R.C. Pro-Am NES Review

If you were to think of racing games where you race against other cars, collecting power ups along the way and obtaining weapons to use against opponents – hang on wait a minute. Racing around laps in circuits? Collecting power ups? WEAPONS TO USE AGAINST OPPONENTS? What does this sound like?…it sound’s somewhat like Mario Kart does it not? Or Ivan Stewart’s Off-Road Racing, maybe for the pacifists something like Micro Machines? Well before all those, came along a game that didn’t involve monster trucks, or Formula 1 cars, but radio-controlled cars out of everything in the world to race. Given that it was made by Rare, who according to these reviews struck somewhat dull gold with Slalom and faeces with Anticipation, will it be third time lucky for the boys from Twycross?

With rims like that who’d mess with you at traffic lights?

R.C Pro Am is a racing game where the cars themselves are remote controlled cars, with the idea (surprisingly for a racing game) is to race round circuits, finishing within the top 3 to progress to the next level. When you turn on the game, your treated to the funkiest opening music you’ll ever hear in your NES library. Pressing start takes you straight into the game – no options menu customising your buttons, no dilly dallying or shilly shallying, just straight into the track conditions for the first race and where you’ll be able to view the customisations you make to the car – but thats for later. It’s time to buckle up (as much as you can in a remote-controlled car) and get ready for your first race!

The controls are as simple as they can be for an 8-bit racing game. Pressing the B button makes your car accelerate, and the A-Button fires your weapon when you collect them, and the left and right d-pad steers the car. When racing, especially when turning the car drifts momentarily before it turns the car, so you need to time the turning well otherwise you’ll be racing alongside the wall, slowing you down and letting your opponents pass you by.  However, along the way, there are power ups to improve your vehicle, which you will need for the later levels. You can collect tyres to help grip your car to the track better, higher top speed for the car and finally turbo acceleration. There is also wads of cash to help improve your score rather than to purchase more items like Iron Man. On the track is oil slicks and water puddles as well as rainy clouds above you that will cause your car to spin and crash off so be mindful of these whilst driving. There are arrows on the track indicating which way to go, which is useful so it helps you prepare to turn without being surprised by a sharp hairpin bend.

Slightly more trophies in that cabinet than at Arsenal…

In the game there are 24 tracks to complete, and along the way if you collect bonus letters to spell the word NINTENDO then your car gets upgraded, helping you complete the game. If alas you do get to the game over screen, you do have the opportunity to continue where you left off with 2 continues, without having lost all your upgrades and power ups, which is good rather than getting to the latter stages and then having lost everything, getting your rear handed to you on a plate in a basic car. As well, you’ve got a high enough score then you can input your initials to be stored so you can show to your friends….if they are round. Like most of the NES games that had a high score table, unfortunately as soon as the console is turned off, all your hard work and achievement is erased.

Even remote-controlled cars have “accidents” sometimes…

The graphics in the game are bold and well defined, there’s no need to guess what the green pixels outside the track are, or the power ups your collecting, or what hazard your driving over. It’s also a nice touch and somewhat rewarding after each race to receive a trophy for the place you finished in (gold for 1st place, silver for 2nd, bronze for 3rd). The map at the bottom is a good representative of the track your driving on, your location indicated by a dot, its not a vague graphic that doesn’t represent well like on other games. The music is fresh and upbeat, after a while they will linger on the mind after you have turned the console off, especially the music when you get to the game over screen that is still upbeat but with a wistful tone. The sound effects are typical racing effects, with the accelerating engines, the squealing tyres and firing the weapons.

Tell me who doesn’t write humourous 3 letter obscenities on the high score table??

When this game was released 1987, no one knew the impact that the game would have not only on the NES console, improving on existing racing games such as Mach Rider, but on the racing genre on games to come. Although not directly, it does seem like this game inspired titles such as Super Off Road and the more famous Mario Kart, with the usage of weapons to cause damage to opponents. If you have time to spare in the afternoon and looking for a game to lay that doesn’t get too involved, then RC Pro Am is certainly a title worthy of wiling that afternoon away with. It’s easy to pick up and play, it doesn’t require you to have the driving skills and reflexes of Lewis Hamilton and before you know it, an hour or two has gone in the quest to perfect your car. Although it’s disappointing that your stats and scores are not saved and that the game does not have a 2 player option, it is something that future games learnt from, where the whole map is shown on the screen rather than the car following the oversized track, but nevertheless, there’s nothing stopping you passing the controller to a friend to complete the next level. Copies of the game are plentiful so there shouldn’t be any reason not to pick up a copy from your local store, so go on, treat yourself to one of Rare’s finer retro games.

Rating – 4 out of 5

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Wayne’s World NES Review

The Nintendo Entertainment System was known for a number of things in it’s time. It was known for bringing home consoles and the video game industry back from the brink of the well documented 1983 video game crash and restoring pride to the industry. It was known as the starting point for many of video game’s best known characters and franchises such as Mario, Zelda and Metroid to name but a few. For all of this, it was known as well for being a console that had pretty awful games that were licensed off the back of popular films at the time – Jaws, Back to the Future, to name but a few. It seemed even the mighty NES didn’t learn the lessons from such travesties of film games such as E.T on the Atari 2600, but how does Wayne’s World, one of Mike Myers’ most famous creations – released near the end of the console’s life back in 1993 fair up with its competitors, does it party hard or suck as hard?

It’s fair to say that fans of the film, the many of them that there were, would no doubt have been excited about a video game based on the film. It’s highly unlikely you would have played this if you wasn’t. When turning on the game it’s hard not to sing to yourself the intro from the movie, “Wayne’s World! Party Time! Excellent!” anticipating some cheesy yet cheerful 8 bit rendition of this, but what is served is a marker of what to expect in this game – nothing but disappointment. Past the credits the game “starts” by bringing up a still image of a badly-pixellated Wayne and a half-decent looking Garth holding drumsticks – apparently with no bodies attached to them describing how they’d like to do their show as a career – yeah right!

You need a cymbal the size of a UFO to play those drums

After all that, then the game starts. The game is a side-scrolling game, with the most literal meanings from the film interspersed in the levels. The first level starts with you as Garth, who because of his love for music and playing the drums, starts off in a music store. For some reason you have some cosmic ray gun used to destroy – wait for it – cymbals and drums and saxophones all waiting to drain you of your health bar thats in the top left of the screen. Although your health bar is plentiful, coming into contact with enemies makes you lose a chunk of your health a la Megaman, however rather than be immune to being hurt for a brief period of time, like a sadist you come back for more, with the controls slow and clunky and difficult to move away without losing half your life – and that’s just the first level!

Completing this, your treated to another “cut-scene” of sorts, involving the top 10 things Beav says, as though that’s all anyone cares about. After pressing the A-button faster than doing the 100 meter sprint on Track & Field (or pressing Start for quickness) you then control Wayne who possesses no weapons, just a kick like Mortal Kombat that’s about as effective as central heating in an igloo. Again, going through levels of musical instruments, with one of Wayne’s catchphrases plastered through the level, “Way” and “No Way”. Speaking of which, when you turn on the game, your treated to a digitized voice of Wayne saying No Way – and you better get used to it. The enemies you encounter, plus the more than useless weapons you have – especially the lack of weapon in Wayne’s case – your going to hear that voice a lot, for its heard everytime you die.

With images like this, who needs a HD remake?

At random intervals when you’ve completed a level your treated to a bonus stage, though it’s not clear at the start that this is what it is. There’s shelves upon shelves of what looks like fried eggs but could be mistaken for donuts that replenish your health, which does come as a useful bonus, and you have a certain amount of time to collect as many eggs erm I mean donuts as possible. It only seeks to stave off the inevitable, which is an untimely death by contacting enemies and falling down chasms that your supposed to jump. It’s like a snake eating itself, no beginning and no endings, just the same gaining health to then lose it. Great huh? NOT!

The controls of the game are simple enough, d-pad is to move, the A button is to jump and B button to fire your weapon/imitate Skorpion or Reptile from Mortal Kombat with a high kick. Completing the level’s are much easier with Garth giving that he has a gun whilst with Wayne you have to be specific with your kicks by timing them correctly otherwise you lose chunks of your health. The enemies seem to fly and attack too fast, and whack you perpetually to death without any time to turn around, run away and attack them. It is a nice touch if you don’t touch the controller for a few seconds, your treated to the dynamic duo dancing for you on the screen – much better that than some VirtuaGirl dancing on your desktop. But it’s still not enough to save this. The sound effects well its the typical 8-bit fare with the gun sounds and jumps in the right places, and it’s a nice touch to have some form of digitized voices so sound effects wise it’s not too bad however the music is very repetitive with the same 3 notes playing over and over again on a monotonous loop. The music does change, but now would be a good time to get reacquanited your Pearl Jam collection, or whatever melodies the youth of today listen to.

Save yourself from Ribena Purple – watch the DVD instead!

This game was released in 1993, and had the opportunity to go against what Nintendo games based on popular films was – terrible loathesome games that are not a patch on the motion picture. To be fair, the game is not terrible – its just very bad. From the small things such as not being allowed to say The Shitty Beatles and changing it to the Lousy Beatles (what support band would not want to be called that?) because of the Big N and it’s rules and regulations, right to the major flaws of the game, the lack of invincibility when being hit and terrible level design. There’s no variation, just going from left-to-right, fighting bosses of LP records and lazy character design. If ever you were looking for a literal representation of a film in a video game, your right on the money with this one. Copies are scant out in the wild, so unless you want to get drunk and party hard with these two dudes, I’d swerve this game and stick to watching the films, you won’t be disappointed and have more SCHAWING than a children’s playground – not that you want to be hanging round those places…

Rating – 2 out of 5

Ice Hockey NES Review

Let’s start this review with a quick video-game word association game to get the grey matter going. With each sport think of the first game that comes into your head – ready? Football (soccer) perhaps Fifa Soccer, Golf maybe Tiger Woods (insert year here) and ice hockey well NHL I’d expect. If there was a retro version of this word-association game, then for ice hockey the first game that would come to mind is Blades Of Steel made by Konami that was released in 1990. Good old Nintendo released there own version of the game two years prior to Konami’s take on the game in 1988 so is it as n-ice as Blades of Steel or should it be relegated to the sin bin?

Ice Hockey is, if you hadn’t guessed already, a video game based on the sport of the same name. The idea for those not in the know is to hit the round black puck into the goal scoring more points than the opposition. Nintendo’s version of the game is a stripped down back-to-basics affair, much like how the black box sports games such as Golf and Soccer were just stripped down basic versions of the game. When you pop this sucker in, your treated to the main menu with jaunty music, a line of ice hockey players dancing for your enjoyment with guys above shooting pucks, and the option to select 1 or 2 players. Then you get straight to the menu screen. In the PAL version there are 6 countries’ to choose from. The countries’ involved are:

USA, Sweden, Poland, Canada, USSR and Czechoslovakia, although in the NTSC version Japan is there instead of Sweden. It’s surprising that the United Kingdom isn’t included, being the ice hockey power-house that we are. Set the speed level and how long you want to play for, from 7, 10 and 15 “minutes” and your then ready to talk tactics.

For two country’s associated with the colour red, it’s a distinctive looking Luigi influence on their shirts

Your then faced with the option of selecting what type of player you want in the different positions of your team. You have 4 outfield players, and get to choose whether the player is a thin wiry player who can skate quick but can be weak, an average all-rounder player, or a heavier/stronger player yet is slower. Without rosters and real players included in these games, if you wanted big beefy mountains in your team then so be it – or if the strategy is to out play the opposition with speed then you can select that too. In fairness, none of this matters because the gameplay is what matters, and you could have the best team and best players, and still lose to the opposition who don’t know their arse from their elbow but can outplay you. After this screen, it’s time to hit the ice.

The gameplay itself plays exactly like the older black box sports games played on the NES – simplistic with minimum controls. The d-pad moves the player, the A-Button passes the puck and the B Button shoots. There is no button to tackle should the puck lay with the opposition, just charge into them mashing any button you can. There is also no option to change the player, it is whoever is closest. The goalie has a small area in which he is the king of that domain and can pass the puck. You can aim the d-pad to where your player is and press the A button to pass, and thankfully to shoot is not like other ice hockey games in which an arrow goes up and down the goal which you have to aim then shooting goes in that direction – you can press the direction and shoot. It seems hit and miss as to whether the puck is hit powerfully or not. If you hold the B -button down to shoot it makes your player “prepared” to shoot, but at a risk of getting tackled, is not always guaranteed to be powerful, nor be on target.

That Canadian flag looks like someone flipping the middle finger. Maybe at the bad gameplay

The graphics is a standard 8-bit fare, with the rink well designed, though the crowd are salmon coloured and everyone there resembling a member of the Beatles. They don’t even have the decency to be looking at the match in progress, just at each other! When you score a goal the crowd colour changes from salmon to green, but otherwise the colours are blocky and contrast well with the white of the rink, especially if you play this in the dark it may cause snow-blindness. Saying that why Poland and Canada are in green is anyone’s guess, as countries that typically are red by nature. The sound effects do get repetitive and can jar after a while, speaking of which although the music is quite upbeat and positive, it’s the only song in the game, which loops over and over and over again, now if your playing this for a 15 minute match or play this with your mates, it can get very annoying, so this is an occasion you may want to put on a Men at Work CD, or whatever music the kids listen to these days.

If there is one word that describes Ice Hockey, is average. Its very rare that you get to encounter any form of physical violence which for me is what makes Ice Hockey games good. When this happens you are relegated to the sin bin, but this happens far too rarely. The music and sound effects are not the best you’ll hear, and there are much better retro ice hockey games to play. For Ice Hockey fans, it is worth adding to your retro collection, however prices are quite expensive for PAL copies, it seems this was much more common in the US. If your not a fan of the sport it isn’t a game your going to rush out to purchase, or “snipe” like mad on eBay for a copy so look at acquiring NHL 94 on the Mega Drive instead, or enjoy the splendour of digitized voices on Blades of Steel. I’m off now to congratulate the Polish and the Canadian’s on their superb choice of moss green rather than the more obvious choice of red…

Rating – 2 out of 5