and Dandy – see below) must surely be known by near enough all gamers by now but for the benefit of those who have somehow missed it, it works like this: between one and four players can play simultaneously but first each needs to choose a character from the four available – Thor the Warrior (who has good fighting strength), Thyra the Valkyrie (who has strong armour), Merlin the Wizard (who has strong magic), and Questor the Elf (who is the quickest). From then on, your party (or maybe just you) are faced with an unending series of overhead-viewed dungeons filled to the brim with malevolent beasties intent on shortening your adventure! Whether they do or not is entirely up to you though, as each coin you insert gives your character health points and you can insert coins, and therefore play, forever if you want.
Gauntlet_Atari

There are six types of enemy altogether – Grunts, Ghosts, Demons, Sorcerers, Lobbers, and Death. All of them except Death are created endlessly by generators placed all around the maze-like stages which have three strength levels with each monster they create being of the same level. The generators can be destroyed in the same way as the monsters they produce – either by shooting or fighting them one at a time or by collecting potions and using magic which clears some or most enemies on screen in one go. The strength of both of these attacks depends on the character chosen although special potions can also be found occasionally which boost an aspect of a character’s abilities – extra shot power or extra armour, for example. Watch out though – a pesky thief appears now and then and it’s these abilities that he’s most keen on stealing. Deaths appears in smaller numbers than the other enemies but they can only be killed by magic – otherwise they’ll drain 200 health points before disappearing. Grrrr!
Gauntlet_Atari

The stages themselves are each around two screens wide by two screens tall, although some loop instead, and they are usually designed in as maze-like a way as possible. Most include several paths, some of which are often dead-ends. There are usually many doors blocking off sections that must be opened by finding keys and some stages feature teleporters which move you to the nearest similar device. Treasure chests for bonus points are abundant but far rarer are special medallions that grant temporary invisibility (the enemies home in on you as far as possible otherwise) which are a welcome, albeit brief, reprieve when they are encountered. Each player character gradually loses health points as the game wears on anyway but contact from enemies does of course reduce them much faster so it’s a good idea to keep an eye open for revitalising food which comes in two forms – cider, which can be shot, and what looks like roast dinners, which cannot.
Gauntlet_Atari

As original and distinctive as it seemed at the time though, the concept of Gauntlet may not have been entirely born in the futuristic labs of Atari’s secret underground bunker. Ed Logg, credited as designer of Gauntlet, may or may not have had one eye on an Atari 8-bit game called Dandy, released two years previously, while putting his game together but the two titles certainly have some similarities. Whoever was responsible though, Gauntlet was the game which rose to prominence and it’s one that’s attracted and maintained a sizeable fan-base over the years. There could be many reasons for its enduring popularity but the simple fact is Atari’s game was available to a much wider audience, and arguably came at a much more convenient time as well.
Gauntlet_Atari

Another reason for Gauntlet’s success over that of Dandy could simply be that it was better. It has a huge number of stages for one thing – a hundred unique dungeons which appear in random order from the eighth one onwards, and after the hundredth stage they start repeating as well so it’s a game without end! The cast of characters, both heroes and villains are also very memorable too. The differing attributes of each – shot strength and speed, magic power, fighting ability, armour, etc – meant that everyone had their favourite even if the differences between them became purely cosmetic once a few of the special potions had been collected which each boost one that character’s attributes accordingly. The relentless onslaught of enemy creatures pouring from their respective generators meant that you rarely get a minute’s peace too!
Gauntlet_Atari

The enormous abundance of evil creatures to slay may make Gauntlet a tough slog for the most part but it’s rather impressive from a technical point of view. All sprites, objects and pieces of wall and floor take up one square on an unseen grid of 15 x 15 which makes up the visible play-field so everything is more-or-less the same size. This doesn’t take much processing power with regards to the inanimate parts of each stage of course, but the sprites are all animated, detailed, and there are absolutely masses of them nearly all the time. It’s still pretty impressive now so you can only imagine how mind-blowing it was at the time! Of course, this did present a challenge to the talented programmers charged with converting the fab game to home systems but even then the results were mostly spiffing!
Gauntlet_Atari

Sadly, the audio here is almost silent though. There are a few simple sound effects but no in-game music which is hard to get used to since the fantastic MegaDrive conversion that I’ve played so much has had an equally fantastic soundtrack added. Breaking the near-silence now and then though, is the famous voice of the unseen dungeon overseer who offers occasional advice and support. He may sound a little ropey today but back then he was a revelation and his many comments have proved to be almost as enduring as the game itself! Indeed, despite the inane wafflings of the many naysayers, Gauntlet is still great fun and a highly enjoyable challenge. Yes, it is repetitive, as most games in the early years were, but not many of them offered four players the chance to unite and fight evil monsters to the death! Even for the solo-player, the lure of seeing new mazes or achieving a new high-score is enough to keep you playing. A timeless classic that offers a near-unlimited helping of simple, addictive adventuring. Still hate those bloody Lobbers though. Grrrr!

RKS Score: 9/10

Toy Story

toy-story-sega-genesis

Format- Sega Mega Drive

Genre- 2D platformer

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

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

toy-story-sega-genesis

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

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

toy-story-sega-genesis

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

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

toy-story-sega-genesis

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

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

toy-story-sega-genesis

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

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

My Favorite Games: Part 10

And so… we finally reach the end of My Favorite Games. As expected there’s lots of games I’m fond of that I couldn’t find space for, and I’m sure as Red Parsley wears on there will be many more to consider, and even replace some of the games already here. Nearly all these games come from my younger days and I enjoyed them all in their prime and continue to enjoy them now, but since the purpose of this blog it to help me discover older games I haven’t previously played, some new lists will undoubtedly follow. Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my lists as much as I have enjoyed writing them.

Wiz n Liz – MegaDrive (1993)

Wiz n Liz - MegaDrive

Also released on the Amiga, this frantic platformer is not very well known for some reason, despite receiving decent reviews in its day. That never stopped me from playing it to death on my MD though, and I still do! This is also a good example of how games don’t need to be remotely violent to be great fun – aside from a few bosses there’s not a single enemy in the whole game! The object is to rescue all the rabbits that were stolen from the amusingly-named planet of Pum. Collecting rabbits releases letters and fruits which can be used to spell out and then mix magic spells, and they release various other items too. There is a huge variety of magic spells, each of which has a different effect – some give you bonuses, some are mini-games, others are just for fun. With fantastic graphics and music, this fast-paced platformer is a criminally under-played gem (which also offers simultaneous two-player action) and I can’t stop playing it!

Goldeneye 007 – Nintendo 64 (1997)

Goldeneye 007 - Nintendo 64

Yep, sorry, but I had to include it! This was pretty much the first FPS I played properly and what an experience it was! Being a fan of the Bond films didn’t hurt either. In fact, I had just watched the Goldeneye movie before I first played this and, having been used to terrible movie tie-ins generally, wasn’t really expecting much from it. To my amazement, however, not only was it amazingly playable but it also stuck to the plot of the film too. That was unheard of! This fantastic game represents many firsts for me, notably my first use of a sniper-rifle which was awesome, as well as probably the first game I’d played where stealth and cunning yielded more rewards than charging in all-guns-blazing like a bull in a china shop! Goldeneye is probably more famous for its multi-player deathmatches than for its one-player game but it was the latter that kept me playing this, even when I got stuck in the damn jungle level!

Soul Calibur
– Dreamcast (1999)

Soul Calibur - Dreamcast

Being a big Sega fan, not many games made me prouder of being a Dreamcast owner than this one. Stunning graphics (which actually improved on the arcade game) and a equally stunning soundtrack were the icing on the cake of this ground-breaking game from Namco. It had a lot of flashy moves which weren’t too difficult to perform, a great range of characters, and flawless combat physics, but my biggest surprise was discovering the Adventure Mode which saw you travelling around completing various missions to unlock many treats in the game! Many were hoping for a good conversion of this game. What they got was so much better than the arcade original it defied belief! This is still the finest 3D fighting game I’ve ever played.

Operation Wolf – Arcade (1987)

Operation Wolf - Arcade

Out of all my many visits to the arcades of Hayling Island in the late 80’s/early 90’s, this was the game that received most of my money. It was my first experience of a light-gun game, and it was a hell of an intro! An Uzi with grenade-launcher? Yes please! The force-feedback on the gun made things all the more authentic and I just loved playing this over and over, even if I wasn’t very good at it and never managed to complete it. No game of its type ever ensnared me like this did, until Point Blank of all things arrived! Shooting the helicopters and trucks was always particularly satisfying. Of all the home versions, only the Master System version was much cop, but even that didn’t offer the tense atmosphere of this fantastic original.

Sonic 2 – MegaDrive (1992)

Sonic 2 - MegaDrive

Last and not least… as a Sega fan I can’t possibly leave out a Sonic game, and as most will probably agree, the series never surpassed the second MD game. Released after a MAJOR hype campaign, this was one of the rare games that actually lived up to expectations. It took everything that Sonic 1 started and added a whole lot more – bigger, prettier stages and more of them, a new character in Tails, two-player action, those famous tunnel-based bonus rounds, a bigger challenge… Some of the later Sonic games were good but none of them were ever as endlessly entertaining as this one. Going back to play this makes me sad in a way as it marks not only Sonic’s peak, but arguably that of Sega themselves too. Oh well, let us Sega fanboys remember the good times – even Nintendo fanboys must’ve been jealous of this one!

The End…

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

xbox 360, playstation 3, nintendo wii

Latest sales figures show all three modern consoles now top lifetime NES sales

The Nintendo Entertainment System defied the odds as the 1980s came to a close.  Released in a video game market that American retailers had written off as a fad, the NES not only revived the gaming entertainment industry but set sales figures that blew away the earlier console generation and the previous king, the Atari 2600.

The NES lifetime sales figure of  61.91 million consoles became the biggest prize for anything released after it.  Going into the current crop of gaming consoles, only two consoles ever topped the lofty mark set by the NES:  the original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2.

Now, according to sales-tracking website VGChartz.com the PlayStation 3 has now also topped the lofty NES numbers.  Not only does this put all three PlayStation consoles into the top five best-selling consoles of all-time, but it also means the PS3 joins the Nintendo Wii and XBox 360 in that short list.  All three modern consoles have now topped the NES lifetime sales figures, a first for any console generation in history. (Author’s note: All three consoles have also topped the NES software sales figures, according to the same website.)

“It was just a matter of time before gaming became so popular that the modern big three topped the original console that revitalized the gaming industry,” said Eric Cummings, founder of the group Gaming World Wide.  “I’m happy about it.  It means that the industry has really arrived.”

Another gamer who remains an NES player to this day provided similar thoughts.

“I feel this is proof that gaming is more than just people who play games,” said Eric Perez, host of The 8-Bit Eric Show.  “It is part of a worldwide culture.  The fact that three separate consoles have outsold what I feel was the pioneer of revitalizing gaming shows that the industry is in great shape.  The Nintendo Entertainment System will forever hold it’s place in history, but this is also history in the making.  The next generation of consoles will be something to watch.”

The Top Ten Selling Game Consoles of All-Time (source: combined data from VGChartz.com and Wikipedia listings.  Excludes handheld gaming devices.  All stats are as of date of this article’s publishing.)

1.  PlayStation 2 (Sony, 2000) – 153.68 million units

2.  PlayStation (Sony, 1994) – 104.25 million units

3.  Wii (Nintendo, 2006) – 95.25 million units

4.  XBox 360 (Microsoft, 2005) – 65.80 million units

5.  PlayStation 3 (Sony, 2006) – 62.11 million units

6.  Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1983, 1985) – 61.91 million units

7.  Super Nintendo Entertainment System (Nintendo, 1990) – 49.10 million units

8.  Mega Drive / Genesis (Sega, 1988, 1989) – 39 million units

9.  Nintendo 64 (Nintendo, 1996) – 32.93 million units

10. Atari 2600 / VCS (Atari, 1977, 1985) – 30 million units

 

Retro Love: Buy a Dreamcast

Sega Dreamcast Logo

It’s been quite some time since I’ve got my brand new, but also (and that’s quite an oxymoron) second hand, SEGA Dreamcast, and let me tell you, I am as happy a punter as one can be. I’m a 100% converted and a newborn SEGA fanboy (well, not a boy in the full sense, but you get the idea… at least I’m not in my thirties just yet). I’m also rather thankful to the Dreamcast Junkyard for fuelling my DC obsession.

All things considered I’m thankful to dear Mr. Elderly too, for providing this blog’s comments space with a healthy dose of Irish surrealism, but that’s definitely none of your business. All you should focus on is buying a Dreamcast (unless of course you already got one, in which case you should consider buying a second). Why? Well, because…

1) It’s a matter of price.

The Dreamcast is dead cheap. You should be able to buy a brand new one for less than 80$ (that’s 60 euros) over at Lik-Sang (try clicking on the banner at the end of the article to see for yourself), or follow my example and buy a second hand one, either at e-bay or at your local second-hand-store-bazaar-whatever for quite a bit less than 50$. And this is paying for a 100% current-gen console.
Sega Dreamcast Console
the Dreamcast (via)

2) It’s the bleeding hardware

It doesn’t only look smart, it is smart. SEGA’s Dreamcast is miles ahead from both the Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation, even though it’s not as powerful as the PS2 or the GameCube. It sports a RISC 128bit CPU capable of 360 MIPS (N64 ~120 MIPS, PS1 ~30 MIPS), a special edition PowerVR2 graphics processor, that can cope with 10 times PS1’s polygons, 16MB of RAM, a 1 Giga “GD-ROM” (aka fancy, fast and easily pirated CD-ROM) drive, brilliant 64 channel audio and a modem. Yes. The first console modem ever. Oh, and European players will apparently enjoy full 60Hz PAL support.

Sega Dreamcast Motherboard

the insides of the beast (via)

3) It’s the brilliant (and admittedly very cheap) games

With more than 300 games, the Dreamcast has something for everyone, except perhaps for us poor football minded maniacs. Most used (and abused) games should be picked up at ridiculous prices of 5-10$ (less in euros, even less in pounds), while published titles include such brilliant gems as Soul Calibur, Rez, Sonic Adventure 2, Rayman 2, Phantasy Star Online, Quake 3 (you might even be able to track down Half-Life), Metropolis Street Racer, Shenmue, Ikaruga, Crazy Taxi 2, Jet Grind Radio and the quite legendary Samba de Amigo.

Soul Calibur - Sega Dreamcast Screenshot

Soul Calibur

 

I could actually go on and mention at least a dozen more distinctive and defining games, but I’d rather mention something else. Dreamcast games are still being produced! Have a look at the 2006 released Under Defeat or the forthcoming Last Hope shooter.

Under Defeat - Sega Dreamcast Screenshot

Under Defeat

4) It’s the innovation and the quirkyness

And I’m talking innovation, beside the Internet connection or the PAL ting. The Dreamcast controller featured a brilliant analog stick, the now-standard shaped triggers and interestingly the Virtual Memory Unit, or VMU. This VMU thingy was far more than a memory stick. It plugged into the controller and used its little LCD screen to display relevant game information or graphics and even was a wee version of Gameboy, as it also functioned as a completely separate portable handheld gaming device (from hell). VMU games can be found right here, but searching and googling around will lead you to quite a few more cyber-stashes.

Sega Dreamcast VMU

the VMU (exposed)

 

As for quirkyness, one could mention the DC Keyboard, the Fishing Rod, the quite new-at-the-time Vibration Pack and above all Dreamcast’s Wii capabilities.

5) It’s the scene

By saying the scene I’m talking of the vibrant DC emulation, demo, homebrew and even amateur journalism community. On the Dreamcast you see, one can play anything from old arcade, to MegaDrive, Amiga, Atari, Gameboy, Playstation or NES games. There’s even a ScummVM port that makes those old Lucasarts adventures of yore DC compatible. Then again one can listen to MP3s, watch DivX videos, see the Dreamcast get pushed to its limits and play zillions of Tetris versions. All of these courtesy of the scene.

To start tasting sweet freeware offerings (you will need DiscJuggler to burn things on CD) try the following links: DCEvolution.net, Dreamcast Homebrew, IGN Dreamcast, Dreamcast @ pout.net.

6) There is no 6

Go on. Buy one! It’s cheap and powerful, but also quite the retro machine. Oh, and the Wii isn’t out yet.

My Favorite Games: Part 9

It looks like the R3Play report will have to wait a day or two, the pictures are a pain in the arse to upload and my opportunities to do so are limited. There’s really not a great deal to see anyway, unless you were there and want to see if you can spot yourself! So in the meantime… continuing with My Favourite Games, here’s the penultimate list:

Blast Corps – Nintendo 64 (1997)

Blast Corps - Nintendo 64

This was Rare’s first game for the N64 and what a start! It would also end up being the first in a long, amazingly successful run for the company on that console which many said rivalled that of Nintendo themselves, and with titles like this on offer it’s hard to argue. The premise was simple – a truck with leaking nuclear missiles has been set on a straight path to a safe detonation area. Your job is to demolish everything in its way. Yes, it sounded awesome and happily it played awesome too! Featuring eight unique vehicles custom-built for the express purpose of destroying stuff including three robotic suits, there can’t be anyone who didn’t enjoy the mayhem offered by this game, and the stages were punctuated by time trial stages which featured yet more vehicles and usually involved a race of some sort. Amazingly playable, superb fun, and a thoroughly unique and brilliant soundtrack too!

Fantasy World Dizzy – Spectrum (1989)

Fantasy World Dizzy - Spectrum

Poor old Dizzy seems to be the subject of a lot of vitriol among certain sections of gamers but I, and I’m pretty sure many others, loved his flick-screen, budget-priced adventures. They were available on most other computers of the time but the Spectrum is where the Dizzy games were most at home and it’s here that I played them. The first two were great but the Oliver twins really hit their stride with this third game. Featuring the largest gameworld yet, a broader variety of locations, a more forgiving difficulty curve, hidden secrets, and perhaps most importantly, the introduction of The Yolkfolk, Dizzy’s third adventure put many full-price releases to shame! It would also be the final game in the series to be handled by the Olivers and later games suffered as a result.

Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure – MegaDrive (1990)

Magical Flying Hat Turbo Adventure - MegaDrive

Psycho Fox has always been one of my favourite platformers and I was disappointed it never got a sequel, so imagine my joy at discovering that its creators, Vic Tokai, had released a similar game on the MegaDrive! This splendidly-named game had many of the features of Psycho Fox (including, perhaps most importantly, the bendy poles) and wrapped them up in a different setting. Replacing our collection of useful animals here is a boy wearing the ‘magical hat’ of the title, which doesn’t really let him fly but it does enable him to float, Bomb Jack style. Magical Hat was released in the West too, but with a radical overhaul of its graphics and theme. The renamed Decapattack instead uses a cartoony-horror theme and is still a great game, but I prefer this Japanese original any day of the week.

Shinobi – Master System (1987)

Shinobi - Master System

This first Shinobi game may have eventually been a little overshadowed by Revenge of Shinobi on the MegaDrive but it’s still a fantastic game, and this Master System version is my favourite. It’s impressively faithful as a conversion whilst also making life a bit easier for us by adding a life-meter as opposed to the one-hit deaths of the arcade game. It does suffer a bit from sprite-flicker (although you could say that about most MS games) but that’s pretty much the only criticism you could level at this classic run n gunner with its five, dual-plane, ninja-infested stages. It’s unquestionably the best game of its type on the system and still plays as good as it ever did. Now if only I could beat that damn final boss!

Starflight – MegaDrive (1991)

Starflight - MegaDrive

Those who know me will be aware that my favourite game of all-time is Star Control 2 on the 3DO, but if it wasn’t for Starflight, I may never have even discovered it! I’ve only ever played the MD version which arrived some five years after the PC original, but it certainly appears that this is where some of the inspiration for SC2 came from. It too is an epic space-exploration game featuring tons and tons of star systems containing varying numbers of explorable planets and features alien races, some friendly, some hostile. It’s not on the sheer scale of SC2, with less stars, less aliens, etc, and doesn’t have the hours of speech or top music of Toys For Bob’s great game, but, considering when it was made it’s arguably even more impressive. Starflight is an engrossing and original adventure and one that it’s still easy to get sucked into today.

I’m not really in an R3Play mood at the moment, so the last part of what will be my Top 50 Favourite Games will be posted tomorrow! 🙂