Saturday, 30 August 2014

Mamono Hunter Yohko: Dai-7 no Keishou (Mega Drive)

You're probably already aware that this game is based on the anime known in english as Devi Hunter Yohko, but I can't say how faithful an adaptation it is, since I've never seen the show. Many years ago I had a poster of it that came with an issue of Animerica, though.

Anyway, the game is, as you'd expect from a 16-bit anime licence, is a platform game. At first glance, it seems pretty generic, but it does have some slightly more subtle qualities in its favour. The biggest is that the stages aren't laid out like a simple left-to-right path with a few enemy shelves, but right from the first stage will have the player being led in every direction (although the downside to this is that the game does also feature a few leaps of faith). Yohko's weapon is pretty interesting too. Though her normal attacks are just sword swings, holding the button down summons an energy ring, which be thrown by releasing the button, after which it comes back, and can be kept around by continuing to hold the attack button.

There is a big problem with the game though: that it's just far too hard to actually enjoy. The first stage goes pretty well, though there is a moment towards the end during which the player has to climb a huge wiggly beanstalk, while being pushed around by strong winds that randomly change direction, but the second stage is where the trouble really starts. The second stage is set in and around a volcano, and for some reason, whether it was a deliberate design decision or just an accident of programming, fire does insane damage to Yohko. Rather than just damaging her once, it constantly causes damage for as long as Yohko is in contact with it. This makes the stage itself pretty hard, but the boss is an insane chore, since not only does he breath fire across the ground, but also leaps around willy-nilly, and touching him drains half of Yohko's health. I did manage to struggle through and eventually get all the way to the start of stage 4, but no further.

It's really a shame that the game is so insanely hard, as mechanically, it's not too bad. Yohko is fun to control, killing enemies and cancelling their shots with the sword and ring is nice and satisfying, and there is some cool ideas in the stage designs, too. But the difficulty kills it, the game doesn't feel challenging as much as it just feels unfair. Don't bother playing it.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Harem (Arcade)

If you're cool and smart enough to be reading this blog, you'll aware that modern videogames, especially the big-budget AAA titles are full of casual misogyny and racism, though it's the subtle kind of misogyny and racism that hollywood movies use all the time, so it mostly goes unnoticed. There are, however certain relics from the distant past that act like videogame equivalents of The Black and White Minstrel Show or Love Thy Neighbour, examples of the bad old days when overt hatred was the norm. The most widely aknowledged example obviously being the rapacious and imperialistic Atari 2600 title Custer's Revenge.

Harem, the only known videogame output of the Italian company IGR is another such example. In it, the player controls a slightly portly beturbaned man who roams the desert kidnapping women and carrying them back to his harem. Attempting to stop him are knife weilding guys who live in tents, who will run around trying to catch the villain (which is you, obviously).

There are three stages in the game, the first two are pretty much the same: your victims are travelling, either by camel or car and you use you throwing knives to destroy their transport and carry them away to the harem at the bottom of the screen, while avoiding the guys. The third stage has the women sleeping in tents at the top half of the screen, with the player going into the tents to snatch women and carry them away. The player can complete a stage either by filling all six beds in the harem, or by killing all of the women's protectors.

There's a couple of other mechanics too, like a constantly decreasing bonus timer that counts down from 500 to determine how many points your next kidnapping will score you. It resets with each successful kidnap and a life is lost if it reaches zero. A nice little detail is that there's an oil well in the background that will start to run dry as the bonus timer decreases. I guess the player character is not the owner of the harems he's filling, but merely a mercenary in the employ of some corrupt oil baron? There's also another enemy, in the form of a large pink snake that only seems to appear on the last stage, and is bigger and faster than your human assailants.

Harem is only worthwhile as a historical curiosity. The game isn't exciting or interesting enough to be worth your time, even before you get to the offensive theming of the game.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Net Yaroze Round-Up Volume 3!

Samsaric Asymtotes (Phillipe-andre Lorin, 2003)
I've written in an earlier volume about one of Phillipe-andre Lorin's other game, Invs, which I thought was a pretty good game. Unfortunately, Samsaric Asymtotes doesn't live up to its predecessor. Although it does have an attractive and unique visual syle, with a combination of monochromatic sprites and backgrounds with the player's attack being a wide, brightly coloured laser, it's also boring to play. There's no scoring at all, barely any mechanics besides shooting enemies and avoiding their shots. It's just not fun to play.

Adventure Game (Robert Swan, 1998)
I loved this game as a kid, when it appeared on one of the Official Playstation Magazine's coverdiscs. It's not what you would traditionally consider a good game, but it is mildly amusing (admittedly, it was more so when I was 12, but it still has its moments). You play as some guy with a sword, who goes on a quest to save the stupid people of a small medieval town from some vaguely menacing birds. The script is full of silly conversations, with a lot of the humour coming from the low intelligence of the NPCs, though there are also a few jokes about the shoddiness of the game as well as references to other Yaroze games. I'm sure I was able to finish this game at some point in the ancient past, but now the terrible camera in the action parts caused me to quickly give up after going round in circles a few times.

Time Slip (David Johnston, Mike Goatly, 1999)
It might sound a little hyperbolic to say so, but this game has probably the best use of time travel ever seen in a videogame. It's a platform game, in which the player controls a snail who, for some reason, is trapped in an endlessly repeating minute of time. They have to collect a certain amount of coins and reach the exit, while every minute they are sent back in time one minute. As a result, there will eventually be numerous snails going about the stage, holding door switches for each other and so on. The real challenge comes from the fact that if you touch any of you past selves, you create a time paradox and destroy the universe. It's a good game, though it's very very hard, and it's also been ported to the Xbox 360 via the Xbox Live Indie Games store.

Robot Ron (Matt Verran, 2001)
Obviously, it's a robotron clone with an amusing pun for a title. You control a small mushroom thing and shoot swarms of enemies who look kind of like multi-coloured alien glyphs. If you've played any robotron clone, you pretty much know what to expect with this one. There is one nice little touch, that a point is scored for each bullet the player fires, as well as the obvious points scored for killing enemies. This seems like an odd choice at first, but since all power-ups are lost with the loss of a life, and the power-ups make the player shoot bullets faster, it does kind of make sense, since players that stay alive longer will end up shooting vastly more bullets.