WWF Wrestlemania Challenge NES Review

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There is something natural and organic about wrestling games over the years. Starting off with the very most basic Pro Wrestling (which has been reviewed here), the games have developed into multi-faceted beasts with such advanced complex controls and game modes that would render the most fussy of wrestling gamers salivating with choice. It wasn’t always like this though, for professional wrestling (or should that be sports entertainment?) video game fans. Sometimes you had to just make do with whatever game mode the game developers gave you. Case in point? Today’s review – WWF Wrestlemania Challenge on the NES.

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WWF Wrestlemania Challenge is a professional rasslin’ (Sorry, Wrestling) game released in 1990 for the NES and features nine of the hottest stars in the WWF at the time: Macho Man Randy Savage, Ultimate Warrior, Ravishing Rick Rude, Brutus Beefcake, Hulk Hogan, Andre The Giant, Big Boss Man, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and finally Yourself! Yes, for the first time in a professional wrestling video game you can play as yourself, but not being able to customise any part of the character. Still, it is a nice feeling that you, the player could go one-on-one in the ring with a wrestler and have a chance of winning. The point of the game, like any sport (sorry, “professional entertainment”) is to beat your opponent and win the match. How, well by mashing buttons and beating seven bells out of your opponent of course and pinning them for the win. Or, you could throw your opponent out of the ring, pummel them there and get back in the ring before the bell counts for 10.

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When you turn on the cartridge you’re treated to a lovely visual of the Ultimate Warrior which to be fair graphics-wise is a good likeness. Yes the game was released in 1990 after such visual treats as Super Mario Bros 3 was released, but up to this point in terms of realism and graphics it wasn’t the strongest point of the NES. When pressing the start button you get treated to the first set of options, whether you want to play 1 player vs the computer, 1 player vs 2 player or 1 AND 2 player vs the computer. It’s great when an NES game allows two players simultaneously on screen but the added bonus of the two of you versus the CPU is an added treat. When you have chosen your option, you get to choose one of the nine wrestlers listed above and then what type of match it will be: Singles match, tag match or survivor series which is three-on-three. There is a variation between you picking Yourself as a character or a named wrestler. If you pick Yourself, one of the game modes you can pick is Super Challenge, consisting of you going against every wrestler one after the other in order to win. This feature is not available if you picked a named wrestler, instead the Super Challenge is replaced with a singles match against an opponent of your choice.

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When playing the match, the camera angle is of an isometric view, favoured by such games as Marble Madness and Snake Rattle N Roll (both of which were Rare games, such as WWF Wrestlemania Challenge – sensing a pattern here…). As a result, when controlling your character pressing the right button on the d-pad makes your character go bottom right, pressing down on the d-pad makes your character go bottom left and so on. Personally, it’s not a favoured control scheme and would like the option of choosing whether you control at a 45 degree angle or 90 degree angle like you can pick on Marble Madness. However, the controls are more advanced than previous wrestling games at this point. The A button does a physical move such as a punch or headbutt and the B button grapples the opponent to a more advanced move. Double tapping left or right makes your character run and then do a running move by pressing A, and pinning the opponent is with the B button. So controls-wise it is a welcome improvement on previous incarnations. As touched upon earlier, graphics wise the game has gone up a belt (every pun intended) and look a lot better than WWF Wrestlemania. The characters have a resemblance to them and even in-ring you can see a likeness which does make you think you are watching Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior. The crowd do have generic faces but with different coloured hairstyles but it’s nice to feel you are preforming in front a crowd that isn’t faceless. You’ll notice a stamina meter as well on the bottom of the ring – every time you get attacked your stamina meter goes down. However by running around and attacking your opponent your stamina meter can be replenished. In some respects this is good as you have a chance of getting back into the match if you have been attacked but as a result this can lead to matches been longer and more drawn out which some gamers may not enjoy as much. It is difficult as this was one of the first wrestling games that had this feature so the decision had to be made whether the stamina meter goes down and never gets replenished or whether this does go back up over time.

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So overall how does the game fare in the passages of time? To be honest, the fact the moves became more advanced, the graphics became better and the choice of nine characters to pick makes it one of the better wrestling games on the console. At times the game can be tough and challenging with no password option or save feature so it is a game with which you have to sit down in one shot and defeat the other eight wrestlers to become the best in the business. The game is better than WWF Wrestlemania from 1989 but is it as good as Pro Wrestling? That is a difficult choice, it comes down to whether you like playing as made up characters or those you recognise from the TV. It is the same question that football fans had when playing a game such as FIFA with real names compared to games like Sensible Soccer which had made-up names due to licencing. Overall though if you wanted to play a WWF game on the NES then certainly with the different game modes and different characters then this would be the game of choice to pick up compared to it’s previous entry on the console, and coupled with Pro Wrestling makes a great tag team of wrestling games on the NES.

Rating – 4 out of 5

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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

MegaMan NES Review

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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

Galaxy 5000 NES Review

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In a number of films, the future is often portrayed in a number of ways – be this futuristic towns as in Back To The Future or machines that are out of control in Terminator 2. In games the future is often portrayed with the first two numbers showing and then x’s to show things being mysterious – like in Mega Man games which are set in 20xx, though quite what year they are supposed to be set in is anyone’s guess. So imagine the joy when a game comes along that trounces over the 1990’s and the mysterious 20xx’s and raises the bar by three whole millenia. When you get a game, that can **** all over previous millenia, it deserves attention and respect. So grab your self-tying shoes, your hoverboard and a fresh pair of (under)pants, because we’re going racing in the 51st Century(tm all rights reserved).

Space...the final frontier...in the year 5000

Space…the final frontier…in the year 5000

Galaxy 5000, published by Activision is a “futuristic” racing game – futuristic in that it is set on far away planets in the galaxy and the setting is space. So expect lots of black backgrounds, random dots to signify the stars and random coloured balls to signify the planets. Not quite as futuristic as one would expect being set in the 5th Millenia but this may change in the scope of this review. The premise of the game is straight-forward, you control a ship which can fire weapons in order to battle for first place. Nothing too complex however such as other racing games on the NES at the time, you can upgrade your vehicle so that it can get shields or have more powerful weapons, and that’s never a bad thing, is it?

On the road to greatness

On the road to greatness

Slamming the cartridge (or gently inserting it) into the console and turning it on, you’re presented with Activision’s idea of the Year 5000, with severed blue helmets, parts of the ship scattered on the planet and aliens popping out from the ground like futuristic moles to greet you. Pressing the start button you are then presented with the options for play and thank goodness the game allows two players to play, and also what control system you can use. The game classes the controls as alpha or beta – alpha controls is where holding down the corresponding direction on the d-pad makes your ship go in that direction. The downside to this is that say your ship is facing the immediate left ( <- ) and you want to go diagonal bottom right, by pressing the bottom right direction on your d-pad the ship turns ever so slowly and you may find yourself crashing into the wall. The other direction system, the beta controls seems much simpler but you may get an aching thumb from it. You hold the up d-pad direction for your ship to accelerate and then hold down the left or right button to turn the ship. Personally, this is more preferable however either control style is an innovative way of moving and not consigning the player to the standard “holding the A button” to move. In this game, the A button makes your ship jump and the B button fires your weapon to try and disrupt your competitors. What you find with the game as you progress is that it is the same level, however with each stage you complete more obstacles appear on the stage such as spikes which can hinder progress so you’ll be familiar with the caveats of the track within a few races.

With the two player option, it is not set like Super Mario Bros where one player at a time takes a turn, no this is the better two player expereince where both ships are on the screen at the same time and you are both racing mano y mano, fighting for first place. So what happens if one player is falling behind and struggling, do they crash out of the race or does the game punish the player(s) in anyway? Not at all, all that happens is that the player rushes back to where the other human controlled player is, so at least it gives the last place player a chance to catch up, but doesn’t cause a slingshot effect where they can overtake past the more skilled player on the course. So if you are playing this round a friend’s, don’t expect to slob out playing Snake on your phone, both players will be on screen at the same time.

As Charles Bronson would say "Hey" "Watch it"

As Charles Bronson would say “Hey” “Watch it”

The graphics in the game are bold and colourful, though it is very stereotypical of the space theme, having black backgrounds and coloured dots to represent stars and the planets. However with this in mind the ships are varied in colour and the race track is in stark contrast to the black background so it is a game you’re not going to squint your eyes at. What is nice is that on the track it has detail that you wouldn’t neccessarily find on other NES games, especially racing games which gives it a realistic edge – again, realistic as your imagination allows for a game being set in the year 5000. In terms of music and sound effects, the music is not too bad and the sound effects suit the game well, so you don’t need that Saturday Night Fever soundtrack ringing in your ears. What was good in terms of the sound effects is that when the ships collide, primitive voice effects say one of three phrases – “Hey”, “Watch it” (from the school of Charles Bronson in Deathwish…) and “Excuse Me”. Although it may not sound much and these days we take it for granted that games will have voice acting, it was a good step and one that would get any gamer excited at the time as to the future of voice acting in a video game.

You suck

You suck

So how does Galaxy 5000 fare – ship-shape or consigned to the eternal hangar in the (futuristic) sky? Well, Galaxy 5000 is a fairly decent futuristic racing game that differed from it’s peers such as Ivan ‘Ironman’ Stewart or R.C Pro AM by being set in space but allowing your vehicle to be customised as long as you win races. There are a couple of drawbacks to the game, such as the clunky alpha controls but as well the difficulty – this can be jarring as when you race around on the track, if you hit the edge of the track or cut into the turn too quick, this allows the computer players to race past and it is VERY difficult to catch up. With practice you can learn to navigate the track without crashing into the walls or the sides of the track or even be prohibited by the spikes that appear later however with the timer on top of the screen as well (oh yes there is a timer as well to add to the fun), if this counts down to zero then it’s game over so bear in mind this game can be difficult. If you like a challenge then do pick up a copy, copies in the wild are not that expensive and take advantage of the good control system, the start of voice sound effects and a blooming steep difficulty curve. If you’re not a fan of challenge but like the idea of racing games and upgrading your vehicle then stick to the Ironman himself. I’m off to the Year 3000, I hear nothing’s changed but they live underwater…

Rating – 3 out of 5

American Gladiators NES Review

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



Shakespeare, eat your heart out

Shakespeare, eat your heart out

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

 

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

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

 

Joust 

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

 

Joust

Joust

 

Wall

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

 

Bring on THE WALL!!

Bring on THE WALL!!

 

Human Cannonball

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

 

Firebar, how I miss you in Mario

Firebar, how I miss you in Mario

 

Powerball

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

 

Headache Central. I mean Powerball

Headache Central. I mean Powerball

 

Assault

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

 

Contra. I mean Assault

Contra. I mean Assault

 

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

 

Rating – 1 out of 5

Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll NES Review

srrbox

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

Sparkle Sparkle!

Sparkle Sparkle!

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

The waterfalls, the beauty, the HOLD

The waterfalls, the beauty, the HOLD

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

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

Aww shucks, I'm Brilliant?

Aww shucks, I’m Brilliant?

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

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

Mushroom mushroom

Mushroom mushroom

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

Rating – 4 out of 5

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

ISORbox

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

 

Thumbs up? Everything is A-OK

Thumbs up? Everything is A-OK

 

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

 

Those lovely lovelies await you for winning the game

Those lovely lovelies await you for winning the game

 

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

 

Vettel has nothing on me

Vettel has nothing on me

 

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

 

Standard race track

Standard race track

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Rating – 4 out of 5

Time Lord NES Review

timelordbox

Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can make your views of games you played from yesteryear distorted compared to general consensus, where you could be passionate about a game such as Fester’s Quest which in reality doesn’t deserve so much love and affection. The reason this is noted, and may have been noted before, is that today’s review is a game which from yesterday wasn’t given a fair chance by certain reviewers. Marble Madness yes, Goal! oh yes, even Super Mario Brothers 2 but not this game, Tine Lord. Quick to be dismissed as the type of game that wouldn’t suit myself, after more than 20 years how does this game fair up, is it worthy of such honorable titles as Time Lord or perhaps Lord of the Flies?

 

Don't watch this in the dark if you're wearing white underwear

Don’t watch this in the dark if you’re wearing white underwear

Time Lord is a game developed by those stalwarts Rare in 1990 (released in Europe in 1991) and published by Milton Bradley, the famous…board game makers. Time Lord is an action game where the plot of the game is that in 2999 Earth is being attacked by aliens and your job is to go back in time, collect 5 orbs from each level (4 of which are scattered throughout the level, the final orb by defeating the level boss) in order to progress from level to level. The levels are set in different periods of time, ranging from Medieval England in 1250 AD to Western USA, the Caribbean and France. Completing those levels then you return to 2999 to face the final boss.

 

Good Luck Doctor Who! I mean, Time Lord!

Good Luck Doctor Who! I mean, Time Lord!

 

So you pop the game in, and see the start screen and holy cr*p if you were playing the game in the dark does it look intimidating. In the lightning strikes you see the image of a guy holding an Orb – at first my assumption was that it was a reflection off the TV of myself holding a cup of tea however repeated lightning strikes showed it was of someone completely different – more’s the pity. You start the game in 2999, and the matter of collecting the 5 orbs is a simple affair which doesn’t take long at all. Upon collecting the 5th Orb the message on screen advises you’re going to Medieval England. You’ll notice the view of the game and your character is in a semi-3D perspective which is a nice touch, giving a sense of depth and perspective.

 

Badger Badger Badger Badger Mushroom Mushroom!

Badger Badger Badger Badger Mushroom Mushroom!

 

At the bottom of the screen provides useful information such as your health bar, how many orbs you have collected in the level and also the date. Not the current date, but throughout the game you may notice the date going up from Jan 1st 2999 through to Dec 31st 2999. What isn’t explained in game is that there is a deadline for this game, similar to Majora’s Mask on the N64. You need to complete the game in under 25 minutes – if you exceed this (or in game it gets to year 3000) then both you and the time portals used to transport you from level to level blows up and ends the game. What you notice about the game as well is that there is a steep difficulty which isn’t always a bad thing, however you find that you complete the first level quickly but from level two, the difficulty in finding the orbs ramps up. You have to explore every part of the level, collecting mushrooms or making double jumps at random spots in the sky to collect the orbs. If you thought that was difficult on your first play through then holy cow wait until level three (Western USA). It seems that when you first play the game you will have difficulty completing the game in 25 minutes, it would only be through trial and repition that you got a shot at completing the game in under 25 minutes. With no continues but chances to collect extra lives, it really is a game for those who like the initial challenge.

 

How to catch that orb? Where's Luigi when you need him?

How to catch that orb? Where’s Luigi when you need him?

 

The graphics on screen are bold and they suit the levels well. For instance, the Medieval England stage looks like it is taking place upon an old castle with rich blues and greens which reflect the level well, whilst the Western USA stage it is set in the Wild West and easily makes you feel you might face off with Dirty Harry at some point, but with orbs which happened in the film, right? The music and sound’s suit the game well so you can out down that vinyl record for now. The controls are simple enough, D-pad to move, A to jump B to use your weapon and the select button switches weapons you may have collected along the way.. Depending on the level you find you can get guns and swords that will help, and my tip – try to find the gun early at Western USA level because what chance you got of having a fist fight with someone who has a gun and fires from far away?

 

If you complete this in under 25 minutes you certainly deserve a drink!

If you complete this in under 25 minutes you certainly deserve a drink!

 

Time Lord is a game that certainly is one for the gamers who enjoy a challenge – when you first play the game the first level is exceedingly easy which should help break you into the game, and the next level does this well but where the difficulty ramps up is level 3. Added to this is that although you can earn extra lives, there are no continues so you may find yourself repeating the first few levels over and over again when you get the game down pat and know what you need to do. Added to this AS WELL is the 25 minute time limit so you certainly will get a challenge with Time Lord. That isn’t to say the game is impossible, or even a game not worthy of gracing the console – it certainly has a number of positive aspects, such as responsive controls, bold graphics and that it is a playable game. Copies of the game are plentiful on your favourite auction sites and are reasonably prices so if you like an action game with challenges and a time limit, then do pick up Time Lord. Just stay clear of other games that use trial and repeat methods in order to progress namely Dragon’s Lair…*shudder*

 

 

Rating – 3 out of 5