Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Net Yaroze Round-Up Volume 1!

I've been wanting to feature Yaroze games on here for a while now. Originally, I was going to have a themed month, but I didn't like the idea of having consecutive posts on a single subject. Then, I considered a "Top 20" of my favourite Yaroze games, but list posts are a bit sterile and "clickbaity", and I have my integrity to think of! Plus, a Top 20 would mean leaving out games that are interesting, but not particularly fun to play. In the end, I've decided to make this an occaisional series of posts, kind of like the Disc Station ones (which will return someday, I promise!). Oh, and in case any of you aren't familiar with Net Yaroze, it was a scheme by Sony in the late 90s, where they would sell Playstation dev kits to homebrew developers. Some of the games were distributed to the public via magazine coverdiscs, others were only available online between other Yaroze users. Luckily, a lot of the games and demos have been compiled and made available online by kindly hackers and pirates and archivists.

A Bob (K. Okada, H. Endo, J. Suehiro, M. Taniguti, 1998)
A Bob (also known as Airbob) is a cute little bobsledding game. You pick a team, tap square to make them run to the ramp, use the dpad to steer their sled down the ramp, and then press buttons according to the onscreen prompts to make them do stunts and open their parachutes on the way down after jumping from the end of the ramp. There's really only about 2 minutes of game in here, but the graphics are really cute, with the sledders looking like cuddly little space robots. It's worth at least one play just for that, right?

Rocks n Gems (Gerhard Rittenhofer, 1998)
It's a Boulderdash clone! A really well presented Boulderdash clone, too. It looks great, and it mostly feels pretty professional, with only one crack in its veneer: the player character moves way too fast. The game's hard enough as it is, but it also requires precise movement in almost all situations, but the protagonist's speed makes this a pain. The difficulty didn't go unnoticed either, as I definitely remember the UK Official Playstation Magazine printing a password to unlock every stage, which is pretty special for a Yaroze game.

Haunted Maze (Edward Federmeyer, 1998)
Essentially a kind of minimalist Pac-Man clone, Haunted Maze has the player running around a fairly open-plan maze, avoiding skinless zombies and collecting "goodies", which look a lot like giant Lucky Charms marshmallows. Despite the incredibly simple premise, I really enjoy this game. The speed of the game, coupled with the classical soundtrack and the somewhat basic visuals give the game a kind of silent movie slapstick feel.

INVS (Philippe-Andre Lorin, 2001)
I really like this one, it's a psuedo-old-school single-screen shooting game. It kind of anticipates the experimental direction Taito took with some of the more recent Space Invaders games, like Infinity Gene and Extreme. There's some cool enemy concepts, like ones that intercept the player's shots with lasers, and dive-bombing enemies that create pretty large explosions if they're allowed to hit the ground. There's also a nice little mechanic whereby enemies will sometimes release small snowflake-like particles, that are collected to activate the player's shield and temporarily power up their shots.

Gas Girl (Koji Yoshikawa, 1998)
This is one of those games I mentioned in the intro, one of the ones that is more interesting than it is good. It's a platform game about a woman who gets abducted by aliens, and must fart her way to freedom. The one positive thing that can be said about this game is that the farting gimmick is using in a number of ways: it's a weapon to defeat enemies, a propulsion system to boost the distance of the player's jumps, and it can be used to affect the movement of certain obstacles. But otherwise, the game is awful in pretty much every way, and I suspect it mainly exists because of some kind of special interest on the part of the creator.

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