American Gladiators NES Review

agboxart

When you’re young and the world was a more greener innocent place, Saturday nights was held in suc hhigh esteem, in part due to the power of television. The UK was greeted by someone hosting a house party, “our Graham” and a Scouse lady trying to pair off the single people of the country and also this – muscle-men and muscle-women in tight lycra fighting off the peons of the land in one great spectacle. With AWOOGAS here and the Wolf there, Gladiators was an important aspect of any childhood of this generation which was ripe for being in a video game. The UK did not get the joy of a Gladiators video game however those fine folks across the pond got American Gladiators on NES so how does it fare up – is it a hearty awooga or a-waste of time?



Shakespeare, eat your heart out

Shakespeare, eat your heart out

American Gladiators was released on a number of platforms in 1991 and is based on the television show of the same name (to note, not the UK version). It would be difficult for this reviewer to comment on how much the game is similar to the television program but for those not in the know, contestants compete in various events which would test speed, agility, strength and a whole host of other qualities to defeat the Gladiators. The game, akin to California Games or Skate or Die is a multievent game in which you choose which event out of 5 to compete in. They are:

 

The five forces of **** - make your own word there

The five forces of **** – make your own word there

 

Joust 

Your character whose dressed in royal blue has to pugle fight his way through a number of Gladiators, mashing the d-pad and the B button in order to knock the Gladiator off the stage. After you knocked the Gladiator off you have to jump on various platforms with the A button until you reach the next Gladiator. This is all against the clock so you have to mash that button and be as powerful as a snake eating a tub of butter.  Defeat 4 of the Gladiators and you win the stage, twirling it like a cotton bud (or Q-tip for those across the pond). Sorry, should have said **SPOILERS** – you twirl the pugle around at the end. Sorry about that. #notsorry. Not the hardest mini game but has solid controls.

 

Joust

Joust

 

Wall

Bring on the Wall!! Well, a yellow-bricked wall where you mash the A and B button like you’re competing in the final of Track and Field whilst pressing the d-pad in the corresponding direction. Oh yeah, to try and put you off Gladiators swarm around you – if they touch you then your character falls off. No safety net. Mashing the A and B buttons will cramp the hand or your fingers and at times you need to be precise in where your character goes – the bricks on the wall are unforgiving. A more challenging mini game.

 

Bring on THE WALL!!

Bring on THE WALL!!

 

Human Cannonball

Your character jumps on what looks like a firebar from the Mario Series, to which this swings until you press the button and your character jumps. To what purpose? Who knows, tried making the character jump before the platform and he fell in. Tried making him jump afterwards to jump over the Gladiator but if you hit the platform you bounce straight off. Jumping off the firebar is with the A button but without an instruction manual it is difficult to know what to do. You could have patience and maybe with luck you would get how this minigame works but this one is lamentable and should be passed.

 

Firebar, how I miss you in Mario

Firebar, how I miss you in Mario

 

Powerball

No, not the lottery but Powerball – similar to a game of Bulldog but you run from one side of the screen to the other to collect a ball to then deposit this in one of 5 baskets around the pitch or field. Frustration doesn’t begin to describe this minigame – the Gladiators are unpredictable, they are faster than your character and in fact your character doesn’t fight back – you have to dodge the unpredictable Gladiators which is not easy. If they touch you once whilst you hold the ball, the ball flies off and you have to grab it from the other side of the screen. The worst aspect? The colours – dear me the colours and the background give you two things – a headache and nausea. Words cannot begin to say the effect the background has on your eyes (screenshots do not do this justice) so good luck not having paracetamol after this infuriating game. The music? Dreadful. Avoid.

 

Headache Central. I mean Powerball

Headache Central. I mean Powerball

 

Assault

A man in a tank firing cannons at you which you have to dodge in order to win the round. The round is long – not quite as long as a round of Ikari Warriors but bad enough, and the Gladiator’s cannon fire is unrelenting. The A and B buttons again don’t work, like Powerball it is all about reflexes and speed which doesn’t come easy and the background, it’s just as nauseating as Powerball. Wear sunglasses, look at the horizon just don’t look at the background whatever you do. 3 hits on this one and you lose a life so be careful.

 

Contra. I mean Assault

Contra. I mean Assault

 

Experience with multi-event games have left this reviewer feeling disappointed, as most multi-events game are mediocre at best. American Gladiators is no different – five events of which two will give you headaches, one is not playable and the other two are button mashing exercises. In some ways it is like being on an episode of Gladiators which can be physically and mentally though. It must be said that without the instruction manual, a mini-game like Human Cannonball is difficult and frustrating, but the last two mini games noted above will make you wish you hadn’t reminisced to Saturday nights gone by and played something better instead. The background colours are headache-inducing and naff, the background music sounds like squealing insects being burned by the power of a magnifying glass on a sunny day. What happens when you win all 5 events? That is the power of YouTube because honestly, it was bad enough trying to play this game for more than 20 minutes without feeling frustrated (in a bad way) and wanting to lie down through exhaustion. The only redeeming feature is the two player option…oh wait, no it isn’t. Do yourself a favour, pick up Action 52 instead because 52 mini games in one can’t be bad can it?….

 

Rating – 1 out of 5

Super Sports Challenge NES Review

QS006

Today being Father’s Day, what better way of spending the day then with your son or daughter, picking up that NES controller and playing a 2 player co-op game? Today isn’t the day to be a lone hero playing Die Hard, or carrying on with Super Mario Bros 2, no today is the day of the offspring (not the US punk band). Yes you could pop in Contra or Super Mario Bros where your partner in crime will let you down due to their inexperience, so why not relax with a compendium of sports to play together with no hint of competitiveness whatsoever! And while your at it, why not play it on a cartridge that looks nothing like a regular NES cart?

I'll leave it to you to decide where to stick this...

I’ll leave it to you to decide where to stick this…

In 1991 Codemasters released Super Sports Challenge for the NES in Europe (or Quattro Sports if you’re in the US, released by Camerica), and wasn’t the most aesthetically-pleasing of carts. Codemasters in the early days published games by Camerica, who had a habit of designing games that bypassed the security chip on the console which irked a few people at Nintendo. As a result of this, Codemasters didn’t release their carts in gold or shiny silver, they designed the game so that you had to have an official cartridge placed on top and then inserting the behemoth into your console thus bypassing the lock-out chip. So was the result worth it? The game is split into 4 sports:

Baseball

Baseball

BMX

BMX

Football (NOT Soccer!)

Football (NOT Soccer!)

Tennis

Tennis

Starting with Baseball, you can choose from a number of worldwide teams to be and what is also good is that from the main menu you can view the stats of each time – that is if you know your stats, with points here and averages there. The rules of the game need no explanation but to win at the game can be quite difficult as it is hard to hit a home run. The graphics look bold and with good contrasting colours, and the animation with the pitcher is done well, however there is no detail in the faces of the players which may be something minor, but that coupled with the difficulty of hitting a home run it may be a game for statisticians only. Pick up Bases Loaded instead.

BMX Simulator takes you in control of Jason, Larissa or Bud depending on the number of players you have (with a maximum of 3) and choosing the difficulty of the game. The graphics here unfortunately do look bland and can strain the eyes with its brownish bland hue and at times difficult to navigate which way you are supposed to race in. There seems to be no clear signs unless you follow the competitors around. The bike can be difficult to steer if going at full speed, meaning your more likely going to crash into the walls than racing at full throttle. An average game but Super Off Road is better.

Soccer (or better known as Football) is your standard football game that graphically looks and plays like Super Kick Off with the overhead view. Although it doesn’t have USSR (instead having Russia with the Soviet Flag) it does have West Germany so being that the game was released in 1991 it may have needed to update the selection of countries. The game again is an average footballing game, personally Goal! is better however the game is very playable and what is nice is that every now and again it flashes on the screen that “Remember – A is to pass and B is to shoot”, I don’t know if takes pity on you or is an example of on screen controls that is now characterised in today’s games?

Pro Tennis unfortunately shares the same issues as baseball – bold yet bland details and bad controls – it’s difficult enough to serve the ball let alone having a full rally. It has been said before and it has been said again – graphics are not the be all and end all of a game as long as you have solid controls and good gameplay. Pro Tennis has none of this, which is a shame but you’re best off even with black box Tennis rather than this version.

I'm not sure Clough and Souness would sit down and slog out a match on this game

I’m not sure Clough and Souness would sit down and slog out matches on this game

As different as the sports are on this game, they all share the same characteristics: Bland average graphics, upbeat jaunty music, broken controls and the distinct inability to actually win any of the matches you compete in. Finally, if you wanted to change the game you’re playing, rather than pressing the reset button to get back to the main menu, you have to turn the console off and turn it back on. You could argue that with stand-alone games you reset and it takes you back to that game’s menu, however with this game, it would be nice to make the selection without turning the console off and sometimes blowing into the cartridge to make it work!

Overall, although the idea of having 4 games on one cart is a great idea (Super Mario All Stars anyone?…), in reality Super Sports Challenge was executed badly. There are better alternative sports games to play, and your not saving time by swapping carts, as you need to go to the console to turn it off rather than resetting the machine when you want to play a different game. Yes there are better 2 player games (ahem Contra ahem Battletoads) to play but if you like the idea of a challenge, then this game is it – a challenge trying to hit a freaking home run or serve a tennis ball! Get out the black box gaming collection and have fun with them instead, I’m off to play with R.O.B and try to get him to call me Dad.

Rating – 2 out of 5