Thursday, 30 December 2010

Dangan (Playstation)

This game is quite the disappointment. When you start playing, and see the top down 3D graphics, and start beating a few guys up, it seems like a nice, fun game. Unfortunately, it doesn't take long to turn sour.
As I mentioned, it's a top down beat em up with 3D graphics. #The four face buttons on the playstation controller are melee attacks (a single button that does a string of attacks, as is beat em up tradition), shoot (you start off with a completely useless infinite ammo handgun, but soon collect other, slightly less useless guns), an all-round attack that drains your health if it connects, and a dodge button.
Actually controlling you character and beating up/shooting the enemies is actually pretty fun, though it's turned into a chore by the problems the game has, most of which concern difficulty.
The first problem is the many, many stationery gun turrets that litter the stages. They do quite a bit of damage and they never stop firing. They also tend to appear in groups.
The second problem is the fact that the regular enemies spawn endlessly and randomly offscreen.
These two problems work together to ensure that rather than fighting enemies, the best strategy is too run ahead to the exit as quickly as you can, since if you stop to fight the enemies, the turrets will tear you apart, and if you stop to destroy the turrets, the enemies and the other turrets will tear you apart.
So, after you've ignored all the enemies and got to the boss? Well, since you didn't fight any enemies, you didn't collect the ammo they randomly drop. So you're at a disadvantage already. (Well, sort of. The boss fights are really hard, even with ammo.)
So, in summary, Dangan is a game that could have been great, but just isn't.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Famimaga Disk Vol. 1 - Hong Kong (Famicom Disk System)

This is only going to be a shortish review, because there are Playstation games about which I intend to write, but I like to ensure a bit of variety by making sure that each new review is a different genre and system than the previous one. So the first update in months, and it's essentially filler. Woo.
So! I recently started exploring the romset of the Famicom Disk System for the first time, and found out about a few cool games I hadn't played before (plus versions of Metroid and Kid Icarus that allow for saving). Anyway, this is the one about which I have chosen to write, because it took me by surprise, I hadn't heard of it before, and since it was apparently a coverdisk for a Japanese magazine twenty years ago, I'm sure it fulfills the obscurity quota.
So, looking at the screenshot, you might make the same mistake that I did on first sight of this game and think it's a Shanghai clone. It's not. It's actually slightly more complicated than Shanghai. Although you are removing tiles in the right order, so it is a bit like Shanghai.
What happens is, you are given this arrangement of tiles (there are a few shapes from which to choose, plus an option to create your own, and before you start, you enter a 3-letter code, which decides how the tiles will be arranged, which I guess means there are... 17576 different tile arrangements for each shape), and you can take away one tile at a time. The game randomly (I think) decides what character of tile you can take, and you recieve between 20 and 320 points for removing a tile, depending on how many other tiles are touching it, more tiles touching equalling more points. The catch being that if a tile doesn't have any others touching it from below, it falls and your game ends, which makes going for the big-money tiles inside the pile a lot riskier than the 20-80 point ones on the outside. Clever!
But is it actually fun to play? It's alright. A nice enough diversion to emulate on a handheld or laptop while watching TV, but not interesting enough to devote a decent amount of time or concentration to. And you probably won't play more than one game in a row without getting bored of it.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Simple 1500 Series Vol. 52: The Pro Wrestling 2 (Playstation)

This game is a bit of a curious oddity now, since it was made by Yukes, shortly before they made the first WWF Smackdown game for THQ. It doesn't have any licence, obviously, so, when faced with the chance to create any kind of colourful, outlandish characters the likes of wshich pro wrestling is famous for, Yukes chose to fill the roster with... lots of pale, balding men in underpants. And a martial artist woman.
Other than that, though, thje game plays pretty well. As you would expect from a budget game, it doesn't have a ton of modes, just an arcade-style single player mode, exhibition matches, and a create a wrestler mode.
I didn't save anything from the CAW mode, but i had a quick look, and you could just mix and match heads, bodies and torsos.
The single player mode has you choosing a character and then having a series of fights against the other guys.
In exhibition mode, you can create your own matches. There's only three to choose from, though: Single, 4-Way Dance, and Deathmatch.
Deathmatch mode is the coolest part of the game. It's a single match, but you can apply a bunch of crazy modifiers to it. You can choose any combination of normal rope/ electric barbed wire/no rope and normal mat/straw mat/concrete mat, as well as turning on and off Inferno mode, in which the ring is surrounded by flames, and the winner is the wrestler who throws their opponent out of the ring to a firey death. (Amusingly, you can still get out of the ring yourself, resulting in an instant loss). Having a match set to concrete mat/no ropes/inferno looks pretty cool!
An interesting thing about the game is the fact that a lot of the animations for moves and taunts are being recycled in yukes' WWE games to this day. Is that interesting or just insulting?
Anyway, this is a pretty fun game, despite its simplicity and boring cast.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Mean Arenas (Amiga)

This is a maze game for the Amiga, presented like one of those deadly future gameshows thatr seemed to be so popular on that computer (there was this, the killing game show... I'm sure there were others too...)
The most obvious thing to talk about with this game is the presentation, which is quite nice, despite the game having an obviously very small budget and probably being made by only a couple of people. There's lots of voice samples, all the time while you're playing, such as your character going "ooh!" when taking damage, the crown cheering when you kill enemies, and the presenters commenting when you collect power-ups or die. I had this game as a kid, and the main thing I remembered about it before playing it again in recent times was the "Studio" bits before each stage, where the two presenters of the show would tell you the theme of the next stage (dungeon or spaceship or whatever), and something would happen like one of them farts, or a microphone breaks. Those bits were hilarious when my age was only a single digit, but now they just seem a bit weak and embarassing. But the game was probably made by a couple of fourteen year olds, so it's unfair to be too harsh on the rubbish humour. The best part of all the voices (and possibly the whole game) is the sample that plays when you finish a stage, that says "MARRRRRVELLOUS" in an amusing upper class cad sort of manner.
The game itself is pretty average. You go around the mazes, which are all quite a bit bigger than the stages in most games of this type, the smallest being a few screens high, and later one the stage start to have multiple floors and the like, too.
There are more differences between Mean Arenas and most other maze collecting games, too. The pace is a lot slower than say, Raimais or Pacar. As well as collecting a power up that lets you kill enemies by walking into them for a short time, as is common with these games, you can also collect fireballs that you can store to shoot at anytime, too. There are lots of keys to open doors, switches to change the stage's layout and other gimmicks and traps in each stage too, a change from the typical maze game which has the enemies posing the only threat.
Overall, the game is pretty good, though the slow pace and huge stages, while different, do make the game seem a bit of a boring slog at times. It's entertaining enough for a couple of games, though.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Danan the Jungle Fighter (Master System)

Danan the Jungle Fighter isn't a very well known game. Most Master System games aren't that well known on the internet to begin with, but this is pretty obscure even among those.
It's a platform game, but with a bit of dialogue here and there (not much by today's standards, but tons compared to most 8-bit games) and it has experience points and equipment. The plot is okay, better than most 8-bit games: in ancient times, a legendary warrior sealed away an evil god and saved the world, and now the tribe next door is trying to bring back that evil god. This is all pretty routine stuff for a videogame plot, until about halfway through the game, you get to the shocking twist that it's actually an army of psuedo-nazis trying to resurrect the evil god, to turn the tide of a war they're losing. There's even a surprising bit of vague racism when you meet one of the Nazi bosses. The end of the game is a bit rubbish. You "fight" some evil priest guy, which looks more like you're repeatedly stabbing him in the bum, then the evil god appears, and dies incredibly easily. I don't know how not-hitler expected to win the war with that thing's aid when it can be easily defeated by a half naked man with a knife. Sorry about the spoilers, if anyone was planning to go and play this game.
The levelling up via experience points only raises your max HP, to make your attacks more powerful, you have to find the knives that are hidden in the game. Not very well hidden, though.
The graphics are pretty good, and the animation, though simple, looks nice enough. Danan's attack animation looks like he's shanking someone, prison style, though. The music is boring and repetitive, but you'll probably barely even notice it's there.
Oh! Another thing, you can collect monkey faces, that allow you to summon animal helpers. But you never will, they're a bit useless, and the game never gets hard enough that you need any help anyway.
And that's the main problem with Danan: it's both easy and short. It's less than an hour from start to finish, which wouldn't be a problem, if it weren't for the fact that you'll probably finish it on your first go. There is an option at the start to take either the normal route, or "A Very Rugged Path", which is supposedly harder, but the guy doesn't actually let you take the rugged path. i thought it would possibly be unlocked after finishing the game, but that's not it either. Strange.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Pacar (SG1000)

At first glance, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that Pacar is just a crap, lazy rip-off of Pac-Man, but with cars (the name is probably as close to "Pac-Car" as Sega could get without being sued). In reality, it's a pretty great rip-off of Pac-Man!
The fact that the ghosts and... yellow thing have been replaced by cars isn't just an aesthetic change, it leads to the first, and probably most important difference between Pacar and Pac-Man: cars go much slower in reverse. This means that if you want to change direction quickly, you have to turn 90 degrees. You can drive backwards, but it's a lot slower than going forwards, which is pretty dangerous when there are enemies around.
There are other differences, too. For example, there are two mazes instead of one. The game alternates between the two, and each time you clear both mazes, the end of level bonus increases, as does the number of blue cars in the maze.
Blue cars are the most common enemy type in the game, and they just passively drive around the mazes, not making any special effort to try and kill you. Each maze also has one orange car, that appears after you've been in the stage for a certain amount of time. The orange car is much more agressive than the blue ones, actively chasing you around and trying to kill you.
Like Pac-Man, Pacar has special larger dots that temporarily give you the ability to kill the enemies. Like everything else that Pacar takes from it's predecessor however, there's a little more strategy to the power dots.
Firstly, they aren't waiting ready on the map for you to collect them from the start, one appears for every 30 normal dots that you collect. Secondly, the blue cars can collect them, although doing so gives them no special advantage, it does rob you of the chance to get some extra points, both by killing the enemies (the points awarded for which double in the exact same manner as, that's right, Pac-Man), as well as the quite hefty 300 points that each power dot is worth.
There is quite a bit more strategy to the game that i won't go into here, since this is meant to be a review, not a guide.
In summary, though it's not quite as good as later maze games such as Raimais or Pac-Man: Championship Edition, Pacar is still a very good game, definately better than it's inspiration, as well as being a lot more playable today than a lot of it's contempories.