Kirby’s Adventure NES Review

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It is often quoted that good things come to those who wait, a sentence most readers may have heard at some point in life, and if not then by typing that phrase into a search engine you get no less than 915 million results. A powerful sentence indeed, and as such with a lot of things in life there will always be exceptions to this rule. However, the game that is being looked at today is one that was released 8 years into the NES system and although may not have been a game people were knowingly waiting for, then by golly (an exquisite phrase seldom used by reviewers these days) did it make an impression. Not many games can have such an effect 8 years after the release of the console, especially one in which the hero comes crashing in on a star and devours all that it sees and has the ability to have 24 differing special abilities. So for today’s review, we are looking at the one and only Kirby’s Adventure.

 

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Kirby’s Adventure is a side-scrolling platform game released on the NES in Europe in September 1993 and the second game in the Kirby franchise, though Kirby’s Adventure was the first foray on the NES. The idea is to complete the stage in a standard classic platforming manner however in this game what sets Kirby apart is the ability to copy the special ability of certain enemies encountered. This can take the form of sword-fighting, lasers, throwing enemies amongst others – 24 in fact that you could encounter across the whole game. As the player, you help Kirby travel across Dream Land to repair the Star Rod after the protagonist King Dedede breaks it apart and gives pieces to his minions. Along the way there are mini games that break up the adventure and assist in providing extra lives and bonus points – who doesn’t like bonus points?

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When you boot up the game, rather than either going straight into the main menu like you did with a number of early NES releases, or booting up developer introductions, you’re treated on how to draw Kirby. Yes, if ever you wanted to draw the character you’re playing as, follow along closely kids:

First you draw a circle,
Then you dot the eyes,
Add a great big smile
And presto, it’s Kirby!

As simple as that. Supposedly. Here’s one that was made earlier:

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Anyway…at the menu screen you get the choice of three save files akin to Legend of Zelda, so at least friends or family can start a file and not ruin their game with your one. You start off at level 1, Vegetable Valley and proceed through the first door. Upon completing each level which are standard platforming levels that you would recognise from the likes of Mario, more of the level select screen is revealed, revealing more levels to complete and also along the way bonus games to get more lives and even change the special ability you have. Once the majority of the map is revealed, you are set to face the world boss which is not the most difficult but does require some thinking at times and sharp reflexes. After each stage, the player plays a Goal Game where Kirby jumps on a spring platform. The goal is to press the button when the platform is at its lowest-this sends Kirby to the top level and nets a 1up. Otherwise, the player scores points, the higher up you get the more points you get but is dependant on how close the timing is to perfect.

 

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Playing as Kirby in Kirby’s Adventure is not as straight-forward as you think when you first play the game, especially if you have never played a Kirby game before this or played as Kirby in a game such as Smash Bros before. Moving Kirby left and right is easy enough, but then pressing up not only causes Kirby to jump but by holding the up button you can continually float. Beware though, you cannot just float your way through the whole stage as there will be aerial attackers and other nasties trying to hurt you. Pressing the B button does a jump which you cannot then float with, it is a straight forward jump. Button A is how Kirby proceeds to “attack” – he inhales. That’s right, a character who hoovers up his enemies like Yoshi does. What is with these characters who hoover up enemies and dispose of them so callously? Anywho, when the enemy is swallowed, you either press the A button again to spit out the enemy as a star or the ability to copy the special move of the enemy you have inhaled. Not all enemies have special abilities – if this is the case on screen it says “nothing”, but one of the joys is discovering the different abilities you can copy and use to your own advantage. Should you get hurt by an enemy, you lose that ability which shows as a star bouncing about, and have limited time to re-capture it otherwise your back to inhaling enemies. In total there are 24 abilities to copy from different enemies, so have fun finding them!

 

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Kirby’s Adventure is neither the most difficult of games, nor the longest of games. What it does though, throughout the duration of the game is put a big smile on your face and handles like an absolute dream. The NES was known as being a platforming console and there were a lot of games that did the job adequately without putting effort in or make itself unique in the library. Kirby’s Adventure, released a full 8 years after the release of the console took the platforming genre and added it’s own unique spin on it, even when gamers were migrating to 16-bit systems. The levels are sizeable and look varied throughout, something the programmers were able to squeeze well out of the game compared to the early games on the system. It has been argued that the game is one of the best on the NES system and it is hard to disagree with this. The colours look vibrant in each level and the music/sound effects are a joy to listen to throughout with the controls being as tight and responsive as any Mario game on the system. When people think of perfect platforming games, first choice is always Super Mario Bros and with good reason. However, coming a close second would be Kirby’s Adventure – think of Super Mario Brothers but Mario could copy the ability of the enemies he has killed. It adds a unique twist to a tried and tested formula that was warmly welcomed and praised by critics back in the 90’s and even to this day. If you have the Nintendo Switch Online Service you can experience the game there without having to have the original hardware, but if you do own a NES, it is definitely one to have in your library and makes a nice change rather than picking up an Italian plumber to play for the umpteenth time…

 

Rating – 5 out of 5

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Wrecking Crew NES Review

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Rating – 4 out of 5

 

Top Gun NES Review

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Two years. Well, nearly two years anyway, since the last review on this site. A lot has changed in the two years since the last review but some things don’t seem to change no matter how long time has passed. Princess Peach will still never learn and find herself in situations to be kidnapped by Bowser. Water levels, no matter how good the graphics and what genre of game it is, will always be a pain in the proverbial rear. Platforming games will always start off with a green and lush level to get you started in the game. And finally, after thirty years, can someone please explain how on earth to land the plane on the aircraft carrier?! The last sentence of course refers to everyone’s favourite movie-based NES game which has an almost iconic status, perhaps for all the wrong reasons. So let’s take a look and see if that same passage of time makes the game “plane” bearable or whether it can “jet” into the skies as one of the greats…

 

Top Gun is a video game based off the 1986 movie of the same name, that was released on the NES by Konami in North America in November 1987 and one year later in November 1988 for those in Europe. Those lucky lot. The idea of the game is that there are four missions to complete, starting off with a training mission before progressing to the real meat of the game, shooting down planes in the sky, landing on aircraft carriers, destroying enemy aircraft carriers and also blowing up enemy space shuttles. Whilst attempting to destroy aircraft carriers and planes, they of course are attempting to shoot missiles at you preventing you from completing your duty, generally making nuisances of themselves. The view you have in-game is from the cockpit, making you feel you’re at the heart of the action and can see the enemy planes in the sky and the aircraft carriers down below, rather than being side-scrolling and not feeling like your at the centre of the action. It is touches like that which are welcomed.

 

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Nothing sexual here going on…

 

Upon turning the game on, from the moment the opening credits roll you’re treated to the theme from Top Gun which does sound admittedly well done. If the sights and sounds of the film pumped you up, then the 8-bit rendition in the opening credits does a great job replicating that feeling. Even when you leave the game to run the opening demo, the music is fast paced, rock-inspired and does sound really good – in fact although you the reader cannot see this for yourself, the opening music is being played as this is being written. But you didn’t spend your hard earned cash on a video game to listen to the music and never play the game did you?! Some of you might…but anywho, you press start and are treated to a lovely image of a F-14 Tomcat fighter preparing for take-off, with sound effects reminiscent of the Atari 2600, with it’s ocean waves sounding like nuclear explosions. You’re then taken to a screen where you can select from one of the types of missiles you can use in-game. What is handy is that it doesn’t give just a generic name and the quantity of it that you have – it shows you how powerful it is. This is where the choice lies with you, the gamer. Do you pick a missile that you have more of in terms of quantity but less powerful, or a more powerful missile but less of them? Decisions decisions, personally the middle route is always favoured however the choice as they say, is yours. You pick your missile, and head up to the skies to start blasting enemy planes and missiles that they shoot at you.

 

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The dreaded landing sequence

 

The controls are simple enough, with the A button being your unlimited standard gun, B button being your missile that you have limited quantity of. The d-pad is standard *for a flying game* – this is noted because left and right inputs are simple enough, moving your plane in that direction but pressing the up key makes your plane descend in altitude, and the down key making your plane ascend in altitude. If you are used to plane games this should be second nature to you but if this is the first time playing an aviation-type game, this may take some getting used to. The controls do feel tight although bear in mind that your standard gun can be used anytime but your missile can only be used when locked on an enemy which is shown by a cursor onscreen. As noted earlier, the music in this game is on point, and gets you in the mood to be Maverick yourself. The sound effects however, bland and monotonous and makes you want to use the ejector seat. Flying round to a constant dull drone, broken up by planes flying past and the sound of your gun being fired isn’t the most appealing. If it wasn’t for the fear of missing the awesome-rock based music between levels it would be better putting on the Top Gun Soundtrack and listening to that instead. The graphics, well to be fair in-game they are not the most inspiring. The backgrounds are solid blocks of colour that have little detail in them, the clouds look like popcorn and the planes look okay but there isn’t anything visually that would “take your breath away”.

 

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As noted in the introduction, one of the most memorable parts of the game comes right after completing the training mission, and that is landing your plane on the aircraft carrier. For those of you who have watched other gamers or reviewers playing the game and thought how easy it looks to land the plane, please try it for yourself. The barrage of instructions barked at you on-screen in a short space of time is enough to put the heebie-jeebies into anyone, with it’s “SPEED UP” or “RIGHT! RIGHT!” at the merest hint of an input on the d-pad. At this part, you have to not only control your altitude (which is straight forward enough) but also control the angle in which your plane lands on. You’re constantly monitoring the altitude and speed on the left hand side, whilst also trying to follow the instructions in the bottom centre part of the screen – it is enough to actually put this reviewer off being a plane-driver or fighter pilot in real life. Sometimes as well, it says “UP UP” or “DOWN DOWN”, but does that mean the plane has to be down in angle, down in altitude, or pressing the down d-pad? Some people will read this and think that the plane-landing part is easy, or that it can be done 99 times out of 100, and if you are one of those people then nothing but the greatest of respect to you. Even if you cannot land the plane, you still move on to the second level which then makes you think “What was the point? My plane crashed in the sea” or “I overshot the runway” but here you are starting the next mission blowing up enemy aircraft carriers? As well, there is the refuelling parts of the mission that require precision inputs and an equal sense of frustration but this seems to get overlooked too in favour of the more famous landing sequence.

 

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Calming? I think not!

 

Top Gun has the dubious honour of being memorable and a part of gamer’s childhoods but for all the wrong reasons, ranking up there with such titles on the system as Fester’s Quest. Everyone who owned a NES seemed to have Top Gun, and everyone has the same eye-roll and look of horror when discussing it especially when it came to the plane-landing sequence. It is about time the game is viewed in a different perspective – in the US there were over 700 licensed games but how many of those were memorable? Yes, the plane-landing sequence will go down in gaming history as one of the most frustrating, and no, the graphics aren’t the most detailed and vibrant. But you got to control a jet fighter, shooting at bad guys, blowing up space shuttles and aircraft carriers, and it has the theme from the film! It is odd that a game is remembered for one small part alone, but surely it is best to be remembered for something rather than forgotten about, right? Saying that though, if the best part of a video game is a rendition of the music from the film, you do have to wonder how positive you can spin the game. Overall, the game is worthy of a play at least once, even if it is just to say that you can truly appreciate the landing/refuelling sequences and wear the proverbial badge with pride, to say you attempted it and lived to tell the tale. Was this the game to end a near two-year high hiatus? Hmm….maybe not, but this reviewer had to lift-off and wing it from somewhere…

 

Rating – 2 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

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

Jurassic Park NES Review

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There are a number of things in life that go well together – Cheese and onion, Vanilla and Coca Cola perhaps even Del Boy and Rodney…but imagine if you could combine THREE of the most beautiful things in the world (warning sarcasm may be approaching) – that is Nintendo, film-based video games and Ocean Software. Imagine the unadulterated joy of those three things mashed together to create something unique so mind-blowing it barely gets repeated. It’s well known within certain game reviewers that in the late 80’s at least, movie-based NES games were developed by the wonderful LJN who provided their own, erm, “unique” take on the films for which they developed the tie-in game for. So how would those bastions of fine gaming (!) Ocean handle something as monumental as Jurassic Park – is it 65 millions in the making for something golden or just something that should be fossilised deep under the earth?

Slanted moving developer logos? Whatever next

Slanted moving developer logos? Whatever next

Jurassic Park is a movie-based video game in which you control the film’s main character Alan Grant as he completes six levels ranging from rescuing people to destroying certain types of dinosaurs, but without the panache of someone saying “ah ah ah you didn’t say the magic word”. Jurassic Park is a top down shooter of which you must collect cards, eggs and destroying dinosaurs in order to progress through the game. Throughout the game you may encounter mystery boxes, which as the name suggests contains a mystery effect – like a Kinder egg but not as fun. Power up’s can range from more health, to another life however on the flip side of the coin you may lose energy or lose a life so the choice really is yours whether you collect the mystery box.

Nothing more sinister than.....Music+SFX

Nothing more sinister than…..Music+SFX

So you power on the game, and having chosen your language (bearing in mind this is the European PAL version so language select may not be present in NTSC versions of the game) you are then faced with an intro screen which can be somewhat terrifying – especially if you have the lights off and the tv volume up. From the bottom of the screen comes a Tyrannosaurs Rex with it’s eyes dilated ready to eat the player up. His mouth is wide open with saliva dripping from it’s mouth as you get to choose how many players should play, if music and SFX should be on and also the hi-score. A nice start to the game but nice starts may not equate to nice finished articles. Upon starting the game your first mission notes dinosaurs have taken over Jurassic Park and that you have to find Tim and rescue him from a herd of giant triceratops.

You can run but you can't hide

You can run but you can’t hide

The game begins from a top down point of view, and although the graphics are bold and defined which for a NES game is good, the colours are somewhat dull and turgid – lots of greens and browns. Oh and those “giant” triceratops are nothing more than pint-sized red baby dinosaurs, though you do get to encounter larger dinosaurs later on. It’s something your poor heart may not be able to cope with, with all the anticipation and excitement of waiting so if you are of a nervous disposition this isn’t for you. So you wander round destroying dinosaurs collecting eggs and keycards wondering if this is what the game will be like, to which it is safe to answer….yes, yes it is. You reach terminals, find out you have the wrong key card for the terminal and then out you go collecting more eggs, more power ups and it is a monotonous circle where you can easily run out of bullets for your gun, so be prepared to jam the d pad down as hard as you can and run away from dinosaurs the size of a dachshund. Beware though that the enemies can come out of nowhere and if they touch you, your health bar goes down quicker than you can say Diplodocus so you’ll need to have the reactions of a Stegosaurus whose had laxatives and lots of raisins.

Continue? Please God no!!

Continue? Please God no!!

As mentioned earlier, for an NES game that was released later in the lifetime of the console the graphics are bold and can easily distinguish what is the tree with the ground to the dinosaurs but the colours leave a lot to be desired. On screen it displays a health counter to the top left, the number of bullets remaining in your gun, and on the top right a score counter, because what game would not be complete without a score counter! The controls are responsive, with the d-pad moving Alan about, the A button moving him around, the B button firing your weapon, the select button cycling through the weapons Alan has, and the start button being as fascinating as pausing the game.

Walk through walls, like David Blaine?

Walk through walls, like David Blaine?

Having played this game for well over an hour and getting nowhere fast, just repeating the same level over and over again collecting the same items time and time again, it’s difficult to know if the game just sucks or this reviewer sucks. The consensus is on the former rather than the latter, and the game is highly forgettable, monotonous and certainly not worth the £40 you would have paid at the time of launch. This game could have been from the masters of film-bases video games LJN, to which applause should be given to Ocean for making a game worthy of their low standards. It simply isn’t worth the time or effort in rescuing Tim and shooting dinosaurs up the proverbial bottom so do yourself a favour, rent the movie instead and enjoy that rather than collecting keycards a la Doom on here, or running away from dinosaurs. Even if this game was 65 million years in the making it wouldn’t have helped…

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

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

Time Lord NES Review

timelordbox

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

 

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

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

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

 

Good Luck Doctor Who! I mean, Time Lord!

Good Luck Doctor Who! I mean, Time Lord!

 

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

 

Badger Badger Badger Badger Mushroom Mushroom!

Badger Badger Badger Badger Mushroom Mushroom!

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

Rating – 3 out of 5

Fun House NES Review

funhousebox

“IT’S WACKY…IT’S FUN…IT’S CRAZY – IT’S OUTRAGEOUS!” These aren’t words that would describe a Simpsons NES game or Silent Service, but the introduction to the kids game-show Fun House that was on UK television in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Introduced in the United States before making it’s way to the UK, it was a game-show that had a number of things – it had fun, it had gunge, it had go -karts, IT HAD THE TWINS!! So how can you package all that fun into one little grey NES cart? Did the game make you want to live permanently in the (Fun) House or just sit in a bath full of gunge with the host rather than the twins?

Pat Sharp has had something of a makeover

Pat Sharp has had something of a makeover

Fun House was released on the NES in 1991 in North America only which meant unless you modified your NES, European gamers never had the chance to play this game – with good reason. The game of Fun House is supposedly based on the US version of the show to which this reviewer has not witnessed, but like all popular game-shows that was in the US in the 80’s such as Win, Lose or Draw! and Wheel of Fortune, the transistion was made to an NES game. If you’re not aware of the Fun House television show then this review may be wasted and would urge you to watch clips of it on YouTube but then again that may not be a bad thing. If you’re expecting this to be like the television show, then be prepared.

Do you remember this episode of Fun House??

Do you remember this episode of Fun House??

Upon turning on the game, you’re not greeted by the infamous theme that graced British television sets but a somewhat garbled generic theme, but bearing in mind this game “should” be based on the US game-show then that is understandable IF the tune was based on the US show (it’s not). You’re then greeted not by Pat Sharp but by US host J.D Roth who reminds a little of Tim Allen who advises everyone to “get messy” which am still not sure refers to in-game or in real life and then away we go…

Remember the episode where the audience was replaced with shapes?

Remember the episode where the audience was replaced with shapes?

But anywho you get thrown in to the game with a top down view which instantly reminds you of Smash TV but without the enemies spawning from the sides of the room. Or the intensity. You press the D-pad to move around…and don’t move. You can press up down left and right but you won’t move an inch. By pressing left or right you’ll spin in a circle on the spot, unlike pretty every other NES game where the d-pad moves your character, you have to press the A button. There are other games that may need you to move in this way such as racing games but not action games, well as action as a US game-show can get. There’s no instructions on screen however the idea of the game is to move around throwing red projectiles that look like balls or whatever the programmers decided they looked like at targets and numbers. When you collect the final target or the final number, you collect the key and then you’re then taken to the next stage to do…. the exact same thing. It’s like “Hey kids, do you remember watching Fun House where a guy runs around aimlessly shooting bullets or projectiles at a number and collecting a key whilst being fired at with guns and cannons?” Oh yes, there are enemies in Fun House out to get you, not Contra-style but stationary shooting random projectiles at you in order to stop you shooting at the targets.

It took hours of me posing to get this shot right

It took hours of me posing to get this shot right

So you go through each stage doing the exact same thing, shooting targets and numbers in a sequential order which happened in every single episode of Fun House didn’t it? Bearing in mind I can only go by the UK version of the show so if this happened in the US show then please do comment but in what world does shooting targets in hundreds of stages with which the only thing that changes is the colour palette make good television? But this isn’t about the television show, this is about the action-shooter game Fun House that has NO basis on the TV show. As bad as they were, at least you could argue that Win, Lose or Draw or Wheel of Fortune was a game on the actual show – imagine the furore if Wheel of Fortune was turned into an action-hack and slash game on the NES, the Daily Mail would have been up in arms!

There are 12 stages and 72 levels in total in Fun House, and before each level there is the name of the level such as Four Corners or One, Two or Three. It’s a very loose idea of what to do in the level however the levels all consist of the same action. You move with the A button as mentioned earlier and shooting your projectile with the B button whilst you turn left or right with the D-pad. The controls are not as difficult as other games which is good and could have been a lot worse. Music-wise, it sound’s a mish-mash that reminds you of the music from Action 52 in it’s quality – bad. It doesn’t get you pumped out for go-karting or getting covered in gunge having fun and mayhem… oh wait this isn’t the TV show, this is a generic action-shooter where you shoot numbers! Regardless, the music is somewhat dreadful and is as good as scratching nails down the chalkboard.

This episode is a classic, with it's Columns-tie in

This episode is a classic, with it’s Columns-tie in

Fun House is mediocre at best but the worst aspect of the game is that it has NO BEARING WHATSOEVER to the TV show. As good or as bad American Gladiators is and other NES games that was a US-TV show at least you could argue that they had some bearing to the TV show and felt like you were playing a game-show, but this game has nothing to do with Fun House. It is a mystery why it lent the name of a popular show to an action-shooter game with a top-down view with the only thought being it was for the money. For this review I didn’t manage to get to the final stage which may or may not have been a minute of fun in the House but the game was just too repetitive and boring to keep going for 72 levels. Your character on screen speeds around like he has ants in his pants or just on crack and you forget it is a character shooting projectiles, it felt more like you’re controlling a car. The graphics are bright colours but when did you watch the show and see circles and triangles as the audience? It is highly recommended to stay away from this game and do yourself a favour – build a shed get some gunge and some hot twins maybe a go-kart and make your own Fun House then play this. Or just play a proper action-shooter.

Rating – 1 out of 5