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

Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll NES Review

srrbox

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

Mach Rider NES Review

machriderbox

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

Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off-Road NES Review

ISORbox

As much as we love the NES, the one thing it did lack was the ability to play multiplayer games where both players were on the screen at the same time. The likes of Super Mario Bros had a two player option however this was one player at a time, where the next player plays when the first player died. Of course there were the exceptions, things like Battletoads and dare we say Anticipation (which isn’t said lightly…) which yields mixed results in terms of how good they are. Another game to add to the list is this game, which promises right on the box 4 player simultaneous action so how could you go wrong? Grab some pizzas, some beer and get your leather driving gloves on, we’re going Off Road racing!

 

Thumbs up? Everything is A-OK

Thumbs up? Everything is A-OK

 

Super Off Road Racing, or Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart’s Super Off-Road in its entirety (but is too late to write fully) is a racing game in which you take control of what looks like a miniature off-road car and you race with three other drivers in order to win the race. Unlike R.C Pro AM where you get weapons, this is all about racing – just you, your finger on the A button and the ability to drive like Nigel Mansell. Or The Stig. There are certain similarities with R.C Pro AM such as the miniature vehicle and the ease in which you drive your car, but as we’ll see later, there are some subtle differences.

 

Those lovely lovelies await you for winning the game

Those lovely lovelies await you for winning the game

 

Turning on the game you get the blue-eyed red helmet wearing Ivan Stewart grinning back at you and the ability to play with up to 4 players. That is a big selling point, the fact you can have three other friends with you to race in your vehicles and see who comes out on top. However, due to the NES console having two controller ports you do require a NES Four Score or NES Satellite in order to play with four controllers, however for some additional hardware, it’s good you can have four racers rather than 4 player Super Mario Bros where you have to wait for the first three players to die before you can take your turn. You choose your nationality though there doesn’t seem to be any difference in which nationality you pick, it’s more for nationalistic pride to which you then start racing.

 

Vettel has nothing on me

Vettel has nothing on me

 

A good point with the game is that after each race, depending on where you finish you can customise your vehicle in terms of upgrading parts of your vehicle such as the tyres, the acceleration, the top speed – up to 6 categories. This is done by the money you win depending on where in the race you finish. It is a flat rate for each upgrade which is always good as modern games seem to increase the value of an upgrade with each upgrade you complete. It does seem sometimes that you upgrade the acceleration and top speed but in the next race the computer race past and you cannot catch them up which can be frustrating, as you may rely more on turbos which quickly run out. It’s not often that it happens, but the inconsistencies can be gruelling.

 

Standard race track

Standard race track

 

The view of the race is different to R.C Pro AM, in that you have an overhead view of the whole track where you see all four racers competing – R.C Pro AM the track is bigger than the screen so the camera is focussed on your vehicle. It’s good that you can see the whole track so you can see your competitors and see how far in front you are or how behind you are. The graphics are bold and defined, with the four vehicles in all differing colours and the brown dirt on the road with the red and white walls surrounding the track. On the ground you can pick up extra cash or turbos which increase that aspect but as some retailer once said, every little helps (all rights reserved). On the screen it shows in the top left the name of the nap, the top right how long it has taken you to complete the race and also at the top it shows how many turbos you have left. You start with 25 which do go down quickly if you panic in order to try and win the race, but turbos are something you can buy for £10k each at a time. Although pricey and not something you would focus when you first upgrade your vehicle, by the 10th or 11th race where you’ve upgraded everything else, the only thing you can buy are turbos so you do get the chance to replenish them. The controls in the game are fairly straight forward, you use the A button to accelerate, B butto nto use your turbo and the d pad left and right to turn your vehicle. Nothing more complicated then that, but why would you when the gameplay is good? Sometimes games are ruined when the gameplay and graphics are good, but the controls are overly complicated and unncessary. Fortunately, Ivan Stewart asked for simple controls, and the game is effective because of it*. (* please note Ivan may not have requested this in his game but for artistic licence the presumption is that this was the first thing requested when designing an NES game)

 

A certain Queen song seems appropriate here - not Seven Seas of Rhye

A certain Queen song seems appropriate here – not Seven Seas of Rhye

 

Overall, although the game is similar to R.C Pro Am, there are are differences which enhance the game and make it one worthy to have in your collection. The most obvious appeal is having 4 player simultaneous action so one guy isn’t left waiting 20 minutes for the remaining three to lose their lives so that they can take their turn. The controls are simple yet responsive, and it is always intriguing to see what aspect of your vehicle gets upgraded first in order to win the matches. Although in the end if you’re that good then all parts will be upgraded fully towards the end, but especially with three other people it could make all the difference between winning and losing if one of you upgrades acceleration first for example rather than tyres. Sometimes it does feel like you go from flat out winning a race to being perilously last due to the other cars being significantly faster for no apparent reason but the only time you notice this is if you’re playing the game by yourself. The game is cheap to pick up from your local online retailers or retro game shops, so grab a horse riding helmet, spray it red, strap it on and get set for driving fun because tell me, wouldn’t you rather be placing this than Anticipation?

 

Rating – 4 out of 5

Time Lord NES Review

timelordbox

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

funhousebox

“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

Hogan’s Alley NES Review

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Looking at the NES library, when you think of light gun or zapper games the first game that springs to mind is always Duck Hunt, but there was a plethora of fine gun games on the console… wait – is there some Deja Vu thing going on? Well anywho games on the NES that utilised the light gun, or the zapper, or however you call the gun that were good were far and few between, with the most recognizable being Duck Hunt. Another game that utilised the light gun was Hogan’s Alley so grab your leather jacket and your shades and prepare to take out the vermin that sprawls the city, or shooting range, hell wherever the bad guys reside these days.

In case you didn't know the difference between good guys and bad guys...

In case you didn’t know the difference between good guys and bad guys…

Again, difference between good vs evil

Again, difference between good vs evil

Hogan’s Alley is a black box light gun game that was released in Europe in 1987, the simple aim is to shoot the bad guys and spare the innocent folk. Sounds easy? Well, in a similar vein to Wild Gunman, you have to shoot the bad guys in a specified tight time limit and if not you record a “miss”. Enough misses and it is game over. Although you don’t get to see your character, it would be nice to think that your character is a Clint Eastwood-type chiselled good-looking rather than an overweight Mario-type character that popped up in a lot of the games that was released at the time, be it as an umpire at Tennis or referee in Punch-Out.

When you pop the cartridge in and turn the console on, you get three options:

Hogan’s Alley A

Three cardboard cut outs will appear on screen – shoot the bad guys with guns and avoid the innocent civilians set in a police training environment. At the top of the screen in green shows a number which relates to how long in seconds you have to shoot the bad guys. Sometimes it may only be one bad guy on screen, however the later in the game you get the more chance you have of trying to shoot more than one character on screen within the allotted time frame.

Game Mode A

Game Mode A

Game Mode A

Game Mode A

Hogan’s Alley B

Same premise of shooting bad guys and not shooting the civilians however this time it is set outdoors where the bad guy cutouts appear in windows and on the street, even in shops. Although there is no timer on screen, you only have a certain amount of time in order to shoot the bad guys on screen. The same characters that appear in game mode A appear in game mode B, so it’s good that you don’t have a different set of characters that you need to try to remember.

Game Mode B

Game Mode B

Game Mode B

Game Mode B

Trick Shot

No bad guys in this game mode, the premise being that you have to shoot cans that fly from the right hand side of the screen, and you need to shoot them onto three spaces that are on the left side of the screen which correlate to differing points value. The top space has the lowest points value but in theory should be the easiest for you to shoot the can into, where the bottom shelf as it were has the most points value but is deemed the most difficult to shoot into, with a short awkwardly-placed block there to hinder you. It makes a nice change to shoot cans rather than cardboard cutouts of people.

Game Mode C

Game Mode C

In all three game modes the most challenging aspect is yourself – how does that work? For game mode’s A or B it’s the pressure knowing that you only have a certain time limit to shoot the required number of bad people (which numerically doesn’t show on the screen), so the first few milli-seconds you’re counting how many bad guys are on the screen and then reacting to this. You need to have sharp reflexes, sharper than a hedgehog eating a ghost chilli pepper washed down with Tabasco sauce. For game mode C, the challenge is trying to let the can get as close to the bottom as possible and shooting it so that you have a chance of getting the can into the bottom shelf. With multiple can’s on the screen at the same time, you need to forget that hedgehog and have your Spidey-senses on high alert.

Hogan’s Alley is a fine addition to the NES library and is more than just shooting bad guys, or cardboard cutouts of them at least. You have to think about what bad guys are on the screen and try to shoot them in a small amount of time, or shooting the cans at the right time so that the trajectory is correct and your can goes into a space on the left hand side of the screen. It’s great that although the premise of game mode A and B are the same, the background differs which gives it a fresh take. Although much cannot be written about Hogan’s Alley, if you’re looking for a variation on the NES on the light gun game then Hogan’s Alley certainly achieves this. It is more similar to Duck Hunt with the game modes than with Wild Gunman but all three are worthy to have in your collection. Copies of the game aren’t that common but it is worth the extra pennies so pick up a copy, I mean how many times can you shoot ducks and get laughed at by a dog?

Rating – 5 out of 5

Castelian NES Review

castelianbox

Every now and again, a game will come along on whatever format that will challenge you from the moment you try reading the title – obvious examples being Xeyxz and Cacoma Knight in Bizyland which in a number of different ways roll off the tongue. Another contender for this is the game featured today – Castelian. Is it pronounced Cass-tell-ian or perhaps Castle-Ian, or maybe in fact Caster-leean. It is one of those conundrums that involves a flight-or-fight response – does a game with a title like Castelian make it worthy of your hard earned money and precious time, or make you want to stick to the mainstream and for games whose names are easier to pronounce? Let it be known that for the sake of reviews I am always up for a challenge, so how will this game fare – like a glorious phallic-like tower visible from miles to announce its superiority on the world (or NES console at least), or just a phallic-type game?

Who doesn't find the protagonist cute and adorable!

Who doesn’t find the protagonist cute and adorable!

Castelian, or Nebulus in certain regions, started off life on the Commodore 64, and is a platform game where the idea is to climb to the top of the tower to plant a bomb (stay with me here) which is built in the sea, in order to destroy the tower. The way up to the top is not easy, what kind of game would it be if you were at the bottom of the tower and entered an elevator and pressed the button for the top floor and at the top easily plant the bomb when no one is around? An easy one at that, and everyone likes a challenge supposedly…But anyway in order to reach the top you have to pass enemies and traps that try thwarting your progress. You climb the tower in ledges, and if you get touched by an enemy, you fall to the ledge below to carry on your ascent to the top. If you happen to be on the bottom ledge i.e. at the start of the level, then you fall into the sea and lose a life. As well as being thwarted by enemies and randomly disappearing ledges (more on that later) then you also have a timer as well which unsurprisingly if you don’t reach the top in time you lose a life.

Is there a more sinister-sounding opening level? Maybe, but I can't think of one

Is there a more sinister-sounding opening level? Maybe, but I can’t think of one

So popping the cartridge in your console and powering the beauty up, you’re treated to the main screen, with dare I say funky music being played and the game’s protagonist Pogo, or Julian, or in fact Kyorochan (depending on what version of the game on which console) who looks like an adorable green pig – if you’re playing this game with two players then your cute piggy character is blue which is a nice variation. If you leave the game for a few seconds you then see the staff credits and right at the bottom it says to press Select for the options menu or Start to play the game. Why this couldn’t be on the main screen is anyone’s guess, as when you turn on your console ready for gaming action, you’re going to be mashing the start button and not thinking what hints or tips are going to be on the next screen. Well pressing the select button does bring up the options menu where you can choose between one or two players (which works in the same way as Super Mario Bros 2 player – not co-op and if player one dies the second player then starts), choosing between sound effects and music in game, and the difficulty – Novice or Hero. As natural as it is to select Hero to, well be a Hero like a certain NES reviewer here, it is recommended to start out on Novice, in order to get a feel for the game and the impending trials and tribulations that await you.

So you start the game at the ominously-titled “Tower of Eyes” and then off you go. Within a few moves to the right where the path leads, the ledge gives way and you fall in the water. What kind of BS is that – it reminds you a lot of Dragon’s Lair, where the pitfalls are not obvious unless you have played the game before. Unfortunately in that respect Castelian is reminiscent of Dragon’s Lair a lot, and not in a good way. It is a sure thing you will lose a lot of lives before completing the first tower, as it is trial and repeat which although gives some sort of replay value, for the first level it should ease you in, not trick you like the fake blocks in Simon’s Quest that is only known by throwing Holy Water. With Castelian, you don’t even get that luxury. As a weapon you do get a white projectile to throw at enemies however this has a range of results, it may kill the enemy straight away, it may stun them which makes them turn a different colour, or have no effect at all. Again, it is trial and error, because if you stun the enemy and touch it (thinking it can move), you then fall down a ledge, and with only a certain amount of time to complete the tower, which usually is a measly 100 seconds , time as well as your memory is your greatest enemy.

Blue pigs, green pigs, it almost could be like Angry Birds

Blue pigs, green pigs, it almost could be like Angry Birds

Graphically, Castelian has a simplistic EGA hue of purples and blues which although do the job, does make you wonder why they could not include a better colour palette – the Amiga version had a colourful palette and this is on the console that brought you Super Mario 3 and Rainbow Islands, so it should have been more colourful. One of the good things about Castelian is that when your character moves left or right, he stays visible in the centre of the screen, and the background tower turns, which conveys a sense of depth. It can be confusing at times, when you expect an enemy to go round the back of the tower but instead the enemy is heading towards you and your weapon doesn’t work, but it is still a nice effect. As mentioned, the music has a funky beat however if you’re playing the same level again and again due to the difficulty, it can get jarring especially as the main title music is the same as level one’s music and you will be hearing it a lot – well not unless you mute the televison. Controls-wise, it is straight forward – left or right to move your character, the A button to fire your weapon IF stationary, if you are moving and press A you jump, which again could have been improved as you should have the ability to fire your weapon if moving – why this couldn’t have been mapped to the B button again is anyone’s guess but you’ll have to get used to the projectile being at a angle and being stationary in order to use it.

Now if the NES version had THESE graphics, it would be a start

Now if the NES version had THESE graphics, it would be a start

Castelian is a mixed bag of a game – graphically it had innovations such as the background moving clockwise or anti-clockwise and for a hwile has some funky music which for the NES is only a good thing, however playing the game reminds you of Dragon’s Lair which is a taste that isn’t good. The stingy timer for the level, coupled with the fact it is a game that relies a lot on trial and error means the game at time can be both extremely frustrating, but rewarding if you persevere long enough but how long do you give a game repeating the same level and encountering the same traps before you say enough is enough? What is good is that when you run out of lives you have a continue option, which amounts to 2 continues so although it could have been more continues, it is better then nothing. Overall, Castelian is one for collectors only – it isn’t a game that you would give your precious Sunday afternoon’s for, no matter how adorable the green pig-looking character flashes his eyes in your direction, but a game for those who seek a challenge, which you certainly will get in Castelian. I’m off to find my own micro-pig and climb a tower but not to destroy, hopefully there will be a princess there instead of a mushroom advising the princess is in another castle…

Rating – 2 out of 5

Power Blade NES Review

powerbladeboxart

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

Nintendo World Cup NES Review

nworldcup

With the World Cup happening presently in Brazil, what better way of celebrating the tournament not with the latest incarnation from Electronic Arts, but with Kunio-ken characters representing 13 different countries fighting your way to the top. Kunio-ken characters I hear you ask? Well, back in the early days of the NES a company by the name of Technos Japan created a series of games for the NES that featured similar types of characters in different types of games, such as River City Ransom, Super dodge Ball and one that might be familiar to gamers, Double Dragon. So with that in mind, rather than controlling the likes of James Rodriguez and Neymar, you’re instead controlling characters such as John, Kunio and many more. So how does it fare up, is it as good as Goal! or does it make you wishing you was on the first flight home?

You know s*it gets real when quadrants are involved

You know s*it gets real when quadrants are involved

Nintendo World Cup is a football (that’s right, not Soccer) game where you control one character with the d-pad but partially control the rest of the team by pressing the A or B button to command the player and request an action, such as tackle or shoot. Score more than the other country then you progress. If not, well, it’s game over. It really is nothing more complicated then that – it’s football (not soccer) so how complicated is that?

Tackle? OK!

Tackle? OK!

So when you start the game up you get to choose whether to start the tournament mode with 1 or 2 players, or if you don’t have the time nor inclination to do a full tournament then you can have a one off match with up to 4 players. Yes that’s right, you can grab your Four-Score out and have four people play a football match which is always a good social event. It’s common with football (NOT SOCCER!) games to have four players on screen, maybe even more and signing into profiles and all that nonsense, but Nintendo World Cup offered the chance for four players on one console to play a match. It certainly beats a four player match of anticipation. So you choose the country you want to be, which disappointingly doesn’t include the USSR but does include West Germany so it’s not all bad. You then choose which players from your team play in which position, and also what strategy your team will use in 4 quadrants. You know s*it gets serious when you decide strategies in “quadrants”. After that, the match kicks off.

Play on Ice? How reckless! How naughty!

Play on Ice? How reckless! How naughty!

As mentioned above, you control one character as you would with any football match, moving him over the pitch and pressing the A button to pass the ball, or shoulder barge if you don’t have the ball and the B button shoots, and slide tackles when you don’t have the ball. Football games do not need to be complicated like they seem nowadays, and Nintendo World Cup is a great example of this. Pirouetting with the ball and doing rainbow flicks may be OK for some, but for a good football gaming experience, it wasn’t needed in NWC and it benefited from this. If one of your team members has the ball, you can command that they pass the ball, or shoot or tackle using the same A and B button commands for when you do have the ball. It is good when your halfway down the field, and you press the A button to pass, and your team mate launches the ball to your head. Finally, you can press the A+B button together to do a special shot or header which can help decide a match, and is useful to have up your sleeve (or shorts) in later rounds when the computer gets more difficult.

It's like playing in the ocean

It’s like playing in the ocean

Nintendo World Cup is a worthy sports game on the console, and with the Kunio-ken characters it makes for a unique game on a common game theme. The best comparison to make is with the Mario games that deviate away from the usual platforming fare and have Golf, Tennis, Charged Football games, where the series deviates into other genres, this is the same for NWC. The graphics are simplistic yet bold and who doesn’t enjoy having four players on one football match? Even if you don’t have four players to hand, if you got another person you can both play in the Tournament mode, and with 13 different teams there’s always something different whenever you play. Add into this mix is the number of strategies you can employ and the different players in different positions, and you get a cake, or game that results in one worthy of being in any collection. The game is common to get from your local gaming store and online auctioneer so this summer, with England currently on a rowing boat back to the UK then grab a copy, grab some friends, throw that copy of Anticipation away and prophesize the final of the world cup and be West Germany!

Rating – 4 out of 5