Dudes with Attitude

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As unfair as it may be to those passionate coders, the end result does feels markedly amateurish, and as much as needless bells and whistles should be trimmed from some titles, this is a game that could have used some fancy additions and fine-tuned detail-worked. ~Eric Bailey

Dudes with Attitude

The year: 1990. The developer: American Video Entertainment. This was a company that produced unlicensed cartridges for play on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. Included in their instruction manuals after 1990 was an entire page dedicated to explaining to consumers how they could help bypass Nintendo’s latest consoles that includes a new chip to prevent playing their games, and a somewhat martyr-tinged note of explanation that AVE sought to provide affordable family entertainment, even going so far as to offer free games with a mail-in offer.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

After having put such simplistic efforts like Solitaire and Blackjack onto the market, a quirky interesting game was pushed into existence, apparently thanks to the efforts of Michael and Cam Crick: Dudes With Attitude,” a frenetic action-puzzler hybrid that combined uniquely distinctive innovation with the usual pitfalls and pratfalls of small-time development operations.

Gameplay

Dudes With Attitude on the NES definitely qualifies as being among that category of video games that is much more easily understood when seen in motion, rather than reading an attempt at a worded description. Truly interested readers should probably consider checking out its video entry on NESGuide.com for the full scoop to truly grasp what is going on.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

To try and summarize, though: Dudes With Attitude is an action puzzler, like a fast-paced arcade/puzzle genre hybrid. The player controls a Dude of his or her choices; these are little round head-shaped characters, who then enter play on a one-screen field. The grid-based field takes place on a black background and each level, to varying degrees, is filled with objects. The goal is to collect all the treasure on a particular stage without dying, which means avoiding static hazards and moving enemies. How this is accomplished is through a feat quite distinctive on the console: The Dude relentlessly moves back and forth across the screen, bouncing each time it meets a boundary or wall object, dying if it strikes a hazard or enemy twice (one “free hit” is allowed, visibly reducing the size of the round Dude), and collecting treasures.

These mechanics are all done by color-coding. Certain cups on-screen change the Dude’s color as it hits them. Then, that Dude is immune to enemies and hazards of that color, and can collect like-colored treasures. Remember, this is all done non-stop, as the Dude endlessly slides left and right in the field of play.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

So, a sample level may have a white locked door at the top third and a red locked door at the bottom third of the screen, behind each of which are its like-colored treasures, and in the center are a couple of hazards and/or enemies. In the center of the arena are the white and red cups that change the Dude’s color. Thus, the challenge is for the player to deftly maneuver the Dude in such a way as to change to a certain color, move through the like-colored door, collect all the treasure within, then switch to the other color and repeat. However, of course, that is a very simplified explanation, and the levels rather widely vary in their imaginative varieties of lay-outs in terms of their hazards, obstacles, enemies, and treasures.

Dudes with Attitude - NES

There is also a password option, a level editor, and a two-player mode. The entire experience is rather distinctive, with there being very few games anything like Dudes With Attitude on the NES; the one notable exception is Trolls On Treasure Island, which is just the exact same game, but with the licensed likenesses of Troll dolls used instead of the Dudes (with, granted, a few other palette swaps and level design changes at work), based on the popular toys of the time.

The gameplay emphasizes quick thinking, requiring excellent reaction timing and rapid decision-making skills, along with a some planning in later levels, to the extent required by the fact that there is a time limit for each stage. The odd, bouncing, back-and-forth gameplay may resonate with some, but even when accustomed to, likely grows stale after a while.

Graphics

Dudes with Attitude - NES

With the heavy use of blues, whites, blacks, and pinks, this looks like an old four-color CGA PC game; which, if you could not guess, is a bad thing. Granted, considering the limitations of the small icons being used here, the actual appearance of the title can be forgiven, but not by much: The elements lack detail and, though vary, remain starkly monotone. The “gum” enemies will forever just be a one-color blotch with a few pixels to denote a face, and even the treasures usually just look like crude hearts, poor bricks, or watered-down Mario Bros. coins. This is definitely a case of a video game constructed for function over form, using the bare minimum of gameplay indications to get its mechanics clearly across and not at all aiming for style points.

Sound

The sound effects are simplistic buzzes and beeps; and there is virtually no soundtrack to speak of. The levels are conducted without background music, and simply jolly little ditties mark successful completions. Again: This is a small-team development job, that totally aims for just presenting a playable product, without frills or extras to speak of. Including, it would seem, any semblance of actual music.

Originality

Now, strangely enough, this is actually a somewhat unique 8-bit video game. The constant, frenetic, horizontally oriented gameplay is a marked departure from the vertically oriented, slow-at-times, one-piece-at-a-time material that many old-school gamers may be used to from such classic titles as Tetris or Dr. Mario. This may serve as Dudes’ greatest strength and appeal: For a certain small niche audience, this may be just their cup of tea, and may truly be a favorite among those select few.

Most, in contrast, can expect a disappointment. As unfair as it may be to those passionate coders, the end result does feels markedly amateurish, and as much as needless bells and whistles should be trimmed from some titles, this is a game that could have used some fancy additions and fine-tuned detail-worked. As it stands, it feels more like old PC shareware, something perhaps briefly played as a curiosity but at a noticeable drop in quality from the bulk majority of NES cartridges. The rating is one and a half stars out of five.

Alien Crush Returns

Alien Crush Returns

It’s scary to think that it’s now 23 years since Naxat dreamed up the genesis of the Crush series. There have since been several sequels, both official and otherwise, the last of which was the little-known Jaki Crush, itself now almost 20 years old, but that was it. Until now! Yes, in a move of special magnificence, Tamsoft have resurrected this great series and what better way of doing so than to remake the original? Alien Crush Returns is more of a sequel than a remake really though and they’ve even managed to tack on a backstory this time!

Alien Crush Returns

Apparently “an elite squad of space marines sets off to investigate an alien spaceship trapped in Jupiter’s gravity” or some such nonsense. Sound familiar? How they’ve managed to facilitate a pinball game with that story I don’t know, but the game includes a story mode, arcade mode, ranking mode and versus mode (1-4 player), and as well as multiple tables, including bonus tables as always, and lots of other sweet features like multi ball, reverse ball, etc.

Alien Crush Returns

The biggest change between this game and the original is of course the graphics which are lovely and suitably grotesque, including pulsating sacs, toothy mouths, slimy tubes, scuttling insects, and all manner of horrifying beasts. There’s even huge bosses this time too! There are initially three tables to play in arcade mode (although more can be downloaded) and the ball pings around them at quite a speed, probably the fastest of any Crush game so far, and as usual they are packed with secrets and bonuses galore.

Alien Crush Returns

I haven’t yet spent any time playing this game as I don’t own a Wii but the prospect of playing it sure makes buying one a tempting prospect, and the possibility of a Devil’s Crush Returns in the future is even more exciting! So, Alien Crush has indeed returned but is it better than the original? Well, that remains to be seen, but I can’t wait to find out!

RKS Score: 4/5

Pinball Quest

Pinball Quest

Pinball Quest

Pinball has always been a thrilling experience wrapped in a simple concept. Hit everything you can and don’t fall, but lets crank that concept to a new level… Battle witches, skeletons, and steal from the devil, all while racking up points that count as gold for you to buy and improve your pinballs ability to slay your enemies. Pinball Quest for the NES brings these things to the table, and introduces the only concept I’ve played of a pinball fantasy action RPG. Featuring boss battles, flipper and stopper powerups, and yes the ability to trade with or steal from the devil.

The level design in the game is creative and every level carries a different objective. As you climb your way towards the top you will find the one annoying feature of this game, as everytime you lose on a stage you will drop down to the last and be forced to fight your way back up. A concept that keeps you playing and occasionally keeps you frustrated. The game features no game over, so there is no real reason to quit. The only other problem I have with the game is that the “Devil Flippers” while having the most power, actually are not worth getting as they sometimes decide not to work. However the other powerups only get better as you level them up. This game is worth a try to almost anyone who likes to play entertaining and creative games. When you pop in this game you’ll enter the world of a simple pinball on an anything but simple quest. Give it a shot.

Alien Crush

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I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? ~Simon Lethbridge

Alien Crush

Pinball has diminished in popularity a great deal since the advent of videogames, and pintables are now rarely seen anywhere but decent sized arcades and specialist retro establishments, but thanks to the entertainment medium that saw their demise, they can continue to live on! Which brings me, in a typically long-winded RKS stylee, to Alien Crush. I’m a bit of a pinball fan and I frequently venture into my local pizza restaurant, which is the only place for miles that still has any pintables, but pinball videogames, in my view, too often tried to accurately emulate proper pintables rather than taking advantage of the fact that they are no longer governed by the sometimes-restrictive rules of pintables. That is until Alien Crush came along.

Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 1

Released by Naxat Soft exclusively on the PC Engine, Alien Crush is an original, not to mention supremely playable pinball game that would be completely impossible for an actual pintable to replicate. Its table, you see, is viewed from an overhead perspective, is two screens tall, and is awash with many scary alien creatures and devices! The bottom section of the table is dominated by a large alien creature with many eyes (which looks like the queen from the awesome ‘Aliens’ movie). All around it are various smaller aliens poking their heads out and insect-like creatures scurrying across the table occasionally, tempting you to destroy them before they scamper away, and further down the table on either side of the flippers are two cocoon things that act like bumpers, but if you hit them enough times they will open setting loose the evil monsters within!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 2
The top section of the table has two main features. In the top-left is a brain, which doesn’t really do much besides flash every time the ball hits it, but if you can get the ball right around the side and top of it, a blocker will appear between the flippers. The brain also opens up occasionally to unleash some horrific alien beasts. On the right of the screen is what appears to be a large mollusc or squid-type alien, into which you can also shoot the ball for points. Between these two objects at the top of the screen are three vertical dividers. Passing the ball through them turns lights on and off, and below them are three bumpers whose positions are determined by a mystical eye at the side of the screen. There are of course further aliens abound here too, to further complicate matters!
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 3
The last feature of note in Alien Crush is the existence of several bonus tables. These can be reached by shooting the ball into one of the pockets situated around the table, which are usually aliens mouths or something, when the arrow pointing at them is lit. The bonus tables are all one screen in size and the object of them is generally to destroy all the aliens that reside on them. There is one that’s devoid of aliens, however, and they are replaced by lots of bumpers arranged in various positions. It is of course possible to amass considerable points on these tables, but, as every pinball connoisseur should know, everything on a pintable does something, and there are countless ways to amass huge scores on the main table too.
Alien Crush - Gameplay Screenshot 4

Graphically, the game is a real treat, especially considering this was an early Engine game. I think it’s safe to say that the Alien movies were something of an inspiration for the visuals this game, though! Still, if you’re going to be influenced by things, it might as well be the best things, right? The sound, too, is decent enough. There’s the choice of two tunes before playing – Lunar Eclipse and the splendidly-named Demons Undulate, and the sound effects are suitably befitting of the game’s style. Gameplay-wise, there’s not really much more you could ask for. As with any pinball game, the most important thing is the ball physics, and happily that’s top-notch here. Movement around the table is reliable and impact with enemy sprites is rarely too unforgiving. There’s even a ’tilt’ option for added realism! As you might expect, this is an awesome game for ‘score attacks’ too. New ways of achieving bonus points are seemingly discovered every game – I’m still finding new tricks and devising new techniques all the time! Overall, yes, some could argue that Alien Crush has been superceded now (by its own sequel, for one!) but it still plays a pretty mean game of pinball and is well worth a bash.

RKS Score: 7/10