Saturday, 3 November 2018

Small Games Round Up Vol. 3!

It's another round up of three games that aren't big enough to support posts of their own, and this time I'm looking at a trio of SG-1000 games, starting with Golgo 13. Obviously the middle-aged fantasy world of Golgo 13, the stoic sniper who assassinates people and beds women is an ill fit for the pastel-palleted world of the SG-1000, so in this game he's using his skills for a non-violent purpose: rescuing people from a runaway train by shooting out the windows so they can escape. Between Goglo and the train, though, there's an infinitely long cargo train and a road. If your bullets hit one of the boxcars on the cargo train, or a truck passing by on the road, it'll bounce back at you, and you have to avoid it. After a few stages, some misanthropic helicopter pilots will also start tryng to bomb you, plus there's a time limit. Unfortunately, if the time limit runs out, the train just goes offscreen, there's no sequence of it hitting a wall or going off a cliff or anything.

Golgo 13 is an okay game, but it's really let down by the fact that once the helicopters start appearing, that's as hard as the game gets. It doesn't speed up or add any more elements, it's essentially just that stage over and over until you run out of lives. Even something as simple as the train going up and down hills occaisionally would be a big change, forcing the player to aim vertically as well astiming their shots and aiming horizontally. Never mind. Hustle Chumy is a more standard game for the time, being a single-screen platformer about a sewer-dwelling rat that just wants to bring home some food. To do so, you leave the sewer and brave the world above, filled with cats, bats, crocodiles, astronauts and an invincible fishman. All the enemies except the fishman can be killed by throwing dots (stones, maybe), with the fishman acting as a slow, but unrelenting terminator-type figure.

The big twist in Hustle Chumy is that the more bits of food you pick up (it's impressive for a game on such an old system that they vary from stage to stage, including fruits, sweets, pudding, and so on), the heavier and slower you get. You can still jump at the same speed, though this carries its own risk, thanks not only to the bats flying overhead, but also the fact that your jump is a set arc, over which you have no control. Hustle Chumy is a pretty good game, well worth a look. Plus it has some very cute sprites, with the cat enemy in particular looking great.

Finally, there's GP World, a racing game that feels like a genetic forebear to SEGA's more well-known sprite scaling racers like Outrun and Hang On. It makes a decent attempt at looking like a sprite scaling game on hardware where that couldn't possibly support it, and it features simpler versions of mechanics that would appear in those games, like Outrun's two-gear system, and the fact that there's no actual placement in the races, you're just racing against time, and the other vehicles are present just to ct as obstacles and to provide points bonuses for passing them. One odd little touch that really speaks to GP World's prototypical nature is that rather than having a timer that counts down to zero, the timer counts upwards, and each stage has a different time limit that gives a game over when the timer gets that high. It's only a little thing, but looking at this game, and the games that came after it, you can see how they streamlined things and improved them bit-by-bit over time.

As for GP World itself, it's a good game. It's fun enough on its own merits, and it's a nice little curiosity: a look at the DNA of some later, more polished games that we all know and love.

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