Sunday, 15 September 2019

Oekaki Puzzle (Neo Geo Pocket Colour)

Long time readers might remember that I've always said that Logic Pro (and its sequel, Logic Pro Adventure) are by far the best nonogram videogames around, with all others being mediocre by comparision. Well, it's time for some exciting news: I may have found the all-time worst example of a nonogram game in Oekaki Puzzle!

To start with, it has the same big flaw as so many others: non-existant stakes caused by a lack of any real lose condition, with the added caveat that you get zero feedback at all on whether you're marking the right or wrong squares. It's also missing some common quality of life features, like highlighting the row and column your cursor is currently on so you tell where you are at a glance, for example.

Then there's the puzzles themselves, which are completely joyless things to solve. I think there's three main reasons for this. One: a lot of the puzzles turn out to be things like letters or numbers or just simple shapes when you complete them. Two: a huge amount of the puzzles are symmetrical, so when you've solved half the puzzle, you just go and do the same thing reversed on the other half of the grid. There's a soul-crushingly long series of near-identical animal faces that are all particularly egregious offenders in this department. Three: a lot of puzzles also feature a lot of rows where the numbers have a lot of ones and twos. This is a hard one to explain, but it makes the puzzles really tedious to solve, and also removes the mild satisfaction of filling in a long line of squares with reckless abandon.

I've actually gone back to the original Logic Pro recently, attempting to finish it in a single credit like I did with Logic Pro Adventure when I reviewed it last year, and the differences between that game and Oekaki Puzzle really show how such a simple concept can be executed by two games with such a vast chasm of quality between the two. Don't bother playing this game.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Kamen Rider SD - Shutsugeki!! Rider Machine (SNES)

I was attracted to this game when I saw some screenshots of it, and it appeared to be a side-scrolling racing game, which is pretty unusual. When I played it, though, it actually turned out to be a beat em up in which the player and all the enemies are riding in or on vehicles. That's pretty unusual too, I guess? Unfortunately, it doesn't have much effect on the game itself.

I assume that the idea of having all the characters on vehicles is to give the impression of an exciting, high speed battle, but that feeling never comes across. You can increase or decrease your speed at any time by pressing the shoulder buttons, but it doesn't really change anything besides the speed at which the background is scrolling, and fighting at 149 kilometres per hour feels exactly the same as fighting at 605 kilometres per hour. It's with those scrolling backgrounds themselves, though, that I place the blame for the this game's lack of excitement.

The thing is that the game never really feels fast or exciting because you're never going anywhere: each area has a background image that's maybe two screens long, and you go past it over and over again until you've beaten all the enemies in that area. Then your character just speeds offscreen to the next area. It feels like you're fighting on a treadmill, and it's not helped by the fact that each stage has a few areas in it, and each background gets used at least twice.

As for the characters, though this game does apparently star every Showa era Kamen Rider, you don't get to pick them, each one gets their own stage, that can only be played in order. A strange approach, when compared to Masked Rider Club Battle Race, which not only lets you pick whichever Rider you like, but is generally a much better game all-round. It's a shame it never got ported to any home systems, really.

There's really no reason to bother with Kamen Rider SD: Shutsugeki!! Rider Machine, unless you really need to have every Kamen Rider game ever released. Even if you want a SNES beat em up with Kamen Riders in it, this isn't the one to go for.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Command War Super Special Battle & War Game (Arcade)

I've reviewed an unreleased Taito arcade game before, Recalhorn, which was pretty much a completed , fully polished game that just wasn't released. Command War Super Special Battle & War Game is not like that: it's very unfinished, and very rough around the edges. I think it's mainly the presentation and balance that hasn't been worked out, though, and the game is still very playable.

Unusually for an (intended) arcade game, it's a strategy game, that sees you moving troops around a simple board. When one of your troops meets one of the enemy's troops, they enter a little battle, a lot like the ones seen in the Game Gear game, Godzilla Kaiju Daishingeki. Also like that game, the troops themselves are a combination of normal sci-fi military stuff like tanks, jets and giant robots, along with slightly weirder monsters, like cyborg dragons and giant harpies. You might not expect it, but it seems that the tanks are the most important units, just because they're so short that a lot of the larger troops' attacks just go right over their heads.

So, that's the basic premise of the game, but before you play, you're asked to select one of four difficulty levels, which have more of an effect on how the game works then you might expect. On beginner mode, you're automatically given a pre-selected group of troops for each battle, making it the least interersting of all the modes. In amateur, there's always a tank on your team, and you get to buy two more. In Professional and Expert, you get to pick all your troops for yourself, plus the objective of the battles is different: in the lower two difficulties, you win simply by defeating all the enemy troops. In the higher two difficulties, each side also has a special extra unit in the form of a giant robot/tank thing, the defeat of which instantly ends the battle.

You've probably noticed that the screenshots of this game are pretty hard to read, and that's true: clearly, the developers hadn't fully figured out how this game was to be presented, and in its current form it's very messy-looking. You do get used to it after a couple of plays, though it's still a shame that it's hard to get a decent look at the troops attacking each other in the action sections without the big stupid maps in the way. There's also a problem with the money, in that you don't get more money for winning battles, and you need to buy units to replace those destroyed. You can get money in battle to be the first one to reach the flags on the map, but otherwise, you can quickly end up in an unwinnable situation after a couple of stages.

All in all, Command War is a mildly interesting distraction, and a curiosity for Taito fans to look into. In its current form, though, it's not a very good game. It might have become one if they'd continued working on it, but it's easy to see why they didn't: someone obviously had the thought "can we make a strategy game for arcades?", and it gradually became clearer that the answer was "not really".