Geek Salad 001: Mysterium, Terminator board game and NBA Sponsored E-Sports


Our new show featuring news, reviews and commentary from board games to video games and everything in-between.

In our first episode we look at Mass Effect Cards against humanity’s new deck, Terminator the Board Game, the Miami Heat sponsoring an E-Sports team and a review of Mysterium.

Mad Max The Game Review

mad max car

If you loved Saints Row, the Batman Arkham series of games, Borderlands, and the Mad Max movies then you will love Mad Max the game. The game consists of taking the role of Mad Max after his ride has been stolen, recruiting a crazy mechanic that will help you build a car that will let you get your ride back, and rebuilding civilization in the region along the way.

Pros:
-It’s Mad Max!
-Really captures the low technology and scarcity of the post-apocalypse world.
-Gives more insight as to what might have caused the Armageddon.
-Game engine performance is amazing (very well optimized).
-The sand storm parts are terrifying.
-As much carnage and slaughter as a Mad Max movie or anything from Warhammer 40k.
-Persistent auto-save system that works flawlessly so it doesn’t interrupt gameplay.
-Fast travel system that although convenient can also be used to cheat in many situations (such as low health/water).

Cons:
-Too expensive ($60 price).
-Too short.
-Car combat is not as good as Auto Assault.
-Game events/activities are too repetitive. Some events/activities you might expect are missing such as escort missions, etc.
-Game ending was TOO EASY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
-Game is badly in need of a 2nd campaign (DLC please!)
-Damage system is not realistic at all (I was ran over by a car going at full speed without dying).
-Pretty much no replay value (unless they add DLC that changes the game a lot).
-Mechanic fixes car too easily (it’s basically immortal if you know how to play).
-In a world of finite extremely-limited resources, you’re going around blowing up oil production plants which is the OPPOSITE of you would want to be doing in the post-apocalypse! This major logic-fail makes the game stupid when you really think about it.

Review score: 6.5 out of 10

Hearts of Iron III

Cover

Hearts of Iron III is not just a strategy game, it is a strategy simulator. This game is the definitive World War 2 simulator. It takes all the aspects of World War 2 into a game where you plan the war by the hour as if you were the leader of a real nation. It is an interesting hybrid between being turn based strategy and real time strategy. On one hand it is a pausable RTS game, on the other hand, the game has the hour as the basic unit of time which means if you slow the game down, it plays like a turn based game. This is especially useful if you want to track the war step by step, in this case hour by hour. As the ruler of the nation, not the general, you only make the large scale strategic decisions, not the tactical decisions, which are all taken care of by your generals.

As the leader you also take care of diplomacy which is unlike other strategy games where you can “talk” however often you want, and about whatever you want. Again like in real life you spend intellectual manpower to send diplomats abroad on missions such as negotiating trade agreements including not just trade of goods, but debt related issues, and paying for a country to produce units for you. There is also the political aspect of diplomacy, where you can sign defensive pacts, non-aggression pacts, even alliances. Most importantly, if you are part of one of three “factions”, the Axis, Western Allies, or Communist Allies, you can use diplomacy to influence other countries to align with you over time. If you are playing as a neutral country, you can just align yourself with a nation, so if you want to be the axis leader of Sweden, this game is for you :D.

Let me pause for a moment and say that unlike other games, this game includes every country that existed during World War 2, and you have the choice of playing any one of them. You can even play as a commonwealth country independently of Britain.

You also get to control production and the distribution of the production to different industries, however I have no idea how this game works for capitalist countries as I’ve only played fascist and communist countries in this game. I have picked up hints that you have less of a degree of control over your country in weaker governments, which is not the most appealing gameplay to me, but to each his own.

There is the brainpower aspect of the war, mainly: politics, technology, and espionage. These elements of gameplay are separate but interdependent. One thing to notice is that under the technology tab in the game, you not only control which technology your country is researching but how brainpower is distributed among the other categories mentioned above. In politics, you really cannot change your government system, but you can change your different political policies from social to economic issues. This is the political playground for those of you who want to test out your political beliefs (just kidding, social and economic policies are already set for you by the government in power and its ideologies. However, you do have control over things like conscription laws, degree of freedom in your country, how much emphasis on education or industry or military mobilization etc.). Political support for parties can change slowly over time, meaning if you are a republican country, you must beware of not being re-elected.

Finally, regarding espionage, you can do classical spying, or get involved in sabotage and political mingling. The only weakness of this game is the espionage, where you don’t really have control over the numerical amount of spies you send per country, although you can set priorities for them on a scale of zero to three, and you can only have one spy mission per country even if you have multiple spies. Other than that this game makes absolute perfect historical sense, and you will feel as if you are making real decisions for your country if you are playing this game.

The only other detail that is inaccurate is the german flag. We all realize that the Nazis were responsible for the genocides of around 30-40 million civilians but that does not mean that one should sacrifice a historically accurate flag with a swastika on it to make the game “politically correct”. Simply displaying a flag in a game should not equal support for that regime, especially when it is displayed to identify people of that regime. That way of thinking is so erroneous, I can accuse paradox interactive of supporting communism because they displayed the historically correct soviet flag in the game for the soviet union. Instead, the game designers have identified Germany with the flag of the German monarchy, which is even more offensive to monarchists as that is saying that the Nazis who killed 30-40 million, and the king of Germany who only cared for the well being of his people above all, are the same people.

Hearts of Iron 3 Italy
Hearts of Iron 3 Italy

Ratings:

Historical Accuracy: 5 out of 5

I would go as far as calling this game a historical simulator. This doesn’t mean that the computer artificially make sure certain events happen, but it makes sure the game makes historical sense if the leader of the nation was you instead of *insert historical leader here*. Aside from the fact that the flag of Nazi Germany in this game is the flag of the German monarchy for some reason, this game follows historical detail to the finest details. It should be really appealing for people who are World War 2 buffs.

Realism: 5 out of 5

The game is truly epic in scale and you get to experience all aspects of being a leader. I cannot describe even the basic details in a few sentences.

Difficulty: 5 out of 5

If it isn’t obvious already, a game with fine detail like this game is harder to learn than most games out there. The task seems overwhelmingly impossible at first, however if you are willing to put the time and effort, if takes only a day or two to learn. I suggest starting by choosing “The Gathering Storm” historical start, then find Spain on the map and choose Nationalist Spain. This is happening at the end of the Spanish Civil War, when it is clear that the Nationalists who are just outside of Madrid, are winning. It is relatively small scale, and hard to mess up, so it is an ideal first game to learn the game mechanics.

Sellability: 2 out of 5

This is a somewhat important factor, but shouldn’t bother anyone picking up the game if they truly love deep strategy. What sellability means is how well this game is doing on the market. The big failure of capitalism is that smart people who should be playing games like this are prevented from finding this game because only the big companies can advertise the hell out of you, making most smart people waste their brains on dumbed-down games instead of brain stimulating games such as Hearts of Iron. If you are a person who has found this game, consider yourself one of the lucky few. Consider yourself one of the chosen.

Popularity: 5 out of 5

This is not based on how many people play this game, this is based on how well this game is liked by people who have tried it.  Pleased to say that if you have a circle of intellectual buddies, go ahead and present this game to them, and the chances are very high that they will like the game.

Affordability: 5 out of 5

For a game like this, I would expect it to cost $100-$150. However it costs a mere $10, or $45 if you are willing to buy all of the extensions to the game. In short, this is one of the best deals you can find in your lifetime, and the game costs a few dollars on sales on steam, or $10 with all the extensions if I remember correctly.

Final Verdict: 5 out of 5

Hearts of Iron 3 Research Screen
Hearts of Iron 3 Research Screen

Psychonauts

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Psychonauts

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

Psychonauts

 

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

psychonauts

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

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

psychonauts

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

psychonauts

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

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

psychonauts

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

Venture

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Venture

 

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

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

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

Venture-ColecoVision

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

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

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

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

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

Venture-ColecoVision

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

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

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

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

Venture-ColecoVision

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

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

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

Zelda: Skyward Sword

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Zelda: Skyward Sword

legend of zelda -skyward sword
For those who don’t know, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time has been my favorite game since I first played it back in 2000. While all the 3D sequels have been excellent, they all had their faults. Though none of them (except Majora’s Mask) really innovated the series. While Skyward Sword follows a similar formula, the new Wii MotionPlus controls (which weren’t around at the time of Twilight Princess) took the series to a whole new level.
legend of zelda -skyward sword
The motion controls for the first time let you swing Link’s sword like if you were really Link himself. This allowed the game to evolve with enemies (the ones that used swords anyway) to block and counter your moves and vice versa. The aiming for the bow and other long-range items was also excellent.
legend of zelda -skyward sword
I also really liked how the story was the ultimate prequel to the series. There was no Ganon, Zelda isn’t a princess, and there is no Kingdom of Hyrule yet. The story was fresh and the main villain for most of the story is the demon Ghirahim who wishes to revive his dark lord. He was also the most memorable boss of the game for me as when you first fight him, he can catch your sword (not in a cut-scene either) and toss it on the other side of the room.
legend of zelda -skyward sword
The game was also one of the longest in the series. It had plenty of dungeons, lots of side-quests, and overall is one epic adventure. While I still prefer Ocarina of Time,Skyward Sword really showed that the series is still one of the best in the industry. My only real complaint is that I wished they had saved it for the WiiU. Not being in HD  in the year 2011 did make it feel a bit dated visually.

 

Killer Instinct

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All in all, Killer Instinct is pretty disappointing for a next-gen release, especially since the game is a glut of microtranscations.  If you want the full game, it’s a standard twenty bucks. You can also just buy the individual characters if you want, which would be really cool if there were more than seven to choose from. ~Eric Hollis

Killer Instinct

Gamers are an extremely nostalgic people.  Whether fans are still clamoring for a Final Fantasy 7 remake or wondering whether we’re ever going to get a great port of Q-bert, we hang on to a good thing forever, sometimes to the detriment of newer and more inventive properties.  The original Killer Instinct and its sequel fall firmly in this camp for me, as I spent many a beer-soaked college afternoon challenging friend after friend to just one more match on the SNES from the comfort of my miserable dorm room.  I often wondered why no one had attempted a modern take on the franchise.  Double Helix picked up the mantle from Rare here; I guess Rare, one of the most prolific developers of last two generations, decided they now want to make Kinect games that no one will ever play.  Thankfully, Double Helix stays extremely faithful to the original titles, even if there are some major missteps with the total package.

Killer Instinct - Xbox One

Killer Instinct on the One plays magnificently.  Everything you loved about KI—the combos, the breakers, the manuals, and special attacks—are all here.  Other than a few tweaks on the move-set, there is nothing added to the original formula, which is truly a blessing.  The remake took me instantly back to the Tate Center arcade (mad respect if you know where that is) where I played the KI cabinets religiously.   I’ve played over fifty matches against multiple opponents, and they were repeatedly a blast. Most of them were also very close, and for me that’s a huge part of the replay value of fighting games.  The battles are very fluid, extremely fast, and downright addictive.

Killer Instinct - Xbox One

Gameplay itself isn’t a problem. The problem is that the total package just feels like bare bones.  For starters, the inclusion of only eight total playable fighters (one of whom—the illusive Fulgore—isn’t even out yet) feels like an Endokuken to the face.  I’m no fighting game expert, but the last game I remember with less than eight playable characters was the original Mortal Kombat.  Twenty-two years later, I expect more girth in roster selection, especially when similar titles generally have a lot more fighters to choose from.  Characters like TJ Combo, Cinder, and Riptor, all of whom have appeared in at least one of the other installments, aren’t even represented at all.  You also only start with one playable stage (out of a measly six); the rest have to be purchased with in-game currency that you earn from completing battles.

Killer Instinct - Xbox One

All in all, Killer Instinct is pretty disappointing for a next-gen release, especially since the game is a glut of microtranscations.  If you want the full game, it’s a standard twenty bucks. You can also just buy the individual characters if you want, which would be really cool if there were more than seven to choose from.  If you want everything the game has to offer, which basically boils down to a couple of aesthetic character accessories and a playable version of the original KI, prepare to double-up on that Andrew Jackson.   The only thing I was interested in besides the core game was the original that, unlike everything else, isn’t available separately.  This fact, my friends, is worthy of ire right there. Unfortunately, this is the model I see more companies gravitating towards.   I understand that Microsoft wants to nickel and dime me while making me squat on a rabid porcupine, but the company should at least have the courtesy of letting me enjoy that while its happening if I so desire.

If you’re a fan of Killer Instinct and you have a One, you’ve probably already put this game through its paces, and maybe you know what I mean. While it’s fun to bust out to show off the only fighting game on your new system, the lack of variety and annoying microtransactions left me dissatisfied.  While many parts of quality of life have improved since I lived in my old dorm, especially access to free pornography, at least back in that abysmal dorm room we had a much better version of Killer Instinct.  Let’s hope that Double Helix and Ken Lobb have a true remake or sequel in the works and that the lack of polish here was strictly due to a rushed launch window.

Clu Clu Land

Clu_Clu_Land
Clu Clu Land, October 1985, Nintendo

Clu Clu Land

Now here is an strange one. This is one you’ll either love to death and spend quality time daydreaming about how to conquer the next level or you’re going to throw this sumbitch right off a balcony and never think twice about it. Either way, let’s dig into this oddball Black Boxer, Clu Clu Land!
Clu_Clu_Land
Most of the early games have this sort of black title screen.
Let’s start with the box art. If you were a strapping young lad wishing to rent a new game, what the holy shitstain would you even think this one is about if you hadn’t seen it in the arcades prior? It looks like two Rupees in between a fried egg on the left and a first year graphic designer’s interpretation of Mr.Krabs holding a fried egg balanced Rupee while mentally talking to Professor Xavier via 1960’s psychic wave drawings on the right. In other words, no fucking clue what is going on on the box.
Clu_Clu_Land
Unlike the US version, the Famicom box art perfectly illustrates everything you need to know before popping it in.
Onto the meaty part of the burger. You’re a fish named Bubbles trying to collect coins while avoiding the Unira, a nasty type of sea urchin. Without the game manual, I wouldn’t have clue one that this was even a fish. She’s fairly badass in her own way because she has these extendable arms with claws that grab onto poles and turn however you grabbed them via momentum. Black holes can suck you in and bounce walls will send you eyeballs first to your doom but your main enemy in this game? The fucking timer. That’s right, you thought 8-1 of Mario forced you to haul ass through a level? This game is brutal with it’s timer and even if you die, the fucker doesn’t reset! Up the ass with Mobil gas I say! It’s biggest comparison would be Pac-Man but in reverse. Imagine Pac-Man’s mazes but instead of grabbing the power pellets, you need to uncover them while incapacitating the Unira. That’s the whole of it. Recover all the coins of a level (which usually creates a picture of some sort) and you move onto the next stage.
Clu_Clu_Land
We all live in a yellow submarine…
Graphics are nice and bright as they are in most of the launch games. There is never so much going on that you lose track of Bubbles and the Unira don’t blend in to the background in any way that would lead to cheap fishy-death. The sound is my favorite part about the game as it presents some catchy bittunes that  really get you bobbing in your seat like a kid again.
Clu_Clu_Land
One red, one green? Hmm, familiar 2 player color scheme there!
Bad news for those hoping for two straight 10 scores, these controls are the drizzling shits. I spent almost 90 minutes playing through and still had trouble making a simple left turn at times. The timer is a bitch and in some levels Bubbles moves normally, and some she smokes a fat bag of crank right before the level starts, so the pacing seems screwy. It looks simple enough becomes an untamed whoredoggie to say the least. The “sound wave” she shoots always hits it’s mark but ramming the Unira into the wall to kill them can take way too much valuable time. In other difficulty news, this becomes impossible around level 12, as you have to go over the coins twice to reveal them. I like impossible so stuck with it and was rewarded by having levels where if you uncovered the coin, you couldn’t touch it again or it flipped over and didn’t count. SADISTS!
Clu_Clu_Land
Is this Bubbles or Meatwad from ATHF?
THE FINAL VERDICT

6/10 This really wasn’t a bad game at all. The controls have a high learning curve and can run you ragged, but it wasn’t Kid Kool or anything (shudder). At times it was very addicting and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you uncover the picture of the level.

Clu_Clu_Land
Bubbles seems like she should’ve been more popular than she was. Cute as hell and just what NES fans seemed to love in their characters.

Those wondering what may have happened to Bubbles, she has popped up over the years in various places. The most well-known would be as a trophy in SSBM, but fuck, everyone from the Black Box era is represented there so no big surprise. Her most prominent role since Clu Clu Land was as a hidden character in the GBA game Donkey Kong : King Of Swing. Along with Ms. Pac-Man, she would be also be one of the first female starring roles in early gaming which makes me wonder why more people don’t know about this game? Oh yeah, goddamned box art.

Clu_Clu_Land
I’ll just say it, BRING BACK BUBBLES!!!

Street Fighter

Welcome aboard the Crapsville Express. Last time, Hard Drivin’ was served up as a turd for Review A Bad Game Day – this year the gong goes to another coin-op conversion.

Street_Fighter_1-c64

Game: Street Fighter
Genre: 
Fighting
Format:
 C64
Year: 1988
Publisher: GO!
Developer: Tiertex

Street Fighter

Prior to the sublime ‘Street Fighter II: The World Warrior’ SNES home conversion, there was the abhorrent C64 fighting game’ Street Fighter’.

Where does one even start with this game? For those of you not familiar with the series, ‘Street Fighter’ made its debut in the arcades in 1987. On the back of its success, the home version quickly followed on all conceivable platforms of the time, including the C64.

Street_Fighter_1-c64

Tiertex brought this foul stench of a fighting game to our trusty and much loved 8-bit home computer. I suspect the coding was done by a drunk programmer or their pet monkey. How this passed any quality assurance testing is beyond my comprehension. Anyway, on with the review…

‘Street Fighter’, as you may have guessed, is based on Capcom’s 1987 arcade game. You enter the worldwide martial arts tournament as Ryu and fight opponents from across the globe in order to become the street fighting champion. Ryu’s fighting arsenal is made up of various punches and kicks – that’s it (no special attacks!). Each battle has timed rounds; the winner being the last fighter standing. After each battle, Ryu competes in bonus rounds, smashing bricks to earn extra points.

Street_Fighter_1-c64

If you manage to bribe a friend to play ‘Street Fighter’, you could have yourself a two-player grudge match – Ryu vs Ken. The winner proceeds to take on the computer-controlled fighters, while the loser is subjected to watching this dreadful game being played – even the CIA plays by fairer rules of torture!

Street_Fighter_1-c64

The graphics are childish and messy – they do nothing to show off the C64’s abilities. The fighters tend to clash with the background. I reckon I could have drawn better sprites and backgrounds with crayons! ‘How about the sound?’ you may ask – let’s not even go there if you like your hearing the way it is. The effects and tunes are better suited for an Atari 2600 game, not a game that should be taking advantage of the C64’s SID chip. The clincher of this turdfest is the control – before there was button mashing, there was joystick and wrist breaking. The control is absolutely abysmal, by the time you attempt to pull off an attack; it is already too late, game over (which is probably a good thing!).

Street_Fighter_1-c64

The C64 had quite a few poor arcade conversions in its time, and sadly ‘Street Fighter’ makes this list. Had it not been for the stinker Hard Drivin’, this would have been number 1 in Crapsville. Play it at your peril!

GraphicsCrappy sprites with even crappier backgrounds.

15%

SoundTurn down the volume on your TV, I am warning you!

10%

PlayabilityLaughable. Apart from the terrible look and sound of this game, the controls let it down big time.

5%

LastabilityIt will last as fast as you can turn off your C64.

2%

OverallStay away! This is another poor C64 arcade conversion. If you want to play a great fighting game on your C64, try International Karate!

9%

 

 

Hello Kitty World

hello-kitty-famicom

We come to another edition of Retro Game of the Week, this time around we have a game that seems to be just a hack of a very awesome game for the Game Boy. Nevertheless, it’s here to stay and it’s just totally awesome. If you can look over the Hello Kitty characters, then you’ll be all set. Enjoy as Hello Kitty World enchants you with its magic!

hello-kitty-famicom

The music is the same one as the Balloon Kid game. The game does a great job at entertaining you with tunes you’ll surely remember. It’s not the best of a soundtrack, but it does the job. You can’t get any better than 8-bit music anyways…it’s making a comeback!!

hello-kitty-famicom

The graphics are good. Just think of it as being a colored Game Boy title. After all, it is based on a Game Boy game. Either way, everything looks great. You won’t run into any dead ends due to the graphical interface of the levels so you’ll not only enjoy the sights but enjoy the gameplay as well.

hello-kitty-famicom

The gameplay is quite entertaining. You keep yourself levitated with two balloons and your goal is to get across the level without getting your balloons popped! It may sound simple but believe me, levels get tougher and tougher as you move along. Even if you get your balloons popped you’ll be able to inflate new ones to fly into the sun! Of course, you gotta make sure you don’t land on the different obstacles that will definitely kill you such as fire.

hello-kitty-famicom

The best part about older games is the their replay value is infinite. That’s why you see people playing such games as Tetris or Pacman in their more advance devices. Simple fun stuff is always welcomed and this is no different. You can go through the entire game and go for it again and again. When you don’t need to remember passwords or save the game, you have less stress going on, believe me.

This is another obscure game that never made it to the NES but if you do want to play the cheap alternative then I suggest getting Balloon Kid, other than that you should import this game as soon as possible. It’s a lot of fun and well…it’s Hello Kitty!!

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

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

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

I had gotten and beaten Ocarina of Time shortly before this game came out. I couldn’t contain my excitement for awhile.
The-Legend-of-Zelda--Majora-s-Mask

Despite a lot of recycled graphics, Majora’s Mask is one of the most unique Zelda games ever. It’s dark, weird, has aliens, and is about the end of the world. Not exactly a typical adventure in Hyrule. Hell it’s not even set in our favorite Nintendo kingdom.

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

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

Dig Dug 2

Another week with another title. This time around is Dig Dug 2 for the NES. We have been hitting a lot of NES games lately so it’s only fair to continue with them but the next couple of months will showcase other consoles, that’s for sure. This game is different from its predecessor as it takes place in the open. The first one took place underground. I’m guessing the monsters found a way outside and our little hero must blow them up once again. It’s not an amazing title, but it’s definitely worth a mention.
Dig Dug 2
The music is simple yet fun. It doesn’t stop when you stop walking like in the first game. The simplicity of it makes it enjoyable. The sound effects are OK but seem to be the same ones from the first game. Nothing more to say about this.
Dig Dug 2
The graphics are OK. They could’ve been better if they changed some of the monsters around and introduced new enemy attacks. Nevertheless, there can’t be too much to say about a game that uses the same level design with just some mild differences in it.
Dig Dug 2
The gameplay is average. There aren’t many new tricks to use but it’s still fun overall. You have to think of this an arcade game so the point being that you have to increase your skills on your own instead of finding items to help you with it.
Dig Dug 2
The game is an arcade game at most and definitely a game to replay over and over for challenge purposes. The game itself gets tough like any of the arcade classics so be aware of the challenge that comes ahead. As a retro gamer though, this should be a no-brainer.

To conclude, there isn’t much to say about this game but it’s definitely a decent sequel to the classic series. I still prefer the first one over this one. I tend to have more fond memories with it but that’s the only reason why I would pick it. That’s about it, pick it up if you can as it’s quite cheap!

Theme Hospital

Theme Hospital

This game comes from the golden era of Bullfrog where single player simulation games where indeed single player. In Theme Hospital you control and develop your own hospital, find cures to deceases and strive to keep the Grim Reaper away from your corridors.
Theme_Hospital

 

What is Theme Hospital

 

Like it’s mentioned above Theme Hospital is a classic hospital management “simulator” for the pc which was released back in 1997. You manage your hospital, you hire doctors, nurses, janitors and receptionists, you build diagnosis and treatment rooms, you discover new deceases and cures and you are having fun the whole time.

 

Why it’s Great

Theme_Hospital

It is a very humorous and enjoyable game that will keep you occupied for hours upon hours with a huge amount of content and deceases to be treated. It has humour, strategy, micro-management andabove all it  is FUN (I sometimes find that newer games are struggling to achieve this last one)

 

Where you can get it

 

You are in luck! Unlike our previous “Classic PC Games you Should Play” This game is easy to find since it can be bought digitally from GOG.com (no DRM attached) at:


“Patients are asked not to die in the corridors” ~Receptionist

Retro Duo Portable V2.0 Review

Retro Duo Portable

The Retro Duo Portable V2.0: another clone system to satisfy your nostalgic hunger. These so-called ‘clones’ are fast growing in popularity. Companies like Hyperkin and Retro-Bit have capitalised on the popularity of retro gaming by producing systems that can play your old console cartridges.

Retro Duo Portable

Retro-Bit is having a second crack at this caper by creating the Retro Duo Portable (RDP) V2.0 – a portable (to an extent) unit that plays SNES carts from any region without hacking or modifications. The RDP V2.0 is also capable of playing NES carts using the bundled RetroPort adapter, which sticks out like a sore thumb. The RDP V2.0 can also play Sega Mega Drive / Genesis cartridges using the RetroGEN adapter, which is sold separately.

Retro Duo Portable

Retro-Bit’s first attempt at hardware console creation was modest. The screen wasn’t too flash, the unit felt cheap and games compatibility was limited. They have learned from the experience and introduced a number of improvements for V2.0. These include: upgraded LCD screen, crisper sound, improved D-pad and button layout, better battery life (Lithium-ion) with LED indicator and most importantly, enhanced game cartridge compatibility.

Retro Duo Portable

The RDP V2.0 comes in a slick looking package. Inside you will find a vast amount of gear – the console itself, a plastic stand, TV/AV connection cable, power supply unit, RetroPort adapter, a controller hub and two SuperRetro controllers (which can also be used on your SNES!).

Retro Duo Portable

After playing with the unit for a number of hours (on one battery charge!), here are our thoughts:

Retro Duo Portable

The unit feels sturdy in hand and has a nice soft coating. It doesn’t suffer from that cheap feel you get from other ‘clones’.

Retro Duo Portable

The D-pad and button layout is identical to a SNES pad, so you should feel right at home. However, the shoulder buttons do let the controls down as they are too close to the cartridge slot, but this is only a minor niggle. The external control pads are great to use if you intend on hooking the RDP V2.0 up to a TV, or if you use them natively on your SNES.

Retro Duo Portable

We did have a few compatibility issues with the Super FX SNES games, but overall we were pleased with Retro-Bit’s claim of improved compatibility.

Retro Duo Portable

Using the RetroPort adapter to play your NES carts basically renders the unit ‘un-portable’. The adapter sticks out above the unit which looks damn ugly. But hey, if you want to play your native old NES carts, you will put up with this unsightliness. Playing the RDP V2.0 with the RetroPort adapter definitely got attention on public transport.

Retro Duo Portable

The improved LCD screen is better than the original RDP (it has an increased pixel count), but it has a long way to go. You still have to ‘angle’ or ‘tilt’ the unit to get the best visibility, which gets annoying after a while. There is a contrast reset button which has three preset contrast settings for brightness. The clarity is average when compared to modern handhelds; but considering the price of the unit, it is understandable.

Retro Duo Portable

The beefing up of the sound is great in theory, however we did find the sound became distorted at maximum volume with a distinct ‘crackling’ on certain games (Super Smash TV). The sound was fine when playing with headphones, however the placement of the headphone jack should have been placed on the side of the unit, not on top (it gets in the way!).

Retro Duo Portable

Should you rush out and buy the Retro Duo Portable V2.0? It depends, if you are happy emulating (legally) your 8-bit and 16-bit Sega or Nintendo games, then the answer is no. However, if you want a system that you can plug in your library of SNES, NES and Mega Drive carts, then the RDP V2.0 is perfect. The other plus to owning the RDP V2.0 is that you will safeguard your Sega and Nintendo hardware from further abuse, and let’s face it, these old consoles won’t last forever!

Verdict: If you like the sound of a console that can play your SNES and NES cartridges out of the box, then check this unit out.

The Retro Duo Portable NES/SNES Game System retails for $99.99USD at ThinkGeek.

Rush Bros

Rush Bros

Who has played one of their favorite games while listening to your favorite song? I know I used to play games from Quake to World of Warcraft listing to my favorite tunes being played with Winamp on my desktop. Rush Bros is that mix of a fun game and your favorite music all in one. Now we look at all games by looking back at classic ones as well and we get the feeling the makers of Rush Bros did the same.

Rush Bros

In a nutshell, Rush Bros is a platformer game in the likes of MegaMan, Sonic and even newer indie games like Super Meat Boy. You navigate the beautifully created levels with your little rocker running, jumping and avoiding various traps placed throughout each level. The key is taking in your environment. You can just barrel your way through, especially if you are used to playing these types of games, but if you do you are missing the point and the fun.

Rush Bros

The game may have Rush in its name, but you want to take in the almost psychedelic colors and motions of the level design. I cannot stress this enough, they look awesome and go along great with the music. There are tons of things to avoid in each level like spikes, spinning saws and blades that come out the ground and more, but along with that is also the challenge of keeping in motion. The music keeps you on task whether you use the games soundtrack, which is very good or add your own personal soundtrack off of your system. I personally think the game is perfect for faster music be it Pop, Dance, Techno or even Dubstep.

Rush Bros

There are 41 levels and they start off short and not too hard to navigate so you get used to it. You won’t always be able to just rush straight through. There will be keys in the form of music notes to collect that opens doors allowing you to progress. At first the keys are close by and you might just need to jump on a platform to get them. In later levels you may need to go far to get a key and then back track to open the door. This adds an element you saw in later Sonic games like Sonic CD where going back and forth is a level is important.

Rush Bros

There are also power ups in the game. The power ups come in handy if you are trying to beat your best time or if you are playing against someone else. Most of the time the power ups take some skill to reach but can do things like speed you up, give you double jump and more, but there are also some that slow you down which again can be critical in versus play.

Rush Bros

In reviewing I not only play a game, but see what others have thought about the game and I found people like to talk about Rush Bros not being ground breaking. While it is true there are games that allow you to use your own music and there are many platform games in the vein of classics we all know and love, but for us the key is, is it fun. If you like a fast passed game with beautifully design, challenging levels then Rush Bros is for you. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel sometime a good game is a good game and does not need to be 1000% new to be great.

Rush Bros has that retro feel and gameplay, but it is original in how it is brought to the player. I found it is a game you can play over and over and even just switching the music you play a level on makes it a bit different as elements on the map react to the music. You can have fun playing friends and people online which reminded me of Sonic 2 versus mode, including the split screen. There is a lot to love here for platform lovers, music lovers and lovers of fun game design. It is definitely worth a pickup.

Darkman

Darkman

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Darkman

In 1991, Ocean (aka Konami) developed an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System video game, Darkman, based on the comic-book film released in 1990 starring Liam Neeson in what has become something of a cult role.

Gameplay

This is a two-dimensional platformer, with the standard controls of A to jump and B to attack (in this case, with a short-range alternating punch and kick). There is no crouch for the down button on the directional pad nor any secondary effect for the up button. Having no projectile weapon either, the player (including a second if desired, in turn-taking fashion) controls the protagonist Darkman character through many levels of differing scrolling orientations and types altogether in an attempt to satisfy a loose storyline (the opening menu actually has a separate option to read the story) involving a scientist’s experiment gone wrong and his resulting attempt at seeking vengeance on some goons.

Darkman

Darkman the NES game has both good and bad elements to it. In summary, some good aspects: Innovative stages involving photography and differing gameplay goals, differing characterizations based on Darkman’s ability to take on the appearance (and thus, apparently, the other physical traits) of certain foes later met as bosses, and an overall smooth, pleasing appearance. The bad components: Not-quite-polished physics resulting in overly slippery momentum and odd hit detection (battle is somewhat arbitrary in contact), rather difficult precision-jumping sequences throughout, and just an overall license-grade performance.

Graphics

Darkman

In its defense, Darkman does not look too bad. The visuals are colorful, varied, and detailed, with sprawling backgrounds highlighted by the interactive foreground. The cliche Chinatown is a delight, and the sprite animations are slick, along with action bits like the steerable metal mine-cart rails thingies.

Sound

Darkman

The music is slightly annoying, though it does get better, and the effects are standard fare for platform play, with the “bloops” and “swishes” of jumping, sliding, and the occasional “biff” for punches and kicks.

Originality

This video game certainly does contain some creative, innovative ingredients, such as the trio of levels the player must endure as each of a series of different masked-on characters, or the PokemonSnap-like photo portions. These interesting additions, however, do not make up for the general lack of spectacular development consistently present. The enemies are either simplistic and easy or nightmarishly difficult, and the variance in levels seems to give the idea that the creators preferred quantity over quality in their gameplay elements. Even considering its timeframe, it looks a little worse in context; by 1991, the NES was entering the latter years of its life cycle, and many of the issues in Darkman should have been able to have been conquered in its making. Overall, it turns out as an average effort; at least that makes it better than many other licensed games, and good enough for two and a half stars out of five.

Super Air Zonk

super air zonk

How Japanese gaming is this, you have a hero that belts out songs on his microphone, hurls sushi at enemies and morphs into all kinds of things in a shooting game. Well that is what you get with Super Air Zonk the follow up to Air Zonk which is a spin-off from the Bonk’s Adventure series. You got all that? Super Air Zonk was released in 1993 for the TG-16 by Hudson Soft. Like in Air Zonk you face a multitude of enemies and your overall arch nemesis, SandroVitch. You can power Zonk up with the meat item to eventually turn him into Ultra Zonk and Tyrano Zonk. In addition, after rescuing your friends from capture you can morph with them and combine your powers.

super air zonk

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

Golden Axe

GoldenAxe

The powerhouse that was Sega in the late 1980′s indulged us in some awesome arcade hits. Towards the end of that decade, Sega released memorable arcade games: Crack Down, Dynamite Dux, ESWAT Cyber Police, Scramble Spirits and Power Drift. To keep up this pedigree of arcade hits, Sega unleashed Golden Axe in 1989. Once again, Sega proved that they were the king of the arcade hill.

The big rage back in the late 80′s was two player co-op, horizontal-scrolling fighting games, or in this case, slashing evil minions to pieces and getting to the final boss. The medieval theme of Golden Axe implements the hacking and slashing game play to perfection. The storyline is pretty much run of the mill – the evil Death Adder has kidnapped the King and Princess of Yuria and it is up to the protagonists to rescue them and also seek revenge on the evil that was done to their families.

GoldenAxe

To set off after Death Adder, the player controls one of three characters, Ax Battler (a Conan The Barbarian lookalike),  Gilius Thunderhead, the viking dwarf, and Tyris Flare, the Amazonian goddess (my first female video game character crush – sorry Lara!). Even though Tyris is a great character to use, her long-sword is no match for the battle axe that Gilius Thunderhead wields.

GoldenAxe

Anyway, on with the adventure – there are lots of different enemies to slash and if things get tough on screen, each of the protagonists can call upon their unique magic power – Tyris Flare has the coolest magic, she uses fire to incinerate everything on screen. There is finite magic power, so the player will have to pick and choose when best to use it. But wait there is more – mounted enemies riding creatures can be knocked off and the players themselves can then hitch a ride on the creatures and use them as weapons (swiping with their tail). The other neat attack is to charge and ram Death Adder’s henchmen by double-tapping the joystick right or left.

GoldenAxe

The level design is simply awesome – from Turtle Village (which is on a shell of a turtle), to the back of a giant flying eagle. Last but not least, there is the castle where you must defeat Death Adder and reclaim the Golden Axe.

SPOILER ALERT: Once the game is beaten, the ending shows a view of an arcade where the characters “jump out” of the game, run out of the arcade and down the street.

I have always been a huge Sega arcade fan. Whatever they pumped out, it was an instant hit. Golden Axe was no exception.

GraphicsUsing the Sega System 16 board, this was the pinnacle in visuals at the time. Great sprites and awesome looking levels.

87%

SoundThe background music and digitised effects and grunts add perfectly to the axe wielding and sword swooshing atmosphere.

88%

PlayabilitySega knew what they were doing when adding an Amazonian beauty to the mix. Golden Axe remains easy to get into, but its best played with a buddy.

87%

LastabilityIt is a run of the mill side scrolling hack and slash, but hey, there is nothing wrong with that.

88%

OverallIn 1989, I pumped the equivalent of my body weight of coins into this game. It was also one of the reasons I bought a Mega Drive when it was released. Best played with a friend, Golden Axe has it covered – great graphics, awesome sound effects and great game play.

89%

 

 

GoldenAxe

Manufacturer: Sega
Year: 1989
Genre: Platform
Number of Simultaneous Players: 2
Maximum number of Players: 2
Gameplay: Collaborative
Control Panel Layout: Multi Player
Controls:
– Joystick: 8-way
– Buttons: 3 [Jump, Attack, Magic]
Sound: Amplified Mono (single channel)

 

Takin’ It to the Hoop

Takin-It-To-The-Hoop

This week in honor of the NBA playoffs we bring you the Turbo Views, video game review of Takin it to the hoop. Sadly, this title made by Aicom Corp is really sub-par and I mean even for NES standards much less TG-16. The roster is not good and the big heads and style of the graphics is made more for a Wii retro game that a real basketball game. Also, get this, you cannot even jump!

Takin-It-To-The-Hoop

LeMans

LeMans - Commodore 64Format: Commodore 64 (C64)
Media: Cartridge
Year: 1982
Developer: HAL Labratory, Inc.
Publisher: Commodore
Game Mode: Single Player

LeMans

Gentlemen, start your engines! How apt that I pull out the LeMans C64 cartridge on this day, the start of the 2013 Formula 1 (F1) Grand Prix season. I am aware LeMans and F1 are two separate sanctioned sports, but hey, it is a racing game, and that is all there is to it. Perhaps I should have ripped out Checkered Flag on the Atari Lynx. I just have to stop second guessing myself and stick with this old game.

LeMans - Commodore 64

LeMans on the C64 is a top-down up-the-screen driving game, where you as the driver, must hit the pedal to the metal and drive to a never ending finish line. The goal of the game is to pass as many cars as you can. The more cars you overtake, the more points you earn. It’s not about the finish line in this game, it is all about accumulating the highest points score.The faster you go, the more points you earn – 2 points per metre to be exact. Every 10 cars passed you earn 1000 bonus points. Keep an eye on the countdown timer, as you will only get time extensions every 20,000 points. This is old school tough.

LeMans - Commodore 64

The strategy to doing well in LeMans is to drive as fast as you can for as long as you can, passing computer drivers (watch out as they veer in your path!) and traversing all kinds of terrain. The terrain sections in LeMans is what makes the game quite interesting – there are icy roads (your car slides as if it’s on skates), divided highways (squeezing into 2 lanes), night driving (relax, you have headlights) and the famous “LeMans Esses”.

LeMans - Commodore 64

Every time your car is hit by another vehicle or if you steer into the walls, your car turns into a wreck and you must “Pit” to the left as the on-screen message tells you to. This kills off precious seconds, so try and avoid hitting or being hit by cars and stop steering into walls. If you can avoid damage to your vehicle, then you will be well on your way to that precious high points score.

The only (fun) way to play this game is with the ‘Commodore Paddles’. The Paddles add to the playability of the game as you hold the accelerator button with your left thumb and steer with your right fingertips. There were no “steering wheel” contraptions for the C64 back in the day. The Paddles did (and still do) the job just right.

Well, enough of my ranting, I am off to play another game before the F1 race kicks off.

Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective

Sherlock Holmes - Consulting Detective

You don’t have to be a real detective to guess what you do in Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective. The game is a hybrid of an adventure and simulated game where you play the famous doctor Holmes as you and your friend Watson solve a series of crimes.

Sherlock Holmes - Consulting Detective

The game takes you around London where you will, interrogating suspects, gathering clues, checking out the newspapers, and eventually presenting all the evidence to the judge. If you did your work correctly the judge will accept your results and the case will be solved.

Rad Raygun

Rad Raygun

Rad Raygun, the Mega Man-inspired XBox Live Indie Game, has been gaining fans since it’s recent release. The throwback game title is part of a lifelong gaming journey for programmer and Corinth, Texas resident Chris Bryant.

“I was born in 1981, so the Nintendo Entertainment System was my first console,” Bryant recalled. “But I can distinctly remember watching my older brother play Asteroids and Missile Command on the Atari 2600. To this day, just seeing the Asteroids cartridge brings back some good memories.”

While continuing to game as he grew older, Bryant notes that even as the technology advanced, his heart remained with the classics, noting Super Mario Bros., a game he states he still plays today.

“I know it’s cliche, but I still play it in absolute awe,” he said of the 1985 Nintendo classic. “How did they get it so right? The graphics, sound and play mechanics were not only groundbreaking but flawlessly executed.”

Bryant’s love for games quickly turned into a dream of designing them, a goal he states started before he was even old enough to drive.

Rad Raygun

“I spent most of my childhood trying to learn anything that could get me in the video game industry, such as programming and 3D animation,” he said. “I can remember being 13 or 14 and wanting absolutely nothing for Christmas. All I wanted was knowledge. I wanted to know how to make games. I would make little text games in QBasic. I would also download other people’s source code and dissect it, trying to figure out how it worked. In 10th grade Computer Science class, I built my first two actual games, a clone of Pong and a clone of Frogger. In fact, I got in trouble for sharing my source code for Frogger because my classmates were playing that instead of paying attention in class! But, it all worked out…the teacher said he’d let it go if I shared the source code with him as well.”

Rad Raygun

Two years ago, the idea for Rad Raygun came into Bryant’s head. He reached out to a peer with the concept.

“I still have the e-mail to Chris Hernandez, a co-worker of mine and Rad Raygun’s creative director,” Bryant said. “His reply of ‘I’m absolutely 1000 percent into it’ was huge. I knew I had an amazing talent on my team that I could rely on for not just artwork, but a creative storyline as well.”

For the first year, everything for the game was developed for the PC version, according to Bryant. The programmer recalls issues with long load times when finally tested on the XBox 360, requiring a significant amount of time re-writing the code in a way that wouldn’t interfere with the level design already completed for the indie title. With just days to go before launch, more problems with load times came to light.

Rad Raygun

“The Xbox 360 is indeed a powerhouse, but only when used correctly,” Bryant noted. “The engine had serious memory management issues that weren’t visible on the PC. I spent days tweaking and optimizing the engine in hopes of alleviating the issue. This was the ultimate low for me. My team dedicated their nights and weekends to this project for over two years and, only two days from launch, I wasn’t sure if it would ever see the light of day.”

With a looming deadline, Bryant managed to find an issue he’d overlooked numerous times.


“While examining the game’s memory usage for the 100th time, I noticed that the maps were allocating way more memory than they should,” he noted. “It turns out that there was a bug in the level editor and the maps were exported with a ton of extraneous data at the end of the files. I wrote a tool to clean up the extraneous data from the map files, reloaded the game on the 360, and all of my framerate issues were gone.”

Following Rad Raygun‘s launch, Bryant says while he now feels a little extra pressure to make his next game, he is enjoying hearing back from fans of the game.

“I’m still trying to let it all sink in,” he said. “It sounds cheesy but this is really a dream come true. It really means a lot to me when I hear that people ‘get it’ and are able to connect with the game on a nostalgic level, sit back and enjoy the ride.”

Rad Raygun is available for 80 Microsoft points at this link.

Xevious

Xevious

Format- Gameboy Advance (but several others as well)

Genre- Top down vertical scrolling shooter

There are certain games you just don’t criticise. Space Invaders. Pong. Chibi Robo. Ico.

I don’t think Xevious can join that group though. There aren’t many people that seem to hold this game with much affection, and as a result the game is mostly forgotten.

‘Mostly’ as it has been re-released a fair bit in recent years, giving the current generation of gamers the (mis) fortune to play it again.

Suffice to say, it doesn’t hold up well nowadays. Enemy design varies from the bland to the mildly acceptable, and when both ground and air based foes are on screen frustration reigns.

Movement vertically is sluggish, like the ship is constantly have to force through an invisible blancmange. Coupled with bullets that are much faster than your ship makes the game unfairly difficult. I’m always up for a challenge, but only when the game plays fair.

The graphics have no retro wow factor either – patches of grass look like they were sketched by a five-year old in a more restrictive version of Mario Paint – it makes you wish for a simple but effective black space background.

I’ve not managed to get very far in the game (the screenshot above is of a level that I will probably never get the chance to play through) but I still think most of these criticisms still stand.

So don’t bother with Xevious. Just let it quietly pass away, and hopefully the game’s developers will do the same.

What does ‘Xevious’ actually mean anyway?

Note – I have a quite cool toy from Japan that is based on Xevious. It makes a sound from the game, and is sadly much cooler than the game itself.

Second note – This review was admittedly a play through of the GBA port of the NES game, which is respectively a port of the apparently superior arcade version. So this revisit shouldn’t be seen as a retrospective of the whole Xevious pantheon, just the poor NES version.

Keith Courage in Alpha Zone

Keith Courage in Alpha Zone

A very simple game to start off a very interesting console. The Turbo Grafx made its debut with this game as a pack in with the console and showed some a very simplistic game. We already seen stuff like this for its time so it wasn’t nothing new. With games like Final Fantasy 2(4 in Japan) hitting the USA and other RPGs as well, there was no doubt that this title wouldn’t stand against others. In my opinion, I think this game was released just to show off what the Turbo Grafx console was capable of. The game is very simple, although based by an anime, it’s not bad at all. It contains some RPG elements that help it stand out a little bit. There is also a transformation sequence where you turn into a robot and fly around, Not sure how that works as you were a human a second ago and slow as a mother fucker.

The game’s length is decent and will keep you interested until the end which will surprise you in the end and probably leave you wanting for more or maybe a lot less. It’s all about taste in the end, I can’t say this is a title that will keep you coming for it and that everyone will love but I will say this, the game is just your average platformer with RPG elements, the end!

Fracuum

fracuum
Like a psychedelic version of the Atari 2600 Adventure on steroids, Fracuum is a brilliantly designed and utterly mind-bending maze game. It has you navigating a complex and expertly designed labyrinth that feels quite a bit like a zoomable fractal, while avoiding baddies and collecting points and power-ups. Play it and have your mind messed with.

Electrocop

Electrocop

Electrocop (1989)
By: Epyx / Atari Genre: Maze / Run ‘n’ Gun Players: Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Atari Lynx First Day Score: 15,475
Also Available For: Nothing

Electrocop

Atari’s mighty Lynx was a funny machine. It was a ‘handheld’ which was rather too big to be comfortably used as one for starters, but it was a powerful piece of kit for sure. It soon gained a glowing reputation for the surprisingly faithful arcade conversions which formed the bulk of its software library, but there were a few original releases too. Many of them were by Epyx, the co-developer of the Lynx itself, and most of these appeared at or soon after the machine’s launch – presumably they were developed especially for the occasion to give the system a slightly more varied line-up. One of these was Electrocop. It gained a decent reputation at the time but it never seems to get mentioned these days any time the Lynx is mentioned. Has it dated that badly or has it been unfairly neglected in the intervening years?
Electrocop

It’s certainly quite an unusual game. It’s set in 2089 and casts you in the titular role which I guess makes you a robot and we all know what temperamental oafs they can be. This one will need his (or its?) wits about him, however, as he’s up against the formidable (and somewhat conspicuous-sounding) Criminal Brain. This is presumably also a robot, or perhaps a computer-based artificial intelligence like Skynet. Hmmm, well, whatever form it takes, it apparently has influence over the physical world as it’s kidnapped the President’s daughter – oh nooo! In order to retrieve her safe and sound, you must penetrate the ‘technoid stronghold’ know as the ‘Stell Complex’ in which the Criminal Brain is hiding, and you’ve only got an hour to do it.
Electrocop

Although not constructed in an especially unique way, it’s how the game presents your exploration of this complex that makes Electrcop unusual. The action, you see, is viewed from a third-person perspective with each of the complex’s twelve maze-like levels consisting of a series of corridors linked by doorways, some of which are blocked by locked doors which require a code. Mr. Electrocop can run left and right along the corridors freely and can pass through doorways by moving into or out of the screen at the appropriate locations which sees the game scale your view back or forth accordingly. Each (or at least, most) corridors are patrolled by enemy droids called ‘Walkers’ of which there are four kinds – the Yellow Jacket, Blue Bird, Viper, and Red Disruptor, which all vary with regards to their speed, armour, and weapon power.
Electrocop

In addition to these, the heinous Criminal Brain has also installed a few other surprises throughout his complex including sections of electrified floors, mines, and other weapons such as wall-mounted cannons and concealed mortar-launchers. All of these deplete our blue automaton’s energy reserves. Fortunately, he comes equipped with a default laser of his own and there are a few other weapons available, including more powerful lasers and disruptors. All of them can be used freely, some even simultaneously, but can get damaged during combat if you’re not careful, and they all have a limited ‘charge’ which determines how frequently you can use them. The more powerful a weapon is, the more charge it will use per shot. All weapons recharge automatically but trigger-happy players should probably save the more powerful weapons for times of crisis!
Electrocop

These weapons can be acquired from special panels located here and there on the walls and similarly there are also computer terminals which offer many things including the ability to run several programs. Probably the most important of these is the ‘Ice Breaker’ which is essential for cracking the door codes but others include ‘Stasis’, which can temporarily disable all the droids, as well as ones to repair damaged weapons or refill your energy-meter. Surprisingly, there are even some mini-games available to play via the terminals too including Meteors, Out Break, and Letter Puzzle which are simple clones of Asteroids, Breakout, and one of those slidey tile games. Their inclusion might seem strange but the Ice Breaker program often takes a while to ‘crack’ the door codes so the games merely offer a convenient way to pass the time. Very considerate.
Electrocop

A different way to kill a few minutes that’s probably not so advisable is to further explore the levels, perhaps looking for more weapons or something. This is something that’s only recommended if you’ve taken the time to make maps, lest you get lost and not even be able to find the door whose code you’ve just cracked! Indeed, there are over thirty doors through the whole game, although the amount per stage varies from one to the next, so there are lots of very similar-looking corridors to run up and down. Obviously, the further into the game you get, the more complicated and therefore difficult the levels get but your objective is always the same – look for the door (or one of them), crack the code, and get out! It can get pretty repetitive too, but that’s not the game’s biggest problem.
Electrocop

It’s quite clear that Electrocop was always intended as a launch game – technically it’s mighty impressive and shows off the Lynx’s talents well. The music is unmistakably Lynx-ish but the various tunes are terrific, and the graphics aren’t half bad either. The circuit-board and metallic backgrounds on each level are decent, although there’s very little variation, but it scales the stages back and forth very nicely, even altering the colour of the droids according to the ‘plane’ they’re on compared to you. The main character is pretty big though, and moves fairly quickly too, which means you’ve often walked into danger before you’ve even seen it, whether one of the many droids or an increasingly common (and annoying) section of electrified floor. The easiest solution to this is to just run along permanently shooting. That kinda takes the enjoyment out of it somewhat, but it’s that or get angry, and often.
Electrocop

One thing that could’ve reallyruined this game is regenerating enemies so I was very pleased to find that the metallic cretins here explode when shot, and with their constituent atoms remaining scattered for good! Even with this bonus though, it’s unfortunately far from perfect. Playing it either takes the form of a repetitive run ‘n’ gunner or a frustrating arcade adventure depending on how you play it. It was originally intended as a 3D sequel to Impossible Mission and it’s quite clear why, but it’s also clear why Epyx ultimately decided to dissociate Electrocop from their legendary franchise as well. There are some good ideas here and its technical wizardry must’ve made people eager to see more of the Lynx when viewed at trade shows and such, but as a full game warranting hours of solid play, sadly it falls some way short of the mark.

RKS Score: 6/10

Neutopia 2

Neutopia2-turbografx-16

This week we look at the classic action adventure game Neutopia 2. Developed by Hudson Soft and released for the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992, it is the direct follow up to Neutopia where you are Jazeta’s son and your mission is to defeat the evil Dirth and save your father.

Neutopia2-turbografx-16

The game plays a lot like the Legend of Zelda games on the NES and SNES where as you explore a large 2D world taking on tasks and quests in any order you wish. A strange note about this game is at the end it mentions that Neutopia 3 would be coming soon, but no such game was ever released.

Demon Sword

Demon Sword

Overall rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Sword - NES

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

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

Gameplay

Demon Sword - NES

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

Demon Sword - NES

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

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

Demon Sword - NES

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

Demon Sword - NES

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

Graphics

Demon Sword - NES

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

Sound

Demon Sword - NES

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

Originality

Demon Sword - NES

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

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

TV Sports Basketball

TV Sports Basketball

In honor of the All-Star Game we bring you this video review of 1990 TurboGrafx-16 game, TV Sports Basketball. Developed by Cinemaware and published by Mirrorsoft the game featured five-on-five gameplay, but no NBA licenses. This meant you got the city names and perhaps some colors that might match, but no team names like the Miami Heat and no famous names like Michael Jordan.

The game allowed you to play against the computer as either a player or a coach and against other players in versus mode. One of the strange things about the game was that it was a full court basketball game with a vertical view. However, when you crossed half-court there would be a short cut scene showing all your players running to the other side as a sort of loading screen.

Twin Bee

Twin Bee

So this week we have some Twin Bee. I know I’ve talked about this title way too many times but it’s always nice to come back to it. This is the classic shooter you need to have in your collection. Nintendo made it very easy to have this in your Wii or 3DS although I do suggest you pick up the original Famicom port of it. Why? Because it kicks ass! There is nothing like the original! So without further adieu, here is Twin Bee in a nutshell.

twin bee

The music of this game is pure classic! There may only be one theme song on it but it’s only that one that makes it a classic. You can even find places like Youtube packed with remixes of the theme song. The sound effects are as simple as any shooter of its time. Truly enjoyable.

twin bee

The graphics are pure and simple. The game does a good job on making you feel like you are in the air. You fly through islands and even shoot down pineapples that shoot seeds at you. Yes, there is a lot of different weird enemies in this game. Another reason why it’s unique. Gotta love how your flying ship looks like as well. A total array of beautiful yet creative creatures.

twin bee

The game is great to come back to. You can always get together with a friend and play two players at the same time. The game is quite challenging! You can’t get enough of it especially after you get through it once. You get a more difficult second run. Care to challenge it?

The game overall is amazing. I would recommend it to any shooter fan that’s looking for something simple and fun. Games like these are also brought into new generations especially with the release of the 3D classics Twin Bee for the 3DS. Be sure to check it out if you have a 3DS. The game is quite affordable and even comes in the most generic pirate carts. There are so many ways to acquire this one that I won’t even go further. Just go get it and enjoy a good time!

Syder Arcade HD

 

syder arcade hd

We are always on the hunt for great retro inspired games and Syder Arcade HD fits the bill perfectly. We even love the tagline, no coins, no zombies, just old school shoot em up. This game rocks not only because of the great graphics and gameplay, but it is not trying to get you to buy more stuff in game and no stupid gimmicks or grind fests.

syder arcade hd- gameplay screenshot - 2

Now as you can see the game looks incredible so that means older phones might have issues so check the specifications before you download. The game itself is a top down free-scroller which means you have much more control over your movements then you would in most space shooters. Your ship comes with shields and a number of weapons to take out the multiple enemies that are gunning for you. Did we mention you don’t need to buy addition weapons or features?

Yup, you can pick this little gem up on the Google Play store for only 99 cents. So what are you waiting for, go get it!

Egress: The Test of STS-417

Egress - The Test of STS-417
I really do love freeware (and not-so-freeware), indie, AGS-crafted adventures. I enjoy their imaginative takes on the genre, their unexpected themes, their wild puzzles, their sheer variety and their pixel art visuals that so nostalgically remind me of my gaming youth. It’s only rarely though that I’m blown-away by their (relatively, to be precise) high-res graphics and lavish animated intros, and the newly released Egress has a pretty stunning opening cinematic. It sports some lovely, hand drawn, frame-by-frame 2D animation, and though short, it’s even more impressively accompanied by a few ending sequences, to go along with the game’s multiple endings.
 Egress - The Test of STS-417
Eye candy aside, and there’s quite a bit of it as Egress is very good looking first-person adventure indeed, this short sci-fi offering is a also a good and atmospheric game. Set in the outer reaches of space, it follows you, the commander of a two man recon team attacked by a weird black blob, as you explore a mysterious planet, search for you partner (his screaming is rather annoying apparently), try to figure out what’s going on and, quite obviously, save yourself. All this with the help of a pretty standard interface and against some mostly easy but definitely enjoyable puzzles.
You can download Egress either from its very own, lovingly crafted site over at Krams Design(where you can also show your appreciation by donating and getting some excellent wallpapers as a reward) or via the AGS forums. The game is of course happily freeware.

Shadow of the Beast

Shadow_of_the_Beast_turbo-grafx-16

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

Batman

Batman - NES

Batman

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

Batman - NES

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

Batman - NES

 

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

Transformers: Fall of Cybertron

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

High Moon studios returns with a follow-up to their well received take on the Transformers franchise, the 2010 sleeper hit War for Cybertron.  All of the resources on Cybertron are now practically tapped out, and Optimus Prime (fortunately still voiced by Peter Cullen) rallies his Autobots to escape the planet and find a new home in Shia LeBouf’s backyard.  Megatron is of course not very supportive of this decision and attempts to defeat the Autobots by preventing their exodus.  High Moon doesn’t stray very far from the formula that made the first game successful, and aside from one major omission the game delivers everything you would normally expect from a quality sequel.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

The weapons system has been revamped from the previous game; each gun is now upgradable with multiple attachments that are purchased with credits earned in the campaign.  You can also acquire “perks” that carry over through multiple campaign playthroughs, these make the game much more manageable on the harder difficulties.  This addition is a very pleasant improvement on the first title, adding an RPG element to an already exceedingly polished experience.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

Fan service is also prevalent here; many more characters are featured this time around, including the Dinobots, the Combaticons, Metroplex, and the Insecticons.  I actually felt like I had been sucked into an eighties toy commercial every time a new character appeared.  Hardcore Transformer fans should really find a lot to enjoy here, before I played the game I couldn’t distinguish Swindle from Onslaught, so fans of the source material will really enjoy all of the love taken with the character choices.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron-gameplay-screenshot-1

The glaring omission is the absence of online co-op play that was so well received in the first game.  In War for Cybertron you had the option of three different Autobots or Decepticons per level to tackle each mission with, and your online friends (preferably) or the extremely competent AI would fill the other two slots.  This gave each mission the sense you were part of a team, something that is integral to the Transformers franchise by nature.  This time the legend takes a grander scope but the co-op element was unfortunately left on the cutting room floor.  This doesn’t necessarily hurt the game overall, but it is something I sorely missed because I had grown accustomed to it.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

If you decide to try the game based solely on the narrative you won’t be disappointed.  I’m not even a huge Transformers fan and I enjoyed playing through the campaign multiple times, the set pieces are much bigger this time around, the annoying boss battles from the first game are thankfully expunged, and the game maintains a truly epic feeling throughout.   The final level might be one of the best campaign levels I’ve ever played in any game, it switches between both warring factions and individual characters multiple times, putting you right in the center of the final battle of Cybertron.  I know too much of a good thing can sometimes lead to overkill, but I left the experience feeling that if every level would have taken cues from the final one the game could have really been something truly special.  I’m not saying the overall gameplay or story is lackluster in any way; it’s just the final level is really that damn quality.

Transformers-Fall-of-Cybertron

Thankfully the horde mode inspired escalation is still included, as well as an excellent multiplayer component that is actually better (although much easier) than the previous game.  The first time I jumped into an online game one of the other participants hilariously greeted me with a throaty rendition of “You’ve Got The Touch”, the seminal cheese ball anthem featured in the eighties movie and also over the end credits in this game.  Options for customizing your online Transformer are also much more substantial, you can really create some truly unique characters.

If you are a Transformers fan this one is the proverbial no-brainer, comparing the sub-par movie game adaptations you’ve probably slogged through to the overachieving fanboy love that High Moon injects into their adaptations isn’t even fair.  Fans of third person action will also find a highly engaging title that doesn’t skimp on the action and couples a well-crafted yarn with thoroughly enjoyable gameplay.

Pitstop II

Pitstop II

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

Pitstop II

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

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

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

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

RKS Score: 7/10

Kirby Tilt and Tumble

Format- Gameboy Color

Genre- Tilty maze-fest

Bit of a curio this one – especially for Europeans such as myself, who never saw it gain an official release on our shores.

That was undoubtedly something to do the accelerometer housed inside the lurid pink cartridge. With this and Warioware Twisted both sadly confined to the US and Japan, the mercury used for the tilty tech clearly doesn’t agree with some European law. Even though I know none of the details I can easily say that law, whatever it is, is complete and utter tosh. Or perhaps i’m just being bitter.

Kirby Tilt and Tumble

A s for the game, it’s well suited to the Gameboy and really did deserve to reach a worldwide audience. It has small, manageable maze levels that are suited to quick bursts of play, and is simple enough to be grasped by most players.

Stabs of annoyance can occasionally be inflicted through the game’s controls, such as having to flick your gameboy to jump, which temporarily snatches any view you may of the actual screen. Fortunately, foibles such as these aren’t enough to boil over into out and out frustration.

Kirby Tilt and Tumble

Kirby TAT is not a classic by any means – and any novelty it may have once had is also long gone due to the iPhone et al and their many effortless accelerometer based titles – but it’s still a refreshingly simple and interesting experiment.

It’s like most Kirby titles really, in that it shows pleasing sparkles on invention, but makes sure it gets the gameplay basics down pat first. Kirby’s Air Ride the obvious exception.

I managed to bag a cartridge for £8 online, seeing as a box was relatively unnecessary for such a simple title. Especially as this being well out of my or any sane persons price range – see the link below.

The game is just about worth that I think, especially for those curious to see Nintendo’s first foray into tilt based technology.

Or you could wait and pray for a release on the upcoming 3DS store. With the 3D portable possessing an accelerometer it surely wouldn’t be to difficult to port across.

Barbie

Barbie

Overall Rating: 0.5/5 Stars

Barbie-nes

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

Gameplay

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

Barbie-nes

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

Graphics

Barbie-nes

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

Sound

Barbie-nes

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

Originality

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

Barbie-nes

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

Gex: Enter The Gecko (GBC)

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Gex: Enter The Gecko

Yep, there’s a reason why you don’t see ol’ Gexy around anymore. Smart ass characters can work if the game’s any cop – but if not, a title has usually got one step in the forgotten gaming crypt before it has even been played. Gex: Enter The Gecko on GBC is an example of one of those, even though the titular hero has thankfully little opportunity to get his annoying personality across very well in this portable outing. The gameplay does more than enough to annoy you as it is. Expectations shouldn’t be set too high for a handheld version of a home console game that was pretty poor to begin with, but even so the game does little to make any kind of impression.

Gex - Enter The Gecko

Most noticeable is that the game uses ‘B’ to progress through menus and jump, which goes against the unwritten rule that ‘A’ is the main button. The fact that this is one of the most noticeable elements of the game does not bode well. Actually, the controls are generally rubbish (walk more than a few consecutive steps and the green one breaks into a run) and level design is of a labyrinth rather than linear nature, which helps brew up a sense of confusion after playing only for a few minutes. A lack of map doesn’t help either.

Gex - Enter The Gecko

Overall, this is a poorly designed game – the fact it’s a retro title is no excuse. This title signaled the end of Gex and his tail whipping antics, and I very much doubt many will be saddened by that fact. Gex, and this game, are best left forgotten.

Happy Monster

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Happy Monster

Platform games as a genre have been around over thirty years now and this kind – where each stage is only one screen in size – was how the genre began before fancy stuff like scrolling was introduced. That’s a lot of time to be trying to come up with new ideas. There is, after all, only so much you can do with one 2D screen filled with platforms. Impressively though, most of them manage to add at least something to the genre, or sub-genre as it now is. This effort by German fellow, Harold Müller, which appeared pretty late in the Amiga’s life, does not. Apparently, this is typical of Mr. Müller whose games often feature, shall we say, ‘borrowed’ elements or ideas. Clearly, if true, that makes him either lazy or just lacking in creative abilities but does that mean his games aren’t any good? I don’t know yet so let’s find out!

Happy Monster

Happy Monster, if its title is to be believed, is a game that features at least one happy monster. I don’t know why they’re so happy but it could be because of all the booty they have lying around the place. Many lush, ripe fruits, tasty snacks and desserts, and even gemstones, can be found in abundance across the twenty stages that make up the game. You play the part of a small, bearded fellow (who reminds me of Silver Neelsen from F-Zero X) whose job it is to collect (probably steal) each of these items, although defeating (probably murdering) the monsters that duly petrol their stash is optional. Successfully clearing a screen of all that inhabits it opens the exit from where you’ll begin again until all twenty screens have been conquered. Items to help him do this include 1ups and speed-ups, which are among the other items, but other than that, you’re on your own.
Happy Monster

Actually, now that I think about it, this must be how Mr. Neelsen was able to fund his F-Zero exploits. Oh well, he’s no worse than Zoda I suppose. Whether the F-Zero tournaments are tainted or not, our hero is gifted with only the basic platforming actions here. He can drop down through platforms, and he can fall an unlimited distance without harm, but contact from any monsters causes instant death. By means of offensive abilities, he can shoot fireballs from his torso to take out the monsters, of which there are several colours which determines their speed and how many hits they take to defeat, but he can only jump a short height. This presents the game’s only major problem – one or two stages have parts that you can fall into but can’t jump high enough to get out of. This basically means the stages in question fall victim to trial-and-error gameplay, particularly since there’s no ‘suicide’ button allowing you to start the stage again.
Happy Monster

As you can probably already tell from the screenshots, aside from the arrangements of platforms and collectibles  the stages that make up Happy Monster don’t differ a huge amount from one another. The same tiled background adorns each stage, albeit in alternating colors, the enemies are all copies of Spud from Superfrog, although again in different colors  and the player’s character is tiny, even smaller than the monsters in fact, and animated very basically. The sprites and items are quite well-defined but that’s about the only positive as far as the aesthetics are concerned. The sound only consists of about three effects, one of them rather irritating, and no music at all. Well, except for a rather unassuming title-screen jingle but it’s not really what I’ve come to expect from Amiga games, whether made by big multi-million pound corporations or by a guy in his bedroom!
Happy Monster

Indeed, from a technical point of view, Happy Monster is far from the pinnacle of Amiga gaming and it’s also one of the least original games of this type I’ve played. I suppose I shouldn’t be too judgmental though, Mr. Müller has achieved a lot more than I ever could! It may at first seem like a sightly tough and unfair game, but you’ll soon discover that it’s actually too easy – most stages can be beaten on the first try with no loss of life and even the few trickier ones only require a couple of tries at most before they are overcome, especially since stages are reset when you do lose a life. There’s no time-limit so you can spend as long as you want messing around. The only thing you have to be really careful of is to not fall into an inescapable part of a stage as I did a few times. This is my only real issue with the game as it can completely ruin an otherwise enjoyable session. Grrrr!
Happy Monster

Apart from that, though, despite its technical inadequacies and lack or anything remotely fresh or creative, it’s actually pretty good fun, but it’s still really hard to recommend it as could have so easily been much better. There are only twenty stages and they lasted me around an hour. With practice  I finished the game in fifteen minutes without losing a life. Even with such a short game, some later stages re-use sections from older stages and a couple are even repeated as a whole. There are also only five different colors of otherwise identical-looking enemies and just the one power-up in the entire game. There’s not even an ending – it just loops back to the start! It seems to me that Happy Monster is very much like a free shareware game that a fan made to test his programming abilities or something like that, but I’m pretty sure it was a full commercial release, and that means it’s average at best. Fundamentally, it’s an enjoyable enough game but with more enemies, more stages, and more varied stages, it would still be very unoriginal but would be so much better than it is now.

RKS Score: 5/10

 

Alpha Mission

Alpha Mission

Alpha Mission was originally an arcade cabinet, produced in 1985, before being released on the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) home console by SNK in 1987. Cribbing from the earlier shoot-’em-up mechanics of Xevious, this title is perhaps best remembered as a cartridge for shooter purists only.

alpha mission-nes-gameplay-screenshot-1

Gameplay

Alpha Mission is a vertically scrolling shoot-’em-up with the typical science fiction flavoring of alien landscapes, starfield backdrops in space, big alien bosses, and starships sporting formidable firepower. Like Xevious, the player can fire at airborne enemies or ones affixed to the ground. The B button fires the laser that hits fellow aircraft (spacecraft?), while the A button launches missiles for fixed ground targets. The environment automatically scrolls, and the player is given free reign to fly about the entire screen.

There are twelve stages, which repeat in true arcade style toward the goal of just getting a high score, and loosely grow more difficult, beginning with new flight-tracking enemies in Area 2 and proceeding toward the eventual all-out madness of double-digit stages. The end of a level has a juicy fight with a big, bad alien boss.

alpha mission

Power-ups can be gained via colored letters found on the battlefield, primarily by destroying ground targets. These can provide upgrades such as increasing the strength of the laser, increasing the strength of the missiles, and enabling faster movement speed.

Along with the score, there is also an energy meter, which grows by increments of 2 each time the letter “E” is gathered. Increasing the energy meter total unlocks additional types of weapons and other options which, when can be afforded, are selected by entering a selection screen with the Select button. Examples include an eight-way shot and a short-range-but-constant flamethrower.

These elements, in and of themselves, do not necessarily comprise bad game design. A very workable, playable shooter can be formed from these components. In fact, ingredients such as power-ups and differing weapons have been combined to create some of the greatest shooters of all time. However, rather than content to introduce these items and merely tweak them closer to perfection, Alpha Mission instead tears itself off the hinges with some poor choices along the way.

alpha mission

Case in point: There are power-downs; in other words, not all of the gainable items are beneficial. There are items that decrease weapons power, items that decrease movement speed, and even a letter just to throw the player back to an earlier point in the level. This only makes the game less possible to enjoy, to a potentially downright irritating extent, and takes quite the imaginative stretch to defend as a good idea.

Furthermore, the mechanic for weapon selection is maddening. It can be admirable to make this a player choice, rather than simply shift the weapon as the protagonist ship passes over a power-up. But the mechanic used here is terrible: Pressing the Select button opens up a black background, onto which are pased icons for different power-up, depending on what the player can afford. There is, too, the icon of the ship itself. The player actually has to take the time to maneuver the ship over to an icon and, once over it, press Select again. The effect is not always smooth; during a boss fight, this can cause the boss to reappear. Also, pressing Select again will suddenly cancel the power-up out and return to that selection screen, which can be dubious depending on the weapon being used, since different ones use up the energy meter at different rates and may not be immediately available again. This method of choosing weaponry is slow, clunky, buggy, and just plain bad.

alpha mission

Alpha Mission already suffers a blow in being ported to a television setting, since vertically scrolling shooters are much more apt to their original arcade screens, oriented to provide an optimal perspective and taller screen. With so much working against it, and forcing the player to deal with a ship that begins so slowly and existing under the constant threat of downgrades (which, by the way, actually serves to discourage quickly going after power-ups, which seems outrageously philosophically counter-intuitive of shooter design), this video game is just not good. Even worse, it is not fun.

Graphics

Aside from decent production values and the nifty way missiles accelerate to full speed a moment after being fired, not only is Alpha Mission graphically unimpressive, but even has some noteworthy issues. The flickering and slowdown problems in this game are atrocious. Enemies constantly blink in and out of existence, some projectiles cannot exist on-screen at the same time as others, and the slowdown happens often enough to truly be a drag. Even if some of the boss designs are interesting and the backgrounds crafted with pixel-precise skill to an extent, these potential visual treats are muddied and muffled by the display problems.

alpha mission

Sound

The background music is too repetitive to be considered high-quality, and the sound effects lack any sort of crunch, punch, power, gravity, or oomph. What more needs to be say? This is a video game that provides only a bland little snack for the ears, and does not manage any aural feats worth mentioning, despite the best efforts of those who composed the basic tracks. In fact, if you hate the music, you are completely out of luck, since it even plays when the game is paused.

Originality

At first glance, Alpha Mission seems like the average 8-bit shoot-’em-up with a generic premise and arcade-style gameplay. At its core, the formula presented is not completely awful. The lesson to be learned here is that execution is everything, and the execution here misses the mark. This game is not original, visionary, or innovative in any discernible way, save for maybe its stupid weapon-selection screen mechanic.

This is an example of a game where nothing about it seems great and everything about it seems to have a problem. There are worthy complaints to air about Alpha Mission. For its crimes against the shmup genre, arcade ports, and the act of gaming in general, this mess gets one and a half stars out of five.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

Mega Man

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

Mega Man

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

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

mega man - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

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

Pocket Gal

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Pocket Gal (1987)
By: Data East  Genre: Sports  Players: 1-2  Difficulty: Easy
Featured Version: Arcade  First Day Score: 9,300 (one credit)
Also Available For: Nothing

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

Love them or hate them, videogames are big business. Those of us who partake in their wonders, however, have taken a lot of stick over the years for the sake our ‘nerdy’ hobby so it doesn’t really help matters when developers release blatantly pervy games featuring titillating girlies in various states of undress. Most of the time this is of course a less-than-subtle attempt to grab the cash of lonely gamers with a bare minimum of effort. Indeed, the games that facilitate these giggling girlies are usually utter trash – the flimsiest of excuses for the nudity and immoral material contained within, and that’s when there even is a game at all! But could there be any genuinely good games hidden amidst this nonsense? In a series of new features here at Red Parsley, I will bravely attempt to uncover an answer to this intriguing mystery!

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

As you’ve probably already seen, the first game of this feature is a pool-based game. It’s a Japanese game but as far as I can tell there’s no fancy options or tournaments. When you start, you’ll see a chart featuring four different classes, each of which is represented by a ‘sultry’ lady and you have to work your way up the ranks, so to speak. This naturally involves playing pool. There is a two-player mode but in the one-player mode there is surprisingly no computer-controlled opponent. Instead, you must simply pot all the balls (tee hee!) yourself. Bonus points are awarded for potting multiple balls in succession and for following their numbered sequence. The more points you get, the quicker the girlie will get her kit off! That’s right, for the object of the game appears to be simply to disrobe the ladies – first they’ll lose their outer-garments, then their underwear, and the further up the rankings you get, the more effort is required to persuade them to do so! Oo-er…

Pocket_Gal_arcade-gameplay-screenshot

This ‘effort’ comes in the form of stages. There are more of them per girlie the further you get and they alternate between frames of regular pool (is it still called a ‘frame’ in pool?) and trick shots. A predictibly simple interface enables you to take the shots – just move your aim, represented by a dotted line, and set the power. It’s hardly a complicated process so you should find yourself smacking the balls around (giggity) in no time. There are a few different variations of pool during the course of the game (6 ball, 9 ball, etc) and it’s possible to add topspin, backspin, and swerve to the cue ball during play, but that’s about as complex as things get. So, your prize for playing well may nudge this game toward the ‘adult’ side of things, but is it even worth playing it at all? Well, not for the ‘prize’ itself, obviously – even in its day this was hardly an obscene game – but it’s actually not bad.

As you can see, the graphics are hardly anything to write home about. The tables themselves, whilst coming in several different colours, didn’t exactly require the finest hardware in the world, but everything looks okay. More importantly, the balls move around fairly accurately, at least to my non-expert eyes, and playing the game can be pretty entertaining in short bursts. The different variations and trick shots help to keep it from becoming too repetitive and there’s some pretty decent music and sound effects too (even a bit of speech!). As for the girlies themselves… well, they’re more amusing than anything else, but that was probably the point I suppose. It’s certainly not worth playing the game just to see their ‘boobies’ but Pocket Gal is a surprisingly enjoyable game regardless. Obviously there’s not much in the way of depth so it does get repetitive after a while, but it’s good fun while it lasts.

RKS Score: 6/10

BlazeOn

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

blazeon-atlus - nes - gameplay screenshot

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

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

Berzerk

“Intruder alert! Intruder alert!”

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

You are that intruder. You play as a “humanoid” trapped in an unlimited amount of single-screen mazes, chased (very slowly) by Cylon-looking robots with lasers. I have no idea why you are there, and why the robots hate you so much, but they are constantly shouting orders like “Kill!”,”Destroy!”, and “Attack!” via speech synthesis, a rarity in 1980 arcade games.

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

I remember being addicted to this game back in the day…simple to learn, difficult to master. With one joystick (to move/shoot in 8 directions) and one button (laser), your objective is to survive as long as possible by shooting the robots that are blocking your way to the exit on the other side of the each maze-screen.

Everything has an “electric” feel to it, from the laser shots to instant death from brushing against a wall. You receive points by destroying the robots, but you can’t hang around too long before escaping or “Evil” Otto will quickly be on your ass. Otto, a body-less smiley face, is the “Smoke Monster” of video games. A true indestructible enemy that will chase you down like a heat-seeking missile.

atari_2600_berzerk_gameplay screenshot

Simple, but addictive, gameplay kept my quarters flowing in the early ’80′s, always wanting my shot at Otto…but it was not to be. One of the more underrated “villains” in video-game history, he was always taunting me and I could do nothing about it.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb4gWvqbsYA[/youtube]

Highly recommended if you get a chance to play on MAME.

8/10

Double Dragon: 1987 vs 2012

Double_Dragon-1987

vs

Double_Dragon-Neon-2012

 

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. So what do they say about a reboot of a classic ? I know, DON’T do it, leave it alone !

Double_Dragon-Neon-2012

I am an old school retro gamer, and yes, I also dabble in the current generation video gaming systems. When I heard that one of my favorite beat’em ups would be rebooted on the current gen consoles, I was salivating at the thought of kicking some black warrior heads. Well, I have finally ‘tasted’ the Double Dragon Neon reboot, and let me say this – I was initially wowed (nostalgia got to me) but within a few minutes of play I started comparing Neon to the original arcade game. I found myself thinking, I would rather be playing the original !

Double_Dragon-1987

As they say, original is always best. In this case, it is. The Double Dragon of 1987 was a ‘tour de force’. It set the standard that all other two player co-op beat’em ups would be judged upon. It had soul, it had grittiness, it immersed you in the action as you strive to save your girlfriend, even if you had to fight your brother for her affection.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xT0re3Ml7w0[/youtube]

If you are curious how Double Dragon Neon has turned out, get the free demo. If you actually want to (re)play it, then go ahead and buy it, otherwise, get your hit (pun intended) on the original.

Alfred Chicken

Alfred Chicken

Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars

alfred_chicken.cover.front

In 1993, an 8-bit video game cartridge called Alfred Chicken was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) console. It was published by a company called Twilight; which, in retrospect, is not a good sign. The fact that the developer was Mindscape was not the best of signs either.

Gameplay

Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

At face value, this is a two-dimensional, horizontally and vertically scrolling platformer puzzle game, in which the player controls a fowl; in this case, a chicken, through multiple levels in an effort to find certain items, all while engaging in precision-jumping challenges and engaging enemies in both battle and avoidance.

In these respects, Alfred Chicken is astoundingly similar to Kiwi Kraze, although Kraze (also known as The New Zealand Story) was released years earlier and, frankly, is a superior cart.

That being said, in Chicken, Alfred must progress through five stages. In each, the goal is to find and peck (by pressing Down) all the balloons. A count of remaining balloons can be given by pressing Start, which also shows how much time is being taken and how many points have been scored. Alfred jumps with the A button and, while in midair, can go into a corkscrew beak-first dive bomb by holding the Down button, which is his primary method of defeating foes and busting ice blocks. Holding the A button is midair slows his descent.

Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

There are doors to travel through, which access different areas of the stage, usually going back and forth between a “main” portions. Some enemies can be defeated outright, while others, like the black spiky balls that tend to move in a circular pattern around a green thingy, must merely be avoided. There is a definite emphasis on precision-jumping puzzles, with many spikes to avoid, little hops to make, even springs to bound off of with careful timing of another A button press.

But there are also items to find, which is where the already-odd game begins to get truly bizarre. For example, there is a watering can hidden on every stage, which by collecting earns a 1-up if the player completes the stage. Why a watering can? This is never explained, and seems like an arbitrary, even random designation.

In fact, the entire fricking video game seems completely whacked-out crazy random and arbitrary. Each stage has a loose theme in its graphical presentation, but the variance is insane, from a building blocks level to a book-and-boards area to a science-fiction zone. In between beating stages, Alfred may fly through a blue “space” field to gather bonus-point treasure box items, or fight a “Meka Chicken” in a strange static-screen shooter mode, complete with an enemy health bar and the sudden capacity to fire bullets. There are even a couple underwater portions, which themselves include parts where Alfred must dodge robotic miniature whales.

Oh, but do not forget the occasional wall that can be walked through, the spinning pink feather item that must be gathered from a jumping box as the only way to break certain blockades, toggle switches that make certain block groupings appear or disappear for which the player must figure out the correct pattern in certain cases, the egg in a cup that provides a 1-up when touched and hatched, the snails that may fire a cannon from their back or simply transform into a spiky statue, and the growing unease that perhaps this bizarre game is the result of a bad acid trip, meant to be played while very drunk and/or very high.

Graphics

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The visuals are not awful, but they lack a certain polish. In a way that is difficult to describe yet obvious the moment you see it, the art used is very “flat,” lacking outlines or layers, giving the human player a “washed-out” sensation for everything. All this, despite the fact that the game prides itself on not having a big single color for its backgrounds, instead plastering little stars and crap across the canvas of the levels. Another instance: The first stage’s color sample is in a yellow and brown theme, even though Alfred himself is yellow and brown, and the whole event just feels stale and yucky.

Sound

Alfred-Chicken-nintendo-entertainment-system-gameplay-screenshot

The sound effects are barely there, and the music? Torturous. Utterly, phenomenally unenjoyable. The same theme plays throughout each stage, and it seems specifically engineered to be thoroughly upsetting and disturbing. Like a carnival tune played off-key, or a carousel spinning slightly too fast, or a too-young child at his or her first violin recital, the background music is the stuff of nightmares. Stay far away. Your ears will thank you. This is, truly and genuinely, among the very select few NES video games that is actually better when muted.

Originality
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This is the ultimate rental game: If you are not a collector, just a player, you will try this only to realize that you would be very okay with not owning it. It is not a staggeringly horrible game; in fact, some of the puzzle design is clever (like the spring that bounces you into instant death on a downward-facing spike on the ceiling if you are not careful), and it is perhaps maybe potentially possibly creative, but it is short, lacks replay value, and just seems to be aggravating, annoying, and bothersome throughout.

The utter randomness, brain-numbingly bad music, and short length combine to make this a slightly less-than-average game. Really, it executes smoothly and clearly plays according to the developers’ plans. But does it have to be so frantically mind-screwy? Again: Kiwi Kraze is better. This one, Alfred Chicken, gets two and a half stars out of five.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3JxzjuwJ5k[/youtube]

Ugh, that music. Forgive my casual, informal, brief first-person rant, but even as a reviewer who does not usually place much rating weight on a game’s soundtrack, usually just seeing it as a peripheral feature and not a deciding factor – if this game had better music, I would rate it a half-star higher. I am not even kidding. The music is bad enough that it makes the game definitively, quantifiably worse. I hate it. Some NES games are already bad, so the bad soundtrack is to be expected, but this, this abomination, this has no excuse that would be as convenient. Argh.

Crystal Castles

I usually praise developers for bringing me something unique, and this game can be categorized as such…or maybe “odd”…”weird”.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

A 1983 Atari product, Crystal Castles is a game that stands out. From its crazy-detailed cabinet art to its glow-in-the-dark trackball, you wouldn’t be able to miss this in any arcade. But, how does it play? The “Crystal Castles” are 40 isometric levels given a 3D look. You play as a goofy-looking bear wearing Dorothy’s ruby slippers. Throughout the pathways of the castles are scores of gems and jewels. Your mission is to collect them (for points) as quickly as possible. The trackball moves you around and there is a jump button, as well. To reach the different levels of the screen, you’ll use ramps, stairs, elevators, and secret passageways.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

To stop you in your mission are a multitude of creatures: There are wormy things that eat the gems, taking points from you. You can avoid them or (only while they’re eating) run into them, which kills them. There are killer trees (that chase you?!?), which if jumped over will freeze them for a short time. Also, skeletons and ghosts, which should be avoided. One of the bonus items you may capture for points is a pot of honey, but you’ll have to watch for the swarm of bees protecting it. Lastly, every so-many levels is an ugly Witch (I think these are her castles from which I’m stealing), who you can avoid, but will probably need to kill because she’s hanging around gems you’ll need to complete the level and move on. So….there’s this silly little hat that you can find and put on, making you invulnerable for a short time…and the only way to kill her.

Crystal Castles - Gameplay screenshot

As you can see, this game is a little f’ed-up, but it has quick, intense gameplay. The levels will be more difficult as you progress (as usual), but there are “cheats” in form of level-warps, if you choose to use them. A couple of neat additions to the game: Whenever you get killed, a word balloon pops over the bear’s head, usually a comic-book curse word (#$^!). Also, the importance of being careful on each level, but still having to maneuver quickly. As you delay, your gems are being eaten, costing you points…and there are bonus points for who/whatever grabs the last gem. If a creature gets it, you’ll go to the next level, but lost out on the bonus.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoUJYWJ6KQ4[/youtube]

I do find it odd that the bear’s motivations are stealing money, and the honey is a bit of an afterthought….and why does he need to wear clothes on his feet and head? It’s hard to tell, but he may actually be wearing a thong. Also, why would the Witch ever want to stay at her castles when they’re clearly overrun by ghosts and goblins? There is also an actual ending to the game, which I’ll never be good enough to see (lack of continues). But, if someone knows what it is, please let me know. This was truly a lot of fun, and will always get my recommendation if someone is looking for a “different” kind of retro game.

Overall 9/10

Cadash

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Cadash

This week’s video review features the 1991 platform game, Cadash. Developed and published by Tatio, the gameplay combines the elements of the traditional role-playing game with that of a platformer. The game features sword and sorcery and is set in a medieval fantasy world where powerful demons and abominations who at one time walked among humans, were banished to the underworld below Cadash. A powerful wizard named Balrog has arisen to take revenge on the humans and return to the overworld.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ydps5ZaOyy0[/youtube]