Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Diet Family (Arcade)

When I first saw this title, and the fact that it was made by the Korean company Semicom, I was instantly interested. This was mainly because, as I've covered before, Korean arcade games aren't always completely original, and I thought that it might at least be a fun knock-off of the excellent Data East game Diet Go Go (which I covered on this blog many years ago). It's actually a totally original (as far as I can tell) Galaga-style shooting game, with a bit of an unhealthy approach to weight loss as its main theme.

So, you play as one of five characters (and if they're a family, as the title suggests, then it looks like it's two daughters, mum, dad and their weird blue cat thing), and set out to destroy/avoid food, and eat only the tasty diet pills. Yeah, that's a bit weird and unpleasant, isn't it? I mean at least Diet Go Go had the protagonists dressed like they were going to do execise too, and the food that evil scientist was giving out was all massive cakes and legs of meat.Most of the food in Diet Family is pretty healthy stuff like fruits, vegetables and sushi!

But all that aside, the game is at least full of interesting ideas mechanically. For example, scoring and obtaining power-ups relies heavily on the game's comboing system. Unusually, that system focuses entirely on accuracy, rather than the more typical speed, as your combo counter goes up for every one of your bullets that hits an enemy in a row, and resets if one of your bullets flies offscreen. As the combo gets longer, more and more items and power-ups will make their way down the screen to you. It works fairly well, though the requirements to get a power-up for your weapon are incredibly steep, needing twenty sucessful shots in a row. On the other hand, as you get further into the game, there are more enemies coming at you in thicker patterns, so it does get easier to rack up big combos as you go along.

The way your lives work is different, too. You have three lives and an energy meter. If you take a hit, the energy meter decreases, depending on the strength of the enemy that hit you (you're told the strengths of the different enemies at the start of each stage). It goes up a tiny amount for each diet pills you collect. If it decreases past the bottom of the bar, you'll lose a life, your sprite will get fatter (though this is only cosmetic, you aren't slowed down or anything), and the energy meter will be back near the top again. If you collect enough pills to make the meter go over the top, and you've lost at least one life, you'll get another life back, though the meter will be back at the bottom. So it's easier to claw lives back than in most shooting games, though you are limited to a maximum of three (plus a full energy meter).

Saying whether or not I actually recommend Diet Family is a difficult one: though I didn't personally find it to be a very enjoyable game to play, I can also see that it's definitely competently made and designed, and someone with more patience for its accuracy-based mechanics could very well get a lot of fun out of it. What a terrible, fence-sitting conclusion!

Friday, 2 December 2016

Minami no Shima ni Buta Ga Ita (Saturn)

What we have here might be the worst game ever featured on this blog. It's definitely the most shameful licensed commercial release, with production values that would look bad if they were in some Chinese Pirate Mega Drive game, let alone a game licensed, officially released and sold for money on the Saturn in 1996. Even having an animated FMV intro doesn't make the game look any better, since even that manages to be grotesque and cheap-looking.

You take control of a whip-wielding pig, on a journey to retrieve a load of lost piglets (as far as I can tell, at least). This journey takes you across various different landscapes, which are fairly typical platform game locales: snowy place, clockwork place, jungle place, beach place, and so on. The stages themselves can be tackled in any order, and also have two types of sections. When you first enter an area, you'll play through a psuedo-platformy stage (though there's no actual platforming to be done), where you walk from left to right, using your whip to defeat enemies and free piglets from bubbles. Once you get to the end of one of these areas, you'll then enter a puzzle stage.

The puzzles are all varied, to the point at which I've seen quite a few of them, and they were all unique with none of them being just a variation on one of the others. The main problem is that not only do you have to solve the puzzles, but you also have to figure out what slving the puzzles requires. Like I said they're all unique, but on top of that, none of them come with instructions in any language. You're just dumped in there and expected to work out what you're meant to do, and how to do it in three attempts. If you solve the puzzle, you'll go on to another action stage/puzzle stage cycle. If you use up your three chances, you'll get a game over, and if you voluntarily quit, you'll go back to the area select screen.

I can't really tell you any more about it. The action stages are terrible and pointless, with tiny sprites jerking around in front of backgrounds that aren't even in the same scale. The puzzle stages are boring and if you solve them, there's no satisfaction, while if you fail, you don't feel any incentive to go back and try again. I played this game for about an hour, and the only positive thing I can say about the experience is that I can at least tell you not to bother.

I hate to say it, but Minami no Shima ni Buta Ga Ita is a game that deserves to languish in obscurity, forgotten forever. After you finish reading this review, try to forget you ever even heard this game's title.