Wrecking Crew NES Review

250px-Wrecking_Crew_cover

There often comes a video game that can’t quite decide what it wants to be and what genre it so delicately plops itself in. Is it action? Is it platforming? Is it action-platforming? Is it “plactioning”, if such a hybrid exists? (For the record, if any game company uses “plactioning”to describe their game then royalties will be gratefully received here…). With today’s technological advancements, the envelope of gaming and the experience of gamers is being blurred more and more, with games being harder to define in one specific genre. Aside from FIFA, everyone knows where they stand with FIFA. But way back when in the mid 80’s, games knew what genre of gaming they were – there was no confusion and no hybrids which sound as awesome as they are #plactioning. As always in life however, there are exceptions to the rules, and today’s review focuses on one such game that that could walk the tightrope between two such genres in a subtle way (which is always the best kind) and was released in the infancy of the NES. The game in question is Wrecking Crew that features everyone’s favourite plumber who never seems to plumb. So looking back now, was the game Crew-sing it’s way to being a classic or heading towards being a Wreck….

 

wcnes4

 

Wrecking Crew was released in 1985 as a launch title for the NES and straddles the line of being an action game but in certain aspects also a puzzle game albeit not in a traditional sense. The aim is to control Mario (wearing his fetching all-red overalls) who in the game is acting as a demolition man in order to destroy objects that features in the level with his mighty hammer. This can be in the form of walls, pillars, barrels, bombs etc. As a result of the weight and the power of the mighty hammer, Mario bless him cannot jump therefore there will be occasions where the old grey matter needs to be used in order to destroy every occurrence of that item in the level but the most obvious way of doing this is not clear. There are 100 levels in the game in order to complete so at least there is somewhat of a challenge especially when you can start the game at any level from the title screen, so it is good you don’t have to start over from level one repeatedly in order to progress. The game is also noted for having a level editor, similar to Excitebike so you can create your own levels to amuse and antagonise friends with and store them on the Famicom Data Recorder. The problem with that is that the Recorder was only available in Japan, therefore this feature was redundant outside of Japan but still it was good to have the option, and if you have people over at least they can play your creations even if it cannot be saved for later usage long after they have left.

 

wcnes1

 

When you turn on the game on there is no fancy introduction sequence, no developer titles and no faffing about – straight into the main menu. There is something to be said for games that don’t dilly dally and head straight to the good stuff, which seemed to be quite common on the NES. You have the option of starting the game in 1-player mode that features Mario, a 2-player option that features everyone’s second favourite plumber who never plumbs but wears a delicious green number, Luigi. Third and finally, you can go into the level editor mode and create your own levels as noted earlier. With the two player option, this is similar to how Super Mario Brothers played in 2 player, where both players alas are not on the screen at the same time, but is played one character at a time. This does mean the other person sitting round and waiting for their chance to shine, or in this case demolish. As soon as you start the game, you go straight to the good stuff and can start demolishing away, climbing up and down ladders and hammering away. It does seem as though most of the time the idea is to destroy everything, so a piece of advice is to destroy everything you can, but in a thoughtful way in case you need a certain path later… There is something oddly satisfying with destroying the landscape you are in, and starts off relatively simple but progressing in difficulty when trying to find anything and everything to destroy with your hammer in certain parts of the level.

 

wcnes2

 

The controls are as straightforward as they come – the d pad moves Mario left and right, and can also climb up and down ladders. The A and B buttons make Mario (or Luigi) wield his hammer and destroy the items on screen. The controls do seem responsive and encounter no significant lag or delay when pressing the button to hammer away and for your character to action this. Although speed of input is not the most crucial aspect of the game, it is still good knowing the controls are as tight and responsive as they are, safe that any deaths that occur are not due to the fault with the controls but of that of the player. It is also noted you can wrap around the stage just by going off-screen and appearing on the other side – a nice trick that certainly does help out when trying to complete the level. Music-wise, there is nothing on the title screen when you boot up the game, but as soon as the game kicks in the music is jaunty and jovial and sets a positive tone and a pleasant gaming experience. It may not be the most memorable music on the console especially within the black box games released, but still it is jaunty and positive enough that you would rather listen to this then some of your old cassettes lurking in the back of your wardrobe. The sound effects too are some of the better sounds that are found in the early NES library, varying in pitch, tone and compliment well to the music playing in the background, so again it is something to behold (or be-listen) when playing the game.

 

wcnes3

 

Overall Wrecking Crew is one of the better offerings of the launch titles on the NES that is highly recommended to play. There is enough action going on to keep the gamer interested, with just enough puzzle element to it to keep the brain meats working overtime in order to clear the level of the items that needs to be destroyed. Wrecking Crew may be overlooked for some of it’s more famous black box brethrens that got released *ahem* Super Mario Brothers *ahem* however this shouldn’t detracted from the playability of Wrecking Crew. The control are tight, graphics are bold and striking and has 100 levels to quench your appetite for destruction with good music and sound effects to boot. Copies of the original cart are not the cheapest black box NES game on the market, roughly going for £20 for the cartridge alone on certain auction websites. Support your local retro game shops kids! Failing that, the game was released on the Wii Virtual Console in 2007 (which is now sadly defunct) and also on the Wii U Virtual Console so you still have the opportunity to download the game and try this yourself. Time will tell whether it comes to the Nintendo Switch Online service, which one can only hope it will as the game is ripe for local/online multiplayer action and deserves a bigger spotlight shone on it. Yes on the original cart you cannot save the levels, the puzzle element may put of some players who like button-bashing action and two players cannot appear on the screen simultaneously which is a shame, however despite those reasons it is a fun game and one well-worthy of your time. Happy destructing all!

 

Rating – 4 out of 5

 

Advertisements

Low G Man NES Review

lowgmanbox

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

lowgman1

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

lowgman2

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

lowgman3

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

lowgman4

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

Rating – 3 out of 5

MegaMan NES Review

megamanbox

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

megaman1

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

megaman2

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

megaman3

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

megaman4

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

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

Rating – 4 out of 5

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

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

The Simpsons Bart Vs The World NES Review

Simpsboxart

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

*sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating – 1 out of 5

Burai Fighter NES Review

buraibox

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

 

Tiny Toon Adventures NES Review

TTABOX

It’s been known through various gaming reviewers than NES games based upon films were not the best in the library – typical examples cited are games based off of films such as Back To The Future, Jaws and anything that the glorious rainbow of LJN happened to produce in the late 80’s / very early 90’s. Video games based off of TV shows on the other hand, well unfortunately it is luck of the draw. Take Airwolf for instance, an earlier review here gave it an average 3 out of 5, or you could be fortunate enough to play American Gladiators or Win Lose or Draw and have a whale of a time. The third side of the coin if ever there was one would be to play something as moribund as The Simpsons. So based on another cartoon that debuted in 1990, we have Tiny Toon Adventures featuring the characters off the same show. So could this be another Simpsons piece of dirge, or could the rainbow around the cover be nicer than anything LJN had to offer?

Remind you of a game much? That uses frog suits? Mario 3??

Remind you of a game much? That uses frog suits? Mario 3??

Tiny Toon Adventures is a platform game which “borrows” or utilises a number of features that was prominent in Super Mario 3, when you play the game it will feel like Mario 3 just in the Tiny Toon environment. It was in fact the very first Tiny Toons game released for any home console, so if you’re going to base your first game on anything it’s certainly not a bad decision to base the game on one of the most popular games on the console, if not ever.  So when you turn on the game, you see the map to which there are 6 worlds, which as in all games you start from World 1. The worlds are The Hills, The Wetlands, The Trees, Downtown, Wackyland and Montana Max’s Mansion. As well, you meet Shirley who advises you that you need to choose a partner, from Plucky Duck Dizzy Devil or Furball. Although it’s not clear what powers they possess at this stage and what their for, pick a character and then away we go.

Mmm...pork chop...

Mmm…pork chop…

The idea is to complete each level going from left to right as per most platforming games, stomping on the enemy’s head and collecting not coins, but carrots on each stage. Collect 30 of them and you can exchange them with Hampton at a certain point in the level extra lives, and believe me your going to need them. When you encounter enemies it’s one hit kill – no health bar as such like in Megaman to sap your life.  You can collect a heart, which is not currency as per Castlevania but should you have collected a heart and you get touched by an enemy, you don’t die but the next touch will kill you. It is easy enough to collect carrots on each level so you shouldn’t have any issues in getting an extra life however you may feel your repeating the same stage again when you inevitably die and need to get your extra lives back. During the level, if you encounter a star ball, you then turn into your partner – no not Babs but the character you selected before the level started. Depending on the character you selected, they each have their own unique abilities. Plucky Duck can fly albeit for a short amount of time, Dizzy can spin attack through enemies and walls, and finally Furball can climb up vertical walls and slowly go down them. The only way to turn back into Buster is to collect another star ball, so get acquainted with your partner.

Your ideal Valentine's Day Date?

Your ideal Valentine’s Day Date?

The controls are of the standard platforming fare, the d pad moves Buster, A button jumps and the B button seems to make your character speed up, like in Super Mario Brothers – though that could be my imagination or it did seem in fact that Buster did move faster. The controls are solid enough and responsive however when you go hurtling into an enemy without having collected a heart and knowing your going to lose a life, it can be quite frustrating however this is where you need to demonstrate your reflexes as quick as a mongoose being shot up the ass with a slingshot. The music, well most people would know the Tiny Toons music and able to hum a few bars from it. The game recreates the theme music faithfully, however unlike other games that use the music from the TV or film it’s based on, the same theme repeats over and over and over again throughout the game. If you liked the theme, take my advice and after the first couple of times then mute it, put on your iPod or CD player and do not listen to this because it will drive you insane. It is a shame because the sound effects are not bad either – again a typical platforming fare with the jumps in the right places and when you get killed a short piece of music. If it wasn’t for the same loop of music it would be worth keeping the sound on just for the sound effects alone, but alas they had to ruin a good thing.

So all in all, Tiny Toon Adventures is not a game that will be an exciting addition to your collection, it’s an average platforming game that isn’t the most difficult game, however where the real challenge lies is ensures you don’t fall asleep and that you remain challenged intellectually. The game differs no more than the plethora of platforming games that graced the NES console, however if you are a fan of the classic animation it certainly is one to collect. It differs no more than to say Bugs Bunny’s Birthday Blowout, and if you want a perfect example of a platforming game done well, then the obvious choices would be something like Metroid or the classic Mario 3. Copies of the game can be found at all good retro game stores and on the internet auction site of your choosing, so do check it out as the game certainly isn’t bad, but unless your eating a ghost pepper whilst playing this, it verges on the beige and the average. If it was a colour it would be grey – very uninspiring, bereft of personality, redeemed only by the characters from whence it originated from. In today’s society who wants that, to be grey and bland? Certainly not me…

 

 

Rating – 3 out of 5

The Simpsons Bart Vs The Space Mutants NES Review

simpsonsboxart

Back in the early 90’s kids were interested in a number of things that graced our TV screens, but  something came along which kids were mesmerised by watching this new dysfunctional family and their weekly antics. This of course was The Simpsons. Naturally with all popular TV shows came video games, and boy did The Simpsons release their fair share of games on the early consoles. The very first game that was released based off the TV show was The Simpsons Bart vs The Space Mutants, which was released in 1991. It sounds promising enough, so how does it play nowadays – is it a vintage classic a la episodes form the first few seasons, or should it have been put to sleep like the last few years’ worth of episodes?

They gathered round, they couldn't believe a game was as bad as this

They gathered round, they couldn’t believe a game was as bad as this

The game puts you in control of Bart, which isn’t surprising since he was deemed the most popular at the time featuring in games such as this and invading the charts with “The Bartman”. The story goes that aliens descend to earth planning to rule the earth by taking over people’s bodies and making humans their slaves. Naturally Bart is the one who sees the aliens hatching their plan, he has taken it upon himself to help save the planet. So the story is plausible somewhat, and thusly move swiftly onto the first level, where the objective is to find any purple objects on the level, and spray them red or get rid of them. Quote why the aliens have a fascination of the colour purple I don’t know – maybe the designers got the idea from watching Whoopi Goldberg in The Color Purple too much, and this is where the game starts.

When the game starts you’ll notice along the bottom a sort of status bar, which gives information about what item your carrying, how many lives you got, the time limit and also “goals”, which means on the first level you need to collect 24 purple items, or spray them from purple to red. You come across the first item which is a purple trash can, but how do you make it change colour? Pressing A makes you jump, pressing B does nothing, pressing the select button changes the item your carrying and pressing start executes that action. But nowhere does it show the item needed to change the colour of the trash can. So you explore the level and find on a really high shelf the spray can. You then have to go back past the enemies that seem impervious to any form of attack, and finally spray the can with the B button. So throughout the level you have to find other ways of covering the purpleness, be that climbing on washing lines or finding inventive ways of spraying the colour purple away.

Not even Jebediah could save this game

If only you could get some Shaman to cast a spell to control a big towering monument to control…

One of the most infuriating aspects of this game that you may have encountered in the first level alone, are the controls. The backbone to any half decent game is having solid controls, which this game sadly lacks. Even when you move Bart, it does not happen straight away, there seems to be a delay that makes you push even harder on your d pad trying to get him reacting quicker, but it doesn’t work. To do a super run, to get the speed high enough to make you jump onto higher ledges requires a difficult combination of holding A+B in a way that doesn’t make you use up your spray can, and then having to press A at the right time to jump – why couldn’t they put B to sprint? The jump doesn’t work when you want it to, so to actually spray and remove all purple items in the level is just a pain, and to do a super jump where your sprinting with A+B and then A to jump again was unnecessarily difficult which it shouldn’t have been.

Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, you realise you don’t have a health bar, but 2 hits from enemies and your dead. That’s right, you graze the thigh of an enemy, scraping their head, do that twice and your back at the start of the level. It does remember the fact that you’ve sprayed certain things red or removed certain purple items, so you don’t need to redo these parts but your lack of any real health means you’ll go back to the beginning more than you realise. Fans of the game will enjoy the 8 bit digitsed version of the theme tune however to have it constantly playing the background is a bit jarring – it’s like anything in life it’s nice in small bursts to have it loop constantly, you’ll wish it was the Bartman on loop. Forget that, no one wants that.  The sound effects are standard 8 bit fare, typical of a platforming game with jump noises and that’s about it. It’s nice they attempted some form of digitized voicing that says “Eat My Shorts” and something at the start of the level that at one point resembles “Cool Man”. Alas, the music and sound effects do not help improve the quality of the game, which coming from Acclaim was a surprise, as they made some jolly decent games such as Turok and NBA Jam, who knows maybe they were having an off day and had too much radiation poisoning but regardless, it’ll take an insubordinate amount of time moving off the first level.

Wonder if Space Mutants 4 is better than this? Book your tickets now!

Wonder if Space Mutants 4 is better than this? Book your tickets now!

Fans of the Simpsons will no doubt have been excited that their favourite show was made into a game on the biggest console of the time. Imagine the joy going into your local store, treating yourself over the weekend to a rented game, seeing your favourite show on Nintendo, the two biggest things for a child coming together in some holy matrimony, but instead after attempting the first level over and over again, what better use of your time you could have used with your weekend – like doing homework. The second level (should you get there) involves collecting hats from a shopping centre, something equally as important as removing all purple items. For something as big as the Simpsons, there shouldn’t have been the need to rush the game, the developers would have known how much kids would have loved a game of their favourite TV show, so to have this pile of dung served to them is an insult to gamers and to fans of the show everywhere. Copies of the game are common in the wild so do try it just to see how bad it is, and to add to your collection. I just hope that other games on the system aren;t as bad such as Bart vs The World…

Rating – 1 out of 5

Megaman 2 NES Review

Megaman2box

Last week, I received a message on Twitter from the owner of Futureretrogamer and pointed out that this week was the anniversary of a special character deeply entrenched in retro gaming. A character that played an important role in my childhood gaming, that I spent hours upon hours playing and although was completed, regretfully have not played any of the sequels since then, nor gone back and revisited. So what better way of celebrating an important anniversary, namely the 25th anniversary of the character known in Japan as Rock Man but changed to Megaman for Western releases. Thanks once again goes to the guys at Futureretrogamer, so do give them a check out, but more important, happy anniversary Rock Man!

Today’s review is based upon the second game in the series that was released for the NES here in Europe in 1989 – Megaman 2, or what was known in Japan as Rockman 2: The Mystery of Dr Wily. For those not in the know about Mega Man, it is a platform game where the hero completes different stages and defeating the boss of that stage, acquiring a special powerup that will help in the following levels. Like its predecessor that was surprisingly called Megaman, after completing the various stages, you then move to the final boss and his stages – Dr Wily, who reminds you an awful lot of Albert Einstein.

All the good futuristic happens in 200X - nice it's specific!

All the good futuristic happens in 200X – nice it’s specific!

So with the stage set, when you turn on the game your treated to the back story should you choose to watch it of course,  in which in the year 200x (which sounded so futuristic and far away back then) Megaman is created to stop Dr Wily from doing something terrible, like taking over the world perhaps, or inflicting more terrible music like One Direction who knows, but can always skip this by pressing start.  At the main screen you get your first glimpse of the 8 bosses and the stages you can choose to play through, its not linear so you have to complete a certain stage first. It can be daunting at first in not knowing which stage to complete first, but it’s nice your given the chance to pick. When you pick a stage, the level resembles the characteristics of the boss you see on the main screen – for example, the Wood Man stage you make your way through the level thats designed like a forest. As well, when you complete the level and defeat the boss your then rewarded with a special weapon that was relevant for that level. Again using the Wood Man stage as an example, when you defeat the boss your then given the power of a shield made of leaves. It’s interesting to note that certain bosses have certain weaknesses which make them much easier to destroy with the newly acquired weapons than if you used a normal standard gun, however you wouldn’t necessarily know this the first time round.

You'd need a big bag of chips with that piece of fish

You’d need a big bag of chips with that piece of fish

So for an action / platform game, you’d want good controls and good gameplay would you not? Well fear ye not, for the developers ensured that both go hand in hand – the controls are responsive and solid which in turns make the gameplay even better than what it already is. The d-pad moves Megaman, the A Button jumps and the B button shoots your weapon. Pressing the start button not only pauses the game, but also makes you select your special weapon – this will be blank at first but as the game progresses the special weapons are listed here. As well, over the course of the game you also get special items, three in total, that allow Megaman to access areas he couldn’t before, due to the platforms being too high for instance, so you are handsomely rewarded for your efforts.  Finally, a new feature that was implemented in the second Megaman was a password system, so unlike Festers quest where you had to sit through the whole game with no saves, after each stage is completed a password can be displayed, in the form of grids and placing blobs in the co ordinates, so again its nice not to have to type in 32 characters of both lower case, upper case, numbers AND symbols!

The graphics themselves are bold, bright and well defined from the start screen where MegaMan is in top of a building in the city with the mountains in the distance, right down to the levels themselves. The only gripe about this though is that sometimes when there’s lots of action going on, the game can lag a little bit, and on one of the levels that has a waterfall if you stare at it long enough it could screw your eyes over so you look like Clarence the cross-eyed lion, but that is minor imperfections on the graphics. Given the constraints of the cartridge, the developers did a great job with the music in the game – right from the main menu screen to the final battles with Dr Wily, the music is memorable and still hummed on a quiet day 25 years on, with the sound effects equally as good – a far cry from the lasers and the explosions that was on every Atari game regardless of the genre.

Want to play fetch with this dog?

Want to play fetch with this dog?

Megaman 2 has been regarded by many as being the best in the series, and it’s very easy to see why. Having built upon the moderate success of the original MegaMan, the team developed the game further and tweaking the not-so-good stuff and enhancing what was already a solid start to the franchise. This is evident in which the game ranks within the top 100 games not only of the console, but of all time. Everything in the game seems to work perfectly, the controls are simple yet knowing which special power to use on what level keeps you playing the game time and time again. The music is memorable and you’ll be humming the main screen tune and other level’s music well after you shut the game of. Copies of the game can be expensive with the cartridge alone worth at least £25 on all good auction websites and local retro game stores, but for serious collectors and also those who may have lost faith with more recent offerings in gameplay. If you do anything in the new year, I implore you to check out Megaman 2, see the blue robot in action and thank me later. I’m off now to stop chuckling at the name Wood Man, being the mature kind of guy that I am…

Rating – 5 out of 5