Double Dribble NES Review

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In the 80’s, a wave of American culture landed on UK shores that would influence and shape a generation, things such as MTV, The Simpsons and American sports like Baseball, Ice Hockey and the sport for today’s review, Basketball. First played in the late 19th Century in a town named Springfield (not where Jebediah first founded) it would only have been a matter of time before a video game was based off the sport – why get kids out playing the real sport when they can put on their Nintendo and play the video game of it? Konami hit on this brainwave and released Double Dribble, so how does it fare – is it a 3 pointer or a non-starter?

Someone call pest control - we gotta problem!

Someone call pest control – we gotta problem!

Double Dribble started life as per a number of early NES titles as an arcade game released in 1986. Due to the popularity of this, Konami thought (and rightly so) that it should be ported to home consoles, which it duly released in 1987. Double Dribble is a basketball game in which as per most sports, the idea is to score more points than your opponents. The rules and scoring of basketball won’t be covered here however there are plenty of fine resources out there that would describe the sport, so let’s assume you know the basics of the game.

The slowest options menu on the NES

The slowest options menu on the NES

When you pop in the game you can choose between one player game versus the computer or playing against a friend in local multiplayer which is always favourable – online multiplayer at this stage was not fully designed or implemented on the NES…so you choose which mode you wish to play and then you’re treated to an opening scene of what looks like hoards of moles burrowing underground make their way to a Kremlin-like building (such is the graphics in the opening segment)  whilst the US National Anthem plays in the background. A nice touch and adds to the charm and appeal of the game.

Kick off! I mean, let's start

Kick off! I mean, let’s start

You then get to pick your options before the match starts, which was common for sports games on the NES at the time however to choose your options your player shoots the ball into the net to change the setting. Firstly it’s time, so you can play a 5/10/20 or 30 minute match, then which team out of 5 to choose from you want to be (surprisingly no option for a London basketball team – maybe London wasn’t glamorous enough at the time…). Then you get to pick the level of difficulty from 1, 2 or 3 before starting the match. The one criticism here is that it takes too long to cycle through the options – what is wrong with pressing left or right to choose your team or match length? Instead your waiting for the guy to shoot the hoop which draws out the process.

Will he? Won't he?

Will he? Won’t he?

So the match starts, and the graphics suit the game well and are of good quality, which isn’t surprising as Konami were the publishers of the game. There are the odd quirk here and there, such as in game the player’s skin colour can change (which is more evident when the player you are in control with “flashes”) but in the background you can define the crowd and is a nice touch when you can see them pumping their fists in the air like they just don’t care and supporting team. The centre piece of the game is when you go in to the dunk the ball into the basket, a cut scene appears – for the time this was mightily impressive and felt realistic. It doesn’t matter how many times you see the cut scene, it always does bring a smile to the face and the following shouting at the TV wanting the ball to go in the basket to get your two points.

BOOMSHAKALA! Oh, wrong game...

BOOMSHAKALA! Oh, wrong game…

The controls are responsive and tight, with the d pad (unsurprisingly) moving your player, the A button passing the ball and the B button changing the player you are controlling and also shooting. Although there may be a button to press to tackle the ball from the player, having tried all combinations it is difficult to know what this is, which for a sport’s game as much as the offense is good, you need to know how to defend. The sound effects at times can sound like they were direct from the Atari 2600 however hearing the beeps go up in pitch when you are in control of the ball is a nice touch, the ball being bounced is a nice effect and there is some voice sampling which is always a welcome especially on a console like the NES.

From behind

From behind

Overall, Double Dribble is an average basketball game with which it’s postives and negatives equal out in measure. The positives include the Star Spangled banner at the start of the game, the cut scene when dunking a basket and the tight and responsive controls which for a sports game is always important. The negatives is the hard difficulty of the game – it does seem tricky to tackle the ball from your opponent and feels like every chance they are at your basket they score whereas when you attempt to score, more often that not it doesn’t go in. Maybe the difficulty gradient you choose at the start from 1, 2 or 3 means 1 is the most hardest and 3 is the easiest? Who knows, it is not explained in game but a solid title from the Konami team, heaven knows what it would have been like if it was a black box game by Nintendo as a launch title. Maybe then the mighty USSR and Great Britain may have been involved…but do pick up the title, just so that two of you on local multiplayer on a Tuesday night can compete against each other pretending to be Michael Jordan. Copies of the game are plentiful in your preferred method of purchasing games, so do try it and don’t be tempted to shout BOOMSHAKALA – wrong generation of console my friend……

Rating – 3 out of 5

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Jurassic Park NES Review

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There are a number of things in life that go well together – Cheese and onion, Vanilla and Coca Cola perhaps even Del Boy and Rodney…but imagine if you could combine THREE of the most beautiful things in the world (warning sarcasm may be approaching) – that is Nintendo, film-based video games and Ocean Software. Imagine the unadulterated joy of those three things mashed together to create something unique so mind-blowing it barely gets repeated. It’s well known within certain game reviewers that in the late 80’s at least, movie-based NES games were developed by the wonderful LJN who provided their own, erm, “unique” take on the films for which they developed the tie-in game for. So how would those bastions of fine gaming (!) Ocean handle something as monumental as Jurassic Park – is it 65 millions in the making for something golden or just something that should be fossilised deep under the earth?

Slanted moving developer logos? Whatever next

Slanted moving developer logos? Whatever next

Jurassic Park is a movie-based video game in which you control the film’s main character Alan Grant as he completes six levels ranging from rescuing people to destroying certain types of dinosaurs, but without the panache of someone saying “ah ah ah you didn’t say the magic word”. Jurassic Park is a top down shooter of which you must collect cards, eggs and destroying dinosaurs in order to progress through the game. Throughout the game you may encounter mystery boxes, which as the name suggests contains a mystery effect – like a Kinder egg but not as fun. Power up’s can range from more health, to another life however on the flip side of the coin you may lose energy or lose a life so the choice really is yours whether you collect the mystery box.

Nothing more sinister than.....Music+SFX

Nothing more sinister than…..Music+SFX

So you power on the game, and having chosen your language (bearing in mind this is the European PAL version so language select may not be present in NTSC versions of the game) you are then faced with an intro screen which can be somewhat terrifying – especially if you have the lights off and the tv volume up. From the bottom of the screen comes a Tyrannosaurs Rex with it’s eyes dilated ready to eat the player up. His mouth is wide open with saliva dripping from it’s mouth as you get to choose how many players should play, if music and SFX should be on and also the hi-score. A nice start to the game but nice starts may not equate to nice finished articles. Upon starting the game your first mission notes dinosaurs have taken over Jurassic Park and that you have to find Tim and rescue him from a herd of giant triceratops.

You can run but you can't hide

You can run but you can’t hide

The game begins from a top down point of view, and although the graphics are bold and defined which for a NES game is good, the colours are somewhat dull and turgid – lots of greens and browns. Oh and those “giant” triceratops are nothing more than pint-sized red baby dinosaurs, though you do get to encounter larger dinosaurs later on. It’s something your poor heart may not be able to cope with, with all the anticipation and excitement of waiting so if you are of a nervous disposition this isn’t for you. So you wander round destroying dinosaurs collecting eggs and keycards wondering if this is what the game will be like, to which it is safe to answer….yes, yes it is. You reach terminals, find out you have the wrong key card for the terminal and then out you go collecting more eggs, more power ups and it is a monotonous circle where you can easily run out of bullets for your gun, so be prepared to jam the d pad down as hard as you can and run away from dinosaurs the size of a dachshund. Beware though that the enemies can come out of nowhere and if they touch you, your health bar goes down quicker than you can say Diplodocus so you’ll need to have the reactions of a Stegosaurus whose had laxatives and lots of raisins.

Continue? Please God no!!

Continue? Please God no!!

As mentioned earlier, for an NES game that was released later in the lifetime of the console the graphics are bold and can easily distinguish what is the tree with the ground to the dinosaurs but the colours leave a lot to be desired. On screen it displays a health counter to the top left, the number of bullets remaining in your gun, and on the top right a score counter, because what game would not be complete without a score counter! The controls are responsive, with the d-pad moving Alan about, the A button moving him around, the B button firing your weapon, the select button cycling through the weapons Alan has, and the start button being as fascinating as pausing the game.

Walk through walls, like David Blaine?

Walk through walls, like David Blaine?

Having played this game for well over an hour and getting nowhere fast, just repeating the same level over and over again collecting the same items time and time again, it’s difficult to know if the game just sucks or this reviewer sucks. The consensus is on the former rather than the latter, and the game is highly forgettable, monotonous and certainly not worth the £40 you would have paid at the time of launch. This game could have been from the masters of film-bases video games LJN, to which applause should be given to Ocean for making a game worthy of their low standards. It simply isn’t worth the time or effort in rescuing Tim and shooting dinosaurs up the proverbial bottom so do yourself a favour, rent the movie instead and enjoy that rather than collecting keycards a la Doom on here, or running away from dinosaurs. Even if this game was 65 million years in the making it wouldn’t have helped…

Rating – 2 out of 5