Low G Man NES Review

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It is not the first time this has been said about the NES system, but if there is one type of game that the NES was famous for was it’s platform games. It divides in to two different categories, the “normal” platforming games and the futuristic platforming games, neither of which is more beneficial than the other. At the end of the day, as long as a game is done well, with tight controls, half decent graphics and most of all very decent gameplay then it can be set in the past like Time Lord, or set in the future. So with today’s game, what category do you think this game falls into? You know it’s going to be awesome where on the box it proudly displays a password feature (akin to MegaMan being proud on the box of it’s state-of-the-art graphics), so how does Low G Man game fare in today’s gaming?

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Low G Man, or the full title as Low G Man: The Low Gravity Man is an action-platforming game set in the future, in which the idea of the game is to go from one side of the stage to the other, and defeating a mini boss at the end of each level to progress. Nothing too complicated but then you don’t need a complicated premise for the game to be good. The plot of the game again is nothing too crazy or unique – aliens take over a futuristic robotic planet and it is your job to save the world. What is unique to this game is that as soon as you turn the game on you’re immediately treated to the plot of the game – no developer logos and no straight to main menu like those other dastardly games. Thankfully you can press start to skip the intro scenes and go straight to the main menu, where you can start the game or enter a password. which is weird in that vowels and certain letters do not show – whether this is to stop rather “adult” passwords being used and spelling naughty words it is unknown however at the time battery back-ups were expensive and only certain games at the time had them so to have a password is nothing bad whatsoever, better that then nothing, having to sit through the whole game without a way to record progression.

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So when you start the game you’ll notice two things – firstly that you character can jump really high (which makes sense given you are the Low Gravity Man, which isn’t the best superhero name that could be given…) but second of all you have a gun projectile that doesn’t kill enemies. It doesn’t matter how many times you shoot at the enemy, they are frozen but are not killed, so it does take some thought to realise you cannot kill the enemy with the projectile. This is certainly a unique feature but seldom seen in games where it is the norm to kill enemies with projectiles. What it is is that the projectile is in fact a freeze ray which freezes the enemies – in order to kill them you have to press up and down and the attack weapon to spear the enemy to death – it resembles the weapon Donatello has from Teenage Mutant Ninja* (*Hero for those sensitive folk..) Turtles with a spear at the end. Throughout the game, you can pick up various weapons and power ups however the one issue is that when the power ups fall to the ground, they fall through the ground. It’s not like Contra in which the items are on the ground ready to be picked up – if you don’t collect the power up mid-air you lose it. This is slightly annoying as when you defeat an enemy more often than not they drop something however unless you have the reflexes of an eagle chasing a vole then you’ll lose the item never to be seen again.

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The controls are slightly more complicated than a normal NES action-platforming game. The A button jumps, however if you lightly press the button your character does a small jump whereas holding the button down does a big, low-gravity jump. The B button either on it’s own or pressing left/right and B fires your freeze ray or other power up you may have, up/down B wields the Donatello-type weapon to kill enemies and the start button not only pauses the game but brings up a weapon select screen. You choose from one of four weapons that when you start you have the freeze ray but can pick up boomerangs and other weapons. It’s nice to have more variety than just a standard A button jumps, B button fires a weapon and leave it at that – there is nothing wrong with simplistic controls because it can make or break a game but every once in a while it is nice to have something more advanced. The graphics resemble the future well with it’s bleak landscapes and defined graphics, but who knows what the future looks like? The enemies look different and although are killed pretty much the same way, it is good that there is variety in the enemies even though they can get pretty fiendish and you need to freeze your enemies to kill them. The music well that is okay, nothing that will get you humming to after you have turned off the game but it serves its purpose well and has various sound effects which compliment the gameplay. No sound effects for jumping but various sounds when firing your projectiles or hitting an enemy which is always good.

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So all in all, Low G Man was a surprising game to play and review. When you first turn on the game and start playing, you do wonder why you cannot kill enemies with your projectile weapon and find your health bar going down quickly. When you get to the grips with the game, with the low gravity and freezing the enemies or if you’re feeling braver to kill them with your up/down B attack without freezing, you find yourself enjoying the game more than you thought you would. There are a couple of issues with the game, firstly as noted earlier the fact if you don’t collect the power up in the air and let it drop then it disappears forever. Second of all it is a difficult game – not fiendish like other notorious titles on the system but it has a steep difficulty curve. You get enemies on the ground and enemies in the air so you have to have your wits about you and use your freezing ray well before killing them with the up/down attack. If you can get past this then you find yourself playing a half decent game that goes for cheap as chips online and in local retro stores so if you fancy a challenge and not want to play the usual titles, pick up the worst-sounding superhero of Low Gravity Man and save the world! Again!

Rating – 3 out of 5

MegaMan NES Review

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After a number of month’s, this site is back to doing what it does best – occasionally updating! But it is a new year with new goals and new challenges, so what better way of celebrating nearing the end of the first month by looking back at a classic game that started a franchise. It is easy with successful franchises like Mario and Legend of Zelda to look back and scoff at the simplistic graphics, gameplay and how it is inferior to it’s recent outputs. But what about a series such as Mega Man, how does it fare up today? Would it start off being mega, or anything but?

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Mega Man, also known as Rockman in Japan was unleashed onto the NES system in 1987 with it’s box depicting high resolution (but not HD) graphics and state-of-the-art….something. The box itself looks harrowing to say the least, with an Albert Einstein-inspired character in the top left looking pensively at a human-looking character firing a cannon out his arm. Mega Man is an action-platforming game in which if you didn’t know Mega Man then the plot isn’t necessarily easy to guess, as there is nothing when you turn on the game as to what the plot is about. But, for the sake of this review, the plot is that Dr Light who is a good guy created six humanoid robots who go crazy and being bad thanks to Dr Wily a.k.a Albert Einstein lookalike. You need to destroy these six humanoid robot bosses having passed through the stage, before a final show down with Dr Wily.

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So when you turn on the game, there is no developer’s titles, no schmaltzy backdrop and story to show you what is going on, you just get the title screen. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with this, as when you turn on the game you want to get straight into the action. You press the start button and you’re presented with six stages to do choose from: Cutman, Gutsman, Iceman, Bombman, Fireman and Elecman. You could hazard a guess what type of level each one is with Elec/Fire/Iceman but what kind of level is Gutsman, or Cutman? There are no clues but then life is full of surprises so why should the player be fully briefed what type of level is what? So having picked your level you then progress through the level until you get to the boss. Having completed the boss you then acquire the special power from that level, so for example with Bomb Man having defeated him you then acquire the power of the bombs which can be useful against enemies and certain bosses.

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If ever you know one thing about Mega Man it’s that is *balls hard*. It is that important that asterisks have to proceed and follow that statement but it is as hard as the asterisks make it seem. Mega Man is not a game for casual gamers, you will find a lot of time you will be shouting, swearing and wanting to throw your controller out the window. The problem is that unless you memorise the levels and the enemies within it, you don’t know what is coming up – you jump across a gap and then an enemy flies out of nowhere to knock you into the hole in the ground instantly killing you. Or, an enemy is on the ground so you cannot kill it by standing next to it and shooting, you have to jump on the platform below, jump up and shoot which you find doesn’t kill the enemy but paralyses them for a moment. What doesn’t help is that Mega Man’s moving physics resemble Luigi from Super Mario or if you run on ice in games – you start running but when you stop you carry on a little bit further. This doesn’t help when you have enemies that spring up from the ground and wasn’t expecting it, or on the ice level which you carry on moving even when you stop moving the d-pad, right into an oncoming enemy. Your reflexes and reactions have got to be sharp with this game, it isn’t one you can play lightly and without giving it your full concentration.

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In relation to the game’s controls, they are simple and straight forward enough – the A button jumps whilst the B button shoots your weapon. The d-pad makes Mega Man move which is straight-forward enough so who says that you need multi-button combinations to have a good game? The graphics of the game match the bosses well, moving from the deep reds and yellows depicting fire from Elecman stage, to the blue and white hues from Iceman stage. The colours are bold, bright and well defined – they pop off the screen and are great graphics for a game released early in the NES system. The music and sounds, well they are on point if ever there was – although you will find yourself repeating parts of the stage over and over again due to the difficulty, inadvertently you’ll find yourself humming the music which is memorable and classic.

Mega Man is a difficult game to review, inasmuch the graphics, music and overall gameplay is great, but boy is hard. As noted above, the game is certainly not for casual gamers with plenty of swearing and shouting, and even with gamers who pride themselves on liking challenges, there will certainly be a lot of deaths and retry’s in order to get to Dr Wily for the final battle. If you can overlook the difficulty, then Mega Man is a great game and a wonderful start to the franchise, as were Super Mario Bros and The Legend of Zelda. Copies of the game are not the cheapest you’ll find for NES titles now, but certainly not beyond the realms of affordability, being cheaper than a title for current-gen consoles. It is a game worthy of your time and attention, with which if there was one piece of advice to give, then it would be to be patient. Try not to rush the game and take your time, with your reward being a completion of the stage, and your controller not being hurled out of the window or towards a loved one….

Rating – 4 out of 5

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

Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll NES Review

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Playing the NES, or any console for that matter, there are times when you wish you could actually be the character you’re controlling on-screen, be it an Italian plumber who headbutts bricks, collecting gold and having pet dinosaurs. Maybe you want to be a Rambo-type character with a big machine gun, a knife the size of an umbrella and a headband going round killing bad guys. But it never occurred to be controlling a snake but would you believe it, those guys and girls at Rare go ahead and develop a game where you’re controlling a snake. So how did this game fair up, was it rattle and roll or toilet roll?

Sparkle Sparkle!

Sparkle Sparkle!

Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll is a platforming game released in Europe in 1991, developed by the fine folks at Rare. The game features two snakes who are called Rattle and Roll who have to make their way through the level. The object is to navigate through the level eating enough enemies called “Nibbley Pibbleys” (how adorable) so that at the end of the level you sit on a weigh-in bell which if heavy enough will release the door to escape. A good feature of this game is that it can be played by one or two players, and what is even better is that the two player option you play simultaneously – none of this take-it-in-turns like a certain platforming game bearing the name of an Italian-American plumber…

The waterfalls, the beauty, the HOLD

The waterfalls, the beauty, the HOLD

Your snake grows in length when it eats a Nibbley, but the length in which your snake grows (no sniggering at the back) depends on what colour Nibbley you eat. If you eat a Nibbley of the same colour as your snake (bearing in mind Rattle and Roll are purple and pink) then it grows slightly longer. If you manage to eat a yellow enemy then your snake grows even longer – imagine the excitement! When your snake reaches a certain length, it’s tail flashes meaning you can exit the level so be on the lookout.

The game features 11 levels set from an isometric perspective (at an angle to you and me) that is similar in camera view to Marble Madness. What is also similar to Marble Madness is a strong bold colour scheme and also the control system. Because of the isometric viewpoint, it is not a simple case that you press the right button on the d-pad and Rattle (or Roll) goes to the right. In fact, when you press right on the d-pad your snake goes diagonal down right. If you press diagonal down right on the d pad you go straight down. It is a control scheme that you have to get used to – at least with said Marble Madness you could choose whether to control at a 45 degree angle or 90 degree angle, but with Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll you have to use the control scheme that the game provides you with.

Aww shucks, I'm Brilliant?

Aww shucks, I’m Brilliant?

However, when you do get used to the control scheme, you find yourself playing a decent platforming game with a simple premise that you can’t help but enjoy. Along the way you find enemies such as jumping tyres and if you are in the water long enough you might encounter a shark to gobble you up so you have to navigate your way through the enemies if you are going to survive. As well as the enemies, you have to contend with the environment, with it’s hills and spikes that can provide damage to your snake. With this game, you don’t have a health meter such as Mega Man, or go from being a big snake to a little snake, to death. No, when you take damage from an enemy then you lose part of your tail (that you have eaten), and when you lose all your segments of your tail then it is game over however you do have continues to, well continue the fun.

With the controls, the d-pad controls have already been discussed, with the A button making your snake jump and the B button making your snake use his tongue, to gobble up the Nibbley Pibbley’s and to attack the enemies. As noted with the graphics, they are bold and well defined – it is a good palette that does the NES justice. As it has been mentioned before, you can have a game with great graphics but the gameplay might be poor, so what is the point? On the other side you could have a game that is of poor quality and great gameplay like Action 52…. In terms of music and sound effects, for a NES game it is of a decent quality – in fact you may recognise parts of it, as part of the music is taken from a song from the 1950’s and also when your snake is in the water, the music pays homage to Jaws by playing music similar to it. So you don’t need to break out the Greatest Movie Soundtracks vinyl out and put it on the gramophone, the music in this game will make you want to save the 45 for another day.

Mushroom mushroom

Mushroom mushroom

Overall, Snake Rattle ‘N’ Roll is a gem worthy of being in any NES collectors collection. The drawside of the game is the lack of choice with the control system in terms of the d-pad – it would be nice if as per Marble Madness you could choose whether the control scheme is at a 45 or 90 degree angle. If you can overlook this, then you find yourself with a decent platforming game where you cannot just dodge everything that comes your way – you have to swallow the Nibbley Pibbley’s and attack the enemies for more Nibbley’s. Located throughout the game are lids (in the shape of manhole covers) in which players can open to uncover Nibbley Pibbleys, items and extra lives, entrances to bonus levels, and sometimes enemies. Copies of the game are plentiful and can be found in any retro game store or on your favourite online auction house, so do yourself a favour, shy away from the plumber’s and men welding weapons, pick up a colourful snake and go hunting for the cutest-named enemies you find on the NES.

Rating – 4 out of 5

Time Lord NES Review

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Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can make your views of games you played from yesteryear distorted compared to general consensus, where you could be passionate about a game such as Fester’s Quest which in reality doesn’t deserve so much love and affection. The reason this is noted, and may have been noted before, is that today’s review is a game which from yesterday wasn’t given a fair chance by certain reviewers. Marble Madness yes, Goal! oh yes, even Super Mario Brothers 2 but not this game, Tine Lord. Quick to be dismissed as the type of game that wouldn’t suit myself, after more than 20 years how does this game fair up, is it worthy of such honorable titles as Time Lord or perhaps Lord of the Flies?

 

Don't watch this in the dark if you're wearing white underwear

Don’t watch this in the dark if you’re wearing white underwear

Time Lord is a game developed by those stalwarts Rare in 1990 (released in Europe in 1991) and published by Milton Bradley, the famous…board game makers. Time Lord is an action game where the plot of the game is that in 2999 Earth is being attacked by aliens and your job is to go back in time, collect 5 orbs from each level (4 of which are scattered throughout the level, the final orb by defeating the level boss) in order to progress from level to level. The levels are set in different periods of time, ranging from Medieval England in 1250 AD to Western USA, the Caribbean and France. Completing those levels then you return to 2999 to face the final boss.

 

Good Luck Doctor Who! I mean, Time Lord!

Good Luck Doctor Who! I mean, Time Lord!

 

So you pop the game in, and see the start screen and holy cr*p if you were playing the game in the dark does it look intimidating. In the lightning strikes you see the image of a guy holding an Orb – at first my assumption was that it was a reflection off the TV of myself holding a cup of tea however repeated lightning strikes showed it was of someone completely different – more’s the pity. You start the game in 2999, and the matter of collecting the 5 orbs is a simple affair which doesn’t take long at all. Upon collecting the 5th Orb the message on screen advises you’re going to Medieval England. You’ll notice the view of the game and your character is in a semi-3D perspective which is a nice touch, giving a sense of depth and perspective.

 

Badger Badger Badger Badger Mushroom Mushroom!

Badger Badger Badger Badger Mushroom Mushroom!

 

At the bottom of the screen provides useful information such as your health bar, how many orbs you have collected in the level and also the date. Not the current date, but throughout the game you may notice the date going up from Jan 1st 2999 through to Dec 31st 2999. What isn’t explained in game is that there is a deadline for this game, similar to Majora’s Mask on the N64. You need to complete the game in under 25 minutes – if you exceed this (or in game it gets to year 3000) then both you and the time portals used to transport you from level to level blows up and ends the game. What you notice about the game as well is that there is a steep difficulty which isn’t always a bad thing, however you find that you complete the first level quickly but from level two, the difficulty in finding the orbs ramps up. You have to explore every part of the level, collecting mushrooms or making double jumps at random spots in the sky to collect the orbs. If you thought that was difficult on your first play through then holy cow wait until level three (Western USA). It seems that when you first play the game you will have difficulty completing the game in 25 minutes, it would only be through trial and repition that you got a shot at completing the game in under 25 minutes. With no continues but chances to collect extra lives, it really is a game for those who like the initial challenge.

 

How to catch that orb? Where's Luigi when you need him?

How to catch that orb? Where’s Luigi when you need him?

 

The graphics on screen are bold and they suit the levels well. For instance, the Medieval England stage looks like it is taking place upon an old castle with rich blues and greens which reflect the level well, whilst the Western USA stage it is set in the Wild West and easily makes you feel you might face off with Dirty Harry at some point, but with orbs which happened in the film, right? The music and sound’s suit the game well so you can out down that vinyl record for now. The controls are simple enough, D-pad to move, A to jump B to use your weapon and the select button switches weapons you may have collected along the way.. Depending on the level you find you can get guns and swords that will help, and my tip – try to find the gun early at Western USA level because what chance you got of having a fist fight with someone who has a gun and fires from far away?

 

If you complete this in under 25 minutes you certainly deserve a drink!

If you complete this in under 25 minutes you certainly deserve a drink!

 

Time Lord is a game that certainly is one for the gamers who enjoy a challenge – when you first play the game the first level is exceedingly easy which should help break you into the game, and the next level does this well but where the difficulty ramps up is level 3. Added to this is that although you can earn extra lives, there are no continues so you may find yourself repeating the first few levels over and over again when you get the game down pat and know what you need to do. Added to this AS WELL is the 25 minute time limit so you certainly will get a challenge with Time Lord. That isn’t to say the game is impossible, or even a game not worthy of gracing the console – it certainly has a number of positive aspects, such as responsive controls, bold graphics and that it is a playable game. Copies of the game are plentiful on your favourite auction sites and are reasonably prices so if you like an action game with challenges and a time limit, then do pick up Time Lord. Just stay clear of other games that use trial and repeat methods in order to progress namely Dragon’s Lair…*shudder*

 

 

Rating – 3 out of 5

Fun House NES Review

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“IT’S WACKY…IT’S FUN…IT’S CRAZY – IT’S OUTRAGEOUS!” These aren’t words that would describe a Simpsons NES game or Silent Service, but the introduction to the kids game-show Fun House that was on UK television in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Introduced in the United States before making it’s way to the UK, it was a game-show that had a number of things – it had fun, it had gunge, it had go -karts, IT HAD THE TWINS!! So how can you package all that fun into one little grey NES cart? Did the game make you want to live permanently in the (Fun) House or just sit in a bath full of gunge with the host rather than the twins?

Pat Sharp has had something of a makeover

Pat Sharp has had something of a makeover

Fun House was released on the NES in 1991 in North America only which meant unless you modified your NES, European gamers never had the chance to play this game – with good reason. The game of Fun House is supposedly based on the US version of the show to which this reviewer has not witnessed, but like all popular game-shows that was in the US in the 80’s such as Win, Lose or Draw! and Wheel of Fortune, the transistion was made to an NES game. If you’re not aware of the Fun House television show then this review may be wasted and would urge you to watch clips of it on YouTube but then again that may not be a bad thing. If you’re expecting this to be like the television show, then be prepared.

Do you remember this episode of Fun House??

Do you remember this episode of Fun House??

Upon turning on the game, you’re not greeted by the infamous theme that graced British television sets but a somewhat garbled generic theme, but bearing in mind this game “should” be based on the US game-show then that is understandable IF the tune was based on the US show (it’s not). You’re then greeted not by Pat Sharp but by US host J.D Roth who reminds a little of Tim Allen who advises everyone to “get messy” which am still not sure refers to in-game or in real life and then away we go…

Remember the episode where the audience was replaced with shapes?

Remember the episode where the audience was replaced with shapes?

But anywho you get thrown in to the game with a top down view which instantly reminds you of Smash TV but without the enemies spawning from the sides of the room. Or the intensity. You press the D-pad to move around…and don’t move. You can press up down left and right but you won’t move an inch. By pressing left or right you’ll spin in a circle on the spot, unlike pretty every other NES game where the d-pad moves your character, you have to press the A button. There are other games that may need you to move in this way such as racing games but not action games, well as action as a US game-show can get. There’s no instructions on screen however the idea of the game is to move around throwing red projectiles that look like balls or whatever the programmers decided they looked like at targets and numbers. When you collect the final target or the final number, you collect the key and then you’re then taken to the next stage to do…. the exact same thing. It’s like “Hey kids, do you remember watching Fun House where a guy runs around aimlessly shooting bullets or projectiles at a number and collecting a key whilst being fired at with guns and cannons?” Oh yes, there are enemies in Fun House out to get you, not Contra-style but stationary shooting random projectiles at you in order to stop you shooting at the targets.

It took hours of me posing to get this shot right

It took hours of me posing to get this shot right

So you go through each stage doing the exact same thing, shooting targets and numbers in a sequential order which happened in every single episode of Fun House didn’t it? Bearing in mind I can only go by the UK version of the show so if this happened in the US show then please do comment but in what world does shooting targets in hundreds of stages with which the only thing that changes is the colour palette make good television? But this isn’t about the television show, this is about the action-shooter game Fun House that has NO basis on the TV show. As bad as they were, at least you could argue that Win, Lose or Draw or Wheel of Fortune was a game on the actual show – imagine the furore if Wheel of Fortune was turned into an action-hack and slash game on the NES, the Daily Mail would have been up in arms!

There are 12 stages and 72 levels in total in Fun House, and before each level there is the name of the level such as Four Corners or One, Two or Three. It’s a very loose idea of what to do in the level however the levels all consist of the same action. You move with the A button as mentioned earlier and shooting your projectile with the B button whilst you turn left or right with the D-pad. The controls are not as difficult as other games which is good and could have been a lot worse. Music-wise, it sound’s a mish-mash that reminds you of the music from Action 52 in it’s quality – bad. It doesn’t get you pumped out for go-karting or getting covered in gunge having fun and mayhem… oh wait this isn’t the TV show, this is a generic action-shooter where you shoot numbers! Regardless, the music is somewhat dreadful and is as good as scratching nails down the chalkboard.

This episode is a classic, with it's Columns-tie in

This episode is a classic, with it’s Columns-tie in

Fun House is mediocre at best but the worst aspect of the game is that it has NO BEARING WHATSOEVER to the TV show. As good or as bad American Gladiators is and other NES games that was a US-TV show at least you could argue that they had some bearing to the TV show and felt like you were playing a game-show, but this game has nothing to do with Fun House. It is a mystery why it lent the name of a popular show to an action-shooter game with a top-down view with the only thought being it was for the money. For this review I didn’t manage to get to the final stage which may or may not have been a minute of fun in the House but the game was just too repetitive and boring to keep going for 72 levels. Your character on screen speeds around like he has ants in his pants or just on crack and you forget it is a character shooting projectiles, it felt more like you’re controlling a car. The graphics are bright colours but when did you watch the show and see circles and triangles as the audience? It is highly recommended to stay away from this game and do yourself a favour – build a shed get some gunge and some hot twins maybe a go-kart and make your own Fun House then play this. Or just play a proper action-shooter.

Rating – 1 out of 5

Power Blade NES Review

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Here’s a question for you – what do you get when cross an Arnold Schwarzenegger lookalike with the makers of Chase HQ? No, unfortunately it isn’t a new version of Chase HQ featuring good ol’ Arnie released on the Playstation Network or Nintendo eShop, but something that many would resemble closest to Mega Man. Unlike Mega Man, today’s game isn’t set in the year 200X where X is an integer that could in fact be a letter and a date that is all futuristic-looking, but set in a specific year namely 2191. Quite why it was so late in the 22nd Century I have no idea but it’s refreshing to see game developers honing in on their attention to detail, but regardless of the year, does it play like a Conan-esque Mega Man or is it another platforming action game consigned to the bargain bins of retro history?

"I'll be back" - not with this game you won't

“I’ll be back” – not with this game you won’t

Power Blade is an action platforming game set in the remarkably accurate year of 2191, which in typical action platforming style, you have to get your character from one part of the stage to the other, however it is not a simple case of going from left to right. The direction of the level can take you up and down ladders over multiple floors, without the cool screen realignment that Mega Man 2 had. You have to retrieve data tapes which were stolen by aliens (what else) from each of the six levels and restore the master computer by defeating the alien master overlord. Of course. In order to do this, you’re equipped with a boomerang which is your weapon of choice (and also the weapon naturally to destroy alien overlords – it’s what I would naturally think of) and is used to destroy the enemies through the stages. During the stages you can get the “Power Suit” which when gotten, your character shoots energy blasts in any of the 8 directions of your d-pad and that can go through most surfaces.

Reminiscent of Seattle, 2191 looks pretty good from here

Reminiscent of Seattle, 2191 looks pretty good from here

So when you start up the game, you get the option of starting the game from the beginning or carrying on from a position using a password system, that curiously using all 10 numbers and only the letters B D F G J and K. Quite why those letters were made who knows, there’s only so much fun that can be had from typing rude words into a password system that has a full alphabet…actually no, on some games typing rude words in is more fun than playing the game. After you choose the start game option you then provided with a normal or expert mode to play the levels – expert mode has more levels on screen and ramps up the challenge, not as intense as something like Contra but still something that will make you throw your controller on the floor.

Similar to Mega Man, you get to choose which sector you start out in, and with 6 to choose from you can pick any to play when you first you’re spoilt for choice. However this is where things start to go south, as you realise when you work your way through the level that at parts, it’s not clear where you should be headed – there’s ladders going up and down, and each way brings you to a new part of the stage. You hope that when your getting lost you can press the select or start button to bring up a map, but no, there’s nothign to suggest where you should be going. What makes it worse is that unlike Mega Man, you can be going down the ladder and to save time, drop off the ladder or not even use the ladder to go to the screen below however with Power Blade, if you don’t use the ladder you lose a life, what kind of nonsense is that? If you need to get to the screen below why not jump down rather than rigidly have to use a ladder?  On the screen you have a health bar which is always good rather than one hit kills a la Contra, and also an enemy meter when you get to the boss of the stage. You also have a power bar meter which doesn’t help but show you how powerful your weapon is, no matter how tempted you are to hold the button down to charge your weapon up or for it to fly further, it still gets thrown the same amount of distance.

6 stages? Gamer's choice? Where has this been seen before...

6 stages? Gamer’s choice? Where has this been seen before…

The gameplay is smooth and responsive, when you press the d-pad your character moves instantaneously, or when you choose to attack and/or jump, there are no delays like in Dragon’s Lair. The A button in typical action platforming makes your character jump whilst the B button makes your character attack with his boomerang. What is good is that your boomerang can be launched in 8 different directions – it’s common place nowadays to have multi-directional shooting but if you grew up playing the NES then you know how frustrating it can be to only be able to attack in two or four different directions. The colours are bold and defined, and from the pixels of your character, it looks like your controlling an Arnold Schwarzenegger-type character down to his bulging biceps and not some generic plain-jane character who doesn’t resemble what is on the main screen. The music and sound effects, well they’re standard fare for a platforming game, but why worry about the audio when your gripped in an intense battle using a wooden stick that returns??

Johnny Bravo rebuilding Berlin/Seattle? What a game that would be!

Johnny Bravo rebuilding Berlin/Seattle? What a game that would be!

Power Blade is a typical action platforming game that graced the NES console in a similar fashion that the other hundreds of action platforming games graced the console. If the SNES was a console for RPG’s then certainly the NES was the console for action platforming. Using a boomerang is a novel idea, however there is nothing better than using guns and projectiles to attack enemies in a manly way – from far away. The best word to describe Power Blade is “average” – there are aspects to the game that make it good, such as the password system and the multi-directional attack however the lack of direction in the level’s themselves and the resemblance to Mega Man, and not in a good way, ensures that Power Blade is a game that apart from the Arnold Schwarzenegger image at the start, is forgettable. If you like the action platforming series it is one to pick up for the collection, but there are better games out there worthy of your frustration and destruction of enemies, so by all means pick up that copy of Contra, and if you see the Taito logo, let’s hope you will be driving a car alongside beaches in the sun…

Rating – 3 out of 5

Punch-Out!! NES Review

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Not always, but in life it can sometimes be good to go back, to go back to the past and play those…well games from yesteryear. Nintendo thought so, because with the release of the 8th generation console the Wii U, Nintendo developed and released two games that drew upon the games from the NES era and added challenges in order to gain stars. The more stars you got the more games it unlocks. The first game, entitled NES Remix was launched in Europe December 18th 2013 and the second game entitled NES Remix 2 was released 25th April 2014 which as a game that challenges were based on, included Punch-Out!! (The double exclamation mark being the title, not my excitement about the game). So looking back at the game did it deliver a knock out blow to floor it’s rivals or leave you on the mat counting to 10 for it to be over?

What a handsome chap, almost looks Stallone-like in nature...

What a handsome chap, almost looks Stallone-like in nature…

Punch-Out!! was released in Europe in December 1987 and is a port of an arcade game developed by Nintendo themselves in 1984. Punch-Out!! is a boxing game where you control the character Little Mac, as he works his way up through the boxing circuit, starting out at the bottom on the Minor Circuit working your way up in difficulty to the man himself Mike Tyson, though in later versions was Mr Dream. As per normal standard boxing rules, you have to beat your opponent to a pulp, either by knocking him to the mat three times to get a triple knock-out (TKO) in one round, or if you hit your opponent hard enough, and the ref counts to 10 whilst the opponent is on the mat. With the arcade version, the characters were larger and had wire framing for the main character, so as the NES could not replicate the powerful arcade graphics and processing, the development team made the characters smaller, in order to see more on screen, and added passwords to save progress and animated cut scenes.

Mario AGAIN? Is there not a sport he is involved in, maybe American Gladiators...?

Mario AGAIN? Is there not a sport he is involved in, maybe American Gladiators…?

 On screen, Little Mac can jab, do body blows and when he has the ability to, to do a powerful uppercut. The uppercuts are limited, as in order to perform this, you need to have earned a star – typically from counter-attacking the opponent’s punches. Though not always, the uppercut when timed right can inflict a powerful punch that will send your opponent to the mat regardless of the health he has. On screen it shows the number of “stars” you have, your health which starts at 20 and goes down with every punch you make or the damage you have incurred, the enemies’ health bar and also the timer, being a standard 3 minutes a round. You can dodge your opponents attack, which when timed right can give you the ability to get a few punches on your opponent draining his energy. If you run out of health, you turn purple (something that wouldn’t look amiss from Bart Vs The Space Mutants) and have to mash the buttons as quickly as possible so that your opponent doesn’t knock you out. If that should happen, it’s that moment where you close your eyes and imagine your playing Track and Field and hopefully, you might live to fight another round.

How do you knock out a guy 3 times as tall as you? Blow him over! Erm... #xrated

How do you knock out a guy 3 times as tall as you? Blow him over! Erm… #xrated

The controls are fluid and responsive – The A button punches with the right arm and the B button punches with the left arm. When you hold the Up d-pad button with A or B, you perform a normal uppercut, whilst holding the down d-pad and A or B does a body blow. You can dodge attacks with the left or right d-pad, which as mentioned above you will need to familiarise yourself with in order to dodge attacks. The start button is where the powerful uppercut comes into play, but only if you have a star in order to do this. The graphics are bright and bold and although the crowd do look the same, that’s not why we play this game, right? The characters you control and play are colourful and varied, and even Mario makes an appearance as the referee – as if saving the Princess didn’t take up enough of his time, nor playing golf or tennis at the weekends… The music is upbeat and the sound effects suit the game well, this certainly wouldn’t be a time to put on your headphones and listen to 1970’s disco, so let the sounds form the cartridge enhance your experience.

Catch the spit, put it on eBay, it'll be worth a fortune

Catch the spit, put it on eBay, it’ll be worth a fortune

Punch-Out!! is a game worthy enough to be in anyone’s NES collection. The controls are smooth and responsive, and the characters quirky and charming which make you remember them. A lot of the game has had an enduring legacy from character names such as Glass Joe and King Hippo, down to a particular meme that is popular after winning the Minor Circuit. Although games can be bad and have moments that last through the years, the fact that Punch-Out!! has varied legacies shows the appeal of the game. If you have 30 minutes then it certainly is worth popping this into your console and with the help of the password system, it doesn’t feel like you have to start playing with Glass Joe every time you pop the cartridge in the machine. Copies are common in all good game shops and online auction sites, so although you may not agree with violence, how can you not fall in love with this game? I’m off to get big boy pants in purple and train hard though I’m more a lover than a fighter…

Rating – 5 out of 5

Adventure Island II NES Review

Aislandbox

They say never to judge a book by it’s cover, and to not always rely on your first impressions. Although it’s not clear at this stage who “they” are, or who “they” refer to in these matters, “they” do have a point. When looking at the back of the box of the gam being reviewed today, it is easy to write it off as another Super Mario clone. It’s not hard to see why game companies in the late 80’s and early 90’s would copy the tried and tested formula of Mario, the whole franchise of Mario games on the NES were popular, had colourful graphics and the gameplay was second to none. However, although it shares similarities with said Mario games, Adventure Island is not a game to easily be written off as a Mario 3 clone. Let’s take a look and see why it’s Adventure Island more than Celebrity Love Island (that was a bad reference – click here for info).

If only we could laze under a palm tree on a tropical island

If only we could laze under a palm tree on a tropical island

Adventure Island II was released in Europe in 1992, and is a side-scrolling platform game that resembles, erm, Mario 3. It was released by Hudson Soft who also developed titles such as Milon’s Secret Castle, but thankfully, is not as secret as being set on a castle. You control Master Higgins, who embarks on saving his favourite lady’s sister from the evil clutches of the Evil Witch Doctor and it’s persistent followers. Like a lot of titles on the NES at the time, when you pop the cartridge in your console, you have the option to start the game, or continue from where you left off. It is not a password based system however which is a shame, instead it is a game in which when you die, you can press continue to pick up from the stage you were at.

So you arrive on the different island’s on your raft and away you go. The idea like all side-scrolling platform games is to get from one side of the stage to the other, defeating nightmare-inducing monsters such as snails and birds and collecting not coins a la Mario but fruit. It is nice for kids playing the game not to worship currency but to worship fruit instead which gives you points. Before the level starts, you can choose to bring any weapons or animal friends you find along the way – this could be in the form of a purple mini-dinosaur that in no way resembles Barney or other creatures. I guess Mario had Yoshi but that was later in the franchise so to use animals as a companion to attack enemies is a nice touch. If you do die, you have to start at the beginning of the level, which differs from Adventure Island I where there were checkpoints in the level so you started from there when you died. At the end of the stage as a bonus you can choose from a set of spinning eggs, choose one for a points bonus. And what do points make? Never mind don’t answer that.

Choosing an egg has never been more fun! No, seriously...

Choosing an egg has never been more fun! No, seriously…

The controls are firm and responsive, in essence the type of controls you would want with a side-scrolling platform game. Certainly not like the stiffness of Ice Climbers. The d-pad moves the character, the A button jumps and the B-button fires your weapon should you have collected one at this point, or to make the animal you ride on fire his weapon. I say weapon like it is a dangerous projectile, but it is in fact a tomahawk-type hammer object. It does the trick however, with the majority of the puny enemies taking one hit to kill. This is good as at times you travel on a skateboard that hurtles you through the level, the last thing you want is to hammer the B button to ensure the enemy is out of your way as you do your impression of Tony Hawk. The one disadvantage of killing enemies with one hit is that they can kill you with one hit too. The music is upbeat and jolly and suits the style of the game, and it’s lush tropical surroundings. The sound effects are crisp and there is a sound effect for everything you do which matches the style well, from the simplest things such as jumping to collecting fruit. So, in that respect, turn the volume up when playing the game and leave your cassette deck empty full of the joys of Now 5 or the like.

Tony Hawk he is not. However, he dresses better than Tony

Tony Hawk he is not. However, he dresses better than Tony

As mentioned at the start of the game, it is very easy to write the game off as a Super Mario 3 clone, just set on a tropical island and rather than wearing overalls, the character wears nothing but a green leafy thing to cover his modesty and to wrap himself in. However, it seems clear the developers took a lot of time to craft the game, from the bold colourful graphics to the music and sound effects that compliments the game perfectly. The controls are responsive and simplistic (none of this, up button to jump and down+B button to perform a certain attack) and from a side-scrolling platform game, that’s all anyone can ask. It really is a game worthy in your collection as an alternative to the more popular mainstream games. Although not always a testament to a game’s popularity or how well it was developed, the game has been released on Virtual Console, firstly on the Wii back in April 2011 and then on the 3DS Virtual Console in November 2011. There are copies available on your favourite auction website or even perhaps at your local retro gaming store, however they are not overly cheap, they are not as frequently found as, once again Mario or Mario 3 however as always would recommend playing it on the console rather than downloading it for the Virtual Console. Not that there is anything wrong with the Virtual Console, it is a great way of playing old games you may not have access to or remember the first time round, however, there is nothing more satisfying than playing a genuinely quality game such as this on your couch with your NES controller in your hand. So get some Malibu and that tropical granola you pretend is healthy for you, pull on some safari shorts and go help Master Higgins rescue his lady’s sister on tropical islands with the heating right up – because isn’t that we all want to do? Save your partner’s sibling whilst your wearing beige safari shorts?…

Rating – 5 out of 5

The Simpsons Bart Vs The World NES Review

Simpsboxart

Readers to this blog may remember that in January of this year, I reviewed the first Simpson’s game that was released onto the Nintendo Entertainment System – Bart Vs The Space Mutants. For those who haven’t read it, click here to read it. Without revealing the ending, it wasn’t the best game on the system. Far from it in fact. So what better way to try and redeem themselves than by to release a sequel to the first game, but rather than focusing on just aliens, why not focus on everyone’s favourite cartoon family going global? It’s a win win for the publisher – guaranteed sales as it’s the Simpsons, and overall “acclaim” (word play on the publisher, Acclaim I assure you) that it’s better than the first game, how could the game be as bad as Vs The Space Mutants?

*sigh*

I'd rather sail on that golden boat than go back on the pirate ship, away from this game

I’d rather sail on that golden boat than go back on the pirate ship, away from this game

Bart Vs The World was released onto the NES in 1991, and is a side-scrolling platform game in parts that act similarly to Bart Vs The Space Mutants. The plot of the game, which is probably the best thing if not the most believable part of the game, is that Bart wins an art competition on Krusty The Klown’s show that has been rigged by Smithers. Why would Smithers rig a meager art competition? Well, he is doing this in order to help Mr. Burns dispose of The Simpson family once and for all. Mr. Burns gets friends and family from all over the world to help dispose of Bart (which makes a change from getting friends and family round for a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit) whilst Bart travels the world in a scavenger hunt. So the plot can’t be faulted, it’s more plausible than alien’s taking over the world and hindering them by collecting hats and purple objects. Confused? Read the previous review!

Congratulations on making a s****y sequel!

Congratulations on making a s****y sequel!

So you turn on the cart and get presented with two options – start or practice. Without knowing what in fact you’re practicing, and with the thoughts of “practice” making the player have horrendous flashbacks of Ski and Die with its “practicing”, naturally you’re going to pick Start. Bart looks remarkably like he did in Vs The Space Mutants, to which this should be the first sign of danger, of a sense of deja vu, that feeling in your stomach that maybe the developers didn’t learn from their previous wretched incarnation. You’re then treated to the plot of the story before you come to another menu screen. You find you’re located in China and have the option of four different game modes – junk (which ironically sums up the game), a sliding puzzle game, a card match game and also a Simpsons Trivia section.

The sliding puzzle game is a mini game that should be on the Game Boy, or anywhere else just not on the NES – trying to get the images in the correct location to form the image is not only tedious, but get’s boring incredibly quickly – how it benefits the game I do not know. The card matching mini game is one that is similar to the card matching game in Mario 3 – if you pick an incorrect pair 5 times then it finishes. Don’t worry, the game isn’t that cruel inasmuch you cannot replay it, but it’s best to bring a pad and pen with you to write down the locations of card’s you’ve uncovered. Why should gaming have to come to this – resorting to pen’s, pads and a certain amount of luck – what is wrong with just the controller in your hand and your gaming skills and reflexes, akin to a flamingo whose had a triple espresso and a vindaloo curry. The trivia section is the best of a bad bunch, if like me you’re a Simpsons fan then it’s good to refresh the grey matter on classic moments from the early seasons of the game. Finally, oh boy, we have “Junk”, and what an apt name it is for the mini game. This is the part of the game that resembles Vs The Space Mutants, a shoddy platformer with bad controls, bad jumping and an overwhelming desire to throw the game into the nuclear chimneys at the Springfield Power Plant. You have to collect items on the screen, that may include Squishee’s for health but more importantly Krusty-brand souvenirs. It is a tedious process combing the levels for these souvenirs and items, and as mentioned your hampered not by the difficulty, but by the bad controls.

Can you think of anything better to do on a lazy Sunday than sliding puzzle games? Yes, yes I can

Can you think of anything better to do on a lazy Sunday than sliding puzzle games? Yes, yes I can

In terms of controls, well the d-pad moves Bart in the action/platforming levels, the A button makes Bart jump and the B button shoots a projectile should you have any balls to throw. To do a running jump in something like Super Mario Bros, you hold the B Button to run fast and then the A button makes Mario jump. Nice and simple and is a standard that is set as a benchmark for others to follow. Did Bart Vs The World follow this tried and tested method? Of course they didn’t – holding B doesn’t make Bart run, whilst pressing the A button makes Bart jump normally. No, by accident you will find that if you hold the A button and B button together, you’ll then run, and have to skillfully try to press the jump button at the right time to make ledges or collect certain items. It is still pointless and unnecessary, and could have easily been remedies from Bart Vs The Space Mutant, but they didn’t. For the mini-game, the A button is used for selection which comes as no surprise.

The sound effects sound like something that could easily have originated from the Atari 2600 – now for an Atari 2600 game they were nice sound effects, although often recycled. Bearing in mind this game was made in 1991 and after the advent of Mario 3, you’d think that more effort would be made. Music wise, you hear the Simpson’s theme tune done in 8 bit, which although is ok, to hear it over and over again, I may as well stick a Simpsons DVD on, let the main theme loop constantly, which would be more fun.

I threw everything at my TV like Bart's throwing that ball when playing this

I threw everything at my TV like Bart’s throwing that ball when playing this

Bart Vs The World had every chance to improve on everything that was poor about Bart Vs The Space Mutants, such as the dodgy storyline, the controls, and more beside. Granted, they improved the storyline, and is nice that you do seem to go over the world, with levels ranging from China, the North Pole, Egypt and Hollywood, but as mentioned in previous reviews, that pales in comparison to having decent controls and good gameplay, which this game sadly lacks. The trivia is restricted to a few early seasons of the show, and the mini games, well they were unnecessary to add onto an action/platformer cartridge, especially when they are poorly executed which the sliding game is. Grab a controller and shoot everything in sight, stomp on enemies, anything but slide puzzle tiles around! It is such a shame with a brand like The Simpsons, because after the debacle of Bart Vs The Space Mutants, the developers had a chance to improve the game and to also make the game feel it was lovingly crafted and developed, not just rushed knowing people would buy it regardless of the quality because it has the Simpson name attached to it. Copies of the game are slightly rarer than the previous title, so for Simpson’s fans its worth checking out, but as described earlier you would have more fun whacking in DVD’s of the show and watching the title screen. One can only hope that Krusty’s Fun House is any better…

Rating – 1 out of 5