Friday, 15 February 2019

Jammit (3DO)

Jammit is a one-on-one basketball game, played on half-courts with a basket at only one end. The back of the box calls this "streetball", but that sounds way too much like it was invented by a marketing executive to be real, in my opinion. That feel carries over to the whole game, as everything about it attempts to be gritty and edgy and street and all that stuff, albeit in an incredibly ineffectual, even quaint early 1990s way.

The back of the box says a lot of things, in fact. It tries to paint a picture of a merciless and violent world of street basketball, where players are "left gasping for air in intensive care", even though fouls are totally still in effect, and can be called for a bit of mildly aggressive shoving. It also says that there's "enough trash talk to dis the whole neighbourhood", when you mainly just hear the phrases "you be foulin'!" and "you're not so tough!" over and over, no matter which characters (of which there are only three) are in the game. Also there's meant to be five different courts, but in a couple of hours of play, I only saw two. But that's probably my fault for not being very good.

As I'm sure you've noticed from the screenshots, the character sprites in Jammit are digitised photos, ala Mortal Kombat, which is partially why I decided to play the 3DO version over the Mega Drive or SNES versions: I was going in blind, and had assumed that the sheer 90s power of the CD and a mighty 32-bit onsole would let this game look its best, maybe rivalling the arcade versions of the first few Mortal Kombat games. Unfortunately, as you can see, it's still got small, blurry sprites, and what you can't see is that the music is also a disappointment. Being on CD, I had my heart set on hearing some terrible, conspicuously clean-languaged original raps in this game, but the music just has that weird farty sound that so many America-developed Mega Drive games have.

I've been incredibly harsh on this game so far, but honestly, I had a lot of fun playing it, even though I'm terrible and won only about  two or three of the games I played. The games aren't all just the same, either: in single-player mode, each game you play has different rules: first to twenty-one points, points only count when you're shooting from an X that moves around the floor, points only count when you make the camera go into close-up mode, and so on. And the cheesiness of the game's aesthetic is incredibly charming and nostalgic, too. Jammit's far from a classic, and I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to play it, but if you ever stumble across the chance to do so, you'll probably have a pretty good time playing this pretty bad game.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Masked Rider Club Battle Race (Arcade)

I've actually been avoiding writing about this game for a long time now, not for any reason actually to do with the game itself, but for some reason I thought I'd already covered it years ago. But I finallt went back and cheacked and found no such post. So anyway, Masked Rider Club Battle Race is a game I actually got to play as a kid, in an arcade at a holiday camp in Cleethorpes. This was long before I'd ever head of Kamen Rider, and possibly before I'd even seen Saban's Masked Rider or the Power Rangers episodes that introduced him.

Anyway, it's one of those games that only I seem to love: a top-down, vertically-scrolling psuedo-racing game where the aim is to get to the end of each stage as quickly as possible while avoiding obstacles, and in which you have a fuel meter that acts as a combination time limit and health bar. There's got to be a snappier name for these things! There's also an actual time limit this time round, too, though it's so generous that you're never likely to run it down, and it's really only there for providing a time bonus at the end of each stage. The controls are interesting, though the game's controlled with two buttons and a digital joystick, you still have a fair amount of control over your speed. Obviously, once of the buttons is the accelerator, which you'll be holding the whole time, and you can let go of it to slow down and stop. But also, holding up on the joystick lets you go faster, and holding down lets you reduce your speed.

It's tempting to storm through the stages at top speed, holding up the entire time, but unless you both memorise the location of every obstacle and have the dexterity to avoid them at high speed, it's a bad move. In terms of survival and scoring, it's better to just go through the stages at normal speed: you're more likely to survive, and the end-of-stage fuel bonus is likely to be higher if you aren't constantly crashing into stuff. On top of that, you're more likely to pick up more of the points items littered about the stages if you aren't zooming past them, too. On the other hand, top speed is really fast, so it's a lot more thrilling to play tht way.

All the TV Kamen Riders who had appeared up to that point are playable characters, with the main difference between them being the direction and range of their attacks (in my opinion, Kamen Rider ZX is probably the best pick, with his straightfoward straight-ahead attack), and everything's in a colourful super deformed style, which I guess was the fashion at the time, considering there was also a Kamen Rider SD anime released in the same year, along with another SD Kamen Rider appearing in Banpresto's Great Battle series of Super Famicom games. Even if you're, for some reason, not a fan of Kamen Rider or tokusatsu in general, I'd still say Kamen Rider Club Battle Race is worth playing. It's a great example of the genre, with more sophistication than earlier entries. (In fact, it might even be the last game of its kind to ever appear in arcades, as the world had mostly moved on by 1993).