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.

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