Low G Man NES Review

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

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

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

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

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

Rating – 3 out of 5

Pinball NES Review

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

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

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

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

Top screen aquatic fun

Top screen aquatic fun

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

Bottom screen 7-numbered casino fun!

Bottom screen 7-numbered casino fun!

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

Close to all numbers orange but no cigar

Close to all numbers orange but no cigar

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

Rating – 2 out of 5

Skate Or Die! NES Review

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After what seems an eternity in the world of game reviews and it’s reviewers, this one is back with a bang – not a literal one but a metaphorical one. If you were to relate the bang to anything in particular it could be one of two things – 1. The sound of a skateboard constantly hitting the floor, or 2. The sound of an NES controller constantly hitting the floor. But after all this time, why the need for such violence and anger from a video game – is it something truly bad? Is it something that will induce cursing and the surrounding air to turn blue? That would be a matter of opinion but for now, let’s take a look at Skate or Die! (And no, the exclamation mark is not of excitement, but the game title – honest).

Yes I will...

Yes I will…

Skate or Die! was released on the NES in 1988, or rather the port of the game was. The original game came out on home cpmputers such as the Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum and others to boot. As may be obvious in the title, Skate or Die! is a skateboarding game which in the same vein as it’s winter-themed successor Ski Or Die or even California Games (which is not winter-themed) it is a multi-event game for you to compete it and either beat an opponent or get a high score in. There are 5 events which will be explained in further detail below, but are: Joust, Race, Jam, Highjump and Freestyle.

Joust – You and one of three computer opponents go into a large skating bowl armed with what looks like a giant cotton bud in order to knock your opponent off their skateboard, like Gladiators but on a skateboard. Aim towards your opponent with the d-pad and mash any button to try and knock them off – it is a guessin game what button does what so mash away and hope that you get to knock your opponent off.

Joust

Joust

Race – You race against…yourself to try and get a highscore. The controls are severely delayed and feel like you have to press hard on the d-pad to try and turn your character. Rather than up to make your person move, this time it is down so for the first few seconds you’ll be trying to decypher this and wasting valuable time. It is very easy to fall off the skateboard with the natural terrain and trying to jump with the A or B button causing you to easily crash.

Race

Race

Jam – No not an eating contest trying to eat as much jam-covered skateboards as you can, but a race with another person! Yes it really is! Again the controls are delayed but not as severe as “race” mode. The down button makes your boarder move, A + B buttons make the character punch which you can do against your opponent and the Up D-Pad makes you jump and do a 180, some of the time.

Jam

Jam

High Jump – move your character up and down a skate ramp trying to get him to jump on his board as high as possible. You try moving your character with the up key and it does….nothing. Try doing the down keypad and….again nothing happens. No, on this one you have to waggle the d-pad left and right to get him to speed up – the incosistent controls are getting a bit tedious, and to be honest this is 5 minutes you’ll never get back, wiggling the controller back and forth hopeing to get above a 5 or 6 meter mark.

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Freestyle – Again, your located on a ramp and using any button possible you have to try and do tricks. Another boring inconsistent mashup where more often than not you’ll be on your knees (not in a good way) with your board skating past you wondering where it all went wrong.

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Before you get to experience these fabulous events you get a main menu which is unlike any that you’d come across before. You move a cursor not of a mouse but with the game’s title written there and when it hovers a certain item on screen it causes the character, Rodney to quote a phrase such as “Doncha like my ‘do’ or “Semper Fi’ Or Die” – y’know such cool and rad expressions that only late 80’s and early 90’s skater dudes can say and pull off. You get the chance to practice these events or registering your name and competing for realsies. An innovative menu but alas it seems this is the only aspect of the game worth noting.

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It was with a heavy heart to review this game as having played California Games and the sequel to this game Ski Or Die, having put the game into the console and turning it on, the need to like it was obvious and had kept an open mind about it, but it seems the three multi-event games on this console suffer the same fate. With Skate Or Die in particular, it suffers from unimaginative competition, uninspiring competition and sometimes invisible competition and has severely delayed controls which will cause an imprint of the d-pad to be etched on your thumb. It was a good idea in theory (what isn’t?) but the execution for this port doesn’t come off well. The graphics, well for the NES they are ok, it is this and the fact you get to choose your poison..ahem event that would mean it doesn’t get a lower score than what is noted below. But if you’re looking for a half-decent sports game to play on the NES then steer clear of this, anything that is multi-events can only mean one thing – multi-disappointment and that is not rad or not cowabunga….

Rating – 2 out of 5

Road Fighter NES Review

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

On your marks, get set...

On your marks, get set…

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

What a view...

What a view…

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

Battleships have never looked so good

Battleships have never looked so good

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

Checkpoint - YAY!

Checkpoint – YAY!

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

Rating – 2 out of 5

Double Dribble NES Review

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In the 80’s, a wave of American culture landed on UK shores that would influence and shape a generation, things such as MTV, The Simpsons and American sports like Baseball, Ice Hockey and the sport for today’s review, Basketball. First played in the late 19th Century in a town named Springfield (not where Jebediah first founded) it would only have been a matter of time before a video game was based off the sport – why get kids out playing the real sport when they can put on their Nintendo and play the video game of it? Konami hit on this brainwave and released Double Dribble, so how does it fare – is it a 3 pointer or a non-starter?

Someone call pest control - we gotta problem!

Someone call pest control – we gotta problem!

Double Dribble started life as per a number of early NES titles as an arcade game released in 1986. Due to the popularity of this, Konami thought (and rightly so) that it should be ported to home consoles, which it duly released in 1987. Double Dribble is a basketball game in which as per most sports, the idea is to score more points than your opponents. The rules and scoring of basketball won’t be covered here however there are plenty of fine resources out there that would describe the sport, so let’s assume you know the basics of the game.

The slowest options menu on the NES

The slowest options menu on the NES

When you pop in the game you can choose between one player game versus the computer or playing against a friend in local multiplayer which is always favourable – online multiplayer at this stage was not fully designed or implemented on the NES…so you choose which mode you wish to play and then you’re treated to an opening scene of what looks like hoards of moles burrowing underground make their way to a Kremlin-like building (such is the graphics in the opening segment)  whilst the US National Anthem plays in the background. A nice touch and adds to the charm and appeal of the game.

Kick off! I mean, let's start

Kick off! I mean, let’s start

You then get to pick your options before the match starts, which was common for sports games on the NES at the time however to choose your options your player shoots the ball into the net to change the setting. Firstly it’s time, so you can play a 5/10/20 or 30 minute match, then which team out of 5 to choose from you want to be (surprisingly no option for a London basketball team – maybe London wasn’t glamorous enough at the time…). Then you get to pick the level of difficulty from 1, 2 or 3 before starting the match. The one criticism here is that it takes too long to cycle through the options – what is wrong with pressing left or right to choose your team or match length? Instead your waiting for the guy to shoot the hoop which draws out the process.

Will he? Won't he?

Will he? Won’t he?

So the match starts, and the graphics suit the game well and are of good quality, which isn’t surprising as Konami were the publishers of the game. There are the odd quirk here and there, such as in game the player’s skin colour can change (which is more evident when the player you are in control with “flashes”) but in the background you can define the crowd and is a nice touch when you can see them pumping their fists in the air like they just don’t care and supporting team. The centre piece of the game is when you go in to the dunk the ball into the basket, a cut scene appears – for the time this was mightily impressive and felt realistic. It doesn’t matter how many times you see the cut scene, it always does bring a smile to the face and the following shouting at the TV wanting the ball to go in the basket to get your two points.

BOOMSHAKALA! Oh, wrong game...

BOOMSHAKALA! Oh, wrong game…

The controls are responsive and tight, with the d pad (unsurprisingly) moving your player, the A button passing the ball and the B button changing the player you are controlling and also shooting. Although there may be a button to press to tackle the ball from the player, having tried all combinations it is difficult to know what this is, which for a sport’s game as much as the offense is good, you need to know how to defend. The sound effects at times can sound like they were direct from the Atari 2600 however hearing the beeps go up in pitch when you are in control of the ball is a nice touch, the ball being bounced is a nice effect and there is some voice sampling which is always a welcome especially on a console like the NES.

From behind

From behind

Overall, Double Dribble is an average basketball game with which it’s postives and negatives equal out in measure. The positives include the Star Spangled banner at the start of the game, the cut scene when dunking a basket and the tight and responsive controls which for a sports game is always important. The negatives is the hard difficulty of the game – it does seem tricky to tackle the ball from your opponent and feels like every chance they are at your basket they score whereas when you attempt to score, more often that not it doesn’t go in. Maybe the difficulty gradient you choose at the start from 1, 2 or 3 means 1 is the most hardest and 3 is the easiest? Who knows, it is not explained in game but a solid title from the Konami team, heaven knows what it would have been like if it was a black box game by Nintendo as a launch title. Maybe then the mighty USSR and Great Britain may have been involved…but do pick up the title, just so that two of you on local multiplayer on a Tuesday night can compete against each other pretending to be Michael Jordan. Copies of the game are plentiful in your preferred method of purchasing games, so do try it and don’t be tempted to shout BOOMSHAKALA – wrong generation of console my friend……

Rating – 3 out of 5

Lunar Pool NES Review

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After a hard day saving mushroom kingdoms, stomping on enemies or acquiring new powerups from bosses to destroy a demented Doctor, what better way of relaxing then with a nice game of pool. Set in the the future. Isn’t that every person’s dream? Well dream no further as the game developer’s Compile knew what we we’re all thinking and what we wanted, and created a pool game set in the future with futuristic tables and the ability to control gravity. So grab your moon boots, your futuristic cue and hustle like its 2099 as we head into the realms of Lunar Pool.

The options

The options

Lunar Pool as the name suggests is a pool game set in the realms of outer space. If the rules of pool defy you then it may be worth checking out Wikipedia but in a potted condensed version, you pot the balls into the pocket and….that’s it. Pool games are simplistic in themselves but the twist is the theme of the game with which the clue is in the title. With the ability to control the amount of friction that the balls travel round the table on, and the weird and wonderful table designs, it certainly makes for a more unusual pool game. With Lunar Pool as the player if you fail to pocket a ball in three consecutive shots, or if the cue ball is pocketed then you lose a life. With only a certain amount of lives you need to have the eye of the tiger and ensure your accuracy is up to speed. If the game is played against another player or the computer, players take turns shooting the cue ball but if one player fails to knock at least one of the balls into a pocket, or pocket your own cue ball, then it will be the opponent’s turn, so bear that in mind players.

Interesting...

Interesting…

So when you power the game up, you get the option of playing one player (against no opposition), two players in a local co-operative game or intriguingly a Vs Comp mode, which is not as exciting as it sounds but is you versus the computer. So regardless of whether you want to play with yourself (no sniggering at the back), with a real life friend or a computer friend, there is something for everyone in Lunar Pool. So as well as choosing what game mode you play, you also get to choose which round you start at, with up to 60 tables to choose from although the numbers won’t mean much unless you remember that table number x relates to a certain design. You also get to choose the friction of which the balls travel round the table at, starting at 0 which feels like you’re playing pool in mud, to 255 which is like playing pool on ice. So depending on the friction, you may need to change strategy in order to win.

Very interesting...

Very interesting…

The colours for the game are bold and defined, though the pockets do look like sink holes. However, as the graphics are well defined and colourful, for a pool game it certainly is a treat for the eyes. The controls are about as simple as they can get for a pool game, with the left/right d pad moving the cross-hair which would indicate which direction the cue ball will travel in. Moving the up/down d pad supposedly controls another part of the cross-hair however having compared when the cross-hair is near and when the cross-hair is far, it doesn’t seem to affect the trajectory or spin of the ball. So as of yet the result of the up/down d pad is unknown. The A button launches your ball into the other balls, like a supersonic comet smashing into the planets knocking them out of alignment. The game has basic jaunty music and sound effects which to be fair belong to the Atari 2600 but pool isn’t the most audio-friendly of games, it may be worth putting on your mini-disc and listening to the latest Beastie Boys record, or whatever the youth listen to these days.

As interesting as clouds...

As interesting as clouds…

Lunar Pool is a decent enough pool game, in which the developers took a simple idea and done it very well, adding a number of twists to keep the gamer interested and ensure replayability. With the different game modes such as one player, local co-op and playing against the computer, with upto 60 different tables and the ability to change the friction on the table, that equates to a whole number of differing combinations that keeps the gameplay fresh. Copies of the game can be found at all your local retro game retailers and online auctioneers at a nice price so it is worthy to add to your collection. Although there are other pool games available, namely Side Pocket, Lunar Pool is certainly a fresh take on the pool game genreso grab your space chalk and start hustling, I for one am off to sell my copy of the game for scratch money…

Rating – 4 out of 5

Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll NES Review

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

Sparkle Sparkle!

Sparkle Sparkle!

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

The waterfalls, the beauty, the HOLD

The waterfalls, the beauty, the HOLD

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

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

Aww shucks, I'm Brilliant?

Aww shucks, I’m Brilliant?

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

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

Mushroom mushroom

Mushroom mushroom

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

Rating – 4 out of 5

Time Lord NES Review

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

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