Pinball NES Review

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After what seems an eternity, time has permitted to sit down with NES controller in hand and play some NES – alas real life can get in the way of playing games and reviewing them which is no excuse, however at times this is reality. But enough on that, on with the review. With limited time what is the best game to pick up from the NES library? One of the benefits of the early NES games is that most were arcade ports of existing games or in fact arcade-based games with no discerning plot or story to try and work through, it was a simple case of getting a high score, having a certain amount of lives and aim for the high score. One game in particular that could fit the bill is Pinball, released as a black box title. So will it reach a high score or sink down the proverbial hole with no regret?

Who doesn't love big pink balloon-type text?

Who doesn’t love big pink balloon-type text?

Pinball is, as obvious as it sounds, a pinball game released on the NES in 1985 based on a Game & Watch title of the same name released in 1983. The idea is to aim for a high score. Um….yes that’s it – no rescuing princesses who may be in other castles, no eating fungi and special flowers to obtain special abilities, just good ol’ pinball. Bounce the ball of bumpers, walls and other objects to increase your score in the hope that the ball doesn’t go dead centre down the hole or to the side out of the reach of a flipper to prevent the ball from going down the side into oblivion.

Top screen aquatic fun

Top screen aquatic fun

Upon booting the game, like a lot of the black box NES games you get the choice of 4 modes – you can choose from Game Mode A or Game Mode B, and of which this can be one player or if you got a buddy next to you and you’re aiming for the high score then two players. The difference between mode A and B is that B seems faster and also it doesn’t remember progress made in the round when you’ve hit certain items so you have to start again and is more of a challenge. You do get a jaunty piece of opening music when booting up the game and then that’s it, no further music just sound effects. What’s disappointing however is that there is only one table to play on which is split over two screens – a top and bottom screen. The top screen has penguins and seals which don’t do anything however on the left hand side if you collect all the Pac-man pellets the seals start bouncing a ball on their nose which is okay but nothing spectacular. If the ball falls down the middle in between the two flippers, it goes to a lower screen which has numbers 1-7 on the left hand side to hit, three eggs which you hit to hatch (rather cruel one thinks…) of which if you hit them again, hitting all three you get plus that appear on the side of the table so that the ball can fall down the side, hit this plug to make sure the ball goes back in play rather than go in to oblivion. There are five playing cards as well which never got the chance in all the playthrough to turn over but will get more points no doubt. Finally, if the ball goes into the top right hand corner of the bottom screen, you get to a bonus game featuring everyone’s favourite heroine, Pauline! You bounce the ball off the paddle over numbers which change colour (of which was unable to make every number appear in the same colour) but if you destroy the platform she is on, then catch her for even more points – if you don’t then you lose, which is always nice.

Bottom screen 7-numbered casino fun!

Bottom screen 7-numbered casino fun!

In terms of controls, it is a bit bizarre in that the A/B button controls one paddle, and the D-button control the other paddle. It would have been assumed that say the A button controls the right paddle and the the B button controls the left paddle but no, why have that when you can use the d-pad too! The graphics are very average, very-pastel and nothing out of the ordinary which although isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it doesn’t evoke excitement in gamer’s eyes, the graphics are simple and do the job effectively and to be fair the penguins do look “totes adorbs” as the youth of today would say. The music well as mentioned earlier there is the jaunty opening music and then nothing. No game over music, no interludes in the gameplay, just basic sound effects. This reviewer is no game programmer and appreciate there may not have been enough room for much however surely more music even if looped would be better than nothing? Take out your headphones and listen to whatever passes as music these days because you won’t find much inspiration here.

Close to all numbers orange but no cigar

Close to all numbers orange but no cigar

Pinball is a very standard game, with no music to listen to, very standard sound effects, standard graphics and a simple control system which could have been made easier with the buttons being remapped. Although the bonus game with Pauline and Game mode B is a welcome challenge and runs at a faster speed, there is limited appeal to this game due to only having one table to play (even though it’s split on two screens) and no music to keep you entertained whilst you press the buttons in the hope the ball doesn’t randomly fall down the hole. Yes it is very easy to write this game off being 30 years old however there are other black box games which hold well now and are much more enjoyable if you had free time to wile away on – Pinball isn’t one of them. This is one for collectors only and with other pinball games available on the console, my recommendation would be to play a real pinball table – it is more of a treat to the eyes and ears than this.

Rating – 2 out of 5

Road Fighter NES Review

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Dear readers, alas the reviews have taken a back foot due to real life, however rest assured your favourite reviewer is back and ready in 2016 to take a continued look at those NES games and confirm whether you should part your hard earned cash on them. The first game is one inspired by a review of the game on the wonderful SkirmishFrogs website and one that until very recently, was yet to grace this reviewer’s collection. The game being one of Konami’s first car racing game that originally came out in 1984 in the arcades. Like a lot of early NES games, arcade games were ripe for porting onto the new home console, so how does today’s game Road Fighter stack up – is it worthy of gracing the console or a car-crash of a game?

On your marks, get set...

On your marks, get set…

Released in Europe in 1991, a full 6 years after it’s release in Japan on the NES, Road Fighter as mentioned above is an arcade-style car racing game, in which you control your red coloured vehicle and overtake a number of cars in order to reach the goal within an alloted time. Sounds simple right? Well, aside from the speeds in which you travel at (more of that in a moment), on the road alongside you are crazy-assed drivers who change lanes and generally cause disruption so you don’t finish the level. Finish the race within the alloted time and you move onto the next stage, of which there are four courses ranging from grass-type levels to ocean-type levels, a real mixture.

What a view...

What a view…

So how do you control the car? Well, pressing the B Button makes your car accelerate but only to a certain speed – on the NES version it is up to around 224km/h. So you may have the precision but it feels like you need more speed in order to get to the finish line quicker – well dear friends that is what the A button is for. With this you can travel up to 400 km/h but this does come at a price – you start off with a level of 100 and that gradually decreases. If you crash into another car or into the wall, you lose 5 units of your fuel. If the fuel counter goes down to zero, it’s game over. Trying to block your path to victory are different coloured cars – yellow cars travel in a straight line, blue and red cars change lanes and you may encounter trucks. If you see rainbow coloured cars, try to collect them whatever you do – they increase your fuel so it’s well worth attempting to collect them. Also on the track you may see oil spills so again try to avoid these because along side hitting other cars you’ll go spinning off the track, losing valuable time and fuel.

Battleships have never looked so good

Battleships have never looked so good

The colours are bold and vibrant, easily differentiating between the different cars on the road and the background from the green grassy based levels to the seashore type levels. Although the detail is not great, the overall graphics are fine for the type of game you’re playing – you should be focussing on getting to the end of the level rather than admiring the view. The music is sparse and the sound effects can be quite jarring with the engine noise, especially with the continuous buzzing when you reach top speed. Yes it is nice that there is a sound effect for screeching brakes and the explosion when you crash into the wall but it is recommended to play this game with the sound off and the soothing sounds of thrash metal should ring in your ears instead.

Checkpoint - YAY!

Checkpoint – YAY!

Road Fighter looks a good game, controls a good game and sounds…well like a game. However, the biggest problem with Road Fighter is the difficulty – there is no option for an easy/medium/hard difficulty but just one level – blooming difficult! When you boot up the game you get the choice of Level 1 or Level 2, with the only difference is that level 2 is slightly harder with different coloured cars more plentiful then jsut the straight line yellow cars but still even without this, the game is difficult with a capital D. A challenge is one thing but Road Fighter can take the biscuit, and you’ll find yourself repeating the first level over and over and over again. With one life before it’s game over, you really need to have quick reflexes and good reactions in order to succeed in the game, but with that in mind is the pay off worth it? That’s down to you to decide, but really the game will cause more frustration then pleasure which is a real shame as the game looks good and controls well, but the steep difficulty will put off casual gamers. Copies are rare in the wild so unless you like a challenge, it may be worth side-stepping this one and picking up R.C Pro Am or Ivan Ironman Stewart instead. Take it from one who knows and has reviewed them….

Rating – 2 out of 5

Mach Rider NES Review

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When you’re younger and you think about what you want to be, obvious choices may be footballers or race car drivers, maybe an actor/actress who one day gets to star in a remake of the Super Mario Bros Super Show. Some people however look to video games for inspiration, wanting to be someone like Mega Man, or an American-Italian plumber who does every other job under the sun rather than unclog and fix u-bends for Mrs Moggins and her prune-filled diet. But who wanted to be a Mach Rider? If you did then kudos to you, but for those who don’t understand what a Mach Rider is then come on a journey to the year 2112…

No 2-player? The swines

No 2-player? The swines

Mach Rider is a “futuristic driving game”, or to explain it more accurately, is a bike-driving game which is set in the future, where Earth has been taken over by evil forces. Your job should you choose to accept it, is to travel from sector to sector, or in this case race through the map, shooting the bad guys and dodging oil and oil cans. Mach Rider was also a Black Box game initially released on the console’s launch. If you’re unsure what a Black Box game is, then there is lots of information on your favourite search engine however those NES games that are classified as Black Box are distinctive by having by design, erm….Black Boxes.

When you turn on the game, you get four different modes you can experience:

Fighting Course – Similar mode to a story mode, you have to race through 10 different tracks, which you can choose at the start of the race by pressing A for one route, or B for the other route. In this, you have to dodge oil spills, enemies and oil cans which you can destroy, however you can be destroyed yourself, getting split into numerous fragments and put back together again – like a futuristic Humpty Dumpty. If you complete the 10th race, you don’t get some emotional ending, journeying the highs and lows of your experience up to now. You go back to the beginning, to start another 10 rounds. The swines.

Endurance Course – You have to race a certain distance in a certain amount of time with enemies and obstacles to slow you down. The swines.

Solo Course – See above, but without enemies. The programmer swines.

Design Mode – In the same vain as Excitebike you can design you’re own tracks to play on, however outside of Japan if you reset the console then BAM they are lost. In Japan NES users had the Famicom Data Recorder to save their creations on, which wasn’t released outside of Japan. The swines.

MMM...Spaghetti

MMM…Spaghetti

The controls of Mach Rider are slightly more complex than normal Black Box games however not to the point it get’s difficult or require a PhD to decipher. The A button accelerates, the B button fires your weapon, the up and down d pad buttons change gears up to the fourth gear, and the left and right d pad button moves your bike. Sounds simple enough, but like good racing games the key is control not flat out holding the A button and hoping for the best. You can hammer the B button to destroy the enemies and the oil cans however you will be going faster than the bullets fly from your bike, so more often than not your bike will disintegrate.

I crashed in real life and this is EXACTLY what happened

I crashed in real life and this is EXACTLY what happened

Graphically, the game looks solid and well defined with different backgrounds depending on the level you are racing. It’s reminiscent of Enduro on the Atari 2600 where every so often the background changes colour, white for example to reflect winter settings or green for a environmentally-friendly level. The controls are responsive and feel natural, and feels good that unlike say Rad Racer where you hold the accelerator button and nothing else, you have to change gears which is done in a simple manner and is not of detriment to your gameplay – I mean who would try to accelerate from a stationary position in fourth gear?! Not certain reviewers that’s for sure… You get music at the menu’s and music during the race, which whilst although not memorable it certainly means you don’t need to bring out your Now That’s What I Call Music 50,000 compilation. The sounds effects match the game well and again adds a certain charm to the game.

All evil plans start with straight lines

All evil plans start with straight lines

Mach Rider is a game worthy of being in anyone’s NES collection, with solid gameplay, responsive controls, bold graphics and music that get’s you in the mood to race. It really doesn’t matter whether this game was set in 2112 or 1982, the game plays well and that is all that matters. The difficulty gradually increases in modes such as Endurance Course is one that will appeal to both novices and experienced gamers alike, and doesn’t get too difficult too quickly. With the different modes and also the Design Mode, there is something for everyone in this game and means you’re gameplay can be as fresh the tenth time you play it compared to the first time. Only negatives is that there is no two player mode which is always a shame with NES games, however could be argued with technical limitations and also for gamers outside of Japan without the Famicom Disk System your creations don’t save. As well the music, although nice to have, is not as memorable as say Mega Man music but for a Black Box game it is more than sufficient. With copies of the game plentiful and also the game being released on eShops and Virtual Console’s galore, there is no excuse not to be able to pick this up. Right now having completed the 10th level I’m off to party like its 2099, proclaiming I AM MACH RIDER – perish the thought…

Rating – 4 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

Burai Fighter NES Review

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There are certain games that are played, where you might have a knife as a weapon or a gun, and just wish that during the game you could improve the gun, making it more powerful or changing the bullets of the gun. Well, game designers clearly thought the same, so rather than keeping the player subjected to the same gun through (even though the monsters become more powerful), there were games where using power ups in game, it allowed you to make your gun more powerful or even change it completely.  Obvious examples of this are Contra and Ghouls and Ghosts, but what if this idea was made for a game set in space? With jet packs and enemies far beyond the perimeters of Earth, a Contra in Space kind of game? There was a game like that released in 1990 by the name of Burai Fighter, so is it any good? Let’s check it out!

Burai Fighter is a side scrolling game as mentioned previously similar to Contra, where the idea is to move your character, who being in space would naturally have jetpacks – and shoot everything inside. Nothing more complicated then that. The story goes that there are seven bases of Burai, being clever clogs cyborgs and you have to destroy it – of course, and here was me thinking you might have to save the bases. Well in another game I suppose you could. So you pop the game in turn it on and are greeted with two options – new game or password. New game is pretty self explanatory, and the password system is quite handy for when you complete a level your giving a four character password. No 30 digits including capital letters, little letters and symbols no just 4 characters, which when entered you can progress with the game without having to keep the NES on due to the lack of a save state. So pick the difficulty from Eagle, Albatross and Ace which is a novel touch from easy, medium or difficult, and then away you go.

Why can't all passwords wbe as simple as this?

Why can’t all passwords wbe as simple as this?

The idea is to go from left to right on the stage destroying everything in sight, although sometimes you do have to go downwards rather than simply to the right. You start off with a weak laser that takes several bullets to kill enemies, but along the way you’ll notice that there are power ups waiting for you to collect – L which improves your laser, R which stands for ring, and M is for missile (no not murder). You can’t change weapons without collecting the relevant lettered power up, however the power up does come along quite frequently so if you didn’t like using the missiles than it’s easy to use the rings again or just the normal laser. There are also S power ups to collect though and also what looks like red drops, which when collected to a certain level you can unleash a devastating super bomb on the screen destroying whatever is on there. At the end of the stage is a mini-boss which generally aren’t too difficult as long as you got your wits about you and have the reflexes of a crocodile chewing a heron in the middle of summer.

The purple and green colours are subtle, yet illuminating

The purple and green colours are subtle, yet illuminating

The controls of the game are quite simple, you use your d-pad to move the character in any of the 8 different directions available to you and use the A button to shoot your weapon whilst B will release the supercharged attack should you have sufficient power to do this. What you have to be careful of is when you move your character, the direction that the gun is pointed at will change direction to. So if your facing right and shooting, then you go left to run away from enemies chasing you, you cannot move back with left and still have your gun pointing run – the gun changes direction which can get annoying. This happens whichever direction your character goes in. There is a solution – if you hold the A button down which makes the gun fire rapidly and move your character, it “locks” that direction which is more useful, especially if you want to scatter your bullets everywhere. The graphics are bright purples and greens which although aren’t the most tasteful of palettes, they do their job. Sometimes it can be quite confusing knowing what is the background that will block you, and what will let you pass over it with no difficulty, it’s more a case of trial and error. The music sounds quite funky and upbeat, it sounds well on the 8 bit console and the sound effects, well they do their job, making nice noises when you collect power ups or shooting the gun, so you might find yourself rocking out with the music on the game without needing to reach for the mute button.

They say in space no one can hear you scream - man up!

They say in space no one can hear you scream – man up!

If you find yourself with a spare 15 minutes and not a lot else to do, then Burai Fighter is certainly a game worthy of your limited time. It’s nice to occasionally blow everything up on screen and collect power ups and not have to think of puzzles and how to escape certain rooms or worry about slow gameplay. It is only 1 player though which is disappointing as it would be even better with 2 players on screen. As well what can be annoying is what was mentioned earlier in regards to your gun pointing in the direction your facing in – if your running away and need to turn and shoot then you’d better have really good reactions otherwise you’ll get killed. It’s a one hit kill for you, though the later in the level you get you do start half way through or just before the boss battle – failing that you’ll start at the beginning of the level and have to work through it again having lost your power ups.  Copies of the game go for peanuts on all your favourite auction sites so if your bored and you’ve completed Contra for like the millionth time without using the Konami code, then pick this title up for your collection and give it a whirl.

Rating – 4 out of 5

 

Ice Climber NES Review

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It seems as though spring is finally rearing itself and with that we wave goodbye to dark mornings, cold blustery winds and the daily thought of snow, to then give a hearty handshake and a quintessentially British cheerio to winter. It therefore may be a peculiar time to focus a review on something that encompasses all that is associated with winter, but they say in life in order to move forward you have to look back – or in this instance trying not to look down in order to move upwards, so what better way of doing this than with the help of the wonderfully named Popo and Nana (no, not your grandma who sucks on Werthers Originals and always smells like the contents of a cat’s litter tray) and their mighty mallet. So does this game make you want to drink luxurious warm hot chocolate or eat yellow snow?

13 is unlucky for some, hope it isn't for you

13 is unlucky for some, hope it isn’t for you

Ice Climber is a black box NES game released in Europe in September 1986, that is a vertical platforming game where you control Popo in his gorgeous blue parka jacket and climb the mountain on 8 different platforms getting to the top. Standing between you and the top of the mountain are ice blocks that you need to smash with your head Mario-style, jumping onto the next platform and using your mallet to whack seven bells out of ice monsters and birds that attack you. When you get past the 8th platform you get to the bonus stage, where for extra points you collect the vegetables set on the level, and if you reach the top quick enough you meet the overhead condor who has a passion for stealing vegetables so try to jump and hang on to the mighty condor for extra points.

So when you pop in the game and turn the game on you get three options to pick from – whether to start the game with one player (starting as Popo) or two players (where both Popo and Nana are on screen – Nana in her lovely pink parka) and curiously a early level select option. The game has 32 mountains for you to ascend, so if your feeling brave and want to start on level 16, or even just curious to see what the final level is about then this is a good opportunity to do so. So you start the level, you see the condor take the vegetable up the mountain and then away you go. Every level is the same – climbing up the mountain bashing the ice blocks with your head and jumping up accordingly. Some blocks cannot be broken and some blocks act like travelators so you’ll have to use your retro gaming cunning and reflexes of a spider that’s ate a mouldy piece of bread and is feeling the effects of it. When you complete the platforms as mentioned earlier, your given 40 seconds to complete the bonus stage so collect as many vegetables as possible, and reach the top jumping up reaching the condor. The level ends should you do this, or you run out of time, or you fall down past an icy platform. The score for the level takes into account whether or not you met the condor, the number of vegetables you collected, enemies hit and the blocks broken. As per most of the black box games there isn’t a story to complete it’s just a question of gaining the highest score. Yet again like the other games of the time, there is no battery back up so it’s not as if the score gets saved, all you need to do is write it down on a piece of paper or take a screenshot with your camera to prove you are the manliest at the game, or womanliest (if that is a word).

Now remember to eat your vegetables kids - don't they look delicious?

Now remember to eat your vegetables kids – don’t they look delicious?

The controls are very simple – the d pad moves your character left and right, you jump the character with the A button and whack the enemies with B – nothing more complicated then that. A slight issue is that when you jump and move, the control feels very rigid and doesn’t feel like your jumping fluidly. It doesn’t matter how hard you press the d pad left or right you don’t move that far at all, and this gets more infuriating in later levels when the platforms get shorter and move across the screen quicker. The music is simplistic yet effective, and the sound effects do their job properly – you won’t need to grab your record player and suitable LP’s so by all means leave the music on whilst you play. Without climbing a mountain myself I cannot say if the sounds are realistic when I jump on top of a icy platform or whack birds out the air, but they serve the game well.

YOU ARE WINNER!

YOU ARE WINNER!

So all in all, this game is certainly  a worthy launch title (which it was for the NES console in the US) and plays like a good arcade game, something that would be worth pumping in nickles and dimes, or 20ps here in the UK to play and top the high score set by a humourist with a dirty 3 lettered name on the high score. The characters have had a longevity and appeal thanks to the Super Smash Bros series as they are playable characters, and a testament of how good the game is shows in the rereleases on the Virtual Console and Game Boy Advance to name but a few. The minor criticisms of the game is the stiff control when jumping and the repetitiveness of the levels in collecting vegetables at the end and jumping onto the next platform, but aside from that, take it for what it is – a decent arcade-style vertical platform game and eat those vegetables like never before. Not that the subliminal stuff works for me though I am hankering to raid a greengrocers…

Rating – 4 out of 5

Marble Madness NES Review

marblebox

It’s always difficult in reviewing games that have personal meaning to the reviewer – it may be the fact it was the first game you ever played, or the game you played with your best pal when you pinkie swore you’d be friends forever and start braiding each other’s hair before the midnight pillow fight. Well for myself, gladly it was the first reason rather than the second reason, though I can’t deny it is tempting to braid and style my hair. Although in the vague recollections of some long gone psyche the image of Mario and the bright blue sky is etched, the first game I ever played properly was Marble Madness, originally in arcade from 1984 but ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System later on in the 80’s. So taking off the rose-tinted glasses how does the game fare up today, will it drive you to madness or fine as Italian marble?

Never can quite fit my whole name on these games - should just be NESBOY

Never can quite fit my whole name on these games – should just be NESBOY

Marble Madness can be described as a platform game of sorts, in which the player controls a marble around courses and levels in order to get to the finish line before the time runs out. And that’s it really, there’s no end bosses to squish by rolling over them just you and your reflexes as quick as a feral cat on heat finding some tail. There are certain enemies as such that will do everything possible to delay your progress through the level, however what will impede your progress is the physicalities and dynamics of the level starting with ramps or hammers that attack you, through to nuclear green liquid that will melt the marble on its way to the end of the level.

Those numbers are the meanings of life...or are they?...

Those numbers are the meanings of life…or are they?…

So you start the game up, and your presented with the option to play with 1 player, or if you’ve got your buddy with you then you can play 2 player. The beauty of the 2 player option is that unlike other games on the console which has 2 player features but you have to take it in turns doing a level each, in Marble Madness you play simultaneously together on the same screen. If one player reaches the next portion of the screen before the other, than the losing marble is magically teleported to where the winning marble is located, however they are deducted 5 seconds from their time. The winner of the race gets an additional 5 seconds added onto the start of the next level, so it is worth going mano y mano with your compadre for bragging rights. However when you start the game you get to choose your name, upto 6 characters so be creative with the obscenities you write! Then choose the control type, be this at a 90 degree control method or 45 degree method, to which after that away you go on level 1. With 6 levels of ever-increasing difficulty, it certainly is a game where the more you play, the easier you’ll race through the levels and enjoy it the more you play it.

If only real life marbles were as fun

If only real life marbles were as fun

The controls for the game are very simple, and very fluid at that. All that is required is the d-pad to move the marble through the level. As mentioned previously after you’ve chosen your name you can choose the control type – 90 or 45 degrees. The main difference is with 90 degrees the marble will go in the direction of the d-pad, so if you press down the marble goes down, left and right etc. With 45 degrees pressing down makes the marble go diagonal down-left, pressing right makes it go down, so depending on how big a challenge you like, I would recommend playing the game at a 90 degree control setting. The graphics are bold and colourful, especially on a later level entitled Silly which features polka dots and a wacky colour palette. It certainly is a treat for the eyes, and for the ears it’s nothing but fresh and funky all the way in all its 8 bit glory, so no need to put on that Celine Dion album just yet.

So all in all, is Marble Madness a worthy first game memory? Is it worth adding to the collection? Well to answer both questions, yes and definitely yes. The gameplay is smooth and simple, yet later on in the game gets challenging so lots of practice is required. What is good is that it doesn’t take long to get to the later levels, so although there is no password system to reach the later levels, by persevering you’ll certainly go far and complete the game. Even if you don’t have hours to spend playing a game, if you got a spare 15 or so minutes then do pick up this gem of a title, and with the 2 player option as well there’s no need for your friend to sit there watching enviously. Copies of the game are in plentiful supply on all good auction websites so do check out this title and add it to your collection, you must be suffering from “madness” not to…

Rating – 4 out of 5