Sunday, 22 October 2017

Paneltia Story: Kerun no Daibouken (Saturn)

The "rebuild the world" RPG is a grand old tradition, dating back to at least the early nineties with games like Terranigma (if there are any such games pre-16 bit, I don't know about them), and still lingers today with the likes of Dragon Quest Builders and maybe even Fallout 4 could be considered an entry, with its focus on taking an active hand in rebuilding civilisation. Paneltia Story is one of the rare examples of a 32-bit example (again, I can't think of any others, so if you can, please tell me!), though I'm not sure if you're rebuilding a world, or building a new one in your dreams, since I can't read any of the plot.

Anyway, it doesn't look particularly impressive, and doesn't really contain anything that couldn't have been done on the Mega Drive or SNES, as the RPG part of the game is very very old-fashioned, not only aesthetically, but also mechanically. You've got a top-down view, Dragon-Quest-style first person battles with static monster sprites and so on, and lots and lots of reused graphics. The battles are really unexciting affairs, too: in the oldest-school style, you and they monsters simply take turns hitting each other until one side runs out of HP. It's unfair to completely judge Paneltia Story as a pure RPG though, as a lot of the game revolves around the whole building gimmick.

Building works like this: each stage starts as a big empty void with a town floating in it, though as you start, the town is just an inn and a small shop. You start off with a few panels that you can place in the void, and they can have mountains, forests, rocks or water on them, or they can just be an empty plain. After you've placed a few, you can go and explore them, fighting monsters to gain experience and more panels. When you place a panel on certain (invisible) spaces, a fairy will appear and give you a town panel, which can only be placed on top of your starting town, to which they add more people and buildings. In the map-building menu, you can also look at instructions for making dungeons appear on the map, like say, place a forest panel and surround it with mountain panels, for example. Then the entrance to a dungeon will appear in the forest panels. Go to the dungeon, beat the boss, and then go to the next stage to start all over again, but with new monsters that have higher stats.

Well, I say that, but the second stage has a slightly different structure (though graphically, it and its starting town use the exact same tilesets as the first stage, which is a disappointment). For a start, the dungeon is already on the map, and you don't have any special instructions in the map menu. So you go to the boss, and there's a bit of dialogue beefore you're kicked out of the dungeon. You do now have some instructions though, and using them makes a little cave with a treasure chest in it appear. This is unfortunately, as far as I managed to get, though. I went back to the boss, and the same thing happened as before, but without any new instructions this time, and I have no idea how to proceed further.

Paneltia Story is still a somewhat interesting game, though. Playing it might be overly simple to the point of tedium, but it does have some interesting ideas, and I did have the hope of seeing if there were more of them as the game goes on. I also hope that there's more tilesets and different kinds of panel later in the game, too. I did try and find a walkthrough or a longplay video, and try and figure out what I was doing wrong, but there's nothing as far as I can see, on GameFAQs, Youtube or even Niconico. If you're Japanese-literate, and have the patience for not-particularly-exciting RPG mechanics, then you might find something interesting in Paneltia, and if you do, please satisfy my curiosity and tell me all about it!

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Tsuushin Taisen Logic Battle Daisessen (Dreamcast)

I feel like I'm playing a lot of games recently that can be described as a kind of combination of elements from other games, and this is one of them. The constituent parts in this case being Battleship and Minesweeper, both grid-based games about naval combat, though this game is themed around the inhabitants of a floating island where it's always springtime, but is currently suffering a terrible winter. That's really all I know about the plot, so let's just move on to the game itself, the explanation of which is going to be fairly lengthy.

The first thing you do before you even try to enter battle is decide your formations. You start with twenty soldiers, called "Bingos", and you can place them on your 10x10 grid in small formations called boards (kind of like your different ships in Battleship, but more varied in shape). As you win battles, you'll gradually be given more Bingos (Bingoes?) to play with, and you'll earn currency that can be spent on buying more boards, in bigger sizes and a wider variety of shapes. The importance of the boards you pick and wherre you place them will become apparent when you actually get into battle, which is where things get a bit more complex and nerdy-sounding, so be warned as you enter the next paragraph.

In battle, you start off with ten power points, and your choice from the boards you have on the grid. Whichever board you choose costs as many points as the number of bingos of which it is composed, and you use it to attack, in a Battleship-esque manner, placing its shape on the opponent's grid. If you found any of your opponent's bingos, they'll be revealed, and once you reveal one of your opponent's boards entirely, it'll be destroyed and they can no longer attack with it. Missed attacks aren't completely useless, as on your subsequent turns, places where you've attacked but there wasn't a bingo will be marked in one of two ways: if there are no bingos vertically or horizontally adjacent to the empty square, it'll show as a white cross, and if there are, there'll be a green exclamation mark there. At the start of a new turn, you'll get back one power point, plus any bonus power points you got for destroying boards. Obviously, once you're done, your opponent will do the same until one of you is left without bingos and declared the loser.

It's a pretty amusing game, but nothing special. I have to say that there are multiplayer modes that I wasn't able to play: one online, and one offline. The offline multiplayer mode apparently has the players' grids shown on the VMU screen in their respective controllers for the sake of privacy, like your hand of cards in Sonic Shuffle. It's a shame it's fallen into the Mariana Trench of forgotten games, as a nice convenient PC version to play for 10 minutes while wating for something else would be really nice.

If you like the sound of it, I recommend Tsuushin Taisen Logic Battle Daisessen. The thing to remember though, is that it's one of those Windows CE Dreamcast games, and as far as I know, the only emulator that runs them is Demul, which can be a bit weird and temperamental.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Penguin-kun Wars 2 (MSX)

There's a chance you might have played the first Penguin-kun Wars game, which was ported to the NES and Game Boy and released in the west as King of the Zoo, but in case you haven't, it was about a fictional sport played by cute animals.

The sport itself (which doesn't have a name, as far as I can tell) is a kind of combination of bowling and dodgeball: the participants stand at either end of a flat plain, each starting with five balls. The aim is to roll the balls over to your opponent's side, with the winner being either the first to get all ten balls on their opponent's side, or the one with the least balls on their side when time runs out. Furthermore, if you hit your opponent with a ball, they're stunned for a few seconds (or vice versa, obviously).

In the first game, this was all there was to it. It had a sports tournament setting, and you simple faced off against increasingly skilled opponents as you advanced. The second game, however, has a (very simple) plot: you go to  the house of your friend to play, only to see them getting kidnapped! So you go off to rescue them. An additional cute touch is that you can pick a male or female penguin to play as, and the one you don't pick is who gets kidnapped. As you're not participating in a sports tournament this time, your opponents don't play fair. There are multiple areas (Mammal World, Insect World, Reptile World, etc.), each with a few opponents to beat. Most of your opponents have some kind of special ability that they have no qualms about abusing, such as the shark, who can't be stunned, instead turning red and ramping up the aggression if you hit him, or the ants, who's special ability is that there are two of them, so if you stun one, the other can still move. The exception is Mammal World, where the locals just seem to be mediocre players that you won't have too much trouble beating.

After you've beaten three opponents in an area, you fight that area's boss, who has even more unfair abilities. For example, the boss of Insect World is a centipede, who takes up his entire side of the field, can throw every ball he has at once and takes multiple hits before getting stunned. There's no versus mode, and I think that's probably for the best: though it's a kind of sports game at its core, Penguin-kun Wars 2 is structured more like a single player action game, with stages and boss fights and so on, and as such is balanced heavily against the player.

Before the review ends, it would be remiss to allow the presentation to go unmentioned, as it's pretty nice for a 1988 MSX game. Each stage has its own background, with an audience of whatever animals live there. One stage, Antarctic World, has a few humans in the crowd, which is odd. Another cool touch is that each stage has unique game over and stage complete screens. It really feels like the developers were enthusiastic about making this game, but unfortunately, that enthusiasm has mainly gone into including as many ideas and variations on the core mechanics as possible, with little regard as to how balanced it all is.

If you're a particularly big fan of the original, and you're desperately clamouring for more, then that's exactly what you'll get from this sequel. I can't help but feel that that's an incredibly tiny niche, though, even by the standards of this blog.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Hokuto no Ken 2: Seikimatsu Kyuseishu Densetsu (NES)

I wasn't aware of this when I started playing this game, but it did actually get localised and released in North America as Fist of the North Star, despite covering a part of the series that wouldn't get an official tranlation until many years later. But the JP version is the version I've played (since I picked up a real copy of it to play on my portable Famiclone), so that's what I'll be talking about. I haven't played the western version, but the reviews on GameFAQs all seem to be describing a completely different game to this one: one where the player has an infinitely regenerating health bar, and the first stage is an endless maze of secret rooms.

Anyway, it's a fairly standard single-plane beat em up in which you play as Kenshiro, and you go from left to right punching goons, until you get to a boss, who needs to be punched several times. A nice touch is that regular enemies and bosses alike will get a cool little death animation where they stand in place getting all warped and distorted for a second or two before shattering into many little pieces, just like in the show! It's a lot more effective than the deaths in the Mega Drive Hokuto no Ken game (also known in its mangled form as Last Battle), where the enemies just kind of fall backwards and turn into a little red splodge.

Anyway, once you figure out the little things like the power ups (tiny words float out of dead enemies. Collecting them increases your power, which mainly improves your movement and attack speed. Every twenty dead enemies fills up another meter bit-by-bit, and when you're at full power, your jacket explodes and you can toplessly shoot slightly useless projectiles) and the game's idiosyncratic collision detection (basically, only the tip of your fist/foot can hurt enemies, and only if it's touching the edge of their sprite), this is a pretty enjoyable game. Smashing enemies to bits is nice and satisfying, and all the bosses and sub-bosses have their own techniques and strategies. It's nothing special, but it's a fairly fun little romp.

What I like most about the game, though, is the way it looks. I've already mentioned the enemies' death animations, but Kenshiro himself has a very distinctive little sprite, the bosses all look unique, the backgrounds look like the gritty post-apocalyptic stone fortresses that they are, and so on. Anyway, it's by no means a classic, but it is a game that holds enough fun to justify the miniscule price it fetches online, and if you like super low resolution sprites and/or Hokuto no Ken, it's definitely worth a look.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Wild Riders (Arcade)

Like usual with arcade racing games, I'll start with the disclaimer that I was playing this on a PC emulator with a regualr game controller, not a real, motorcycle-shaped sit-down arcade cabinet. I'll also add the extra caveat that the emulation of this game is somewhat less than perfect, so the real thing is even more preferred than usual. But I guess that most people reading this, were they to play Wild Riders, would be doing so via emulation anyway, so I guess it doesn't really matter that much.

Anyway, Wild Riders is a very SEGA racing game, in which you play as one of two motorbike gang members on the run from the cops in a place called Massive City, which looks like a perfect blue-skied version of Beverly Hills from an 80s cartoon. Of course, you go smashing through parks, pool parties, fancy restaurants and hotels, and so on, all while any pedestrians jump out of the way without fail, ala Crazy Taxi. It all looks incredible too, with a cel-shaded style, incredibly bold colours on everything, and cool little stylistic things like character close-ups appearing in little comic panels.

It also plays pretty great: fast and smooth, just like you'd expect from a SEGA racing game. There's a few unique gimmicks too! Firstly, instead of a traditional time limit, since you're on the run, the counter at the top of the screen shows how many metres away they are from catching you. The number goes up and down depending on how well you're doing, and you can get bigger boosts by exploiting the game's other main gimmick. That other gimmick is that there are various obstacles that you can either jump off of or slide underneath. On a real cabinet, this is done by pulling up or pushing down on the bike's handlebars, while in emulation, you can just map these functions to buttons on your controller, they don't need to be analogue.

The only downside, and probably the reason it never got any ports to home consoles is the length: obviously an arcade game isn't going to be long, but I finished Wild Riders on my second attempt, and there's no Outrun-style branching paths or Crazy Taxi-style free roaming to add variety to repeated playthroughs, leaving you with a game that's beautiful and exciting, but essentially only for five minutes. I guess if a particular arcade had a lot of players all competing for the top score, that'd cause a lot of repeat play, but even in 2001 that'd be a very big if. Any console port would need a lot of additional stuff added, and at a time where SEGA were leaking money all over the place, doing all that for a game with no name recognition probably wasn't a priority.

So yeah, Wild Riders is a (condensed) ton of fun, and looks amazing. It's also, however, probably the most demanding game that runs on Naomi 2 hardware, so if you have a computer that can handle the emulation, it's definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Shinseiki Evangelion: Battle Orchestra (PS2)

Considering what a huge merchandising juggernaut Neon Genesis Evangelion is, it's surprising that not a single one of the videogames based on it (as far as I'm aware) has ever been released outside Japan. The might have something to do with the fact that despite being a super robot show, most Evangelion games are text-heavy things like adventure games and child-rearing simulators, which don't have big fanbases in the west . But there are a few action games, like this one, and the one on N64, which have also been passed over for westward release.

A certain kind of fan might be a little upset with the above paragraph, thinking I'm not showing Evangelion the proper amount of respect and reverence by referring to it as a super robot show, but that's what it is, and furthermore, this game is similarly irreverent. For a start, it's a Smash Bros.-esque party fighting game, with platforms and weapons and so on (though all the weapons are realistic things like missiles and axes, no squeaky hammers or anything), and it uses characters and locations from not only the series itself, but also from the movie End of Evangelion. So you can have fights atop a bunch of navy ships in the ocean, in the flooded remains of Tokyo, and even in places like the Seele room where all those talking slabs hang out at say ominous things to each other. The best stage of all, however, is Terminal Dogma, the place where the angel Lilith is crucified, bleeding LCL. This stage also serves as the game's "Final Destination", being just a flat plain with no special features or gimmicks.

The game's story mode lets you play as  any of the five kids who pilot evas over the course of the series, and it goes pretty much as you expect: you just take part in battles from the show, one after another. More interesting are the versus and survival modes, though, as they allow you to play as the angels, as well as some other oddities, like the mass-produced Evas from EoE, and there's even a guest character in the form of the Gunbuster! (Though it must be a shrunken-down version, since the actual Gunbuster was on a significantly larger scale than the Evas and angels.) The best part of this is that the selection isn't limited to those angels that are vaguely anthropomorphic: the d8-shaped Ramiel, spherical Leilel, and just plain strange Sahaquiel are all present. I'm sure I've said in previous that I'm not a big fan of Smash-likes, but I think Battle Orchestra has enough weird stuff in it to be worth a look, and the inclusion of such strange playable characters adds a lot of appeal.

So yeah, I'm surprised this game isn't already better known, since it's one of the few Evangelion videogames that's totally playable without knowledge of Japanese, plus it's actually pretty good for what it is. I should also mention that on top of everything else, it looks amazing, a ton of effort has obviously gone into the presentation, both in battle and in the menus. It's a bit of a copout, but I'll just end by saying that if you're a fan of Evangelion, and not averse to having a bit of illy fun with it, you should totally track this game down. If not, you probably shouldn't bother.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Soreyuke! Amida-kun! (Game Boy)

So, I'm sure you've all seen the Amida lot-drawing system somewhere at some point, whether it's in the bonus stages for Super Mario Land 2 or Psycho Fox, or that episode of Cardcaptor Sakura where Syaoran gets picked to be the princess in the school play. In case you haven't, how it works is that there's a bunch of vertical lines with different results at one end, and all these lines are connected at random by vertical lines. Normally, the middle area with all the vertical lines would be covered up while everyone chooses a starting point. After everyone has chosen a starting point, they go down the path they've selected, with the twist being that every time they come to a horizontal line, they have to go across it, and since they were all hidden when the paths were chosen, no-one knows where they'll end up.

In Soreyuke! Amida-Kun (also known as just "Amida"), you control a sentient, mobile vertical line. There's a round Kirby-like creature on each stge who wants to get home, and you have to get them there, while ensuring they don't walk into any skulls, which are at all the ends of the vertical paths that aren't home, as well as on some of the horizontal paths too. Obviously, you do this by moving around and actng as a bridge so that the creature crosses at all the right places.

The stages start out pretty simple, with only a few vertical paths and regular old horizontals dotted about. As the game goes on, though, more vertical paths get added, as well as different kinds of paths joining them, starting with diagonal paths, which act the same as horizontals, but take up more room. Then later there's paths that just send your little blob back the way from whence they came, and others that teleport them to a different part of the stage, and so on. Like most fixed puzzle games, it starts out simple, and gets more complex and difficult by scaling up the size of the problems and adding new elements. It actually gets pretty difficult surprisingly quickly, once you get past the first few stages.

There's not really much more to be said about this game. If it sounds interesting, give it a shot, but don't expect anything spectacular.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Demolish Fist (Arcade)

At some point in the mid-late 1990s, beat em ups as a genre entered something of a drought, from which the genre's never really recovered. While shooting games and 2D platformers have plenty of great representatives from both mainstream and independent developers, new beat em ups are few and far between, and a lot of the time, they're ruined by the kinds of stupid game-killing design choices I've complained about in many, many posts on this blog before: levelling up/skill shops, negative difficulty curves, and a new one I only discovered recently: there's a game available on PS4 and PC called Mother Russia Bleeds, and the lives/continue system is so broken as to make it impossible to get a game over (as far as I could tell), rendering the game completely pointless.

But anyway, that drought. It was still very much in effect in 2003, when Demolish Fist was released, and even among the few beat em ups released about that time, this one stands out by being more traditional. Though it's entirely in 3D and you can move and face in all eight directions, the camera sticks rigidly in one position (not counting cutscenes, obviously), making the game play like a regular, old-fashioned belt scroller. And it does a great job of it, too! You walk along, beat up crowds of bad guys, pick up weapons and power-ups and a good time is had by all.

Of course, every beat em up needs to have a gimmick to make it stand out, even if it has no contemporary competitors, and Demolish Fist actually has a few! Firstly, there's a block button. It's not a massive thing, but it's still something that a lot of beat em ups don't have. Secondly, the game takes an approach to weaponry akin to Two Crude Dudes or Dynamite Deka, having tons of stuff available to pick up and swing and/or throw: cattleprods, baseball bats with nails hammered into the end, swords, electrified gloves, fuel tanks, vending machines, motorcycles, cars and so on. The final, and most unique gimmick is the vertigo system. You get a power bar that fills up from attacking enemies, like in many other games. When it fills up, you can press all three buttons to enter vertigo mode, during which you're not only invincible, but you can also attack as fast as you're able to hammer the attack button. This lasts for ten seconds or until every enemy present has been defeated, and it never gets old or stops being satisfying.

I also want to talk about this game's setting and aesthetic, which I like as much as the game itself. It's a kind of look that was used in a lot of anime and Japanese videogames around the turn of the century that I'm going to call "sunset dystopia", a world where there hasn't been any kind of cataclysmic event, but it's just kind of lurching slowly towards an eventual apocalypse through societal entropy that's just on the horizon. I guess other examples of the look would be Daraku Tenshi, King of Fighters 99, and Crimson Tears.

So yeah, Demolish Fist is an excellent game. If you're able to play it (and most fairly modern computers should be able to emulate the Atomiswave at a decent speed by now. My pre-owned laptop can manage it, even!), then you definitely should.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Real Fighter (PC)

If you go back and play the original Virtua Fighter, you'll find a pretty fun game, and I'm you'll also agree that though the character models and textures are simple, there's a lot of life in them, and the animation in particular is more lifelike and realistic than any fighting game that had come before it. Back in the early-mid 1990s, however, I didn't live near any arcades, nor was I rich enough to have a 32X or a Saturn. So I'd see still screenshots of SEGA's fighting game, and wonder why all the writers were losing their minds over what looked like two piles of boxes engaging in combat.

I bring all this up to make something clear to you: you might look at the screenshots of Real Fighter in this review and assume that it's a similar scenario, that it looks bad in still pictures, but in motion it takes on a whole new life. You would be very wrong to assume this. In fact, Real Fighter actually looks worse in motion than it does in still screenshots. The characters look only very vaguely human at the best of times, their fighting stances look ridiculous and when they move, it's something akin to someone picking up an action figure and seeing how far in each direction every point of articulation goes, attempting to make the most impossible poses they can.

Actually playing the game isn't any better. Like Virtua Fighter, you have buttons for punch, kick and guard. Guard works exactly as you'd expect, punch will make a punch happen maybe one of every ten times you press it, and kick will usually produce something that's kind of like a kick or series of kicks. The two characters will sort of randomly flail at each other for a while, until one of them either runs out of health or falls off the stage. None of this is helped by the camera, that changes angles completely at random, presumably in an ill-fated attempt at being cinematic.

I might be being a little too harsh on Real Fighter, since it is, after all, Korea's first ever 3D fighting game (as far as I can tell, it might also be the only Korean 3D fighting game, as all the others I've seen, before and since, have been 2D), but it's just an ugly, boring waste of time. Don't bother playing it, except for reasons of historical curiosity.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Simple 2000 Series Vol. 112: The Tousou Highway 2 ~Road Warrior 2050~

You have to admit, just looking at the title, that this game has a lot of potential right from the start. Of course, it's a Simple Series title and it's yet another game on this blog by Tamsoft, so I still approached with some caution, knowing that the higher I raised my hopes for a cool Mad Max knockoff game, the more likely they'd be dashed, and the game would turn out to be some awful fiddly rubbish.

Luckily, my fears were unfounded, and though the game's low budget did result in some minor problems, like all the stages looking the same, The Tousou Highway 2 is easily one of the best the Simple 2000 Series has to offer. The premise, as far as I can tell, is that in the post-apocalyptic future, your wife/sister/friend/some random woman is dying in Nagoya, and you have to drive your precious cargo of medicine to her from Tokyo in under four hours. Obviously, between the two cities there are an endless amount of goons riding motorbikes and armoured cars who want to stop you, though I have no idea way.So you drive across a number of stages, shooting enemies as you go, and that four hour time limit is in real time, though it doesn't count time you spend in the pause menu or the shop/pitstop screen.

 A few months ago, I played through the 2015 Mad Max game on PS4, and while most of the game was a fairly standard (though very pretty) map-tidying open world dealy, the vehicular combat was probably the best I've ever seen, especially during the convoy chases. Tousou Highway 2, being a low-budget game from nearly a decade before Mad Max came out, obviously can't match up to the newer game in terms of sophistication, but the thing is, after I'd finished Mad Max, I said "I wish there was a game that was just the convoy battles from this", and Tousou Highway 2 is pretty close to that!

It's a very very simple version of that, but still: you get to hurtle down the highway in a cool-looking post-apocalyptic car, constantly killing bandits, either by gunfire or just by smashing through them with your car, and it all takes place in the crumbling ruins of the twenty-first century. It feels fast, killing bad guys is fun and satisfying and it's just great all-round. Well, that part of the game is,at least. Once every stage or so, you'll have to stop your car and get out, because the bad guys have built a barricade. You go in the barricade and fight a whole bunch of goons on foot, sometimes accompanied by a heavily-armed boss. Once they're all dead, the barricade explodes and you can get back in you car and be on your merry way. It's not exactly terrible, but it does break the flow a little bit.

The only other problem I have with the game is that it's incredibly easy. You hardly take any damage (which is represented by an image of the vial of medicine gradually cracking), and when you do, there are more healing items around for you to stockpile than you'll ever need. Furthermore, the time limit is no challenge, either, as on my first attempt I finished the game with over an hour and a half left over. But even taking those few small qualms into account, I definitely recommend seeking this game out and giving it a go. It's excellent.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Gangan Gan-chan (SNES)

It's odd how the SNES and Mega Drive have their own strong identities, both aesthetically and in terms of game mechanics and design. For example, I don't think I would be alone in saying that the SNES action game Hagane looks and feels like a Mega Drive game that somehow got released on the wrong console. GanGan Gan-chan, however, only goes half way: it looks very much like a typical Japanese SNES game, but in terms of how it plays, it feels a lot more like a Mega Drive game. This all makes sense, right?

Anyway, the most basic way of descibing the way it plays is that it's Flicky, but in a maze. You play as a thing that looks like Carbuncle from the Puyo Puyo games (or, through the use of a secret password, a giant bald man's head) and run around mazes collecting little coloured blob creatures, that follow behind you in a line. You take the creatures back to your home base, and the more you had following you, the more points you get. Obviously, though, there are a few complications. Firstly, the colours of the creatures actually matter: there are four keys sealed at certain points of the maze, and to complete a stage, you must collect four of each colour's creature to unseal the respective keys, then collect the keys and go home. Plus there's some kind of byzantine power-up system that revolves around the (surprisingly difficult) idea of picking up the creatures in the right order before bringing them home. I've only ever triggered this through luck, though, as there's always lots of the little guys running around haphazardly.

Of course there are also enemies roaming the mazes, who can kill you on contact, as well as break the chain of creatures following you, should they cross paths. You don't get any kind of attack to fight back against them, not even through power ups, though you do have a couple of defensive/evasive powers. You can hold down B to increase your movement speed, or Y to turn into a stationary pillar, that stuns enemies that crash into it. You also have a power meter that limits the use of both these powers, and when it runs down, not only are they taken away, but your default movement speed is reduced too, putting you at a massive disadvantage. All in all, the game is actually really difficult, though it never feels like it, and almost always you know that you died because of your own poor playing, rather than unfair design.

True to the SNES aesthetic, the game looks great: huge, very brightly coloured sprites, and backgrounds that manage to be both detailed and chunky-looking. The first set of stages looks best, by far, looking not unlike a zoomed-in version of the SNES Sim City port. It's actually a disappointment that after this and the lively beach stages, the China and Egypt stages that follow are so bland and lifeless. The production as a whole is pretty nice, though, which is a surprise, since as far as I can tell, it's one of only two games develoepd by the oddly-named Team Mental Care, and one of only a handful put out by publisher Magifact. Anyway, it's a fairly innofensive little game with a lot of character and charm, and I definitely wouldn't discourage the curious from giving it a go themselves.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Ottifants (Master System)

The Ottifants are apparently from a cartoon created by German comedian Otto Waalkes, and if the games magazines in the UK at the time of this game's release are to believed, they were intended to be as popular a merchandising juggernaut as The Simpsons. Obviously, that never happened, the cartoon never left germany, with this game's release across europe the only reason anyone else has ever heard of them (and even this is pretty much completely forgotten). I've never seen The Ottifants cartoon, but having played the game, I assume the reason they never went anywhere is because they're an unendearing bunch of disgusting-looking shrivelled elephants. But is their game any good?

No. In fact, it's terrible in several different ways. There's a common complaint with European-developed shooting games, that even the weakest enemies are bullet sponges, making the player feel weak, and the game unsatisfying. Though it's not a shooting game, the enemies in it are dispatched by shooting multi-coloured dots from the end of your nose, and the regular enemies will stand there and take several shots before disappearing. The bosses take this to a ludicrous degree, with the first boss alone taking eighty hits before it'll fall, all while you're avoiding its homing death spanners.

Other than that, the game is just aggressively mediocre. You go around boring stages collecting teddy bears and pieces of paper with bar charts on them, until you find the exit. Then you go to the next stage. The one thing I can say in its favour is that the sprites are all big, colourful, and detailed to an extent that's pretty impressive for an 8-bit consoles. But even taking that into account, The Ottifants is an awful, joyless game, and I don't recommend wasting any time on it.